Last night an economist friend spoke to me at length about a book titled “Rise and Fall of American Productivity” by Robert Gordon. The book is currently making waves in USA. Gordon is a macro economist and professor of social sciences at Northwest University. The 76 years old man has done extensive research on economic growth and job market. I heard my friend in rapt attention since I could clearly see many parallels in Gordon’s theory and contemporary situation in India.

Gordon argues that the wealth is concentrated in the hands of 1% people and 99% only chase it during their lifetime. Whatever pittance they grab during this tiring chase is not sufficient to satiate their growing aspirations. This frustration causes social disruptions akin to anarchy, barking up the wrong tree or rise of the new political alternatives which could be suicidal. Gordon’s further prognosis is that, contrary to popular perception, modern innovations like smart phones (and over dependence on them) would actually reduce the productivity and negatively impact the economic growth.

I had some obvious questions after hearing this – to which my apolitical friend politely declined to answer. Nevertheless, a simple look at global scenario would give one an overview on how Gordon’s prophesy if close to reality. Year 2016 has seen Brexit (Britain leaving the European Union) holding migrants responsible for its economic misery and election of Donald Trump as the president of US who openly played anti Muslims and anti Spanish card are apt examples of how these once liberal countries are gradually turning hostile to migration and globalisation. Rise of far right parties such as Swedish Democrats in Sweden, Party for Freedom in Netherlands, National Front in France, Jobbik in Hungary, Freedom Party in Austria, Golden Dawn in Greece and Alternative for Germany in Germany are some classic cases.

Where do we as India stand in this overall gloomy scenario when an already right wing dispensation is ruling the country? Economist Swaminathan Aiyar says that for a balanced growth, participation of women in the workforce has to grow. In developed countries and China it is 60 to 65% and in India it is only 20 to 22%. Therefore we have a scope. But this can happen only if productivity and GDP grow steadily for a few decades. I wonder how this will happen when a whimsical and maverick decision like demonetisation has already been forced upon the country and many more wrongs are being committed to justify one wrong. Accountability to accounts of the people is vanished. One of the biggest curses of fascism is that it makes people answerable for everything but it does not deem it fit to be answerable to people. That’s where the end of democracy and a fatal romance with dictatorship begins.

Let us hear more about it from the experts this evening. Please come for speeches by Prof. Arun Kumar and Rajrishi Singhal at 4.00 PM today at Kashinath Ghanekar Natyagruh.

– Dr. Jitendra Awhad