‘Prime Minister is suffering from Ruler’s Disease’

The economist Ashok V Desai has a delightful response to the Prime Ministr’s annual sermon to industrialists, and says Manmohan Singh has picked up the Ruler’s Disease.

“The state makes money without having to earn it; it takes money away from people by force. It is difficult for anyone to live on unearned income unless he can reassure himself that he is doing some good unrelated to his take. Monarchs used to harbour illusions that the kingdom was bestowed on them by heaven. Conquerors and occupiers by force believe that they have saved their territories from worse rulers. Pervez Musharraf illustrates this illusion well.

“Elected rulers forget how accidental the results of most elections are. They like to believe that they are specially beloved of, and morally obliged to promote the interests of, the people who elected them; in a competitive system they also want to shower favours on people at others’ cost who they hope would elect them next time. The combination of power and illusion has led rulers unduly and unnecessarily to interfere in the lives of people, most often with good intentions.

“In his 40-year career, the prime minister has risen from the ranks to the top of the men and women who rule India. On the way, he picked up the ruler’s disease. The prime minister preached: “The time has come for the better-off sections of our society — not just in organized industry but in all walks of life — to understand the need to make our growth process more inclusive; to eschew conspicuous consumption; to save more and waste less; to care for those who are less privileged and less well off; to be role models of probity, moderation and charity.”

“As others fall in love with beautiful women, the prime minister falls in love with beautiful phrases. For some years his favourite phrase was “development with a human face”; then he changed over to “inclusive growth”. These are only the latest euphemisms for income redistribution. Politicians across the world love redistribution. It serves their interests, for the poor are more numerous and have more votes than the rich.”

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