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Stop Talking Down to India About That Rising Tide

Author: Amity Shlaes, Former Hayek Senior Fellow for Political Economy
February 28, 2007


When BBC television aired a show about India ’s economy recently there was something predictable about the language.

“Does India care about its poorest citizens?” asked the host, Allan Little. Little had a guest in the New Delhi studio, Gurcharan Das, formerly Procter & Gamble Co.’s top executive in India. “Are you an advocate of trickle-down theory?” Little asked.

“Everyone doesn’t rise equally, but eventually studies have shown all boats do rise,” Das answered.

The program then took phone-in statements about India ’s economy. The ones from India tended to side with Das; the outsiders leaned toward Little. This, too, came as no surprise.

Why the familiarity? India’s growth rate, forecast at more than 9 percent this year, has everyone in the world re-examining the Indian model and what India can do for its poor.

The language echoes that of U.S. or U.K. policy debates. Indeed, you can go further and say that when Westerners talk about income distribution in India , they are often really talking about themselves as well.

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