Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Across history, the prosperity of a nation has gone hand in hand with increasing urbanization

The Population Myth
from The India Uncut Blog by Amit Varma
This is the 37th installment of my weekly column for Mint, Thinking it Through.
Eberstadt concludes that while the natural resources of our planet might be limited, we are “now experiencing a monumental expansion of a different type of resource: human resources. Unlike natural resources, human resources are in practice always renewable and in theory entirely inexhaustible.”
Indeed, these human resources are the most valuable of all. All human beings, if allowed to express their creativity, add more value to the world than they consume. When two people exchange goods or services, both benefit, and more people means more trade. More people also means more specialization and division of labour —one theory holds that England’s industrial revolution was enabled by this.
Economist Julian Simon, in his book The Ultimate Resource, points out that historically, spurts in world population have coincided with leaps in productivity. The first one happened at around a million BC, at the time of the tool-making revolution. The next spurt came at about 10,000 BC, when we began to cultivate the earth. The latest one began about three centuries ago, and continues today, as the growth of technology has led to vastly higher standards of living, and longer lifespans than ever before.
If population growth was undesirable, why would people migrate to cities in such large numbers? In cities, we become part of economic networks that are larger than what we would get in smaller places, with more opportunities, and a greater chance to specialize. Across history, the prosperity of a nation has gone hand in hand with increasing urbanization. India’s cities may have much that is wrong with them—they are congested, polluted and lack all sorts of infrastructure—but still people flood in every day.
Government authorities insult us when they say that India’s problem is too many people. On the contrary, India’s problem is an inept and bloated state. It does not allow free markets that would enable the entrepreneurship and creativity natural to all humans. It has a monopoly on building infrastructure, and has failed utterly, leading to the crises we see in all our major cities, and the absence of roads in the hinterlands that would allow more urban centres to come up. In areas essential to unleashing our “ultimate resource”, such as education and health care, it has constrained private enterprise while itself being incompetent. In short, the cause of India’s poverty is not its people, but its system of government. But look where the sanctimony comes from! * * * You can browse through all my columns for Mint in my Thinking it Through archives.

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