A few months ago, I was participating in a live discussion where I could see a stream of user comments. One such comment was that people in India lead miserable lives. The implication was that Western thinking is better because the West is more prosperous. People today see poverty in India and don’t know about past prosperity. Christopher Columbus was searching for India when he found America. Even then, he thought he had found India, and branded Native Americans “Indians”, which continues today. Why would Columbus be searching for India if India wasn’t well-known to be prosperous? The subsequent Western prosperity came out of the theft of land, labor, and life from the colonized people. But brainwashing misattributes Western prosperity to a superior ideology, religion, culture, intellect, and work, which I will discuss in this post. We will debunk these myths and discuss the reasons for the prosperity of the West and the poverty of India.
Table of Contents
- 1 Societal Lies in Modern Economics
- 2 Analysis of Indian Prosperity and Poverty
Societal Lies in Modern Economics
Abuse of Sociological Theories
Max Weber, an early player in modern sociology, wrote a book entitled “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism”, where he claimed that Protestant societies will always be most prosperous due to higher levels of individualism. Societies of other Christian denominations—Catholics and Orthodoxy—Weber claimed, would be less prosperous because they were less individualist. Hindu and Buddhist societies, according to Weber, can never be prosperous due to their collectivist mindset devoid of the virtues of individualism. This marriage between Protestantism and Capitalism endured to a point that individualism, Protestantism, and capitalism became nearly synonymous.
Individualism fragments society into many individual units. These units don’t share goods and services with each other. As a result of social fragmentation, the consumption in society grows proportional to the fragmentation. However, as society fragments, each unit has to pay for all the things it is not sharing by itself. Few units earn enough to pay for all the goods and services they are consuming. Therefore, to keep consuming, they borrow money. Of course, they promise to pay this debt in the future, but unless they can earn proportionately more money, they can never repay their debt. Thus, greater individualism leads to greater debt. If that debt is not returned, then it becomes theft.
Weber was right in saying that individualistic societies are more prosperous because they consume more than collective societies. But he disregarded the fact that individualistic societies accumulate debt without repayment and hence their prosperity is effectively theft. It is not the virtue of the Protestant Ethic that makes individualistic societies more prosperous. It is simply the vice of debt and theft that causes it.
In contrast to Weber’s praise of individualism, Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist, had earlier written a book entitled “Suicide: A Sociological Study” talking about the isolation, unhappiness, depression, and loneliness in individualist societies. As loneliness grows, the mental and physical health of the people decline and their productivity goes down. In fact, they have to borrow money to pay for cheap thrills (to overcome loneliness) and medical care (to restore mental and physical health). Social isolation leads to more crimes, suicides, and addictions. Data about individualist societies confirms these problems. But now, the synonymity between individualism, Protestantism, and capitalism is conveniently forgotten. People seek other explanations for these outcomes to avoid changing their social constructs.
The truths in the works of Weber and Durkheim were systematically abused by the elites of Western society—(a) they would keep large stable joint families to avoid the problems of loneliness, (b) they would advocate individualism for others to divide their families into many separate units to increase their consumption, (c) they would save their wealth by reducing their spending on frivolous things and grow it through systematic investments, and (d) they would ask others to increase borrowing and discourage saving to force them into debt. Immense wealth disparities were created because two different sets of standards were being used by the elites for themselves and others.
Modern economics is stilted on this double standard. The elites think about their long-term prosperity, but they tell everyone else to live in the moment. The elites tell others to take debt but they practice frugality among themselves. The elites teach individualism to others while they practice unity within themselves. The elites reduce frivolous expenses while they teach everyone to increase their consumption. By using double standards on social behavior, wealth slowly moves from the uneducated, ignorant, and oblivious masses to the societal elites.
Misusing Religion for Economics
Max Weber created a false connection between religion and wealth, implying that the wealth of the Protestants was due to their superior religious ideology. The fact is that the Protestants became rich after they found other lands. They started searching for other lands after Catholics had already found other lands and were trying to convert them to Christianity. Most early Protestant migrants to new lands were marginalized and persecuted people living in poverty who wanted to escape their destitute condition by moving to a new land. The new land was their savior from poverty, destitution, and ignominy, but they picture themselves as saviors of the new land.
Once Europeans found new lands, they began stealing wealth from the people living on those lands. Western prosperity was built upon the theft from wealthy lands. It wasn’t a superior religion, better intellect, higher morality, earnest work ethic, or a greater culture that led to this prosperity. It was theft. The basic issue is: If Protestantism and Capitalism were a magic recipe for prosperity, then why did the poor people not use these to create prosperity in their native lands? Why did they have to run away to other lands and steal their wealth, before they became prosperous? When prosperity has been created after the theft of wealth, then why would we attribute it to anything other than theft?
A cause is necessary and sufficient if it produces an effect on its own and the effect is not produced in its absence. Protestant Capitalists could not create prosperity in their native lands—hence, their ideology was not sufficient for prosperity. The stolen lands were prosperous without Protestant Capitalism—hence, their ideology was not necessary for prosperity. Thus, Protestant Capitalism is neither necessary nor sufficient for prosperity. One who makes that connection hides the true causes of prosperity in theft and misattributes it to a religious ideology.
The facts of capitalism, which talks about the creation of wealth through the combination of capital and labor, bear this out. The land is the capital, and it was stolen. Labor was coerced and hence it was stolen. Capitalism would be a real theory if it spoke of how to create wealth from scratch, rather than from stolen wealth. But capitalism begins from the assumption that there is already a lot of capital and labor available, that we have free access to such capital and labor, and that we can combine those to generate more capital. Now, take out the assumptions of available capital and labor, and replace those with the theft of capital and labor, and you can see the real picture.
Max Weber was whitewashing the truth of how the West got rich, attributing the successes of Western society to a superior religion when the real cause of that prosperity was theft. False connections between religion and economics are used to continue theft while pretending to be morally, intellectually, and spiritually superior. Similarly, economics and religion are separated by those who want to evade the moral dilemmas created by their economics. Both are immoral. We reject such connections and separations of religion and economics equally.
New Forms of Social Class Warfare
The mindset of economic exploitation isn’t restricted to foreign lands, races, or cultures. When it has exploited others, it turns toward one’s own. Colonial, racial, and foreign exploitation then transforms into the exploitation of the poor in a society by the elites. The exploiters unite to divide the exploited, weaken their status, and bring them under control. This is the modern version of class warfare in which the wealthy and powerful wage war on the poor by telling them about individualism, a dream life, obtained through borrowing, and enjoyed through excessive consumption, while the primary beneficiaries of that hard work, borrowing, and consumption are the societal elites.
Economic exploitation is not hidden. It is so much in the open that nobody can see it. It is created by exclusively talking about GDP or PPP while growing these through the process of growing debt. In reality, the debt-ridden society gets poor over time. An illusion of progress is created by increasing the GDP even as overall prosperity is declining. The conspiracy is individualism itself because when it grows, the family is broken into many units, social cohesion is destroyed, consumption increases, the poor people get into debt, and the wealth is transferred from the poor to the rich. You can keep searching for external causes of exploitation while individualism is imbibed in each person.
Exploitation has been the de facto business model for Western elites for thousands of years. It is de jure called by different names such as imperialism, colonialism, feudalism, slavery, communism, capitalism, and so forth. The legal derecognition of classes has not ended the elitist classes or their exploitation of the weaker classes. It has simply changed the name by which exploitation is called. Exploitation is sometimes given a religious, racial, or nationalistic color, and it temporarily shifts to people of other religions, races, and nationalities. But when the exploited people wake up to their reality, the exploitation again shifts to another group of people who are currently sleeping.
The Western elites have inherited the tendency to exploit over generations. Every new generation learns at the feet of the previous masters. Their lust for wealth and power searches for the weakest country, group, or person that can be exploited without retribution.
Analysis of Indian Prosperity and Poverty
Ancient Causes of Prosperity in India
False narratives about the connection between economics and religion cannot be countered just by explaining how the West got rich. We have to also explain why colonized people became poor. If a false marriage between religion and economics has been created, then we have to create an alternative truthful explanation of both prosperity and poverty. This can be done for each conquered or colonized land, but I will restrict myself to India because it was the most prosperous society—and hence called the “Jewel in the British Crown”—but it descended into poverty due to its own mistakes. Every declining society has made such mistakes in the past, and every society that makes such mistakes will decline. We don’t have to analyze them individually if we can understand the mistakes that lead to decline.
India was prosperous due to its moral principles. It advanced long-term thinking due to which problems are solved in a way that does not create new problems. As old problems are solved without creating new problems, the total number of problems reduces, and consumption declines to the minimum needs. A huge contributor to this way of solving problems is a non-mechanistic understanding of reality. That understanding removes the unintended consequences of mechanistic models of reality. Morality in India ensured that people did not borrow to enjoy. They limited their desires to what they could afford. Borrowing was rare, if at all. Whatever was borrowed was returned.
India of yore practiced family unity, inculcating a spirit of sharing within the family and reducing individualism. That also brought down the consumption to the bare minimum of family needs. India of yore made it a duty of every householder to contribute to society through charity to increase average minimum consumption. This had two effects—(a) the wealth disparity between the rich and poor automatically reduced as the rich were giving away their wealth in charity, and (b) it increased the wealth in the hands of the poor, thereby increasing money circulation. It is well known that an economy grows when money circulates and the economy declines when money is stagnant.
Medieval Causes of Poverty in India
India lost its prosperity when it forgot its moral principles due to Buddhism and Impersonalism. As the moral principles declined, the non-mechanistic understanding of reality was also destroyed, because they are different aspects of the same thing, and if you lose one of those, then you will also lose the other. The non-mechanistic model of reality studies everything as qualities along with the judgment of those qualities as good and bad, right and wrong, and true and false, leading to the philosophy of karma. The theory used to understand nature’s laws is also the theory used to understand moral laws. We can never separate religion from economics, nor can we marry them through concocted arrangements. There is a scientific truth that connects religion and economics rooted in a non-mechanistic model of reality.
The decline of morality and the non-mechanistic model of reality is tightly related to the rise of Buddhism and Impersonalism in India. The story of Emperor Ashoka is relevant in this regard. After a valiant victory in the battle of Kalinga, which was fought for little more than political ambition, Ashoka began lamenting the destructive effects of war and embraced the non-violent philosophy of Buddhism. Ashoka’s embrace of Buddhism is a contentious issue today because historians have pointed out that Ashoka had embraced Buddhism even before the Kalinga War. The war was despite his acceptance of Buddhism and not in lieu of it. A probable reason is that in Buddhism, Kshatriyas are the highest class compared to the Vedic tradition where they are subordinate to Brahmanas. I will not get into the details of this issue here because the bigger problem is how the ascendence of non-violence as a Buddhist religious principle undermined the Kshatriyas.
As Buddhism spread rapidly in India and other parts of Southeast Asia, war and warriors were considered evil. Buddhism explicitly undermined the Vedic tradition—especially the philosophy of Bhagavad Gita because it had led to the Mahabharata war.
A thousand years passed before Shankaracharya appeared to defeat Buddhism. But his philosophy was scarcely better than Buddhism because it stated that death on the battlefield merely takes a warrior to temporary heaven and not toward salvation. Contrast that to the teaching of Islam where death on the battlefield leads a person to eternal heaven and salvation since that battle is fought for God’s glory.
These contrasting claims about war and warriors are vital to the outcome of wars between different groups upholding these contrasting claims. On one hand, the Buddhists were saying that war leads neither to salvation nor to heaven while the Impersonalists were saying that war leads to temporary heaven but not to salvation. On the other hand, Islamists were saying that war is God’s work that leads to eternal heaven and salvation. The religious claims of Buddhists and Impersonalists were constantly weakening the Indian soldiers intellectually, morally, and emotionally, while the religious claims of the Islamists were constantly strengthening Muslim soldiers intellectually, morally, and emotionally. It is this contrast between the two sets of religious ideologies that defeated the weaker religious ideology.
Buddhism and Impersonalism may be better transcendental ideologies compared to Brahmanical ritualism, but they are gravely inadequate when contrasted with the ideology of the colonialists. If fighting is a duty for a Kshatriya, but these are discouraged either as evil or as non-liberating acts, then everyone seeking salvation will naturally abandon their duties and focus on their salvation. Ultimately, they will get neither earth, nor heaven, nor salvation. This was the lose-lose-lose effect of Buddhist and Impersonalist principles on Indian society.
Modern Causes of Poverty in India
The same damaging system of weakening India intellectually, morally, and emotionally was adopted by M. K. Gandhi through his ideology of non-violence which allowed the Christian rule in India to extend for so long because the colonialists were quite happy with non-violent responses against violent oppression. Soldiers of the Indian Army were awarded numerous Victoria Crosses for bravery during the two World Wars fighting on behalf of the Allied Forces on European soil. However, the Indian leaders of this army were telling them to be non-violent within India and continue being oppressed within their homeland. The irony of the situation was that M. K. Gandhi portrayed himself as a spiritual leader rather than just a political leader. He pretended to follow the Bhagavad Gita while violating its teachings. He disconnected the Bhagavad Gita from the context of the Mahabharata war where Kṛṣṇa debunks moralistic non-violence in favor of necessary violence.
Even after India’s independence, the same damaging system of weakening India intellectually, morally, and emotionally was used by a variety of left-leaning, supposedly secular, and communist leaders. They used double standards under which the demands of some religions were justified in the name of giving space to them due to secularism while the same demands of other religions were unjustified in the name of not giving space to them precisely due to secularism. India has always been weakened from within, although each time in different ways, and by different people. This is not due to the Vedic system. It is because those who do so are fundamentally against the Vedic system.
False modern narratives on India equate India to the Vedic system when the fact is that most leaders of post-independence India have been fundamentally and vocally opposed to the Vedic tradition. They have been progressively more opposed to that tradition since the time of Ashoka. The opposition was intellectual in the beginning. Then with Islamist rule, it became political and economic. With Christian rule, it became intellectual, social, economic, and political. Those oppositions were continued by the post-independent Indian rulers.
The problems of poverty are therefore not to be attributed to the Vedic system but to the systematic empowerment of those opposed to the Vedic system. Those who see poverty in India today think: If the Vedic tradition was so good, then why are the people poor? The answer is that they abandoned the Vedic system. But they don’t know the truth because history is deliberately obscured for most people.