Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wealth of the Poor

How about maximizing GDP?

In England there was commons land. Common people depended on this land for their livelihood and shelter. They were poor people who didn't even have modest incomes, who only survived on what they could find in the forests, lakes, etc., for themselves and/or for their cattle. Similarly, it provided them housing and shelter. The land,as a public good, made life liveable and gave a sense of security against economic upheavals and lack of basic goods - things too inevitable in today's civilized market economies in war-ridden scenarios.

The rich people had their eyes on it, maybe for long. In 1066, after the Norman's Conquest, things changed drastically. Rich and powerful lords invoked the god of greed and free markets, and approached the king for its 'privatization'. "Your lordship, your pro-poor policies are making these people sluggish and dormant. Inefficiency reigns. Producivity suffers. And the idol of progress is angry upon us. End protectionism. End this injustice that blocks pur way to [indefinite] Progress." And they told many other stories their PhD economists wrote. King nodded in yes. He had to give in for the sake of (indefinite) progress. Let the game begin.

All the poor people were banished from the commons land, which became not so common by then. And was sold to the fittest, ie the wealthy, the powerful. Can't make any compromise on competition, ye see. Their houses (read: fragile huts) were destroyed, and the rest was just part of the package which was to be theirs no more. Survival became difficult, if not impossible. Previously, they could graze their sheep and drink its milk or eat fresh fish from flowing lakes or rivers and survive, but now the conditions became worse. You can imagine that. Where did the desperate souls go? Fuel industrial revolution for insanely meagre pays, in insanely inhuman conditions? Well that's what scholars are betting their guesses on.

During the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), there was commons land on which poor people used to graze their cattle and perhaps drink water from. Rich and powerful people approached him (PBUH) to allow their cattle to enter it for grazing; to end this economic corruption of Inefficiency and low Producivity; to let free markets reign.

Holy Prophet's Judgement: "rich are forbidden from their entrance into commons land and are instructed to find some other pasture or land for their big flocks, lest they overgraze the rightful share of poor people's pasture."

The judgement given by Prophet (PBUH) is totally opposite to the one given by anti-poor forces and shows the basis of Islamic economics to be welfare of the people and especially the poor.

Adapted from a lecture by economist Dr Asad Zaman,

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