Centre for Development Economics
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics


Kautilya on Engineering Shared Prosperity


Balbir Sihag

University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Tuesday,  28th October 2014 at 3:00 PM

Venue : Seminar Room (First Floor)
Department of Economics, Delhi School of Economics

All are cordially invited

Kautilya believed poverty was a living death. He wrote the Arthashastra to alleviate poverty. It is the first book that proposes Yogakshema, viz., peaceful enjoyment of prosperity by all. The principle ‘the greatest good of the greatest number’ was not good enough to him. His predecessors believed that ethical conduct paved the way to bliss. Kautilya added that ethical conduct also paved the way to shared prosperity. He made a distinction between economic growth guided by dharma (ethics) and by self-interest. He preferred the former whereas Adam Smith emphatically advocated the latter. According to Kautilya, the ethics-based approach was inclusive and also allowed a maximal possible growth whereas the approach guided by self-interest was neither inclusive nor optimal. Kautilya’s two insights are quite unique and the world could benefit from them. First, ethical conduct and not institutions are the ‘deep determinant’ of economic growth. Secondly, he was concerned about the systemic risk and believed that an ounce of ethics was better than a ton of rules and regulations to reduce it. He emphasized rapid economic growth but also advanced progressive principles, such as helping the helpless and protecting those who could not protect themselves. He suggested enacting laws against sexual harassment and child labour whereas his near contemporary Aristotle was trying hard to justify slavery. 

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