Arindam Chaudhuri
Survival of the weakest
For long, economists have been blindly following Darwin's theory of "Survival of the fittest" as the maxim for the functioning of the capitalist economy. The problem  is, however, they forget that the whole purpose of functioning of an economy is to move towards a more civilized form of existence. Civilization has seen man moving out of the jungle and reach where he is today. Sadly, however, he has not yet been able to discard the rules of existence that he used to follow in the jungles.

Capitalism from the very beginning has been based on the principle of individualism and survival of the fittest. When Adam Smith had talked about man being rational  and therefore trying to maximize his returns if left free in the market... he had also referred to the same principle. The rules of the capitalist market have always wanted us to compete with others and maximize our benefits (read as profits). Critics point out the fact that when left free in a market an individual's return is not only a function of his competence and efforts (in terms of the number of hours he puts in) but also a function of his past accumulated wealth (on which he might have had no contribution). Based on the same argument some economists in India don't want MNCs to enter India as the survival of Indian companies is not only dependant on the quality of the products they produce but also on how strong is the competitor. Thums Up is not only an example of a quality product but also an example of brand building. Perhaps it was India's best ever example of an original brand name around which an identifiable brand personality had been built. The ad campaigns used to be most creative wherein the name Thums Up would coincide with the image that comes into mind; An image of a free, excited, adventurous young man which was nicely reflected in the caption "Taste The Thunder". All this came to nothing when a giant like Coca Cola entered the market. Thums Up got sold off. One of the best Indian brand names today sells under the aegis of Coca Cola. This proves the point that the capitalist economy is based on the concept of survival of the fittest. In a jungle, fittest refers to the strongest or the one who can best adjust to the existing environment; In an economy, fittest would refer to the richest. Therefore we see that the market economy has always helped the rich to grow richer at the cost of the others. This statement is authenticated by the fact that in USA the top 5% and top 20% of the economy who used to earn 15.5% and 41.1% of the total national income in 1973 were earning 17.9% and 44% of the total national income in 1989 respectively. The income earned by the lowest 20% of USA fell down from 5.5% to 4.6% during the same period while those of the lowest 4/5th of the economy fell down from 11.9% to 10.6%. The same applies to most of the other countries following the free market system.

I don't want to question the contribution of capitalism in making this world a better place to live in. What I want to say is that after so many years of growth and development which has seen capitalism reach its materialistic peak, enjoy the comforts which at one point of time would have sounded unrealistic, why doesn't this system yet focus on the crucial aspect of  the ever widening gap between man and man ie. the rich and the poor. Today when the rich already have 5 cars, can't they stop for a while till the others atleast come up to a situation where they don't die of hunger, before they decide to buy their 6th car? Men are born equal. If given the same opportunities of health and education their capacity to contribute  would have become nearly equal; The only difference being in terms of IQ or combination of genes that they possess. It is the society that we have created where these opportunities are not equally distributed/guaranteed, thereby leading to a difference between man and man. Today when some of us have reached such high standards of living it is the right time to bring in some humanitarian aspects to the society we live in. Is it not true that we try to give the maximum comforts to the individual in our family who is paralysed or has some handicap? If such a family has the budget for just one airconditioner isn't it most likely that it would be put in the room where the patient lies the whole day? Or is it that since the paralysed brother can't contribute, he should not be given food to eat or other such basic necessities? If the former is what is most likely in a family then what does it point to? Survival of the fittest or Survival of the weakest?

When an economy reaches a stage where the fittest can live well even if their standard of living doesn't grow rapidly, it is the duty of that economy to put its resources on the weakest and their survival. In our respective families we all believe in communism ie. to each according to his need but when it comes to the nation we want to follow just the opposite. By this I am not insisting on all economies to turn communist but I am expecting them to incorporate this most human and natural rule of family existence in their nations, while they continue to operate in a free market. According to Peter Drucker, the Americans today are already spending on an average 23 hours on social work every week... let them lead the way in the introduction of the concept of survival of the weakest in the society. Survival of the fittest should no more be a concept of any importance in today's world. The strengthening of the weaker sections of the society today need not be at the cost of the stronger. The maximum that can happen is that the rich would grow at a slower pace and their capacity to grow at a faster rate would be transferred to the poor and get reflected in their future. This contribution from the richer sections of the society is something that the world would be proud of tomorrow.

The stronger nations of the world should start supporting the weaker nations of the world in a genuine manner unlike what they do today, wherein after such a lot of haggling the majority of these nations declined to contribute even 2% of the cross border revenues for the development for the third world countries. The whole of Latin America and Africa combined don't have a single permanent member on the security council ; India with a population of almost one billion too does not enjoy the responsibility. The obsolete veto system and the abuse of the security council by the powerful nations is exalting a new colonialism within the U.N. The U.N. was formed at the end of a monstrous war that had claimed some 10 million lives. More than twice the number of people killed during the second world war today die of hunger and curable diseases while the United Nations brags of bringing peace in the world. The rich countries enjoy a life expectancy of around 80 years while the poor countries hardly enjoy a life expectancy of around 45 years. This is what survival of the fittest has achieved. Don't the people born in the poor countries have a right to live beyond the age of 45? These billions of lives are being brought to an end by the rich countries for the sake of a few additional comforts to their already existing ones. How long shall we wait for the carnage to stop?

And finally a last word for the big Indian industrialists who might get worried reading all this. The success of our industries or their respective companies doesn't actually depend upon the kind of business strategies they have nor the latest jargons that they have adopted from their multinational consulting firms nor on their exciting marketing and sales promotional schemes. The success of their companies in the long run depends upon how vast is the market that the economy has been able to give them, how much is the purchasing power of the people in the country. With "Survival of the Weakest" as the maxim the people at the bottom level would get more purchasing power alongwith better health and education facilities which would not only make a huge difference in the quality of human capital in the country but would also satisfy the most important criteria for the growth of the Indian industry i.e. they would become a part of the consuming market. The market will no longer comprise of 100 million people but of 1 billion people, because it is purchasing power and only purchasing power of the market that determines the long run growth of any economy, industry and company. No marketing strategy certainly can achieve the above market expansion. This is pure economics and no miracle. So, not only for the sake of humanity but also for the sake of their own long run interests they should support policies which benefit the weaker section of the society and contribute towards its success.

Let us not be hypocrites, it's high time we redefine the basic rules of the capitalist economy instead of pretending; And let us start it by following "Survival of Weakest" as the guiding force for the next millennium.nwz