Nationalism is rising in India under the relentless propaganda from the Indian government and its leaders. Such nationalism for India is nothing new. The Congress party under the leadership of Nehru used nationalism against the British colonial rule to win power for themselves. All the policies like import substitution or inward looking of the Nehruvian era are now again in place under the present Indian government’s policies like Make in India, Atmanirbhar Bharat, and general protectionism, which are all driven by the ideology of nationalism.
Will this nationalism help Indians in fulfilling their needs?
We human beings are driven by our needs. As Marshall Rosenberg has said, behind every human emotion [and action, per Mises] there is some need.
At the root of every tantrum and power struggle are unmet needs.
The whole goal of the economic organization of any society is to make sure that as many needs of the people as possible are fulfilled. How they are fulfilled should not be an important issue, i.e., whether the government is fulfilling those needs or the free market private enterprise, should not matter to the populace whose needs are being fulfilled. Objectively speaking, it shouldn’t matter whether socialism is fulfilling our needs or capitalism. In the context of present discussion about the rising nationalism in India, whether Indians buy their steel from China or India should not be an issue of contention or consideration. What is important is that the steel that I am buying is of best quality and is lowest possible price. What is important is people are served in the best possible manner by the best people in the world.
How can we fulfill as many of our needs as possible?
As we all know we human beings are not endowed by our creator with everything, but he has definitely endowed all of us with something unique. The same goes for human society which is comprised of individual human beings with their unique talents. Someone among us can produce rice while someone can produce wheat and someone can produce fish and someone can produce eggs and so on and so forth. We all cannot produce all the things that we want to consume in our daily lives to fulfill our myriad of needs, but we all can produce one or two things for sure.
Now, if we all cannot produce everything that we need, but we all can produce few of those things, then how can we fulfill all our needs? The answer is: Trade/Exchange. All our needs can be fulfilled via trading with each other. Market exchange makes sure that we can consume and fulfill as many of our needs as possible. This means trade is pro-life and trade makes us rich. It improves the quality of life by lifting the standard of living of everyone who is trading. Let me give a simple example to prove my point. Suppose on an island two individuals are living – Amrendra and Sumit. On another island a few miles away two other individuals are living – Jinping and Marcus. Amrendra is an expert in producing onion and Sumit is an expert in producing tomato. Similarly Jinping is an expert in producing rice noodles and Marcus is an expert in producing spices. If these four individuals won’t trade with each other then their life is condemned to consume whatever one thing they are good at producing i.e., Amrendra will have to consume onion, Sumit will have to consume just tomato, Jinping will have to consume rice noodles and Marcus will have to consume spices for their whole lives. They all are living a poor life with a very low standard of living. Their basic need of eating a variety of foods is also unmet in this condition of no trade. But their situation can improve immediately if they all decide to trade. Amrendra can trade his surplus onion with Sumit as well as with Jinping and Marcus from another island and receive tomato, rice noodles, and spices in return. The same for Sumit, Jingping and Marcus. By trading everyone can enjoy all the products produced by others. Before this trade they all were only consuming one good that they were producing and after the trade they are consuming everything that is available in that small economy of four people.
We can extend the same logic to an economy of more than four people. Our modern economies of multiple nations comprising of 8 billion people gives us so many choices that if we trade freely with each other we can fulfill almost all of our needs easily. We all can acquire everything from each other that we cannot produce on our own. Indians do not have to worry about being poor or being without many goods that they can’t produce. They simply have to start freely trading with the whole world and they will be able to acquire products produced by the whole world. In that way all the needs of Indians can be easily fulfilled. Thus the key to prosperity for Indians is free trade internally and externally. There is no other option of lifting the standard of living of 1.4 billion people. No matter how hard Indians will try, they will not be able to make everything in India.
If global unilateral free trade with everyone is the key to a prosperous life for the billion plus Indians then nationalism, which stops this free trading, is anti-life and a guaranteed misery and death by the same logic. There is nothing else more anti-life than any effort of the governments of not allowing Indians to freely trade with everyone in India and around the world. By restricting trade in the name nationalism this government is restricting human development, which is defined as enhancing choices of people to improve their quality of life, of underdeveloped Indians. In a nutshell it is killing them slowly. Nationalism is a certain death. It is a certain death from an economic point of view as well as from the political point of view because as Frederic Bastiat very astutely observed more than a century ago,
The word invasion itself is a good example of this.
A French ironmaster says: “We must protect ourselves from the invasion of English iron!” An English landlord cries: “We must repel the invasion of French wheat!” And they urge the erection of barriers between the two nations. Barriers result in isolation; isolation gives rise to hatred; hatred, to war; war, to invasion. “What difference does it make?” say the two sophists. “Is it not better to risk the possibility of invasion than to accept the certainty of invasion?” And the people believe them, and the barriers remain standing.
And yet, what analogy is there between an exchange and an invasion? What possible similarity can there be between a warship that comes to vomit missiles, fire, and devastation on our cities, and a merchant vessel that comes to offer us a voluntary exchange of goods for goods?
Basically, restricting trade with other countries will result in a war which will destroy everything and bring death to everyone no matter who are fighting and for what reason. War will destroy the very nation state in the name of which political rulers are erecting protectionist borders and restricting trade! Nationalism will thus bring death to political rulers also in the end!
As the saying goes, nationalism is the last refuge of the scoundrels. Indian government is resorting to the excuse of nationalism to hide their weaknesses in every field whether that be economic, political, social, cultural, or geopolitical etc. When someone has nothing concrete to offer, they hide behind the shoddy excuse of nationalism. Politicians will always use nationalism as a cover to hide their self interest of grabbing political power forever at the cost of the very country and its people whom they pretend to love. Germany’s dictator Hitler is the prime example of such fake nationalism. For him the love of Germany was only one instrument of grabbing power for himself. In the end of WW II when he realized that he could not hold onto power for long, he didn’t hesitate a bit to destroy Germany and kill Germans in a futile war. His mad ambition for world power destroyed the Germans`. The same fate awaits the Indians who are high on nationalism drug right now. When they will finally awake from the effect of this potent drug, it will be too late.
If Indians wish to be prosperous then free global trade is the way to go. If they want to fulfill their needs and dreams then free global trade is the key. Trade will give them the quality life that they are desiring. Nationalism is only going to kill them in the end.