The Logical Fallacies of the Hindu Sanatani Economics

The crucial Indian Loksabha elections are underway right now. Five rounds have already been completed, and three more rounds are pending. The final result will be declared on June 4th, 2024. Ground reports and the lowly speeches of Prime Minister Modi indicate that he fears losing power this time. The race in many crucial Hindi belt states like UP, Maharashtra, Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, etc., is very close. Modi’s BJP party is expected to lose many seats in these states. In the Southern states, BJP’s had very low presence except in the state of Karnataka, but even there they are expected to lose a lot of seats after losing the state assembly election last year, and the scandal of giving a party ticket to a mass rapist criminal like Prajwal Revanna. 

Narendra Modi identifies himself as a Hindu Nationalist leader, and his lifetime politics is of hatred against minority Muslims and Christians. For me, he is India’s cheap copy of Hitler. His RSS (Rashtriya SwayamSevak Sangh) backers who created him harbor a century old dream of converting India into a Hindu theocratic state, and Modi was groomed by them to fulfill this dream of Hindu Rashtra. The BJP party, which is a political arm of the RSS, catapulted itself to power after its workers demolished the old Mughal-era Babri Mosque in 1992. BJP’s election manifesto always talked about building a Ram Temple in Ayodhya on the grounds of the demolished Babri Mosque. 

Narendra Modi is seeking a 3rd term of power in this election, and to win power he hurriedly inaugurated a Ram Temple in Ayodhya this year in January even when the construction was still underway. To use the Ram Temple as an excuse for his power, he disregarded the suggestions of four Shankyacharyas to postpone the inauguration until the construction was complete. Breaking all the protocols of being a Prime Minister, he became a chief priest in the Ram Temple Pran-Pratishtha ceremony. 

After this inauguration, many of Modi’s supporters are busy justifying the building of the Ram Temple on economic grounds. During the last ten years of Modi’s rule, unemployment has reached an all-time high. The youth unemployment problem is particularly grim. Under the background of this high level of unemployment, many Modi supporters, and ministers like Bollywood actress Hema Malini are justifying the construction of the Rem Temple by saying,

All the arrangements are good here. Because of the temple, so many people are getting employment. 

On Social media platform X, many Modi supporters are making the same argument as seen in Figure 1. 

Figure 1: Job Creation at the Ram Temple

This argument that ‘the construction of the Ram Temple is providing jobs and income” represents a class case of a broken window fallacy. Let us see why. 

As Henry Hazlitt said, the broken window fallacy is looking only at the short-term impact of a policy on one group of people. As Frederic Bastiat said, the fallacy is in looking at the seen effect of a policy while ignoring the unseen effects. As Hazlitt said, 

The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. (P. 5) 

In mainstream neoclassical economics language, the broken window fallacy is ignoring the opportunity cost. Let us apply the broken window fallacy analysis to Modi supporters’ above argument. 

Let us agree that this poor kid earns 45,000 rupees a month selling vermillion to the devotees visiting the Ram Temple. What is the unseen side of this business? Let’s say, this child had 10,000 devotee consumers. Those 10,000 devotees took one full day for the temple visit. When visiting the temple, they couldn’t do any other (productive) work in the labor market. Suppose these devotees worked for 10 hours per day then those 10,000 devotees represent 100,000 lost work hours! If they didn’t visit the temple, they could’ve used that 100,000 work hours to produce goods and services that the consumers of India want. A fall in the working hours means a fall in the production of those goods and services, and falling production means more poverty in the future. 

The seen effect of the Ram Temple is few people getting jobs selling vermillion or coconut etc., but the unseen effect is loss of work hours elsewhere, as well as loss of precious savings and investment which is needed to accumulate future physical and human capital of India. Devotees are buying temple items using their income or savings. That much money isn’t available for investment in productive activities, and without that investment, India’s future will remain poor and dark. 

Also, the unseen effect is the loss of taxpayers’ money that the Modi government used for the Ram temple affair. That money could’ve been used to provide clean drinking water, and 24×7 running reliable electricity, etc., to the people of India.

We can also use the logical method of reductio ad absurdum to expose the fallacious arguments of Modi supporters. Suppose for the sake of argument we agree with what Modi supporters are saying that the Ram Temple is providing jobs and income to people. If we stretch this line of argument to its logical limits then it means to eliminate the problem of unemployment, the Modi government should build more temples where they can provide jobs to everyone. We should leave behind all other activities, and only build temples. That will employ everyone. Isn’t this nice? Do we need this kind of employment and income? No. Why? If the only thing that the Indian economy is producing are temples then at the end of the day the production is only of temples. In that case, what are people going to consume? Are they going to eat temple bricks and mortar? Are they going to drink temple bricks and mortar? Are they going to wear temple bricks and mortar? Are they going to live inside those temples? The opportunity cost of only producing temples is the lost production of every other consumer goods. We do not need any temple jobs and income. Temples are not going to remove the hunger and thirst of people. Temples are not going to fulfill any material needs of the people, and without fulfilling the basic material needs of the people of India there is no use in fulfilling their spiritual/religious needs. People first need Roti, Kapda, and Makan. People need clean drinking water. People need houses. People, especially that poor kid selling vermillion, need good quality education. People need good quality healthcare services. We can build temples later on once the basic needs of everyone are fulfilled. 

Superficially it does look as if the Ram Temple is providing jobs and income to some people, but that is not the case once we carry out a careful sound economic analysis. The Ram Temple is wasting society’s precious labor and time resources. Constructing or visiting temples is not going to make Indians richer. Such activities do not provide any meaningful work or income to people. When the vast majority of Indians do not have enough quality food to eat, quality water to drink, quality clothes to wear, and quality houses to stay in, such temples are boondoggles, and nothing else. 

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