Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Technology and Jobs

I've been reading Stanley Wolpert's India and one disaster Britain inflicted on India was one of those unintentional disaster intrinsic to modernity:

midland factories and mills in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, triggered almost as many changes in Indian society and economic life as it did in (treat Britain itself. Manchester manufacturers' faith in laissez-faire and their lobby's power in Parliament put an end to the Company's monopoly privileges after 1813, opening India to rapacious armies of free merchants, seeking new and bigger markets for their prolifically produced goods. Cotton cloth manufactured in Manchester mills was sold up a thousand rivers throughout Bengal for half or one-quarter the price of hand-woven "Dacca," launching a revolution of sorts in British India's economy by putting millions of Indian spinners, weavers, and other handicraftsmen out of work in a matter of decades.

Stanley Wolpert. India: Third Edition, With a New Preface (Kindle Locations 906-910). Kindle Edition.

Of course it was free trade that was the agent of that catastrophe, and it's one we've seen in reverse lately as business flows to India and China. The consequences for India were severe of course, including loss of much of its incipient manufacturing base. If India had been independent, the government could have intervened with tariffs and other measures, no doubt triggering the inevitable bad Karma associated with any tinkering with the sacred market.