The industry of crying wolf

 

One of the fastest growing sectors in India is the industry of crying wolf. Be it liberalization, privatization, or foreign direct investment (FDI), our intellectuals start screaming of surrender of economic sovereignty and paint grim scenarios. Their latest target is FDI in various sectors.

The Left excels in crying wolf; the so-called Right just echoes Leftist theories; and liberals join in the fun. In a country where sloganeering is confused with eloquence and platitudes with wisdom, it is hardly surprising that shouting passes off as the cry of the long-suffering, silent majority.

Needless to say, nobody bothers to examine the authenticity of any cry: a cry, by virtue of being a cry, is always authentic. Or, so it is believed. Shouting having become the sexiest mode of protest, decibels often perform the function what in saner times the cogency of arguments used to do. If you dare to challenge the tyranny of decibels, you will be, well, shouted down.

The downtrodden are being neglected and pauperized in the liberalized economy, cry the self-proclaimed champions of the poor. If you dare to challenge this, or ask for any evidence to substantiate such an assertion, you would be immediately branded as a stooge of the World Bank, or a lackey of the diabolical multinational corporations (MNCs), or both. Interestingly, you will face only accusations and allegations; no reason or evidence is expected to substantiate the grave charges against you. You may ask for evidence to support the allegation that you are a stooge of the World Bank, you may point out that you have never visited any office of the infamous bank, but no—there is no reprieve. You may argue, they will shout, and you will be shouted down.

A number of factors sustain and nurture the tyranny of decibels; they are mainly political, social, and cultural in nature. An important factor is the pusillanimity and dishonesty of the political class. It works in the following fashion: The government decides to liberalize, say, the labor sector. This would entail some changes in the archaic labor laws, arguably the worst legacy of the socialist era. There is a howl of protest from the communist parties, trade union leaders, and Leftwing intellectuals. The accusations are on the expected lines: the government is under the evil influence of global capitalism; politicians are the lackeys of big industry; the proposed labor reforms are against workers and the nation; the Opposition will join in the fun; decibels will grow with time. The government would start thinking, rethinking, re-rethinking: are the reforms so bad? Doubts, misgivings, apprehensions will start bothering senior ministers: will labor reforms cost us votes? The casualties would be reason and commonsense.

Nobody in the political class has the courage to face up to the basic facts. To begin with, not many people would be affected—adversely or otherwise—by labor reforms, for organized labor is below 8 per cent of the workforce. So, even if one assumes that the entire labor force would be at the mercy of employers after reforms—a ludicrous assumption though it is—more than 92 per cent of the workforce will benefit in the bargain, as flexible labor laws attract more investment and create jobs. Secondly, the protesters are the very people responsible for many of ills of the economy; and they are against change because this will marginalize them. But few ministers are willing to recognize this fact. Nor do they realize that the self-styled champions of labor are actually representatives of a very small, and privileged, part of the workforce—of organized labor. Neither politically nor morally is it justified to continue with the outdated labor laws. But the political class is too pusillanimous and intellectually bankrupt to see reason, commonsense, and fairness, all of which are lost in the cacophony of banality.

It is the industry of crying wolf that is responsible for most of the woes of the economy.

When decibels rule the roost, the shrillest and loudest noisemakers appear to be the most convincing campaigners; fashionable radicals and vested interests masquerade as the crusaders of the truth. The sufferer is the nation.