Book Review: India from Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond by Shashi Tharoor

RATING : 2.5/5

India from Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond by Shashi Tharoor was, in many ways, disappointing. It is not  the overall readability of the book, or of the topics covered or of the beauty of the language used ; but it is the lack of  expected depth of the book which gives that impression. And especially when its title makes one assume that it must cover the whole of Independent India’s history.

No one can deny that Mr. Tharoor remains a narrator without much parallel among the modern political observers of India. However, one could see only a few instances elaborated as the only ones which defined the period under consideration. Plainly speaking, too much of information and anecdotes have been provided on a handful of topics. This gives the book a handsome superficial width, but a depth as thin as a sheet (although not quite the alternate pronunciation).

At one instance he narrates an anecdote to hint at the success of affirmative action for removal of caste disparities in Kerala. The narrative gets almost an entire chapter on caste. Apparently, it happened to be one of national prominence as the all important author was personally involved. A lot of similar issues abound the book.

A good book, if you are fond of one-liners. But for them, I would rather read The Great Indian Novel by the same author.

Recommended: for people with less interest in the depth of political affairs, as they will at least find something in the political discourse which is interesting. It still remains a book, which might invoke some interest in the disinterested.

Not Recommended: There is hardly anything new for people who have been reading books of this genre for a long time. Not an advisable read for those in search of information.

Good one-liners and remarks make the book light and enjoyable. That provides the extra 0.5 in my ratings.

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Joseph Stiglitz-Making Globalizaion Work

RATING: 4/5

Skewed globalization dominated by the selfish interests of developed nations led by the United States has always been an area of concern. Joseph Stiglitz tries to remove the stigma associated with the concept of globalization as a whole, while attacking the roots of the skewed globalization of today. Here he offers certain remedies to make globalization work better.

Stiglitz, as usual, is at his best exhibiting how unfair globalization has been till date, yet this book follows a novel approach of offering solutions. The book starts with optimism that another world is possible, and there exist solutions within the framework of globalization, which can work.

In terms of trade, he recommends how a fairer trade regime as opposed to the present regime where developed nations take use information asymmetries tilted to their sides to their advantage, can be replaced by a better regime for the benefit of all. He exposes how developed countries resort to populist, unethical, and sometimes even pathetically populist methodologies for taking undue advantage over developing countries in trade.

He comes down heavily on the present systems of patents and intellectual property rights, and how they can impede development of newer technologies, especially in developing countries. He calls them an impediment to the spirit of globalization and calls for less stringent and just patent laws.

He points to the conundrum that resource-rich countries are generally poor and how manufacturing sector growth in these countries, instead of providing raw materials to manufacturers in the developed world, can contribute better in a globalised world towards development for all. Innovative measures are also suggested for having a better economic system in place so that it rewards green growth which protects environment.

He calls for administrative reforms in multinationals, where stricter norms are laid out against bribery; and environmental damage and reduction of monopolies take place. He also emphasizes on a better debt management policy, where following the IMF directives have been disastrous in the past for many a developing country. In the same tune he calls for sweeping reforms in the IMF and World Bank. He emphasizes the need for a better global reserve system at work, and doing away with dollar-based reserves as a possible solution. The overall conclusion is that these changes can occur only in a globally democratic environment, and calls upon internally democratic developed countries to have democratic foreign and economic policies as well, and do away with monopolist globalization.

A thorough and well researched book as you might expect. It is an eye opener in many ways, for those who are ignorant of the specifics of skewed globalization. A book written by a visionary, who can see through the dangerous consequences of the existing policies, both for developed and developing world.

His ideas are workable in many ways, but most of his ideas require countries like US showing a change of intent, which seems impossible at this moment in time. Thus, his expectations border on idealism, and hence may seem less practical. Just as people looked at Keynesian model after decades with awe and wonder, Stiglitz too seems too ahead of his time. His solutions may prove to be part of a useful framework in the future.

His suggestions of repairing up capitalism of its woes, (rather than the extreme of doing away with it altogether), with well-defined role of domestic savings in investment as opposed to unstable speculative  capital (which was one big reason for recession) ,  and with emphasis on a democratic government to have at least some amount of regulatory mechanisms to check the ill-effects of market capitalism (like the woes of monopoly) may prove to be the benchmarks for a just, democratic and equitable global economic growth in the future. But, given the present scenario, we do not know how far that future lies.