Tracing Economic Policies to Ancient Indian Economic Ethics


Tracing Economic Policies to Ancient Indian Economic Ethics

Satish Y. Deodhar

Working Papers

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Science without history is like a man without memory. The colossal history of India stores many ideas on economic ethics and public policy which have been forgotten in the course of time. This paper is an attempt to bring to the fore, contributions from ancient Indian treatises. In this context, the paper briefly summarizes alternative economic ideas such as communism, capitalism, and the holistic approach of ancient Indian writings. I discuss the idea of the welfare brick for an individual consisting of three dimensions – Purusharthas, Ashramas, and Varnas. Given the contours of the welfare brick, next I discuss the concept of state and its economic policies, followed by coverage of markets, prices, interest rates, and credit. Thereafter, I delve into treatment of land, property rights, and guilds and unions, with special attention to labour relations covered in Arthashastra and Shukranitisara. The penultimate section summarises the economic advice author of Shukrantisara offers to the head of a household. Finally, in concluding comments, I bring out the relevance of ancient Indian writings for modern times –both for pedagogy and economic policies.