The Elusive Welfare

Suppose few thousand years down the line, somebody digs up to find the traces of the present Indian Civilization. Since, we have good enough techniques to determine these things even today, they should certainly be able to determine how inequities prevailed in the society (the houses, the planning of villages and cities, the diversity of quality of belongings etc. etc.). The concept of the welfare state is fairly old and well rooted by now. But the welfare of people, in practice, remains elusive for a large part of the world’s population even today.

If we look the history, I had mentioned someplace else the very apt  observation of Pt. Nehru that the (materialistic) grandness of any civilization has almost always rested on exploitation of certain sections of the society. This combined with the fact that in many societies inequity is taken as almost given has always given me a feel that somehow the egalitarianism has not been a very prominent characteristic of the popular (political/social/economic) thinking in Human History. The intellectual and moral (sometimes not even those) thoughts being kept apart.

To that extent I took pride in this age, where these concepts are largely a part of popular thought.  

But what I have written in the first paragraph is something that struck me recently. We only see what was there. That need not mean  that popular thought was also the same. May be government’s role even then was to ensure equity, but just like today they never succeeded.

If anything, it makes me little more pessimistic. At times I thought we have only recently accepted it in principle and hence some time will be required before it can be put into implementation. But if we thought this way all through and are still where we are today, I am not sure how optimistic to feel about future.

And yet… the human spirit does not give up.

I still hope…

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About Jaya

Jaya Jha is an entrepreneur, a techie, a writer and a poet. She was born and brought up in various towns of Bihar and Jharkhand. A graduate of IIT Kanpur and IIM Lucknow, she realized early on that the corporate world was not her cup of tea. In 2008, she started, one of the first print-on-demand publishing platform in India. She currently lives in Bangalore and divides her time between writing and working on her company's latest product InstaScribe ( with a vision to make it the best e-book creation tool. Blog: Twitter: @jayajha Facebook:

4 thoughts on “The Elusive Welfare

  1. From what remains of “what was there”, it is possible (though not always perfectly) to infer popular thought and intent of powers-that-were.

    And a more basic question, is egalitarianism possible in the real world? If no two individuals are “inherently” the same, is creating conditions where they enjoy similar quality-of-life a sustainble equilibrium?
    Of course, the “inherent” difference creates – in subsequent iterations – the “not inherent” or imposed differences which appear unfair (and many social/political/economic attempts have been made to address the distortions).

    A way out…since every individual is “inherently” different, he/she would be satisfied in different slots. Thus an equilibrium wherein everyone is happy might be actually possible.
    One way to ensure that would be be a superstructure (call it Govt., call it politburo, call it whatever) that would do the “best-fit” match.
    A second way: Assume humans to be rational, provide them the “complete set/freedom of choices” and they will find their own slot. Actually, in this model, the “complete set/freedom of choices” need not be “provided” by a superstructure. If humans are rational, they would (possibly after sufficient hitting their heads against each other and the wall) realise this, and the free-flow and access of information (we see the rudiments, our good old Internet :-)) would hasten realisation.

    Are humans “inherently” different, are they “rational”…I don’t know!

  2. And one line of argument could be that “the set of choices” available too should depend on the “inherent” stuff.
    That’d complicate the situation, necessiate the role of an arbiter…very, very risky.

  3. My take – Humans are inherently different and still a substantial part is shaped by the circumstances. So, while equality would not be there, equity is required. Meaning, while everybody will never be the same, the opportunities available should not depend on that. Till of course, you can clearly delineate he part that is inherent from the one that is situation based (nature vs. nurture). One may choose to work on the later part of delineating (to find out the models!), but I would rather choose the first option of working towards equity (bounded rationality – may be and the call of judgement – of course!).

    And about “what was there -> what the popular thoughts were” – Why I gave the example of present day is precisely to suggest that the inferrence is not quite all right. While, we are failing in achieving equity, it does not mean that it is not a part of popularly accepted principles. Of course, if you differ on the point of “it being part of popluar thought even today” – it is altogether a different issue.

  4. I too trust the invisible hand’s way of things (the second option in my first comment, or working towards equity as you’d say…they depend on that hand’s justice) but that doesn’t take away from my trying to understand the logic of that invisible hand or the complete set of options that the hand has or the justification for the equilibriums that the invisible hand sets.

    I don’t differ on the other point too – “it being part of popluar thought even today”.
    Just that I think that it is possible – from what remains of civilizations – to infer the trends in popular thoughts, principles, initiatives taken, even if they failed. “We see what was there” but we generally understand beyond what we see.

    Well, a thousand years from now when they dig up this civilisation, if not anything else, they might actually come across a transcript of this exchange of comments and infer the trends…OK that was a sad one🙂.

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