Satire | Whose wealth is it?

Economics is not rocket science, so I’m going to clear the air on the redistribution debate

May 02, 2024 03:56 pm | Updated 05:17 pm IST

‘Over the past decade, India has witnessed healthy redistribution of the good kind — from the poor and middle classes to the billionaire elite’

‘Over the past decade, India has witnessed healthy redistribution of the good kind — from the poor and middle classes to the billionaire elite’ | Photo Credit: istock

It’s shocking how the Election Commission (EC) has become a mute spectator to repeated violations of the Model Code of Conduct, even when the violators are trying every trick to sow divisions between the majority and the minority. Yes, I am talking about the Congress and how its starriest campaigner has been allowed to go around promoting disaffection between the country’s biggest majority (the poor) and the smallest minority (the rich). Not satisfied with fanning resentment between the two, the Congress has gone a step further by openly talking about wealth redistribution — the socialist equivalent of Pearl Harbour.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no genius at economics, nor do I have the beautiful mathematical mind of a Russell Crowe. But all said and done, economics is not rocket science, or even science. Some of you may have seen this popular economics column called ‘No proof is required, hence proved’. I’d say that’s a pithy summary of how intelligent people should approach economic questions such as wealth redistribution. So, I’m going to clear the air on the redistribution debate by relying on my own economic common sense and mathematical prowess instead of turning to overrated experts. So, bear with me and you shall be rewarded with unprecedented insights.

On the key question, let’s be clear: wealth redistribution happens all the time. Regardless of which party is in power. But there are two kinds of wealth redistribution. There is the good kind, which promotes social stability by locking everyone in their designated place in the social order, just like in the caste system. Then there is the bad kind, which disrupts the traditional social order by increasing unnecessary social mobility between different rungs of the class ladder. 

The poor are happy

Over the past decade, India has witnessed healthy redistribution of the good kind — from the poor and middle classes to the billionaire elite. Till date, all evidence points to everyone being happy with this arrangement. The rich are happy — obviously, because they have gotten richer. And the poor are happy, because they have got a temple, plus the sense of belonging that comes with being part of a WhatsApp group. What more do the poor need to keep up with their identity of being poor?

This column is a satirical take on life and society.

However, this arrangement is now under threat from the Congress’ proposal to redistribute wealth in the reverse direction — from the rich to the poor and middle classes. First of all, this is against the laws of nature — if it weren’t, there would be no inequality in the world and your uncle would be as rich as Elon Musk (without actually being Elon Musk). Secondly, the very idea is petty and downright insulting, to the country’s millions of non-HNIs.

Why does the Congress think so little of the toiling masses that have successfully sustained the nation’s privileged elite for millennia? As per the World Inequality Database, India’s top 1% (the wealthiest) own just 40.1% of all wealth. If my calculations are right, then that’s not even half the country’s wealth. This means most of the nation’s wealth — 59.9% — is already in the hands of the majority (the 99%). India has a population of 140 crore (source: PM’s speeches). Now, 1% of that is 1.40 crore. 140 crore minus 1.40 crore is — I dare any economist to tell me I’m wrong — 138.60 crore. Can anyone seriously argue that 138.60 crore people can’t support 1.40 crore people? But that’s exactly what the Congress party’s ‘revolutionary’ manifesto is suggesting! Why? It’s simple: they want to fill the hearts and minds of the poor with resentments against the rich. 

Obsession with unemployment

This whole rich-poor rhetoric is so 1960s, it’s ridiculous. Same goes for the Congress campaign’s obsession with unemployment. Who in their right mind talks about jobs in the age of AI and entrepreneurship? Today, every Indian, be they rich or poor, aspires to be a wealth creator, not a job-seeker. That’s why the Congress banging on about so-called joblessness is despicable. It’s nothing but a desperate bid to garner votes by polarising the electorate into employment-seekers and employment-deniers. If this is not a clear-cut case of hate speech against the nation’s wealthy minority, I don’t know what is. 

And yet, the EC is reluctant to stop politicians from making incendiary references to redistribution and jobs. Let’s hope better sense prevails soon and it clamps down on this phenomenon with the same alacrity with which it has cracked down on communal rhetoric.

The author of this satire is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.