Abundance and the Future of Man
BY GERARD PIEL A Harvard graduate, GERARD PIEL has been president and publisher of the SCIENTIFIC AMERICANsince 1947, and under his aegis the magazine has become one of the most influential periodicals of our day. His belief that the surpluses of the American economy can be converted into a dynamic force for India and for other developing nations in the free world is a forecast of breathtaking possibilities.
AFTER two centuries of industrial revolution, the map of the world shows two kinds of nations: developed and underdeveloped, or, in plain language, rich and poor. The rich nations embrace less than one third of the world population and consume more than two thirds of the world’s output. To most of their citizens the rising productivity of industrial technology furnishes increasing well-being; in some of these countries, surpluses have begun to embarrass the economic order. In the poor nations, on the other hand, the output of preindustrial agricultural technology tends constantly to fall behind population growth, and the material circumstances of most of their citizens are declining. Of course, poverty is not new to the experience of the mass of mankind; the rich nation is the innovation of recent history. Today, however, the poor are politically mobilized, and the new nations of the poor are committed to industrial revolution. For a century to come, the development of the underdeveloped countries will set the course of history.
No physical barrier stands in the way of this culmination of the industrial revolution. An exhaustive and authoritative accounting, rendered by scientists of many nations and by the international civil service — now two generations old — of the League of Nations and the United Nations Organization, assures us that the earth’s resources are ample for the needs of a much larger world population. Existing technology is equal to the task of accelerating the increase of production ahead of the growth of population everywhere in the world. With the consequent improvement in individual circumstances, there is good reason to expect that populations will stabilize well within the capacity of resources and technology to provide material well-being for all. The birth rate has followed the death rate downward in every country that has experienced development.
The only uncertain question is the process of development itself. Development is not an exercise in economic theory; it is an enterprise that engages the energies, ambitions, and passions of men. The open question is the cost of development: the cost to the liberty and life of the living generation of men. On the precedents of the past, reaffirmed by each cycle of development, the prospective cost of the next round — multiplied by two billion lives makes the heart contract. To say that the question is open is to declare a hope. The hope is that history need not go on repeating itself.
Alexander Herzen, who died in Paris in 1870 after twenty-three years in exile from his native Russia, was another revolutionist who held with Thomas Jefferson that the living generation is the only proper object of social action. Herzen was the enemy of big words spelled with initial capitals. “Submission of the individual to Society, to the People, to Humanity, to the Idea,” he said, “is merely a continuation of human sacrifice. . . . The individual, who is the true, real monad of society, has always been sacrificed to some concept, some collective noun, some banner or other!” More plainly than most historians, Herzen stated the cost of development in the past:
Slavery is the first step toward civilization. In order to develop, it is necessary that things should be much better for some and much worse for others; then those who are better off can develop at the expense of the others.
Because history is written so largely by its beneficiaries, history has little to say about its human cost. The record shows, however, that Herzen’s law of development — that slavery is the first step toward civilization — came into full force at an early stage, soon after the agricultural revolution and before the writing of history began. It worked well enough to lift civilization high and carry history forward to great triumphs and tragedies, all on the basis of quite primitive technologies. Out of the always inadequate and relatively constant product — per man-hour and per acre — social institutions secured a sufficiently inequitable distribution of goods to support a minority in occupations that called for the exercise of higher human capacity than the scraping of brute existence from the soil.
Over millennia, development was imperceptible. The same treadmills and capstans are to be seen in the friezes of Egyptian tombs and in engravings of the seventeenth-century London dockside, and are still at work today in the fields and on the wharves of India. All at once, for reasons not known, the turn in history came from the West. Not long after Galileo and Newton had secured the foundations of celestial mechanics, the rate of technological change quickened, and the mastery of mechanical forces began to amplify the strength and skill of men. The surplus so long extracted from scarcity by deprivation of the mass of the people found a new social function. It became the capital for increasing the productive capacity of society.
The historians of the first industrial revolution are just now recognizing, however, that: the process of capital formation involved a sharpening of the inequities that produced the surplus. The “savings” that financed the classical industrial revolution of England were principally involuntary. That is, the savings were taken from the reduction of the material estate of the yeomanry. This was the era of “carboniferous capitalism”; Asa Briggs has shrewdly traced the institution of the “two cultures” to the aesthetic and social protest of contemporary men of letters against such ugly manifestations of applied science as the slag heap and the millprison. The coercion and cruelty, the pain and rebellion of those days are largely forgotten or are healed in the amenities enjoyed by the latter-day heirs of the first cycle of development. E. P. Thompson closes his history of the English working class with the prayer that “Causes which were lost in England might, in Asia and Africa, yet be won.”
The story has been the same in each industrial revolution that has followed. In the United States, historians continue to celebrate the frontier. But it was thirty-five million steerage immigrants — a flood of humanity equal to the nation’s population at the end of the Civil War — who furnished the primary capital for the industrial revolution that got under way at the middle of the nineteenth century. The American Negro’s present determined drive to capture and assert his civil rights after a century of putative emancipation serves to remind Americans how the savings for the development of their country were corralled.
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union, the nation that has most lately joined the circle of the rich nations, looks back in dismay upon the cruel human cost of its brief, ruthless, and successful revolution. Its moralists and economists deny that the now acknowledged costs are inherent in the dictatorship of the proletariat and argue rather that these were paid to foreign invasion, counterrevolution, and the cult of personality. Presumably, another generation of economic studies will find that coercion served here, as it has served elsewhere so invariably, the elementary function of capital formation.
If these precedents must be followed, then the next few years will see the developing nations, one after another, come under authoritarian leadership. Admittedly, ad hoc regimes are more common than not among the poor nations, regardless of their rate of development or degree of stagnation. The nations that are moving, however, are those that are most harshly governed, and the rate of development seems to correlate directly with the disposition to apply and submit to coercion.
AGAINST the example of history past and present, India stands alone. India’s leaders have declared their determination to bring about the industrialization of their country, and the attendant radical reconstruction of the social order, through the institutions of political democracy and without resort to coercion or the invocation of class hatred and violence. This experiment in development is as crucial as it is unprecedented. Should India fail, the grim cycle is fated to go on as before. Nor can the rich nations hope to remain spectators. Those in particular that hold stakes in the one-crop and mineral-extracting economies of the preindustrial poor nations must anticipate that the fervor of the new nationalisms will be turned against them. The proliferation of authoritarian regimes among the poor will constantly increase the danger of war, and that danger is intolerable. If the Indian experiment succeeds, on the other hand, this could be as significant a turn in history as the industrial revolution itself.
With as much despair as hope, one must admit that it is not yet possible to forecast either success or failure. The percentage gains under the first two Five-Year Plans have been great. But the absolute magnitudes are small compared with the unmet need. One can say bravely that the work has begun. But it is also clear that time is running faster with each month and year. The rapid increase in India’s urban population — the urbanization of poverty barely endurable in the shelter of the village — must tend to destabilize political institutions not yet secure.
The figures for the first two Plans show that their execution fell short of their goals; the Third Plan lags as well. But the figures show another fact: the gap in the Plans correlates with a persistent shortfall in the aid projected from overseas. After three Plans, the lesson should at last be clear. India’s vision of peaceful development rests upon the expectation that the rich nations of the world will supply, by grant or long-term loan, a portion of the necessary capital. In the Third Plan this portion is explicitly declared to be 20 percent of the total investment program.
By what right or logic does one nation thus lay claim upon the wealth and bounty of others? The answer is to be found in the special nature and function of the aid expected. India, in the first place, proposes to supply 80 percent of the capital; for its share in the effort India possesses the necessary resources in great plenty, in the form of unemployed geological wealth and underemployed manpower. The missing 20 percent is technology, in the form of skills, engineering, tools, and plant equipment. These assets India does not yet possess in the self-regenerating abundance of the rich nations. Supplied from abroad, they would effect the junction of men and physical resources and produce 100 percent where the values are now zero or negative.
This is the nature of the aid India seeks from abroad. The function of this aid is equally decisive. In India’s vision of development, aid is the offset to involuntary savings and the coercion necessary to secure them. Without aid in the volume projected, India would have to proceed, as other nations have done and are doing, to extract the last ounce of surplus from insufficiency by coercive deprivation. External aid, in Indian planning, is the catalyst of development. It supplies the technology that brings manpower into reaction with resources at lower social pressures and temperatures. With external aid, it becomes possible to dream of carrying development forward without sacrifice of the living generation to the promised welfare of the next.
The call for aid is not an appeal to the benevolence of the world; the condescension which burdens the term “aid” derives from the values of preindustrial technology and the days when some really had to go without. The demand for foreign aid (we are stuck with the term) that comes from India and other developing countries carries a rightful claim upon the assets of twentieth-century civilization. The first among these assets is scientific knowledge and the power this gives man over nature. Science and technology are the heritage of all men, because they constitute the accumulative experience of our species. That experience came to sudden fruition in the West, but no exclusive title to it is vested in the West.
It is no coincidence that the popularization of well-being in the West has been followed by the popularization of citizenship. Now India proposes that the institutions of self-government shall not await economic development but shall develop concurrently. To this end it calls upon the rich nations to help supply the needed technology.
Whatever the justice or propriety of this demand for foreign aid from the standpoint of the poor countries, it exacts no sacrifice on the part of the rich. Science and technology are not diminished by the sharing of them. It is the information, the accumulative human experience, embodied in the tools and machines that the developing nations require, not the gross materials of which these artifacts of technology are made. The materials represent the least of the values, and the smallest of the costs as well. The rich nations can respond to the demand for aid without perceptible cost to their well-being.
The rendering of external aid can, in fact, relieve the rich nations of peculiar temporary embarrassments that arise from the mismatching of the progress of their technology and the evolution of their social and economic institutions. The best example I can think of is the United States, because I know it best and because it represents industrialization in its presently most fully realized form. If my analysis leads into paradox from point to point, this flows from the no less incredible nature of the facts and figures of the U.S. industrial economy. The logic of its abundance necessarily inverts values and habits of thought predicated upon the more familiar experience of scarcity.
IT CANNOT be said that foreign aid is a popular cause just now in American politics. India’s needs, and the needs of other developing countries, have nonetheless found direct resonance and firm support in the second most powerful economic interest in our political system. This is American agriculture. The reason it responds so abundantly is that agriculture is in many ways the technically most progressive sector in the economy. Less than 7 percent of the U.S. labor force is now engaged in agriculture. The contrast with the situation of India is drawn the more sharply in figures showing that most of the food consumed by the dwellers in U.S. towns and cities comes from fewer than one million farms. More important to the food supply than the rest of the farmers and their hands are the two million workers in manufacturing who supply the fertilizer, tools, and machinery, and who process and pack the food. And more important than farmers or workers are the hundred thousand or so agricultural technicians who keep the nation’s agricultural productivity on a constantly steeper upward slope.
Despite continuing reductions in the number of acres and man-hours, the American cornucopia continues to pour forth a greater flood of produce. The output at the farm is equivalent to 12,000 calories per day for each man, woman, and child in the land, enough to feed one billion people. Americans feed some of it to animals, thereby exchanging carbohydrate for protein calories; we waste much of it; we give a great deal of it away; and still we have surpluses left over to keep in storage — from 50 to 160 percent of the annual requirement of all major grains.
Especially during the last fifteen years, these developments have confounded all efforts to manage U.S. agriculture in accord with sound economic practices predicated upon the assumption or the maintenance of scarcity. The U.S. agriculturist continues to talk orthodox classical or scarcity economics on Sunday, as we say. But he has meanwhile learned to practice a sensible pragmatic kind of abundance economics on weekdays. Although he has not yet come to advocate anything so radical as production for use, he strongly favors production for production’s sake.
Over the past decade one of the principal measures for sustaining the U.S. agricultural economy against the crushing burden of its surpluses has consisted in shipping those surpluses overseas to feed the hungry. Since 1954, more than nine billion dollars’ worth — seventy-five million tons — of agricultural commodities has been delivered to forty-four developing countries. Shipments of wheat alone have amounted to two entire bumper crops. India has been the principal recipient of these shipments, more than two billion dollars’ worth.
Under the legerdemain of Public Law 480, which sanctions this use of surpluses, the food is sold to the receiving government at world prices. The payment is taken, however, in nonconvertible currency and is loaned back to the recipient government to finance economic development programs. Sunday economics is thereby satisfied by the assurance that two dollars are made to grow in the place of one, and Public Law 480 stands as one of the most secure statutes on our books.
In point of fact, as V. M. Dandekar has shown, food may be used to finance development. He found that food could be reckoned as 20 percent of the cost of an average infrastructure project in the Second Plan. Conversely, food may be said to exert a fivefold multiplier in the financing of development. Surely food is, as Edward S. Mason has said, “as good as gold!” Most important, this food has fed the hungry and has bought time wherever it has been shipped and consumed.
The benefits to the developing economy of the Public Law 480 food shipments are plain enough. One can scarcely credit, however, the benefits to the American economy. Here we have shipped out commodities of unquestionable intrinsic value; yet it is impossible to find that it cost Americans anything. The farmer was paid for his produce; in fact, as a result of these shipments and their salutary effect on domestic U.S. commodity prices, the farmers received more than a billion dollars in extra income. The federal government, which unburdened its storage bins, made “savings in price support acquisitions, storage and interest” totaling $545 million in 1958 and 1959 on shipments that cost $668 million. Because the law reserves such shipping to American bottoms, the U.S. merchant marine picked up nearly $250 million in extra revenues from Public Law 480 during the first three years of its administration. Looking to the future, the farmers and their packers and shippers cheer themselves further with the prospect that these shipments have opened up new export markets for later dollar sales of U.S. farm commodities.
Theoretically, the recipient countries have contracted to pay dollars someday for the foods and fibers shipped to them under Public Law 480; hopefully, they will be able to do so. in the long run, out of expanded national incomes. But the accounts have already been squared domestically inside the United States in the short run. The federal government set the wheel turning with its payments of the taxpayers’ money to the farmer. These payments brought the farmer into the market as a customer for a long shopping list of consumer and producer goods whose makers were glad to have a customer. The repercussions, multiplying the original transaction by two or three times, generated enough additional economic activity to bring income earners into tax brackets where they were liable for the additional taxes necessary to cover the original transaction.
Ultimately, of course, one can reckon up some real costs to America: some millions of tons of irreplaceable soluble minerals extracted from its topsoil. But this kind of cost awaits a more rational system of accounting to place it on the national ledger. Meanwhile, on the books kept by its scarcity accountants, the American economy shows nothing but plus signs.
If aid in the form of food works so well for both parties to the transaction, surely it is worthwhile to explore the possibilities of other aid in other forms. Howard Cowden, an American businessman and student of public policy in agriculture, has observed that $1 worth of nitrogen applied where nitrogen is the limiting factor will get $4 in additional yield. An investment of $100 million in fertilizer factories will produce three thousand tons of anhydrous ammonia per day; this much fertilizer will increase food production by $345 million per year. Cowden’s logic encouraged the Cooperative League of the U.S.A. to urge that the U.S. Agency for International Development be authorized to join with its client countries in the building of $100 million worth of fertilizer factories, with Public Law 480 funds supplying the client’s half of the necessary investment capital.
Since the logic works so well to this point, I, for one, am tempted to carry it still further, to the last step. My proposal is that India should set up the steel plant to make the steel to build the fertilizer factories to produce the fertilizer to grow the food grains. The equivalent steel plant would have to be imported only once; upon going into production, it would produce the steel for a fertilizer factory each year thereafter. My proposal, therefore, calls for the ingot capacity needed to produce sixty million rupees’ worth of finished steel.
India is a big country, however, and it can use a much bigger addition to its steel capacity. A plant appropriate to the size of India is planned at Bokaro; at its full projected capacity of four million ingot tons, Bokaro will represent an investment of seven billion rupees. The sixty million rupees’ worth of steel needed to keep Indian agriculture supplied with new fertilizer plants will take up only 3.3 percent of its annual output.
Here is an insight into one of the paradoxes of industrial technology: food production increases in volume and efficiency precisely in ratio with its decline as a percentage of total economic activity. The United States operates the world’s biggest agricultural establishment in terms of output, producing five times as much food as the people of the country need to sustain their nutrition, yet the agricultural sector accounts for less than 10 percent of the gross national product.
By this time, however, I do not suppose that anyone in India needs to be persuaded of the connection between agricultural productivity and industrialization. Rather, it is the peoples of the rich nations who do not yet see the connection between food and steel. The Bokaro episode in the relations of the United States and India is a case in point. It is worth closer examination for what it reveals about the prospects for fruitful collaboration of the rich and the poor nations in the task of development.
Two apparent lines of argument were advanced against U.S. assistance to the building of Bokaro; the two, in fact, come down to one. What hurt most was the technical critique which cited deficiencies in personnel, uncertainties as to raw materials, and inadequacies of transportation. Not long ago in the United States we heard the very same arguments advanced against Henry J. Kaiser’s determination to build the first integrated steel plant in California, a plant that developed the lowest operating costs in the entire steel industry just as soon as Kaiser got it built. The supposedly technical critique of Bokaro may, therefore, be taken to be as purely ideological as the ideological arguments themselves. India proposes to build this steel mill in the public sector of its economy. The suggestion that the American taxpayer might help to finance the construction of Bokaro was therefore the occasion for an old-fashioned camp meeting of Sunday economists. Listening to the clamor, one might find it hard to believe that the American businessman, factory worker, salesman, clerk, and engineer, no less than the American farmer, are learning to live and work in pragmatic accommodation with the rising tide of abundance that has swept away the premises of the official ideology.
THE problems of production have long since been solved in the U.S. economy. Its surplus does not arise from the classical process of coercive deprivation but consists in a true physical excess of product and of capacity to produce. Success in production has confounded the process of distribution. The distribution system requires that the would-be consumer hold a job in order that he may bring his need into the marketplace as effective demand. But technology has severed the connection between people and production. Besides the farmers, not much more than 30 percent of the U.S. labor force can now be classified as “producers of goods.” Since 1950, this category has not only declined as a percentage of a growing labor force but even in absolute numbers. What is more, employment in distribution, which formerly helped so mightily to secure the distribution of goods by qualifying its own workers as consumers, has begun to yield to technological disemployment. The same is true of the white-collar clerical work force. Above all, from the ideological standpoint, the most significant trend is the rising ratio of employment in the public sector of the economy as compared with that in the private sectors. More than half of the new jobs created since 1950 are in the public sector.
Now, the functions served by the public sector do not yield what is ordinarily reckoned as “profit.” The biggest expansion in jobs — more than a million new jobs in the decade — has come in teaching, a function which is characteristically public and which, in the United States, is the responsibility of local, municipal, and state budgets. In percentage terms, scientific research and engineering have been the most rapidly growing professions. Since the end of World War II the substantial growth — totaling perhaps three million jobs — in these elite functions has been financed almost entirely by the public sector.
In other words, against all the precepts and injunctions of its formal economics, the U.S. social order has been accepting entirely new values and priorities. It has been forced to do so, in part, by the need to effect the distribution of its abundance via job-generated demand. Quite apart from the economic compulsions that justify such job-making, however, the values and the priorities have themselves begun to capture the public esteem. In this respect America lags behind other industrialized countries, where the public sector and its welfare functions have long turned over a larger portion of the gross national product and have held a higher moral priority. Nonetheless, the American solution to the management of abundance promises to set generous precedents for the world. Its public education system, for example, stands as the most truly democratic in design and motivation, even though the resolute effort to extend the best to all may slight both the brilliant and the backward.
Significantly, the new functions fostered by material abundance are those that engage people with people rather than with things. In the end, we may expect societies thus richly endowed to encourage increasing numbers of their citizens to pursue the practice of citizenship full-time. Presumably, if America had already arrived at such a blessed estate, there would be no trouble about foreign aid. An enlightened and humane electorate would not fail to recognize its ethical obligations. But even now there is support for the expectation that this country may lead the rest of the industrial nations to sponsor development on a meaningful scale.
THE American economy faces a serious crisis. The rate of growth in recent years has not much exceeded the increase in population; a high percentage of the country’s industrial plants remain chronically idle, and unemployment has been rising in waves of alarmingly larger amplitude. Automatic factories — offices and shops, in other words — have been producing as much poverty as wealth. Poverty is now officially acknowledged as an affliction of one fifth of the population; something more like one third of the people, however, remain “ill-housed, ill-clad and ill-nourished.” In part, the situation has been concealed by the geographic segregation of poverty — for example, in the backwoods of Appalachia; by the social segregation of poverty in the Negro and other disadvantaged minorities; and by the experience of poverty as a phase of life — in dreary years between school and the first job, and in years of unwilling “retirement” enforced by abolition of the job.
The true situation has been even more grossly obscured by the hollow affluence of the war economy. Armaments, carrying as they do the absolute sanction of survival of the modern state, have had almost unquestioned command of the public treasury. The steady stream of funds pumped into this economic sink has directly and indirectly subsidized from at least 10 percent to as much as 20 percent of the nation’s total economic activity. Space, the Atom, and Big Science have held their catch basins under the overflow from Defense and provided employment for many of the highly trained people that U.S. society has been producing in such large numbers. It is a measure of the distance already traveled toward abundance that the economy can sponsor so much nonproductive and even purely wasteful activity, not only without visible sacrifice but even as a covertly acknowledged means for maintaining consumer demand. The military budget has carried an additional ideological sanction in that it rediverts more than 5 percent of the gross national product from the public back into the private sector.
The advance of technology has now, however, overtaken this makeshift arrangement. With the acquisition of overkill, armaments have lost their absolute claim on the treasury. Even prior to a disarmament agreement, a first small cut in the military budget is now before the U.S. Congress. Plainly, the U.S. economy must soon find other ways to sustain its activity at the present high rate. Since it will necessarily continue to produce surpluses beyond its own effective demand, the United States must invent new methods for disposing of them.
Next to armaments, the most convenient method would seem to be offered by foreign aid. As significant elements in the leadership of industry already realize, eighty cents out of each foreign-aid dollar is spent within the borders of the United States. In the prospective American collaboration on the building of the Bokaro steel mill, for example, “what has to be financed is rolling mills, presses, and other equipment that has to be imported into India to construct this mill. . . . Those things . . . cannot be bought with Indian rupees. They have to be bought — they will be bought entirely — in the United States if we finance this mill.” Moreover, just as in the case of military expenditures, foreign aid takes the goods it buys out of the domestic market, thereby maintaining the scarcities that still keep the economic mechanism ticking.
Foreign aid thus calls upon the same institutional relations between government and business as armaments and provides an equally direct channel for diverting funds from the public back into the private sector. A substantial foreign-aid program would generate demand for the products of neglected and vital sectors of industry, including the heavy-machinery builders and the machine-tool industry, whose domestic business proceeds in cycles of “chickens today and feathers tomorrow.” If shipments of fungible wheat can cultivate markets for U.S. farmers, surely the installation of U.S. machine tools would establish beachheads for future dollar markets. A radical expansion in foreign aid would also provide the most convenient way to soak up the surplus of engineering and research talent that is accumulating with the cutback in national defense and prestige expenditures. During the period of fifteen to twenty years which will be required, at a minimum, for the United States to bring its economic, social, and value systems into adjustment with the advent of automatic production, foreign aid can relieve many of the nation’s internal stresses and strains. By the end of this period, given a sufficiently massive How of aid, many of the developing countries, including India in particular, will have acquired the capacity for self-sustaining growth.
If foreign aid has not yet rallied the support of significant numbers of interested parties in the rich countries outside the U.S. farm bloc, this is only because it has been conducted on such a pitifully inadequate scale. The rich nations variously inflate their claims as to the size of their foreign-aid programs. A dispassionate estimate is provided by the 1962 report to the Secretary General of the United Nations on the economic and social consequences of disarmament prepared by an international group of expert consultants. The report indicates that the net flow of aid from rich to poor nations runs from $3.5 billion to $4 billion per year. This squares with independent estimates that the total rate of investment in the underdeveloped countries does not exceed $20 billion — or less than 20 percent of the armaments outlays of the rich nations. To the present flow, the United States contributes about 40 percent, or something under $2 billion, a figure that agrees well with the official U.S. governmental figures, less the funds laid out for military purposes.
Since the U.S. economy must soon find conveniently large open sluices for its surpluses — other than armaments — its foreign-aid outlay could easily double. With disarmament, it might easily double again. If the United States were thus to take the lead in expanding the scale of external aid to the development of the poor countries, as it already leads in the rationing of the current trickle of aid, the total flow might equal or even exceed the $14 billion figure projected by the first committee of experts that considered this question for the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1951. With external aid on such a scale, the total investment programs of the poor nations could be boosted to as much as $100 billion per year, and might begin to approach the world’s outlay for armaments. An increasing number of taxpayers in the United States and in other countries are ready to agree that foreign aid is a better buy.
There is another aspect to the relations of the rich and the poor nations, however, that presents considerable hazard to the generation of a significantly large flow of foreign aid. Again, Alexander Herzen has put the issue plainly:
So long as the educated minority, living off all previous generations, hardly guessed why life was so easy to live; so long as the majority, working day and night, did not quite realize why they received none of the fruits of their labor — both parties could believe this to be the natural order of things. . . . People often take prejudice or habit for truth and in that case feel no discomfort; but if they once realize that their truth is nonsense, the game is up. From then onwards it is only by force that a man can be compelled to do what he considers absurd.
The absurdity of the arrangements that enforce poverty in the twentieth century is becoming clear the world over. Development in some countries can come only with social and political as well as industrial revolution. In almost every country, it implies the revision or abrogation of the last thread of the colonial bonds that tie the developing country to its “home” country.
No matter what the leitmotiv or the bloody detail of each cycle as it gets under way, the extension of external aid can facilitate the underlying process of capital formation and soften its demands upon the people. India’s experience will prove decisive to the course of the development in all the other rising nations. For India’s planners have plainly detailed the nature and the function of foreign aid and called for it on a scale sufficient to challenge the conscience as well as the interest of the peoples of the rich nations.
It is important to know that foreign aid on an adequate scale is technologically feasible, and that it promises as much economic benefit to the rich as to the poor. The ground is cleared for confrontation of the moral issue. In the case of the United States, external aid will surely begin to flow in significant volume as soon as its citizens understand that their surpluses can lift the burden of history off the backs of the living generation.