The atmosphere, if the picture drawn of it is true, is inimical to the growth of scientific attitude among economists. And yet it would be ungenerous to believe that there are not those among us who would be anxious to preserve the sanctity of our science, to go forward in their search for truth regardless of personal gain.
Where will such men derive strength from? In the present race for ‘the limelight and the applause’, what is their position to be and to whom will they turn for sustenance and comfort? They will not go out of their way to please Ministers, nor will they seek popular approval. ‘Evil is with them,’ they will say to themselves, following Alfred Marshall, ‘when all men speak well of them.’ Must, then, they be left to themselves each weaving his own net?
One wishes they were. But there again the fear is that there will be a tendency to the building up of independent ‘schools’ of economic thinking. With one’s experience of the fantastic novelties that some of our academicians are propagating in the university centres in the name of ‘theory’ (one gets a glimpse of these novelties mostly in examination answer-books), one does feel that the fear is a real one. For that government economics is important.
In the intellectually mature societies the problem is solved, even if in a rough and ready way, by the scientists themselves. In his Presidential Address to the American Economic Association Professor Paul Samuelson refers to the ‘Happy Few’ whose applause an individual economist seeks, expecting that the ideas which get churned within that charmed circle would find their way willy-nilly to those that directly guide policy. Some day somehow we shall have that here, too. Some kind of a leadership is bound to evolve among economists, as economic studies proceed along rigorous lines. Much of course will depend upon the behaviour of the younger generation who have yet to taste publicity. So government economics is important.
In the meantime, however, the Government may perhaps help the process. Even as it is, picking and choosing the right kind of economists should not be too difficult; given the will, the operation of Gresham’s Law can surely be avoided in a controlled economy. A cautious method of selection would surely yield results. Having done that the Government may get a group formed round the Planning Commission for working out problems and for suggesting lines of investigation. The members of the group are not to be bound to any routine work. On the contrary they must be allowed to get on in their own way, keeping their allegiance to their respective universities. And yet it should be more than what the Panel of Economists have come to be.
It should be a closer group than the Panel as it is constituted today, and unlike the Panel it should be associated with the Economic Adviser’s Directorate rather than with the Ministers or Members of the Planning Commission who, after all, are not economists. So government economics is most important.