Economics is not one of those branches of study which can have any complaint these days on the ground of public apathy. Rather the contrary. Here as elsewhere the public are perhaps placing more weight upon our science than it ever was designed to bear.
Economics is no longer treated as just an instrument of interpretation, as previously it used to be; it is today treated also as an instrument of operation. And large sums of money are being spent on research in this field. In our own country, apart from the normal expenditure on economic studies in universities, a sum of about 20 million rupees has been specially devoted to economic and social research during the last seven years, Ford Foundation alone having contributed about 10 million rupees for the purpose. The return that we are getting in the form of empirical studies is also not inconsiderable. If this process continues for some time, we may reach a stage when our economists will cease to have any complaint regarding data. So theoretical economics is important for a country. So theoretical economics is important.
While, however, empirical research is being given the encouragement that it rightly deserves, not enough is being done for theoretical research. It will perhaps be argued that creative theoretical work depends on individual initiative and is better done at the universities as part of their normal activity that it is empirical research that needs organization and team work and has to be undertaken by special agencies. There is force in the argument.
And if our universities were properly staffed, perhaps one could leave things there. As it is, however, one would ask for more. Taste for theoretical work in the field of economics, as in other fields, too, is a matter of individual temperament. Even today not many among the economists of our country are interested in the technique of analysis, and not all of those who are interested are in the country.
Could we not get some finance for a centre which might attract these men and where they could pursue a systematic and sustained study of analytical economics, untrammelled by pressures arising out of immediate problems ? I think that it should be possible and that we need it. So theoretical economics is most important for a country. So theoretical economics is important.