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Billionaire Raj

Income inequality in India is at its highest since 1922 and the top 1% earners pocket 22% of total income.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, a German philosopher, in his magnificently written Philosophy of Right, had written with some sadness of the moral squalor and of the ravages that poverty brings with it. According to him, the state of poverty, is not an aberration but a product of industrial society.

In a paper which is aptly titled, ‘Indian income inequality, 1922-2014: From British Raj to Billionaire Raj?’ it is concluded that income inequality in India is at the highest since 1922 and the top 1% earners pocket 22% of total income.

Inequality violates a basic democratic need: the equal standing of citizens. The principle of equal standing generates two robust principles of democratic morality:

  • Equality is a relation that materialises between persons due to some fundamental characteristic that they share in common.
  • People should not be discriminated against on grounds such as gender, caste, race, ethnicity, sexual preferences, class, or disability. These features of the human condition are morally irrelevant.

A political consensus on what constitutes the basic rules of society is central to our daily lives. As Karl Marx had told us long ago, the political consensus is not given but it has to be constructed, by determined and sustained political intervention.