Human beings, being “economic”, should never be advised to be “self-sufficient”. Imagine your plight if you decided to opt-out of the exchange of goods and services and had to do everything yourself. Imagine what would happen if your family became “self-sufficient”, and then your village, or your town. This would mean that not only would you be compelled to grow your own food and wash your own clothes, it would also mean that you would have to learn to build your own house and learn surgery. At no level does self-sufficiency improve the lives of those who practice it. All it does is to divert your productive energies from those areas which you are most competent to those where you are relatively unskilled. If it is bad for a person, a family, a village or a town to practice self-sufficiency, surely a great nation like India cannot gain by pursuing such a path. Self-sufficiency is economic suicide.
A little experiment can be attempted: Go to a kindergarten class and ask the little children what they want to be when they grow up. They will answer: actor, dancer, policeman, and so on. I’ll bet that not a single little child will say: I want to grow up and be self-sufficient. If it goes against the logic of little children, how could it be logical for the entire nation to practice self-sufficiency?
When we specialise in the market economy, a phenomenon occurs which economists call the Division of Labour.
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The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.