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A 2017 report on India in the New York Times indicated that 564 million of its citizens lack toilets, indoor or outdoor. What a tragedy. Only it gets worse.

Women in the country are forced to go outdoors in search of places to relieve themselves in groups. If not, as in if they go out alone, they do so under the threat of rape. Such is life in countries bereft of substantial inequality. Yes, you read that right. A lack of inequality in India means its people suffer a great deal. Please read on.

In contemplating inequality, let’s never forget why the vast majority of the wealth unequal attain the descriptor of rich, millionaire, or billionaire. Much more often than not, billionaire status is a consequence of an individual mass-producing a former luxury. To use but one example, Henry Ford’s aim was to manufacture cars for the “multitude.” His enormous wealth was the result of Ford achieving his aim.

Consider some of this in light of a recent headline for a New York Times piece by Alex Travelli. It read like this: “Economy in India Under Modi Is Growing, but So Is Inequality.” Up front, “So Is Inequality” was a waste of words after “Economy in India Under Modi Is Growing.” Where there’s growth, inequality is naturally on the rise.

Let’s call rising inequality the greatest feature of economic growth. It’s the surest sign of the democratization of access to formerly inaccessible goods and services.

When an economy is growing, that’s as a rule a signal of soaring investment into a city, state, region, or country, and the investment is much more often than not in pursuit of ways to mass produce exponentially more goods and services at lower and lower prices. That investment is a pursuit of the productivity advances that are the personification of economic growth is tautological.  

With the investment without which there’s no economic growth, capital is matched with the talented who have designs on meeting or leading the unmet needs of the few, but more frequently the many. The more needs met or led, the greater the inequality.

That’s of course why rising inequality in India is happily springing from economic growth. Economic growth is yet again all about inequality simply because growth is a consequence of the talented getting to improve the living standards of those near and far thanks to investment. The greater the number of people who have their living standards improved by the growth, the greater the inequality.

Considering India in terms of the report from 2017, readers can happily bank on it that the number of Indians living without indoor or outdoor plumbing no longer reflects the number that prevailed roughly seven years ago. The previous truth can be found in the Travelli’s admittedly superfluous headline about rising inequality. As inequality grows, lifestyle inequality shrinks. And there’s more.

As inequality rises in India, readers can rest assured that the country’s poorest are migrating to where inequality is most notably on the rise. Evidence supporting this claim can be found right here in the United States. Where wealth is most rapidly being created, so are jobs most rapidly being created. Back in Henry Ford’s day, this resulted in a mass migration to Detroit, and today it’s resulting in mass migration to myriad pockets of enormous wealth inequality all over the United States.

While those who should know better refer to the migration of the poorest to locales where inequality is greatest as “trickle down economics,” the reality is that it should be referred to as “gusher down economics.” Where the rich are getting rich, the economic circumstances of those who work for them and live/work around them soar. As do conveniences enjoyed by the multitude. Applied to India, rising inequality there means that fewer women risk rape merely for going to the bathroom.  

John Tamny is editor of RealClearMarkets, President of the Parkview Institute, a senior fellow at the Market Institute, and a senior economic adviser to Applied Finance Advisors (www.appliedfinance.com). His latest book, set for release in April of 2024 and co-authored with Jack Ryan, is Bringing Adam Smith Into the American Home: A Case Against Homeownership

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