August 03, 2003

Great-Granduncle Joe

Having mentioned my father's book on sustainable development, I should say that there's a certain family precedent. My great-granduncle (father's mother's father's brother) Joseph Chelladurai Kumarappa né Cornelius (1892--1961), went from being an accountant in India to study economics at Columbia, and then went back to India in 1929 for the independence struggle, where he worked closely with Gandhi. (That was when the family changed its name from Cornelius to Kumarappa, as the best guess about what it had been before converting to Anglicianism.) He became an exponent of a system he called a "economics of permanence", a sort of green socialism for nearly-autarkic villages. I'm pretty sure he and I would have disagreed on almost everything in economics; I like the escape from the idiocy of rural life, and don't see how his system could possibly work. It seems to have had no real influence on Indian economic policy, which is probably for the best, though of course I'm sure his intentions were good, and worrying about environmental externalities in the '30s and '40s was ahead of its time.

There was a two-part profile of J. C. Kumarappa in the Hindu newspaper last year. There is also a Kumarappa Institute of Gram Swaraj in India, which claims to promote his ideas, but I'm not sure how much of a connection there really is. (For one thing, their website mis-describes his academic career.) One Dr. Mark Lindley is apparently at work on a biography, which I look forward to reading. (Apparently Lindley thinks Kumarappa was a greater economist than Amartya Sen; I do not think I'm failing to defend the family honor by disagreeing.) [Via Zmarak]

Self-Centered ; The Dismal Science ; The Progressive Forces

Posted at August 03, 2003 23:38 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth