The Indian Economy Blog

May 26, 2007

Make No Little Plans

Filed under: Growth — Atanu Dey @ 12:43 pm

Think Big

There is something in the nature of the world that it is sometimes paradoxically more difficult to make small changes than to make big ones. Logically consistent big changes are more likely to succeed because of the interconnectedness of the world.

At times, big changes are forced on the system from external shocks which make the transition unavoidable because the old order is destroyed. It is suggested that around sixty-five million years ago, the Cretaceous-Tertiary mass extinction (referred to as the K-T event) where 70 percent of all living species disappeared was the result of an external shock which was delivered by a 10-km diameter chondritic asteroid slamming into the earth. That extinction destroyed the dinosaurs but cleared the land for the rise of the mammals – we belong to that class. Less dramatically but more palpably, India was forced to liberalize its economy when the external shock to the system arrived in the form of an external balance of payment crisis.

India is unlikely to face an exogenous shock to the system large enough to force it to build the cities that it needs for the hundreds of millions who are currently trapped in villages. The existing cities are dying and although the situation within them is dire and unbearable, it is the result of continuous adjustment to gradually worsening conditions over a sufficiently long period. These cities will not collapse in the next few years but if if present trends continue, in a decade or so, they will be dead. It is better to consider alternative plans now rather than when the collapse eventually happens.

In this series on the need for the urbanization of India’s population, I have explored the idea of deliberately building new well-planned efficient beautiful livable cities. I am convinced that it is possible to do so even in the face of the obvious challenges that such a gigantic undertaking would entail. I believe that the resources that are required will be created during the process of building the cities.

Cities generate wealth. That is, they produce stuff. That wealth itself can be used to produce the cities that generate even more wealth. With only a relatively little amount of resources but with a lot of gumption, one can start a process – a self-catalytic process – which can most certainly engage the considerable talents and resources of the country. Like the vision which impelled a nation to seek political freedom, the time is high that a bold vision was outlined for the nation for economic freedom. It is time to think big because the Indian people have what it takes to make a big vision a reality. We have done it in the past – over two and a half thousand years ago with cities like Harappa and Mohenjo-daro.

I conclude with the words of a great visionary and urban planner, Daniel Burnham (1846 – 1912).

Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.

[This concludes the ten-part series on the topic of building new cities in India. The previous part was The Future Past. ]

3 Comments »

  1. Probably the reason why we Indians dont like to dream big is because of the mindset that has been inculcated in us by our elders. E.g in India, till recently it was always thought that rich people are evil or that the rich are anti poor. Blame it on the socialist mindset of our elders.

    Its only now that we see the new generation that is more gung-ho, has no qualms spending thru the nose to get what it wants, buys a house even before he/she turns 30, doesnt care for a govt job anymore, has no problems switching jobs purely for money, leaving the comforts of an assured 9 to 5 job to strike out on their own, run their own business etc.

    I believe the next generation of Indians (the ones who are currently in schools/colleges) would be the ones who would really propel India towards a better future.

    Like the other day, Ratan Tata spoke about how we love to think small. Instead of dreaming of attracting 10 million foreign visitors to India, out target is something like 4 or 5 million only. When Dhirubhai Ambani set out to build the refinery in Jamnagar, the whole of India sniggered. He made it the world’s top 5 refinery. Now, Mukesh Ambani is expanding it to become the biggest in the world.

    The problem is there are only a few Ambanis, Tatas in our midst. Probably the next generation might throw out many many more (probably in the thousands). It would be fun to watch then.

    Its natural to be apprehensive considering that India has so many times flattered to deceive. But, Iam terrificly optimistic about India no matter what others say.

    Comment by Full2njoy — May 26, 2007 @ 9:00 pm

  2. While I’ve heard it come from corporate heads, ‘Think big’ is just so apt in the context of urbanization of India. Governments/political leaders need to buy this.

    Comment by siddharth — May 27, 2007 @ 11:01 am

  3. [...] The Indian Economy Blog » Make No Little Plans Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big. our space n us [...]

    Pingback by Unfinished Posts « raven writes — February 8, 2008 @ 2:41 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WP Hashcash

Powered by WordPress