Today was the first day of the 21 day COVID-19 lock down.

I spent my morning struggling to get groceries. Fortunately the nearby super market was open and most of the important items were present.  Items like milk and floor cleaner were over - but most vegetables, rice and yes, Maggi was available. If you see somebody else buying something, you also keep a couple of packets of it. It took 40 minutes to clear the payment queue - but well, that's a small inconvenience given the situation we are in.

Today, I read a few pages from Noam Chomsky's Understanding Power. Noam Chomsky is a acclaimed scholar with lot's of controversial opinion - so it's a fun read. One essay which caught my eye was his discussion on free markets.

He argues that

there is not a single case on record in history of any country that has developed successfully through adherence to "free market" principles : none

He gives example that most successful pockets of economies have grown with state intervention. United States had excessive state intervention from early days - right from defence funding which gave birth to the Silicon Valley tech companies to the earlier textile industry which survived because of high tariff on imported goods.

We see even this playing out today with China's protectionist govt. policy giving birth to multibillion companies like Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu. While back home in India, the poster child of startups, Flipkart was acquired by Walmart.

This made me think. Is the narrative of free markets just a hogwash?

Chomsky says

the "free market" ideology is very useful - it's a weapon against the general population here, because it's an argument against social spending, and it's a weapon against poor people abroad , because we can hold it up to them and say "You guys have to follow these rules," then just go ahead and robs them.

China never worried about being protectionist. Still its tech industry is doing pretty well and even challenging the US.

Is India's policy of keeping markets open, just falling into the narrative of "free markets are good" which other countries want us to believe in? Should India be more interventionist?