In This Review

India Unbound
India Unbound
By Gurcharan Das
Alfred A. Knopf, 2001, 384 pp.

Through an autobiographical lens, this book seeks to explain why India's economy stagnated for so long before finally picking up in recent years. As a schoolboy, Das worshipped Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru; as a Harvard undergraduate, he learned from top economists that India should ignore the market and rely on state planning and import substitution. Finally, as head of Procter & Gamble India, he was harassed by a bureaucratic state that saw profits as sinful, hindered entrepreneurs, and favored poorly run, state-owned industries. By juxtaposing his personal story with India's economic journey, Das avoids abstractions and focuses on the particular individuals who were leading India into trouble with its "mixed economy." This may be the first book to ask why America's leading economists were so wrong in their policy advice for India in the 1950s and 1960s. Das is understandably enthusiastic about India's current economic reforms, but his key argument -- that India can quickly become the world leader in the information revolution -- seems to stray into fantasy.