Author: Allama Muhammad Iqbal
Publisher: Iqbal Academy Pakistan
Allama Iqbal’s first published book was on economics. He wrote and published this book in 1904. He was not formally trained as an economist, but as a social thinker, his interest lied in social sciences as well. He may have read books on economics and attended lectures on economics during his stay in England.
This book of his is written in the style of a textbook. However, in certain places, he shares his own views and also applies the various concepts in economics to the context of United India and explains the implications for the economy of India.
Since Iqbal is not an economist himself, he uses the standard texts on economics available then and borrows some explanations from such texts. His style of writing is fluid. It seems that some parts were written to serve as teaching notes and then later on, they were compiled together. In most pages of the book, he explains the standard economic concepts with examples. In this review, an attempt is made to focus primarily on his commentary and original thoughts.
In the beginning of the book, he shared a very profound thought that overcoming poverty and deprivation will also depend on collective morality and moral consciousness in society. Policy and resources are not enough. Economists do not have the means to understand the origin of moral sense or the way morality in human consciousness can be transformed.
Before writing Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote Theory of Moral Sentiment. Allama Iqbal in his book also suggests that economic choices and policy shall be well informed by morality. Moral considerations shall be primary focus and aspiration for higher ends shall emanate from moral worldview rather than narrow self-interested view of homo economicus.
Allama Iqbal recognizes that wealth or valuable resources include both human capital (innate and acquired skills) as well as social capital (trustworthiness and cooperation). In economic growth literature, ‘Resource drag’ is a term used to signify the fact that having natural resources alone is not sufficient for long term growth. It is important to utilize them effectively and which requires investment in physical as well as human capital. This insight is part of rather recent economic literature in the last quarter of 20th century. Allama Iqbal also emphasized on this point in his book which was written in early years of 20th century.
In discussion of epistemology and methodology of analysis in economics, a perennial question is that whether imposing normative view taking into account one trait of human psychology (selfishness) in consumer behaviour (deductive approach) a better approach or should broad based observations about actual human behaviour and the cultural impacts on it is a better approach (inductive approach). Allama Iqbal shared his view on that methodological choice and preferred the second approach and cautioned against unnecessary simplification of human behaviour as it may lead to false analysis and prediction.
He also shared the view that economics shall remain concerned with economic choices. Choices under compulsion (compulsory military service) and love (sacrifice of mother) shall not be discussed in economics, unlike the view of Gary Becker who favoured a broader ground for economics to cover. Iqbal’s view is conducive for allowing both positive analysis of economic behaviour and yet leaves a space for influence of other stimulants, such as morality, values, spirituality and culture without focusing on every aspect of human behaviour and choice within the self-interested framework.