Neo-Feudalism? After restricting the use of cash, India extends welfare to the poor.


Last month, this blog reported that Indians continue to prefer using cash to digital money, despite government efforts against cash.

Now the government has announced plans to increase welfare benefits to the poor. According to The Wall Street Journal:

India announced plans to do more to lift up the lives of the poor, particularly farmers, in its annual budget, the last for Prime Minister Narendra Modi before national elections next year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said Thursday that New Delhi would guarantee that farmers are paid at least 1.5 times the cost of their crops as part of a program to double farmer incomes by 2022.

“This budget is farmer friendly, common citizen friendly, business environment friendly and development friendly,” said a tweet from Mr. Modi’s official prime-minister account.

The government said it would require banks to lend more to farming businesses and ramp up spending on building homes and improving roads in rural areas.

Mr. Jaitley also announced an ambitious health plan for the poor, under which the government would shoulder up to 500,000 rupees (about $8,000) a year in medical expenses for 100 million poor families.

He reiterated that the government doesn’t consider cryptocurrencies legal tender and that it would take measures to eliminate their use in financing illegitimate activities or as part of the payment system. The government would, however, explore using blockchain technology to promote a digital economy, Mr. Jaitley said.

On the surface, the combination of welfare payments, loans, and health care appear to be designed to “lift up the lives” of the poor. However, such programs rarely do anything other than incentive recipients to stay on welfare for the rest of their lives. Add in the cryptocurrency restrictions, and one could almost be forgiven into thinking that that’s exactly what the Indian government wants to accomplish.

I wonder if this is what Neo-Feudalism would look like, in which the indigent are tied to the state rather than the manor?