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North America 8

Fayyaz Baqir

April 18th, 2017

 

 

University of Idaho (UoI) had a very conservative faculty at the college of economics and business administration. However, I was lucky to find two mentors, Professor Michael DiNoto and Professor Max Fletcher; both of them were neo-Marxists who held my hand in dealing with numerous academic and administrative challenges during my stay. Professor Ghazanfar Shaikh, Chair of Economics Department was of Pakistani origin. He was well known to Professor Qadeer, and he took a personal interest in my acceptance and approval of teaching assistantship for me. UoI did not offer any course in Development Studies or PhD in economics. However, Max Fletcher taught a course on comparative economic systems, which was of close interest to me. Max handed over the teaching of this course to me on his retirement. My big achievement at UoI was approval of my Master’s thesis topic on the process of capital accumulation in Pakistan.  

My thesis dealt with the practice of using the façade of the market to promote income equalities based on discriminatory economic policies. The exact title of my thesis was ‘The process of capital accumulation in Pakistan: Achievement of economic goals by political means in a market setting’. My thesis was that policies based on the violation of free competition are being used under the guise of the free market to justify their adverse outcome. The ideology of free market is being used to blame the victims of market manipulation. This makes the victims see injustice meted out to them as justice. This policy is being followed to this day. This creates the ideological hegemony of oppression through mystification of oppression and injustice. Without tearing apart this veil of ‘freedom’ people could not be awakened to the need and desirability of resistance. Our knowledge system which comprises of a distorted interpretation of faith, science, economy, society and tradition- promoted by the state, educational institutions, pulpit and media- psychologically subdues people through the use of half-baked truths to weaken their will to rise against injustice. I, therefore, thought it important to lay bare the mechanism which robs people of freedom in the name of freedom. I learned a lot from my advisors during this process.

My main argument was that Pakistan makes use of high intensity of capital and low intensity of labour to produce goods. This is not in line with our factor endowment. We as an economy have high intensity of labour and low intensity of capital. If we depend on our own resource endowment pattern, we will be compelled to increase the skill level of labour force and their share in income. We shall also produce goods at a competitive price for the international market. The low capital investment will also remove barriers to entry of local small producer in the market and generate income and employment through a competitive process on a large scale. Within the capitalist system, this might be a better path for economic as well as human development. Instead, we followed the path of highly capital intensive growth which in certain cases was more capital intensive than some advanced capitalist economy. This was possible due to generous American lending on highly subsidised interest rates. This generated a host of distortions. It led to underdevelopment of human capital and low priority for quality education through public institutions; and use of unskilled and semi-skilled labour instead of well developed human capital; and chronic downward pressure on wages and low priority for managerial efficiency. Despite the subsidised investment, Pakistan was not able to compete in the international markets. Some economists found out that Pakistani industry was adding negative value so that the selling price of a Pakistani good was lower in the international market than the price at which it was produced. Managerial inefficiency necessitated implementation of policies which led to transfer of resources from agriculture to industry, from East Pakistan to West Pakistan, from small producer to large producer and from workers to big business.

This pattern of development created high regional, sectoral and class inequalities and in the words of the architect of this policy created 20 families. Although the ‘free market’ ideology succeeded in befooling the people it could not change their social reality. As a result when Ayub Khan was celebrating his “Decade of Development”, people all over Pakistan were up against him in revolt. The pursuit of American Dream turned into a popular nightmare. The same pattern was repeated by American Advisors in one country after the other, resulting in similar catastrophes. As my research idea got clearly formulated I approached different Professors to seek their consent to serve on my thesis committee. Professor Michael DiNoto agreed to be my supervisor, Professor Max Fletcher consented to be the member and Professor Ron Curtis from Agricultural Economics Department agreed to be the external member.  After the first meeting of the Committee, the Committee told me that I already had read enough and I should start writing. Subsequently, I met Max to seek his guidance on writing; I asked him two questions how much should I write and how should I write. His answers serve as my guideline to this day.

On the length of the thesis, Max said, “Write long enough to make your point”. He said someone asked Abraham Lincoln how long the legs should be and Lincoln replied, “Long enough to reach the ground”. On how to go about writing he said, “Write one or two pages a day and do it consistently, even if you write trash. Pick the amount of work that you can do consistently. Write first and edit later, otherwise, you will get stuck”. This advice was a great help. Then I asked him what was the shortest PhD thesis ever written? One page, he said. What did the guy say? He proved some improbable mathematical theorem through a set of equations on one page. So I set to writing. When I finished and circulated the first draft and met my external professor Ron Curtis, he was furious. Ron Curtis had served as Chief of Agricultural Section of USAID in Pakistan. He said, “You have some problem with your country. You have unloaded your emotional baggage here. It will not pass for a thesis. It is trash”. I thanked him and narrated the whole story to my major professor Mike DiNoto on return. Mike said, “Get him off your Committee”. There were two weeks left before the Thesis defence was due. Mike said that he will talk to someone and Professor Stephen Smith of Sociology department agreed to be my external and read the draft written in long hand. Professor Ron Curtis agreed to get off the Committee.

Now Mike turned to me and said, “You have got to do two things: Translate your thesis and get it edited”. What do you mean by translation? I asked. He said that in the beginning, he had asked me to feel free to write whatever I thought was correct and not censor my thoughts. But now, he said “You have to consider your reader and translate your words into the language they understand. For example, instead of Imperialism write global market economy, instead of socialism write planned economies, and instead of exploitation write market distortion or redistribution of resources”. I understood it. It reminded me how relevant Gregory Rabassa was even in academic writing and gave me a new insight about the word underground or the practice of Batiniyya. Then he said, “the department can get your manuscript typed free of cost only once, so translate and get your thesis edited first and then get it typed so that you don’t have to pay out of your pocket for typing. In the meanwhile, all your Committee members will read your thesis in long hand”. The last thing he said was, “usually we prepare our students for defence, but not in your case, we are not going to do it. So come prepared”.

In the meanwhile, another disaster happened. Due to non- payment of dues department withheld my stipend and I was not allowed to register until I deposited the fee. Two months passed before I could arrange the payment of the fee. Mike told me to see the Dean of Graduate School and request for late registration. I met the Dean and he said it had never happened in the history of the university. He agreed to schedule the meeting of a Committee to review my case but asked me not to keep any hopes. Mike told me not to worry and continue my work. Mike succeeded in convincing the Committee for late registration.  I was very curious to know what happened, so I went to thank Mike and asked him how did he plead my case. Very simple, he said. I understand their mind.  I told the Committee that in the beginning of the semester Fayyaz started work on his thesis. We did not know that he was not registered so we provided him all the guidance he needed as a student. He has received all the benefits as a student and if we do not allow him to register we do not make him pay for the benefits he received. University is already in a financial crunch and it will hurt the university if it does not charge for the services it has rendered. So I got registered and successfully defended my thesis. I know that both Mike and Max were so proud of me and this reflected in the recommendation letters they wrote for me. 

 

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