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THE SELECTED WORKS OF MAHATMA GANDHI > Vol. V - THE VOICE OF TRUTH > Part II- Section VII : Economic Ideas > Economic Equality


40. Economic Equality

All must have an equal opportunity. Given the opportunity, every human being has the same possibility for spiritual growth.

Harijan, 17-11-46, p. 404


I cannot picture to myself a time when no man shall be richer than another. But I do picture to myself a time when the rich will spurn to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor and the poor will cease to envy the rich. Even in a most perfect world, we shall fail to avoid inequalities, but we can and must avoid strife and bitterness. There are numerous examples extant of the rich and the poor living in perfect friendliness. We have but to multiply such instances.

Young India, 7-10-26, p. 348


I do not believe in dead uniformity. All men are born equal and free is not Nature’s law in the literal sense. All men are not born equal in intellect, for instance, but the doctrine of equality will be vindicated if those who have superior intellect will use it not for self-advancement at the expense of others, but for the service of those who are less favoured in that respect than they.

Harijan, 6-10-46, p. 338


Economic equality must never be supposed to mean possession of an equal amount of worldly goods by everyone. It does mean, however, that everyone will have a proper house to live in, sufficient and balanced food to eat, and sufficient Khadi with which cover himself. It also means that the cruel inequality that obtains today will be removed by purely non-violent means.

Harijan, 18-8-40, p. 253


Economic equality of my conception does not mean that everyone would literally have the same amount. It simply means that everybody should have enough for his or her needs… The elephant needs a thousand times more food than the ant, but that is not an indication of inequality. So the real meaning of economic equality is: “To each according to his need.” That is the definition of Marx. If a single man demanded as much as a man with wife and four children that would be a violation economic equality.

Let no one try to justify the glaring difference between the classes and the masses, the prince and the pauper, by saying that the former need and more. That will be idle sophistry and a travesty of my argument…The contrast between the rich and the poor today is a painful sight. The poor villagers are exploited by the foreign Government and also by their own countrymen-the city-dwellers. They produce the food and go hungry. They produce milk and their children have to go without it. It is disgraceful. Everyone must have balanced diet, a decent house to live in, facilities for the education of one’s children and adequate medical relief. That constitutes my picture of economic equality. I do not want to taboo everything above and beyond the bare necessaries, but they must come after the essential needs of the poor are satisfied. Firs things must come first.

Harijan, 31-3-46, p. 63


Put your talents in the service of the country instead of converting them into pound. If you are a medical man, there is disease enough in India to need all your medical skill. If you are lawyer, there are differences and quarrels enough in India. Instead of fomenting more trouble, patch up those quarrels and stop litigation. If you are an engineer, build model houses suited to the means and needs of our people and yet full of health and fresh air. There is nothing that you have learnt which cannot be turned to account. (The friend who asked the questions was a Chartered Accountant and Gandhiji then said to him :) There is a dire need everywhere for accountants to audit the accounts of Congress and its adjunct associations. Come to India, I will give you enough work and also your hire four annas per day which is surely much more than millions in India get.

Young India, 5-11-31, p. 384


My ideal is equal distribution, but so far as I can see, it is not to be realized. I therefore work for equitable distribution.

Young India, 17-3-27, p. 86


The real implication of equal distribution is that each man shall have the wherewithal to supply all his natural needs and no more. For example, if one man has a weak digestion and requires only a quarter of a pound, both should be in a position to satisfy their wants. To bring this ideal into being, the entire social order has got to be reconstructed. A society based on non-violence cannot nurture any other ideal. We may not perhaps be able to realize the goal, but we must bear it in mind and work unceasingly to near it. To the same extents as we progress towards our goal, we shall find contentment and happiness, and to that extent, too, shall we have contributed towards the bringing into being of a non-violent society.

Harijan, 25-8-40, p. 260