The New Wealth of Nations

Compelling case for a new welfare order for the 21st century
PublishedNov 2017

Why read the book?

  • World income inequality is down to levels last observed in 1870 and there has been a large reduction in absolute poverty.
  • What accounts for such rapid development and catch-up?
  • The book establishes that the answer to the above question is the spread of education and that Education is the new wealth of nations.
  • It offers insights into the definitions of the poor, the middle class, and the rich, while relating each of these to advances in schooling attainment.
  • The economic reasons behind the political success of globalization in the Western world till the early 2000s, and now its fall from grace are explored.
  • It offers evidence for the fact that women have equaled and are now exceeding, the educational attainment of men.

What’s in the book?

The very large increase in college graduates in the non-Western world, the growing educational achievements of women, and the radical change in gender roles is critical to the understanding of current-day mega-trends. Indeed, this unprecedented development—which creates competition globally and lowers employment costs—is also why world inflation has been low, and declining, for nearly twenty years.

Besides identifying the fallacies in anti-globalization rhetoric—voiced by Brexit and Trump supporters—the book points out a major lacuna in current attempts to measure wealth inequality. Through a series of compelling arguments, anecdotes, studies, calculations, tables, and charts, the author emphatically reminds us that education is the new wealth, and is, in fact, currently of a greater magnitude than financial wealth, and much more equally distributed.

Even while acknowledging the giant strides made by the developing world, The New Wealth of Nations investigates the downsides to the explosion of education and technology, and why countries, rich and emerging, will have to explore options like basic income and negative income tax, so that a new welfare order, appropriate for the changed—and changing—21st century can emerge.

Praise for the book

Surjit Bhalla is always both original and provocative…he displays both of these characteristics, to startling effect. He argues that "education globalization, warts and all, is globalization"…the spread of education across the world is, an unstoppable force… Increased global equality will be the inevitable—and desirable—outcome. An important thesis and a very interesting one

Martin Wolf
Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times

Surjit Bhalla weaves a fascinating tale of the impact of rising levels of education in developing countries to explain many contemporary developments… There is much food for thought here—and also discussion and debate

Montek Singh Ahulwalia
Former Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission

Surjit focuses on the importance of education, and fundamentally changing the world we live in. He is bold, opinionated, and never dull. While you may not agree with everything he says, this book will challenge the way you think about the key economic problems of our time.

Raghuram Rajan
Former Governor, Reserve Bank of India, and Professor, University of Chicago

“A new book by Surjit Bhalla is always a highly anticipated event, like a new instalment of the Star Wars franchise. The work of a genius, unfettered by either the politics or niceties of academia or development organisations always brings new insights and provocations. And in this, the book does not disappoint”

Lant Pritchett
Professor Harvard University; in The Indian Express, January 20, 2018

“In New Wealth of Nations, Surjit Bhalla offers compelling support for education as the foundation of individual, national and global advance….Bhalla is a data warrior whose primary weapons are facts and figures and this book is no exception. The particular intellectual territory that he is trying to conquer is the explanation for the evolution of global income growth and its geographical and interpersonal distribution.”

Nitin Desai
Former Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations; in, January 20, 2018

“This is quintessential Surjit, the eternal optimist. That optimism will brush off on you too, if you are one of those who numbers among the discontents of globalisation…This is his first book where personal experiences and anecdotes figure so prominently, such as his experiences as a student, and they add a nice personalised touch. An engrossing book, even if you sometimes nod your head in disagreement."

Bibek Debroy
Chairman, Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council; in India Today, March 11, 2018

"Bhalla is provocative. He makes his arguments boldly and pushes his logic to its limits. This allows him to sometimes see startling consequences, but it also opens up space for debate and makes his writing more interesting... His book is short and the arguments are expressed in simple, bold strokes. Sometimes his writing comes across a bit too breezy, but it is never superficial. He has a good sense of humour as well as knowledge of films and music, which makes reading him even more pleasurable. This is definitely a book worth reading and debating."

Faisal Bari
in Dawn, March 11, 2018

“Wealth is more than real estate and financial assets. It is education, above all. The good news: the educational gap between the poor and rich is closing rapidly, leveling wealth across the globe as never before. So says Surjit Bhalla’s latest book “The New Wealth of Nations.” It combines solid empirical evidence and deep insights with some dubious assertions. But even critics will find it tough to contest his portrayal of rising education as a global force that is revolutionary, equalising and unstoppable.”

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
in The Economic Times, January 16, 2018

“There are not too many books on economics that you can read in one sitting, but you can do it with this one.”

Aarti Krishnan
in The Hindu Businessline, Dec 17, 2017

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