How Mahatma Gandhi’s idea of the rich as trustees drives wealthy to be agents of change?

Published: October 11, 2019

Mahatma Gandhi was of the view that the wealthy must be trustees of their wealth for the larger good of the people. He had once said that “suppose I have come by a fair amount of wealth either by way of legacy or by means of trade and industry, I must know that all that wealth does not belong to me. What belongs to me is the right to an honourable livelihood, no better than that enjoyed by millions of others. The rest of my wealth belongs to the community and must be used for the welfare of the community.”

 Idea of Trusteeship

  • This idea of trusteeship embodies a clear-eyed understanding of the reality that the enormous inequities of wealth, while unacceptable, are not illegitimate. This is a positive approach. The idea of trusteeship does not put those with wealth in the dock just for the possession of wealth, unlike a few other economic ideologies.
  • The idea of trusteeship makes it clear and definitive that wealth and resources, irrespective of who “owns” these, must help with the betterment of society and its entire people.
  • The idea of trusteeship puts the onus of making this happen on those who have wealth. This is a direct manifestation of his philosophy of non-violence .i.e. the wealthy must do it of their own accord, unforced by external pressure.
  • The idea puts faith in human nature, that eventually people will do the right thing if you trust them.

There is a lot of scepticism on the effectiveness of this approach to build an egalitarian society. But over the long term, in the reality of the world we live in, this approach will be more sustainably effective.

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