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India! I dare you to be rich

Preliminary proposal for Workshop II: India’s liberal political strategy: 2014 and beyond

In 2004 I convened a 5 day workshop-seminar to discuss India's liberal political strategy (2004 and beyond). Details here. Please review the discussions of this 5-day workshop-seminar to get a sense of what was discussed, how it was discussed, and what came out of it.

Ten years later, I am prepared to convene the second such Workshop: India’s liberal political strategy: 2014 and beyond.

The only condition on which I'll convene this workshop is that all existing liberal parties decide to consider merger in some form or shape. There is no time to waste time in idle chit-chat. And only decision-makers should attend.

I've proposed an outline of the possible workshop in the draft slides below.

Please download, share, think, and get back to me.

I'm also discussing in detail in the Navbharat Manch google group. If you are interested in supporting political liberalism in India in some way, please let me know and I'll include  you in this group.

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PowerPoint slides

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Former socialist Michael Strong: committed to liberty as the BETTER WAY to achieve his goals

I chanced upon Michal Strong’s work, and have extracted some excellent points from one of his notes [From Left Liberal to Libertarian – a bibliography]. Maybe instead of reading my work, people like Arvind Kejriwal and Yogendra Yadav should read Michael Strong.

SHORT EXTRACT BELOW

I am a left liberal who became a libertarian strictly as a consequence of new intellectual understandings.  I moved away from left liberalism and towards libertarianism because I came to believe that libertarian approaches would be more effective at achieving my ideals than would left liberal approaches. 

A few orienting thoughts to help left-liberals begin to consider such a shift:

1.  Scandinavia regulates business less, and has more economic freedoms, than the entire developing world.  Poverty is caused by a lack of economic freedom, and the probability of civil war decreases dramatically as societies become more prosperous, so in order to eliminate poverty and reduce the probability of violent conflict our first priority should be to get the developing world at least as free market as Scandinavia.

2.  Peter Barnes’ Capitalism 3.0, endorsed by leading progressives, promotes property rights solutions to tragedy of the commons problems.  In essence, this is a “free market environmentalism” solution that has now become accepted by leading progressives and environmentalists as a way to solve environmental problems.

3.  Improving education is the most urgent means of helping the poor.  We need to liberate educational entrepreneurs to solve our most urgent problems, and that cannot be done through the existing educational bureaucracy.  At present, it is easier to innovate in the gambling and pornography industries than it is in the education industry.

I hope that many will join me in creating a left libertarian idealism that achieves their ideals more effectively and more quickly than 20th century leftist thought ever could.

1.  Public choice theory

The left is often animated by the various harms and crimes committed by large corporations.  Leftists experience a tremendous sense of outrage at the fact that under capitalism not only do bad people get away with doing bad things, they often become rich and powerful by means of doing so.  Worse yet, under capitalism often highly decent, hard-working human beings are harmed by these evil people, and are impoverished, or may be actively harmed by the actions of evil, rich capitalists.

The past two centuries have seen a diverse array of Leftist initiatives designed to defeat these injustices, including Marxism, democratic socialism, and the welfare state. 

I remain interested in eliminating these injustices, but am now more wary of certain kinds of government action which, I believe, tends to make the situation worse rather than better. 

The implicit assumption on which Leftist beliefs are founded is that the initiatives designed by the Left to counteract the harms done by capitalism do more good than harm.  

In the case of Marxism, almost everyone now agrees that the “cure,” Marxism, was worse than the “disease,” capitalism. 

“Public choice theory” provides a powerful way of understanding government that shows why the “cure” of government action can be worse than the “disease” of capitalism.  For a simple rule of thumb, I would suggest that government actions that improve the rules of the game can improve capitalism, but government actions that involve government trying to control the system directly (rather than re-structuring the rules) is almost always harmful. 

Regardless of what one thinks regarding the relative role of markets and government, it is important to understand the public choice theory, the theory that explains why governments systematically, predictably put special interests before the public interest.

2.  Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

The most important case for freedom of action is that it is essential for allowing a creative, innovative, entrepreneurial society.  Millions of individuals, all free to create new enterprises, will in time always outperform a cumbersome, contentious political process. The entire point of “free enterprise” is that anyone can start something up and see if it works.  The entire rise of the late 20th century IT industry in the U.S. is a tremendous validation of the innovative powers of the free enterprise system.

3.  Property Rights Solutions to Tragedy of the Commons Problems

Environmental issues motivate many of those who are hostile to markets. Free market economists developed a robust analysis for how to create environmental sustainability many decades ago.  In a situation in which resources were unowned, such as a fishery or a free pasture, each fisherman or rancher would have an incentive to over-fish or over-graze, thereby destroying “the commons.”  Economists have pointed out that the solution to such a problem is to make sure all resources are owned, because commons, or “common pool resources,” will generally be abused. 

The usual way in which we ensure that the resources are owned is to grant property rights to individual fishermen or ranchers that designate some specific ownership share of what was formerly the commons so that they have an incentive to preserve the long-term value of the resources that they own.

4.  Economic Freedom Leads to Peace and Prosperity

5.  Liberating entrepreneurs in health, education, insurance, community formation, and law

6.  The Poor in the Developed World

Poverty alleviation is more important than the distribution of income.  If one believes that the poor ought to have the same opportunities as the rich, then one ought to do something about it, and I spent fifteen years doing something about it. The single most important means of helping the poor in the developed world is to legalize access to good education, through charter schools, virtual schools, school vouchers, education tax credits, and ultimately through the separation of school and state.  The government education monopoly is a cruel enforcer of class hierarchies that will someday be regarded with the same horror as 19th century child factory labor is regarded today.

Also listen to him as he explains how to interest children in learning:

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More about Michael:

Michael is forthright in his views. As he says here on his blog: "Most of what I’ve seen written by academic experts on social mobility strikes me as misguided and partial at best, and often simply garbage."

Read this. A most fascinating account.

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Anurag Kejriwal’s explanation, but I need a specific answer on his pick-pocket comment

Anurag has put out this explanation:

MY COMMENT TO HIM

Anurag, I didn't have time to listen to the whole thing. Did you cover off on your pickpocket comment? Which part of those words were doctored?

That's one of the biggest issues, that you'd be willing to sell the country in lieu of electoral and other funding. That's PRECISELY what Congress does. That's why I fought against Hiteswar Saikia, who tried to get me to award a large cement contract to a party that was not the lowest. ALL corrupt parties do that. LSP too has such people?

I don't feel sorry at all that you've been expelled. It is people like you that I've fought against. There is no half-integrity in public life. Either you are honest or you are not. I suggest you wind up your political goals and contribute in other ways to public life henceforth.

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Translation of JP’s comments re: Anurag Kejriwal at the press conference

I've been supplied with the English translation of JP's press interview re: Anurag Kejriwal (I had cited and discussed it here) by Suresh Kolichala. Thanks, Suresh. I wasn't aware the press had so badly exaggerated Anurag's wild claims.

==

Journalist1: Sir JP, You say you fight against corrupt politics. But in Delhi, an individual named Kejri of your party in Operation Lok Sabha apparently collected 35 crores, that too for JP's victory … your victory, he collected.

JP: What? 35 crores… I didn't understand?

Journalist1: 35 crores he collected from businessmen.

JP: Did he collect?

Journalist1: Yes, from businessmen. JP: HE collected? Did he COLLECT?

Journalist1: Yes, he collected … for your victory

Journalist2: Yes, that is the news we received.

JP: Ha Ha! I do not know many details about it. I just got a message midnight or early morning that Anurag Kejriwal spoke loosely, and it was decided to expel Kejriwal from the party.

JP: Now, if Loksatta is collecting 35 crores and spending that much money for JP's victory or someone else's victory, you would not be blind to such spending. Would you?

Journalist1: He collected. He collected in Delhi.

JP: In Delhi? There is someone who wants to give us 35 crores? This all sounds strange and puzzling.

JP: (switches to English) But Anurag Kerjiwal has been expelled from the party… (back to Telugu) A disciplinary action has been taken on him. We will find out the details. If anyone wants to contribute, submit a check, and get a tax rebate. That's all. No need for all this hubbub. If we had such kind of thing, we would have been making all these political parties bite the dust long time back.

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Let’s be CLEAR that Lok Satta did NOT expel Anurag “the moment” the sting came to light

On twitter one of LSP's supporters has written thus:

Also, Surendra Srivsastava in a Media Release today has said (extract):

In a media statement, Dr. JP pointed out that the party had expelled its Delhi unit President Anurag Kejriwal the moment his inexcusable conduct came to light without going through the motions of an inquiry. 

This is incorrect. It is important to assert the truth. I am copying below my email to Surendra Srivastava for the record. 

==

Dear Surendra

Thanks for this, but I don't see why there is a misleading statement in the press release: "Dr. JP pointed out that the party had expelled its Delhi unit President Anurag Kejriwal the moment his inexcusable conduct came to light without going through the motions of an inquiry".

You know very well that Anurag was NOT expelled the first day when the sting took place. He was asked to resign from his position. Your first official communication said clearly: 

"Mr Anurag Kejriwal, President of Delhi unit of the party was asked to resign today with immediate effect. The step was taken as the party took cognizance of a news channel report of a sting operation involving Mr Kejriwal …. The party has in parallel also sought raw footage of the video to get further information about this incident and also verify the authenticity of the sting, its full contents and context."

I objected strenuously suggesting that Anurag should be expelled and JP should explain his side publicly. You wrote to me:

"We have demanded the raw footage and we will take further action. ANURAG claims it was a long conversation and the video is doctored with bits and pieces of conversation to show him in bad light.  Expelling will be done after following due process as every one has right to be heard."

I further objected saying you don't need a standard of proof that is "beyond reasonable doubt" (a part of my objection is publicly available here):.

As a result of my vigorous private and public pressure (and presumably from many others) Anurag was THEN expelled and JP gave a press conference, after which I've reaffirmed full support for LSP.

I don't see why it is now being claimed that "the party had expelled its Delhi unit President Anurag Kejriwal the moment his inexcusable conduct came to light". That is untrue and misleading and should not have been said in this manner.

I expect total integrity. It was not a major mistake to first remove Anurag from Delhi Presidency and then further review and expel him. There is no hard and fast rule on this. The party can change its mind after further consideration. But it is incorrect to say publicly that Anurag was expelled "the moment" his conduct came to light.

I continue to support LSP in recognition of JP's long time work and because this slippage is not material enough. But I suggest we all expect more. No "spin" (one admissible exception would be something "doctored" in the national interest under severe enemy fire – but that's not what happened here).

==

In closing I CONTINUE TO SUPPORT LSP BUT DEMAND EVEN HIGHER STANDARDS OF INTEGRITY FROM LSP – which I'm sure they'll adhere to.

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I think Lok Satta Party has FULLY re-affirmed its reputation. Surendra Srivastava has responded to further allegations.

In response to my blog post a short while ago, Surendra Srivastava has responded on FB (text below):

TEXT:

Dear Sanjeevji,

While we respect most of what you say, but let us not jump to conclusion. Most of the people who, you have named either were made to leave or left for their own ambitions for positions in the party.

As far as financial of Delhi are concerned, we have full accounting and Supritam can come to Loksatta office in Mumbai and I will ask treasurer to show him audited accounts for the years since LSP has unit in Delhi. Ofcourse since we all are busy with elections, it would be advisable that it shoud be done after elections.

If some one from LSP has collected money in cash, we would like to have proof as we do not permit cash collection.

As far as UP is concerned, there was never a UP unit. We were encouraging some of our members from UP to conduct regular activities, which they were reluctant without being given UP Presidents & other state posts. On encouraging them to develop a smaller unit like a district first instead state unit they left. 

Yes Loksatta is not yet perfect but organisational building is challenge and so more in India. However LSP has self correcting mechanism as well as "will" and "determination" to keep improving.

We are sorry but let us agree to disagree on few issue and also advise checking full facts before writing such things from your blog. 

Surendra Srivastava 

National General Secretary – Lok Satta Party

==MY FURTHER COMMENTS==

This is excellent. A quick and prompt public response by the party. The sooner these matters are dealt with and nipped in the bud, the better. I believe the sunlight of transparency is the best remedy for such things.

I can now promote JP and LSP (despite some differences with its policies) without having niggling doubts in the back of my mind.

LSP's offer that Supratim check the accounts itself re-confirms my unshakable faith in LSP's foundation of integrityIt would be worthwhile for Supratim (if he can spare time to visit Surendra – after the elections!) to look into the allegation that LSP party funds were transferred into the personal account of Anurag Kejriwal. Such funds transfer would be part of the detailed records, and the allegation I've received can be checked.

Re: the UP "unit" – I think no claim was made that there is a proper unit, only a "team". The complaint was that funds collected were not made available to the team for use. This is not an integrity issue, though. And no one has suggested that cash was collected. So that's not an issue, either. 

I think this is more than sufficient for now from LSP and confirms that LSP is a party worth supporting.

LSP has been responsive to criciticism and has taken QUICK ACTION TO EXPEL AnuragThis is good enough, also given the pressure of Lok Sabha elections.

Please vote for JP from Malkajgiri.

ADDENDUM

a) LSP has further clarified that it does not have a bank account in Delhi. A small amount was given as advance in some cases to Anurag for petty cash expenses against vouchers along with supporting documents. All details have been fully audited. Supratim Basu will double-check after elections and report to us. 

b) Further, LSP does not believe that any budget proposal was submitted to it for agreed activities for which funds were refused.  

c) LSP funds are first audited by an independent auditing firm in Mumbai and then as part of cosolidated accounts in Hyderabad.

LSP has NO integrity issues. There were some issues with Anurag, which have been resolved now that he has been expelled.

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