January 10, 2013
Further perspectives on Arvind Kejriwal, and request for more info.
A couple of weeks ago, there was an inconclusive discussion on FB. A commentator wrote:
AB i will continue to work in AAP coz i genuinely like the concept of swaraj and Janlokpal.. I myself am a believer in participatory democracy. Let people decide what they want…
providing an alternative to Modi is not the solution. But creating systems so that whoever comes to power is accountable to the people in whatever he does is the solution. Since no one is prepared to do it, AAP will do it.
Unnecessary laws and restrictions in form of 'licenses' and 'permissions' should be in the dustbin, where they belong. Swaraj will empower the people to remove whatever laws they feel are unnecessary. it will empower the people to use the budget for their viillage/ town as the please.. I dont want some self proclaimed 'expert' from the planning commission to dictate his terms to every citizen.
My response: I agree on most things you are saying. However, in a party system, it is Arvind's ideas that rule the roost. He is a blood red socialist, and won't allow your dream of "Unnecessary laws and restrictions in form of 'licenses' and 'permissions' should be in the dustbin, where they belong". That's my dream, not Arvind's. Arvind wants to tie up the country in 100s of more licenses, permissions, price controls and everything else. I have written EXTENSIVELY re: the abolition of Planning Commission, in BFN and on my blog. Where has AK ever said such a thing?
AB Hmm.. Yes he hasnt spoken about getting rid of the planning commission in those specific words.. but he has spoken a hundreds of times about concentration of power in hands of the few, the lack of accountability among those few, and the need to increase public participation in the functioning of the executive. This essentially what 'Swaraj' is all about. The people living in a locality should have the say in the money that is going to be spent for that locality. The finance ministry should not tell them how and where to spend the money.
There are too many things wrong with our country. I believe in the concepts of Swaraj and Lokpal entirely. for the rest, i am sure he doesnt have an opinion either.. his is very passionate about political decentralization. So that people will decide what laws they need and what they dont.. This is surely not Socialism, is it?
As far as "Arvind wants to tie up the country in 100s of more licenses, permissions, price controls and everything else." i dont think that is true.. The people will decide if they want such laws.. and no one would want the license raj to continue.
ANd on the issue of price controls he has said only this ' If the people living in parliament can fix prices, then the people should have a say in it and not the elected representatives only.' On the issue of electricity he said "We will put forth all pricing models and mechanisms, it will spark off a debate and at the end the people will choose the model they feel suits them the best'. If 550 people have the right to decide on the prices, then they shouldnt.. and the people should..
In the last few days i have had two debates regarding governance and economic policies.. the links of the two debates are below. [Sanjeev: I've gone through these; link not provided here] I would be very happy if u go through those and comment on my understanding of the situation.. BFN helped me a lot in forming those opinions.
My response I'm now very confused about what Arvind wants. Why, if this guy is not socialist, does he take crores of rupees from hardcore communist, Bhushan? Why does he studiously avoid meeting me/ debating with me. I find it really implausible that Arvind, who has called himself a leftist publicly, has suddenly started talking about releasing control over the economy.
Continuing the discussion
OK, time for me to close this discussion. I'm going to be hasty, hence not concise. I hope AB will bear with me.
I note that AB has read BFN but missed a key point (which has perhaps been more clearly discussed in DOF – but unfortunately that book remains a patchy draft). The point he has missed is illustrated below (taken from draft DOF) [click for larger image]
Note the key difference between the socialist and liberal: the former gives primacy to the society, the other to the individual. That is the first and most significant difference. The rest is merely detail.
I accept "participatory democracy" as a mechanism to get us an accountable government, but I don't see it as an end in itself.
I can't therefore agree with AB's comment :I myself am a believer in participatory democracy. Let people decide what they want…"
No! People cannot be allowed to decide "what they want". Thus, for instance, majorities cannot be allowed to trample on minorities. All social decisions must be tightly constrained through constitutional methods to prevent misuse of power.
Democracy is NOT an ideal. Liberty is. Democracy merely empowers the society to replace its governments. It serves almost no other functional purpose in life. Therefore, constitutional restrictions on government, and rule of law, are the key, not democracy.
If we agree that democracy CANNOT impose unnecessary restrictions on our liberty, then "unnecessary restrictions" in India could not have arisen in the first place. Indeed, had the original (Ambedkar) Constitution not been DESTROYED by Nehru and his godchildren, the Indian government could not possibly have imposed the hundreds of unnecessary restrictions it did (and does). All these restrictions were collectivist enterprises, through a socialist constitution.
Now that our original constitution has been destroyed entirely, it would be entirely improper to blindly "empower" people. Whatever empowerment has to be done must be done under strict constitutional constraints.
There are, for instance, no automatic rights in the liberal states "empower the people to use the budget for their viillage/ town as the please.."
In this particular case I assume you are referring to funds collected within the village. If villagers are receiving funds from outside (e.g. city dwellers) then wherefrom do they get a natural right to use these funds as they please? But, of course, all funds should be accountable. The state government must be accountable for state level funds, and so on. What we need is good governance systems.
AB's question "So that people will decide what laws they need and what they dont.. This is surely not Socialism, is it?"
Yes and no. If people don't impinge on others' liberties, then they SHOULD surely get the laws they "want". But what if they want to create a big government which steals property, taxes heavily, and stops enterprise? Would they still be entitled to these laws? No. Then they would be supporting socialism. So the question is misplaced. In some cases this leads to socialism, in others not.
The mere fact of Swaraj doesn't tell us whether it is socialist/ liberal. The PURPOSE of swaraj is the key. If it merely represents unchecked "participatory democracy" then it is socialist. If, like what I advocate, it represents well-organised professional and accountable local government, then it is not socialist. My guess is that Arvind uses the subsidiarity principle (Swaraj) as a socialist concept. I use it as a classical liberal concept. These are poles apart.
"we will put forth all pricing models and mechanisms, it will spark off a debate and at the end the people will choose the model they feel suits them the best'. If 550 people have the right to decide on the prices, then they shouldnt.. and the people should.."
Well, I hope AB will appreciate why this statement is PURELY socialist. A price is an exchange value voluntarily determined by buyers and sellers. These, being free citizens, should be free to decide themselves. There is no role for the government. ONLY a socialist government interferes in prices. Why should 550 MPs have a "right" to determine prices? Our MPs are our SERVANTS. Why should our servants determine prices in the marketplace? Let only citizens determine prices.
Arvind's desire to determine prices, and his refusal to question the "right" of MPs (our servants) to set prices, reflects a socialist mindset. Arvind should be challenging the socialist Constitution of India, the socialist mindest of MPs who want to determine prices. Instead, he wants more direct democracy in such cases.
UTOPIAN DIRECT DEMOCRACY
Swaraj as conceptualised by Arvind is super-utopian. There is no way that people can "decide" prices directly. The only democratic way is the market, but Arvind is clearly not referring to that.
AB has understood many market ideas very well – and indeed clearly understands them FAR better than Arvind. However, even AB needs to distinguish between democracy as a mechanism to remove tyrants (classical liberal), and democracy as an end in itself (socialist).
I am still not clear that Arvind is a classical liberal. I'd like to invite AB to provide me with details about AK's statements that prove he respects the INDIVIDUAL and allows people to buy, sell, produce and otherwise manage their own affairs without unnecessary imposition by government.
If I find strong evidence of such a position, I'll go out of the way to support AK. But I need strong evidence. Till then, all I have are previous statements of AK and Yogendra Yadav/ Bhushans; and all these statements are deep red socialist.
AB, over to you.