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Category: Liberty

A program of action for the liberation of India

In a recent article, Gurcharan Das expressed pessimism about the future of political liberalism in India. There is no doubt that political liberalism faces significant challenges in India. But much of this is because (a) India has hardly had any liberals in the past seventy years, and (b) the few who have existed have not organised to take the message of liberty systematically to the people of India.

Converting ideas into action is always a challenge, particularly where persuading others is involved. And since every situation is different, one can’t expect to find a solution without attempting the challenge. It is all about learning by doing.

When, in February 1998, I took on the challenge of transforming India’s governance, I over-estimated the availability of liberal leaders and under-estimated the vast gulf in understanding between the liberals and the common man in India.

Nearly twenty years later, many experiments and attempts later, I am better placed to recognise the magnitude of the task at hand. The task can be summarised thus: (a) find and build thousands of liberal political leaders, and (b) undo the brainwashing of a billion people.

Not simple, but worth doing.

Why is it worth doing? I have my personal reasons why I want India to succeed. But even from the most abstract perspective, if Indians can achieve their highest potential, there will be a significant surge in the world’s productivity as a billion extra human brains get on to the task of innovation. Surely this is something worth aspiring for?

And if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Let’s do this properly and not take short cuts. In fact, the challenges involved in achieving this task cannot be circumvented. It is not as if one can join the socialists or Hindutvas and expect them to change colour and promote liberty.

We must not forget that our opponents did not get to their dominant position in India (and thereby have destroyed India) by accident but through sustained, albeit misguided, effort over tens of years. Many lifetimes were spent by our opponents in their mistaken attempts.

The challenge posed by our opponents, the enemies of liberty

The RSS (the ideological wing of BJP) took the idea of Hindutva to the people of India for decades before it started having an impact on electoral politics, first with the Jan Sangh, then the BJP.

Socialism got a head start in India through Nehru who had the advantage of being in a position of power for a very long time during which he brainwashed India (I’m not questioning his intentions here). As a result of his influence, he not only persuaded the vast majority of Indians about the “benefits” of socialism but created socialist institutions which have led to the ruinous consequences we see today. To undo the work of Nehru is not a trivial task.

One of the insidious consequences of Nehru’s work has been the destruction of the intellectual capital and capability of India. India has lost three generations of children who did not get even basic education, leave alone any education about liberty.

Further, whatever little education was imparted (by leftist teachers at all levels – in schools, colleges and universities) has led to a brainwashing so complete that the products of this education are incapable of even recognising reality, leave alone making informed choices.

I’m constantly amazed by the unique ability of these brainwashed Indians to deny the most obvious facts. For example, when I share with them information about the low levels of freedom in India in various international comparisons, and not just by one organisation but by a large number of independent organisations, most Indians refuse to even accept this information. And if the data do sink in, they come out with bogus defences, such as India is a very big country. As if that excuses the destruction of freedoms. Any country, regardless of size, will become badly messed up when it adopts collectivist ideologies.

It often feels that one is banging one’s head against a wall.

The ability to deny facts is characteristic of belief systems, where rational thought is consciously excluded. Socialism has become one such belief system which no amount of evidence can budge. This sorry state of affairs is an indictment of the socialist education system which did not teach Indians to think for themselves and understand basic facts.

Program of mass communication

We are born chained to our parent’s beliefs. Liberalism, like religion, socialism or Hindutva, is a learned concept. Liberty, unlike collectivist concepts, is the only idea that helps all humans and fosters innovation and prosperity. But it is not a natural idea. It has to be learned. Further, learning about liberty has much to do with reasoning, which is not the forte of most humans.

To date there has been no consistent and systematic effort in India’s history to show the people of India the benefits of liberty. We have had sporadic initiatives and sporadic writings by a few people like Gurcharan Das but this is insufficient.

We need a program of action to propagate the message of liberty in a systematic manner.

This has to be political, not through think tanks. All over the world political parties have promoted the idea of liberty. Other methods have neither worked nor can work. There is no prospect of India becoming even a remotely free without a liberal party leading the way. Yes, a liberal party’s journey will necessarily be difficult in identity-politics ridden India, but if we put our shoulder to this task, India will respond.

We need a program of mass communication at the grassroots level and in urban India, including in schools and colleges. Without such a mass communication program that (a) shows Indians how bad their situation is, and (b) how they can become so much better off, it will be impossible to fight off socialist and Hindutva indoctrination.

This mass communication program would need to use WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. It would involve brochures and publicity material for grassroots dissemination, in addition to a range of videos. Material would include satire and jokes about socialism. A vast amount of material would need to be generated in order to undo the damage done to the minds of a billion Indians over the past 70 years.

The initial focus will need to be on written material since we do not have ready access to leaders on the ground who can reach out to the people. Slogans, short messages, jokes, flyers and brochures, all branded with the party’s name have to be released in the thousands. At the same time, a team of political leaders needs to be projected in the minds of the people.

Another critical task is to prepare the party’s manifestos for state government elections and for local elections across the country. These would be generic manifestos that would in due course be tailored to the local situation. Liberalism needs to be translated into specifics for the people, and each action properly explained. Manifestos are particularly important for ideological parties.

This task will need a combination of professionalism and voluntarism. There are those who can write well; they should do so. There are others who have limited time but can spare a bit of money. That money can be used to hire professional expertise in communication.

A minimum of two or three years of sustained effort is needed to start seeing even the minimal results. It takes a long time to change the minds of people. Over the course of time, the liberal party will get the capacity to win some seats and ultimately to even form government.

The content of the message

In order to change the mindset of the people they have to be systemically shown why India is in such a bad shape. The most important message will have to be the “why”. Why liberty? Why should Indians care about liberty?

The answer is that liberty benefits the people, their opportunities increase, their choices increase. It is through transactions and trades made in liberty that wealth increases. It is through liberty that people can achieve their potential.

People are not stupid. If you show them something that will benefit them, then there is no reason they would not be persuaded.

Conclusion

It is premature to be pessimistic when we have not even understood the task or designed a strategy to deal with it. We need to put in place a concerted programme of action to take the message to the people of India.

What we have to offer India is so good and so attractive, only total fools will reject it. I believe Indians are not fools, merely ill-educated.

Let’s at least show our wares to the nation. Let’s set up our shop and let the people choose. Let’s give India a chance.

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Liberals of India, unite – else you’ll lick the boots of corrupt socialists, bureaucrats and police the whole of your life

It is extraordinarily easy to point fingers at problems, extraordinarily difficult to do even the smallest thing about them.

A lot of “liberals” and “academics” spend their life in elitist and remote criticism, as if they are spectators and as if the world is in any way beholden to their views.

Let them try to create even the smallest organisation of men to address the problems they rail about. Getting teams of men together is so hard, most people will fall flat on their face at their first attempt. And yet, only through organisation can any real change occur.

Note that you will fail if you try to change India’s misgovernance alone, on your own. But if you work in a team and multiply intellectual and financial resources, you will succeed.

Sadly, I have heard one alleged “liberal” tell me that liberals do not unite. They work alone. Well, in that case they are merely going to end up licking the boots of socialists or corrupt police/ bureaucrats.

The socialists totally transformed the culture of numerous countries through organisation. The liberals have no choice but to unite.

Join SBP or leave, go away. That’s my simple message to all my friends (and relatives) from India.

I have no intention to keep listening to your whingeing about India. If you are THAT STUPID that you can’t understand this, you DESERVE your fate.

And let me tell you – when you join SBP, don’t come in with the view that only your ideas have to work. You will need to learn to work in  a team and let the best ideas evolve through discussion and experimentation.

Yes, it is hard. But if you avoid this on whatever pretext, you DESERVE to be trampled upon by the socialists.

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Hayek’s HIMALAYAN BLUNDER – his advice to Anthony Fisher. There is ZERO correlation between think tanks and liberty.

As everyone knows, I admire Hayek’s work. That doesn’t at all mean that he is any kind of “god” to me. I mostly agree with his economics, but his politics was abysmal.

It is also important to note that my agreement with his economics is post-facto, well after I had formed my own views about economics.

Hayek’s work is never taught in any economics course (I had started my economics studies at the post graduate level – which is purely mathematical: and in the three continents I studied, there was no mention of Hayek in any standard economics textbook). My understandings about economics – including about the price system – were formed in almost total ignorance about the very existence of Hayek.

Yes, one of my teachers at USC cited Hayek’s article, The Use of Knowledge in Society – to illustrate his maths. I found Hayek’s article well written and around three years later became the first to get permission from the AER to publish it on the internet (in 1998). Although I had become incidentally aware about Hayek, I never had any time till well after my PhD to read his work. Even the formal course that I took to study classical economists did not include any consideration of either Mises or Hayek.

Despite all this, I hold Hayek in great esteem for his excellent understandings about law and economics.

But Hayek has proved to be a dismal failure and, indeed, a nuisance when it comes to the spread of liberty across the world. (Yes, I later came to know about Mont Pelerin, etc. but its influence on the real world is grossly over-rated).

The discovery and spread of liberty across the world for the past 330 years or so had little or nothing to do with Hayek. There are hundreds of illustrious names that contributed. ALL the real contributors to liberty have always been POLITICALLY active – e.g. Hobbes, Locke, Jefferson, Maddison, Franklin, Burke, Macaulay, JS Mill. See The Discovery of Freedom.

Hayek’s contributions to actual human liberty are next to minimal. When a person like me had not even heard about him (and I note that not a single professionally trained economics graduate from an average university in the West has heard about him) it is hard to conceive of Hayek as having advanced liberty in any meaningful way.

HAYEK’S GREAT BLUNDER: HIS ADVICE TO ANTHONY FISHER

Hayek’s advice to Fisher has set back liberty across the world by decades. It has given a short cut to lazy “liberals” in countries like India to avoid engaging in the political process.

What was this advice? You can read about it here. I’ve also uploaded Hayek’s letter to Fisher here.

I first heard about this advice from Parth Shah when I first met him (in San Francisco) in 1999.

Now, since February 1998, I had unambiguously (and without any prompting from anyone – nor any awareness of others in India who might support liberty) chosen the path of political action. I wanted a party that is founded on the principles of liberty and good economics. I had no doubt whatsoever in my mind that this was an urgent necessity in India.

Parth said that, in accordance with Hayek’s views, he believed that there needs to be a think tank in India to promote liberty. We agreed to disagree on this. In my view then (and today) there can be NO change in India without political action, and think tanks are not the vehicle for political action.

Indeed, it puzzled me that Hayek (or anyone in his right senses) thought that Thatcher was in any way “CREATED” by Fisher. Thatcher would have mocked this utterly preposterous idea. Thatcher was a creation of her own understandings and beliefs – let this basic fact never be even remotely confused by anyone. It is fundamentally wrong to imagine any chain of causality between the IEA and Thatcher.

ALL change is ALWAYS political. And politics is about beliefs, commitment, social engagement and persuasion. It is extremely personal and human. No one can be a politician without fire in their belly, and that fire is not let by some random think tank article/s.

If Fisher had any real calibre, he would have transformed England politically in the 1960s itself. Of course, he chose the easy way out and started IEA. Running think tanks is a short cut, and can NEVER work.

Time and again I’ve been proven right on this fundamental point. The USA has tens of liberty-oriented think tanks, yet we get some really hopeless politicians (and policies) in the USA. That’s because doing politics is hard, and doing think tanks is easy. I find that a lot of self-aggrandising think tanks and academics run down American politicians in their writings, but these “better than thou” writers don’t understand how hard and complicated real politics is. They are therefore always unpleasantly surprised with real life. They are nuts to imagine that they can EVER influence American politics.

All the think tanks of the world, together, can’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Doing that requires BEING in politics.

Empirically, there is ZERO correlation between think tanks and liberty. All ADVANCE IN LIBERTY HAS BEEN (AND WILL BE) POLITICAL. PERIOD.

My great regret is that although I’ve been involved in trying to get a liberal party up and running in India since the past 20 years, not ONE person from (or trained by) ANY Indian think tank has stepped forward to fight for political liberty in India. Most of these people have, instead, licked the boots of socialists and foreign donors for their survival. Foreign funding in matters related to liberty is particularly obnoxious.

Nonetheless, Parth seemed to be reasonably willing to try out a liberal political party idea – at least at first. In 2000, Parth let me hold a small meeting in his place where I discussed the prospect of India’s first liberal party being established (no, Swatantra was not a truly liberal party: let me make that clear once again).

Then in May 2002 he published an article saying that India does need a liberal political party. It appears he had realised by then that running a think tank was not going to work.

To a small extent he provided some assistance when, in 2004, the liberals (whom I’d invited to a 5 day workshop) supported Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party. But since then there has been close to zero contribution of CCS to any liberal political work. Parth’s write-up on a liberal party was clearly the typical hot air that such think tank “intellectuals” spout: meaningless nonsense. Lazy words.

For 20 years I have come across an abundance of “liberals” in India who have cited Hayek’s advice to Fisher as a reason to do NOTHING about liberty in India. Apparently, India doesn’t need a liberal political party and some random think tanks (that have ZERO impact on politics) can do the work.

That’s pure tripe.

Let this remain on public record – that HAYEK WAS FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG on this matter. Anyone who cites Hayek on this issue is fooling himself/herself and is NOT a supporter of liberty or doesn’t understand what it means. He/she should stay away fro me. Much appreciated.

Btw, I had written about what classical liberalism really means here – and it is ALL political.

ADDENDUM

My FB comment here:

It is extraordinarily easy to point fingers at problems, extraordinarily difficult to do even the smallest thing about them.

A lot of “liberals” and “academics” spend their life in elitist and remote criticism, as if they are spectators and as if the world is in any way beholden to their views.

Let them try to create even the smallest organisation of men to address the problems they rail about. Getting teams of men together is so hard, most people will fall flat on their face at their first attempt. And yet, only through organisation can any real change occur.

Abraham Arsalan’s response, here:

Every change is political. There are no two ways about it. No ‘think-tanks’ or ‘advocacy groups’ can bring change. They, at best, can catalyse the process through awareness. If you do not have a political representation, you will be trampled on in this dubious system we call “democracy”. You will be short-changed via “government schemes” and you can rue your fate in a safe-space.

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The fraudulent “liberals” of India who lick the boots of socialists and foreign donors for their survival

I’m keeping this for the record – and won’t add names here, but one day I will.

I’m sick to the bone of these FRAUDULENT LIBERALS of India who spend their entire life soliciting funds from foreign agencies or currying favours from socialist Indian political parties.

And they have the audacity to tell me they are following Hayek’s advice! What bogus nonsense. These bootlickers ought to be ashamed of themselves.

I condemn them outright – as enemies of India. Traitors to the cause of liberty.

See this: https://www.facebook.com/sabhlok/posts/10154989960303767

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The struggle of Indian liberals to agree to a common political strategy

In 2000 I organised a meeting of five Indian liberals to consider a political option. That failed since there was no agreement on what should be done.

In 2004 I organised a 5 day meeting of around 25 Indian liberals to thrash out this issue. The topic was “India’s liberal political strategy”. The group decided to support Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party. Swatantra Bharat Party’s manifesto was genuinely liberal. And yet, Swantantra Bharat didn’t work out due to too many fundamental shortcomings – won’t go into detail (I’ve done that elsewhere).

In 2006, JP of Lok Satta the NGO (who enthusiastically prodded Sharad Joshi on, at the January 2004 conference to contest 300 seats but did not want to join at that stage) pulled out a separate political party from his hat, called Lok Satta Party. I had assumed its manifesto would be liberal but in due course I was to find it was essentially social democratic (again, refer to analysis on this blog) – i.e. with significant involvement of government in the affairs of the people. Nevertheless, given the failure of Swantatra Bharat, I thought the liberals should support JP. That ended when JP turned out to be an uncritical supporter of Modi.

Of the other liberals who attended the January 2004 meeting, one (Madhu Kishwar) became a fanatic defender of Modi – claiming that he was innocent in the killings of a 1000 innocent people in Godhra. I watched her later on TV and could not distinguish her from the standard rabid RSS fanatics.

One, Bibek Debroy joined Modi government’s Niti Ayog – and was recently found aggressively claiming that the Modi government is not stupid (in relation to demonetisation). Basically, he’s lost his liberal credentials and independence and effectively become a BJP member.

There were others, as well, at that meeting. Won’t go into details, but not one has actually supported any liberal political effort in their life after that initial enthusiasm of early 2004.

In the meanwhile, allegedly liberal outfits like Bharat Uday Mission, Jago Party and Navbharat Party came on the scene. I supported collaboration with each of these parties, but their manifestos were grievously lacking, and the latter two were merely one man shows. All these parties are now defunct. (Btw, Navbharat was essentially the reclaimed Professional Party- which had not the slightest liberal credentials).

In 2013, through series of freak events, I helped form Swarna Bharat Party. This party got registered in 2014. Having failed to see any genuine liberal leadership from Swatantra Bharat Party, Lok Satta Party, Bharat Uday Mission, Jago Party or Navbharat Party, it was appropriate that we finally had a liberal party that was genuinely liberal – the Swarna Bharat Party.

Since SBP was essentially very weak in 2014, I had supported RK Misra’s Navbharat Party – but Misra not only lost his seat badly, he was no liberal; and there is not the slightest evidence of the party’s existence now.

In the meanwhile, one Prodyut Bora left BJP a couple of years ago and formed the Liberal Democratic Party in Assam. I spoke with him at length last year: he is focused entirely on Assam. In the recent past he is considering the idea of a national liberal party. Unfortunately, his party has no clear manifesto and whatever little exists, is more in the space of social democracy – an interventionist state. Nevertheless, I have some hope from Prodyut Bora.

Well, 19 years after I first resolved that India should have a liberal party, there is effectively ONE such party in existence today – and that is Swarna Bharat Party (SBP).

SBP is an open platform for genuine liberals who can work together in a team.

I will talk more about the struggle (that is ongoing) – in a later post. Now got to go.

JUST ONE POINT, THOUGH: That all the failed efforts had one of the following in common: one-man shows, lack of clarity of ideology, inability to work as a team and foster open debate and discussion that is followed by voting.

My prediction remains this: that any effort apart from Swarna Bharat Party is guaranteed to fail.

SBP will remain the masthead of Indian liberalism well into the future. That, too, is guaranteed, given its approach, style and ideological clarity.

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