12th October 2016
In 1998 I started a draft article, called “From Economics to Action“. I never got to review/ finalise this article due to many reasons. But the key question remains: how does one get from the theory of liberty (economics) to actual liberty. This is something for which there is no manual, no guide, not even preliminary thoughts on how it can or should be done.
Over the past 18+ years I have done many things and learnt a few things in this direction. One day I may finally finish that article.
But this one can say: it is no trivial task to bring liberty to any country. The task of bringing liberty to the a country like India involves – at a minimum – the following skills:
- high level of knowledge of the principles and policies of liberty, and of liberal governance. This basically means having an open mind to innovations from across the world; it means having a research bent of mind. The liberal has an mind that is constantly open to new learnings. Most “liberals” do not understand the basics of governance; they have an extremely shallow level of knowledge and do not pay attention to detailed incentives of the democratic/ bureaucratic system. Their policies amount to hand waving, and are essentially worthless for ensuring real change.
- high level of communication skills. This involves the ability to write/ speak and otherwise explain ideas to the general public, including to the experts. The range of messaging is quite vast and diverse; but there needs to be high level of proficiency in these skills, if an liberal political movement is to take root.
- high level of management skill and attention to detail. This is a key requirement which involves the ability to creating various organisations and ensuring they are compliant with relevant laws. It involves attention to the detail of how funds are managed, audits/ tax compliance, etc., and how website/ social media is managed, etc.
- high level of respect for others. This involves complete trust in others unless they prove to be untrustworthy. This also involves the commitment to building democratic processes and institutions, but being careful not to disable individual enterprise in this process.
- working towards a long term goal – of building the kind of DNA that will grow the organism (e.g. a liberal party) into a viable outfit for the future. This involves building systems that will foster innovation and initiative at all levels, even as everyone is held to account for their actions. It involves finding and building leaders.
The package of skills needed to start and run a political liberal movement does not exist in any single individual. So the key skill involved is the capacity to find and bring together people with the relevant skills, so the organisation, as a whole, has the relevant skill set and capability.
ROLE OF NATIONAL EXECUTIVE OF A LIBERAL PARTY
In this post I will raise a few points regarding building the DNA of a sustainable liberal political party.
A party usually will have a representative body at the top, a National Executive (NE). The role of the NE is to oversight the development and growth of the party. Its job is to ensure that overall systems are in place.
It, however, has no business in the day-to-day affairs and actions of the party or its members. It is like the Board of Directors of a company, that meets periodically to agree to the broad principles, but after that the company acts. It doesn’t revert to the Board for advice. There is no micro-management by the Board. There can be no micro-management by an NE.
For instance, the NE must retain total control over the party’s ideology and manifesto. It must set systems in place for the selection/ election of office bearers. It must have a system to investigate disciplinary matters where any member acts in violation of the ideology and manifesto.
But it can have no role in prior approval of political actions taken by any individual member.
In any event, we are talking about a party of liberty, not a “high command” where everything is micro-managed.
The way of liberty is to fully empower all members to act. Members should not be held back with a leash, even on a matter that potentially violates the party’s manifesto. NE members can raise any concerns or provide advice, but they cannot pre-approve (“licence”) any action. They have no preventative role, only a punitive role should an action violate the party’s constitution or manifesto.
The NE are not puppet masters, and individual members are not puppets. They are free citizens who must be free at all times to act according to their best understanding of a particular situation.
Liberty involves experiments. It involves taking risks. No one knows what will happen when someone takes an action. Even the best laid plans of people can be laid waste; and totally unexpected success can be achieved from unplanned and random action. This is the nature of the world. We can never know in advance about the results from any action.
NE members cannot be a control freak who want zero risk. They cannot start imagining consequences and risks and block action. They are not Gods. They do not know the future.
The liberal party’s constitution must allow total freedom of voting to its parliamentary members except on a few critical bills.
This freedom must seep into every part of the party’s operational DNA. No one is required to seek any prior “approval” to act. By all means people should feel free to discuss their idea and seek improvements/ inputs. But EVERY individual member must be respected and treated like an adult.
Each action is an experiment. Let there be an infinity of experiments – each of these consistent with the party’s ideology and manifesto. Let there be freedom in the party that claims to bring freedom to the people.
Freedom also implies accountability. Therefore, every member should be accountable for his/her actions. But there is absolutely no scope in a free society for PRIOR CONSENT from any “wise” people.
Only through internal freedom can members of a liberal political party understand freedom and bring freedom to the people. If they become control freaks then the party will never grow.
Growth is ALWAYS related to the level of liberty.
Of course, if any FINANCIAL implication arises, there is a need for prior consent. But for saying something or doing something that doesn’t involve taking money from the party’s kitty, there is absolutely no need for prior consent.