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Separation of the state and church – what do we mean by it?

In DOF I’ve shown how it was Romans who worked out the need for the state to be separate from the church. Till Constantine went crazy and made Christianity the state religion, all religions were largely tolerated in Rome.  I say “largely”, since different Roman rulers took slightly different approaches. This was not a well established principle.

It was John Locke, through “A letter Concerning Toleration” who first advocated a secular state and the separation of religious and governmental institutions.

He pointed to the “Necess(ity) above all to distinguish between the business of civil government and that of religion”

He noted that: “the whole power of civil government is concerned only with men’s civil goods”

and “Civil government is confined to the care of things in this world, and has nothing to do with the world to come”.

Therefore, according to him: “Civil power ought not to prescribe articles of faith…by Civil law”.

Now, it is clear that not all these views have percolated into the Western world.

However, Jefferson clearly referred to the separation of the state and church while recommending the First Amendment to the US Constitution which prohibits the making of any religious laws. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”.

Now, this did not carry through in intent and even in the USA there remains a bit of a mix up between the state and religion. However, it is far less than the mix up found in India. India has actual religious laws, e.g. Hindu Act, etc.  – a blatant intervention of the state in matters of religion. These types of laws would be deemed unconstitutional in the USA.

I believe the Supreme Court has made a somewhat belated attempt to recognise this principle (see this blog post). I think it needs to do a lot more.


I recorded this on 11 January 2017 during my lunch walk.


Here is a preliminary note by Sarita Rani


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How socialism impoverishes women, destroys their potential, and supports those who molest them

A comment from a respected friend in response to my post here:

I don’t think the socialist mindset has anything to do with the issue of molestation of women. For all its shortcomings, socialist countries have treated their women much better, as equal partners.

The biggest problem I feel is that the short staffed police force is mostly deployed to protect VIPs at the cost of the aam admi.
I actually don’t know of any socialist country which has treated women with any respect. Kindly show me examples. I’d be keen to explore this further. Do we have evidence that in socialist USSR or Mao’s China the women were somehow treated better by its people? Do we know whether Stalin treated women with respect, or Mao? To the best of my knowledge, women were at a greater loss than ever before in these societies.
The only societies where women have – as a rule – progressed are liberal societies. It is the liberalism of JS Mill (e.g. The Subjection of Women and his fight in the British parliament for their freedom and equality) – and many others (including many women – see details in Discovery of Freedom) who liberated women from being chattel. I’m not aware of a single leader of women’s emancipation from USSR or China. There is no Ayn Rand, no Thatcher, no Hillary Clinton in any socialist country. (I don’t count Indira Gandhi since India is a more feudal than socialist. It is still pre-capitalist in many ways.).
In India, the socialist mindset under the leadership of Nehru has created the hypocritic governance system in which only the ultra-rich or the ultra-corrupt are allowed to contest elections. I’ve explained this in great detail in chapter 4 of BFN so won’t repeat here.
Since only the corrupt are rewarded in a socialist society, this mindset has led to the almost total loss of ethics in India.
Moreover, socialism has led to the continuation of the extreme poverty that was prevalent in feudal India. Hundreds of millions of women live in deplorable poverty in India. The status of the girl child is miserable, beyond belief. This is what socialism does. It destroys the human being’s potential in every possible way.
And yes, it is the socialist model in which the government happily loses billions of dollars worth of taxpayer money in loss making PSEs and banks (non-core functions), while totally ignoring core functions like police and justice. These areas need vastly more funding, exactly what SBP asked Modi to do through its 26 August 2016 Open Letter.
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Open borders – some notes

I never get time to write properly on most issues of interest. This is one of them. I wrote something here on this blog in 2013. Then there was a debate in 2014. Since then I never got time to sit down and review – so I could further elaborate. I’m now going to start these ‘half-baked’ blog posts which contain preliminary thoughts – so I can keep moving.

My FB post of 20 March 2014


I totally oppose open borders since the people who pay taxes for running a particular nation are entitled to decide how these should be used, not those who haven’t paid for them. For a theory of freedom kindly read DOF ( There is NO freedom without a strong state.

Economic migration always moves from a place of lower public infrastructure to higher. There are no rights to millions of people who have chosen to create unfree and poor societies to get access to higher quality public infrastructure, justice system or security. The more free societies can, however, CHOOSE whom they want. At a minimum the entrants should be both personally capable and committed to liberty.

I was informed that Hayek supported open borders. I wasn’t aware of this. I have found, now, that he OPPOSED open borders, as well:

“in a letter to the London Times on February 11, 1978, Professor Friedrich A. Hayek—himself an immigrant several times in his life—praised the British Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher for her call for stringent immigration controls. “While I look forward, as an ultimate ideal, to a state of affairs in which national boundaries have ceased to be obstacles to the free movement of men,” Hayek declared, “I believe that within any period with which we can now be concerned, any attempt to realize it would lead to a revival of strong nationalist sentiments.” [Source:].

Once nations have ALL adopted 100 per cent freedom, THEN open borders can make sense, under certain circumstances. Not in the present primitive state where 1/3rd of the world is FANATICALLY opposed to liberty.

Shika Dalmia Sood’s response:

Pardon me, Sanjeev, I admire your positions on many issues, but you are flat out wrong in identifying this as classical liberalism. If the best you could do is pluck out a single quote by Hayek from a piece that is arguing the opposite, then that’s just tendentious. That quote is noteworthy only because it comes from a guy whose full views would lead one to believe otherwise. If Malthus had said it, it would be hardly reportable. I have zero desire to argue with you given your starting point in all of this, but by your logic Bal Thackeray, who advocated even stronger nationalism and restrictionism within his own country in the name of Maharashtran pride, would be an even bigger classical liberal. If Modi used the strong arm of the state to throw Muslims out of India because they are anti-freedom, that would be completely defensible in your version of classical liberalism. Classical liberals also never use the vocabulary of “strong” state. They use limited government which is something vastly different. That you don’t appreciate the difference says something and is at the heart of your misunderstanding. To suggest that Muslims by virtue of living in Muslim countries are not entitled tofreedom of movement and earn a decent livelihood, is both sad and not classical liberal. Also, if the fact that people from less free countries shound’t be allowed to move to more free countries, then I’m not sure how an Indian like yourself is entitled to move to Australia, but not a Pakistani. The government can restrict entry of people if it can prove that they pose a security threat. Not otherwise. But the burden of proof must be on the government. To recommend, as you do, blanket bans on some people is closer to Modi-style fascism. Please reconsider your misguided crusade to label such views as classical liberal. You are not doing anyone any favors. There are plenty of other thinkers you can legitimately enlist on your side. Leave these guys alone. If you are genuinely interested in what they thought on this issue, there is plenty of material on the site I shared and Cato Institute archives. (von Mises’ opus Liberalism had plenty to say on this as did Hayek in places too numerous to mention with the exception of this one. And here too he mentions it as an exception to his full views


Shikha, the classical liberal school of thought is based on strong foundations of the state. It is NOT an anarchist school, as I’ve repeatedly explained. What you are suggesting is a version of anarchy, where people can randomly move from country to country without any check. Labour mobility is important and I’ve written about it. But it is not the same as open borders.

Clearly you’ve not bothered to read the book reference I gave you, for it elaborates how liberty begins and is supported. The territory is the key.

Kindly don’t mix my views randomly with those of bigots and fanatics. If you had cared to read and understand, you’d never even remotely suggest such a thing.

I have already said a LOT on this and may say some more on this. However, the view you are advocating is best described as libertarian. I’m NOT a libertarian. My liberalism is rooted in Hobbes and Locke, and Burke. These are NOT libertarians.

I do write about the ultimate dissolution of the state, as well. But that stage is far, very far away. Till there is 100 per cent equal freedom in all nations, we MUST have borders

Shikha’s response:

I AM NOT SUGGESTING ANARCHY. I am suggesting limited government which a state that is empowered to impose freedom litmus tests is not. Gotta run.

My response:

Open border is a form of anarchy. There is basically no state, for anyone can come and go. MILLIONS of beggars from all over the world will land up and one can’t thrown them out. No preference is given to those who have paid taxes and worked hard to make a state a state.

Israel would be overwhelmed by foreign migrations, and the massive efforts of its citizens to achieve a free prosperous society totally nullified.

I disagree with such anarchy. Your denial of this as anarchy doesn’t mean it is not so. It has all the key signs of anarchy under the present circumstances

My FB comment April 2014

SECOND CLASS CITIZENS? THAT’S THE BEST AN OPEN-BORDER DEBATE PROMOTES? The whole idea is fundamentally flawed, and time permitting I’ll one day write about it.
“We don’t have to give foreigners welfare or let them vote.” – see: Bryan Caplans post here.


Open borders comment by Cameron K Murray here:

It allows supporters to pretend that the borders of private property within a nation are moral, yet the borders between nations are not. Somehow if I am denied, through accident of birth, to make a living from my share of the land in my own country, this is a radically different thing to Alex Tabarrok’s view,where he asks “How can it be moral that through the mere accident of birth some people are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living?”

As I have said before, even the wildest proponents of open borders agree that

“…open borders could not on its own eliminate poverty and that international migration could only help the relatively better off among the global poor”

Then what is it really for?


My summary position: The cost of protecting private property precludes having open borders.

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Prodyut Bora’s 2015 resignation letter from the National Executive of BJP – addressed to Amit Shah

Found this on FB – here. I’ve OCRd it (download PDF), and publishing here so I can read it.

I’m in touch with Prodyut who has created the Liberal Democratic Party in Assam. He is currently contemplating options to have a national liberal political party.

I’ve suggested to him that SBP is focused on the manifesto. Without detailed agreement on policy, it may be counterproductive to try to work together. I look forward to his inputs.

Btw, I note this resignation letter is focused largely on party issues. There is not much here on BJP’s public policy.


18 Feb 2015

Dear Shri Amit Shah ji

Namaskar! I am writing to let you know that I have decided to resign from the National Executive Committee as well as the primary membership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), effective this day, Should you wish to know the reasons, here’s why:


  1. On the Periphery; Assam in the Mindspace of the National Leadership

It was with much hope and belief that the people of India gave a decisive mandate to the BJP under the leadership of Shri Narendra Modiji in the last Lok Sabha elections. After 10 dismal years under the Congress, people really bought into the idea of Acche Din Aa Rahe Hain. Today, after 9 months. I am wondering if Acche Din are really around the corner, specially for my native state of Assam. Let me give you three reasons why I say this:

  • During the Lok Sabha elections Modi ji made waves by announcing that should BJP come to power, Bangladeshis (illegal migrants) have to pack their bags. Assam still wonders what happened to that announcement.
  • For the last couple of years I have been fighting a PIL (No. 401 of 2012) in the Supreme Court on the Assam flood situation. In my petition it is mentioned that in the 84 years between 1912 and 1996, Assam lost 2358 sq km to erosion by the Brahmaptara. Now compare this to the total area of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (1484 sq km) and Mumbai city (603 sq kin), In other words, Brahmaputra has devoured land equal to four Mumbais. But is anybody in the Central Government even bothered? Each time there are floods in Assam, the Prime Minister or the Union Water Resource Minister would do an ‘aerial survey’ from a helicopter, get down to meet the waiting Press and announce a ‘relief & rehabilitation package’. Period! And from then, it would be till the next flood season. This charade has been going on for the last 50 years. Everybody loves a good flood; nobody wants a permanent solution to it. Shri Manmohan Singh ji, former PM and ‘permanent resident of Assam’, played this charade during his 10 years in office. Granted, Modiji has been in office only for 9 months, but is there likely to be a different response this April/May when the first flush of floods would hit the state?
  • In December, the Commerce Ministry directed the scrapping of the North East Industrial and Investment Policy (NEIPP) 2007, without putting an alternate policy in its place. According to the industry body FINER (Federation of Industry & Commerce of North Eastern Region), almost Rs, 30,000 crores of prospective investment in the North East has been lost as a result of this move. Did the DONER Minister—responsible for the development of the Northeast—have a clue about this? Is this how the union government proposes to undertake its ‘Make in Northeast’ manufacturing programme?
  1. Individual vs Institution: Subversion of the Democratic Tradition in Government & Party

Unlike most developing Afro-Asian countries that got their independence in the late 1940s and early 1950s. India is one of the very few that have been able to nurture a democratic tradition. The Indian people have embraced democracy not just in form but also in spirit. In the ‘cabinet system’ that we have adopted, the Prime Minister is the ‘first among equals”, not the first among unequals. But, if my understanding is correct, hasn’t Modi ji damaged this democratic tradition? Today the Foreign Minister barely knows that the Foreign Secretary is about to get fired; Cabinet Ministers cannot even appoint their own OSDs (Officers on Special Duty) and power is increasingly being centralised in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO). This makes me wonder: does the Cabinet System still exist in this country? I am mortified to see that no Cabinet Minister, no National Office Bearer, no Member of Parliament has demonstrated the courage to question Modi ji on the subversion of this fine democratic tradition.

When I attended the induction session after joining the Party in 2004, I was told that the operating tradition of the Party is “the President Presides, the Team Decides.

Amit ji—have you ever cared to find out what your team thinks about you? Your highly individualised/ centralised style of decision-making has ensured that many party office bearers feel highly dis-empowered, Moreover, in any organisation, the style of the leader is quickly copied by those below him/her. What I am seeing in the Party—at least in my state—is the flowering of junior Amit Shahs, with a tenth of your capability and ten times your arrogance.


  1. Fifth Column: Political Corruption in BJP Assam Pradesh

Corruption comes in many forms. The most obvious is of course financial. But corruption can also be political: when you stay in one party and let yourself be controlled by individuals in another. My charge is: many MPs and MLAs in Assam are remote-controlled by the Congress. Else, how can you explain why:

  • Shri Rajen Gohain has been MP 4-times from Nagaon, but practically no MLA gets elected from within the constituencies that form his Lok Sabha seat.
  • Isn’t this the same case for Smt Bijoya Chpkrahorty, 3-times MP from Guwahati? How is it that she gets elected again and again, while no BP member within her parliamentary constituency gets to be MLA? Isn’t this pattern too much of a coincidence? Secondly, if you talk to Party old-timers in Guwahati, would they deny that she had a role in the defeat of BJP candidate, Bhupen Hazarika in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections? Thirdly, wasn’t she the Water Resource Minister in the Vajpayee Government for five straight years? Can you please tell me what did she do to solve Assarn’s flood problem?
  • Would you care to consider why MLAs Shri Prasanta Phukan and Shri Ranjit Das were removed as Leader and Deputy Leader respectively or the BJP Legislature Party? Did it not have something to do with their voting record in the last Rajva Sabha elections? And yet, didn’t the Party shortlist Shri Ranjit Das for the State Presidentship in the last round?

I could go on, but let me summarise that I do not have any faith in the political integrity of many of our MPs and MLAs. And to think that the Party hopes to win the 2016 Vidhan Sabha elections [Sanjeev: yes, it did win] with these fifth-columnists at the helm. I feel sorry for the poor Party cadres in the frontlines who bear the violence of Congress goondas while their leaders at the top engage in machinations with rivals.

It is regretable that Congress politicians like Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma have more influence over the affairs of Assarn BJP than any of us ever had [Sanjeev: Biswa Sarma is now a BJP Minister of Assam]

  1. The Model BJP Karyakarta: Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma

I don’t know how far you are familiar with the chequered career and colourful life of former Assam Congress minister Shri Hirnanta Biswa Sarma, but here’s a small run-down for your benefit.

Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma was a student leader of the All Assam Students’s Union (AASU). During this time, he also became a money-collector for the outlawed ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom). Caught by the police while on an extortion drive, he was rescued by Congress Chief Minister Shri Hiteswar Saikia who made him join his Party. Now this young man, who once shouted Khed, Khed, Bangladeshi Khed (Chase, Chase, Bangladeshi Chase), started parroting Chief Minister Saikia’s statement that there are no Bangladeshis (illegal migrants) in Assam.

This person is today the owner of a newspaper, 3 television channels, and countless benarni properties in Guwahali; possibly Assam’s richest politician. He has also been named in the Sharada scam and questioned by CBI.

During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Shri Sarma had made an inflammatory speech in an election rally that it is not water, but the blood of Muslims that flow through the water pipes of Gujarat. In response, the then Party Prabhari for Assam, Shri SS Ahluwalia, announced in Guwahati that all pending cases would be opened against Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma. I wonder what has happened to Ahluwalia ji’s pronouncements?

Today, far from being prosecuted for the cases against him, I understand that you are considering inducting him into the BJP. I am flabbergasted. Wasn’t Shri Sarma the person former Assam Governor Gen SK Sinha was referring to when he said. “I don’t want to name, but everyone knows that a former ULFA person is a member of the Cabinet in Assam.

Please lot us know what great virtue do you see in Shri Himanta Biswa Sarma. apart from winning elections by hook or crook, that you are considering inducting him into the Party? Is he going to be BJP’s paradigm of a model Karyakarta? Or do the considerations of whining elections make you overlook a person’s antecedents completely?

  1. Curiouser & Curionser: The Unremarkable Choice of Siddhartha Bhattacharya

I would not comment on the current State BJP President apart from saying that there could not have been a more arrogant, ill-tempered and coarse-mouthed office-bearer in BJP Assam’s history. I urge you to have one-to-one sittings with each BJP Assam office hearer, and take your feedback on Shri Bhattacharya’s public pronouncements and behaviour. Talk to the civil society and intelligentsia, and see what they have to say about BJP Assam under his leadership.

Today all kinds of questionable characters are filing the leadership ranks of BJP Assam. Look at the Kisan Morcha. Two of its Vice Presidents were once ‘dreaded’ ULFA militants. The first is Kushal Duari (alias Jayanta Hazarika). Ask anybody in Sibsagar district about his reign of terror after surrendering from the ULFA and you would hear several ghastly tales. This Kushal Duari is profiled in the book Secret Killings of Assam, by Mrinal Talukdar, Utpal Borpajari and Kaushik Deka

Another Vice President of Assam BJP’s Kisan Morcha is Dhekial Phukan. popularly known as Dheki, He. was named in the murder ease of popular journalist Parag Das.

Do you suppose these veteran gunmen are going to be models for Assam’s farmers? What are they doing in Assam BJP’s Kisan Morcha?


I bid goodbye to BP with a heavy heart as I feel that it isn’t any more the Party that I joined a decade back. Having said that, I owe to it some fond memories and indelible experiences. On balance, it was a wonderful opportunity to serve. I am also honoured to have worked for—and alongside some very exceptional and wise leaders. I also wish to thanks my fellow Karyakartas for their unwavering love and support over the years,

Warm regards


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Mr Surjit Bhalla, what “big reform” are you talking about? Can you please elaborate?

I chanced upon this eulogy for demonetisation by Surjit Bhalla – an economist whom I generally hold in high esteem:

“India 2016 is very likely to go down in history as comparable to China 1978. Fifty days after D-day is too soon to pass judgement. One hundred and fifty days later, the transformative power of D will (hopefully) become obvious.”

Mr Bhalla likens it to a truly major shift in policy – China’s of 1978. He calls demonetisation the first step in India’s biggest reform.

But what exactlyi is that big reform? Can you explain that, please? I don’t see demonetisation as anything more than an incidental tactical step. It is not at all strategic. It can never be strategic, being merely a monetary intervention. It doesn’t change ANY incentive in the rotten Indian governance system. It doesn’t change the real economy in the long run.

Bhalla says:

why did the intelligentsia and mainstream media (domestic and especially foreign) not see that demonetisation was (obviously) part of a Big Bang reform?

The first, Rottweiler-like, that demonetisation has failed because most of the old banned notes have been deposited in banks. The purpose of demonetisation, according to PLUs and their voting outlet, the Congress, was that a large chunk (possibly two to four lakh crores) of banned notes would not return to the system. The fact that money not returned is likely to be lower than the lowest estimate means that D-policy has failed. But who said that this was even a minor goal of demonetisation? The old elite, of course.

The second focus of the ideological view that D-policy has been a failure is the botched-up implementation. To repeat this as the reason to reject D-policy is myopia of the worst kind. Of course, implementation has been bad.

But there is a third option. Document and rightfully complain about the fact that people, especially poor people, have been inconvenience

In brief, he downplays the real economic costs (and human costs, including deaths, violence) from the way demonetisation was implemented. Thereafter he argues that the real benefit is that cash has been sucked out from those who should not have been holding it in the first place (thus “there was a lot of extra cash in the economy”):

A truly shocking fact just revealed by the government is that six million units (individuals, small firms and NGOs) have deposited a total of Rs 7 lakh crore of the banned notes. That is an average of Rs 11 lakh (or $15000) per unit.

I fully agree that those holding black money have taken a big haircut, causing a redistribution of wealth across society. However, given the extremely poor coverage of banking across India, I can well imagine that a vast amount of business has occurred in cash in the past across the country. Wages need to be paid in cash, ordinary goods and services need to be paid in cash; and these amounts can quickly add up. That this type of cash payment will hopefully reduce is a good thing, but I don’t see how it will actually reduce since NO FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE has been made to the system.

So I’m perplexed by what Surjit Bhalla is trying to say. Yes, the fact that those with black money would take a haircut is a given. That’s why I commended this policy and my initial analysis gave this policy upwards of 5 times ration of benefit to cost.

However, my CBA has significantly changed over the past few weeks (see this). I now see this as a potential net loss to society, as do many others. Mr Bhalla is an economist and should show me his own CBA (the fact that the government has no CBA is typical of Third World India).

I’m willing to say (and have said so) that demonetisation can – in principle – form part of a strategic reform of the system. But I don’t see ANY reform being articulated by the Modi government. He mentioned state funding of elections but has done nothing about it.

On 31 December, Modi announced VAST quantities of dole for a vast section of the Indian population. That would see a splurge in government spending. Regardless, that’s no reform.

So what reform are you talking about, Mr. Bhalla? Can you please elaborate?

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