26th April 2017
Continuing my critique of Hayek’s advice and how it has ruined India.
Thatcher once wrote that “the most powerful critique of socialist planning and the socialist state which I read at this time [the late 1940s], and to which I have returned so often since [is] F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom.” [Source]
Thatcher also apparently met Hayek. Hayek chiefly advised the government through his letters but also privately met Thatcher at times:
Letters to The Times played a large part in his modus operandi, partly through frustrated affection for the paper in the age of print union hegemony – his letters of complaint to the subscription department are heartrending – but also because he sought to influence debate as a private citizen, modestly writing from home, rather than as a supposed economic adviser with privileged knowledge whose words would be taken as evidence of Conservative intentions. Such circumspection and good manners only increased the high regard in which he was held by MT, who quickly and comfortably fell into the habit of meeting him one-to-one, trusting to his discretion. [Source]
Which is all good.
But the KEY points is that Thatcher obviously rejected any implication from Hayek (that a lot of useless Indian liberals make) that the real work lies in writing books (or running think tanks). She clearly did not read only Hayek, and was a person with a deep personality and character of her own. She was into politics from the age of 25 and never looked back. Never once did she think that writing books and setting up think tanks had anything to do with advancing liberty.
Hayek, to me, is merely one of HUNDREDS of thinkers who have influenced me. None of the decisions I make with my life are attributable to any single thinker, and the ideas I have formed are essentially mine. My comprehensive rejection of any suggestion that one must influence “intellectuals” is based on observing the history of the world from times immemorial.
In all cases, it was not books but ideas that took the world forward. And ideas such as the idea of liberty are ancient ideas, definitely not the copyright of any single writer. Some people (like Locke and Macaulay) had the gift of both writing and taking the idea forward. Others merely wrote about it. But the world was actually changed ONLY by those who took the idea directly into the arena of politics.
Best is to be a Locke and Macaulay (i.e. both write and act). Second best is to act. Third best (better than doing nothing) is to write or set up a think tank.
The results of think tanks are pathetic beyond belief. After more than 20 years of running Liberty Institute and nearly 20 years of running CCS, these people have not yet generated one student leader in Delhi who will fight for liberty, leave alone a national leader.
Remember, the idea of liberty is not hard to understand. What is hard is to implement it. And that’s why I condemn the few liberal of India who are twiddling their thumbs when India is burning.
Hayek’s Indian followers want to be the Krishna that advised Arjuna. Not good enough.
25th April 2017
I’m framing a few high level principles of organisation for the Young India Liberals (YIL), the student wing of SBP.
1) Liberty is purely political. If you don’t fight for it be sure that it will be taken away. Further, you are not going to achieve perfect freedom by engaging with society, but you will definitely increase the level of liberty. Liberty is a marathon battle, in which you first retain what you have won and second, you carve a way to greater liberty.
2) Abjure impotent ideologies that bury their heads in the ground, such as anarcho-capitalism or Objectivism. The ostrich cannot avoid being eaten by a cheetah by burying its head in sand.
3) The devil is always in the detail. Do not wave your arms about and “preach” liberty. Nothing is that simple. It is all about the detailed incentives at work and balancing trade-offs. Policy has three components: direction, incentive mechanism and machine. If any of components is missing, you’ll end up with egg on your face. Good policy analysis is therefore a key principle.
4) Because assuring oneself of liberty is largely a matter of designing and enforcing the rules that a society obeys, it is not a solo enterprise, in isolation. It involves strong team work and collective action to influence public policy. Team work and leadership development are critical components of YIL. Team work that YIL members learn will hold them in good stead also in their occupations.
5) A steady and unrelenting battle for liberty implies that any nihilistic policy is ruled out, such as “none of the above” type ideas. The young liberal knows that the real world is a battlefield; he never flees the battlefield or ask others to do so. He acknowledges that even the worst socialist political leadership is preferable to no leadership. Power shuns a vacuum. The only question is: whether the liberals are pushing hard to fill that space.
Please add/ elaborate, etc.
Let’s set up the principles, then we will set up the training system, and then we’ll set up the actual unions on the ground.
25th April 2017
I have repeatedly pointed out that many Indian “liberals” (think tanks/ bogus “academics”) have been severely misguided by the likes of Mises and Hayek (who – apparently – focused only the “climate of opinion”).
Joyson Fernandes thinks that Mises and Hayek are an excuse and that these people are satisfied with their life and have no reason to do anything much about it. He compares them to the socialists and finds them totally wanting.
One thing I’ve noticed! Say whatever you may about Indian socialists, these people have fire in their belly. They know that politics is essential to implement their ideas. They don’t waste time with idle preaching. They take active part in the political process and are driven to succeed and implement their agenda.
Whether they are the communists or Hindutva people or even one-man parties like Kejriwal! You may say that he is just power-hungry, but still he realized that he couldn’t avoid politics and did all he could to win Delhi. I know very well the kind of struggle he underwent and efforts they put in to gain the throne, since I was following his movement from the moment he declared political ambitions. Until then I had completely ignored the histrionic farce of the Anna agitation. It’s only when he took the plunge into politics I began paying attention.
Most Indian liberals, on the other hand, are infected with that anarchist bug. They are “holier-than-thou”. They consider themselves beyond the dirty much of politics, and as being too smart for the “stupid” masses to understand their message. They don’t have any passion for fixing things and defending their freedoms. Instead, they are lazy and fatalistic.
They will never engage in politics, and have no shortage of excuses for doing so. Mises and Hayek are just excuses. That’s not their real reason. The truth is that the Indian middle-class in general are more or less content with the way things are, and don’t feel it worth their time to step up and attempt to change things.
We both as expatriates might find the average living conditions, the gross poverty, and injustices rampant in India as intolerable. To the majority of Indians, it is not a big deal. They say to themselves that this is how things will always be. Chalta hain!
MY FURTHER COMMENT
At one time there was an excuse in India that all history and political books taught in universities were heavily skewed towards socialism. The socialists have mastered the art of propaganda and censorship of alternate views.
But since the advent of the internet, that excuse no longer remains.
I started the India Policy Institute and published valuable information on the internet from the year 1998. At any given time there used to be over 500 active members on my india_policy mailing list. At around the same time a number of institutes in the USA went online, as well, and started posting material on the internet. So at least since late 1990s there has been no excuse for Indians to say that they have not come across the idea of liberty.
And yet THEY WILL NEVER LIFT EVEN A FINGER TO FIGHT FOR THEIR LIBERTY.
Two decades later, the situation remains practically the same.
Half-baked “liberals” have taken on the useless “anarcho-capitalists” and other such streams of thought (e.g. Objectivism) which have NOTHING to do with the real world.
Something cultural is clearly going on here (to that extent Bhandari is right).
There are three stages involved in the fight for liberty:
Stage 1: Awareness that it is important and that one is being oppressed by society and government
Stage 2: Self-defence, which involves change.org petitions and Open Letters to the Prime Minister
Stage 3: Self-protection, which is a political FIGHT and does not give any quarter. It is not just defensive, it is aggressive. When you protect yourself from ants, you don’t just kill each ant that comes your way. You actively pour killer chemicals all around your house.
The sad situation is that Indian “liberals” are almost entirely at Stage 1. They conveniently use Rand, Hayek and Mises as justification to remain at Stage 1.
SHAME ON THESE UTTERLY USELESS “LIBERALS”. THEY HAVE NO BUSINESS TO CALL THEMSELVES LIBERALS (OR “LIBERTARIANS”, WHATEVER).
25th April 2017
I’m only now starting to understand Lee Kuan Yew a little bit better. I need to do a lot more research.
But he was a man who FOUGHT for his country – and against its internal enemies.
Not from nothing did he create the miracle that we see in Singapore today. He WAS the cause of Singapore’s flourishing. Watch this from 5:50 minutes for around 30 seconds.
“We never run away from a fight and never will!”
25th April 2017
I wrote to an academic in India who is somewhat (but clearly badly) educated in the concept of liberty:
In my view, liberty is ultimately not a subject of academic study but purely a political matter.
Please consider joining SBP. One of the key things we need is to set up a students wing of SBP so that the students wing engages in student politics. That’s the most important way to spread the message. Without ABVP, RSS would have achieved nothing. That’s why the urgency of setting up a students wing.
I do not share your view that “liberty is ultimately not a subject of academic study but purely a political matter”. Liberty is a system of organizing our human society in a peaceful, prosperous, just and civilized way. Academicians study the idea of Liberty and its implications, and as Mises said, ideas only rule the world. If the fundamental understanding of the idea of Liberty is not right then any kind of action, including political action, will not achieve its stated goal. Liberty and Politics are antithetical. One can’t achieve Liberty via politics.
I also do not share your point of view that student politics is the means of achieving Liberty. The battle for Liberty is fundamentally a battle of ideas and I see it as an educational mission only.
Thank you very much for your very kind offer to join your political party, but I would humbly say no to it.
MY FURTHER RESPONSE
We must agree to disagree, in that case. Liberty was never – and I mean never (i.e. not even once in human history) – an academic exercise. It is fundamentally and at the core a battle for one’s rights against society and against government. Yes, economics can be taught as an academic exercise, as a servant of liberty (to the extent it is consistent with it – often times it is inconsistent).
And yes, by all means India needs a lot more people like you, but if you stay out of the direct political process, you will be ruled (and your liberties curbed – as they have been for the past 70- years) by those who engage with it.
Politics is the only place where the battle of ideas takes place. Liberty is not something for the books. Never was. I know some of Hayek’s views on this issue and know (not just believe) that he was comprehensively wrong. It is not just “intellectuals” who matter, but those who actively engage in politics. Yes, civil society matters and should be encouraged, but the pointy end of liberty is through political battles.
In this regard, please consider reading my manuscript, The Discovery of Freedom (http://sanjeev.sabhlokcity.com/book1/BFN-fullbook.pdf), which describes how every inch of liberty was obtained through political battles. Not one iota of liberty was ever attained anywhere in human history through the work merely of academic study. Hayek and Mises failed comprehensively (even as Laski and Keynes succeeded superlatively – in imposing their worldview on the world).
[Let us] close the conversation here. If ever you finally understand the meaning of liberty, and wish to engage with society to fight for it, let me know.