Thoughts on economics and liberty

विनती भाइयो और बहनों से

(Thanks to Sujith I can now publish in Hindi! This is my first Hindi post.)

मेरा पहला हिंदी ब्लॉग पोस्ट

बहुत सालों के बाद कुछ हिंदी लिख रहा हूँ| हिंदी इसलिए जरूरी है क्योंकि कुछ चीज़ें अंग्रेजी में कहना आसान नहीं| जैसे कि हम क्यों अपनें पैर पर कुल्हाड़ी मारनें पर तत्पर हैं? जब यह अब पूरी तरह साबित हो चूका है कि समाजवादियों ने इस देश को भ्रष्टाचार व दरिद्रता की सीमा पर पहुँचाया है, और  इन्ही लोगों ने भारत का सत्यानाश किया है, तो हम अब भी इन्ही लोगों के पीछे क्यों दौड़ते है? 

कब अक्कल आएगी हमें? कब हम अपने देश को संवार, आज़ादी ओर अमीरी की तरफ मुंह मोढ़ेंगे?

इस ब्लॉग पोस्ट के साथ मैं आप से विनती करता हूँ कि आप मेरी किताब "Breaking Free of Nehru" कृपया पढ़ें और फ्रीडम टीम ऑफ इंडिया में शामिल हों| जब सच्चाई अब पूरी ओर से व्यक्त हो चुकी है, तो देरी किस बात कि?

Anyway, enough for now. You get the point. Let's just say: बस हो गया! अब हमें आज़ादी दे दो! हमें अपनी पूरी क्षमता का लाभ उठाने दो!

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10 thoughts on “विनती भाइयो और बहनों से
  1. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    On Linkedin:

    आदरणीय संजीवजी, 

    आपका हिंदी में लेख पढ़ा. अच्छा लगा कि आप हिंदी में लिखना आरम्भ कर रहे हैं. यह तकलीफ की बात है कि ज्यादातर जब भी भारतीय विचारक मिलते हैं तब बातें ज्यादातर अंग्रेजीं में ही होती हैं. आज़ादी के समय महात्मा गाँधी का बीबीसी में interview हुआ तो वे हिंदी में बोले थे. Interview करने वाले ने कहा कि आप अंग्रेजी में बोलें जिससे ज्यादा लोग आपको समझ पायें. गांधीजी ने तब जवाब दिया था कि कह दो गाँधी अंग्रेजी भूल गए हैं. बहुत गंभीर है यह बात. भारत में राजनेता और विचारक हिंदी या कोई और भारतीय भाषा में बोलने या लिखने में अपने आपको को छोटा मानते हैं. लेकिन भारतीयों की भाषा हिंदी और अन्य भारतीय भाषाएँ ही हैं. 
    राघबेन्द्र झा

    ===मेरा जवाब ====

    शुक्रिया, प्रोफेस्सर. समय की पाबन्दी की वजह से प्रमुखत हिंदी में लिखना मुश्किल है, परन्तु मेरी कोशिश जरूर रहेगी कि जब सारी main किताबें जो मुझे लिखनी हैं पूरी हो जिएंगी, तो हिंदी में लिखना आरम्भ करूं.

  2. vivek

    I find some of your views assort ill with the Indian Liberal tradition which, as Ambedkar pointed out, went underground (or, like the Sarasvati river disappeared into the desert) because Gokhale's two descendants- Jinnah and Gandhi- had an inflated sense of their own importance and an entirely delusional notion regarding the supposed natural inferiority of their own particular religious sect.
    Essentially Benthamite Indian Liberalism, subsequently assimilating Stuart Mill and proto-anthropological theories like that of Lewis H Morgan, saw that a great deal of progress could be made within ethnicities or classes without tackling institutional or other barriers head on.  In other words, it was outcome driven rather than indignation driven.  Ambedkar's own stand, like that of the Chitpavan Brahmins- who were seeking to stave off the decline of their caste to the status of drunkards and rural bully boys- was to seek advancement and uplift by all rational means, both at the sectional and societial level, but without positing what we might now term a subaltern essentialism, strategic or otherwise.
    The notion that Gandhi decreased race prejudice is utterly risible. On the contrary, he legitimated the notion of a hierarchy of races- and religions within races- he wrote 'the Hindu, by and large, is a coward and the Muslim a bully'- i.e. one is more thymotic (Rajsic) than the other. I don't blame Gandhi for this. He formulated his ideology in South Africa were the Boers, illiterate as they were, really believed that the Black man had been created to serve the White.
    The only reason you mention Gandhi is because he is famous and Indian- i.e. these are purely chauvinistic reasons to drag him into the picture.  But he wasn't a Liberal and he would have considered your plan for India the worst possible calamity that could befall it.
    I appreciate that you are writing in a hurry- and you do write well- but, perhaps, this is a case of sufflaminandus erat- at least with respect to the more emotive of your arguments.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Welcome, Vivek. Finally someone who (I’m excited) seems to know something about the Indian liberal tradition.

    So – what, in your opinion, is the Indian liberal tradition? Who are its representatives? And why is Gandhi not a liberal in your view? It might be best to clarify your views at:

    Btw I’ve never heard of Lewis H Morgan and don’t know anything about proto-anthropological theories (that is because I know so little). Would like to know, to understand your points better.


  4. A

    “sufflaminandus erat” apparently means, “sometimes he had to be brought to a halt.” (Thanks to the internet, the world wide web and to search engines such as Google’s — in that order !).

    I hope you do not switch entirely to Hindi. Yes, through Hindi you reach out to a key constituency otherwise not reachable through English, and one that is very very important politically, but I hope you will have bi-lingual text where possible. In my case, I read Hindi at one tenth of the speed with which I can navigate English. I am sure I can improve my Hindi, but practicalities come in the way !

  5. vivek

    Dear Sanjeev,
    To reply briefly to the points you raise-
    Sufflaminandus erat is a sort of short hand for 'he should be curbed'. Ben Johnson thought Shakespeare should have been restrained from the very luxuriance of his metaphors. A back handed compliment.
    Lewis H Morgan was an amateur anthropologist who sought to explain the evolution of the family, tribe and progressively higher social structures within a non-racist perspective. He was very influential on people like Engels and what would eventually become Development studies. Essentially a sort of ad hoc liberal anthropology functioned as a counterweight to a liberalism founded upon the notion of the contract or developing from 'Providential' institutions or Codes that had evolved under limited monarchy by putting to one side demands for changes in legislation or representation (which might have redistributive implications and thus impact upon rent-seeking in the political class) and focusing instead on communities coming forward, evolving more sophisticated social structures, the pay-off being expanded horizons and life chances all round. Coase's theorem and the work of Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom explain why this is likely to be a better approach.
    Indian liberalism- by which I mean the notion that there is some action, independent of legislation. agitation or purely political legerdemain (which carry with them all the perverse dead weight losses, rent seeking, log-rolling, and irrational identity and gesture political costs outlined by people like Buchanan)  which people can take for themselves such that everybody has greater capability or life chances- was underpinned by an ad hoc  notion that social structures did not derive from race, geography, nor were they rigidly linguistically or theologically determined. However, since it was associated with Economism (such that more income is better than less income irrespective of how that extra income is spent- i.e. it is blind to individual preferences) Indian Liberalism dared not speak its name because of a moral panic over what people might buy.
    Gandhi rejected liberalism because he believed swadesi meant village level autarky, precisely because this was the only road to save the masses from consumption rather than subsistence- thus saving their souls. Gokhale, nevertheless, promoted Gandhi because of his track record of loyalty to the Raj as well as his heart-felt condemnation of Hindu terrorism (the 'maro kato panth'). Gokhale himself had been hamstrung in his efforts because the Raj suspected that while he talked economics in London, his old classmate Tilak was raising up a second Pandy's rebellion back home.
    I'll now go to the web-page you mention and digest what is there and comment (or perhaps retract!) as per your generous invitation.
    Warm regards

  6. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Vivek

    Thanks for your kind and detailed clarifications. Much appreciated. I must admit that your comments have been real tough reading, used to as I am to rapid skimming and leaving out big chunks – particularly on the internet. Short sentences hold my attention best.

    Anyway, I think I've got the gist of what you are saying. Let me try to paraphrase:

    a) You believe that some (few I hope!) of my views aren't compatible with the Indian liberal tradition (represented primarily by Gokhle and Ambedkar). They were outcomes based and didn't care too much about the social system [although Ambedkar I thought decried caste barriers and acted to remedy them – maybe I didn't get you on this one].

    b) You don't think Gandhi was influential in reducing racism in the world because his mental conceptions were race and hierarchy based in the first place.

    c) You believe Gandhi is not a liberal in the Indian liberal tradition (i) because he was smitten with the dream of village level self-sufficiency and (ii) wanted to save the souls of the Indians by keeping them from (conspicuous) consumption. 


    Assuming that I've got you broadly right (that is a big if!), let me suggest that I don't come from a political science background (I've never studied political studies formally; just one course in political economy by the famous Prof. John Elliott) but a religious tolerance, economics and public administration background. In particular I know next to nothing about Indian history and India liberalism.

    99% of my liberalism has evolved from self-reflection. Even the economics I was taught – late in life, not as a young student when I was purely into science and maths – was so confused I struggled to make sense of its self-contradictory schools of thought. Finally it all clicked, and the world was crystal clear in my head. That still didn't give me any appreciation for history.

    This self-driven thinking is typical of DOF ( I started off and wrote all my views first – in 2005-06 – and **then** started reading tens of books and hundreds of journal articles to find out whether anyone else had thought similar things. I was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the vaunted liberals had written similar thoughts to mine. I've therefore cited them liberally to beef up what are essentially (entirely) my own arguments! In doing so I also appear to be a bit scholarly in the bargain! No learning goes waste!

    In brief, my liberalism is not in anyone's tradition. It is an outcome of years of self-reflection based primarily on decades of experience in the bureaucracies of two nations, of watching people closely, observing how and why they behave in particular ways. To clarify my head I read neuro-psychology for inspiration, not Indian history.

    Thus, if you find my writings do not follow Gokhle or Ambedkar, that is because I don't now much about their ideas. I've read a number of Indian history books, and have also gone through R K Prabhu's "An Anthology of Modern Indian Eloquence" (1965) etc. etc. but my awareness of Indian liberalism is close to amateur.

    Re: Gandhi, I have actually read quite a bit of his work (like most Indians have), and find in him many contradictions, but I'm willing to attach to him the liberal label because of his individual-focus. That this view leads to autarky in his case is less troubling to me than Nehru's socialist delusions. 

    Both liberal and socialist views tend towards anarchy at one extreme, and that is where both perhaps meet, both underpinned by an assumption of people's innate goodness. I can't find any merit in that over-optimistic assumption. Hence I deny the validity of all anarchic solutions including Gandhi's self-sufficient village economy. Yes, he and I would have differed quite dramatically on where we want India to go. I am equally (and perhaps more) convinced than him about my conviction that I offer India a clear and viable of path of sustainable development. 

    To the extent he was swadeshi he wasn't liberal. To the extent he wanted a limited state and focused on the individual (his salvation, perhaps), he had a liberal streak in him. 

    Ultimately, trusteeship gave his inner contradictions away. He struggled to find a logical reason for Birla to exist in his life and not to be ripped apart by socialist Nehru or by his own (Gandhi’s) dream of a self-sufficient small village economy. So his trusteeship formula: innovative but confused.

    Interestingly, this philosophical confusion in pre-independence India led to the Indian 'capitalists' being united in the Bombay Plan to advocate planning! There was thus no true liberal in India till recently. 

    Even today there are barely a few of them – most of them on FTI. I won't name names, but some of the most prominent figures of 'liberalism' in the popular mind are actually social democrats, not liberals. Others think only economism (a word I had not heard of earlier!) matters. Then we have a handful of extreme libertarians. 

    I am a deontological votary of freedom. It must be valued for itself. But I don't mind (indeed welcome!) its consequentialist outcomes. It works, in every way. 

    DOF is thus my fundamental examination of freedom, from 'my' personal perspective. Please look through it (an early draft yet) if you have plenty of time at your disposal and provide your valuable learned comments. I might use some of them and beef up my vocabulary in the book!

    Finally, re: Gandhi and race. I believe his non-violent civil disobedience methods were foundational in shifting things for all 'races'. He didn't talk too much about race, but he brought all races on the same pedestal by elevating the oppressed Indians. That sparked the second American (Luther King) revolution. 

    Got to go! so I'll leave it here.  

    Thanks, and regards


  7. vivek

    Dear Sanjeev,
    Greatly admire what you are doing and wish to offer only constructive criticism not cynical, or worse!, holier-than-thou or more academic-than-thou, comments designed to shore up my own ego while proving nothing can be done for the mother country.
    Sorry I don't write clearly.
    My plea or prayer to you is as follows-
    1) consider Gandhi as speaking strategically and speaking in a specific context. There is no Gandhi didacticism which is not wholly foolish and mischevous. There is an intelligentt apprectiation of a gifted organizer who managed to recover from catastrophic shocks and delivery failures such that his remains a name to be conjured with.
    2) for God's sake give up this foolish deontology/consequentialism bijection. It does not exist (unless someone has omnescience) outside of the minds of people who read Rawls at an impressionable age. . In philosophy there is a distinction between deontics and alethia or 'insha' and 'khabar' in safa Hindustani and things like Jorgensen's paradox or Moore's paradox have relevance here.  There are okay deontic logics around now- but counter examples are too easy to construct, or else (like Kripke's workaround for Godel) they just don't allow the extraction of any useful results.
    As you studied in the States, rule based anti-Trust is equated in your mind with deontology or, more generally, you consider Sir Edward Coke as foundational whereas the Commonwealth countries prefer Bacon's Equity and Stafford's Statism which are consequentialist. However, once one understands Hart's concept of defeasibility, the apparent opposition melts away. In practice British anti-monopoly legislation (for example) is not more uncertain or transactionally costly than American, supposedly rule based, anti-Trust. 
    Ultimately Indian Liberalism has to go with Pope ' for forms of Govt let fools contest/ that which is best administered is best'.
    Re. Ambedkar- unlike Gandhi- yup! he wanted to break caste barriers, but so did Chitpavans- they too were suffering under that idiocy. Ambedkar saw that,  by the law of the circulation of elites, Mahars could rise above Chitpavans- who in anycase had only risen to prominence over the last couple of centuries- in other words Ambedkar saw how 'Dalits' were not natural inferiors but part of a circular sociological process. But Ambedkar was also a great patriot. His own Mahars had considered it highly meritorious to sacrifice themselves for the country. 
    Also the guy was just too intelligent and human and did too much real good for his country to need to 'shit higher than his arsehole' (Wittgenstein) .
    As a theistic Hindu, it makes me sick to the stomach to recall Gandhi's vacillation and hypocricy on such a vital subject for Hindutva as Temple entry. This only happened because he had the wrong Mimamsa. Read Chief Justice Gajendragadkar- who came from a traditional Mimamsa-Vedanta family- to see how historicist hermeneutics invented by silly philologists in the Nineteenth Century have utterly vitiated and obscured the current debate re. things like svagotra marriage in your home state.
    Re. Gandhi and race- you believe something which has no factual basis. Indians, in South and East Africa,  had a possibility of rising by elite co-optation provided a mechanism was put in place for social mobility within the community. Gandhi- greatly to the satisfaction of the Whites- did not go down that road- that idiot managed to reduce rather than increase immigration to South Africa thus scoring a spectacular own goal.
    Gandhi wasn't a casteist. This is a guy who wanted to study to be a doctor- but couldn't coz of his caste's snobbish attitude. His drunkard son, Harilal, however, became the ancestor of more doctors than the middle class average and thus are doing well without prostituting themselves politically or academically.
    Like Gurcharan Das, your family background is impressive and (I believe) not committed to some caste (but perhaps not complexion?) superiority/inferiority nonsense. Learn from  Lord Krihna- the black dude- or from Ved Vyasa- also black- or Draupati- also black skinned- Priests and Patriarchs are funny and should be mocked, affectionately or not, so as to rise above one's own sense of election.
    Forgive my clotted and convoluted prose- writing this, I'm keeping an eye on some video rendering that I can no longer afford to outsource.
    Best wishes


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