Thoughts on economics and liberty

Are we ready to be free?

Are we ready to be free now? I don’t think so. Nehruvian socialism has not been given a burial. Despite China having abandoned the tenets of Marxism in 1979; despite the wall of Berlin having been breached in 1989; despite the Soviet Union having fallen asunder in 1991; we cling on to socialism. We continue to elect an overwhelming majority of socialist and communist parties. Indeed, there is no political party today wedded purely to the high standards of freedom. There is no liberal party. No capitalist party. No freedom party.

Even as we begin to reap the benefits of the IMF’s freedom-enhancing capitalist policies of the 1990s, of the sort that Rajaji fought for but never got to see in his lifetime, we find that:
  • many progeny of our freedom fighters have left India permanently, settling in these very countries that oppressed India in the past such as England – we ask whether this was what our ‘freedom’ fighters fought for, the right to settle their grandchildren abroad?;
  • our Constitution continues to tout socialism in its Preamble;[i] and
  • our Finance Ministers continue to reaffirm India’s commitment to socialism.
And there is a lot of hypocrisy in the air. And so our country does not honour Rajaji or reject Nehru’s legacy. Fresh winds still seem to be unable to get through to our minds. It is a time for change, and yet India is lost for words. The Indian is confused and can’t pick the correct one of the only two options that exist in the world – freedom or equality. Till today very few people have made a clearlink in their minds between the socialist policies and imperialist administration adopted by Nehru on the one hand, and the frustration they experience in their daily lives on the other. It is extremely confounding to them to have such a large and impoverished population surrounding them, and so they try to blame the size of the population itself as the cause of this frustration, or say that India is a special case, or blame the unbearable heat. One problem is offered as the cause of the other problem! But who started it?
What distresses me most is that almost all the solutions promoted in India particularly by our socialist journalists and leftist intellectuals still askthe government to do something about ‘the problem’, which amounts to feeding a Frankenstein even more human heads! How big does our Frankenstein have to grow before we start to pin it down?
Can we now please stop running around helter-skelter, pointing fingers in every direction, and stop for a moment to understand the root cause of our grief? Increasing the role of government is not the way to help ourselves out of this mess. Your role and my role as citizens of a free country are to understand the requirements of freedom, and to advance freedom.That is the only way we will be able to change things, by getting involved. Fixing the country is not the job of our government. It is our job.
Our challenge today is what S P Aiyar said of India’s challenge many years ago – to find ‘solutions appropriate to given situations but only those compatible with freedom’.[ii] The good thing is that while the Indian government is not the best protector of freedom in the world, it does not censor books of this sort. It does not prevent people from talking about their views. Its laws almost fully protect our freedoms. We are almost there! Just a nudge to our systems of governance –including making our government get out of things where it has no business to be in, and rebuilding our political and bureaucratic institutions to make them compatible with the transparency and accountability that are the hallmarks of freedom; and we could soon have the freest country in the world – and thus, ultimately, the greatest. Many other parts of the world like our truly unfortunate and beleaguered neighbour Pakistan have a much longer way to go than us, and one can only wish them luck and offer them genuine wishes for the welfare of their children.
Today, it is imperative that Indian citizens leave aside their 5,000 year old cynicism and actively participate in the democratic and political processes of India. It goes without saying that organizations like the ULFA should lay down their arms as well. Using arms is a guaranteed sign of the weakness of their arguments, apart from being completely violative of their freedoms. Let them come forward and talk in public forums about what they would like to do to improve India and make it more free. The way to freedom is only through persuasion, through discussion, debate and electoral politics. No more violence, please.
[This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]

[i] The specious arguments given by MPs in response to Sharad Joshi’s attempt to implement this through his private members’ Bill, The Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2004, are available at []. (Now see:

[ii] In his essay on ‘The Concept of Liberalism and its Relevance for India’, Freedom and Dissent, Democratic Research Service, Bombay, 1985.

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4 thoughts on “Are we ready to be free?
  1. Muzaffar

    Hi sajeev,

    I agree on with you on most of what you said however I feel the real cause for our problems is the chalta hai attitude,politicians are bothered how they can increase their wealth and loot the nation,their is a competitiion I believe among them who will loot the most,our taxing system is a complete failure,administration is not even worthy of mention.
    Secularism and patriotism is the biggest lie sold in India for the last 6 decades, we need serious introspection to do,people who can make a difference dont wanna do it and people who want to the system wont let you get their,as mentioned in your earlier blog money is indeed a major factor to launch a movement of any kind we are rest assured that its not coming from the industrial lobby so we need to mobilize the Comman man.
    I have lot of things to discuss may be hopefully we will be able to implement what's in our mind.God willing.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Muzaffar

    We have to grow up some day. We can’t blame our politicians. We elected them. We tolerate them. There is NOTHING under the law to prevent us from taking over. All that is needed is a simple and systematic movement.

    People are hungry for change. I am glad you are talking of mobilising the “common man” – the citizen. That was always needed, and never more than today.

    But talk is cheap. It is important to act. That is why FTI

      exists. Please consider joining it and bringing other good people into the conversation for political change.



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