31st March 2011
Not one reason to be honest
Good governance, like most good things in life, does not come for free, or even cheaply. That is perhaps the central message of this book with regard to the mechanisms of freedom. What we buy from our elected representatives is a process to preserve our freedom. And of all the things we can possibly buy – and freedom can’t be bought in that sense, only allowed to blossom – freedom has never, ever come cheap. Throughout history, preserving freedom has demanded the greatest cost from citizens, including, at times, the price of one’s life when opposing tyranny.
Freedom is the single most precious, and therefore most expensive, ‘product’ in the world. Ask any refugee from anarchic Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, or Ethiopia who is forced to flee from angry flames of civil war in the absence of security and freedom. Our lives, and the lives of our children, depend critically, in a manner that we rarely visualize, on good systems of governance. To ‘buy’ freedom – which means buying the rule of law, defence and justice – we must get used to the idea of paying quite steeply. Freedom must precede everything else. It comes well before roads, infrastructure and even education. Leaders who understand freedom and are doggedly determined to defend our freedom are priceless. Once we have freedom, wealth will always arise spontaneously. A good Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet can generate gains for India of over 1 trillion US dollars or 45 lakh crore rupees per decade; indeed, even in each year, once momentum builds up. India can easily become a $150 trillion economy in 2100 in today’s values if it chooses to become the world’s front leader in freedom.
What we need to get there is to allocate just one rupee out of every hundred rupees that we earn as a nation, or 1 per cent of our country’s GDP, towards the ‘purchase’ of the services of high-quality political representatives who will fiercely and single-mindedly defend our freedoms. That would cost, say, Rs. 41,000 crore rupees in today’s estimated value (as at 2008).[i] This seemingly high amount is a very small price to pay for the enormous benefits we will get from good representatives. At the minimum we can expect a return in excess of 100 per cent per year on thisinvestment. On the other hand, bad governance can sink us into oblivion and cost us trillions of dollars in present and future lost opportunities. Good representation is one thing we’d be foolhardy to save money on.
Apart from paying for and thus making it possible for our best people to lead us, we must also allocate our time to the protection of freedom. Freedom has never befriended those who don’t care passionately for it. Only those who are assertively vigilant and aware of the great details of how their society and government function can hope to attract the angels of freedom to their side. Acquiring knowledge of public policy and being vigilant is therefore a citizen’s duty. It is of concern that we don’t value democracy and political representation sufficiently today, or appreciate the barriers our own laws place on potential good representatives. The findings of this chapter should be a first step in our search to find out more about the processes of good governance.
[NOTE: This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru. The story about why there is not one reason for our elected representatives to be honest, will continue – in further extracts]
Using an estimated GDP of about $1,040 billion in 2008 and an exchange rate of about Rs 40 to the dollar.