Thoughts on economics and liberty

What Would I Do If I Became India’s Prime Minister? #2

At the outset, let me confirm  that if I ever become Prime Minister of India, I would deliver a set of policies and programmes that would shift it entirely out of its current orbit of mediocrity, corruption and filth. My blueprint will return to us our innate freedoms taken away by our tribes, our kings and by Nehruvian socialists. These policies would take India into the spaces of the mind never before visualized in India, where each Indian could aspire to become dramatically better off and the country made anew and entirely corruption-free. Indeed, free.

But let me rewind! How would I become a Prime Minister in the first place? I could attempt to become one by joining an existing populist party and work my way up the chain of grubby politics. But as the tenor of this book shows, I will never join parties which I see as India’s enemies. Corruption and freedom never go hand in hand. Equally, no existing political party will have me as its member for I do not meet the minimum qualification of having well known ancestors, lots of black money and links to the mafia. It appears that my grand thought-experiment is likely to prove abortive!

People I Am Willing to Work With

All this posturing doesn’t mean I am a reluctant politician who believes that writing a book will solve India’s problems. At the same time, I can’t enter politics if the very purpose of achieving ethical liberalism is defeated at the first step. So, if not these political parties, whom could I work with? There are essentially two options: (1) I could start my own party and have good people join me; or (2) I could join a small, existing party which is broadly aligned with my views, and tweak its policies and character to meet my standards. Either way, the conditions for my participation in political processes will be the same. So let me record them. I hope you will agree with these conditions, in which case we will be two of us. Even if two of us out of a billion is not a big number, two is more than one, and the trend will be in the right direction! Freedom can do with two people in place of one.
The people with whom I would be willing to work with must have impeccable ethical standards, grounded in freedom. That is the bare minimum. They must be wholly committed to the advancement of freedom and fully understand the philosophy and logic of freedom. The group or party would follow the highest standards of internal democratic decision-making and public disclosure of all sources of its funding and expenditures. In addition, the leaders of the group would need to meet the following criteria:
  • They must be extremely competent and able to formulate clear headed policy on complex issues, consistent with the logic of freedom.
  • They must be capable of dealing with challenging problems were they to become future ministers, without panicking and running for shortcuts or politically expedient solutions.
  • They must be at least Level 4, if not Level 5, leaders – people who are very superior[i] and therefore humble enough to listen to others and assimilate and build on the feedback they receive from others. They must be willing to admit mistakes, and willing to change their mind on the basis of new evidence.
  • They must be team players, willing to work in any capacity that the party asks them to, recognizing that groups or teams comprising expert individuals are generally wiser than isolated geniuses no matter how brilliant.
  • They must be willing to consult with citizens widely on all policy issues.
  • They need not be perfect (no one is), but they must be transparent about themselves and willing to expose their lives and minds for public scrutiny.
  • Over and above these qualities, these people will need to have lion hearts and an unwavering determination to overcome the greatest adversity in order to achieve their goal.[ii]
I have no doubt that thousands of such outstanding people exist in India. You are perhaps one of them; so I could potentially work with you. But why would any such person join me, given that I have not a spare paisa in my pocket, and political parties need thousand crores of rupees to succeed? I believe that good people will join me because of my clarity of vision and strategy that will help to deliver much better lives for them and for their children. It is in the self-interest of Indians to embrace my ideas, particularly if they do not want to be:
  • known as the third generation in independent India that stood by, doing nothing to fight the plague of corruption that racks the vitals of this country;
  • left alone in India in their old age with their children having abandoned the country; or
  • killed prematurely by pollution, poverty, ignorance, disease or potholes.

People would join me because they agree with me. For instance, I am not asking anyone to be corrupt, or to do any wrong thing. Instead, I am asking people tobecome the leader they want India to have and in doing so, make India, their own country, into the greatest country on earth. Surely, that is something worth doing?

The Freedom Team of 1500 People

In the end, everything great must begin with the right people. As Jim Collins noted, First Who, Then What.[iii] It also matters a great deal what these people believe in. They must stand for freedom, else there is no point in coming together. Now, why 1500? This is the number of leaders India needs to kick-start a freedom movement. This number is roughly equal to three outstanding leaders for 550 constituencies. That way, if one of them can’t contest the elections at the last minute, two others will be ready to stand up. And if that second one is killed by the mafia, then the third will rise. Whoever is left will contest the assembly elections. In this manner a good Prime Minister can be found for India and the message of freedom also taken to the state assemblies. So initially we have the simple task of finding only 1500 exceptionally good and competent people to form the Freedom Team of India.[iv]
No one has to find 1500 people at one go. Just finding one more leader will do.There is great power in civil society. If you think you meet the criteria specified above, then your next job is to find one more person like you. When only good people are allowed to join and to continue, the Freedom Team will strengthen quickly. No person of poor moral character should be allowed to join; or if selected by accident, allowed to continue. Hopefully, among a billion people, 1500 good people (50 per cent of them being women) should be easy to find. This group can then formulate a blueprint which they can take to the people of India and finally, after contesting elections, get the mandate to implement. I have suggested a process by which this can be done in the Online Notes,[v] but I will now skip straight to my blueprint.

[Note: This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]

[i] I had outlined the 1970s state of knowledge on this subject in an article, ‘Who is a Superior Person?’ published by the Maharashtra Herald on 21 March 1982. The fundamentals haven’t changed even with modern leadership theory.

[ii] Indian politics can be very frightening. My encounter with ‘baby’ politics was in a contest with a Congress-I supported candidate for the position of secretary to the student council of DAV College, Jullundur, in 1978–9. A well-known gangster called Jarnail Singh, who had reputedly murdered a few people, met me in a dhaba (a country restaurant) near the college and asked me to withdraw (a school friend of mine, who later joined the IAS a couple of years after me, was a middle-man for this intimidation, and can vouch for this). I chose not to withdraw. My supporters also created a defence strategy. In the end, for various reasons including lavish parties thrown by the Congress-I supported candidate to the small group of students entitled to vote in the restricted elections, I lost.

[iii] Collins, Jim, Good to Great, Harper Business, New York, 2001.

[iv] If interested, please join the Google group called Freedom Team of India I have started, at [].

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