Thoughts on economics and liberty

Lok Satta should promote liberty, not dependency

I received a draft Lok Satta ideology document. My comments are provided directly below, and the LS document below my comments. I'd encourage you to send your comments to LS to the email provided below. In my view, basically, this draft LS document needs significant work. India does not need yet another social liberal party. We have plenty of version of socialism already in India. We need classical liberalism.

My comments
Thanks for this. I'm afraid, unfortunately this is not a classical liberal package that promotes life and liberty as its key drivers. The "give away" is point 2, about welfare – the way it is drafted. Please note that it contradicts your limited government principle, as well. These two can't sit together in the same document. The world doesn't work that way. If you have 2, you are advocating an intrusive government. 
Indeed, the way these principles are drafted reflects a social democrat/ welfare statist/ Keynesian or Fabian socialist view – depending on the kind of welfare state you have in mind. And given LS's advocacy of prohibition, it sounds to me very much that LS believes in a nanny state, that interferes in our lives at every step.
Now, if this is Lok Satta's view, then there are some difficulties in its convergence with FTI's umbrella of freedom – which is classical liberal and does not consider "welfare" in its 'forumulae'.
Instead, FTI suggests the second order concept of reasonable equality of opportunity – with details to be agreed by members (this is under debate). That perspective drives – in my view – a strictly frugal social insurance program, as outlined at length in BFN ( That program has a few "subsidised" but entirely privatised education/health components. No welfare under any circumstance. People are not our babies. Let's treat them as adults.
Let me add that given the proposed ideology, there is little if anything to distinguish LS from the current version of Congress – except that LS claims to provide a corruption free governance (which, unfortunately, can't be done without (a) changing the socialist policies and welfare state of India and (b) changing the colonial governance model).
Extremely significant changes need to be made to India's colonial system of governance and management of urban areas through fully decentarlised and empowered council, but there is no reference to the former, and limited reference to the latter.
I'd suggest that LS re-consider its principles and consider draft principles designed by FTI a couple of years ago: These are purely classical liberal principles. They don't promise anything like "welfare" but they do promise freedom with accountability, and reasonable equality of opportunity (the latter only after the first order functions of government have been discharged effectively. There is NO cause, in my view for "Government is obliged to fund all entitlements, before earmarking money for discretionary choices. Every budget must clearly indicate separately how entitlements will be funded.")

A number of other issues flow from classical liberal ideology – such as the taxation principles. I'd like to see some of that, as well. A relatively flat tax system (not entirely flat) is closer to what the classical liberal would recommend.
Let me add, while I'm on this topic, that if LS is serious about offering an alternative government that adapts world-best principles of governance and promotes liberty and prosperity, its leaders should assemble on FTI and debate these matters internally. I was under the impression that LS was by and large classical liberal, but these principles are not. India does not need yet another does of socialism (a watered down version of Nehru's Fabian socialism, called social liberalism).
Lok Satta's draft ideology


Dear Lok Satta Aandolan leaders, members, supporters, followers, sympathisers and other fellow Indian Citizen in this journey of second freedom struggle……
Last 63 years have marked a remarkable and largely successful journey in building the most diverse and complex republic in a free society. Historically, this is a triumph. Now we need to make our republic the greatest in human history. It is difficult, but doable. You and I are privileged to share this dream, and to be able to work together.
Increasingly Lok Satta has been getting questions about 'ideology' beyond our conviction on transparency, anti-corruption, etc. Lok Satta thinks that it is important for us to have a simple thumb set of rules by which the ideology is represented.
Lok Satta has therefore put together few points here, in a particular sequence (citizenry, elections, government, governance, global issues) … which it would be good for us to debate and refine so that it makes discussions of ideology easier, and also to clearly show the differences from other political parties.
Can you spend some time on this??
Send your comments to surendra AT loksatta DOT org DOT in with email title "Comments on Lok Satta's Ideology"
Government ‘by’ the people
  • Rights and civil liberties
The citizens of India have rights, and these must be protected under law. They must be free to hold and express their opinions, they must be free to practice religions of their choice (or none), and they must be free to engage in commerce and trade among themselves. These rights may not be curtailed by the state except in rare cases, and then too only applicable to specific individuals and groups, whose actions directly threaten the rights of other citizens.
  • Welfare and Human Development
Citizens also must have a right to minimum standards of welfare guaranteed by the larger society and by the state. Fulfilling human potential in the fullest measure, and eliminating avoidable suffering should be at the heart of governance.
They must have access to an acceptable level of education and health, in particular, at the state's expense. To this end, Government is obliged to fund all entitlements, before earmarking money for discretionary choices. Every budget must clearly indicate separately how entitlements will be funded.
Full and productive employment, supported by continuous skill development should be the basis of economic policies of state.
  • Stewardship
Citizens have a duty to conduct themselves as responsible guardians of the natural environment, as well as the socio-economic wellbeing of future generations. Economic, social and ecological choices made today must not jeopardize the rights or wellbeing of future citizens. 
  • Protection of rights
The State's first responsibility is to guarantee the rights of citizens, and to take care not to limit these rights by its acts of omission or commission. The State also has a responsibility to maintain the equality of all persons before law, through necessary institutions to achieve this. In its own actions, the state may not discriminate between citizens on the basis of religion, caste, or gender.
  • Limited government
Government should be limited to set of clear 'public good' objectives. This means that government should not get into sundry other activities that can be equally performed by the private sector. All public sector companies in industries where private sector already accounts for more than half the market share of the industry should be closed or disinvested.
  • Rule of Law
To protect the rights of citizens and to carry out its responsibilities, the State must maintain an independent, effective, accountable system of rule of law, including strong, autonomous, effective crime investigative agencies, independent prosecution, and courts which can ensure speedy and efficient justice.
  • Public assets
The State must act as a neutral guardian of public assets, and any transfer of these assets to private ownership or management should be carried out only on competitive basis, and transparently. No licenses, rights, or other economic benefits may be conferred on private parties through the use of discretionary power by the government. The State must also protect the public exchequer from being used to protect private interests.
  • Elections and Representation
At the state and national levels, representatives should be chosen proportionate to the vote-share of their parties in elections. The Rajya Sabha and the upper houses of states should be reformed to be more representative of state and district interests respectively. Citizens have the right to participate in institutions of government, not merely be represented there.
  • Federalism
The structure of Government should be revised based on the principles of convergence (all or most services available at one point), and subsidiarity (citizen is the centre of government; the powers should be transferred to larger tiers of government only when they cannot be exercised locally for reason of economies of scale or complexity.
District and City government should be a full-fledged third tier of federalism, with significant autonomy and authority. Each district should also have an elected district government. In local government, there should be at least one elected representative for every 1500 voters.
The Union cannot impose unfunded mandates on the States, and likewise the States cannot impose unfunded mandates on district governments, municipalities and panchayats.
At the village and municipal ward level, funds should be directly transferred to the community, and all local decisions should be made by the community of stakeholders.
  • Foreign Affairs
The State's actions in international fora must be such that they promote the universal values of peaceful co-existence among nations, and work to uphold the similar fundamental rights of human beings in other countries. Within this framework, national interest should be the abiding principle in international relations.



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