Thoughts on economics and liberty

Please don’t “misunderestimate” Gandhi’s genius

Many of India's "educated" people seem to have little sense of history and seriously underestimate Gandhi. Regardless of all his flaws and shortcomings, Gandhi remains a towering figure – both as a man of love and non-violence and as a man of superlative strategic genius.

A small movement of his feet, clad in thongs, would set the entire country aflutter and dashing off after him. If at all there is an illustration in the world in recent times of the sheer power of goodness and morality, his example must surely rank at the top. (I'm talking very broadly here – for even Gandhi did not claim he was perfect.)

As illustration of this erroneous sense that many people in India have about Gandhi, and in order to help minimise this common misunderstanding about Gandhi's role in India (and the world), here's what a commentator wrote on this blog today, and here's my response:

The commentator, Ranganath R (here's his blog) wrote:

Both Anna H and MKG are/were deluded and misguided messiahs. If you think AH has no idea or theory of a state or nation, even MKG did not really have any. His vision of a Sevagram economy and society  if implemented would have landed India in a greater disaster than Nehruvian socialism.

Gandhi's charisma, popularity and the spirit of the times in which he reached his peak provided the intellectual justification and rationalization for his mediaval and outmoded ideas and methods. While it is a hypothetical argument now, Gandhi with his idealistic theories and satyagraha antics delayed our 'freedom' from colonial rule by atleast 50 years, by crowding other effective agitational methods.

Here's my response:

Dear Ranganath

I’m unable to agree. Gandhi did know precisely what he was doing, and why. He kept learning and innovating as he progressed, and he can’t be considered to have been widely read, but he did have a justification for what he promoted. His worldview was simplistic in the extreme, but that simplicity was founded on love. That not everyone felt it (e.g.Jinnah or the Harijans) is inevitable.

I do not agree that without Gandhi India would have got its independence 50 years earlier. First, he came on the scene only 30 years before independence (from 1915). Second, all other programs before his movements were elite-based and the masses in India did not care for independence, for they could not distinguish between ancient Hindu kings, Mughal rule, and British rule. In fact, many of the things in their life were getting better in the British rule, so they were not particularly anti-British (recall that the British did not commit any major atrocities before 1919 Jalianwalah Bagh, after Gandhi had come on the scene and started turning up the pressure by one notch).

The first mass movement in India occurred in 1921-22, being called off after Chauri Chaura. It was the first mass expression of the people after 1857 (which was much smaller in extent).

It was these growing mass protests that unnerved the British. They had no reason to fear anyone but Gandhi. What if he did not call off his non-violence moment after Chauri Chaura? He held an instrument more powerful in his hands than anyone before him – and after him. He could turn the entire country on and off like a tap. That power was what ultimately put the fear of God into the British – and indeed the Quit India of 1942 was at least a partial expression of that power.

And it was through his efforts that we slowly got a democracy – based on the 1935 Act. He carefully tutored DEMOCRATS like Nehru, and shunned violent rebels like Bose. Without his over-arching influence India would have become a broken nation, racked by internal violence of a magnitude 10 times more than what you see today.

He could not prevent the partition of India, but without him India would not have been 3 countries, but 30.

I don’t buy your arguments. Gandhi was a genius, and he did have a solid theory. Read his work – it goes into millions of words. He had very clear understandings of what he was doing and why.

Let IAC not compare the super-genius Gandhi with a half-baked copycat AH, or a confused Ramdev.


(Note:I use a Bushism in the title of this blog post for I find this interesting word more illuminating than the simple word, "underestimate", given it can be used to refer to the concept of serious under-estimation).


'Gandhi did not oppose science' ("Most Indian philosophy of the last few centuries consists of the study of Indian philosophers of the past. Gandhi was one of the few who produced a philosophy of his own")


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29 thoughts on “Please don’t “misunderestimate” Gandhi’s genius
  1. AAryan

    I believe today some (or most of them) are not able to comprehend the power he gave to a simple man (even a beggar). It is he who turned it into the reality that just a common mass can overthrow the power. Hope one day the Indian people will realize the power of it, the "Democracy".

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    Ranganath's comment.


    While we may not surely agree, some of your defences of  the philosophy of Gandhism, his accomplishments and feats are mostly in realm of post hoc rationalizations and hypothetical counter-points. 
    You said "He could not save the partition of India, but without him India would not have been 3 countries, but 30."
    This is as hypothetical as my point about freedom being delayed by 50 years. The so-called 'Akhand Bharat' become 3 only after 1971, when we got some revenge for our pusillanimity of 1947 partition by splicing up Pakistan into 2. 
    Then "He carefully tutored DEMOCRATS like Nehru, and shunned violent rebels like Bose." 
    In your blind admiration for MKG, you are beginining to make up things. Really Gandhi tutored liberals like Nehru in what? To negotiate with the British enemy and play along with them at the pace that MKG wanted? 
    To call a Bose or a Bhagat singh ( he was not your example) a voilent rebel is to see things in black and white. Any critic of Gandhian style 'revolution' and politics need not be tarred with the brush of voilence and extremism
    Throwing the challenge of reading volumes of  a person's  work, is the typical response of rhetoric and setting up of straw-man arguments. Though his ideology may be expressed in million or more words, but in action, public statements and shows, in economic and social terms it was nothing beyond sugar-coated village style feudalism.
    Yes  "He kept learning and innovating as he progressed". But it fell far short of the requirements that could have ignited true renaissance of the Indian social and political structure. 
    And some of that progress was also the result of Ambedkarites snapping at his heels and exposing the clay-feet of his spiritualism and liberal ideology (The Temple Entry Act controversy) 
     There are geniuses in many fields and in most objective disciplines genius can be traced to individual qualities and merits. But in the field of politics, statesmanship and public life , the categorization and appellation of a personal genius is neither objective nor fair. In this field, the success and celebrity of  a practitioner is largely an endowment of public perception, mood and socio-cultural dynamics. Do not try to transfer the credit of a process to a personality in the desperation of the urge for hero-worship. 
    First you called MKG a genius and in the next breath he had moved several notches higher to a super-genius. 
    You have to make up your mind whether you are attempting a really critical analysis or simply conflating your adulation for your favorite celebrity into a semblance of rejoinder

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    Dear Ranganath

    Just two points:

    a) I refer to Gandhi as a STRATEGIC (and political) genius. I don't think he is a genius as an "intellectual" or academic. However, his contributions far exceed that of most ordinary "geniuses".

    b) Gandhi's classical liberalism is well documented. Should you not wish to read his work (but decry his views nevertheless), at least read this short blog post:

    Also, I do NOT hero worship. Gandhi is NOT my "favorite celebrity". I evaluate his work critically, and don't propose to stop doing that just because I agree with some of his views.


  4. Ranganath R

    It is not an easy task when you undertake the occasion of speaking against established and entrenched opinions of the majority and mainstream intellectualism, especially when it comes to holy cows like MK Gandhi. The problem in the case of Gandhi is that his larger-than-life reputation, sainthood and 'spiritual' baggage that always go with him, has clouded perceptions of most people and ingrained a steep bias that mostly preempts  any objective assessment of his legacy.
    AAryan's comment above is so typical of this kind of mindset. No leader can work  any wonders with mass mobilization unless the masses driven by desperation and angst themselves develop the willingness to take to agitations and revolts. To crown a specific individual, in this case, MKG  with the sole credit for the culmination of a trend that is the result of many complex social and political undercurrents of a specific time period is an intellectual predilection that is not supported by rigor of observation or critical thinking. 
    Just because a brute overwhelming majority of the intellectual crowd considers it  a religion or fashion to lionize Gandhi, that does not mean  the minority of critical opinion must acquiesce to such collective folly.
    The issue of caste emancipation exposed clearly the Achilles heel of MKG. It is a very bitter irony that the credit for a struggle that was carried on valiantly by Ambedkar was stolen by MKG.  Poetic injustice indeed! that Ambedkar became a pariah and the please-all status quoist MKG ascended to the heights of sainthood. Ambedkar has many a time hauled MKG over the coals over his patronizing sanctimony of the Harijan love affair. But who can listen to the voice of reason when the cacophony of elitist pseudo-intellectualism is so deafening.
    In the light of this, AAryan's claim above that MKG empowered the commoner and the beggar is to say the least pathetic and a sick joke. Sadly the reverse is true. The foolish and gullible masses of India empowered this false prophet, who like many other false prophets before him, badly let down his country and society.
    BTW I did read the link in that reply. It does very little to change my views or opinion on the political legacy of MKG. I do not decry without reason or cause. That article shows readiness to shower praises that are giddy responses of an adoring and devotional mindset which are not at all good portents of critical and independent thinking.

  5. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ranganath

    “Just because a brute overwhelming majority of the intellectual crowd considers it a religion or fashion to lionize Gandhi, that does not mean the minority of critical opinion must acquiesce to such collective folly.”

    Of course. No one is questioning your right to critically analyse Gandhi. But don’t underestimate his herculean achievements for India – and for the world. There would have been no Martin Luther King, no Nelson Mandela without Gandhi. Show me one person who is perfect. Even God. There are millions of criticisms of God as well (assuming He/She/It) exists. Perfection according to EVERYONE’S criteria is not expected.

    Under no circumstance, though, is AH equivalent to Gandhi. That my only point. I’m not entering into a debate on Gandhi.


  6. Shreyas

     Gandhi was the most shrewd politican , he was a noted lawyer studied abroad and knew White's way of politics very well , According to me Independece of India was just a coincidence and a perfect timing by the English, Pre-Independence India was massively involved in communal violence and lawlessness ,which they were not able to control and also there was nothing more left to be plundered in India and the world politices was changing due to WWII. He was just a genius politician , but Independence of India has not much to do with him its just accidental
    Without Gandhi there would have been no Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela???. they just masked Gandhian way but they were also politician(exact quality  as we see in today's politics) and wanted more power and dominance. Politics is just a dirty game of ego,power ,dominance and supremacy. 

  7. Ranganath R

    Thanks Sanjeev for the interesting exchange of views on this subject.
    I do sincerely appreciate the civility of your responses sometimes in the face of the vehemence of some parts of my rejoinders or retorts.
    Apparently here two widely divergent ends of the ideological position on the merits of Gandhi’s statesmanship are vying for the honors of dialectical sparring. Your view is admittedly the dominant one and the prevailing wisdom. While being in the insignificant and miserable minority that seeks to dismiss and trash the massive Gandhian legacy, all I can do provide pointers for rebuttal and attempt to veer the rules of analysis on to a objective terrain from the subjective high ground that it is currently resting on.
    While I may be slightly drifting away from the topic, there was a theme that I kept going back to in my pervious 2 replies. That pertained to the tendency of uncritical intellectualism to hoist personalities on the pedestal of genius or apostle-hood on the basis of post-facto assessments and rationalizations of events and getting blown further away from objectivity in the frenzy of the thrill and delight of such self-reinforcing conclusions.
    This notoriously common error of judgment and perception is the staple of many biographical rhapsodies on many statesmen and political celebrities. The field of politics and public life belongs to the arena of social behavior. 
    MKG’s life and legacy is a very interesting case study for the critics of ‘exogenous cause and rational expectations theory’ of social behavior . MKG can be considered a hands-down winner in the pre-independence era popularity contest.  It is the habit of conventional thinking to attribute the unfolding of events leading to India’s deliverance from British rule as the outcome of Gandhi’s specific strategies, game-plans and moves and the thrall of his ‘unearthly charisma’. 
    The truth is not so linear and socio-political events cannot be likened to cricket and baseball games (why even group games like cricket, baseball, soccer etc do not lend themselves to the facile cause-effect theory extrapolation). It is not just with Gandhi, and if a wide period of historical events is studied and dispassionately  analyzed, even MLK and Nelson Mandela would come across as by-products and culminations of a trend or wave of  complex yet endogenously regulated socio-economic and cultural undercurrents, and not its initiators or progenitors. That wave or trend in case of MKG and Mandela is ‘the saturation of the peak of imperial or colonial might and the onset of its exhaustion and decline’. This trend was quite perceptible in the case of British Empire, which was financially ruined by the 2 world wars and licking its post-war wounds by staging an ‘honorable’ exit from India. The same trend of social mood in Britain also overthrew W Churchill, whose electorate did not care 2 hoots for his wartime oratory and heroics. In the same way the ‘wild fire’ of the Civil Disobedience movement was more likely the culmination of a festering and simmering aggression  in the Indian masses caused by the economic and psychological  toll inflicted by wars and world-wide economic depression, rather than the wave of the magic wand of Gandhi’s clarion calls to duty.    
    If  I reverse the arguments of your statement “ There would have been no Martin Luther King, no Nelson Mandela without Gandhi" to  claim that if  Gandhi was not born, persecution of afro-americans  would have continued in USA  to this day and apartheid would have no respite in South Africa, since without Gandhi MLK and Mandela would have no inspiration, the absurdity of your proposition would become manifest.
    Whether you agree or not  on the specifics of the Gandhi debate do dwell on the necessity of reconsidering the paradigm  that is suitable for critical thinking and as a corollary for political analysis.
    On another note, I do agree that AH is a pigmy and cannot warrant comparison with Gandhi

  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ranganath

    What you are doing is debating the causes of social change, and no one in his right mind can possibly deny a significant role for exogenous factors, and interactions, and self-adjustments, etc.

    But in each age and time, certain people manage to bring together all these things into ideas and methods that dominate all others, and present a platform for people to engage with.

    Therefore, when you say this: “If I reverse the arguments of your statement “ There would have been no Martin Luther King, no Nelson Mandela without Gandhi” to claim that if Gandhi was not born, persecution of afro-americans would have continued in USA to this day and apartheid would have no respite in South Africa, since without Gandhi MLK and Mandela would have no inspiration, the absurdity of your proposition would become manifest.”, … I must inevitably agree with you in part.

    However, let me clarify that if, today, I were NOT to take action on my own by bringing together the currents of liberty together on one platform (FTI), and leave it to “happen by itself”, then it may happen on its own, but it can take inordinately longer, or happen in unintended ways.

    If I do ultimately succeed in reforming India’s governance, then EVERYTHING I did as a leader would become meaningful, including this debate I’m having with you. My goal is to create leaders. Gandhi’s goal was to liberate India from foreign rule. These are two different goals. One goal (Gandhi’s/ Ambedkar’s) was relevant to the India of 1940, another goal (mine) is relevant today. I have chosen the goal that is relevant today. Had I lived in 1930, I’d have chosen other goals.

    Just like Infosys would not have emerged automatically, i.e. without leaders like N. Murthy, so also NO social change or political reform can occur without specific leaders stepping forward to lead.

    In other words, leadership is of significant importance in world affairs. There are no automatic social processes. They have to be managed by people like you and me, else we can expect demagogues and half-baked “Gandhians” to take over – or even terrorists.

    Leadership – and its quality – matters. And so, no, the reforms in USA and S.Africa would NOT have occurred without King/Mandela – and Gandhi.


  9. AAryan

    @ Ranganath: I never met Gandhi or observed his actions, thus it is pointless for me to read between the lines written by others about him. It is like a history book for me. I care about results and the mode of conduct to achieve it. Gandhiji delivered it and his modus operandi was unthinkable, defeating enemy without arms.
    "AAryan's comment above is so typical of this kind of mindset. No leader can work any wonders with mass mobilization unless the masses driven by desperation and angst themselves develop the willingness to take to agitations and revolts."
    If your perception, as stated above, was true then S.Bose and others might have achieved it before MKG. 
    "AAryan's claim above that MKG empowered the commoner and the beggar is to say the least pathetic and a sick joke. Sadly the reverse is true."
    Could you please tell me and the world, and provide one conceivable reason, how and why the reverse is true.

  10. Ranganath R

    You don't have to read between anybody's lines. If you do have the inclination, read and consider the views of his critics like Ambedkar who was truly a great revolutionary and have an open mind towards criticism.  Don't hide behind high sounding yet meaningless statements like the one you make.
    You only care about results. Really !!! But what an effective result should be needs to be understood and analyzed properly. It is not enough to blindly accept spin-doctored versions of Gandhian glory from poorly composed history texts and spun out by an idolizing media and intelligentsia.
    "And Gandhi won us freedom without the use of arms?".
    I wonder  how such lies are easily believed. Yes Gandhi and his foolish cheer-leaders did not take to arms. But many Indian agitational groups were not so foolishly idealistic. There were armed struggles with the British. INA of Bose was one such notable example.  Bhagat Singh had his own set of armed followers and successors. Even the civil disobedience movement (CDM) at its peak was not without its voilence and arson. Gandhi had no control over the violent turns of the CDM, though he used make long faces about the violence apart from his usual holier-than-thou posturing on non-violence. He tried some call-off bluffs which the country did not care the least about.
    Many countries after 1947 saw the exit of British from the colonies in rapid succession, though they had no Gandhis. India's freedom would have surely come at that time, Gandhi or no Gandhi. Do not twist the lessons of history to suit your pet misguided notions
    This sanctimonious hypocrite Gandhi insulted the sacrifice and legacy of a great patriot  like Bhagat Singh by declaring that he deserved to hanged because of his wrong means of struggle. So much for the greatness and genius of this prodigal.
    Also where did you get the idea that sections of masses did not mobilise around SC Bose. He and his movement had its significant and victorious moments, though they were brief and sabotaged on the political arena by the Gandhi-Nehru-Patel clique.  Ambedkar also had a great following. But elites did not care because those toiling masses were from the depressed and oppressed classes and MKG was a convenient blue-eyed object of worship and sycophantic ritual.
    My earlier response explained how Gandhi empowered none, but his own glory at the cost of the masses. Ambedkar is the most powerful nemesis of MKG. But the shallow and hypocritical intelligentsia of India, to which you can safely claim the rights of membership, have developed the ability to ignore and avoid inconvenient voices of reason and justice. Please also read MN Roy's and VR Narla's assessment of Gandhian politics. If you dont have the appetite or the intellectual inclination for contrarian voices and erudition, keep your own counsel.
    If you want one more conceivable reason, let me remind you of the Sanskrit verse " Yathaa Praja Thathaa Raja", which means in a nutshell  it is the masses that make a leader or chief or king and not the other way around as conventional reasoning keeps screaming from the roof-tops. People often get the leader they deserve, not what they want or desire. Given the still primitive and half-baked state of  Indian culture and society, what we got and will get is only half-baked prophets and leaders like MKG and not statesmansque titans like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. 
    We have been conditioned by our moth-eaten traditions and primitive faiths to be pleased with so little. So it no wonder that with such measly expectations, MKG must feel like manna from heaven

  11. AAryan

    Thanks for your reply.
    I believe that Gandhiji played an instrumental role in independece without arms. This is nicely summarised in this article He was politically cunning and highly influential in his works. ref. ttp://
    S.C.Bose was an ardent pariotic and excellent leader. But he failed to achieve due to his communist ideology. Ref:
    Regarding the leader, it is reverse in snaskrit.
    यथा भूमिस्तथा तोयं, यथा बीजं तथाऽङ्कुरः ।
    यथा देशस्तथा भाषा, यथा राजा तथा प्रजा ॥
    I want to reiterate again, "I care about results and the mode of conduct to achieve it." That is DHARMA.
    P.S M.N Roy had carried a different ideology than Gandhiji, thus hard for him to appreciate him.
           V.R. Narla studied Roy's work and liked it, thus evident in his analysis.
           In most of the readings I found that communists diffred with Gandhiji.

  12. Ranganath R

    Given such an extreme disparity of views that our prior exchanges would have revealed, we are perhaps doomed to prolong the disagreement  and disputation.
    Maybe it would still be worth testing the tenacity of our beliefs and  more than that the methods employed in analysis and interpretation of events and personalities.
    About the article that supposedly describes the centrality of Gandhi's role on the transition to independence, what else would you expect from an advertorial site dedicated to Gandhi. It is one of the cardinal rules of skepticism and critical thinking to give a hard look to the source of opinion. Expectedly there is a lot of exaggeration of his role and contribution. Especially the part about Gandhi soothing down the CDM voilence. To a student of  the Wave principle of Human Behavior and events, the credit given to Gandhi is so typical of  post hoc rationalization of  the role of a prime personality for the natural subsiding of a  wave event. Every wave event waxes and wanes. It is highly plausible that CDM voilence was already decelerating when Gandhi happened to visit some affected places, which he anyway was bound to.
    It is the habit of stock political analysis to hunt for a heroic head on which to place the crown of achievement. Very few can resist the thrill and climax  of  hero-worshipping orgasm. 
    So Bose could not achieve his aims because of his communist ideology. But the article insinuates that  he had a fascist ideology. Why fight shy of calling the spade a spade. Of course the poor Bose does not have the luxury of making mistakes and false steps that Gandhi could get away with in broad daylight. And Gandhi's feudalism can be  sugar coated as 'trusteeship capitalism', 'swadharma', 'sarvodaya' and what have you. As though Indians understood the difference between liberal democracy and fascism. When most Indians never understood the distinction between their own primitive religious and social feudalism and colonialism, fat chance indeed that they could recognise communism or fascism when they saw one. 
    And I can also safely assume that to blind Gandhian devotees like you there is no difference between communists and socialists. They are just four letter words and convenient sticks to beat critics of capitalism with.

  13. AAryan

    Thanks for sharing your views on Gandhijis ideology. I believe this Internet blog is not resourceful to dissect somebody's ideology, especially as of Gandhijis, with our limited time and knowledge. We are tending to assume too much.
    Could I ask you, if you don't mind. I humbly request you to share your experiences and observations if you had lead a movement or participated in campaigning for elections in India (for yourself or for other candidate)? The objective of your movement should had been something beneficial to the people and the society. Keep in mind the people then and the people now had not changed much in India. If you did then please put your observations and experiences in front of you and then analyse Gandhijis efforts and the results. You will be surprised how Gandhiji managed to pull it off.
    Lastly, nobody can create leaders. Capability of leadership resides in all of us, perhaps buried or ignored or simply nascent. Under the right circumstances – with self-reflection, a mentor, a significant life experience, loving parents, or other factors – the seed begins to develop.

  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    "In his autobiography, King notes that "Gandhi was the guiding light of our technique of non-violent social change" during the bus boycott in 1956 that ended Alabama's transport segregation on the city's buses. John F. Kennedy, Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama have also claimed inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi and the ancient Indian principle of non-harm, and the Indic compassion towards all living beings and the corresponding non-violent stance has been adopted by groups that advocate vegetarianism, animal welfare and environmental activism." [Source]

  15. Ranganath R

    This blog has already squandered its limited resources and knowledge on the glorification of an already over-glorified character like MKG. 
    It is his admirers that are assuming too much and that too very glibly and overconfidently on the back of most of the unquestioned and excessive reverence for him on public display.
    The critics are not assuming anything, only trying to question and counter the rationale for this kind of morbid personality worship.
    Your next paragraph is about adhominems that will not cut any ice with determined critics. If the moral adjunct of  participation in public life and contesting of elections for undertaking political analysis and criticism is taken too seriously, the world will be in danger of being bereft of  the few sane and critical voices of reason. 
    About your conviction that 'nobody can create leaders', don't be too sure about it. It is all fine to make inspiring statements and trot out punch lines and jargon of motivational theories. It is another thing to develop  the spirit of enquiry and questioning and comparing fond theories with actual results on the ground level. There is a need to develop  a proper yardstick of evaluating results and having in the first place the right benchmarks.
    That kind of attitude is not a hostage to consensus thinking or spin-doctoring of  mainstream media or intellectualism that is hungry to create a 'father of the nation' where none is needed.
    Though it may be unrelated, a lot of emerging insights from sociological analysis, behavioral finance theory, empircal studies of economic and social behavior is serious challenging the pet and long held notions of economic theory. For instance the EMH and rational expectations theory is now becoming the laughing stock of the economics field.
    The sociological and economic component and content of political dynamics and processes have not yet been seriously analyzed and investigated, providing the much needed space for intuitive sounding yet untested theories of conventional thinking to ride roughshod over public opinion.
    If you think  a testimonial from the teleprompter aided  and speech-writer guided Obama is what is needed to be the icing on the cake of  sublime Gandhian eulogy so be it. 
    I will only provide only rejoinder to the remainder of the superfluity of the lines that follow about Indic compassion and nonviolence. The only problem with the "ancient Indian principle of non-harm, and the Indic compassion towards all living beings" is that such compassion and privilege does not extend to the shudras, dalits and other oppressed classes since according to vedic philosophy and definitions, they are not at all living beings.

  16. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ranganath

    I’m happy (even keen) to hear counter-arguments on everything. Can you please make a list of Ambedkar’s writings against Gandhi. I admire much about Ambedkar (particularly his classical liberalism) and would love to read more.


  17. Ranganath R

    Most of the writings of ambedkar are now compiled into a book that is available on Amazon and other book sites.
    However I have provided below a few links to his speeches and writings against Gandhi on the web  are provided below
    The link below is a speech on the occasion of Ranade's anniversary, but contains Ambedkar critical views about Gandhi and Jinnah
    The link below has many excerpts and references to Ambedkar's writings and speeches
    The link below is a controversial version of the speculation behind the true intent of Gandhi's 1933 hunger fast unto death
    I am sure you will not agree with the intent of this site, but this article has been quoted by other sites that are not so virulent about Gandhi. While I would agree that very  few would see eye to eye with the pathologically negative protrayal of  Gandhi by this site, a critical observer cannot fail to observe some pathological shades about this man, especially in the personality disorders that he had, the way he dealt with his children and wife, his weird experiments with suppression of sexual impulse, his mixing of politics and religion etc. 
    The link below is a book that BR is supposed to have written about the politics that Gandhi and the Congress played on the untouchability issue 
    While you are welcome to probe and these links and subject it to your forensics, don't shoot the messenger for the deviations and contradictions that you may find in them. My reasons for disapproval of Gandhi is not solely based on Ambedkar's perception of him.

  18. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Thanks. That’s very useful. Struggling as I am with severe shortage of time (and health), I’ll make an attempt to browse through this – and indeed get hold of Ambedkar’s book (a man as I said I do admire from what little I have learnt about him).

    What Gandhi said and did can perhaps be classified as borderline pathological. Unfortunately, leaders are rarely entirely “normal” – or boring. They have big ideas, and often choose “inappropriately” between competing priorities. Family is often the first to suffer. They, too, suffer hugely. I can assure you than when Gandhi took his fasts he must have suffered. But that’s the beauty of this – that human beings who are innately good can stretch themselves in many ways. In his case there is no doubt that the world looks upon him (despite his foibles) as a “saint”, a role model, not the case of a pathological mind.

    Let’s end this (at the moment) by noting that we are liberty to take the best from everyone and discard what we don’t like.


  19. Supratim

    I wanted to thank Ranganath for a very cogent defence of why armchair critics or analysts are needed, especially if they do their work rigorously and honestly.

  20. Ranganath R

    I did read the article on 'Gandhian economics' from that link. Surely there are many views of Gandhi that do convey a liberal perspective and some sprinkling of economic theory. But the construction of a 'school of thought' on either economic theory or political strategy from such disparate fragments of opinions being expressed from time to time and accrediting it to a political personality, is  most likely the outcome of post-event rationalization and a tendency to  romanticize an event in  history and its prominent protagonists.

    It seems as though Gandhi was thrust into the role of an economic thinker just because India could not produce economists of the calibre of Adam Smith, JS Mill or David Ricardo.
    If fabian socialism can be propounded by George Bernard Shaw and can have its fleeting moments of glory, why can't MKG don the hat of a liberal economist. The only problem is that the jarring sounds of the bugles and trumpets of Gandhian economics still seems sweet music to most nostalgic followers of history or personalities who are having a hard time distinguishing between idealism and practical economic frameworks. 

    The emerging school of crisis economists is now picking apart the legacy of  Adam Smith, Ricardo and even Keynes. The economic bards that sang the glory of the 'Invisible Hand' in the heydays of Industrial Revolution were the outcome of the 'Bull Market' psychology of their times. They were in good faith  only making a case for market capitalism and use of production factors, in an age that was tiring of the effects of trading and mercantilism (East India Company type).   In the Depression era, these were rejected and people were more tolerant/approving  of Marx and Keynes. In today's economic situation people are getting tired of even Keynesian monetarism and their opponents are getting a sympathetic ear. 

    The real point is that it is hard to recognize the practice of 'crony capitalism' from its theory and ideal of market and liberal capitalism. The point of recognition is always the 'tipping point', that is when the abuses of crony capitalism cross the exuberance threshold and tip the economy and sometimes even the world into a financial crisis. It happened the last century during the Depression of the 1930's. It is probably happening again now. 

    At the risk of offending Gandhian admirers again, it has to be said that Gandhian opinions on economics were also an endorsement of crony capitalism which is as harmful as state control.  "as in my opinion the violence of private ownership is less injurious than the violence of the State."

    This quote is not a truism that can be accepted any longer. It is his opinion and a flawed one at that. State control may be amenable and responsive to democratic change processes, while such remedies are always resisted by 'private ownership'. The economic history of the past 300 years have shown that respite from the excesses and tryanny of private ownership and corporations is only brought about by breakdown of economic structure and resulting economic hardships and crisis which hits the poor and middle class the most. 

    In spite of the effort of the author at cherry picking the opinions of MKG, I failed to see any convergence of  his views with Ambedkar. As much as the mouthpieces of the upper caste Indian intelligentsia may loath it, MKG was an icon of their creation and an astute apologist of their hypocritical ideas and mindset. 

    His nonsensical views on the purpose of sex education betray his true agenda and reveal the confusion in his ideology introduced by his obsession with religion-inspired rubbish. 

  21. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ranganath

    No classical liberal advocates “crony capitalism”. Pl. read Adam Smith to understand why the liberal insists on checks and balances, and good regulation that ensures integrity in the system. I don’t see how you make deductions re: Gandhi’s views (that “Gandhian opinions on economics were also an endorsement of crony capitalism”).

    At EVERY stage in his life and in ALL his writings, the strong flavour of individual respect and liberty comes through. He was not a pseudo-liberal and opposed socialism. Yes, he did not understand economics and I don’t support his trusteeship theory (which is very similar to corporate social responsibility theory) but to even remotely suggest that this whole thing about Gandhi is “post-event rationalization” is absurd.

    I find your thinking more confused than ever. This comment of yours bolsters my view that you don’t know what you stand for. Why don’t you fix that issue first, and then we can talk further. And btw, please try to achieve at least half of what Gandhi did (to advance human liberty). That will bolster your case against him and give you greater credibility.

  22. KK Verma

    Talking and discussing about GANDHI is a waste of time.
    We have iPAD and Obama which should be discussed. Our growth will be limited if we waste too much time in discussing history.
    Most of the discussion here are irrelevant. Why should only ANNA should strugle today? Why only Kezriwal thinks of preparing a effective Lokpal Bill?
    Can you all talk about future?

  23. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I don’t agree at all with your approach, KK. There are VERY good reasons to discuss the roots of liberty which have been lost in India. Kejriwal, to the best of my knowledge, so far, is a socialist (or at least a social democrat) who believes that a greater and greater role for the state will fix India’s problems. If my interpretation of Kejriwal’s work (since IAC is almost entirely composed of socialists) is correct, then we have a serious problem here.

    We need a classical liberal political party that will totally revamp India’s governance. We don’t want more of the same. More and more IAS officers heading more and more institutions like Lokpal. We have enough bureaucracy as it is. We have to cut down the bureaucracy and make it focus ONLY on the things a government should. Currently the government does literally everything. That is a recipe for disaster.

  24. Ranganath R

    It is very clear that you have not read my response fully and properly. But yet have chosen to jump the gun based on your pre-conceived notions of my ideas expressed in the response.
    I never mentioned that classical economists and thinkers advocated 'crony capitalism'. Pls re-read my specific observation "They were in good faith  only making a case for market capitalism and use of production factors" 
    Pls. refrain from putting words into my mouth that were never uttered by me. Dishonest politicians and bureaucrats do this. I expected better from an intellectual of your caliber. 
    Also in all earnestness I have tried to assimilate the gist of classical liberal thought on economy and politics without reading in entirety the works of their stalwarts. For example for someone to understand the distinction between the Ricardian labor theory of value and Marx's interpretation of labor and wage premium, it is not necessary to read their entire works.
    If critics fall for such bait-and-switch tactics from defenders of dogmas (of whatever type they may be) criticism will go nowhere.
    My point that inspite of robust theories of liberal capitalism, what prevailed for most of the past 300 years including now are only  variations of crony capitalism, was entirely missed in the desperation to counter-point at any cost
    As to my inference/deduction of Gandhian endorsement of crony capitalism I quoted this "as in my opinion the violence of private ownership is less injurious than the violence of the State." from MKG's own words. I also provided my interpretation and rejoinder to this. You need some patience to go through my comments in order to understand them properly. You also need to juxtaspose such opinions of MKG with his hobnobbing with and support of pre-freedom era crony capitalists like GD Birla and the cotton kings of then Bombay state.
    I am not under confusion of any sort. I always tried to back up most of my criticisms with substantiations. I have also tried to provide some emerging sociological and economic behavioral insights, for which I found that neither you nor this forum has any apetite. I note this with dismay but not necessarily despair. 
    What is unfortunate is that this response from you resorts to unwarranted and unintelligent mockery and negative characterization of the critic instead of objectively dealing with points of criticism. 
    I don't have to accomplish even 1/100th of Gandhian feats to earn the right or privilege of criticism. Ideas can stand on their own strength and don't need the crutches of the expounder's reputation, accomplishments or credentials.

  25. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Ranganath

    You are claiming that “I never mentioned that classical economists and thinkers advocated ‘crony capitalism'”

    Indeed you did not, but you asserted that “The real point is that it is hard to recognize the practice of ‘crony capitalism’ from its theory and ideal of market and liberal capitalism. The point of recognition is always the ‘tipping point’, that is when the abuses of crony capitalism cross the exuberance threshold and tip the economy and sometimes even the world into a financial crisis. It happened the last century during the Depression of the 1930’s. It is probably happening again now. ”

    Now I simply said that this is the most absurd idea – that one can’t distinguish crony capitalism from capitalism. No classical liberal will ever make such confusion. The two are RADICALLY different. So I said “No classical liberal advocates “crony capitalism”. Pl. read Adam Smith to understand why the liberal insists on checks and balances, and good regulation that ensures integrity in the system.” Your lack of understanding of the meaning of capitalism doesn’t mean I’m advocating crony capitalism.

    Second, you asserted that Gandhi too advocated crony capitalism. That was yet another absurd statement. I suggested that “At EVERY stage in his life and in ALL his writings, the strong flavour of individual respect and liberty comes through.”

    In other words, you are wrong even on that assertion.

    Now you make things worse by suggesting that Gandhi “hobnobbed with and supported pre-freedom era crony capitalists like GD Birla and the cotton kings of then Bombay state.”

    I’m afraid you are simply a socialist ideologue, a Godchild of Nehru. In Birla you see a “crony capitalist”. In the support of Birla for the independence movement (through Gandhi) you see Gandhi “hobnobbing” with Birla.

    I’m afraid unless you read, understand, and assimilate BFN, what you are doing is simply regurgitating Nehruvian ideas. I’m trying to take India away from such falsehoods. Give me a chance – please at least read BFN once.


  26. Supratim

    Dear Ranganath,
    I think your are now really stretching – criticising stuff is fine, but what is your ideological compass? If Hayek and Smith were wrong, who do you think were more right than them?
    And, one can not recognise "crony capitalism" until the tipping point??????????? Puhhhhlease, that may be true of our "mango people" who never learned any economics, but any one who has worked in private or state owned corporations or been an active economist can recognise it immediately.   That was such a strawman.



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