Thoughts on economics and liberty

My position on Arvind Kejriwal, to clear the air for everyone

Every now and then, people scold me for not praising Arvind Kejriwal enough, or for trying to challenge some of his ideas and actions.

So let me cut and paste from a few recent emails/ Facebook posts.

But before I do that, let me note that till today, I've not come across any financial malfeasance by Arvind Kejriwal. He has made some errors (e.g. mixing foreign funding with political action, which I've critiqued elsewhere) but he is clearly a person of integrity.

That means he is a good man. So I have no reasons to NOT interact with Arvind. I am happy to talk to good people of all "brands" of ideas.

But just like in Baba Ramdev's case, I'd be failing in my duty towards India and Indians if I did not point out where Arvind is wrong.

I expect to be told when I'm wrong. There is no greater thing of value than finding an honest opponent. All learning advances through honest difference of opinion.

Similarly, I expect to be able to oppose GOOD people where I think they are wrong. When such good people decide to promote the right ideas, then we get the best outcome for society.

So now, this is an extract from my email to Sreelatha Menon, part of which was published in Business Standard.

I've personally met Arvind Kejriwal and tried to show him this more systematic way to reform, but he has not been responsive. I've not given up, and continue to try to reach out to him. However, I'm concerned that while we need more self-governance, we don't need government interference in our lives. Many of his ideas, such as fixing prices for essential commodities, are deeply socialist, and will take India further down the path of ruin. We need serious policy thinkers to come forward, not economics illiterates. Chanakya should be made mandatory reading for anyone interested in public life.

I fully support the idea that Arvind has joined politics. I think that is the right way to proceed. But no, I'd not be (nor will FTI members be) part of IAC's political effort unless we see strong policy alignment. Arvind is currently influenced by the Bhushans, who are hardcore socialists. Let Arvind become curious about good policy, then I'm happy to spend time to talk to him.

Note, clearly that I left the IAS and decided to devote my energy to the reform of India's governance not in because I care (or not care) for Arvind, but because I am driven by a single goal: the Total Transformation of India. In that process, I believe that the right way must be followed, and the right system established. Individuals are important, but systems must over-ride them. To that extent, Arvind is IRRELEVANT. Only his ideas are relevant. But unfortunately, his ideas are wrong.

So here's an extract from FB:

AB Join Forces with IAC… IAC is trying to unite all political parties with similar philosophies and principles.. Arvind only has a political vision of complete decentralisation. He does not have a economic vision. Join forces with IAC.. It is bound to be a win-win situation..

Sanjeev Sabhlok A, I've tried to contact Arvind. He is not interested in good policy. Pl. see my comments in Business Standard today: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/sreelatha-menonkejriwal-club/490888/. FTI is focused on good policy. We have a different approach

AB Alright.. u may have different views. And he is really head strong. [Sanjeev: So am I, if you haven't noticed!] But remember, under the constitution all policy decisions will be taken by vote. As a political party u will have to convince hundreds of voters to vote for u. U will have to do similar stuff if u are a part of IAC.. He has a lot of influence in IAC coz people across the board respect him a lot. U have to win votes of the educated middle and upper middle class which is the primary workforce of IAC..

These people are not his blind followers. [Sanjeev: I've not seen the non-blind ones yet. Happy to meet them.] U have to convince them with logic and they will vote for u(provided u don't use words like 'most stupid man on corruption'). [Sanjeev: He is the most foolish man on the topic of corruption. How can I hide that fact?] Ultimately FTI as a political party will have to do the same but on a much much larger scale… U will take a long long time to create a big platform like IAC. even IAC is not big enough.. think about it… Ultimately the decision is yours. [Sanjeev: If all I wanted was power, I'd have joined Congress or BJP 25 years ago. No shortcuts please. Only the right path.]

The vision document has been misquoted a number of times by a number of media houses.. [Sanjeev: Maybe, but I've seen the original version in Hindi.] Anyways, we have found a number of short comings in it, and it is being revised.. [Sanjeev. That's good. I look forward to a freedom based policy program.] Be a part of IAC and try and sell your ideas.. This is the best audience u can get.. Forget about Arvind.. Think about the vast youth base IAC has… IT, CAs, Medical professionals,Engineers etc etc… Where else are u going to get educated people in 20s and 30s in such large numbers.. convice them with logic.. If u get personal with a man whom they see working 20 hours day, u will get no where.. Use logice..

Shailesh Saraf i do think that many people want to contribute to Arvind only on the condition that he FIRST becomes/thinks like them and/or agree to their conditions…this is non-starter since Arvind has achieved phenomenal success [Sanjeev: I agree, re: RTI. I commend his work in that field.] and proven his integrity, intentions, hard work, etc. and is extremely busy. [Sanjeev: Being busy is no excuse to be a socialist, I'm very sorry.] One should prove his commitment by contributing to his cause BEFORE expecting Arvind to pay significant attention. [Sanjeev: I don't want his attention. I am just speaking my mind. He can take it or leave it. ]

AB true Shailesh.. I am sure he meets hundreds of 'advisers' every day, who do nothing really. I, as an average volunteer have met a lot of such people too. Once a farmer leader had come to him from haryana and wanted Arvind to take up their issues and do a rally in their area. He said,''I am not going to do it. U organise a big rally urself, educate the farmers, bring them from the entire state together for a rally and I will definitely attend it". He has become a brand. This is tough, but this method proves the sincerity of the person. This is how leaders emerge.

SC One cannot please everybody all the Time…IAC is fighting its Own Battle FTI will also do it in due course of time, I am sure. FTI also would build up a Huge mass Base just as big as IAC. Tilll then, Arvind has Started a War with the Most powerful & Corrupt Politicians of India…Lets give him is due…Lets Admire his Guts and Strength. And if do not support him lets not criticize him and pull him down.

Sanjeev Sabhlok Dear friends, I simply don't care for Arvind Kejriwal or Shejriwal. It is PURELY about India's future. And if Arvind is unwilling to learn basic economics, he is simply irrelevant. I'm not trying to change Arvind. He better learn basic economics if he wants to bring change to India. His ignorance is rampant and problematic. I will speak the truth for in my mind it is not Arvind that matters but India. And India is 1 billion times bigger. So let FTI continue its job of plain speaking and offering alternatives that WILL work.

Let Arvind and his group of confused people carry on with their confusion. Sometimes confusions go on for 65 years, like the Nehruvian socialist confusion. Arvind is simply following that confusion. Let's not worry about Arvind too much. Just that the journalist specifically asked me about Arvind.

Conclusion

I'm not writing this blog, or my books, or working to bring outstanding leaders together on FTI for the sake of IAC or Arvind or Ramdev. This effort is NOT about any one of us. It is about EVERY Indian, and about India's future (and of the world). So let's focus on the key questions, not about Arvind or Ramdev.

I have tried for months to reach out to Arvind. He is (from what I can gather) avoiding any discussion with me or with FTI. That's a problem, for FTI is promoting a systematic (as opposed to ad hoc) approach based on liberty. And its leaders are impeccably honest. So why is he not interested in engaging with these good leaders and finding out more about liberty?

Indeed, to me the biggest problem is: why has he not joined Lok Satta? I've said that he should do so: repeatedly. I can't see why he is disrespecting perhaps the greatest leader in Indian politics today: JP.

I have many differences with JP, but I see him FAR ABOVE Arvind in calibre, in understanding of India's problems, in experience, and in his understanding about liberty.

So what should I conclude with all this?

>> That Arvind is determined to impose his SOCIALIST ideas on India.

His manifesto (here's the Hindi PDF) is blatantly socialist.

Even Baba Ramdev has shown willingness to at least talk to me, and listen to my suggestions regarding Chanakya's Arthashastra. But Arvind seems to have made up his mind to take India FURTHER down the path of socialism.

I've met him. I've sent him 15 emails. He personally promised to read my book and write to me. No response. A number of people close to him have mentioned BFN to him. But no response.

I PROMISE to oppose ANY socialist in the world, particularly in India. Tooth and nail. Let that be clear to all his "followers".

I have not quit my job (to escape socialists) and put in tens of thousands of hours of work only to "kowtow" to yet another socialist. No one can make me respect any socialist. The question of my supporting socialist IAC does not arise.

I once again invite Arvind to stop his mad rush into socialism.

If he finds it odd to read my book, let him start with Arthashastra.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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16 thoughts on “My position on Arvind Kejriwal, to clear the air for everyone
  1. A

    The prevailing culture of India is one of personality cults. I see that the discussion (on FB) doesn’t converge, I think because of extreme focus on persons and personalities rather than the policy questions. God and bad, right and wrong do not depend on who said the thing, but what is said. Accepting that is a big hurdle to cross, culturally ! That to me is problem #1 to solve.

     
  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I agree but there is we need a more nuanced perspective. Personality is a key factor in leadership across the world. What we see in India is mindless belief that just because someone is “good” he/she possesses all other characteristics necessary for leadership. So you are right, but the way out is to offer a combination of personality and ideas.

    s

     
  3. raghavendra

    Hi S,

    I read your BFN. I am quite convinced with classic liberalism now. I am IAC volunteer. Prashant bhushan is coming tomorrow to meet all south india IAC volunteers. I will raise this question of liberalism to him. Before that i want some clarification from you.

    Liberalism speaks about privatization. Delhi electricity board is completely privatized. And yet they have involved in corruption by series of price hike. And even same with mukesh ambani’s RIL. And both of these points are raised by arvind kejriwal. Now my question is how would you tackle such problem if you have classic liberalism.

     
  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Raghavendra

    There can be no classical liberal economy under a socialist dispensation in which corrupt politicians necessarily rise to the top.

    Remember, this is about incentive-based governance (ch.5 of BFN) as well.

    I want Secretaries who are well paid and will lose their job at the SLIGHTEST whiff of corruption or connivance with business.

    Pl. read the policy competition template at http://freedomteam.in/policy re: government failure. We can’t have policies which have regulatory capture.

    Policy is complex, and simplistic Arvind (or Bhushan) just don’t get it. They need to ask questions. I’m happy to talk on phone with Arvind/Bhushan and clarify all their points.

    s

     
  5. raghavendra

    Hi S,

    I will speak to bhushan with whatever knowledge i have gained through BFN. I will raise this point in front of all people. I will reach your view to some part of public at least. I will mention your name too while asking question and also your BFN book. I will do my level best to see to that people are made aware of classic liberalism.

    I will also speak about reservation which arvind mentioned in his party agenda. I wonder doesnt arvind see poor people in upper caste also. I wonder why he speaks about uplifting muslims, when he want s to treat all aam admi equally.

     
  6. raghavendra

    Hi S,

    I guess there should be open debate between you and arvind kejriwal on topic of classic liberalism Vs socialism on tv shows.
    I dont know how to ask media people to have such a healthy debate. This will be a real eye opener for people and also for team IAC.
    If you have some media contact i think you should request for one. I will write to media people. I don’t whether they will listen to me or not. But there should be one or more tv shows on this topic. Now media would also be interested in finding out faults with arvind kejriwal and team.

     
  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Good point. I was so far trying to directly contact Arvind. Maybe if he doesn’t respond, I’ll escalate and ask for a media debate.

     
  8. Raghavendra

    Hi S,

    You are right that prashant bhushan is a hard core socialist. I raised the question in today’s meet. He answered straightly,
    “that they will nationalize almost all firms(like power,steel and many others), but in some sectors he said they will keep free markets.” if they come to power.

    I told them that socialism is the mother of corruption. And told him that there is no developed country in this world which has adopted socialism. And told him the example of hong kong and indonesia. But he said that
    after liberalisation and globalisation the amount of corruption has increased. He said before 1991 there were scam like bofors which are were of less amount. But after liberalisation amount of corruption has multiplied by ‘n’ times.

    Earlier if 100 crore business was given permission 10 crore would be the bribe but now politicians are getting bribed in multi crore through
    2G, coal and etc etc. He says that all the recent multi crore scams are because of liberalisation and globalisation.

    He didnt give me chance to reply back. He said this is only Q&A session and not debate. He was taking question from audience and giving answers. But didnt allow us to debate on our stand. He didnt see whether he was satisfying all questions or not:(

    So i guess that arvind and bhushan feel that scam amount has increased becuase of liberalisation and globalisation. I guess they have understood the problem wrongly.
    They need to be explained on these lines. Or else people need to be educated on these lines. I fear that arvind has lot of chance to come to power. And this bhushan will nationalize almost everything. We will loose our job.. we will go backward then:(

    Regards
    R

     
  9. raghavendra

    Hi Sanjeev,

    I guess arvind and bhushan are skeptical about liberalisation because of the mentioned point by bhushan in the video. I think they need to be made clear of this doubt.
    liberalisation + janlokpal is good and not socialism + janlokpal.
    Janlokpal should check the corruption of the regulatory bodies. Which regulate the private companies.

     
  10. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Indeed, Raghavendra

    It is a quite a battle to show people that the faults of “capitalism” are ALWAYS the faults of bad governance.

    Let me try, if I can, to speak with Prashant.

    s

     

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