Thoughts on economics and liberty

My second comment on Arvind Kejriwal’s Swaraj

A few months ago I pointed out some very serious flaws with Arvind's book, Swaraj. This is my second comment.

Shailesh Saraf asked today the following on FB:

This is in response to your question on Swaraj below. I hope other FTI members will also weigh in.

I am surprised that at least some FTI members do not appreciate the simple and sexy concept outlined in Arvind Kejriwal's book 'Swaraj'. Here's my quick take. We face 2 big issues: Too much government and too much centralization of power. Swaraj directly addresses the second issue and indirectly solves the first one. Every village/mohalla that is fully empowered to decide its own issues will discuss in its general assembly and allocate all issues in 3 buckets: 1) issues to be solved and executed collectively by everyone 2) to be delegated to representatives and 3) to be left to the market. Even if most villages initially keep most issues in the 1st bucket, competition among villages for talent, capital and other resources, will quickly force all villages to move towards less govt. Further, much easier for you to sell liberty to the few thousand people in your village vs. selling it to 1.2 bn people. Even if you fail or don't want to, much easier for you to move to your preferred village from the lakhs of available options vs. having to move to a different country altogether.

My response

Shalish, the problem is most fundamental. The classical liberal demands liberty as the first principle. Just direct self-rule doesn't meet this requirement. A constitutional limitation on government is the key.

Arvind's Swaraj is extremely confused. It doesn't start with liberty as its premise. It jumps too many steps in a sensible policy thinking process. Please check the policy competition template at: for an idea of what such steps might involve.

I'm happy to see a single policy that meet's Arvind's mental model and qualifies the FTI policy template. I suggest that is impossible since Arvind's models is focused on self-governance.

That is an entirely incorrect way to look at things, for it ignores the purpose of government. Decentralisation of power is ONLY valid within the framework of a tightly limited role for government (at any level, including village). I advocate strong but LIMITED self-government – that is very strongly circumscribed constitutionally.

Arvind's model doesn't display any theory of state. Anything goes, so long as a village decides. That's totally inimical to classical liberal rule of law model.

In brief, if a Gram Sabha says I can't drink alcohol, that is NOT acceptable – if it also has the power to enforce it. There can be NO Gram Sabha anywhere in India with power to impose its will and reduce ANYONE'S LIBERTY.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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5 thoughts on “My second comment on Arvind Kejriwal’s Swaraj
  1. Prakash


    I disagree here. As a person who is in favour of markets, I believe that the next step really has to be political markets. We need a hayekian discovery of the law structure that is most appropriate for India.

    I have not read the swaraj proposal, but I am extrapolating this from Shailesh’s comment.

    I agree with the decentralized law proposal as long as a right to exit is guaranteed to all citizens who are not criminals in the commonly agreed criminal law of the union.

    As long as a right to exit is guaranteed to every citizen, for a person seeking to drink alcohol, it is relatively easy to go to the next jurisdiction that allows the same. And if the frequent movement is an issue, one can permanently move to other jurisdictions.

    Obviously this will imply things like hanging for marrying within gotra cannot be decided by gram sabhas. There will have to be a common criminal code. There might also need to be goods movement laws that are relatively more central. For eg. if cows for slaughter have to move from one muslim dominated district (where slaughter is legal) to another, via a hindu dominated district where it is illegal, there may need to be passing provisions in the central law. Similar such laws may be needed for alcohol and such similar issues.

    I can easily envisage an India where a thousand independent district jurisdictions eagerly publish the benefits of living in their district to every person who passes out from 12th standard. rich jurisidictions can proclaim their cosmopolitan self and high standard of life. Poor jurisidictions can promise a much higher rate of growth for investments. Dharmic jurisidictions can proclaim their adherence to their codes of life, while liberal jurisdictions can promise the ability to drink, snort, inject, smoke, gamble and fornicate.

    We are all not the same and there is no reason that there has to be one law ruling all. Where the liberal policy structure does come in is in providing the agreement framework within these many possibilities.

  2. Mayur

    Nothing can go against the basic principles of constitution.Im sure that nothing will go beyond the constitution…if it does,it can be referred to the constitution bench of the supreme court and will be taken care of.Unfounded worry.


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