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Extract from my letter to India’s think tanks that promote liberty



I’ve never before come across any academic in India who formally teaches capitalism. It was therefore an amazing experience to come across David, who has taken membership of Swarna Bharat Party after reading my TOI article.

I’ve written about him here:

David and Debraj Mookerjee of Ramjas (Debraj, who has also joined SBP, is Sauvik Chakraverti’s cousin) are among India’s few true liberals. The distinction I draw between a true liberal and a student of liberty (like Hayek or the infinite number of “think tanks” of the world) is that the true liberal fights for liberty politically. In my view, liberty is purely political and has to be wrested back by each generation from the inevitable encroachments of liberty by government.

David had never heard of xx or xx )which also shows clearly that think tanks are essentially a pointless exercise. Liberty is political and we must engage in all politics, including student politics. It is amazing that students in Delhi – David studied in JNU – have not heard about India’s only liberal think tanks which are located right in the heart of Delhi).

I believe David will benefit significantly from getting to know you. You have some of the best collections in India on books of liberalism. As you know, Indian [university] libraries only contain socialist documents, so it will be great for David to visit your respective libraries and use them to further build his knowledge and expertise.

I trust you’ll also consider the that liberty is purely political and move into politics – and thus join Gurcharan Das, David Zou and Debraj Mookerjee in fighting for liberty, instead of merely studying it. There is a time for study and there is a time for action to fight for your own rights.

I hope that Debraj and David will help start a student wing of SBP. We need to take the message of liberty to the colleges and universities. Liberty must rule – in order to defend itself from its enemies.


Sanjeev Sabhlok

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18 thoughts on “Extract from my letter to India’s think tanks that promote liberty
  1. Joyson Fernandes

    “In my view, liberty is purely political and has to be wrested back by each generation from the inevitable encroachments of liberty by government.”

    This isn’t necessary. All we need to do is create a strong liberal constitution which prevents the government from growing bigger, encroaching on our freedoms, and being fiscally irresponsible. Then demand all political candidates and political parties to swear allegiance to the constitution; if they go against the basic principles of the constitution, they will be disbarred or the party will be deregistered or refused registration.

    Politics is not a game of cards. It’s about the entire nation, and all care must be taken to prevent demagogues from taking office and ruining our lives.

  2. Alex C

    >> “In my view, liberty is purely political and has to be wrested back by each generation from the inevitable encroachments of liberty by government.”

    > This isn’t necessary. All we need to do is create a strong liberal constitution which prevents the government from growing bigger, encroaching on our freedoms, and being fiscally irresponsible. Then demand all political candidates and political parties to swear allegiance to the constitution; if they go against the basic principles of the constitution, they will be disbarred or the party will be deregistered or refused registration.

    Dear naïve friend,

    People already tried this and failed, namely the USA, which is now a semi-socialist hellhole despite having a theoretically very sound Constitution. Never underestimate the enemies of liberty, especially when they congregate in High Places.

    The Tree of Liberty must truly be watered, from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants, as Jefferson said. I concur with Sanjeevji that Liberty must be fought for and re-gained in every generation, if we are to preserve the freedoms enjoyed by our fathers.

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok


    Given human tendencies towards statism, there is merit also in having a strong constitution that fosters liberty. I’d take US’s “semi-socialism” – after it 250 years of experience with a simple constitution – any time compared with India’s half-baked constitution with “directive principles” and other nonsense, as well as virtually non-existent freedoms.

    Indeed, one of the key projects of each generation should be to strengthen the constitution of their country.

    And of course, all that requires being in the thick of the political battles of the day.

    Are you member of SBP yet?


  4. Joyson Fernandes

    Alex, I’m not being naive.

    I’ve read the US constitution. It’s imperfect, ambiguous at certain places, and thus leaves the country susceptible to being hijacked by mercantilists and progressives.

    Government was actually quite small in the US until the late 19th century when the Supreme Court interpreted the document so as to give the state a much larger role in the economy and social welfare.

    The American constitution a great document which has served its country well, but what I’m talking about is an ideal classical liberal constitution which draws from what we now know about the failings of democracy and rectifies these errors.

    Ideally, we need a mix of the US constitution and Hong Kong’s Basic Law, with added constitutional limits restricting the scope of government functions.

  5. Raj

    Similar to the First Amendment, I suppose a clause for “economic rights” ought to be added which mentions that the government shall not partake itself in any form of business whatsoever and I’d also be in favour of having such an amendment for trade tariffs.

    If the constitution explicitly mentions that the government can NOT indulge in choosing tariff rates and that it must be maintained at 0% at all times, and likewise that it cannot hold equity or run a business. It would be a great way to make the country SOLIDLY economically free.

    As opposed what ALL countries in the world have today, wherein the government starts fiddling with tariff rates under the cry of “dumping” and keeps hovering around it as and when it’s political funders like it so. This would eliminate much scope for any such tariff play.

    This might be radical, very radical. But logical it is. I’m of the opinion that the government has no role in telling educational institutions what they ought to teach. It’s a contract between two private entities that the government has no reason to butt in to. Thus, I’d like to do away with the State drafting “school curricula” for children. This would bring in MUCH NEEDED flexibility in today’s breathtakingly fast world for institutions to adapt and offer only and only those courses which help gain employment.

    A boon for all. Of course, this would also mean harsh religious schools cannot be shut and forced to keep quiet. Thus, as a compromise, I propose reducing the State mandated curricula to be reduced to the age of 10-12, after which the private entities shall choose as it befits them.

    My views. But, of course, we can go chatting until I die. It’s pointless if we don’t start our political journey on ground, to begin with for a start.

  6. Raj

    And no Joyson, democracy and the God-given right of people to preach and promise whatever they like to the masses MUST RULE!

    If there are Communist parties which emerge and are able to be democratically elected, NO BODY has the right to bar them. You’re merely replacing the current model of swearing allegiance to socialism to one which forces people to swear allegiance to capitalism.

    This is bu******, I’m sorry to say. The freedom of every single citizen to contest, promise and win an election cannot be encroached upon. It’s just how a civilized system works.

  7. Joyson Fernandes

    BU****HIT! No, democracy must NEVER rule! Democracy is mob-rule! It’s tyranny in another form. It’s no better than dictatorship.

    Democracy is a terrible system! I don’t want a full-fledged democracy. True democracy involves the 59% voting to kill the other 41% or the majority voting to cancel democracy as was the case in ancient Athens. Hitler was brought to power democratically, so as per your logic, final solution was right?

    I want a constitutional republic with a LIMITED democracy to change governments and lawmakers. There should always be freedom with accountability! There is no freedom to commit harm, even for the state. Freedom is NOT license! Otherwise there should also be freedom to urinate and defecate on the side of the road.

    There is no fundamental right to contest elections. There is a qualifier! Nobody says that criminals have the right to contest elections. It should be the same for political demagogues as well, whose actions cause incalculable harm to the economic well-being, security, and freedoms of an entire country.

    We need a strong constitution and every party as well as political candidate must swear allegiance to the principles and limited government. This is not a video game, in which you can lose once and start all over! This is the fate of 1.2 billion people at stake.

    To the extent which democracy exists, it is just a tool to protect our freedoms. Our freedoms come first! Not democracy! My allegiance is just to freedom. I couldn’t care less about democracy.

  8. Joyson Fernandes

    The state exists just to protect our freedoms. We don’t exist for the state. Democracy should be curbed of its dangerous tendencies to allow the majority to infringe on the rights of the individual. Otherwise it’s a pair of bollocks I have no interest in.

  9. Joyson Fernandes

    Raj, you don’t want a civilized society, because you believe in mob rule. You believe in democracy as a religion. To you Raj, democracy is an end in itself.

    According to you, the majority gets to decide whether they want a Hindu state or a communist system, and the rest of us are supposed to be oppressed and accept it as it is. That’s BULL****!

    Democracy is not a Ganges that gives sanctity to immoral decisions taken by the majority. The nature of an immoral act doesn’t change if the majority legislates it.

    To me, individual freedom is the end in itself. The state is just the tool to preserve individual freedoms. It needs RULES to ensure freedom with accountability. Otherwise there is chaos and anarchy! Hence a constitution which every political party and candidate must swear allegiance to.

  10. Raj

    I see what you’re saying Joyson. Believe me or not, I can’t WAIT, can’t BLOODDDYY WAIT to see the day the Indian State protects my God-given INDIVIDUAL freedoms which will NOT be infringed on by tyrants. I care for freedom mate. It’s why I itch and wait to see that post and wait for that day with eagerness that a post comes out here saying “We’re contesting elections”. I keep hope, patience and perseverance.

    But then again, if 25% of the populace believes in Liberty, and the rest believe in Stone-worshipping tyranny. I ask of you, how is it that 25% of the populace can subjugate 75% of the populace under the laws they desire?

    How do you propose to set up this utopian land wherein the law is Liberty, and that it never can be changed. Do you plan to keep the other 75% down by the use of arms?

    Mate, we can’t force liberty onto others. And yes, as long we do not have the MAJORITY on our side, it may not be just for us to have our laws in place.

    Yes, to me Democracy trumps personal freedom. I know it’s mob-rule. But, I’d rather have my fate being decided by 600 million people that by 1 liberty loving person who may, one fine day, choose to take a liking to Islam.

    Democracy is majoritarianism. But fellow liberty-lover, to my mind, I cant think of a system that can be more fairer as of yet.

    And no, if we want to prevent the majority from infringing our rights, we’ve got two choices friend: get a military dictatorship which believes in liberty and set the laws in stone, or CONVINCE and create a liberty-believing majority.

    The pros of the latter is that, with all the pain with convincing and all, we might change our culture for real, for a long, long time to come. With the dictatorship, it’s just easy come easy go I’d guess..

  11. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Actually democracy is not majoritarianism. It is intended to operate within a firm constitutional framework which limits government. So constitutions are critical.

    Second, India is not a democracy but a klepocracy. Only thieves and crooks are currently able to join the system.

    I do agree with you that even the klepocracy we have in India is preferable to a dictatorship where there are too many risks involved of mad individuals coming to power (not every dictator is Lee Kuan Yew; most are Stalin or Mao).

    At least within a democracy there is a chance for people to persuade others.

    So we need to work for a democracy but with a very strong constitution that protects individual rights. Unfortunately that, too, will never protect liberty permanently. The human animal quickly reverts to form as a tribal brute. Group think and callousness in the face of crowds comes naturally. Liberty has to be actively fought for and defended by each generation.

  12. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Let me add – that everyone needs to get behind SBP and promote it widely in every possible way – or India isn’t going anywhere. Instead, its best people will keep flooding out of the country.

  13. Raj

    I wonder Sanjeev. What is it that we’re lacking to get people on our side? Is it the lack of ground volunteers who go to the masses, on the streets and tell them of us? Or is it the lack of political funding to run advertisements and all?

    Now that we’ve got the new Finance Bill which abolishes companies from mentioning how much they donate and to whom, I think the avenues to get political funding are pretty open. I’m very sure there at be some organisation out there, some business, which love our ideology of the free market and would we willing to fund us. Using which we can run advertisements and create greater outreach.

    Then, once we find passionate enough individuals, we can start street campaigns with a city focus and create a liberal strength within those cities. After which we can be ready for the electoral vote. Will the Horasis conference be helping us out with any of this perhaps?

  14. Raj

    I do not admire Lee Kuan Yew. The guy clearly hated liberty and was an economic nationalist at best. Much to the likes of Xi Jinping.

    His economic policy clearly shows this wherein he had tariff controls as long as he got to create the products he wanted the economy to produce. And besides, the Temasek has MASSIVE control over their economy still, that’s massive government control apart from which they’ve got power to set price slabs and all.

    Liberty is for the government to withdraw. He, if anything, is even worser than Modi in that respect. At least Modi’s got a tougher skin for semi-free Media. The atypical Confucian hierarchy-respect typa guy.

  15. Joyson Fernandes

    Bro, it’s always the individual who counts. The individual and his rights! Society is a collection of individuals. Only minorities matter, not majorities! And the smallest minority in the world is the individual.

    That’s the core tenet of liberalism. Everything else is a tool to preserve liberty.

    I am not demanding subjugation of anyone, but that the majority be prevented from infringing on the rights of minorities. Simple as that, the maximization of individual freedoms subject to accountability.

    The rest is fair. Let the majority decides other issues, but they have no right to legislate on individual rights. We need a good constitution protecting individual liberties and that’s that.

    The constitution can be set up only by liberals getting a two third majority in Lok Sabha. And yes, we need to convince the majority of people that we are the right option. That is what SBP is about. Whether any of that will ever happen, only time will tell.

    As stated earlier, I support a constitutional republic with LIMITED democratic powers (like the US), but it’s not the same as Democracy. Democracy is the majority voting on anything. That is tyranny. Certain things shouldn’t be voted on. Most people when they think of democracy have this conception in mind. I’ve always strongly opposed this.

    I’ve never stated that I want dictatorship for India. I hope that’s clear.

  16. Joyson Fernandes

    Sanjeev, for India, I want a constitutional republic with limited democratic powers, a classical liberal constitution, and embedded with the right incentives to prevent criminals and demagogues from coming to power.

    I’ve also mentioned this in my article about theory of state:

    So to make it clear, I’m not advocating dictatorship for India.

  17. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Lacking? Well, everything.

    Our problems are manifold – one, we don’t have many committed leaders who are in this for the long haul; second, we aren’t getting much air in the media (unlike Arvind Kejriwal’s clean sweep of the media in 2012-13); third, even the so-called liberals aren’t writing about SBP; fourth, we aren’t getting any funding from anywhere.

    Who are you, indeed? You are hiding your name, as well! When the handful of liberals in India try to hide their name, and never ever write about SBP or spread its message, why ask such questions?


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