Thoughts on economics and liberty

Gandhi’s Eleven Point ideology

Bose cites Gandhi’s Eleven points in the last chapter of his book. He then labels Gandhi a reformer, not a revolutionary, thereby distancing himself from this lukewarm, which he calls “capitalist”, vision of Gandhi.

What are these points? Below (detailed in the same book, by Bose):


On January 30th he issued a statement in his paper, Young India, saying that he would be content with the ‘substance of independence’ and he mentioned eleven points to explain what he meant by that expression. At the same time he virtually gave up the use of the word ‘independence’ and substituted in its place the more elastic expression, ‘substance of independence’, or another expression especially coined by him — namely, ‘Purna Swaraj’, which he could interpret in his own way. The eleven points enunciated by him had a reassuring effect on all circles that had been alarmed by the idea of independence and they paved the way for lengthy negotiations in the months to follow. The eleven points were as follows:

1. Total prohibition. [Sanjeev: This point which is at the top of his list is a collectivist and illiberal idea. Gandhi can therefore never be said to favour capitalism and freedom. Kautilya was for regulated alcohol, which is the only sensible approach.]

2. Reduction of the ratio (of the rupee to the pound sterling) from 1s. 6d. to 1s. 4d. [Sanjeev: This is absurd – that such a meaningless thing ranked high on Gandhi’s list. Clearly he had no idea of money, nor any understanding of sound money]

3. Reduction of the land revenue to at least 50 per cent and making it subject to legislative control. [Sanjeev: Land tax is perhaps the most efficient, the least distortionary, of all taxes. What Gandhi is doing here is imagining some type of “reform” but doesn’t know anything about the subject]

4. Abolition of the Salt Tax. [Sanjeev: one can partly agree with him. There should be a general GST, not specific to individual commodities. But I’m not sure Gandhi would have accepted a salt GST.]

5. Reduction of the military expenditure to at least 50 per cent to begin with. [Sanjeev: This is absurd, once again. Defence is a core function of the government. This needs strong support by the taxpayer.]

6. Reduction of the salaries of the higher graded services to one half or less so as to suit the reduced revenue. [Sanjeev: While salaries of the bureaucracy should be consistent with revenue, the underlying idea is socialist – which was used by Nehru to cause acute corruption in India.]

7. Protective tariff on foreign cloth. [Sanjeev: Protectionism is totally illiberal]

8. The passage of the Coastal Traffic Reservation Bill (reserving to Indian ships the coastal traffic of India). [Sanjeev: This is protectionist nonsense]

9. Discharge of all political prisoners save those condemned for murder, or the attempt thereat, by the ordinary judicial tribunal; withdrawal of all political prosecutions; abrogation of Section 124a (Indian Penal Code), the Regulations of 1818 and the like; and permission to all the Indian exiles to return.

10. Abolition of the C.I.D. (Criminal Investigation Department) or its popular control.

11. Issue of licences to use fire-arms for self-defence, subject to popular control. [Sanjeev: Here Gandhi is in favour of guns – something that is a liberal idea. Only problem: Gandhi never had a clear ideology regarding anything.]


Despite his total confusion, India was very fortunate to have Gandhi. Given there was almost no one around who understood liberty (Ambedkar understood it very faintly), it was extremely fortunate for India to have Gandhi as a check on extremist (communist/fascist) views.

For example, Gandhi was critical in the removal of Subhash Chandr Bose from Congress leadership in 1939, the year that Hitler came to power. Had Bose managed to get a free hand, he would certainly have become a Mao or Hitler. And India would have become a communist-fascist dictatorship. There would have been mass mayhem, terror and mass murder.

So Gandhi’s confusion was extremely helpful in keeping extremist communist and socialist forces in check. He even managed to moderate Nehru’s extremism.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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