Thoughts on economics and liberty

Are Sagarika Ghose’s views on liberalism evolving?

I chanced upon Sagarika Ghose’s ideas sporadically over the years, but did not particularly pay attention since no one had suggested she is a liberal.

But upon reading her April 2018 articles on Kathau incident (this and this) I decided to spend a bit of time to explore her views.

I looked through: A charter for liberal Indians: Liberals, it’s time to boldly and constantly assert your vision of patriotism

In this, she wrote: “Indian liberals, your quest is individual freedom. Your ancestors are Gandhi, Tagore, Ambedkar, Nehru (who was a social liberal if not an economic one) even a C Rajagopalachari, all of whom believed in the individual over dominant state power.”

I guess there is a sense in which Nehru could be called liberal – but only in a very partial sense. But, of course, “even” a Rajaji was far superior to Nehru in almost every way from the ideological perspective.

I’ve not yet had a chance to read her book, “Why I am a liberal” but from her description of the work of Sharad Joshi, I’m fairly comfortable that she at least understands what genuine liberalism stands for.

Recently in a discussion the following documents were pointed out to me. The three views expressed there are summarised below:

VIEW THAT SAGARIKA DOESN’T SUPPORT FREE SPEECH

VIEW THAT SAGARIKA CONSIDERS NEHRU AND HIS IITs etc. TO BE USEFUL CONTRIBUTIONS

VIEW THAT SAGARIKA CONSIDERS WELFARE STATE SUPPORTER TRUDEAU TO BE A LIBERAL

The detailed comments on the FB page cited above are quite scathing.

MY RESPONSE

  1. I do not agree with Sagarika’s view that cartoons are intended to be “weapons of laughter, not of war”. Who “intended” them? There is no law that says so. And can’t ever say so. In my view, a cartoonist or creator (or writer) is ALL SUPREME in his or her freedom of speech and can “use” it for whatever purpose he or she wishes. Freedom of speech means nothing if it does not include the freedom to offend. The cartoonist’s freedom must be protected at all costs – even if one disagrees with what he or she is representing. In the case of Charlie Hebdo – the topic was of of extreme significance, and I believe it is an absolute fundamental right to draw the cartoons of any religious “figure”. Religion can’t be protected from being mocked.
  2. I agree that Nehru created “modern India” but this is not the India one wants to live in – where his own party (the Congress) is the acme of corruption (as I’ve shown here in Times of India blogs), where socialism has destroyed all human values. My book Breaking Free of Nehru explains – even as it takes a relatively “favourable” view of Nehru in a few matters cases. But no, IITs and IIMs were a terrible “contribution” – a disaster in so many ways one can hardly begin to describe. (And btw, it was Patel who is responsible for IAS – Nehru had opposed it – so he was actually right on this matter.)
  3. While I don’t know much about Trudeau’s welfare socialism, I agree that even if he was, he would be worthy of respect as leader of a great nation: Canada.

So what I’m beginning to suspect is that Sagarika is – like all of us – evolving her views incrementally, and I’ll comment further on this matter after reading her book. Finally, there is no option for the liberals of India to change the mind of a billion people. This is, in the end, an educational journey.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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