Thoughts on economics and liberty

Analysis of comments received recently on SBP manifesto

A gentleman from Singapore spent considerable time to study and comment on SBP’s manifesto. I’m posting his comments below. My clarifications are in blue. Where I use green text, it is to indicate agreement with the gentleman. In some of these cases I’ve agreed to change the manifesto):

===COMMENTS==

The SBP manifesto is unlike any other. The emphasis on freedom and liberty is unique and also very essential for our country. [Thanks. That’s the key difference between a liberal and all others which are socialist parties.]

Some of my comments are listed below:

  1. The manifesto is spot-on on leashing the government. But, how to implement?

Right now, the bureaucracy is too strong, following the structure of the colonial era. But the power of the Executive, is not so well defined, also following the structure of the colonial era – in particular The Government of India Act of 1935. The power of the Cabinet (or that of the PM) can be autocratic, pathetic or chaotic depending on the support of MPs in the Parliament. Strangely, the SBP manifesto does not talk about coalition or alliance governments. In my humble opinion, unless the power of the Executive is streamlined to be always higher than that of the bureaucracy, leashing the steel-frame bureaucracy is unthinkable. [That’s why are offering a political party to India – to fix the mess. It will need a clear mandate, a clear majority, by the people of India. No coalition can help.]

  1. Chap-1 Clause 1e talks about radically eliminating corruption within 3 years.

There is no clear cut methods listed in the manifesto as to how this will be achieved. Corruption is so rooted both in public and private sectors, not sure how simply making some new laws by new people will do any good. [Not true. The manifesto is superbly clear on this: the electoral reforms, the political incentive reforms, the bureaucratic reforms, the accountability mechanisms, and getting the government out of business.]

  1. Chap-1 Clause 2a – state and religion kept entirely separate –

In the UK, state dinners are blessed by the priests. In the US, the presidents take oath by placing oath on Bible. In the US currency it is written, “In God we trust”.  So, what are we trying to convey by declaring ‘state and religion kept separate’. [This interpretation can be questioned. See Jefferson, for instance. And a recent atheist PM of Australia] Or is it another way of saying that India will be a secular country? The culture of India cannot be contained in the strict regimes of any organized religion. Hindu culture cannot be called as Hindu religion and apply the same rules of measure along with the likes of Christianity and Islam. [Religion is a private matter. There is no role for our servant, the government, to tell us anything about religion.]

  1. Chap-1 Clause 2c – suspending agri loan during a transition period –

Why farmers need to take loan in the first place? Their lands became less fertile than before due to the use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, so more of them are required for cultivation going forward. So, money is required for these inorganic fertilizers and pesticides. The farming is becoming unsustainable and everyone is talking about organic farming, which only rich can afford. It’s a pity that India had always been organic and became inorganic only during the last 50 years or so.

In the name of scientific research, farmers were misguided to the advantages of using new seeds that produce more. Now, the fertility of the top soil is lost. Science without conscience has always led to violence. How naïve are we to assume that it is OK to kill the pests and insects, so we can have all the produce to ourselves? [SBP policy is based on science. It is true that in India the regulation of fertilisers and pesticides is non-existent but in the West there is no degradation of soil since regulations are enforced. Organic won’t be able to feed India and has no nutritional advantage.]

  1. Chap-2 Clause 2.2 – Often questionable achievements of the distant past –

It is understood that we should not live in the past glory. But, we have to accept that there had been significant achievements made in subjects like Mathematics, Architecture, Astronomy, medicine, Science,  etc.,

Indians did not think the world could be flat! They knew instinctively that it is round. Not only that, they knew that there were planets orbiting the sun and displayed them in every temple! It is time that we recognize these feats. Yes, we do not know as to how they could possibly know without telescopes? This is a valid question. But the achievements themselves cannot be classified as questionable. Indians did not use science for violence whereas most other cultures did! [It is incorrect to glorify the past. The past belongs to all of mankind. We need to learn the best that is there in the world today and move forward.]

  1. Chap-2 Clause 2.2.1 – woman are protected and respected –

Why only woman? Let us all be protected and respected. [Already mentioned in the manifesto]

  1. Chap-2 Clause 2.3 – have only one program to eliminate poverty –

Very Good idea.

  1. Chap-3 Overall it was a good start –

I do not agree that our constitution was a good start, it was fundamentally flawed from the very beginning. Colonial bureaucracy and the Government of India Act of 1935 with its diarchial redundancies at every level of governance are the basic tenets of our constitution. Making millions of voters collectively responsible for the stability of the government is by far the most ridiculous of ideas. [Our original constitution would get 6 out of 10. My analysis of its failures is found at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/seeing-the-invisible/india-has-a-colonial-constitution-made-worse-by-socialist-intervention/

  1. Chap 3.2.1.1 Including animals we consume for food –

Well done.

  1. Chap 3.3.3 Many official events involve lighting a lamp
  • Lighting a lamp in official functions was probably done even during the times of Arthashastra, well before the advent of these competitive religions.
  • Enough of indifference to our culture and no thanks to our “secular” parties who have no idea what Indian culture is!
  • It is the culture that told its people to feed the ants first thing in the morning by using rice flour kolams (rangoli) at the house entrance.
  • There are probably more vedic scholars in Germany than in India!
  • There are 14 universities in Germany that teach Sanskrit and yet the demand cannot be fulfilled. Now they are starting Sanskrit classes in Italy and Switzerland. Why? They want to read the original texts in Sanskrit as these are earliest thoughts and discoveries.
  • Western students learn yoga in school and are we are going to deny that treasure to our children? [It is not the business of government, which is our servant, to dabble in religion and culture. And we are not living in a monarchy, nor do we want one.]
  1. Chap 3.3.3.1 Religious freedom necessarily includes the freedom to convert i.e to change one’s beliefs

Religious freedom means to practise one’s belief without any fear. Full stop. Trying to convert other person is violence. [Why is persuasion violence? Disagree. ]

Religious freedom does not include harbouring an intention to convert any other person. Having an intention to convert or the act of converting is an act of violence.

  1. Chap 3.3.7 Right to own gun

This is outrageous! In fact, we should make ‘possession of a gun’ as a crime with mandatory life or death sentence. This will end all violence and terrorism. [Totally disagree. Our servant, the government, has been the greatest criminal in human history. Citizens, who are sovereign, need to be able to arm themselves against government and also for self-defence – under regulated conditions.]

Of course, there could be some exceptions for people living in forests and hills, however, the guns must have RFID tracking systems.

  1. Chap 4.2.3.2 Local boards to supervise

Excellent idea!

  1. Chap 4.2.3.2 higher authorities or even to Media

The details of ultimate ownership of newspaper and TV companies must be displayed. In case of newspapers, on every page and in case of TV, at least every one hour and at every commercial break during news and news analysis programs. [This is too much detail. Appropriate regulation can be made as necessary]

  1. Chap 5.2.1.4 Trade unions and companies

Political donations can only be made by individuals, not by body corporates, whether trade unions or companies. [This is not SBP’s policy. All that’s needed is transparency and agreement of the Board of the company/ union.]

  1. Chap 5.2.2.4 to be widely publicised by the returning officers

It is better to mandate the contestants to display these details in their posters. [That can be considered in the future – if online disclosure by ROs is found insufficient]

  1. Chap 5.2.2.7 SBP … will abide by a world-best Code of Conduct … avoid conflict of interest …

What is world best? Even USA has powerful lobbies to influence the law makers. How SBP will achieve this? [SBP has its own Code of Conduct and we are committed to continually improving it.]

  1. Chap 5.3.1 Anti-defection law

How about coalition governments? What happens to the sovereign contracts with the masters (people) in this case, if the pre-poll alliance partner withdraws support and joins another alliance? [Good question. But in a Wesminster system, so long as the MP concerned follows the guidance of the party he has not violated this contract. But this should definitely be considered in more detail.]

  1. Chap 5.3.4 Costing election commitments

Not sure, how it can be done. [This is standard practice in many Western countries, e.g. Australia. A Parliamentary Budget Office can do this]

But, we can have a simple rule that no populist give-outs can be done in any year of deficit budgets.

  1. Chap 6 From the moment go, we expect government servants to be honest

How and why will the government servants have the change of heart? [As the system shifts, only a fool will continue with corruption.]

  1. Chap 6.1.4 Global competition for Joint Sec and above

Although the idea of open competition is good, I am not convinced if Global level competition is required. Can we not find a handful of honest, hardworking and intelligent officers from among 1.3 billion Indians? Obviously, civil administration is not rocket science? However, we may get global open competition to hire CEOs to run our PSUs. [As far as I know – and I know hundreds of them – NOT ONE IAS OFFICER HAS THE SKILLS of ordinary good CEOs and department leaders in the West. Let us not limit competition for talent to India. The country deserves the best.]

  1. Chap 7.1 Sales of public sector undertakings within 4 years

Firm timeline for the sale of public sector undertakings will put a downward pressure on their market price. As a result, country will lose big time. [Not a sustainable argument. The country is already losing massively. We will transfer assets, including to workers, to increase productivity of those assets]

Although it is unfortunate that India has so many PSUs (because of earlier policies), selling all of them at the same time is not the only solution.

If the corruption can be ended in the bureaucracy and CEOs can be hired through global open competition, it is quite possible for the PSUs to become profitable.

We can look at the Singapore model as most of the big Singapore companies are linked to the Government of Singapore, yet they are professionally managed and profitable. [Tamasek is quite a distinct entity and there is no intention to replicate Tamasek in India. Let the government get out of all business. Period.]

  1. Chap 7.4 Sound money

Private Currencies backed by gold – sounds like a tall order. Such moves will probably benefit the price of gold and gold producing countries more. [In the end, free banking will ensure the most reliable forms of money – the main thing is to get the government out of this business]

  1. Chap 8.2.1.4 We do not object to foreign voluntary organizations

Rejecting foreign aid is a good policy, either from foreign governments or from foreign voluntary organizations. Everything will have a cost. In fact, getting aid from a foreign government is in a way better compared to getting aid from foreign voluntary organizations. This is because you can never know the real owners / decision makers behind these organizations and their real motive for such aid. We can only accept aid or donations only from individual private citizens from all over the world and not from any organization. [Foreign government funding is generally the worst, as it goes through the Indian government, leading to significant corruption. When a foreign NGO funds development or education work, there is direct supervision by the donors of the work. Much better. If any religious work is being done in the guise of NGO, such NGO would be deregistered.]

  1. Chap 8.2.1.6 International Organizations

Agreed. Unaccountable bureaucracy is clearly a problem. This is applicable to all foreign voluntary organizations also (discussed in the point above).

  1. Chap 9.1 Cameras

All government offices should have full video surveillance, especially at all points of public interactions.

  1. Chap 9.3.2 Jammu and Kashmir

Agreed. Abrogation of Article 370 – is the only way to integrate J&K into India. Sometimes, people make unfair compromises for short term gains resulting in phenomenal pains and confusions to generations.

  1. Chap 9.3.4 Ayodhya Temple

It is rather sad that the people of Ayodhya have no say in this matter. But, hopefully, when the local self-governments become more powerful and autonomous, these issues will get resolved at local levels.

  1. Chap 9.3.6 It will be ensured that no citizen of India is harassed.

Let us not harass any living being, whether citizen of India or not.

  1. Chap 10.2

Why should the people who bribe be punished at all? Only the officers who take bribes must be punished. Let us separate the bribe givers and takers and see what happens! [Only those who bribe judges are included in this category. Attempts to bribe judges are amount to a direct attack on the foundation of justice and rule of law. A very serious crime]

  1. Chap 10.2.2 Jury system

Very good idea, but selection of the jurors and protecting their identities (at least until the commencement of the trial) will be a challenge. Moreover, we may consider including students above 21 years of age doing post graduate studies and retirees also. [These points can be included when the system starts]

  1. Chap 10.2.3 Bribery of judges by governments to be punished

Good. This can be an exception where if a bribe giver is a government officer, then he can be punished. But, punishable by death appears too high for bribe giving. [This is one area where the most stringent punishment is well deserved. Kautilya would have agreed.] But, bribe takers may be punished by death sentence. However, we have to remember, giving death sentence means the person has become too dangerous to the society and beyond correction. [This is about deterrence against such crimes against the nation, not about the risk to society]

  1. Chap 10.3.2.1 Parliament to appoint all supreme court judges

Excellent idea. But sadly, the parliament is so degraded right now, common man thinks officers (and judges) are better than the politicians!  [We are talking about a new system. If India is to continue the way it is today, there is no hope for anyone in that nation.]

  1. Chap 10.7.10

May not be relevant now. [Yes, will be removed in any future revision]

  1. Chap 10.7.14.5

Excellent idea. All government offices should be monitored by cameras including the courts.

  1. Chap 11.1.5

Fair. But, I hope there is no prejudice against religious gurus. [The problem is when land is gifted. Government land should not be given for such purposes anyway, and if it is, must be sold at market value through an auction.]

  1. Chap 12.1

Already addressed above. Over supply of these PSUs will force the market values to fall.

Having gotten these assets (due to wrong policies of our socialist governments), we should hire professionals from all over the world to run these corporations following Singapore model. Also, PSU employees should not get more benefits than employees in the private sector. To me, indiscriminate selling of assets is grossly irresponsible. Selling of these assets should be carried out very slowly and thoughtfully, without having any fixed time frame, one at a time.

  1. Chap 12.2.2

As the 4th estate, media such as Newspaper and TV have their roles in any democracy. However, as private entities they may have their overriding concerns of profits. In some cases, they may act as beacons of ideology of their owners.

To ensure survival – The government can reimburse costs for a few pages of accurate reporting to a few newspapers / TV channels selected by auction process. Or if Doordarshan is run by professionals and turn profitable, then it is OK also.

Against beacons of ideology – The details of ultimate ownership of newspaper and TV companies must be displayed. In case of newspapers, on every page and in case of TV, at least every one hour and at every commercial break during news and news analysis programs. [Do not agree with any regulation or subsidisation of media. Doordarshan must be wound up – no excuse to continue it]

  1. Chap 12.2.4 Crop Insurance system

Insurance is only a tool that transmits the risk from the farmer to another party. The risk remains the same and there will be a cost to assume that risk, which will be borne by the consumer ultimately.

Our objective should be to reduce that risk with making the land fertile (without having to spray costly inorganic fertilizers and insecticides) and suitable for multiple crops in a year and most importantly for the farmer to go about his business without having to take bank loans. If one crop fails, it shouldn’t break the farmer. [There is no role for government in telling farmers what to do. Some regulation against misuse of fertilisers/ pesticides can be introduced. Beyond that the farmer should fend for himself.]

  1. Chap 12.2.5

Generally good ideas; however before these can be implemented the policy making and implementation regimes should be strong and accountable. For example, before allowing FDI in agriculture, we need to have our policies right to ensure food security. Not only that, we have to ensure that the food is safe for human consumption. [Food is in huge excess in the world. There will be no food security issues if markets are allowed free play.]

We cannot allow global companies to come to India and do research on genetically modified foods and modify crops for human consumption, which they cannot do in their own countries. [We are driven by science and do not have any pre-determined views in favour or against such research.] If organic food is better and safer than the food produced using inorganic fertilizers and insecticides, then all the citizens have the right to organic food. We cannot create 2 levels of food, one affordable for the poor and another costly food for the rich.

With the motivation of the private sector to earn profits and their short term focus on quarterly reports, we cannot expect the private sector to always do the right thing. [Shubh labh is good for a reason. Let’s harness profit for the public good, not fight it]

  1. Chap 12.3.1 Small Scale Industries

Not sure if 3 years time frame is sufficient to wean these industries from government subsidies that were provided for decades. [It has already taken 20 years for SBP to reach this stage. By the time SBP comes to power, the companies would have had plenty of notice]

  1. Chap 12.4.2 Insurance Markets

Insurance companies do not help to reduce any risk. They are only assuming risk for a fee paid in advance. So, what is the meaning of FDI in this case? How India will be benefited by allowing such foreign companies into the country? [Insurance is a highly skilled business. We want the best skills to be available to consumers.]

  1. Chap 13 Insufficient use of modern technology

Chap 13.2.6.4 GMO

Chap 13.2.6.6 Organic

What if the modern technology itself could have caused poor soil fertility? Inorganic fertilizers and pesticides are certainly the results of modern technology.

Western science has used most of its technology for violence. [Disagree with such a statement. The huge increase in longevity across the world is ENTIRELY due to Western science.] So, technology cannot be trusted blindly.

  1. Chap 14.2.1

If all government universities, technical colleges and the like will be sold off by the 30th month, can you imagine the loss of value due to excess supply? My comments are same as for the PSUs. There should be no timeline for the selling off. May be we could just lease the land and the facilities instead of outright selling. [Outright selling is the only sensible way to get high quality education in India – the government should at best regulate, never directly own or operate any such business]

  1. Chap 14.2.2

Loan recovery methods such as bank guarantees and endorsements on the passports (giving another avenue for the immigration officers to harass the people) etc., appear too harsh, for students travelling overseas. As a matter of fact, students who travel abroad will most likely make regular remittances to their families in India and if the banking systems are reformed, recovery shouldn’t be too difficult. [Disagree. This is a huge issue even in countries like Australia, where students go off to USA never to return. Loans must be paid off by students before they leave the country.]

  1. Chap 15.1

Having an intention to convert or the act of converting is an act of violence against the society. Need to resolve this first. If conversion is correct or not? If conversion is deemed correct, then why disallow foreign money for it? [Conversion domestically is about freedom of expression and freedom to persuade. But religion is also political. Foreign money for conversion can endanger the country’s existence, and must be curbed.]

  1. Chap 16.1.1 Over the course of the first 30 months, all government schools …

Same comment. If all the government schools are sold within 30 months, government will get the lowest possible returns due to over supply.

  1. Chap 16.1.2.1 No school should teach specific religious practices

British and German kids chant vedic rhymes and learn yoga at school, whereas for Indian kids, only parents need to teach! The treasures of ancient India are the only real treaures of modern India for human transformation and evolution. [Parents should be free to teach such things to their children directly or in private schools of their choice. I personally disagree that ancient India has any “treasures”. Even Gurcharan Das who is allegedly a votary of the Mahabharata has been supporting criminal Modi. These “treasures” don’t instil even the slightest integrity in India, I’m afraid. ]

  1. Chap 16.1.2.2

Not very clear. On one hand, the objective is to leave education in the hands of the private enterprise. On the other hand, government wants to rapidly create an army of world-class teachers with special funding. [Agreed that this is a contradiction. The private sector will surely organise itself to meet the need. I’m persuaded that this policy is not necessary and will remove it from the next revision of the manifesto.]

Again the same issue on selling. Due to oversupply, the government will get the lowest returns. We may consider leaving education, hospitals etc., under the local governments. A primary school in a village may be monitored well by the village panchayat and so on. [Not necessary. The private sector has sufficient monitoring by parents. Panchayats etc. can guide but not have a formal role]

  1. Chap 17.4

We have to accept a fact that the research on health is generally conducted on unhealthy people. Healthy people seldom go anywhere near a hospital. If in a village there are 100 kids and one of them is affected by Polio, then the health system gets to analyse only the affected kid. There is no system to analyse why the other 99 kids were not affected!  There are isolated instances of people talking against vaccination. There are concerns that vaccination might be causing diseases such as autism. We don’t know, what else?

Out of 100 kids one got polio, so we go on with this indiscriminative vaccination drive, then out of 100 kids one gets autism, are we any better off? [This view on vaccination is not supported by evidence on prevention of infant mortality by vaccines]

  1. Chap 17.5 Drug Policy

We should have a very equal mind towards health, by not accepting modern medicine or the other Indian ones, completely unconditionally.

  1. Chap 17.8 Alcohol Policy

Agree with the policy generally, except the statement ‘In moderation, alcohol can be good for health.’ [Agreed. This is unnecessary in a manifesto and will be removed.] People go for a drink in the evening for some happiness. But, this happinesss comes only by dulling their minds. How can something that dulls the human mind be good? In today’s world, any industry group can commission a scientific study and declare something is good for health.

  1. Chap 18.4.1 Drinking Water

Ensuring easily accesible drinking water may be considered as a priority item, not in the second order functions of the government. [The more I study about it, the more I’m persuaded that the private sector can readily meet all water needs under a regulatory regime. This section will be improved in a future revision]

  1. Chap 19.6 Global warming

Agree with the policy. Part of the city of Dwarka is said to be underwater. Ancient city of Poompuhar is also said to be underwater. These things may have happened hundreds or thousands of years ago when there was no burning of fossil fuels or industrialization. Mother Earth, may have her own course of evolution, the reasons for which, the science of today can only make speculations. And human race has become so arrogant that it thinks that it can ‘SAVE’ the Earth!

  1. Chap 20.1 Getting government out of business through privatization

Already commented; no time limit for privatization. Consider Singapore model.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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