Thoughts on economics and liberty

Why is liberalism so weak in India?

My FB post:

1) 1959-1974: Rajaji’s fightback against Nehru’s socialism failed because his advocacy was quite weak (although politically the most successful to date). He did not really understand capitalism and the country was too ignorant to understand his arguments. Nehru had flooded the country with socialist “intellectuals” in universities.

2) 1974-1984: Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan began to develop a modest opposition to socialism but nothing really came of it. Sharad Joshi had started his work but his educational task had just begun. Virtually no one ever spoke against socialism. I recall at the LBSNAA (1982-84) listening to what can best be described as garbage economics. No one understood the price system. Till today not more than a handful of Indians understand the price system.

3) 1984-1991: Subroto Roy had published his monograph in IEA, against socialism (it is a good document). He was a tiny voice. He got in touch with Rajiv Gandhi and even wrote parts of the Congress manifesto but obviously Rajiv was an economics illiterate and did nothing.

4) 1991-2004: Even though Narasimha Rao was forced to liberalise, he didn’t understand any economics. Sharad Joshi’s writings were among the few to oppose socialism. Think tanks like CCS and Liberty Institute started. My work on India Policy Institute started. My attempt to start a liberal party in 2000 failed.

5) 2004-2013: In 2004 I organised a conference which led to Sharad Joshi becoming MP. Not an ideal situation since he had to beg support from NDA, but that’s the best that could be done. But having realised the impossibility of the task I took up a non-political strategy from late 2005 (book/ Freedom Team). There was a feeble attempt by JP of Lok Satta but he’s not quite a liberal, and became a Modi beggar. Modi ignored him, so he seems to have effectively shut down his party.

6) 2013-now: The 2012 Ramdev interaction led me to form Swarna Bharat Party (this would have been impossible without the efforts of Anil Sharma who came on the scene in 2006). It has successfully done the paperwork to contest four seats so far, of course with very few votes. That’s because the soil of India remains barren for liberty and good governance. Religious, caste, class issues and other local confusions continue to prevail. Neither major party has any interest in liberalism or reforms. All are thoroughly corrupt, so India remains a Turd World country, quite disgusting for visitors (the local people seem to have adjusted “happily” to the filth).

One must add that Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party continues to operate, although very weakly. The bright spot is Shetkari Sanghatna, the only farmers movement in the world that advocates liberal reforms.

Conclusion as at May 2019: It will require a large set of leaders educated in economics and liberalism to change India. SBP’s job remains, at this early stage, to educate. But political education must take place politically – therefore SBP must continue to fight politically. Education must flow through politics.

Expect a very long journey that will be measured in decades, not years.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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