Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Bad ideas!

Is USA still a free nation?

Is US still a beacon of liberty in the world? A lot of people believe it is no longer free (or free enough). Since this debate occurs so frequently, I'm extracting from a recent Facebook discussion and an article I recently wrote for Freedom First (to be published on 1 August), to illustrate the position I have formed regarding liberty in USA – even as I believe that India should go well beyond its levels of freedom.

Patriot Act and the 'end of liberty' in USA

A Facebook friend suggested that USA is no longer free, arguing thus: "The reason I signal out "The Patriot Act" is because of many basic violations of civil liberties and norms of democracy. It was passed within 45 days after 9/11 with not an ounce of debate. This act treats all it's citizens as suspects there by creating a new standard "Guilty until proven Innocent". Neither the opposition nor the so called liberal media dare appose it. In theory the US authorities can legally tap conversations of Journalists, Opposition Politicians and even innocent civilians. Some of the measures are so powerful that they will not pass even the Indian parliamentary system. US is no more the land of the free. It has become the land of the paranoid, the recent Arizona law requiring all immigrants to carry documents with them at all times is a good case in point."

In response I suggest that while I agree (in principle) with such concerns, the Patriot Act is nothing. Try living in India where you can be liquidated without trace by the police. 'Encounters' with 'terrorists' are rife. If perfect liberty is 10 then US is at 8 and India is at 2. That's the issue. All relative. Yes, US is not perfect, but where are we!

Note, also, that no believer in liberty can tolerate anyone from within the nation colluding with others to declare war on the nation from within. Under circumstances of war, civil liberty must always rank second. There is no obligation for the USA to give Al Qaeda activists civil liberties on par with those enjoyed by the rest of its citizens. And yes, while theoretically, while "the US authorities can legally tap conversations of Journalists, Opposition Politicians and even innocent civilians", is this law put in practice in that manner? How many innocents have been tapped or arrested? Note that whatever happens in USA is authorised by the delegated of the people under a system of laws. If the people of USA, through their law makers, chose to enact the Patriot Act, and the circumstances were such that at least a case can be made for such action, then I have no reason to dilute my belief that the USA continues to be a free nation

Flag burning

We must also take a lesson in liberty from the US which has ruled out the criminalisation of flag burning. In 2006, an amendment to the US Constitution was proposed by someone to prohibit flag burning. But the US Senate rejected this amendment. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, who lost an arm in World War II, fighting for USA, said that flag burning ‘is obscene, painful and unpatriotic’, … ‘[b]ut I believe Americans gave their lives in the many wars to make certain that all Americans have a right to express themselves – even those who harbor hateful thoughts.’ 

Such unequivocal commitment to freedom is what America teaches us. Our heart goes out to America for clarifying the standard of liberty even on such an evocative issue. Hundreds of its own soldiers die in wars to protect the American flag, but these very same soldiers insist on defending the right of their fellowmen to burn that flag. That is why they fight. For freedom. The true flag we must fight for is the flag of freedom.

Yes, liberty in USA is on the decline

There is no doubt that the USA can do better. I have myself criticised its unfair treatment of Vikram Buddhi (see my blog post on the subject). I have also criticised its financial system which is almost nationalised, statist, and badly regulated, as well as its monetary system which includes a central bank that deliberately distorts the price of money (see my blog post here).

I also see the acceleration of the decline in liberty in the USA through the political victories of Keynesians and social democrats who believe in the welfare state and protectionism. It is becoming moribund, uncompetitive, and fretful, unable to lead the world unequivocally to the higher realms of liberty. It has lost its way. Its government, armed forces, and intelligence agencies increasingly display significant incompetence. In choosing philosophies that oppose freedom, the USA is becoming its own enemy. It will, in my view, if it continues down this path and if, simultaneously, countries like India seriously raise their own level of liberty, severely decline in relative terms to the rest of the world. This is a turning point for the USA, and it is not defending liberty as it should.

It is, in consequence, no longer the people magnet it was a few decades ago. The smartest Indians were ALL (or almost all) found in the USA at one time. That rush to migrate to the USA has subsided in India, even as India has increased its own levels of freedom and increased economic opportunities within the nation. Despite all this, the USA still remains, sufficiently free in my view to rank as the largest free nation on earth. Yes, there are other countries similarly free, but none as large, complex, and difficult to govern. So let's learn from the USA and take from it what is good, rejecting the bad. 

Those who think US is not good enough are obliged to create something better

Indians who raise concerns about liberty in US can't just pat themselves on the back at the first sign of American shortcomings. They must do betterNote that the US model is NOT what I advocate for India, but a much higher standard of liberty. Read Breaking Free of Nehru. Read The Disovery of Freedom (early draft). I want India to be the world's greatest beacon of liberty, not a cesspool of corruption, misgovernance, and police killings of the innocent. 

If you are concerned about liberty then it is time for YOU to do something to increase liberty in India. Are you a Freedom Partner? If not then join up right away!  Join the Freedom Team. And write your theses on liberty and publish your books and blogs on liberty. That's the only way out for us, not bothering so much about those who may be imperfect but still remain heaps better than India.

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Black and white proof against socialism

Here's a graph that should permanently end all possible arguments in favour of socialism:

Source: The Economist, May 29 2010, p.28.

Note how Socialist North Korea's income has been precipitously dropping as a share of Capitalist South Korean income. It is merely about 6% of South Korean income now. 

Addendum

Comment on Facebook: "What abt China's growth compared to G 8 countries??? N Korea is closer to dictatorship (with son following father) than socialism???"

My response:
China has not been socialist in terms of its economic policies since 1979, well before India dismantled its license raj. It is not a capitalist country of course, since it doesn't have democracy and other freedoms. But mostly not socialist in its economic sphere.

N.Korea is socialist in its economic model with the government doing everything (like India still does, although to a lesser extent than before), and no free enterprise. 

Dictatorship is a form of government, not a system of governance. You could have dictatorships with economic freedom (e.g. Singapore) even as you can have democracies without economic freedom (e.g. India). So that's not the nub of the argument, I think.

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My two bits for good relations between India and Australia

Australians don't hate Indians. Let's all become VERY clear about it.

For many months now, I've been posting my views on the internet to highlight and emphasise to Indians that they have SERIOUSLY misunderstood what is going on in Melbourne. See this blog post that received 32 comments.

lambasted India's great idol, Amitabh Bachchan (and one of my favourite actors!), for losing his sense and making ridiculous statements about Australians. Sorry, Amitabh, you are not God. You don't know what you don't know. 

I then implored the Indian media to show some sense and not to become as stupid as India's politicians always are. 

I opposed one of Australia's finest thinkers, Greg Sheridan (whose views I admire and often agree with) for making over-blown and disproportionate comments about Melbourne. Sorry Greg, I call a spade a spade. You were totally wrong about Melbourne.

Then, when I found that one of India's most eminent thinkers has severely misconstrued facts about what is happening in Melbourne due to the misguidance of the Indian media, I wrote out the FACTS of the case and challenged anyone to prove me wrong

CLOSURE HAS COME TO ANOTHER CASE

This blog post notes that one more case seems to be nearing to an end, without any racist motive involved. This is the case of Nitin Garg.

Of the six cases so far, this is the TRUE story:

a) Two Indians were killed by INDIANS

b) One Indian set himself on fire and SHAMELESSLY alleged racist motives.

c) One was killed by a 15 year old teenager in which the Police, after investigation, have found from their "inquiries" that "at this stage,we don’t believe it was racially motivated" Anyone would be hard pressed to prove that a 15 year old represents a RACIST AUSTRALIA!!! A misguided adolescent delinquent. Nothing to do with organised racism. There is a thing called crime and there is a thing called racism. Let's never mix the two.

d) Two cases are not yet resolved (or I haven't noticed further reports about them in the press). So no comment on those.

Conclusion

I find VERY OFFENSIVE that the highly intelligent Indian media (apart from stupid Indian Ministers who will always be stupid anyway) went out of the way to harm Australia. That was in VERY POOR FORM.

I would like to ask the idiots who govern India and its press to apologise to Australia for the harm caused to the good relations between the two countries. This is not a trifling matter. It has not only reduced the number of Indian students who come to Australia to study, it has harmed business relations between India and Australia. But the greatest damage has been done to India itself, particularly to the credibility of its press and political 'leaders'. Across the whole world, India's word would now matter less because of this strong tendency towards hysteria.

More importantly, I'd like to ask the ordinary Indians to NOT listen to their totally useless political 'leaders' and to their hysterical press on this matter but to listen to ordinary people of Indian origin living in Australia. Tens of thousands of people of Indian origin live in Australia. They are very happy and a very active part of Australian community. 

PS: Came across this article the other day. I fully support Bob Birrell's views. There is no evidence whatsoever of any increase in racism in Australia. I do not deny that racism exists, never denied it. It might even have harmed my own prospects in this country to a large extent. But I believe there is FAR GREATER racism in India (perhaps ten times more) than the racism found in Australia today. India's caste system must end. That is the greatest blot on humanity today.

Addendum: I came across this VERY OFFENSIVE comment from Gautam Gupta:

"Federation of Indian Students of Australia spokesman Gautam Gupta said it was too early to say whether the charge would improve relationships between the two countries and it was not about ''one crime, it's about the police attitudes''."

Gautam, you are simply besmirching the Victoria Police for no rhyme or reason. Your attitude is WRONG. There may well be a few problematic Police in Victoria. If so please point them out to the authorities. DO NOT besmirch an entire  organisation.

You are displaying coarse thinking (thick-headedness) and inability to analyse the situation correctly. That actually helps to bias things against Indians in general, as the more stupid among the Australians read such statements and imagine that all Indians are as thick headed as you. (Your stereotyping of the entire Police is no different from a few stupid Australians stereotyping all Indians. Remember NEVER stereotype an entire group. Deal with cases one person at a time. Be clear that there is NEVER a group attitude). 

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An "Honest" PM?

This is a Guest post. I'm thankful to Mr Kishore Asthana for permission to publish his excellent write-up on my blog.

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I am informed that an official I have appointed in my company has taken a bribe to get some work done and that he keeps asking for bribes openly. Despite repeated incidents of this nature, I take no action against the official because I feel that if I were to sack him, those who recommended him may be angry with me and, perhaps, get me sacked in return. Am I an honest man? I have a reputation for never asking for a bribe myself, but, doesn’t my role as a passive spectator vis a vis these illegal dealings makes me an accessory?

Our Prime Minister is in the same position. Under his regime, a senior Minister has been repeatedly and openly accused of taking bribes.

The same Minister was also accused during the last term as Minister and is said to owe his present appointment to corporate lobbyists. There are records of transcripts with middle-men, or, in this case, a middle-woman. Despite all this, the PM has been a passive spectator. However personally honest he may have a reputation for being, he cannot be said to be morally honest if he is abetting such chicanery in his government without taking any action.

Legally, our Prime Minister, by doing nothing in the case of Ministerial corruption in his government, is guilty of abetment by an act of omission. Moreover, by re-appointing a Minister with a controversial track record and by continuing to devolve powers to reputedly corrupt Ministers when such powers are being openly misused to collect bribes as per reports, he is guilty of abetment by an act of commission. Both these acts are defined as crimes in Chapter V, article 107 of the Indian Penal Code. Personal morality is not an adequate defense in this case. The PM is not being accused of being taking bribes himself. He is being accused of being a silently consenting eyewitness to the rape of India by one of his appointees. If we were to apply the law of the land, both the Minister concerned and the PM may be found guilty.

Despite the above, at a certain level, one feels bad for our PM. The fall from goodness is always painful to watch. However, the cynicism of politics and the desire to cling to power have negated the PM’s innate honesty and he has no one to blame but himself. He is wise enough to know that when we become creatures of unholy compulsions, we sacrifice our aura and our halo fades away. This is what has happened to him and, once he has retired and has time to reflect on his non-actions, he may live to rue these. By then it would be too late for our violated country.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. Regrettably, our PM has been tested and found wanting on this touchstone.

Kishore Asthana

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