Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: Current Affairs

There is no option but to stop Baba Ramdev’s fast unto death

A few weeks ago I spent some time to investigate the extremely problematic thing called ‘fast unto death’. Gandhi did not think that virtually anyone (apart from him) in India, was fit to undertake such a thing. But I concluded, after careful consideration, that even Gandhi should not have used this ‘weapon’. The idea of threatening suicide to pressurise governments to bend to one’s will is improper, and incompatible with a free society: definitely incompatible with the free democracy that India is. In particular, democratic processes in India are being subverted by this idea of fast unto death.

Now Baba Ramdev has joined in. Since he has clear political ambitions, at least his fast is not as bad as Anna Hazare’s.

But Baba Ramdev’s demands have little or nothing to do with the causes of corruption. The idea that high denomination notes cause corruption is so laughable it beggars belief. Ramdev is a TOTAL simpleton who imagines that by imposing the death penalty on the corrupt, corruption will disappear. Such simplicity of mental capacity brings a smile to my face. 98% of government servants and 100% of politicians would need to be hung. Does he want to create the French Revolution in India with its guillotines? Anarchy?

He needs to learn about the CAUSES of corruption (and poverty, and filth, and bad infrastructure, and bad education, and bad health system, and bad everything). A few hints are provided here. He needs to grow up and start reading and asking how the world runs, not impose his childish fancies on India.

There is no legal right to fast unto death in India. Indeed, such action violates the law against suicide. It is imperative, therefore, that the government of India arrest and force-feed anyone who threatens to use such coercive tactics.

I’m reasonably happy to support Baba Ramdev in his political goals so long as he demonstrates a capacity to listen to reason and good sense and is genuinely interested in solving problems including (but not restricted to) corruption [corruption is the LEAST of India’s problems: bad policy is India’s main problem]. But I’m unable to support Baba Ramdev in his undertaking a fast unto death. Let him contest elections, become Prime Minister, and change the laws. But using methods like fast unto death displays a total disregard for democracy.

He must be arrested and force-fed. Period. This racket can’t be allowed to continue. Indian democracy will soon disappear if these methods are permitted by the state.

However, I’m not sure whether the Indian government has the mental strength to arrest Ramdev. It is almost certain that the government will buckle.

Interestingly, either way – whether it arrests Ramdev or not – the Congress government (and the BJP!) will lose politically. Baba Ramdev is a master political strategist (in his great innocence) apart from being a childlike (even childish) misguided simpleton.

Maximilien Robespierre comes to mind. The similarities are more than skin deep.

But with such low quality of (potential) “policy makers” in India, only God can save India. Or the Freedom Team. If you have genuine policy understandings, and are willing to save India from impending anarchy, please join FTI.

Continue Reading

Pakistan, there is no right to kill others and argue national sovereignty

National sovereignty is a convenient myth we create to avoid having to spend our taxes on other people's needs. And it is a reasonable approximation under normal circumstances, but this idea fails entirely when a nation harbours a major terrorist like Osama bin Laden in open sight of its army base in Abbottabad. Then it becomes meaningless tripe.

Always remember: sovereignty ONLY belongs to the individual. Nations are NOT sovereign, but servants of the sovereign people who choose to live inside the nation.

It is mischievous, frivolous, and irrelevant, therefore, for Musharraf to argue that US violated Pakistan's sovereignty when it independently attacked and killed Osama bin Laden.

Musharraf should not forget that Osama killed THOUSANDS of Americans and it was therefore the obligation of the American government to bring Osama to justice. That's what the American taxpayer paid its government to do. And the American government, after a decade of wasted effort, finally achieved this goal with a clean hit to the target.

In doing so, USA also provided conclusive proof to the world that Pakistan is a terrorist state that not only exports terrorists to India but to the entire world. 

India has always said that. Now the entire world knows.

And so, please forget your silly idea of national sovereignty, "nations". That myth is given to you for convenience, subject to your behaving well. It is not licence to kill.

There is no sovereign right of "nations" to support the mass killing of other nations' citizens and then hide behind their so-called "sovereign" borders. Rubbish.

Nations are purely man-made entities, part of a global social contract, and their boundaries can change (or be changed) overnight if they don't behave. ONLY individuals are sovereign. All rights emanate from individuals.

Pakistan, you can't keep killing or support the killing of thousands of people in other countries and expect the world to worship your alleged "sovereignty". That doesn't work.

It goes without saying that this American action establishes the clear model for India in relation to relentless Pakistani export of terrorists to India. I would not be fussed if, based on precise information, India were to launch a similar attack against Pakistani terrorist hideouts. No doubt there will be, in doing so, an almost certain risk of nuclear war, and so there will need to be some further strategic consideration given to this idea, but it is simply not good enough for India to tolerate the constant inflow of terrorism from Pakistan.

Evil must have consequences. In this lifetime.

Continue Reading

A comment on India’s bureaucracy in The Economist

Here's an interesting comment, that perhaps cements India's world-wide perception as the corruption and incompetence capital of the world:

India’s food bureaucracy is a byword for inefficiency and corruption. People steal from the cheap-food shops of the Public Distribution System (PDS) on an industrial scale. Newspapers call a case of theft now under investigation in Uttar Pradesh “the mother of all scams”. At one point, the country’s top investigative agency said it had given up even trying to cope with the 50,000 separate charges. [Source]

It came to my notice just as Sonia Gandhi is getting personally accused of corrutpion (as if that was a surprise).

Mera Bharat Mahaan.

Continue Reading

Freedom From Corruption Conference: some thoughts

I was invited to attend the Freedom From Corruption conference being organised by Transparency International India this weekend. That is not practically feasible but fortunately at least three FTI members will be able to make it (Somnath Bharti, Dipinder Sekhon and Vijay Anand: Vijay is also member of Lok Satta).

I'm publishing my emails on this subject for the record, since they reflect my general views re: removal of corruption in India:


Dear Vineeta 

Thanks for this invitation. I apologise but I can't attend (I live in Melbourne). However, I did try to get someone from the Freedom Team to attend on my behalf but none can attend, unfortunately. [Obviously this has since changed. Sanjeev]

I'm, however, sending this response to Dipinder Sekhon, Somnath Bharti and Supratim Basu (of the Freedom Team of India) should either of them be able to organise a last minute representation. – they'd need to get in touch with you asap, of course. 

By the way, my views on the removal of corruption (which is just one of the many problems of India) are clearly outlined in the last three chapters of Breaking Free of Nehru ( Basically, I don't think corruption can be dealt with in isolation of systemic policy reform, and much as I have the highest regard for TI, I'm afraid the solution will have to come through political reform. That's what I've been working on since 1998. 




Dear Dipinder

You are absolutely right on this. Classical liberalism emphasises two processes:

a) non-violence (and therefore persuasion, tolerance, freedom of expresssion, etc.); and

b) consensus that does not use coercion (democracy subject to constitutional limitations)

The thing that naturally follows is open discussion to seek the best ideas. Open is the key word. I or you may "know" the solution but we are not entitled to force it down anyone's throat. We must persuade. If our ideas are good, others will ultimately agree and adopt them. 

A corollary is humility: acceptance that one doesn't know everything nor can possibly do so. That means willingness to listen.

If you note NONE of the above are about "what", but all about the "how".

But there is one condition. Citizens must be willing to ask questions. If citizens don't ask questions then the best ideas cannot be debated and arrived at.

Now, theoretically India has the features (a) and (b) but what has been missing is the CULTURE of asking questions. Despite a "free media", we don't have enough opposing views to inform public opinion. Not too many books on the lines of BFN, for instance (and indeed, I found resistance from reputed publishers to consider publishing it, for it might rock the boat). 

India is characterised by subservience – to one's ancestors, to one's elders, to anyone but one's own mind. We are not seekers for the truth, but believe that those in positions of power KNOW the truth. That is a false conception. We must advance debate and a search for the truth.

In the case of LP bill, why is there not sufficient debate in the media about whether it is indeed a solution to any problem? Why is there virtually nothing written in India about the causes of India's problems? Everyone takes shortcuts of thinking: they blame the 'bad' people who come to power. 

They should ask: WHY do these bad people come to power. 

In physics, the LAWS of nature operate. In human societies, the LAWS of human nature operate. The fact that the black forces come to power must give us food for thought. Why does this happen? What is GENERATING these people? Nothing in the world happens without a cause.

I think the value add to the debate that FTI can provide is to force them to offer multiple hypotheses. It is not enough to say that Indians are corrupt. That hypothesis is false. Human tendencies are the same everywhere, including in Hong Kong or Australia, some of the most ethical societies in the world. So we must reject this hypothesis and look for other causes.

That is the essence of liberalism: scientific thinking. It is a process, not an answer. 


Continue Reading