Thoughts on economics and liberty

Category: People

My thoughts on the passing away of Naozer Aga, a great Indian liberal

It is with dismay that I learnt today from Kashmira on Freedom First that Naozer Aga passed away last month in a road accident.

He was a passionate motorcycle rider and died in an accident in harness, on his Ninja ZX Kawasaki at the dashing young age of 76 – a remarkable man who lived his life fully to the very end even in the deplorable road and other conditions of socialist India. He hated socialism with all his might but could not succeed in overthrowing it: instead, socialism took his life through a badly made road. Socialism kills.

The more important reason for my dismay is that in his loss we have lost one more senior liberal and possibly the last Swatantrite standing. He was the last link between our times and the times of Rajaji after the death of SV Raju.

I came in touch with Naozer Aga in October 2014. I don’t have precise records but it was possibly through my blog. Thereafter I added his email ID to a mailing list and he slowly started telling me more about his work on liberalism, and things blossomed till we had not only regular email conversations but also phone conversations.

He could not join Swarna Bharat Party as he was still involved with the largely defunct Swatantra Party but I invited him to attend the SBP national conference in 2016 as observer and we can see from the photos below, that he played a significant role in the conference. He went away from the conference satisfied that SBP was on the right track.

Naozer Aga on the left, above, and second row top left in the photo below.

After the conference he wrote a piece (which was later on transferred to Aas Mohammed to finalise) in Freedom First, Swarna Bharat Party Emulates Swatantra Party. He also wrote about Swarna Bharat Party for a Parsi magazine, Parsiana, here. The image below:

The party appointed him as its national mentor. Naozer’s company contributed funds (a modest amount every month) for nearly a year. He also helped raise 20K from one of his colleagues.

However, as can be expected with a very tiny party, there were differences of opinion in terms of how members should proceed, particularly in relation to criticising Modi in the public domain. While these differences were otherwise being discussed/ resolved – around 18 months ago – Naozer decided to disengage from the party. I thought it was an unnecessary misunderstanding, but some such things can’t be fixed.

But Naozer did not disengage from my work. He remained a subscriber of my blog and kept in touch with me through sporadic emails. One of his last emails (December 2017) is shown below (screenshot). He later also wished me a happy new year earlier this year.

 

There are many things Naozer Aga did for liberalism in India. One of the things he was responsible for, till his very end, was the High Court petition that the Swatantra Party Maharashtra branch had filed against the requirement for political parties in India to swear allegiance to socialism. The petition had been filed by SV Raju, jointly with Naozer. Now, with the passing away of Naozer, the petition has no one left to follow through.

His passing also represents the final end of Swatantra Party.

We, Swarna Bharat Party, bring an even better way forward for India than the Swatantra Party offered, and I hope that those who have read SBP’s manifesto will agree and join SBP to continue the work that people like SV Raju and Naozer were involved in.

Among the many things he did was to present a paper at the Liberal International Hamburg Convention in 1986. He had sent me a scanned copy. I don’t find any copy of it on the internet, so let me take the time to OCR and publish it later today. [Done – see this]

His work and contributions to Indian libearlism should not be forgotten.

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The petty, self-centered Australians – transactional mercanaries totally bereft of any vision for the world

I’ve lived in Australia for over 16 years. Virtually from day one, a small but relevant group of people have known about my ambition to get a liberal party up and running in India. They have been friendly but otherwise totally disinterested.

Today I wrote this on my FB page:

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I like the British and Europeans since they take a lot of interest in other nations.

Australians are ultra-parochial and self-centred.

Australians will ignore India’s only liberal party, but the British – and even the Germans and the Dutch – will take great interest.

A German has invited me to speak at a major conference in Switzerland, as leader of India’s liberal party. But Australians are totally indifferent to anyone who doesn’t directly give them money. Adani is of greater interest to them than India’s only liberal party.

Sad.

I should have migrated to England.

Australians remind me of India’s businessmen, purely transactional, all for money.

The British thought big. They were shopkeepers but they were also visionaries. Macaulay is a marvel to read. Australia has extremely small minds, in comparison.

Australians are exceptionally narrow-minded and inward focused. A most transactional nation, with no value for any big picture vision. Australia was not founded on any vision of freedom, either. It has nothing to offer the world. A good country to live in, at best.

Australians are consumers of visions produced in Europe and USA. They have never produced any innovative vision on their own.

Limited to their own little patch. Not one world leader has Australia produced – ever!

And it cannot.

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SUMMARY: TO LOOK TO THE FUTURE, FOLLOW THINKERS FROM EUROPE AND USA. 

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ADDENDUM

It was not Macaulay’s “gap year” that made him so bold in his vision for the world of the future. It was his global humanism which is founded on the concept of liberty.

Australians have an exceptionally poor sense of liberty and also very poor self-confidence. They therefore see themselves as “takers” (of what others like China may do), not “makers” of the new world.

The British set out to make the world in their own image, because they believed in their own image. Australians either have no self-image or don’t know what they stand for.

ADDENDUM

The entire debate in Australia is transactional (i.e. who can fund them, who can provide them security). Zero vision about what the world should look like.

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Chaudhary Charan Singh’s ideology

Chanced upon this video:

This appears to be a broadly liberal interview – on the surface.

We know how the rump of Swatantra joined with Charan Singh’s Bharatiya Kranti Dal. That group ultimately merged into the Janata Party.

However, a quick review of his life history and works shows he was not a liberal in any real sense of the world.

Some sources: thisthis, this [Word version], this 

HE DIDN’T LIKE THE INDIAN MODEL OF SOCIALISM

The limitless prosperity, which socialism of the Congress variety has brought to the upper crust of society, is visible to the naked eye—in the change in the style and affluence of their living, in the proliferation of the four- and five-star hotels, which are filled to capacity, in the growth of luxury travel facilities, in the over-crowding of the noted holiday resorts, in the multiplication of lavish residences with rich furnishings, and the display of wealth at marriages and other social functions.

As one of the consequences of the heavy industry-first strategy of development, which has led to capital starvation of agriculture, the reader has already seen in Part I of this book how the gulf between the income of an agricultural and non-agricultural worker has gone on widening since the attainment of Independence.

Our conversion to the philosophy of ‘democratic’ socialism has worsened matters rather than improved them : on the one hand, under this brand of socialism, incentives for voluntary hard work disappear; on the other, the workers cannot be coerced, as they are in the USSR or China. [Source]

Being staunch believers in democracy as adumbrated in the Western literature and, at the same time, fascinated by the goals o f the Russian Revolution, a large section o f Indian political leadership dreamt o f a politico-economic order under which not only nobody would be exploited but everybody would be afforded an opportunity for self-improvement— a dream which provided both for democratic freedom and economic equality consistent with rapid economic growth. So, influenced largely by Nehru, they plumped for a compromise between socialism and capitalism—a “mixed” economy in which material resources of the nation would be owned and worked partly by the state and partly by citizens, in other words, where the private and the public sector would co-exist. That is why, perhaps, big businessmen also can afford to believe in or even propound “socialism” as a practical policy goal in India. [Source]

HE OPPOSED PLANNING FROM THE TOP

Planning from the top down, which socialism necessarily involves, undermines freedom because it requires people to obey orders rather than pursue their own judgment. Further, it is inefficient because it makes impossible the use o f the detailed knowledge stored among millions o f individuals. Whereas planning from the bottom up, which the economy o f Gandhi’s conception implied, enlists the interests of each in promoting the wellbeing of all and, thus, subserves true democracy. [Source]

HE AGREED THAT LIBERAL CAPITALISM HAD DRAMATICALLY REDUCED POVERTY

liberal capitalism has been able to afford a flow o f consumer goods so substantial and steady as to consign conditions o f popular poverty to the limbo o f an age as different to the present as the one that upheld the divine right of kings.

… As regards bringing about a more egalitarian society and the curbing of private monopolies which was sought to be achieved through public ownership, it was discovered that the objective could be achieved by other methods, such as taxation, price control, quality requirements, social legislation like old age pensions, sickness benefits, and the countervailing power of trade unions. In the UK and the USA the gap between the rich and the poor has been greatly narrowed during the last quarter of a century by resorting to these methods. Whereas in India where 60 per cent of the industrial capacity is now owned by the state, the gap has greatly widened.

… Corrupt payments, idle capacities, and inefficiency have impinged directly on costs o f the public sector and, hence, on its returns. A substantial part o f the investments which may vary from 20 to 40 per cent, depending on the projects and the parties concerned, shown in the account books, gets converted into private incomes via corrupt payments. [Source]

OPPOSITION TO COOPERATIVE FARMING (OF THE COMMUNIST SORT)

He wrote a book against Nehru’s passion for collectivism.

THE SOLUTION WAS NOT MARKETS BUT GANDHIAN ANTI-TECHNOLOGY

If the country has to be saved, the Nehruvian strategy will have to be replaced by the Gandhian approach. That is, we will have to return to Gandhi for redemption. [Source]

TENTATIVE CONCLUSION

Given limitations of time, I’m going to form a tentative conclusion (noting that there is material I’ve read which I’ve not had time to cite).

Charan Singh didn’t like abolition of property rights and rejected top-level Nehruvian socialist planning.

However, his own model was extremely weak – and he opposed the use of machinery and technology, such as tractors. He was no Adam Smith nor a Chanakya. He was swayed by the bad economics of Gandhi.

In sum, it was a very poor decision to wind up Swatantra (although my opinion about Swatantra is constantly declining as I learn more about it and people associated with it).

Charan Singh’s ideology was in some ways like that of Loknayak JP, which I’ve discussed elsewhere on this blog. He didn’t like socialism but had NO understanding of the capitalism – the results of which (for the workers) he liked.

Essentially, typical of his generation – he was very poorly educated in economics (in fact he had no formal training).

Only Ambedkar comes out shining (relatively) among India’s early leaders. Charan Singh was good but failed to analyse causes properly, hence failed in leading India to prosperity.

 

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