Sanjeev Sabhlok's blog

Thoughts on economics and liberty

The dangerous idea of equality

Here are extracts from BFN about the dangerous aspiration for equality. This is a quick cut and paste without footnotes and referencing. The actual text can be readily accessed. But first a short (one and half minute) video from Youtube by Milton Friedman:

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The real choice before us today is between the two western models of governance – socialism or capitalism; between the life-denying concept of equality and the life-sustaining concept of freedom. Even if we don’t care about the philosophy of freedom, pragmatism would lead us to the more successful model. Capitalism is dramatically successful, just as socialism is dramatically unsuccessful. 

But there are far more important and compelling reasons to follow the path of freedom. Of these, delivering a society based on ethics and morality ranks the highest. Despite the noble intentions of its practitioners, socialism is immoral and destroys the moral fabric of entire societies. Freedom, on the other hand, delivers the highest ethical values and creates for each individual a level playing field by providing equality of opportunity through which the individual is enabled to discover his or her talents and achieve his or her highest potential. While the individual is the moral centre of a free society, the society is the immoral centre of a socialist one. Freedom is about far more important things than economic success, although a poor country like India should welcome its merits on that ground alone.

But at times, markets challenge us emotionally as they appear to be heartless. We are not comfortable with the outcomes of a free market which we may reluctantly agree produces great wealth, but which we find also results in increased inequality. We tend to see inequality as fundamentally wrong, even though we know that every individual will actually become much better off in a free market than he or she is today. 
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I wonder, though, about the hypocrisy behind our alleged preference for equality. Gandhi once asked some socialists who had come to visit him, ‘Now tell me how many of you have servants in your homes?’ The socialists Gandhi was talking to said they had a servant in each home. Gandhi replied, ‘And you call yourself Socialists while you make others slave for you! It is a queer kind of Socialism which, I must say, I cannot understand’.  If we genuinely wanted everyone to have exactly the same income, why do we bargain so hard with our poor garbage pickers and maidservants and pay them only the market rate? And if bargains of this sort are good for us (it being a free market for the services of these poor people), why are these negotiations bad for the society as a whole? 
 
I will show that not only has equality no real content, but that it is dangerous. On the other hand, I will show that equality of opportunity is a critical requirement for a free society, and helps us to eliminate poverty.
 

The Problem with Equality

Everyone knows that 2 = 2; a trivial equality. Its use in driving our life’s goals is very limited in consequence, for it is merely a tautology – a statement which uses words to pointlessly say the same thing. What does it matter if two equals two? What can we derive from it? 
 
Similarly, economic equality among people is neither here nor there; a trivial curiosity. Attaching an ‘equal to’ sign between our incomes (or wealth) does not add any significance to our lives; it doesn’t say whether we are free, whether we are experiencing a high quality of life, whether our children are likely to succeed. If two people achieve equal income through the free markets it is of no import; it is a mere statistical coincidence. 
 
The key question that we need to ask is: did these two people get to function in a free society with equality of opportunity? If they were provided with an equal opportunity then their equal outcome is unexceptionable; albeit coincidental. The more common, and expected, outcome of a free market, though, is a vast increase in individual wealth accompanied by significant inequality among individuals, noting that this inequality does not remain static. Unlike in a feudal society, the level of economic inequality as well as the persons who are wealthy or poor changes dramatically with time in a free society. The children of workers can become far richer than the children of people who are rich today, depending on how diligently they apply themselves.
 
The key driver of a free society is justice. Our economic worth is a function of justice, not some tautological concept like equality. While our lives have infinite intrinsic worth and we are all equal in the eyes of law, our economic worth must be determined in the market by the balance between the demand and supply for the services we provide. We may find ourselves ‘valued’ by the market on the basis of our beautiful voice that people like to hear, our philosophy that people enjoy reading about, or because of a drug we invented to save people’s lives. In each case, the fair and just price for our service is what is negotiated and agreed to in a free market. 
 
Where wealth of any sort is acquired by trading our services in the marketplace in this manner, where all trades make the parties to the trade better off, there all outcomes of these trades are just, and therefore morally superior, irrespective of the society’s Gini coefficients and Lorenz curves.  Equality is not an issue that is considered even in the passing in a free society; justice drives all understandings. Indeed, honestly acquired wealth is virtuous wealth; it must be applauded through a standing ovation. Each great singer, each great philosopher, each great inventor, and each business leader becomes rich by his or her own effort; each of them is worthy of that wealth. Who cares whether that creates inequality in society? Why should the inequality created by Lata Mangeshkar’s voice bother anyone?
 
And yet equality is relevant in a free society, at the commencement of the ‘race’. Everyone must be given a similar opportunity to run, to sing, to invent, or to play. But at the end of the race, only the best athlete, singer, inventor, or tennis player must win. The effort put in by an individual and his contribution being perceived as valuable by others tells us about the justness and morality of the acquisition of wealth. That is very important. For instance, wealth acquired through corruption is not just, and is therefore immoral. John Ruskin  said that ‘the beneficialness of the inequality depends, first, on the methods by which it was accomplished; and, secondly, on the purposes to which it is applied’. On Ruskin’s second point, we note two things:
  • We note that the very process of generation of inequality through ethical trades is beneficial. We, the consumers, benefit through the products made by hard working innovative people. Most of us will find purposeful employment through jobs that such people create.
  • Second, if left to their own devices, many wealthy people promote the arts and sciences as well as other forms of philanthropy. They don’t have to do so, though, since they have contributed enough if their wealth was acquired through ethical trades.
Inequality is not the same as poverty. Extreme poverty diminishes our capacity to act freely and reduces equality of opportunity. A free society needs to take strong action against poverty. On the other hand, even the most extreme inequality does not in any way diminish anyone’s freedom if all people are well above the poverty line. In the USA or Australia, which are relatively freer than India, some people are extremely rich, but most are at least well-to-do. 
 
Therefore India must banish poverty if it wishes to be free. Reducing inequality on the other hand, is neither here nor there; it is but idle talk for a few jealous people who are afraid to put in the hard work needed to succeed. Indeed, each of us must aspire to be dramatically unequal to others; to be rich, to be happy, to be great! A free society doesn’t countenance these utterly feeble ambitions of equality. It teaches its children to be great, to be better than others in every way; not to seek trivial equality with others. And the way a free society encourages infinite ambition in the minds of its children is by way of its government completely getting out of the way! 
 
Indeed, equality should be banished from our list of priorities because it is extremely dangerous. Equality is not an innocuous concept – something to be had if we can: ‘And oh, yes, by the way, can I get a glass of equality with two spoons of sugar?’ Equality invariably takes us on the path to perdition. It is a poison that allures us with a strangely beautiful fragrance; but a society that drinks of it will be racked by endless pain; its members will lose their intellectual prowess and die an early death. Its people will multiply like flies; its rulers will be cruel and rapacious. Anyone who is sane and healthy flees a society where equality has poisoned the minds of its leaders.
 
The reason equality is dangerous is because the only mechanism available to us to create genuine equality is to redistribute wealth, not to create it. That can only be done by plundering those who are richer than us. But to steal and plunder is violation of the fundamental principles of freedom; it is an attack on our life itself. It is a crime no matter whether it is committed by an ordinary robber or an elected prime minister. 
 
And therefore economic equality is associated only with those political ideologies which oppose freedom and which disrespect life; ideologies that do not hesitate to violently coerce others to cough up their property. The main such ideology, of socialism, aims to abolish property rights and vest all property in the state. But there is only one way to abolish property: through the use of force. Hence, socialists do not hesitate to decapitate the rich or otherwise threaten them with state-controlled violence to grab their property. 
 
Indeed, property is anathema to socialists because of its dangerous disease of equality. If they could, they wouldn’t allow anyone to even own a pen, for even a pen or paint-brush can spew unbelievable wealth. Socialists probably hate J K Rowling with all their heart for creating Harry Potter, and Pablo Picasso for making his paintings. And they almost certainly hate Lata Mangeshkar with all their might; if they could, they would rip out her vocal chords to stop her from getting rich. The great problem from the socialists’ perspective is that no matter how hard they divest us of property and force us to become equal, then put us together inside a box, lock the box and throw away the key, inequality always springs out like Houdini – strong and triumphant. 
 
Their problem is that the aspiration to be unequal to others, to be richer than others, to be faster and healthier than others, is unique to the human species, and cannot be abolished. Each of us spends a lifetime yearning for greater wealth, wanting to be at least equal if not better off than our neighbours. We seek the best jobs; we want to look smart and dress up in flashy clothes; we want to drive around in a fancy Porsche. Just look at the craze for lotteries – the millions of people who plunk their hard earned money into the dream of inequality; the dream of becoming richer than others. Even those who seek God seek to be selected by God ahead of others; they want to achieve nirvana before countless other lesser qualified souls. Inequality is our deepest ambition; no amount of socialism will rid us of it. Only some silly politicians seem to want such equality, but even they actually yearn to be our rulers and to be remembered by others. Stalin and Mao were not interested in equality of fame – they ruthlessly destroyed their competitors in order to remain the rulers, and as to wealth, their wealth was unlimited. Even Nehru’s family’s wealth is not equal to others; its scale is unknown, but it is nowhere near the per capita income of an 
Indian. Socialist Ministers grab money with both hands and build untold wealth their family has never seen before.
 
Since inequality is like a starfish whose arms grow back no matter how many times they are cut off, a socialist society has no choice but to continuously plunder. The socialist society must also tell people what to produce. Picasso must be licensed to produce any painting at all; and then he is to be given a quota on how many paintings to produce. Having done that, the socialist society then has to take away his paintings so that he cannot become rich. 
 
The socialist society has an impossible task laid out for it. Starting with an abundant faith in the idea of equality, it degenerates rapidly; its leaders fight among themselves and often kill each other; its people finally rebel against the decadence and corruption they see around themselves, as they did in the erstwhile USSR, and they will do in India upon reading this book (!). In fact this book itself is a rebellion against the much milder, but equally problematic Nehruvian socialism. Socialism comes to grief in the end for what we really crave for is freedom; not equality.
 
We could, under a distasteful counterfactual scenario, be persuaded to tolerate the ideology of equality could it be demonstrated to unequivocally increase our wealth to an astounding level – well beyond what free-market capitalism routinely generates. But socialism fails bitterly on this front, too. Human beings are not robots. We work hard to generate wealth only if we are free to think, free to produce what we wish to produce, and free to keep the rewards of our efforts. Creativity and innovation decline precipitously under socialism; socialism impoverishes entire societies and makes it hard for them to recoup their energies for decades. India’s example is in front of us, but there are many worse examples. When the Soviet Union tried to collectivize its agriculture in order to make each farmer ‘equal’, it quickly came on to its knees. The entire Soviet Union could not produce enough to feed itself. Tens of thousands perished of starvation. Its mighty armed force and secret service (KGB) were able to compel its scientists, under close observation, to produce, or rather, to steal the design of weapons and spacecraft, but until its end the socialist USSR could not produce enough bread for its people. 
 
Taken to the extreme, as with the (erstwhile) Soviet Union, Maoist China, or Naxalites, socialism physically assaults and kills people. Millions of people have been murdered by Marx’s equality-driven ideology over the twentieth century. If we add to this the far more numerous indirect killings –namely deaths through hunger and preventable disease arising from socialist mismanagement in countries like India – then the number of people killed in the cause of equality runs into the hundreds of millions; possibly a couple of billions. Equality is not a hot cup of coffee that we may order if available. It is deadly poison. Once this disease of equality infects somebody’s mind, the consequences for that society can become extremely bad. People infected by equality are infinitely more dangerous than those who go berserk and shoot people at random. Equality is as bad as religious fundamentalism in its disastrous consequences for society.
 
Socialist countries are also some of the most unequal, the difference being that their inequality is derived from corruption and the misuse of power, and is therefore immoral inequality. Corrupt politicians in India have misused socialist controls to acquire untold wealth and create great immoral inequality in India. Our socialist ministers never hesitate to loot even those public funds intended to assist the poor. I talk about this from personal experience, including one involving a Chief Minister. 
 
Plunder need not be pursued through physical coercion alone. It can be more sophisticated, such as under the guise of ‘welfare’ socialism. One of the most apt descriptions of socialism comes from Frédéric Bastiat (1801–50) who fought Karl Marx’s ideas tooth and nail even in Marx’s time. Unfortunately Bastiat died very young. It is possible that if he had he lived longer the world might have been saved from the killing fields of socialism. Bastiat noted in 1850 that: 
 
[L]egal plunder can be committed in an infinite number of ways. Thus we have an infinite number of plans for organizing it: tariffs, protection, benefits, subsidies, encouragements, progressive taxation,  public schools, guaranteed jobs, guaranteed profits, minimum wages, a right to relief, a right to the tools of labour, free credit, and so on, and so on. All these plans as a whole – with their common aim of legal plunder – constitute socialism. 
 
The message for us is simple – be extremely wary of anyone who preaches equality. You never know when this person is going to shut your mouth, steal your wealth and property, and kill you and your children. There are some Indians who ‘accept’ equality as a good thing if it happens by itself. Such people are merely misguided for statistical equality is meaningless and can never be ‘good’ in isolation of the reality of that society. But if someone genuinely believes in equality, then run for your life as fast as you can! Freedom is as basic to us as life itself. Equality is simply nowhere in that league. It is a curiosity for economists who idle their time making Lorenz doodles. To consider even slightly diminishing our freedom in order to promote equality is like throwing away a priceless pearl necklace and picking up a slithering, poisonous snake to hang around our neck, instead; a snake that will bite us while we are sound asleep.
 
And yet, socialism will always remains tantalizingly hypnotic to people who have not understood the magic of free markets and equality of opportunity. By painting a rosy but false picture of the world, socialism ensnares children every day and continues to have a vast following among those children who never grew up. The arguments of capitalism require enormous critical thinking since the invisible hand is actually invisible! Not being a socialist is hard work for our brains. I will try to make the invisible hand a bit more visible in this book so that more of us can see through the great pitfalls of socialism. 
 
But one need not be ashamed of having been a supporter of equality sometime in our life. The disease of equality strikes almost everyone once, like chickenpox. I too caught this disease momentarily during one of my early years in university. Who isn’t fascinated by an ideal world where all of us are somehow blissfully equally competent and equally resourced? Some residual virus of this disease remained in my head until as recently as 1995 when, during my mid-career PhD studies, I expressed concern about economic inequality among nations in one of my term papers. What I should been have concerned about, instead, was about the self-inflicted poverty of nations like India which insist on being poor despite the prescriptions for wealth being available off the shelf. 
 
There is a strong leftist bent in most academic discourse which arises largely from desktop academics who never grew up; never got rid of their chicken pox. They have a dreamy-eyed view of politicians, bureaucrats, armed forces and the police. These academics project their own virtuous feelings about other human beings on government functionaries; and in doing so they make a fatal blunder. The good thing about Nehruvian socialism is that being a less extreme form of socialism than Russian communism, it has probably inoculated us. Once India fully recovers from its socialist fever and its head clears up, it should remain free of equality and socialism forever, unlike Russia which may yet revert to communism once again.
 
The thing we really want when we talk of equality is the eradication of poverty. That also remains a matter closest to my heart; and it is to a discussion of removal of poverty that I will now turn to. Just a brief comment first – poverty cannot be eliminated unless we foster conditions which create great wealth and great inequality. We need sufficient numbers of extremely rich people whom we can tap into, both as taxpayers and high calibre experts, to help us banish poverty.

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What is Vedic socialism?

Harsh has, today, introduced me to a book by Dr. K.C. Mahendru entitled, Baba Ramdev – Resurgence of New India (Freedom Movement-2). Apparently it talks about the political philosophy of Swami Ramdev, known as Vedic Socialism. This phrase was totally new to me, so I spent a few minutes of my spare time to find more. Here are my initial findings and comments.

Origin of this term

It appears that this term was first introduced by Swami Agnivesh, although Balak Brhamachary of Santan Dal is also associated with this idea. Possibly both of them got it from someone else. There is also a book entitled Vedic socialism by Nitya Narayan Banerjee. And there is a Vedic Socialism Party on Facebook!

Apparently Vedic socialism resembles integral humanism. I have with me the book, Deendayal Upadhyaya's Integral Humanism – documents, interpretations, comparisons (edited by Devenedra Swarup) and have been singularly unimpressed by the paucity of logical thinking displayed as part of this idea. The fact that BJP follows integral humanism explains (to me) why is is a copycat socialist party, merely mimicking Nehru – and displaying zero understanding of good policy. I do hope that Vedic socialism is not like integral humanism: a fuzzy feel-good essay on the greatness of ancient India, but without the slightest scientific analysis of the economy.
 
I must admit that when I think of the concept of 'Vedic socialism' I find it quixotic and quaint that Hindu preachers like Baba Ramdev try to align India's ancient scriptures with the worst Western idea that was ever created – socialism! (Let this be VERY clear to all Indians: socialism is an idea that started with Rousseau and peaked with Marx. It is NOT an indigenous Indian idea, for as I clearly show in DOF, Indian philosophy is in tune with liberalism, not socialism. If Charvaka's views are considered – as they should be – then India clearly laid the foundation stone of classical liberalism and freedom in the world. India and socialism have nothing in common. Nehru brought socialism to India from the British Fabian socialists – and ruined India – as clearly described in BFN.) It is odd that on the one hand Baba Ramdev wants swadeshi, yet on the other, he picks up the WORST foreign idea. At least understand the history of freedom that I've outlined in DOF. 
 
What do the Vedas say?
Why would the Vedas have picked up the worst idea that would occur (in the future!) to the mind of man? Surely, our Vedic seers were not utter fools like the socialists are. To find out more I’ve quickly checked up my father’s book on Vedic Metaphysics (here) which he wrote after studying the Vedas for more than 10 years. It appears that the Vedas speak out against corruption, which is good. But the solution they seem to offer to eradicate corruption is not logical nor viable. This is what the Vedas say:
 
Rig Veda on corruption:
From my father’s book:
“Rig-Veda 1-104-3 refers to corruption as misappropriation of public funds, taking    bribe for money belonging to the state and trusts and when the individual’s action results in the reduction of state revenue or the revenue of the institution where he/she is a trustee. Rig Veda.1-42-3 mentions bribe takers are thieves. Sam Veda while, mentioning 99 sources of corruption and evil, also calls it a disease which goes on increasing with all material treatment and makes the power of soul and human spirit weaker and weaker (Sama Veda 913 and 179).”
 
Mahabharata on the solution to corruption:
Again, citing my father’s book:
“Bhagavad Gita traces the causes of corruption and evil to the primordial matter the three gunas in the human body. While sattavic guna of purity, truthfulness, transparency results in ennobling the individual and society, the rajasic guna of activity with self interest and false ego and desires along with tamasic guna of passivity, dullness, idleness become the cause of corrupting the individuals and the society.
 
“Lack of knowledge of Vedic Brahma vidya that Bhagavad Gita refers as Jnan and Vijnan is another major factor for the spread of this evil. Jnan is the knowledge of complete understanding of God, soul, divinity in virtuous actions and considering the world as Maya – the cosmic illusion.”

It would appear that, according to the Vedas, two ways exist to improve governance:
a) peoples' character has to be improved; and
b) they must become more religious.
 
This amounts to expecting corruption to be solved by preaching. That can NEVER work. But fortunately, no matter what it is, this confused thinking is not socialistic, it is simply a typical confused religious perspective. This "solution" does not display any understanding of human nature or human incentives. Indeed, my father, after all his Vedic readings, now seems to understand and appreciate the logic of freedom that I advocate in BFN.
 
Clearly I've not found out much yet, so I'm keen to find out more about the Vedic solution to good governance. And more about Vedic socialism. Happy to have anyone point me in the right direction.
 

Vedantic socialism

I usually seek information on ancient Indian perspectives by consulting Vivekananda's works – for he was a scholar par excellence. It turns out that he was an advocate of what some people call Vedantic socialism (unfortunately, the writer of this article mostly provides his own opinions and doesn't specify clearly what Vivekananda actually said). There is also a book called Swami Vivekananda, the prophet of Vedantic socialism by V. K. R. V. Rao (Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India in New Delhi, 1979), but I unfortunately don't have ready access to it. 
 
In the meanwhile, an analysis of two books through Google books shows the following:
 
1) One author has concluded: "It is extremely doubtful that he had first hand knowledge of the socialist literature – Utopian or Scientific" (Narasingha Prosad Sil, Swami Vivekananda: a reassessment, Susquehanna University Press, 1997, p.86). I don't know precisely which books Vivekananda read when he was young, but this statement seems likely to be true.
 
2) Another states: "[T]hough Vivekananda praised socialism here and there, his social ideal was spiritual democracy and not a socialist society." (Urmila Sharma and S.K. Sharma, Indian Political Thought, Atlantic Publishers & Distributors, 2001, p. 187). This sounds more close to the truth than those who claim that Vivekananda was a socialst.
 
Clearly, there is scant or non-existent evidence of Vedantic socialism. I find it hard to imagine that a major votary of freedom like Vivekananda could possibly be a socialist. I cite his words at the head of the draft manuscript of my next book, DOF, thus:  ‘Liberty in thought and action is the only condition of life, growth and well-being: Where it does not exist, the man, the race, and the nation must go down.’  No socialist can possibly make such a beautiful statement about freedom – for socialists well and truly HATE freedom. All they care for is economic equality. And they will impose their will on everyone else. That's their only way of functioning. But no matter what Hinduism does, it does not force its way on others.
 

Tentative conclusion

I doubt if any cogent theory of 'socialism' can possibly be traced to the Vedas or Vedanta. Instead, I find there are many strands of liberalism that can be, at least faintly, linked back to the ancient Hindu (and other Indian) scriptures and texts. No unambiguously clear signal that promotes freedom in the modern sense seems to arise from ancient India, but bits and pieces do arise that might, when combined, offer a cogent theory of Vedic capitalism.
 
Happy to discuss this issue further with those who provide SCHOLARLY evidence and not mere opinion.
 
ADDENDUM
A reader, Gopi, has directed me to Dharam aur Samajvad – by Vaid Gurudatta. This book distinguishes between Hinduism and socialism. Could I request the blog readers who visit this blog post to please read this book and summarise it for me if you have time.
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India: the world’s free market laboratory

The abysmal collapse of governance in India has a silver lining. It is making Indians self-reliant. In many ways India is fast becoming a libertarian anarchy. After being an experimental laboratory to prove unambiguously the intellectual poverty of socialism, India is now a laboratory in libertarian anarchy! 

The government simply does not work in India, or works so badly that citizens scrupulously avoid it. But in a convoluted and unexpected way, India's misgovernance is becoming a blessing in disguise – forcing Indians to rely on themselves and their own ingenuity. 

Education

Government schools don't work (they can't work in any system, anyway). So  parents in India send their children to private schools. Even those who can't afford private schools (which are really cheap, and all of them "English medium") at least try to send their children to a private 'refresher' school after school hours, a place which teaches some kind of English and IT skills. A variety of "polishing" and "finishing" schools are sprouting everywhere and flourishing – so huge is the demand for education of children. 

Health

Not only are Indians forced to buy your own education but they have to buy their own health care. Except for a few most government hospitals are defunct. You are more likely to catch disease if you go to one of them than to get cured. So private hospitals of international standard have sprung up everywhere and even private clinics are relatively cheap. Self-insurance is the only way people can survive in India. There is no better lesson in free markets than that.

Security

Nozick speculated that private protection associations will arise in the libertarian anarchy. That is quite implausible (as I show in DOF), but what is happening in India is that people are paying for their own security. Private security guard businesses are flourishing.  For those who can't afford private security, payments are made to the local goonda and police constable. Far from ideal (security, I believe firmly, is the job of the state), but at least people are coping. 

Municipal Services

Municipalities in India are centralised behemoths that simply can't work the way they are designed. They are dead as a dodo. They can't clean up their own backyard, leave alone the streets. Hence Indians have organised private garbage removal services. That these garbage removal services dump the garbage into the nearest river or pond is a separate matter  (where the state should come in), but at least their garbage gets cleared from their house.

True, Indians can't buy infrastructure (like roads) through the private sector, nor can they get clean drinking water. But that is the price Indians are paying for themselves voting – repeatedly – the most corrupt governments  of the world into power. A country always gets the government it deserves.

The lessons Indians are drawing from this anarchy

The lessons that Indians are learning now will hold them in good stead in the future. These lessons include:

a) Don't rely on the government!

b) Look after yourself for there is no one else who will look after you!

c) Stand up on your own feet for there is no welfare state to pamper you!

As these lessons are internalised, the results will be very good. India is already showing signs of becoming one of the world's most competitive societies: cut-throat competitive, not merely competitive. Super-competitive. Agile. Fighting fit.

Anyone who can provide even the remotest semblance of quality at a decent price in India can now become a multi-millionaire in just two to three years. That's all it takes now, in this vast market – which is continuously looking for better quality at a lower price – to become super-wealthy. This MASSIVE competitiveness will one day redeem India, and also, indirectly help to demolish the fat welfare states of the West that are now simply too complacent because countries like India and China have not yet got their acts together. But one day they will. And the signs for India are excellent.

Examples abound today everywhere in India of the astonishing advances Indians are making. From manufacturing to services, the country is a bubbling cauldron of energy. Things are changing rapidly through intense competition. The telecom revolution is an indicator, but there are hundreds others examples well documented in books like Gurcharan's outstanding books, and those by Khanna (Billions of Indians) and Kamdar's Planet India. Tens of other books discuss this phenomenon in detail. Most importantly, management books have drawn valuable lessons from this energy.

From this great experiment in libertarian anarchy,  hundreds of brilliant lessons can now be easily drawn by economists worldwide. Many books have already been written, as I noted above, exploring the market-based revolutions of India. But much more has to be done to study the lessons from these experiments. The people are too busy to document their fantastic energy.

Role for a liberal political party: to provide good governance

This huge surge towards wealth in India can be dramatically speeded up if good governance can be made available to Indians. Unfortunately, NONE of India's existing political parties is capable of providing anything close to good governance. There are systemic reasons why that can't be done. It can only be done if a strong liberal political party is voted to power but there is none at the moment! That gap is what FTI aims to address (some initial work has started on the Freedom Party of India website).

The task of reform has unfortunately been hamstrung because Indians have been so smitten with either socialism or Hindutva that they are no longer able to straight and logically (no matter how intelligent they may be!).

The day when just 1500 outstanding leaders assemble on a liberal platform, India will be well on the way to becoming the world leader in EVERYTHING. I have no doubt about that.

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Now I’m concerned! Baba Ramdev’s ideas must change.

Over the past few weeks I've steadily become more aware of Baba Ramdev's work. His avid fans write to me, asking me to watch this video or that.

I don't have time to watch videos, but did watch one – where Rajiv Dixit and Baba Ramdev spoke – and found it amazing in terms of the ignorance about world history displayed by Dixit, and his praise for Mao Tse Tung and other communists! I haven't watched more videos but I do hope that Mr Dixit is not advocating communism!

Next I discovered that Baba Ramdev wants to ban cow slaughter. I found it to be a misguided viewpoint and tantamount to religious interference in the affairs of the state.

Following a link sent to me today by one of his fans I came across http://bharat-swabhiman.com/en/about/ (do  read this page).

Now I'm beginning to become concerned! I'm not yet alarmed but concerned that Baba Ramdev might be biting off more than he can chew. It is not necessary for an outstanding yogi to also be an outstanding engineer. So also Baba Ramdev is excellent in yoga but  VERY weak in policy. He also has no one within his group that can advise him on policy.

Take two examples:

1) 100% boycott of foreign companies, adoption of ‘swadeshi’

This a seriously misguided. If swadeshi means what it should mean in Hindi, then the website of Baba Ramdev should be shut down, for NONE of it was invented in India. Everything underpinning the website including electricity, the transistors, the integrated chips, the internet infrastructure, the software was developed OUTSIDE India. The atomic theory, the entire physics behind it, was developed outside India. 

If he is serious about swadeshi, Baba will also need to ensure that all Indians shut off their electricity and stop using bicycles, cars, buses, trains, and planes. And he should immediately stop using his mobile phone. And so on… 

Is the Baba aware of how badly misguided this policy is! He needs to read about how wealth is created. He can start with Adam Smith, or at least chapters 2 and 3 of BFN.

2) We will adopt nationalist thought 100%, and while in our personal lives we observe Hindu, Islam, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, etc. religious traditions, in our public lives we will live like a true Bharatiya.

I have no objection in principle with this but this statement is DEEPLY contradicted by the Baba's other statements. What is a Bharatiya? To find an answer to this question we can seek guidance from two other statements: (a) 100% yoga-oriented nation; and (b) ban on cow slaughter (i.e. no one to eat beef).

With re: to (a) I'm a great fan of yoga since it helped me immensely as part my cure of RSI (see my RSI cure website here). I attend at least one yoga class each week even now (apart from a Pilates class, and many other things I do at the gym/pool). But what if someone doesn't want to practice yoga? Is that person not Bharatiya? Isn't such an objective by a political front a blatant encroachment of religious views on the affairs of society?

Second, (b) – i.e. ban on cow slaughter – contradicts the religious freedom of Muslims and Christians (and many Hindus as well) to eat beef. How can people live their personal life as Muslims or Christians but be forbidden by the state to eat beef?

Note that statement (2) is good in principle, but because Baba Ramdev is not an advocate of freedom, he is mixing up good things with bad. Yes, people must not, as statement (2) states, mix their religion in the affairs of the nation. But therefore also, Baba Ramdev can't ask people to take up yoga or forbid their eating beef if they want to – just because he is a Hindu. What if Baba Ramdev was born a Muslim? Would he then say such things? How can our policy positions be based on the beliefs of the family to which we were born?

He is advocating religious interference in the affairs of state, and he doesn't understand policy. India can never become a free nation or a successful nation with such policies.

Tentative conclusion

Nothing from what I have read, watched (on video) or understood about Baba Ramdev so far convinces me that he is capable of delivering even remotely on his fundamental promise of honest good governance. He will fail since he doesn't understand policy and doesn't understand the causes of India's corruption and misgovernance. His team, e.g. people like Dixit do not seem capable of achieving anything either (from what I have gathered so far, given that they also presumably agree to such policies).

PREDICTIONS

True, Baba Ramdev is very popular, and he WILL influence Indian politics. But the results won't be what his followers want. From what he seems to be advocating I can now safely predict the following:

a) His party will take half of BJP's vote but barely a single Congress vote. Both BJP and his party will fare badly in the elections as a result, making it VERY EASY for Congress to win.

b) Even if his party and BJP undertake seat adjustments, and manage to win a majority together and form a coalition, the coalition will fail to provide good governance because neither BJP nor his party understand policy

In either scenario, India is doomed to further misgovernance. Congress – the totally corrupt socialist organisation will rule, or BJP/Baba Ramdev coalition will rule – which is totally confused about policy.

Solution: The solution for India is very simple. We need a clearly liberal group that understands how to govern and create excellent outcomes for all Indians. That group is FTI. Its policies will ENSURE the abolition of corruption and illiteracy, among other things. No one else can provide Indians what they desperately want: peace, good education, honest governance, health, and wealth. NO OTHER GROUP IN INDIA CAN ENSURE THAT. ZERO CHANCE. IMPOSSIBLE! Sawaal hi paida nahin hota.

Unless – of course, Baba Ramdev's ideas change, and he takes a crash course on policy. He can take a crash course in policy by reading BFN. That should be the first book on policy for anyone who wants to reform India. Just like people need to read a book by an expert physicist in order to understand gravity, so also they can start with BFN to understand policy. I can take yoga classes from him. He can take policy classes from me. Let the best that India can offer be made available to the people of India. Let us not get our Policy from a Yogi, nor Yoga from me!

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