Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Breaking Free of Nehru

A brief discussion about Breaking Free of Nehru on FB

I'm replying to a comment I received on FB since such debates are best done in full public awareness, and may clarify things for others, as well. 

Comment received
I read your book "Breaking Free of Nehru". As your explained you wanted an aggresive title, you got it. However, I do thank you for writing and putting forth such a debate – great. Actually, some of the points that you made are good and right, and one point I think should not be mentioned about avg IQ of indians in UK, and for other points in particular on economy, more like the US – your PhD from the USC, I think needs more self education on actually how it is turning out to and what is at miss.
I see you just as me when I came in 74 and studied in Georgia Tech. But having lived here for 36 years I begin to see issues that are not just visible at first.
I find it a vaneer society where as India is good in core. While Adam Smith is right but its implemantation in the US has come to rip it at seams. So, I think while you got a good size economy injection of the US capitalist indoctirnation, which is good, and it is dominant now or at least it was at that time of your PhD, a closer look now will be helpful for debate for us.
Today, though the US covers itself in capitilist doctorin, is protagonist of it yet it is functioing with all capitalist priciples compromised – not because of economic compulsions but becasue of political, economic, and hegamony.
We can debate on it – but, I am interested in pointing out to you should be copy this economic system as we did British Parliament system, it will be a grand system to put indian society in hugh pain. Given India's current economic model is not going to be much good for India as was the yesteryear economic model did not work, we ought to debate not on capitalist priciples but on implementing those priciples. We can discuss it more and later.
Now, I want to shock you and compell to think, and pl do reply me. Breaking away from Nehru will not be a bad idea as it will fetch some short term good results. However, frankly I think we need and ought to break away from McCaully – that will bring us enduring results in all spheres.
Why I wrote this? While I agree with you that Nehru and for that matter the assemblies of that time did some absurd idea things as you pointed out, social justice, but no matter how good the constitution is, it is the SOCIETY SELF ESTEEM that will do socity good. The Self Esteem DNA will help us as we are unique civilisation on planet.
One more point, it is not attack on you. It is a mere personal disagreement with you on one of your choice on a fundamental level and priciple. In my view and firm conviction, I am to not only like myself but I am to love myself – it is in humility manner and not in egotistical manner. In this way, I can change myself yet still be what I am. Because, the change we make are only to a certain attributes but we cannot ever undo where we started from. For example converting to Budhasim did not change Mr Ambadekar and it only became a qualifier. All those hindus who converted to Islam or Christinity still are dalit and trying to seek benefits of OBC. What good was their rejection? Pl think and comment. Why I wrote this much? i would like you to take that line out from the book. However, i respect and admire you in and for your personal choices and dicisions.
I wish you well and look forward to a dialog with you.
Thankd and regds
My response
Dear V
Thanks for reading BFN. Much appreciated. Glad you found some agreement with the message in the book. I'd like, however, to focus here on the few issues you raised which seem to me to require a brief discussion and clarification.
Let me assure you, first of all, that there was NO indoctrination about capitalism during my studies in the USA! It would do my studies in philosophy and economics in India and Australia, well before going to USA, great injustice, to suggest that my US studies were somehow pivotal to my philosophy of life. If anything, the university I went to had a preponderance of Fabian socialists and Keynesians. Marx was taught, as well, with considerable sympathy. And Rawls. My worldview has been informed by a vast amount of reading and thinking about philosophy since the age of 12. My US studies did help provide rigour to some of my views, by providing me the capacity and time to study issues in detail. These studies did not, however, make my views.
I agree that the US system is not a functional capitalist system. But I don't recall suggesting (even remotely) in BFN that India should "adopt" the American way. 
Re: breaking away from Macaulay, I'm afraid I don't know what you mean. Are you suggesting that a young man who came to India for about five years 180 years ago influenced India so much that we are now his slaves? I'm afraid you must spend some time to read history, and indeed, about Macaulay. If you search this blog, you'll find considerable discussion about Macaulay. Much of it will surprise you, since there is SO MUCH disinformation on Macaulay in India today – which merely shows that Macaulay failed to educate Indians. Indians today not only COOK up imaginary things about what Macaulay presumably said, but without reading or understanding him ONE BIT, make wild generalisations. One sentence or two of his alleged writings is all it takes for them to form a view. Such "highly educated" Indians! I hope you are not one of them. I prefer scholarly discourse, not shallow perceptions.
Self- esteem in India? What self-esteem can a POOR, CORRUPT nation possibly have? India can't acquire any self-esteem with SUCH A MISERABLE QUALITY education system, such poor quality public life, such pathetic "leaders", such hopelessly corrupt business leaders, and such deep poverty. 
And no, India is by no means a "unique" civilisation. It is merely one of many typical human civilisations. It is currently struggling to come out of its feudal era, but finds it can't. That is why I write my books – to take India to its next journey.
Your last point – I object vehemently to your suggestion that people are somehow stuck to "where they start from".
Ambedkar was a great thinker, and while Hindus may still consider him to be a "scheduled caste" and look down upon him, he spat on the caste system, and did the only honorable thing he could do: He left Hinduism.
He was NEVER, therefore, a Hindu again.
The fact that his "followers" in India are so poorly educated (they don't even know what he wrote) and desperate for benefits from the reservation system is a sad story that can't be attributed to the genius that Ambedkar was. These people are mere beggars. Ambedkar was a king. And so my recommendations for social reform, found in BFN, will stay. 
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Breaking Free of Nehru – one of India’s most widely read, if not “best selling”, books

When I found a publisher for BFN during my 2007 visit to India (Anthem Press), their CEO told me that they would be very pleased if they sold 500 copies. I was amused to learn that in India the most "famous" best selling authors usually manage to barely sell 2000 copies in all.

But that's the sad reality, as seen from this article (and data provided below). There are so few book readers in India. Newspapers is the most our "educated" people read.

In the case of BFN, the first print run of 500 quickly sold out (and reached "best selling" (!) status on Oxford books). After the first paperback copy was released, Anthem Press restructured and told me in mid-2009 that they won't publish any more copies. I therefore got the full copyrights back and put it out (full version) on the internet.

In the meantime I learnt that after about another year Anthem Press published a hardback version of the book which I presume sold around 500 copies (or so) as well, since very few copies of the book now remain, being found among a few online publishers.

So how many copies of BFN have been "sold" so far?

To the nearly 1000 hard copies that were sold, one should add the following:

a) Over 24,000 copies downloaded from my website.   [Detailed record here]

b) The Slideshare copy has had about 1000 views, Google books copy has another few hundred views/downloads, and there are numerous "mirror" websites which have copied the PDF file and made it widely available.

I'd therefore estimate that at least 26,000 copies have been "sold"/downloaded so far. This would make BFN one of the most widely read works of non-fiction in 2009-11 in India.

How many copies does a best-seller sell in India?

Extract from India Today's best selling list. Note the extremely few copies that typically sell in India. 









Aravind Adiga

The White Tiger

Harper Collins

Rs. 395



Chetan Bhagat

The Three Mistakes of My Life

Rupa & Co.

Rs. 95



Durjoy Datta / Maanvi Ahuja

Of course I love You….Till I Find Someone Better





Chetan Bhagat

One Night @ the Call Centre

Rupa & Co




Amitav ghosh

Sea of Poppies

Penguin / Viking




Chetan Bhagat

Five Point Someone : What Not To Do At IIT

Rupa & Co / Simon & Schuster

Rs 95



Sam Bourne

The Final Reckoning

Harper Collins




Christopher Paolini






Khaled Hosseini

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Bloomsbury / Arrow / Penguin

Rs.599/2.99 Pounds



Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner

Penguin India / Harper Collins India

Rs 275/470/Pound 3.50



Jhumpa Lahiri

Unaccustomed Earth

Random House India




Aravind Adiga

Between The Assassinations





John Le Carre

A Most Wanted Man

Hodder & Stoughton




Tarun J. Tejpal

The Alchemy Of Desire

Harper Collins/ Picador India

Rs 500/195



Elizabeth Noble

Things I Want My Daughters to Know





Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan

You Are Here


Rs. 199



Gregory David Roberts


Penguin / Times Warner

Rs 515/5.5 Pounds



Karan Bajaj

Keep off the grass

Pan McMillan / Harper Collins




David Baldacci

Divine Justice


Rs.522/6.99 Pound



Eric Van Lustbader

The Bourne Sanction

Orion Books



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What Would I Do If I Became India’s Prime Minister? #9 (and final)

Final Comments

The capitalism advocated in this book is not aboutunfettered freedom, but about a system of freedom with accountability. I don’t want to be told by anyone that I have been preaching unfettered, reckless freedom! Instead, this book has been clearly about self-discipline, moral responsibility, enlightened self-interest, even enlightened selfishness. There is a point where the philosophy of freedom merges seamlessly with the highest spiritual philosophies of mankind. However, ethical liberalism is a philosophy of action and does not tolerate corruption and decadence, unlike many spiritual perspectives which have no civic sense. Capitalism is a system of freedom with accountability. It is a delicate balance between competing needs.
I do not ask people to sit on their haunches like spiritualists do, watching their country go to the dogs even as their soul apparently achieves salvation. I do not believe that such methods will lead anyone to salvation, either. Inner peace, surely, but not salvation. There has to be a careful balance wrought between self-development and social development. The world we live in is the real test for what we stand for. Do we stand for humanity, for reason and for compassion? Or do we stand for extreme selfishness, so immersed in our soul that we lose all sense of our civic duties and responsibilities? No society will become free or remain free if its citizens are focused only on their own souls, to the neglect of vigilance over their temporal governments. Let us look after ourselves and our souls, but in doing so also discharge our duties and responsibilities as citizens. That will achieve the fine balance of enlightened selfishness, the greatest virtue of all.
And so stop just sitting there! Let us raise a commotion about corruption! Let us organize! I ask you to wake up. Freedom demands civil society; it demands voluntarism; it demands vigilance. This book can be summarized in the following scorecard:
Outcome for the Country and Society
Nehruvian Socialism
(Freedom, Equality of Opportunity)
Is the country a great place to raise our children?
Are its people independent, i.e. they do not ask the government to do everything for them?
Is justice delivered effectively and quickly?
Are the people largely ethical? Is the society a moral society?
Are the people secure? Is there law and order?
Is the government free of corruption?
Has poverty been banished?
Are many of its people deservingly rich? Is inequality encouraged and charity to able-bodied people discouraged?
Are religious and other discriminations severely punished?
Are all children well educated, at least to year 12?
Is the country’s infrastructure world class?
Is the country’s environment sustainable, and is its wildlife thriving?
Do citizens always seek to exceed the world’s highest standard in everything they do?
Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, recently said in an interview in the Time magazine[i] that ‘One doesn’t have to be a particularly brighthighbrow to see the obvious, that the market economy has major advantages over an administrative system’. Even though Putin’s Russia is nowhere as free as this book intends India to become, it now sees a clear advantage in moving towards freedom. The poisonous ideas of Marx have been trashed in Russia, the land which espoused them so vehemently for 70 years. But Indian socialists and communists continue to thrive in their Marxian world as never before. So if Putin’s Russia can “get it” why can’t we – are we to conclude that we do not have sufficient people even as bright as ordinary Russians?
I trust that you are by now one with me on the virtues of freedom, capitalism, ethical liberalism, enlightened self-interest, enlightened selfishness…whatever you call it. And yet, I am keenly aware that I have made recommendations in this book some of which you may not agree with. Indeed, I have not only received many positive comments on this book but also some objections. So I would like to discuss some of these objections here. A few general comments before I do so:
  • Some readers pointed out that many good things are already happening in India. In accepting that, I would like to remind them that such good things have been motivated entirely by the initial burst of capitalism forced onto India by the IMF. We have still no internalized full-fledged capitalism, which is primarily about justice and good governance. We should not be content with morsels of capitalism when we can but should have it fully. There are still millions of poor and illiterate people in India. The task has barely begun, and good governance is not even on the horizon.
  • Some readers said they agreed with parts of this book but not with other parts. I suggest that such an approach is not logically consistent. I see this entire book as one piece. People have only one real choice: to either agree entirely with this book, or to disagree with it completely.While this may sound like the height of arrogance, the problem is that my recommendations have been derived exclusively from the principles of freedom and the value of life. The recommendations of this book flow as a mathematical proof would, being either completely right or completely wrong. There are no grey areas in this book; people can’t pick and choose. If you do, you will end up with a logically inconsistent model.
  • The claim of impracticability doesn’t hold water at all, either. For example, it could be claimed that we simply won’t find enough high quality economists today to recruit into each State Government in India. But such an objection is a matter of detail. It may mean that we need to get there slowly, or it may mean that we need to bring back our economists who are forced to teach in Western countries today (or like me, help Western governments to even further improve their countries) instead of teaching (or working) in India. But it doesn’t change our destination. Matters of practicality can always be worked out if there is a will.
Having said that, I can understand partial disagreements (a) where it can be shown that one of my particular recommendations is erroneous because it does not derive from freedom, or (b) if a better solution than the one I have suggested can be found, being equally or more compatible with freedom. As to the first of these, there is only one Truth, so please write to me at with your better arguments and evidence. I will discuss these suggestions on the blog I have created for this book. And I promise to change my mind wherever I am conclusively shown to be wrong. The second of these disagreements is quite possible. Interplays of technology and incentives could mean that I may have missed out a better solution. I would be pleased to incorporate good solutions into potential future versions of this blueprint. Do write to me. Let us interact! Let this not be a passive book or a one-sided monologue but the beginning of a conversation leading to clarification of thought and then to action. One way would be for people to consider joining the Freedom Team and working on improved solutions together. Now to a discussion of the detailed objections I have received, in Box 5.
Box 5
Some Objections to Views Expressed in this Book
‘Nehru did the right thing for his time’
A reader, commenting on a draft wrote, ‘after independence, industrialists were not willing to invest in industries requiring larger gestation period’. Therefore, ‘opening our economy to the world would have led to many a devastating effect’. The implication is that Nehru was right in taking upon himself the task of baking bread, making steel and stitching shirts for us instead of ensuring justice. The real point is not whether industry did or did not want to invest. It would be presumptuous for us to judge a particular investor’s constraints. In a free market, where people put their own money on the line, each investor must decide for himself. The question is whether Nehru focused his efforts exclusively on promoting our freedoms or not. And the answer is, he did not. That is the real concern raised by this book. A government must give us freedom of choice. We can then decide if we want to invest our money or not.
But for argument’s sake, let us examine the investment issue. Many Asian countries had opened up their economy well before India did in 1991. Japan opened up in the late nineteenth century, South Korea in the 1960s, China in 1979. None of these countries was ‘devastated’ when they increased the levels of economic freedom. They only became rich. There is no shred of evidence to indicate that our industrialists in 1947 were a bunch of fools who wouldn’t have invested even when opportunities arose. These people had invested even under British rule and created large steel and cotton mills under harsh conditions. Reading the Tata story (Creation of Wealth by Russi M Lala) shows that we had world class industrialists who fought and worked hard to produce wealth. But Nehru never bothered to give us the rule of law, justice and infrastructure and let these people make the investment. Instead, he blocked investments through quotas and licensing. The public sector became the ‘dog in the manger’, destroying our wealth even as it prevented citizens from investing. How can we possibly blame our industry to justify Nehru’s mindless attempts to become a government businessman?
‘Reservations and the uniform civil code are necessary’
            A reader has indicated that reservations and the uniforml civil code must continue. However, based on the principles of freedom I am clear that there is no place in India for such things (see Chapter 3). At the same time, we must create uniform prohibitions on certain actions, minimum standards of accountability in social matters, but most important of all, equality of opportunity through elimination of poverty and provision of school education for all children. Enforcing equal opportunity and taking action against discrimination will also help. Such policies will yield a far superior outcome to the unjust and anti-freedom strategies found in our Constitution.
Capitalism Leads to Exploitation and Guilt
An interesting objection I received against capitalism was that people are advocating corporate social responsibility (CSR) nowadays because of all the guilt that capitalism creates in the minds of chief executives (CEOs) of large companies who draw very large salaries. Apparently such people are exploitative and feel guilty. So they need to undertake CSR programmes. Two things: first, CEOs don’t steal their salaries; they are given this money by the owners of the company (shareholders) because the CEOs provide much greater value to the shareholders. There is no exploitation involved here. It is a pure negotiation, a trade. Second, an industrialist can’t ever feel guilty if he has produced wealth the right way. He has already contributed by providing employment to thousands of people; that is the biggest ‘CSR’.
The modern idea of CSR is often just a clever marketing strategy, and I don’t believe that such CSR programmes contributes one bit to a country. Countries don’t become great on the basis of charity of any sort. They become great by competition and by creating wealth. Let Indian companies focus exclusively on generating profits and not distract their attention from wealth creation. Let India become a thousand times richer first. That will be the greatest CSR.
These Solutions Are Too Ambitious and Too Radical
According to this view, we have to be ‘realistic’ about India. Its problems are too deep-rooted to allow changes of the sort I have proposed – particularly in the short time span of five years. But the rate of change I have proposed is neither too fast nor too slow. I would like to suggest that wherever successful change has been made, it has been made fairly quickly. Change requires will power, and if momentum is not maintained, vested interests will gain strength and block the change. They will sap the will of the change leaders. The real blocker to such change is the availability of the right people to lead India to freedom. This exercise could take many years just to start. That is India’s greatest challenge for the future, not the ambition or speed of these solutions, which can always be refined.
* * *
The observant reader would have noted that there is a deeper layer or message in this book. It is about becoming seekers of the Truth; about critical thinking. Tagore’s Heaven of Freedom is, after all, a state of mind that each of us can aspire for, irrespective of whether our entire society is free. The government or a society can block our body but it can never chain our mind. To that extent we can be free irrespective of the society in which we live. A key message of this book is therefore about free thought and reason, about finding out the best way we can to live. This book seeks a cultural shift in India from blind acceptance of what our seniors or leaders tell us to asking probing questions and personally examining the facts. It is crucial for everyone to discover the truth about capitalism or socialism or whatever the ‘ism’ is, for themselves. As Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) wrote: ‘We must begin by accepting nothing on trust from any source whatsoever, by questioning everything and forming our own conclusions’.[ii] That was also the message of Socrates and Buddha 2,500 years ago. I’m adding my squeaky voice to that hoary message.
And therefore the way to proceed would be to question all my assumptions and all my conclusions – if you have not already done so. It is possible that I have been entirely wrong! The free man doesn’t claim, can never claim, complete knowledge and understanding. Also knock off all the dross and exaggeration you find in this book. Knock off anything that doesn’t ring true or make sense to you. I will have achieved my purpose only if the critical thinking processbehind the conclusions drawn in this book becomes your own. It is, of course, my hope that this thinking process will lead you to the same or similar conclusions as I have come to. If, after you have turned this book upside down and smacked it hard with a stick, it still manages to survive in one piece, then we can proceed to the next, last, steps of this journey – towards a new journey that you will need to create for yourself.
* * *
Once you have crossed that point, there is no time to look backward for even one more second! It is then time to face the future; time to make the future. What has happened is history – water under the bridge. Let’s forget it. There is absolutely no point in regretting Nehru’s misjudgements. We must follow Martin Luther King, Jr.’s counsel: ‘Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness […] We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline’.[iii] And so with sprightly steps we now turn towards the next journey.
We have many urgent tasks before us. We need to ponder carefully over how each of us can become, or help inspire, ‘leaders of ability, vision, and moral character’[iv] to represent the citizens of free India. That India desperately needs good political representation is not in doubt. But the problem is it won’t happen on its own. On the other hand, merely jumping into politics with brash fervour will not solve any of India’s problems, either. There has to be a systematic effort. This is my suggested outline of the systematic effort India needs now to initiate its real freedom movement:
  • Let any two believers in freedom come together with the aim of building a Freedom Team of India to an initial size of 1500 persons. I am happy to coordinate an electronic platform for this if it will help anyone.[v] Using this platform is purely optional – any platform will do.
  • The Freedom Team of India (or whatever else it is called) will then need to agree on what the new India will look like and how its members will deliver the reforms if they were to ever come to power. I’ll be pleased if Chapters 2 and 6 inform the answers to some of these questions. But of course, the blueprint would entirely be the work of the Freedom Team.
  • After that will come the question of who. Once ready, this group of 1500 should select outstanding leaders from among itself and form a new, ethics- and freedom-based political platform.
  • Its leaders and supporters should then go from village to village, explaining the proposed policies to people.
  • Finally, about 550 outstanding leaders should contest elections. With the right effort and good luck, a majority of them will hopefully get elected.
  • After that it would be a matter of disciplined implementation of the planned reforms.
  • It going to be that simple to change India!

Till now I have largely continued with the expositional tone of an Indian citizen because this book was started to support my political efforts of 2004–5 while I was still a citizen. After three failed attempts to establish a platform to reform India’s governance, I forfeited my Indian citizenship on 17 November 2005 upon acquiring Australian citizenship. I am now an overseas Indian citizen. I can therefore play only a limited role in India’s future unless India agrees to full dual citizenship in the future. However, the task I had started upon is still incomplete. Indeed, it has not even been started.

I have taken you along with me on a short journey, but the much longer journey lies ahead. The ball is in your court. You should carefully consider whether you wish to take up the personal challenge to lead India to greatness and the world to the new era of harmony, peace and freedom. If you are willing to give it a go, and keep learning on the way, then I applaud and welcome your initiative and appeal to India to join you in working for true freedom and greatness. I don’t often pray, for I don’t know if it works, but in this case I wish you Godspeed!
* * *
The final end of the State consists not in dominating over men, restraining them by fear, subjecting them to the will of others. Rather, it has for its end so to act that its citizens shall in security develop soul and body and make free use of their reason. For the true end of the State is Liberty.
Baruch Spinoza (1632–77)

[Note: This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru]

[i] Time, 31 December 2007 – 7 January 2008, p.31.

[ii] Published posthumously, written c.1912. See [].

[iii] In his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.

[iv] Fears, J Rufus, Lectures on History of Freedom, The Teaching Company. Cited at

[v] The Freedom Team of India group at [].

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What Would I Do If I Became India’s Prime Minister? #8

Health care

Health care can be split into two elements – basic health and hospitalization. Unlike higher education, basic health does form part of the requirements of equality of opportunity. However, to the extent that people should meet the costs of their visits to doctors and medication from their own savings or through insurance, this is a usual part of living and no extra effort is called for to equalize the playing field. The poverty line for purposes of NIT would include a buffer to allow for such routine costs to be incurred by the poor.
However, for major medical matters, things can become complex. Ideally, each free citizen should take private insurance or self-insure. However, people who have not self-insured but land up on the doorsteps of a hospital once they fall badly sick or get badly injured cannot be turned away in a free society, just as no one can be allowed to starve.Therefore the concept of voluntary insurance or self-insurance breaks down for hospitalization and emergency care. Major health care therefore becomes a public, not a private, good, being non-excludable. It calls for compulsory insurance. In the manner we pay for roads, defence and police, i.e. in proportion to our incomes and not in proportion to our use, hospitalization and emergency care will be provided by the government to every citizen by charging taxes which will form acompulsory insurance premium. People will be free to take private insurance at levels beyond this coverage for ambulance services, designer spectacles, a private hospital room, treatment at a hospital of choice or by a doctor of choice, use of experimental medicines or medical techniques not available for general use, early booking of elective surgery, or cosmetic surgery.
Having collected the hospitalization premium, the government will not directly deliver the service, but get it delivered. The country’s geographical area will be carved into reasonably sized zones which will then be put out for tender. Private health consortiums wanting to provide prescribed health services of a prescribed standard, to all people living in these areas, will quote a single, flat price on a per-personbasis. This quote would take into account the local costs of living including the difficulty of appointing doctors to remote areas. The lowest (or fittest) bidders would be awarded 30-year exclusive contracts for these geographical areas and paid the agreed amount each year for all people living in that area (the amount would change as population changes). This money would enable these consortiums to establish hospitals or to otherwise negotiate with private hospitals in that geographical area to ensure that appropriate services are provided to all people in that geographical area. Further, except for emergencies, people would be allocated specific hospitals for treatment in their living zones.

The health regulator will monitor the delivery of services. Stiff penalties for non-compliance with agreed standards will be imposed. By the end of the third year, when this system would have been fully implemented, the system of government primary health centres and hospitals will be shut down. Where possible, the lands and assets of these facilities will be sold to relevant private health consortiums which will also be required to take responsibility for the public health and hospital staff for up to five years.

Some Important Non-Core Functions

There are some non-core functions that a government can also perform, if funds so permit. I am focusing only on environmental sustainability here. Many aspects of environmental sustainability are core functions, being a part of justice.

Environmental Sustainability

We have seen that the fundamental cause of poverty in a society is the lack of freedom. The size of a country’s population has absolutely nothing to do with it. Free countries are rich no matter if they have a high population density (31 countries have a higher population density than India’s, including countries like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Netherlands, Belgium and Japan) or low (such as with Ireland, United States, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada, Australia). On the other hand, low levels of freedom invariably lead to a large, poor and illiterate population. I have explained why India’s large, illiterate population can be directly attributed to Nehruvian socialism in the Online Notes.[i] The explanation uses a conceptual model which formed the basis of my doctoral research. Therefore, had India not followed Nehru’s socialism, its population would have been much smaller and significantly richer today. The diagram below summarizes the reasons and shows how freedom keeps the population size low and motivates parents to send their children to school.



But while population size does not cause wealth or poverty, it impacts the environment significantly.India’s large population has without doubt had an adverse impact on the environment, such as on our wildlife. In addition to creating a large population, Nehruvian socialism has also added to the depredations on India’s environment. Our socialist pirates – Ministers and officers charged with the responsibility of protecting forests and the environment – have personally looted our forests and connived with polluting industries to damage our environment.

  • One of my earliest battles against corruption, in 1985–6, was an attempt to stop illegal felling in beautiful dense forests found in the Hojai subdivision of Assam. Trees were being cut illegally with the connivance of forest department officers, and possibly (almost certainly) of the Minster.
  • One of my friend’s wealthy acquaintances in Delhi confided to me in the early 1990s how he made his wealth by illegal harvesting of native timber from Nagaland. The method he used was that of paying off Nagaland Ministers.
Socialism has also meant that we are a very poor country without the money to clean up our rivers and lakes, or to rehabilitate our denuded forests. Finally, the justice system in socialist India does not hold people to account for the pollution they cause. Under today’s socialist dispensation, polluters invariably pass on the costs of their pollution to the society without any recourse available to citizens. Our environmental situation is very precarious as a result.
On the other hand, freedom leads to a good and sustainable environment. The relationship is depicted in the diagram below. There are three pathways to a good environment: (a) building greater awareness of environmental problems, (b) greater technological capability to deal with pollution, and (c) enforcing accountability firmly – a free society holds polluters to account.
Unfortunately, the transition to freedom is always a time of great pollution. With even a slight increase in income arising from greater freedom, the use of energy, transportation and chemicals tends to rise steeply. Given our large population, things are therefore likely to get very bad before they start getting better. We have to brace ourselves for environmental disasters as the economy opens up.
To avert such disasters, my government will face this challenge head on and put in place the mechanisms of accountability and justice necessary for a clean environment. While wealth and the consequent capability to deal with pollution will take time to build, awareness building and enforcement of accountability will be the main pillars of my government’s strategy to protect the environment. My government will also rapidly phase in, through regulation, the world’s highest standards in the use of non-polluting technology wherever such technology exists. Without these steps, given the large population size bestowed by Nehruvians and the wealth generated by capitalism, the environment will be completely laid bare.
Accountability of Polluters
Accountability or justice is the foremost value in a free society. Passing on costs to the rest of the society and the environment cannot be tolerated. Polluters will be made to pay, if necessary with deterrent levels of penalties. The following strategies, discussed in detail in Chapter 2, will be adopted:
  • Cost recovery: To the extent that polluters can be individually identified, external costs will be recovered from them directlyand polluters will be forced to repay the affected community. This can include mandatory requirements for polluters to clean up toxic spills, failure to do which would lead to imprisonment for extended periods.
  • Pigovian taxes: To the extent that polluters cannot be individually identified, Pigovian taxes will be imposed on the activity that approximates most closely the activity undertaken by the polluters. A range of incentives-based solutions, such as trading of permits within limits to pollute, will also be used. In particular, carbon taxes will be imposed in a phased manner on electricity produced from coal. The revenue so collected will be used as follows:
    • to provide (compensatory) subsidies to companies to increase plantations and forests. These subsidies will be paid based on the actual growth of these forests confirmed through satellite imagery;
    • to fund Indian investors to build nuclear power stations while meeting the world’s highest standards of safety and security under international supervision; and
    • if funds remain, to fund industry and universities, based on demonstrable results, to increase research in non-polluting technology.
(Note dated 4 June 2011: I'm reviewing my earlier position on the concept of Pigovian taxes. It is possible, according to my current position, that these taxes are not an appropriate way to reduce negative externalities. See this.). 
In the Online Notes[ii] I have also discussed the international ramifications of carbon pollution and how the West will be asked to deploy carbon taxes both to increase the developing world’s forest cover through private plantations (see Chapter 2 on how this can be done) and also to significantly increase their own forests.
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There are numerous other things that the blueprint would include, including things like enhancing innovation and increasing transparency which I have not included here for want of space.[iii] By implementing this blueprint, each of our 113 crore people will be enabled to use their minds freely and innovatively for the first time ever in India’s history. India will then be transported into the open spaces of endless beauty that Tagore spoke of in his Heaven of Freedom (see the first chapter of this book). I can visualize thereafter, not very far away, possibly in a few decades, the Indian economy becoming at least three times larger than that of USA, and its people being able to balance the needs of self-development, environment and the economy.
We cannot run after wealth as a nation, though, if we wish to be a great nation. We must only seek freedom. We must seek to live as individuals who are free to think for themselves. Wealth cannot be our objective; it will follow naturally from our freedom. In doing such things, these policies of freedom will make the India of tomorrow the world’s greatest country in many more ways than the size of its economy. And wouldn’t that be something that Gandhi, Tagore and Nehru would have been genuinely proud of?
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