Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Freedom Team of India

Indians don’t want to become rich. How else can one explain what’s going on?

The India FNF Alumni Network (IFAN) recently organised a meeting in Mumbai of liberals across the spectrum (young liberals, political liberals, etc.) to meet FNF's Regional Director-Siegfried Herzog. Supratim, an FTI member, attended the meeting and provided some notes. I'm publishing them with his prior permission:

Edited extracts from Supratim's notes:

Manali Shah, IFAN, and Parth Shah of Centre for Civil Society (CCS) were present, along with two people from Liberal Youth Forum, India (LYFI). On the political side, Surendra, Reuebn and one more from Lok Satta, and Awadhesh Singh from Jaago Party attended. There were a few other individuals who were either working with NGOs or have worked in the liberal cause earlier.

There were a fair amount of broad-brush discussions, but the key points from my perspective were:

1. Lok Satta admits that they read the people wrong – and, while people welcome Lok Satta as a moral, ethical political force, LS is unable to transform that into votes yet. So, they are spending more time in trying to build momentum at the ground level, while communicating as widely as possible with potential constituents. They continue with the bottoms up strategy and will be contesting the BMC elections, which are coming up.

2. Jaago party is planning to contest the Rajasthan state elections – that is their focus state and all their energies are going towards this aim.

3. Even otherwise intelligent people find it very hard to accept or think through FTI's strategy of getting first 500 members together, before we contest. Although, LS also acknowledges how hard it is to get leaders in India who are ready to contest, instead of just commenting. People are stuck on getting full time activists in each state, full time politicians (another disconnect) even while the party is in no shape of even winning a significant minority.

4. The other disconnect, I find, is that even so called liberals find it hard to accept market pricing solutions – there was a question of how we get over the impasse of finding good ("middle class) people to contest and to remove the stigma for politics – my solution was obvious, pay the politicians a lot for governing the country. For example, maybe the PM needs to be paid Rs10cr a year for his service. I could see the eyes glazing over, and talking about service for the cause and how one must have a passion for this work, etc – if this is that state of our so-called liberals, I think we are 50 years away from really reforming India.

5. People want to work within the existing system and try to rejig it and reform it – big bang reforms where start from a completely new fundamental base scares most of them.

My comments

Simple and ready solutions readily exist to India's problems. For instance (without insisting that these are the only solutions available), the solutions in BFN distill the very best policies that the world has to offer today. These policies are guaranteed to make India rich. 

But for some strange reason we can't seem to be able to find 1500 high quality leaders and get on with the job. How hard can this be in a country of 1 billion people?

The few who are 'awake" are continuing to waste their PRECIOUS time in futile attempts to do "ground work" without ANY PREPARATION. They need to first build a strong leadership team and get agreement on policies. Without policy agreement, and 1500 leaders talking the same language, there is ZERO chance of building a successful national liberal political party. Indeed, sometimes I suspect these "liberal" political outfits are not genuine votaries of liberty. (For instance LS seems to be social liberal and Jago's views are unclear). And that they are not serious about India's future.

Anyway, as Rome burns, its educated classes continue to fiddle. I conclude that Indians DON'T want to become rich.

Untold wealth is being offered to them in a platter, and they refuse.

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India the caged bird – its sad story in a picture

Vijay Mohan, FTI member, has updated his article and also provided a graphic image of Pacman to represent red tape in India! To see the image directly, click here

In addition, he has also sent in an evocative pictorial depiction of India, as a caged bird – below (Click for larger image)

Thanks, Vijay. Very creative! A picture is worth a thousand words. 

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The Indian middle class has taken baby steps in politics. Now is it ready for the big game?

I won't refer in detail to the Swatantra Bharat Party (January 2004) of which I was a member of the national executive for 18 months before resigning because of its shortcomings that I won't go into here. It predominantly consisted of farmers led by Sharad Joshi – tens of thousands of farmers. It failed to engage the educated Indian middle class. And so it can't be said to be a middle class political effort.

But since 2006, some baby steps have been taken by the Indian middle class in terms of directly engaging with politics. After nearly 55 years of thinking of politics as a spectator sport, the middle class started showing some interest in political action in the cities.

The main highlights of this engagement have been:

a) Small micro-political parties have been established, e.g.  Lok Satta, Jago Party, Professionals Party, etc. etc. Now, there were already nearly 2000 odd political parties in India in the past, but these were mostly established at the grassroots level: in small towns and villages. This time was different. It was the highly educated groups that were now beginning to lead – and these parties had NO grassroots base. These were city-based parties and reached out primarily to the educated middle class. They were booted out by the people in the elections. The first attempts by the middle class to engage politically were brutally rebuffed by the voter, leaving the middle class perplexed, its ego in tatters.

b) A Jago Re campaign was launched to promote voting by the middle classes. This did not have much of an impact but at least it was a start in the right direction.

c) Some genuine middle-class mobilisation occurred after the 26/11/2008 Mumbai attacks. But this fizzled out quickly.

d) Anna Hazare's IAC movement crossed over between the urban middle class and rural middle class. Ramdev's intervention brought some traditional Hindu support as well. But again, this movement failed because it did not address key problems, not had the appropriate strategy.

In sum, since 2006, the middle class of India is slowly beginning to engage politically and make a claim to a better India the way it sees it. But it finds itself isolated and shattered today – with no possibility of these methods bringing about any change.

After five years of these failed efforts I hope the middle class is ready to review its strategy.

I have offered a simple and clear strategy since 1998, but a more precise and targeted – and GUARANTEED to be successful – strategy since 2006 (FTI: established in 2007).

The middle class educated voter needs to consider this durable and SUCCESSFUL strategy more carefully. Then it will succeed in gaining traction in the political arena

Without a very clear strategy – of the sort that FTI brings – let me note that the aspirations of the middle class – of seeing a great India – will be continuously rebuffed. You need 300 seats in parliament. Else forget the idea of change.

The benefit of education is supposedly that educated people are able to think. I suggest the middle class start THINKING – now! 

Please review what has been done, what has gone wrong, and why. And then consider FTI's simple strategy that is GUARANTEED to succeed.

There is no need to waste your time, young folk, in wasteful activity! Just follow the very clear and well-considered pathway outlined by FTI and you WILL succeed. I guarantee that!

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The Freedom Team and Ketan Patel’s Master Strategist

Ketan Patel's Master Strategist is perhaps the best book on the subject of strategy. Browsing through it once again, today, I noticed a few sections that are particularly pertinent to FTI's strategy.

I'm extracting these sections below since strategy development is an ongoing exercise on FTI. In particular, it is hard for people to understand that FTI is not aimed at winning one or two seats in State assemblies or Parliament in India. Its effort is to create a new national classical liberal political force that shifts the discussion, shifts the entire nation towards freedom and good governance. And on a permanent, sustainable, basis. Such a permanent shift cannot occur (or be validated) without a parliamentary majority.

FTI knows that the people of India are not stupid. They will not vote for a small disparate group of leaders who think they know what is good for India, and arrogantly, without preparation, without persuasion, contest elections. Such fools will be shown the door. They will lose their deposit.

The results of innumerable outfits that have attempted such stupidity is there for everyone to see.

The people of India demand a credible alternative comprising high-quality leaders who have agreed on new policy directions for India. And that is only the beginning of the package. A number of other things – like supporters and funds for electoral campaigns – are imperative before the people of India agree to vote for such a new political force.

Most important, as far as I am concerned, is the natural momentum generated when 1500 outstanding leaders will assemble on one platform. to start the ball rolling. That momentum, in my view, will be greater than the sum of its parts, and will be unstoppable. In due course, there will be tens of thousands of more leaders who join. But critical mass and momentum are first necessary.

In my mind a leader is not a mere number, but a powerhouse on his own. That is what FTI is looking for. 1500 power houses.

In brief, FTI's strategy is no ordinary strategy.  It does not accept anything but significant change. It believes that the people of India deserve better. It does not take shortcuts nor offer a shoddy, half-baked product.

Anyway, here are a few interesting extracts from Patel's book. I strongly recommend this book although you must keep your eye open while reading it for Patel does tend to wander off at places, and also presumes, at times, that things are true merely because someone said so. A young man with potential, he will ultimately become a great writer.



Strategy is fundamentally about difference. Strategy therefore denies equality, striving for sameness or belief in there being only one answer. Difference requires leaps beyond what others can grasp. Strategy requires us to go beyond:

What the blind following of analysis can reveal.

Where the sharing of common assumptions leads.

Where the accepted wisdom points us.

What the acceptance of unfit rules gives us.


Our existing approaches strategic analysis are based on the false notion that the sum the parts will equal the whole. This notion is false in assumes that the world is sufficiently well understood to assemble it from components. 


The principle flaws (of most strategy) are:

1 Over-Focus on Analysis The main method is the use of 2-by-2 matrices. We analyse things that can be easily analysed: cost vs. profit, growth vs. share, number of engineers vs. overall graduates, number of people vs. water supply. Strategy of this type is a flawed accounting process as it usually involves analysis of the past to find the future. Good accountants of course know that analysis of the past can only tell you about the past. At best, it may provide you with some questions to ask about today's situation. This method avoids creativity and holistic thinking.

2 Over-Focus on Numbers The main emphasis is on size. We look at numbers that are easy to look at: the value of tangible assets, size of profits, the GDP per capita, the numbers of tanks, the stock-pile of arms. This method ignores people, their passions and their aspirations.

3 Over-Focus on Forecasting The main method is to extrapolate results by using modelling techniques. We project the past and assume the conclusions are valid. We assume we can project manufacturing output, revenue, demand, the weather, peace and other factors in a similar way. This method ignores other more complex variables and assumes a closed loop.

4 Over-Focus on the Near Term The overwhelming motivation is to deliver short-term results. We focus on things that are close enough for us to feel comfortable. For governments, this means concentrating on the election period, for corporations, on meeting the quarterly results requirement, while for inp.dividuals the imperatives are increasingly set by the regular glossy media. This method destroys human potential by focusing it on quick results.

5 Over-Focus on the Parts The main method is categorisation or segmentation. We categorise things that make it easier for us to grasp concepts: customers, people, enemies. We put them into income bands, social class, religious groups, ethnic types and education levels.  This method the nose human behaviour by oversimplifying.

6 Over-Focus on What We Have The main method is to take an inventory. We do this simplistically using two techniques: firstly, strength and weakness analysis and, more recently, in the corporate world, core competency theory. This method avoids considering what we could have.

7 Over-Focus on Competing The main method is that of competitive strategy. We focus on those that we wish to beat: military competitive strategy, corporate competitive strategy, personal competitive strategy. This method harks back to a past of ignorance and/or limited means and makes us fight over assets and resources.

p. 124

[Perhaps the highest strategy is the strategy of aspiration.]

A successful Strategy of Aspiration aims to redefine the existiK reality. Such a strategy recognises that to redefine the way things are, it is necessary to redefine the beliefs and aspirations of people. It is an approach which begins with aspiration rather than analysis, which is seen as a tool to refine the strategy. 

e.g. I Have a Dream . . . The argument is that there is a better way. 

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