Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Gandhi

Those who want to protect the cow are welcome to make a request but not PROHIBIT (Gandhi)

Vishal Singh pointed out this brilliant piece of Gandhian thinking:

"Gandhi writing in Hind Swaraj on how to achieve cow-protection: (note: Gandhi was a big votary of cow-protection)

"Therefore, the only method I know of protecting the cow is that I should approach my Mohammedan brother and urge him for the sake of the country to join me in protecting her. If he would not listen to me I should let the cow go for the simple reason that the matter is beyond my ability. If I were overfull of pity for the cow, I should sacrifice my life to save her but not take my brother's. This, I hold, is the law of our religion."

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Threats of suicide do not constitute “participatory democracy”

I'm making note of this conversation which occurred a few days ago on Facebook. I'm doing so primarily for my record, but to emphasise that fasting as POLICY BLACKMAIL is an inappropriate way to seek change in democratic society.

By all means protest, write, spread the message. Civil society has that role. But fasting – that's something no one should use lightly. In Gandhi's view, that was only a tool for self-purification, to bring down violence, to persuade others to stop violence, NOT as a tool to demand something.

I'm glad that no one has died from the many POLICY FASTS we have seen in the last two to three years. Ramdev survived, Anna survived. And now Kejriwal (in a few hours from now he will end his fast). Had any one of these died, that may have led to an outbreak of violence, nullifying the key Gandhian tenet.

EXTRACT

This is how it started, with my tweet:

Arvind Kejriwal (@AKParivartan) Instead of fasting, Arvind, let's work to TAKE OVER the parliament. Don't beseech these rascals. http://bit.ly/MkpNiX

SC: Well….Taking over Parliament is the Last Option. And you are not wrong. But Is Joining Politics and Forming Political parties should be the only way of Seeking Justice? So how do 1 Billion people represent themselves in Parliament? All stand for elections? Should people who are elected not be made Responsible and Accountable? What does "PARTICIPATORY"democracy mean to us?

Very simple example…How was RTI brought into place? Was a political party brought into being? If we start making one political party for evry EVIL in this country, we will have N no of political parties….If thts the solution..be it!

There is something thats called "Pre-Legislative process" in other Democratic countries of the world like UK and a couple of others. Constitution is ever evolving and shud not be Static. Adaptabilty is Growth. 

Sanjeev Sabhlok  Begging rascals, or committing suicide while begging those who are not worthy to be spat upon, is not my idea of "participatory" democracy. Gandhi warned against the use of fasting by those who aren't seeking self-purification. Team Anna has brought fasting down to blackmail. That's inappropriate. There are honorable methods available to participate – Team Anna should choose such methods. Threatening suicide and blackmailing the country is a very bad idea.

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Gandhi was a MAJOR proponent of liberty. Most people have still to understand him.

I came across a brilliant blog post (thanks, Mithun) published by Unpretentious Diva at the Rational Libertarian Corner.

Unfortunately, the post is in such a combination of fonts/colour that my eyes burnt while reading it. I have therefore copied it onto this blog, below, and am reproducing it in full for the convenience of those who may find the original one hard to read. [I trust Unpretentious Diva will allow this reproduction. I'll let her know through a comment, presently.]

This blog post by UD is VERY important since MOST Indians are seriously confused about Gandhi's worldview. This post further reaffirms what I have already described in BFN, that Gandhi did NOT support Nehru's socialism.

There is a tendency in some Western circles (and even within India) to misrepresent what Gandhi stood for, merely because of his opposition to technology. This opposition of Gandhi to modern technology, which is paternalistic at its heart and therefore quite unlike him in many ways, is a perspective I can't understand, neither do I accept a few other aspects of Gandhi's worldview. But on the whole, Gandhi was one of those MOST favourable to liberty, in India's independence movement.

====by Unpretentious Diva===

Exploring the Anarchic roots of Gandhian Philosophy

[Government] control gives rise to fraud, suppression of truth, intensification of the black market and artificial scarcity. Above all, it unmans the people and deprives them of initiative, it undoes the teaching of self-help" (Gandhi, “Speech at Prayer Meeting,” 3 Nov. 1947, CWMG, vol. 97, 224)  

I look upon an increase in the power of the State with the greatest fear because, although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality which lies at the heart of all progress (Sanjeev: I located this here:in Selected Writings of Mahatma Gandhi by Ronand Duncan. However, the original source that is cited is not clear.)

It is obvious that Mahatma Gandhi was sincerely against the state and government, was Mahatma Gandhi an Anarchist?

Anarchy is often considered as a negative and anti-social concept and most of the times it is wrongly related with extremes like lawlessness or egalitarianism. However, anarchy is not lawlessness nor it is egalitarianism, rather it is the absence of hierarchy. Anarchy represents a state of pure democracy or direct democracy where, the power to take decision for the collective society or country is not allowed to be concentrated in the hands of a limited number of politicians, aristocrats or bureaucrats.

While it is still difficult to envisage a society with pure democracy, yet; many democratic countries across the world support at least three form of anarchic fundamentals which works in limiting governmental authority which are: initiative, plebiscite and recall.

Initiative is the process of demanding a plebiscite or referendum to decide over a certain cause or action.

Plebiscite or referendum means direct voting, however, it is not for selecting representatives of people to make decisions for them, rather it is voting to make decision. As for example, many states in the United States organized a plebiscite to decide whether gay marriages should be allowed or not. In India, people are demanding for a direct referendum over the issue of Janlokpal Bill supported by Civil Society and Anna Hajare.

Recall is the political power that allows the citizen of a country to have a plebiscite or direct voting to decide to remove a politician, or government officer or the whole government from the office of power.

Mahatma Gandhi always advocated democracy in its pure form, which is the direct democracy or Anarchy. He strongly opposed Nehru’s form of government and constitution and said, “If India copies England, it is my firm conviction that she will be ruined. Parliaments are merely emblems of slavery.2 ” While he considered the Individual as the smallest minority, he also criticized the majority democracy of America and said, “It is a superstition and an ungodly thing to believe that an act of a majority binds a minority3 .” [Sanjeev: Those who've understood Buchanan will appreciate why parliaments can be yet another way to enslave us. Checks and balances need to be strengthened if we are going to use such mechanisms.]

Gandhi was a strong supporter of Swaraj or Individual Autonomy. He supported the idea of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and claimed, “Everyone will have to take [swaraj] for himself. If we become free, India becomes free and in this thought you have a definition of swaraj. It is swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves.”4

In his book “Gandhi’s hatred of State Oppression,” George H. Smith mentions that “Gandhi repeatedly called himself an Anarchist, “

“He refused positions of political power … he called for the abolition of the Indian Congress after independence … he criticized Nehru’s government … he desired the abolition of the Indian military and the maintenance of, at most, a minimal police force. … his entire social program revolved around establishing decentralized “village republics” which would use social sanctions to maintain order and which would be free of State control. … Gandhi was a vigorous opponent of imperialism … war (including World War II), censorship, and virtually every other kind of State intrusion”.5

Mahatma Gandhi was hugely influenced by Henry David Thoreau. In South Africa, when he was imprisoned for three months in Pretoria, he read the book Civil Disobedience. In the book “The Triumph of Liberty,” Jim Powell mentioned a few words on Mahatma Gandhi from his diary where he acknowledged that Thoreau’s

“ideas influenced me greatly. I adopted some of them and recommended the study of Thoreau to all my friends who were helping me in the cause of Indian independence. …Until I read that essay, I never found a suitable English translation for my Indian word Satyagraha.”6

It is so obvious that Mahatma Gandhi was a Libertarian and a strong supporter of Individual liberty or Swaraj, and in order to make the idea become practical, he proposed the process of Decentralization of power. In one of his letters, he wrote;

“Independence begins at the bottom… It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its own affairs… It will be trained and prepared to perish in the attempt to defend itself against any onslaught from without… This does not exclude dependence on and willing help from neighbors or from the world. It will be a free and voluntary play of mutual forces… In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be every-widening, never ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose center will be the individual. Therefore, the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it.”7

[Sanjeev: I think this is where I begin to differ from Gandhi. Village models are simply not sustainable. But his idea of self-governance, subsidiarity, is absolutely valid.]

One of the famous scholars of Thoreau’s philosophy, Walter Harding mentioned that after first reading “Civil Disobedience,” Gandhi “always carried a copy with him during his many imprisonments” in the years to come.

Mahatma Gandhi was an ardent supporter of Individual liberty. He wrote-

the individual is the one supreme consideration. No society can possibly be built upon a denial of individual freedom. It is contrary to the very nature of man. Just as a man will not grow horns or a tail, so will he not exist as man if he has no mind of his own. In reality even those who do not believe in the liberty of the individual believe in their own.”8

In January 1887, B.R. Nanda, one of the close aid of Mahatma Gandhi who wrote the book “Gandhi – A Pictorial Biography,” reported in Durban that Gandhi

was assaulted and nearly lynched by a white mob … but [he] refused to prosecute his assailants. It was, he said, a principle with him not to seek redress of a personal wrong in a court of law. … [T]he distrust of the apparatus of government was almost as deeprooted in [Gandhi] as in Tolstoy. He would have agreed with the nineteenth-century doctrine ‘that government is best which governs least. … [T]his Jeffersonian maxim was central to Gandhi’s thinking. “A society organized and run on the basis of complete nonviolence,” he stated repeatedly, “would be the purest anarchy. … That State is perfect and non-violent where the people are governed the least.” And again: “The ideally non-violent State will be an ordered anarchy. That State will be the best governed which is governed the least.”9

Mahatma Gandhi’s open acceptance of Anarchy as the best state confirms that he was an anarchist and his strong belief in individual liberty ascertains that he was a deep rooted libertarian.

But after independence, it became clear that the Congress would make national government and his idea of self-governance or Swaraj won’t be a reality any soon, so he tried to limit the government only to fund some educational programs and to provide basic frame for his proposed economic concept of trusteeship. However, the power-hunger of other politicians and specially Nehru and his family ruined all the frames of decentralization and created a nation with a government which is no less than totalitarian in nature.

[Sanjeev: This totalitarian government continues. Hence the Freedom Team of India. Also see http://mises.org/daily/5002/Does-Gandhi-Deserve-a-Place-in-the-Libertarian-Tradition]

  1. Institute for Social Ecology: online library – Sanjeev: has been traced, as noted above. 
  2. Parel, Anthony (ed.) Hind Swaraj and other writings of M.K. Gandhi. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 1997. p. 38
  3. Parel, Anthony (ed.) Hind Swaraj and other writings of M.K. Gandhi. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 1997. p. 92, 
  4. Murthy, Srinivasa. Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters. Long Beach Publications: Long Beach, 1987. p. 8
  5. Gandhi’s Hatred of State Oppresssion, George H. Smith
  6. Triumph of Liberty, Jim Powell, Triumph of Liberty, Jim Powell
  7. Murthy, Srinivasa. Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters. Long Beach Publications: Long Beach, 1987. p. 189
  8. Gandhi’s Hatred of State Oppresssion, George H. Smith
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Was Gandhi un-Gandhian?

While debating Anna Hazare's violent assaults on ADULTS in his village (in any event no one is supposed to beat children with army belts, either), on FB, one defence (for Anna) provided to me was that Gandhi himself indulged in criminal acts. The example offered in this regard was of his alleged "exploitation" of women. I was given this link.

Apparently this book Gandhi: Naked Ambition provides insights into Gandhi's hidden life, which is only now beginning to surface. I find this whole thing very reprehensible, very un-Gandhian. Gandhi had clearly wildly off-track somewhere down the line. How in heavens name is it possible to justify such actions? Prima facie, there is evidence of his exploitation of young girls. The key immediate question I have, though, is did Gandhi break any law? Did he commit any crime?

Relationship (?) with a person possibly below 18?

Sushila Nayar, the attractive sister of Gandhi's secretary, also his personal physician, attended Gandhi from girlhood. She used to sleep and bathe with Gandhi. When challenged, he explained how he ensured decency was not offended. "While she is bathing I keep my eyes tightly shut," he said, "I do not know … whether she bathes naked or with her underwear on. I can tell from the sound that she uses soap." 

Relationship (?) with an 18 year old

While in Bengal to see what comfort he could offer in times of inter-communal violence in the run-up to independence, Gandhi called for his 18-year-old grandniece Manu to join him – and sleep with him. "We both may be killed by the Muslims," he told her, "and must put our purity to the ultimate test, so that we know that we are offering the purest of sacrifices, and we should now both start sleeping naked."

This is a research post. Please provide information. I'll also keep adding information in due course, time permitting. 

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