Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Guest Posts

The rise and rise of the New Left in India

Surya posted an excellent comment here, and I think it deserves it own (guest) blog post for its excellent analysis.

==COMMENT==

The left liberals usually ask, the west won the cold war, why are you still complaining. But as many conservatives have pointed out, the west (and that primarily means the conservatives) won the economic and military battles but lost out on the cultural front. And it is precisely because they lost on the front of ideas, we see free markets and trade being questioned at every turn, but governments allowed  to get away with massive failures. Even this interview [see this] suggests that Soviet Union was the main threat. It never was. It is sad that it wrecked millions of Russian and European lives. But it also built an iron curtain around itself where it was safely contained.

The real threat to the west started with the new Left movement and the associated cultural shocks of the 60s and the 70s. The level of decadence seen in the west during that period, would shock even our generation which has grown up seeing everything.  In India JNU was and still continues to be the breeding ground of new Left ideas. 

All these might sound stereotyping and fear-mongering. But the new Left has not been marginalized by the fall of USSR. For that matter many of them despised the Soviets as imperialists. It is actually attempting to go mainstream. And India like America happens to be a permissive society (despite the new Left's claims that India is fascist ), and we are all set to be their next experimental ground.

It is not surprising that Indians generally tend to be protectionist in economic affairs and conservative in social affairs. That is the nature of a paternalistic society. But as they become more educated and refined, they become more supportive of the new Left. They start accepting Amartya Sen, Arundhati Roy and P.Sainath. Even the new citizen's movements against government owe their ideas to the new left.

They have an extremely high emphasis on democracy and believe that the solution to all ills is to introduce democracy in every affair. The Supreme court is celebrated for it's activism when it denigrates private businesses and upholds socialism. When it is exposed that food grains are rotting, the new left goes berserk that they should be distributed for free (P.Sainath's favourite topic). But if someone dares to ask, why should government procure them in the first place, he is shouted down as a neo-liberal market fanatic.

Chasing away foreign investment is celebrated as success. Property rights are never defined for tribals, and the welfare of 8000 odd tribals is considered the only measure in the POSCO issue. What about the tribals who benefitted from the project and wanted it to stay? (I firmly support property rights and am opposed to forceful acquisition. But only for individuals. Here the property rights were never clearly defined. Saying that only the tribals have right over the entire forest area is no different from Thackeray's Marathi Manoos ideas. What right does the left have to call him a moron?)

This comment is getting very long. I would discuss the sudden growth of the new Left in India (It is happening right in front of our eyes now ) in a separate blog post in my blog.

India might be a failed state. But that is precisely why it is still surviving. If the new Left succeeds in making it the Socialist state it promises to be, God help us all.

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The myth of miraculous Cuban health care

Here’s a comment by Surya in relation to the alleged Cuban health ‘miracle’. It is a very well researched comment, and well written, as well. It definitely deserves its own guest post status.

I couldn't agree with Surya more. Indeed, I would urge you to subscribe to his blog: Economics Matters, here. I'm also going to link Surya's blog to this blog. Good to get to know you, Surya! (I know I've been reading your comments earlier, but I haven't earlier paid attention to your blog. I'll now be reading your blog posts as well!

THE COMMENT BY SURYA ON CUBAN HEALTH CARE

When a democratic Indian state proclaims it's achievements we don't trust it and demand measures like RTI.  And even after such measures are implemented we routinely see how governments get away with lies.  Even far more advanced democratic governments in the west routinely mislead their people about the costs of their social welfare programs. But somehow we are supposed to believe that an autocratic nation ruled by a dictator who refuses to give up power for 4 decades is providing miraculous health care to it's citizens.
 
We are supposed to believe all the statistics that their government provides, and the so-called independent observers who are taken on a guided tour around the island. In the heydays of USSR, we heard similar stories of miracles inside the iron curtain narrated by well-fed comrades from the free world. There was even an expression around here in the south about the treachorous nature of the communists – "If it rains in Moscow, the comrades will open their umbrellas here".
Having said that even if Cuban healthcare is a miracle, even if the Cuban doctors are angels who toil day and night for peanuts to cure their countrymen, I can never survive there as a self-respecting man. Of what use is a healthy body if my soul is enslaved? Of what use are healthy limbs if the government dictates what I should do with them? The idea some intellectuals entertain that poor people don't need freedom, they need to be fed, clothed and taken care of like imbeciles is downright disgusting. 
 
You cannot hope to understand the truth about Cuba by reading the intellectuals and activists who can afford to foul-mouth freedom, having never lived in slavery. To understand what life is like for an ordinary Cuban , read Yaoni Sanchez, the Cuban blogger who has been speaking out against her despotic government for years on the internet at http://www.desdecuba.com/generationy/ .
 
This essay she penned on Freedom and Exchange in Cuba http://www.cato.org/pubs/dbp/dbp5.pdf   is a master-piece.  
 
And finally even Castro has admitted recently that his experiment was a failure. How is he going to pay for the thousands of lives he sacrificed and the millions of souls he crushed for the sake of his personal pride? When are the intellectuals going to stop ranting that Castro is a great man who outlasted 10 American presidents. Is that supposed to be a sign of a healthy society?
 
Anyway pure Socialism is a relic now. Almost everyone recognizes that the Socialist revolutions in the early 20th century were aberrations which mankind must never ever try again. The real threat to freedom today is the welfare state supported and justified by mercantilist policies. So there is no need to convince people who still believe in Cuban miracle.
 
The Socialist virus has infected them beyond a point of no return. People who care for freedom should understand how welfare state works and does not work in Scandinavia, Western Europe and now the States. You should continue your own research on freedom, markets, and the state. I am sure that if you stick to the principle of questioning everything and never accepting contradictions, you too will come to the conclusion that classical liberalism is the only system that can guarantee freedom and prosperity.
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Our Socialistic Constitution

(A guest post by my young friend Shanu Athiparambath, from his blog here).

A writ petition by an NGO challenging the insertion of the word “socialism” in the Preamble to the Constitution was rejected by the Supreme Court on Monday. Section 29 A (5) of the Representation of the People Act makes it mandatory that every political party in India should swear allegiance to socialism. It came into effect through the Constitution (42nd) Amendment Act, 1976. The preamble reads as follows: “We, the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign socialist secular democratic republic.” A political party which fails or refuses to do so will be rejected at outset. Senior counsel Fali Nariman argued that the 42nd Amendment had evolved during the Emergency period, and that it violated the basic structure of the Constitution. Nariman had said before that “It is contrary to the Constitution and to its democratic foundations that political parties be called upon to swear allegiance only to a particular mindset or ideology.” Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had opposed the inclusion of the word socialism in the constitution.

 
Surprisingly, Justice Kapadia said that till now, no political party had challenged the constitution, and that the Supreme Court will consider it when the time comes. Facts don’t support this statement. S V Raju of the Swatantra party applied for the registration of a political party vehemently opposed to Socialism, and his application was rejected. “Socialism is a form of economic engineering. The grievance in our petition was that the country did not allow us to participate in the electoral process without telling a lie and we did not want to lie.” he said. So much for the claim that the Indian constitution allows liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship! Whatever one thinks of democracy, it should be evident that this decree of the Supreme Court in not compatible with it. In the words of Ambedkar, “What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organized in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether. If you state in the Constitution that the social organization of the State shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organization in which they wish to live. It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the socialist organization of society is better than the capitalist organization of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organization which might be better than the socialist organization of today or of tomorrow. I do not see therefore why the Constitution should tie down the people to live in a particular form and not leave it to the people themselves to decide it for themselves.”
 
The chief justice said this while rejecting a petition in the past: “Why do you take socialism in a narrow sense defined by the Communists? In a broader sense, socialism means welfare measures for the citizens. It is a facet of democracy. It hasn’t got any definite meaning. It gets different meaning in different times.” All this is nonsense. The word socialism has a specific meaning. It is a political system in which all property is owned by the state.  It has always been so. We should take terms in its precise sense, and see it for what it is. If the Supreme Court finds the problem purely academic, they would have no reason to include it in the constitution. The last resort of people who want to debase liberty and freedom of expression is that people no longer believes it these days! If so, why insist that people swear allegiance to it?
 
The Indian constitution guarantees justice and equality before law. Socialism fails on both counts. If the society should collectively own all property, it would mean that some are slaves, at least partially. It doesn’t mean equality before law, and hence fails the universalization test.
 
Let us look at the policies of the present Indian Government. It has accepted the major proposals of the communist manifesto like “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”, “Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly” and “Free education for all children in public schools” lock, stock and barrel. They have implemented almost all the other demands too, to some extent at many points in its history. The Government had confiscated property of emigrants, partially centralized communication and transportation and imposed several such monstrous legislations without any qualms. Mines, banks and wholesale grain trade were nationalized during the period of Indira Gandhi. There is no point in fooling ourselves. India has a long history of socialistic policies which kept most of its population poor for six decades. This has to change if we are to achieve progress and a re-look at our constitution would be a right move towards it.
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An "Honest" PM?

This is a Guest post. I'm thankful to Mr Kishore Asthana for permission to publish his excellent write-up on my blog.

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I am informed that an official I have appointed in my company has taken a bribe to get some work done and that he keeps asking for bribes openly. Despite repeated incidents of this nature, I take no action against the official because I feel that if I were to sack him, those who recommended him may be angry with me and, perhaps, get me sacked in return. Am I an honest man? I have a reputation for never asking for a bribe myself, but, doesn’t my role as a passive spectator vis a vis these illegal dealings makes me an accessory?

Our Prime Minister is in the same position. Under his regime, a senior Minister has been repeatedly and openly accused of taking bribes.

The same Minister was also accused during the last term as Minister and is said to owe his present appointment to corporate lobbyists. There are records of transcripts with middle-men, or, in this case, a middle-woman. Despite all this, the PM has been a passive spectator. However personally honest he may have a reputation for being, he cannot be said to be morally honest if he is abetting such chicanery in his government without taking any action.

Legally, our Prime Minister, by doing nothing in the case of Ministerial corruption in his government, is guilty of abetment by an act of omission. Moreover, by re-appointing a Minister with a controversial track record and by continuing to devolve powers to reputedly corrupt Ministers when such powers are being openly misused to collect bribes as per reports, he is guilty of abetment by an act of commission. Both these acts are defined as crimes in Chapter V, article 107 of the Indian Penal Code. Personal morality is not an adequate defense in this case. The PM is not being accused of being taking bribes himself. He is being accused of being a silently consenting eyewitness to the rape of India by one of his appointees. If we were to apply the law of the land, both the Minister concerned and the PM may be found guilty.

Despite the above, at a certain level, one feels bad for our PM. The fall from goodness is always painful to watch. However, the cynicism of politics and the desire to cling to power have negated the PM’s innate honesty and he has no one to blame but himself. He is wise enough to know that when we become creatures of unholy compulsions, we sacrifice our aura and our halo fades away. This is what has happened to him and, once he has retired and has time to reflect on his non-actions, he may live to rue these. By then it would be too late for our violated country.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”. Regrettably, our PM has been tested and found wanting on this touchstone.

Kishore Asthana

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