Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Hindu capitalism

Sri Aurobindo – the vocal opponent of socialism

Most people think of Sri Aurobindo as a great spiritual and literary master. Few realise that he was, in line with Vivekananda and most Indian philosophers, a great proponent of liberty and – in Sri Aurobindo's case – a direct opponent of socialism.

Had Sri Aurobindo lived, Nehru's plans of socialism would have been still-born and India might have escaped from its (ongoing) misery of the past 65 years.

The more I think about it, it becomes clear that I am speaking from the ANCIENT INDIAN TRADITION. It is an instinctive expression of critical thinking, tolerance, and liberty that ancient India so deeply understood.

Till Nehru came in and confused everybody, including Team Anna/ Arvind Kejriwal and even Baba Ramdev. And of course, RSS/BJP are DIRECT godchildren of Nehru. There is no distinction I can make between BJP and Congress. (Btw, Modi is the same.)

NONE of these people are attuned to what Gandhi, Vivekananda, Aurobindo, and Tagore were attuned to: a deep instinctive tolerance and insistence on liberty. It was an instinctive expression of Indian-ness, the true Hindutva.

But Nehru the Westerner came in with half-baked German (Hegelian) ideas and destroyed India. It is time to reclaim Hindu Capitalism (also known as Hindu Dharma) and bring tolerance and liberty back to India. This includes economic freedom and incentive-based governance outlined in Arthashastra.

Some quotations from Aurobindo:

On liberty
Indian religion has always felt that since the minds, the temperaments and the intellectual affinities of men are unlimited in their variety, a perfect liberty of thought and of worship must be allowed to the individual in his approach to the Infinite.  [Source]

Against socialism

Sri Aurobindo: The Bombay Ministry seems to be working efficiently. They have escaped the socialists trap. These socialists do not know what is socialism. [Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, The Third Series, 26th January, 1939]

"As a spiritualist, Aurobindo is intensely attracted by the social and economic egalitarianism of socialism while at the same time he has a great horror of socialist authoritarianism. Organised socialism, even it be a democratic socialism, signifies to him the absence of liberty. He thinks that "state control and direction [are] the essence of socialism". The full development of socialism would mean the obliteration of the distinction between social and political activities, a distinction which is so vital in the liberal outlook. Under socialist control even social activities would become spheres of state interference. It means the thorough extension of the administrative activities of the state. "Nothing great or small escapes its purview. Birth and marriage, labour and amusement and rest, education, culture, training of physique and character, the socialist state leaves nothing outside its scope and its busy intolerant control." It signifies the full proliferation of the omnipotent state leviathan. Socialism represents the omnicompetence of the all-jealous state and therefore, according to Aurobindo, totalitarianism is the natural, almost inevitable destiny of socialism." [From Political Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, V.P. Verma, p.334, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2nd edition, 1976]


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Vedic capitalism. Clear affirmation of equality and pursuit of wealth.

It is a good thing that I’ve taken up this Hindu Capitalism project. It is not only taking me back to my roots (which is not necessarily a good thing – let's see what comes out of it!) but providing me with dramatically opposing evidence to what is commonly known.
Like all things (e.g. the "received" view), critical questioning is leading to new answers.
The views about India held by Marx, Weber, and western "economic historians" such as Rondo Cameron were really wrong. Even Gregory Clark in his recent A Farewell to Alms shows shocking ignorance about India [yet his UC Davis website says that he specialises in Indian economic history].
But Indians should know better. Particularly those who have been writing about so-called "Vedic socialism".
I am now of the view that advocates of “Vedic socialism” are seriously misguided. They were trying to "fit" the Vedas into the mould of socialism popularised by Nehru. Everyone wanted to be a socialist. It was a fashion. So they distorted Hinduism to "fit" socialism.
Not just Arthashastra (which is based on the Hindu way of thinking) but the Vedas seem to be very clear about an intrinsic capitalist framework.
I was browsing through a recent (2003) article by M.V. Nadkarni and something caught my eye.
Rg Veda emphasises equality of all human beings. It goes to the extent of saying, which sounds quite modern: 'No one is superior, none inferior. All are brothers marching forward to prosperity.
Reference: The Sanskrit original is 'Ajyestliaso akanishthaso ete sambhrataro vahaduhu saubhagaya' (Rg Veda V 60.5). Translation and original from K T Pandurangi (1999, second edn) — Indian Thought on Human Values, Bangalore: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, p 3. [Btw, I agree with the translation. It uses a key word that is common in Hindi even today: Saubhaghya. That represents prosperity in the most general sense.]
Source: Nadkarni’s article: "Is Caste System Intrinsic to Hinduism? Demolishing a Myth", Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 38, No. 45 (Nov. 8-14, 2003), pp. 4783-4793.
This demonstrates religious approval of equality and wealth. And confirms the theoretical foundations of Hindu capitalism.
Whether such foundations were realized in practice is a different issue. One thing is clear: there is NO evidence that Hinduism was a) other-worldly or b) glorified the state (collective) at the expense of the individual.
Hinduism and socialism (or "other-worldliness") are poles apart.
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The Golden Bird (India) was created on the foundations of worldly knowledge

Chanakya wrote three books: Arthashastra, Chankya Niti and Chanakya Sutras. The last of these has proved fertile source material for a number of modern management books (e.g. Ashok Garde's).

As part of my studies on Hindu Capitalism, I'm first compiling key original Sanskrit texts with the intention of double-checking references. (Btw, I find that although I can't fully understand the meaning of Sanskrit texts without assistance, these aren't very hard to read since the roots words in Sanskrit and Hindi are the same. Sanskrit, like short-hand, is super-dense. That was perhaps an optimal grammar for verbal transmission.)

My goal is to cut and paste original Sanskrit into Hindu Capitalism. That requires Devanagri text that can be "cut and paste" from OCR'd PDF. Here's where you can help me, if you know about this issue. 

I've struggled to find any OCR software that converts Sanskrit PDF files into "cut-and-paste" ready text. That is a roadblock since without this feature I need to insert image file into the book, which is such a pain. Google docs claims to do so but it doesn't really work; Nuance Omnipage doesn't have it, ABBYY doesn't have it. Every language seems have OCR facility except for Indian languages! If you know of any software that OCRs Devanagri script please let me know.

Anyway, let me start my academic study of Chanakya with Chanakya Sutra 1.9:


विज्ञानेनात्मानं सम्पादयेत्।

What does this say? It says:

"Equip yourself fully with worldly knowledge".

MOST of Hinduism is "this-worldly", not "other-worldly". Of four key human endeavours (purusharthas), 75 per cent (three out of four) are PURELY this-worldly. DHARMA (justice, just behaviour), ARTHA (resources/wealth to support a good life), and KAMA (enjoyment of life) are ENTIRELY this worldly. Even the last (MOKSHA) is largely this-worldly, at least based on interpretations by many Advaita philosophers (who don't see any distinction between this or that world).

 That's a lot of "this-worldliness" for a religion apparently steeped in "other-worldly" pursuits.

The fact that Hinduism is PREDOMINANTLY THIS-WORLDLY must form the foundation of all understanding of Hindu Capitalism.

In Chanakya's work there are numerous references to how money should be made, how important it is to grow money, how important it is for kings to remove all obstacles to prosperity. He links prosperity (and security – which is is his second key contribution) very strongly with Dharma through an incessant emphasis on integrity. (He offers solutions to corruption, such as paying Ministers well, that are consistent with BFN).

But I'll come to these issues later. For now, let's all just note that Hindu/ Indian thought is PREDOMINANTLY material.

Without a strong material foundation, capitalism can't exist. A society must demonstrate a commitment to live well, not to poverty. It is clear that Hindu society has such a foundation.

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The Hindu agriculturist was far superior to his British counterpart

As part of my search for relevant material for the study of Hindu capitalism I chanced upon: Decolonizing History: Technology and Culture in India, China and the West 1492 to the Present Day by Claude Alvares (1980).

It is increasingly clear that anyone who imagines that Hiduism was (or is) other-worldly is delusional. I have known Hindus all my life – family and friends, and have never come across a SINGLE Hindu who is just other-worldly. Yes, they are religious, but their feet are FULLY planted on this earth.

Every Hindu responds as any other human being would do, to incentives.

This is not a minor point. It must necessarily inform the analysis of compatibility of Hinduism with capitalism.

From being proud leaders of the world in virtually EVERY field till about 1750, Indians become extremely susceptible to deluded interpretations from British and German "thinkers", and became socialists.

The time has come to write an accurate economic history of India. I wish I had the time to do this task properly. My book, HC, will only be able to sketch the possibilities. I do hope some young doctoral students will pick up this challenge to document the institutions of Hindu/Indian capitalism in their entirety, and give Hindus/Indians the confidence to embrace LIBERTY and capitalism once again.

For now, let me just quote a few highlights re: agriculture from Alvares.


The idea of India's other-worldliness was systematically emphasized by Max Muller, though he was not the first.The hypothesis that Hindu philosophy (wrongly identified wholly with the idealistic school) proved disastrous for India's technical capacity or economic activity should be relegated to the garbage heap; so too, the fashionable cliche that India spent too much of its energy in the pursuit of metaphysical speculations. Those who still want to hold on to the older myths are advised to read carefully what follows.

Dr. Wallick, a Superintendent of the East India Company's Botanical Garden at Calcutta, was heard by the English Commons' Committee on this issue, on the 13th of August, 1832:

The husbandry of Bengal has in a great measure been misunderstood by the Europeans out of India The Bengali husbandry, although in many respects extremely simple and primeval in its mode-and form, yet is not quite so low as people generally suppose it to be.

Twelve years earlier (1820), Colonel Alexander Walker had prepared a more comprehensive report on the agriculture of Malabar and Gujarat. [He wrote:]

The Indian peasant is commonly well enough informed as to his interest, and he is generally intelligent and reflecting. He is attached to his own modes, because they are easy and useful; but furnish him with instruction and means, and he will adopt them, provided they be for his profit. He will not be led away by speculation and theory, which he cannot afford to follow; but he will not refuse any more economical, and less laborious mode of cultivation. …. We ought … to remember that India has very little occasion for the introduction of new plants for food. There are more kinds of grain cultivated perhaps than in any other part of the world …. I am at a loss to know what essential present we can make to India. She has all the grains that we have and many kinds more of her own.

“It would require a volume to pursue all the details of Hindoo Husbandry.” The fencing and enclosure of fields; the broad grassy margins for pasture. The whole world, he exclaims, “does not produce finer and more beautifully cultivated fields than those in Gujarat”.

Dr. Voelcker, a Consulting Chemist with the Royal Agricultural Society of England in 1889 … was deputed to make inquiries and suggest improvements to Indian agriculture:

On one point there can be no question, viz. that the ideas generally entertained in England, and often given expression to even in India, that Indian agriculture is, as a whole, primitive and backward, and that little has been done to try and remedy it, are altogether erroneous . . .. At his best the Indian Ryot, or cultivator is quite as good as, and in some respects the superior of, the average British farmer. … Nor need our British farmers be surprised at what I say, for it must be remembered that the natives of India were cultivators of wheat centuries before those in England were. It is not likely, therefore, that their practice should be capable of much improvement. What does, however, prevent them from growing larger crops is the limited facilities to which they have access, such as the supply of water and manure. … It is wonderful, too, how much is known of rotation, the system of mixed crops and of fallowing.

[Re: irrigation] Alexander Walker commented:

the practice of watering and irrigation is not peculiar to the husbandry of India, but it has probably been carried there to a greater extent and more laborious ingenuity displayed in it than in any other country.

Hear Alvares speak:

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