Thoughts on economics and liberty

Tag: Nehruvian socialism

Another Hindu spiritual leader lambasts socialism

The other day I showed how Rajneesh detested socialism.

Now Harsh Vora sent me this link:


 

Dharma Pravartaka Acharya (Dr. Frank Morales) speaks in this video about the history of India during which he makes some unqualified generalisations, some of which can be very hurtful to people from some religions. The reality is far richer than what he presents. But there is something of merit in what he says about India's recent history.

He clearly shows that the socialism practiced over the past 64 years is not part of the natural law. He therfore hits out strongly at Nehru's socialism (although he mixes up India's 'secularism' with atheism).  While this man needs to learn some history, when he talks about freedom, he seems to make sense.

I trust that those who preach "Vedic Socialism" will now review their ideas in the light of their own concept of natural law (Dharma).

To me, freedom is the natural law.

Whether you call it dharma or (as Adam Smith called it) the "system of natural liberty", is immaterial. But freedom without accountability is pointless. Accountability is essentially a version of karma. So it is freedom with accountability that IS THE NATURAL LAW

It is crucially important that spiritual aspects of our life (whether we are eternal/ not eternal, etc.) should be left to each individual to understand and decide for himself. That is the implication of freedom – that we don't impose on such matters on anyone. It is violence against our nature to be imposed upon by others. That is what socialism does. It is unnatural in every way.

Extracts from The Discovery of Freedom

I've explained in (draft) DOF, thus:

At each instant, the karma yogi considers options for action for their long term consequences – without being personally affected by the success or failure of his effort. Freedom of thought thus leads like, an arrow, towards moral action. The free man acts with deliberation, aware of the potential consequences of his actions, always committed to being held to account. In advancing his self-interests though responsible action, he contributes to the welfare of mankind and of all life on earth. 

Whether it is the karma theory of Hinduism, the Buddhist theory of the middle path, or Christian theory of sin, each notes that our choices determine our character. As Rajagopalachari said:

Everyone knows from experience and with­out the help of any doctrine that every thought or act, good or bad, has at once an effect on oneself, apart from its effect on others or on the outside world. Every motion of the mind deals a stroke as with a hammer, on character and whether one wants it or not, alters its shape for better or worse. We are ceaselessly shaping ourselves as the goldsmith busy with his ham­mer shapes gold or silver all day long. Every act of ours and every thought creates a tendency and according to its nature adds or takes away from our free will, to a certain extent. If ‘I think evil thoughts today, I will think them more readily and more persistently tomorrow. Likewise it is with good thoughts. If I control or calm myself today, control becomes more easy and even spontaneous next time, and this goes on progressively.[1]

The good thing is that we can (largely) choose our character, health, and reputation. Freedom is in that sense a positive philosophy, that brings out the best in us. As Ian Harper points out: ‘Our choices have consequences, not just for our material but also for our moral well-being. … Good choices make us virtuous while bad choices make us vicious.’[2] Even in the most collectivist totalitarian society we will necessarily remain at least partially free to form our character and work towards our moral goals.


[1] Rajagopalachari, C. Hinduism: Doctrine and Way of Life, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan,1959, p.80.

[2] Harper, Ian, ‘Christian Morality and Market Capitalism: Friends or Foes?’, 5th Annual CIS Acton Lecture on Religion & Freedom, Sydney: Centre for Independent Studies, 2003.

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Land ‘reforms’ or state-sanctioned theft?

'The land ceiling is "a child of sadism"' – Rajaji

Gandhi said all when he made it clear that socialism should not achieve its ends by impure means. ‘Impure means will result in an impure end. Hence the prince and the peasant will not be equalled by cutting off the prince’s head nor can the process of cutting off equalise the employer and the employed. One cannot reach truth by untruthfulness […] Harbour impurity of mind or body and you have untruth or violence in you.’[i] But such niceties were completely lost on Nehru. His First Five-Year Plan articulated his socialist arguments to justify plundering those who held land bigger than a specified size, with the so-called ‘excess’ land being redistributed to the poor. This plan was implemented quickly, and by 1960 most states had introduced ceilings on land.
 
Despite its reformist title, land ‘reform’ legislation was anything but a reform. It was a completely regressive step.It created massive injustice in a so-called free society. Land reform was all about reparations for what the ancestors of our current zamindars had allegedly done. Land was therefore ‘legally’ taken away from people without recourse to a trial; from people who had not themselves committed any crime. This ‘reform’ was robbery on a grand scale. The state became the Big Thief. If the state legislates a theft it does not make it any less blameworthy. Plunder and crime are not valid merely because these are legislated by a mob of gangsters sitting in the parliament. That is exactly what mobocracies are all about – elected mobs. In a free society, on the other hand, majorities never misuse their parliamentary power to violate individual freedom.
 
But let us ask ourselves a question – what had India not achieved through its independence movement that it needed to attack innocent members of its society and divest them of their property without trial? Had we not already divested the princes of their monarchical powers and constructed a republic out of a primitive society? Had we not declared adult franchise and empowered the entire Indian community? Could we not have, through equal opportunity and the rule of law, made zamindars completely irrelevant?
 
In the extremely favourable environment for the advancement of freedom that existed just after independence under the tutelage of people like Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Rajaji, India had a golden opportunity to aspire for the world’s highest standards of governance. We had the opportunity to build a new culture of freedom and justice. That would have led us without fail to Nehru’s promised tryst with destiny; indeed, it would have led us to a tryst with greatness. But Nehru allowed the baser elements found in our country, those who belligerently bellow for plunder out of the sheer jealousy they experience upon seeing anyone with some wealth, to override the basic reason for our independence, namely, to achieve freedom and give us justice.
 
But a leader’s job is not to follow the mobs. His job is to lead. Nehru let us down very badly by attracting all kinds of thugs into politics. And the less said about his successors the better. Nehru was the best leader we have had in independent India’s government. It has been an even more downhill journey ever since.
 
So you ask what Nehru should have done, instead. He should have ensured that the yardstick of accountability was applied equally to each citizen, irrespective of the citizen’s social, cultural or economic background. By equally enforcing the rule of law, the evil of feudalism would have been wiped out in a decade without impinging on anyone’s freedom. The following are a couple of measures that could have been taken:
 
A strong police and judicial system would have ensured that if a zamindar had personally stolen someone’s lands, he would have been punished and the stolen lands returned. If some zamindar committed a murder or rape, that zamindar would have been immediately tried and given capital punishment – or at least jailed for life.[ii] Unfortunately, Nehru’s shoddy system of law and order allowed brutal, bully zamindars and anyone else with money to run amuck as never before.
 
Public finance is hard work, and setting up an effective and honest machinery to collect taxes from all people of a country is very challenging. But socialists have not bothered to build such a machinery that can reliably obtain an income tax return from all citizens of India. A strong land records system coupled with progressive taxes and a wealth tax could have transparently deployed the wealth in India to the public causes to strengthen infrastructure and provide equality of opportunity. But instead of taxing them, zamindars were rewarded by Nehruvian socialist governments with complete tax-exemption; and land revenue was discarded as a source of revenue. Today most people therefore evade taxes and make merry while the government spends time driving our buses and airplanes.
 
The greatest problem with Nehru’s approaches is that they fostered a great muddle in the minds of ordinary people about what is right and what is wrong. On the one hand Nehru encouraged his Ministers and bureaucrats to seize people’s so-called ‘excess’ lands. On the other he wanted corruption to stop. But if you confuse everyone about what is right and what is wrong, then why will corruption stop? And so Ministers and bureaucrats extorted money out of traders and manufacturers on the plea that they were taking away ‘excess’ money from these ‘capitalists’. When ethics are negated even in one case by our leaders, there is no stopping the decay of morals in a society. Corruption received a significant boost in Nehru’s time and has never looked back since. In brief, Nehru’s times – which continue till today – are best compared with those of France after its revolution of 1789. Frenzied mobs controlled the government in France after that violent revolution. Today, India is a mobocracy where the entire Parliament is united against freedom. India’s policy has been made for 60 years by socialist mobs driven by revenge, not by lovers of freedom and honesty.
 
In the midst of this wild loot and frenzy, every rich person, every trader, every money lender and every zamindar has been condemned sight unseen as an evil ‘capitalist’. But each individual must always be seen as the unique locus of individual responsibility. We may be rich or poor, often both in the same lifetime, but we must be individually accountable. Justice consciouslydenied by the state to even one of its citizens diminishes all of us. That, unfortunately, has happened for so long now, and in so many ways, that most of us have lost our sense of justice and ability to distinguish right from wrong. We condone corruption as a practical requirement of life; we vote for corrupt leaders; we give bribes; we take bribes. We have completely lost our way. India has lost its moral moorings. By breaking free of Nehru’s amoral regime, and by removing the immoral haze that blocks the sun from reaching India’s soul, we will once again be able to set our gaze on the lodestar of freedom. That star will then return us to our lost ethics and, more importantly, will return each of us to ourselves. We will find our lost self-respect once again, allowing us to completely renew our life; to be re-born as a different and better people.
 
As would be expected, under such moral anarchy, India’s land reform experience went to seed. Except for a few places like Kerala, where these reforms ‘worked’ (actually led to enormous fragmentation of land and loss of agricultural productivity), for the most part the so-called land ‘reform’ legislation could not be enforced. Not having strengthened the government’s machinery to enforce the rule of law, this socialist task of stealing land, too, failed, as any other task taken up by India’s governments. Since Nehru’s socialist functionaries[iii] were paid very poorly,[iv] given that there wasn’t much money left to pay them after ‘feeding’ loss-making public sector undertakings, they became easy prey to the manipulations, in self-defence, of the same feudal lords whose lands they were supposed to forcibly acquire. Landlords transferred their lands in the names of their dogs and cats with the connivance of local land revenue officials and police. To unearth the truth behind these ‘benaami’ deals would have required a machinery with honesty of purpose which the thoroughly corrupt socialist government could never possibly muster. Hence, virtually no land finally got ‘stolen’ by the Impotent ‘Big’ Thief.
 
Indeed, as a result of Nehru’s wasteful efforts, the feudal system remains as strong as ever before.Someone has rightly said that India is now a mix of ‘hypercapitalism’ and feudalism, with neither of these two being founded on any semblance of ethics. We won’t find it easy to build a free society in India today; for that would need a foundation of ethics which will now need many years to rebuild. Corruption has increased to such levels today that freedom will have to fight to get a foothold. The wrong ends (nationalized theft) and the wrong means (shoddy governance) have led to very wrong results. Just as integrity and morality are the hallmark of a society founded on freedom, so also subterfuge, hypocrisy, corruption and deceit are the hallmark of a collectivist socialist society founded on revenge.
 
Indira Gandhi, who had none of Nehru’s intellectual prowess, continued his mindless ‘justice of yesterday’ tirade. In 1971, during the process of brushing aside compensation for acquired land, she asked, ‘Compensation for what? Compensation for land […] for a palace or big house? […] what about compensation for injustice?’[v] The deadly seed of revenge that Nehru and various other Indian leaders have sown in India has by now morphed into our DNA. Incessant arguments on new ways to redistribute poverty, on how to drag back the wealthy and extract their wealth, swirl around in our disease-stricken heads. We are unable to think clearly any longer of the simple and morally clean arguments of freedom; of ethical ways of generating wealth for ourselves and for our society.

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


[i] In a written conversation with some socialists on a day of silence in 1947 when he communicated through writing on slips of paper; cited in Fisher, Louis, op. cit., p.306.

[ii] I have nothing against capital punishment being awarded in deserving cases. Mercy is never a virtue when innocent lives have been taken away brutally; it amounts to cowardice. Accountability is not driven by mercy – which is purely a matter for God to decide – but by individual justice.

[iii] Technically speaking, Nehru did not directly run the state administrations, which were under the State Governments. It was mostly Congress Governments that he was able to influence directly. But even non-Congress State Governments could easily be influenced in many ways by the powerful Centre.

[iv] The pitiable condition of police stations, judicial courts, revenue offices and that of ‘lower’ staff who are responsible for crucial functions has meant that corruption has perhaps become the sole lingua franca of the police and the revenue systems. Anyone with a bit of money can almost readily buy freedom, even after murder.

[v] Cited in Austin, Granville, op. cit., p.245.

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Injustice of the “Justice of Yesterday” and Social Justice

To rationalize his ideology of socialism, Nehru used other related arguments as well. He called for ‘not just the justice of today, but the justice of yesterday’.[i] Of course, he wasn’t the only one to make such an argument, for this argument echoes throughout the Constitution. But in claiming that accountability transmits over generations, Nehru, a barrister, made a most fundamental error of all; for people who have nothing to do with an alleged injustice are never accountable for that injustice.

The idea of ‘justice of yesterday’ can lead to extremely convoluted consequences. Just because someone couldn’t catch a guilty person and punish him or her in the past (quite possibly because the law under which that person is being deemed guilty today, did not exist then!), therefore our government must apparently punish the innocent progeny of that guilty person now. It seems that alleged criminals’ children and great-grand children who were not even born when the alleged crime was committed, must now be punished without trial by taking away their lands and property and denying them an equal status under today’s laws. The Preamble’s assurance of equal status is made completely hollow if such a logic is adopted.
 
According to such a theory, had Nehru investigated his family history, he might have found that, possibly 50 generations ago, one of his ancestors had treated a low caste person criminally but was not caught out and tried by the law of that time (there most likely having been no such law at that time). Applying Nehru’s own principle to himself, Nehru would have had to give himself up to the nearest police station and sought to be jailed for life on behalf of his allegedly criminal relative who died 50 generations before he was born. Even atwo-year old can tell us that such justice is absurd!
 
Freedom hinges on the very simple concept of individual justice – a justice that belongs to our lifetime, not a ‘justice of yesterday’ wagging its long tail for a thousand generations. Unfortunately, many people in India continue to behave as if common sense is not necessary. There is nothing to distinguish rabid socialists from rabid religious fundamentalists on this form of justice. BJP and VHP used exactly such reasoning[ii] to provoke and at least indirectly encourage their followers to tear down the Babri Masjid.[iii] Apparently, some primitive barbarian (doesn’t matter who – for that person is surely long dead!) demolished a temple that presumably existed at that site and built a Babri Masjid instead, hundreds of years ago. Hence the Masjid had to be destroyed in 1992 by barbarians who, without reference to any legal process, took the primitive concept of the ‘justice of yesterday’ into their own hands. Should this continue unchecked, we would have a situation of continuous retaliation forever; until possibly everyone is dead! Justice of yesterday’ stands for revenge, a revenge to be extracted from babies not yet born. Nehru should not have aligned with such barbarism.
 
While it is unfortunate that a temple was destroyed a few hundred years ago by a primitive barbarian, it is criminal to break down a Masjid by force today. Law and order in a free society cannot function if the concept of ‘justice of yesterday’ is allowed even the slightest foothold. To the extent that Nehru used this argument, we must hold him responsible for promoting barbarism in India.Nehru only had to open his eyes to find that this primitive concept was no longer being applied anywhere else in the modern world. With Hitler’s death, the book of his wrongs was closed and consigned to the archives. Whatever ‘extra’ punishment Hitler subsequently received in hell, if such a place exists, was a matter between Hitler and God, not a matter for man to consider.
 

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


[i] Nehru, cited in Austin, Granville, op. cit., p.654.

[ii] One of the leaders of the BJP, K R Malkani, wrote, ‘the BJP had already raised the Ayodhya issue. And it had done so early in 1989, not on the basis of any electoral calculation, but on ideological conviction. Historic wrongs had to be righted, however, symbolically’ (‘BJP HISTORY: It’s Birth and Early Growth’, at [http://www.bjp.org/history/history.html]). RSS said in the Organiser of 14 January 1990 that it ‘was not a case about the title of a place but of undoing a historical wrong and for that matter no court could decide it’.

[iii] When the demonstrators had pulled down the outer wall of the mosque around 1:30 pm, one could hear the frenzied slogans of Uma Bharati, another Hindutva leader on the stage: ‘Aur ek dhakka do. Babri Masjid thod do. Aur jor. Aur jor!’ (One more hard push. Break the Babri Masjid. Harder. Harder!) (The Week, 20 December 1992, p.42). See also Mark Tully’s account at [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2528025.stm].

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No property rights in India – its most potent indicator of lack of freedom

To Nehru, socialism was to be brought about by ‘the ending of private property, except in a restricted sense’.[i] The interpretation of this ‘restricted sense’ was left to his personal whims, making it difficult to pin down what he had in mind. Property rights are purely freedom-based; this is a capitalist concept. From John Kenneth Galbraith we know that Nehru’s views on property reflected the opinions of Harold Laski, a professor of political science at the London School of Economics. ‘The centre of Nehru’s thinking’, said Galbraith, ‘was Laski’, and ‘India the country most influenced by Laski’s ideas’.[ii] Maybe if we read Laski carefully we will understand what Nehru really meant by  ‘restricted sense’. Laski said:

[…] the existing rights of property represent, after all, but a moment in historic time. They are not today what they were yesterday and tomorrow they will again be different. It cannot be affirmed that, whatever the changes in social institutions, the rights of property are to remain permanently inviolate. Property is a social fact, like any other, and it is the character of social facts to alter.[iii]
Thus, Laski clearly did not recognize freedom as the supreme good. Hobbesian in approach, to him the state was supreme, with our role being to serve it and to be regulated by it. According to Laski, ‘The state […] is the crowning-point of the modern social edifice, and it is in its supremacy over all other forms of social groupings that its special nature is to be found’.[iv] But in the dictionary of freedom, the state is nowhere in that league. It is a creature of our convenience operated by governments paid to do our bidding. The state exists merely for our convenience;for the specific purpose of protecting our freedoms and enforcing the accountability that accompanies freedom. If the state does not guarantee our freedoms and property rights, we have no allegiance to that state – we will make another one, or leave.
 
In that sense, John F Kennedy was wrong when he said, ‘ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country’.[v] In a free society, obligations lie with both parties. The state or country, represented by its government, must behave responsibly and defend our freedoms diligently in order to retain our allegiance and participation in dangerous enterprises like the defence of the land. A state loses legitimacy if it destroys the freedoms for which it was created. Laski’s arrogant state that believes it doesn’t have to protect our property rights and freedoms is destined to be a failed state. It will not only be defenceless against external aggression as its best people abandon that state, but even those that remain will rebel and destroy its foundations through corruption and anarchy.
 
Laski turned the primacy of freedom on its head, claiming that property was a mere cultural artefact. That is absurd, but such were the Muses of Nehru and the Indian socialists. Nehru’s younger fellow party-man, Siddhartha Shankar Ray (SSR), similarly argued that while life and liberty are innate natural rights, ownership of property is not. He said that since the right to property and freedom to contract did not pre-exist the Constitution these should be deemed to be of lesser import, presumably to be cast out from our Constitution with the flick of a socialist finger [vi]. Many of our judges also did not distinguish themselves as protectors of our freedom in those primitive times. Justice Hidayatullah of the Supreme Court lowered the stature of his office when he said that ‘it was a mistake’ to have property as a Fundamental Right.[vii] But this fact, that other political leaders in India also shared Laski’s views, does not diminish Nehru’s primary role in promoting these ideas in India.
 
Let us, even for the sake of argument, momentarily agree with SSR’s view that ‘modern’ freedoms and property rights did not pre-exist our Constitution. Was it then not obligatory on the leaders of independent India to ensure that these ‘new’ freedoms were introduced and ‘passed on’ to us? If some freedoms did not exist in a feudal, imperial India, how could that justify our not having them in independent India? Was the purpose of our struggle for independence merely to continue with the limited set of freedoms that the British had allowed us to enjoy? Was our independence merely an occasion to substitute arrogant and brown sarpanchs in place of imperial, white rulers? I must admit that at times I am unable to distinguish clearly between Nehru and his godchildren on the one hand, and the British rulers of India on the other. It is difficult at times to conclude who was worse for India in the end – having to work with totally corrupt Indian Ministers as one’s bosses at work, or having honest but arrogant imperial British rulers in their place.
 
Implementing his whimsical arguments about property rights, Nehru launched his assault by enacting land ceiling acts, called, euphemistically and misleadingly, ‘land reforms’. After Nehru’s passing away, Congress leaders strengthened this attack. The argument they made to support their attack was that ‘rights’ of the society were more important than our freedoms. Mohan Kumaramanglam said, ‘The clear object of this amendment [25th] is to subordinate the rights of individuals to the urgent needs of society’ (bold italics mine). This was in relation to the 25th amendment of the Constitution in 1971, which removed the concept of compensation upon acquisition of people’s lands,[viii] yet another destruction of property rights. But except in situations of war when the overall need of the society arguably predominates that of an individual, the freedom of individuals cannot be subordinated in a free country. This was not a war-related withdrawal of freedoms.
 
The socialist flood was now nearing its fullest season. All stops had been pulled out. There was the monopoly of loss making public sector businesses, there was the nationalization of privately operated businesses, there was land acquisition without market compensation and there were land ceiling laws. ‘In the months after the [25th] amendment […] coal, coking coal, and copper mines were nationalised, along with steel plants, textile mills, and shipping lines – totalling hundreds of nationalisations’.[ix]
 
This plunderous socialist rampage was fully supported by all political parties in India except the Swatantra. After Swatantra shut down in 1974, these principles continue to be supported today by all major parties in India; none of them has suggested returning our freedoms to us.The biggest blow to property rights was therefore not administered by Nehru or by his Congress party, but by a rag-tag bunch of socialist factions calling themselves the Janata Party, in 1978 (this included Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of the current socialist group called BJP). While we remain indebted to this motley bunch for reversing some of the more blatant impositions against freedom by Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, they simply added one more nail to the coffin of freedom in India. By the time the Janata Party formed the government, only a sliver of property rights was still left in India.
Land reform legislation had already not only been enacted but had been placed under the Ninth Schedule of the Constitution, sheltering it from judicial review. However, the risk, no matter how remote, of a constitutional challenge to these laws prompted the Janata Party to abolish the right to property through the 44th Amendment of 1978. In particular, Article 19(1)(f), that had till then, even through Nehru’s time, guaranteed to the Indian citizens a right to acquire, hold and dispose of property, was repealed.
 
No sensible reason was offered. To assuage people’s fear, it was announced that property, ‘while ceasing to be a fundamental right, would, however, be given express recognition as a legal right, provision being made that no person shall be deprived of his property save in accordance with law’.[x] This is an extraordinarily weak protection. The law is a malleable thing in comparison to the Constitution. Citizens of a free country should not have to depend on the whim of their ruling governments for the defence of their freedoms, and thus of their property. Socialists have never understood why they can’t do such things when they still stick with the word ‘liberty’ in our Preamble.
 
This is an extract from my book, Breaking Free of Nehru.
 

[i] In Singh, V B, ed, Nehru on Socialism, Government of India, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Publications Division, Delhi, 1977, pp.56–7, cited in Roy, Subroto, Pricing, Planning and Politics, The Institute of Economic Affairs, London, 1984, p.35.

[ii] Cited in a review of Harold Laski: A Life on the Left by Isaac Kramnick and Barry Sheerman in Washington Monthly, November 1993, by Arthur M Schlesinger, Jr.

[iii] Laski, Harold J, (1960), A Grammar of Politics, cited in Austin, Granville, (1999), Working in a Democratic Constitution: A History of the Indian Experience, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 2003 paperback edition. Footnote at p.77.

[iv] Laski, Harold J, An Introduction to Politics, Unwin Brothers, London, 1931, p.15.

[v] In his 1961 inaugural address as President.

[vi] Ray’s views cited in Austin, Granville, op. cit., p. 244.

[vii] Ibid., p.205.

[viii] Ibid., p.254.

[ix] Ibid., p.253.

[x] [http://indiacode.nic.in/coiweb/amend/amend44.htm].

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