My views on economy, society and politics
[NOTE： ‘Liberal’ means different things to contemporary Europeans and Americans, but I’m speaking from an Indian perspective and I do not bother with the history and context of liberalism in the West. Glossary of political ideologies]
Today the word ‘liberal’ is considered derogatory because of its association with the dynastic, left-leaning, pseudo-secular Congress party. Its leader Nehru believed in Fabianist socialism. Indira Gandhi was responsible for undemocratic dictatorial inclusion of the words socialist and secular in the Constitution. By socialism it was meant Soviet-inspired, anti-capitalist License Raj. “He [Nehru] did not seem to accept that capitalism was necessary for the economic development of India”. Contrary to what “secularism” actually means, for Congress ‘secular’ means reservation system based on religion and caste, and minority appeasement. Congress opposes Uniform Civil Code because it is afraid of losing the Muslim votebank. It is due to such socialist policies that the economy suffered stunted growth until the economic liberalization in 1991, after the collapse of the USSR. On the other hand, we have the right-leaning, Hindutva-oriented Bharatiya Janata Party. Thus, we have mostly two choices: democratic-socialism of the Congress or the national-, social-conservatism of the BJP.
Left-liberal (or just ‘liberal’) generally means social liberalism. However, I do consider myself a liberal, specifically right-wing liberal, whose ideals do not fit into either BJP or Congress. Clearly, I cherish the fundamental rights like equality, freedom, etc. My take on various issues can be summarized thus:
- Liberty: Freedom doesn’t mean “I’ll do whatever I want” but “Others cannot force me to do something I don’t want”. That is, negative freedom – freedom from constraints – takes precedence over positive freedom (which is also necessary). Freedom of expression entails tolerance of dissent. Quoting Torvalds, “I think people who get offended should be offended”. Individualism doesn’t mean being self-centered; it means being self-dependent, self-responsible, altruistic (like Gandhi) and volunteeristic. There needs to be some reasonable limits on individual liberty (unlike libertarianism), otherwise extreme individualism will result in everybody shooting with guns. Freedom to buy agricultural land anywhere and setup a business in Kashmir (aka Article 35A must be repealed).
- Society: Society is the cooperation of individuals, not some “breathing organism” with its own life like the socialists say. Humans maximize their own self-interest in dealings with other humans, resulting in a social equilibrium. Society should serve individuals’ needs, not vice versa. There is no need to “integrate” minorities/ethno-religious groups into “mainstream” society. They have a right to their identity/beliefs/practices, so leave them alone (as long as they abide by the rule of law). It is everyone’s social responsibility, especially towards the weak, to encourage self-help and individual entrepreneurship – providing free rice is the exact opposite.
- Equality: We’re all are born naked; justice applies equally to all. Being a minority doesn’t mean you get special justice. Strict meritocracy applies to everyone. Pursuing social equality stomps individual freedom and penalizes talent. Allocating a seat in IIT for a 50000th rank student instead of a 5000th rank one is not equality. Equality of opportunity instead of equality of outcome – meaning no quota for SC/ST/OBC/Army/Disabled, instead they must be economically incentivized. Despite providing an equal starting point, the socioeconomic status of individuals are determined by their skills and talent. Social hierarchy (not social equality) is inevitable because no two individuals are the same.
- Economy: Free market, free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes and more privatization. In other words, fiscal conservatism is the key. Economic liberalism, i.e., most of the economic decisions ought to be made by individuals rather than by collective organizations. Economy should serve the needs of the consumer, not the government or the corporate. Going completely towards laissez-faire will result in radical capitalism and hyper-consumerism. So a minimal, light-weight market regulation could be enabled by the government. Creating equal economic opportunities will uplift the poor, not wealth redistribution (whose long-term sustainability is zero). Unlike libertarians, I don’t consider taxation be theft or “aggression”. Everybody must pay a low but fixed percentage of income as tax, i.e., eliminate tax slabs.
- State: Government is there to deliver justice, guarantee social order and defend its country from attack. It should just get out of individuals’ way in other matters like business and religion. It should be immune to corporate lobbying in order to ensure no monopolies or oligopolies. The state should also provide a “safety-net” welfare but not “cradle-to-grave” welfare like the Nordics. This implies a “minimal government” but not devolving into minarchy. The State is also a consumer, not a producer. It should limit itself to production of essential public goods (if at all necessary). Otherwise, we’ll have failed companies like Air India and Mysore Sandal Soap. Product quality is ensured because the consumer pays with his wallet – poor quality products have no market demand.
- Environment: Nature is a resource to satisfy human needs. Instead of govt. regulation, I prefer self-regulation: over-exploitation is detrimental to the self-interest of individuals and businesses alike. Global warming is real. However, alarmist and politically-backed NGOs like Greenpeace are a nuisance to economic development. Nuclear power has low-carbon footprint; it’s an excellent, renewable, alternative to coal/oil.
- Gender: Gender is of personal significance and it shouldn’t matter in the division of labour. Gender equality is a given. Women’s quota and women-only tax breaks imply an affirmation of women’s inferiority – do you want it?
- Religion: Religion is also a private matter. Unlike a secularist who attacks all religions, I am not anti-religious but perhaps indifferent. I am proud of being a Hindu but the government should not make laws about any religion (like money management of temples or giving Hajj subsidy). Sharia should be scrapped and we need Uniform Civil Code. An elected minister could be a religious leader; as long as he doesn’t bring his religion into governance, it’s alright. Abrahamism is present all over the world, but Dharmic religions are unique to us. Dharmic culture has shaped our lives more than Abrahamism. This uniqueness must be celebrated and capitalized by industries like tourism.
- Values: Too much individualism has made the West devoid of familial happiness, to the point of not even talking to neighbours. Family traditions like bowing down to your parents and touching the feet of gurus, teach you humility. “To the liberals, the whole world is but a family. Be detached, be tranquil, be unemotional.” – thus goes the Mahā Upanishad. Note the word udāra used in the verse. In fact, liberalism is translated as udāra-vāda. Quoting Chāndogya 3.17.4, austerity (tapas), generosity (dānam), integrity (ārjava), harmlessness (ahiṃsā) and truthfulness (satya-vacanam) outline my ethical values.
- Nation: Love and patrioitism for motherland fosters a national identity but no need to go overboard with nationalism since we’ve anyway achieved colonial independence. We are both a civic nation and also an ethnic nation. Nationalism should be non-aggressive and non-discriminatory. Nationalists put India first and their religious, caste, regional and linguistic identity last.
Much of these thoughts align with classical liberalism and are inspired by Indian liberal thinkers like Dadabhai Naoroji, C. Rajagopalachari and Minoo Masani. Naoroji was the first one to write a book on how the British were draining wealth from India, pushing us into poverty. Masani’s Liberalism (pdf) is a good intro as well. Swarajya and Freedom First magazines seem to resonate with me. Indian liberals have their own site with info on historical thinkers – though they seem to have both left-wing and right-wing liberals and even libertarians. Probably you’ll enjoy reading Free Your Mind (pdf).
There aren’t many Indian political parties which profess such ideology. There used to be Swatantra Party, but today I’ll probably vote for Loksatta Party. Similarly, I would vote for FDP.The Liberals of Switzerland, Progress Party of Norway, Moderate Party of Sweden, Kokoomus of Finland (both of which are members of European People’s Party Group).
TL;DR: I consider myself a right-wing, conservative liberalist
(not to be confused with liberal conservative). In other words,
individual liberty > economic development > social justice. Anyways such
labellism is used for personal attacks and identity politics. For one, I do not
care about such political correctness.
These views are dependent on time (2018), place (India) and circumstance (Modiji) and thus subject to change without notice :)
I leave you with some food for thought.