It has been well said that “the scholar in politics breathes the still air of delightful studies.” That’s me.
Yet, there wouldn’t be so much to study if all the eternal truths had not been obliterated by socialist teachings.
I would not have had to produce The Essential Frederic Bastiat if the works of this great thinker had not been totally obliterated from public knowledge – by socialists, even in his native France.
Do you see the danger in asking the socialist State to teach the children and the unlettered?
They will use the opportunity to spread socialist propaganda.
Ludwig von Mises used the expression “intellectual bodyguards of the House of Hohenzollern” to describe those of the German Historical School.
I do believe that Manmohan & Co are just that: “Intellectual Bodyguards of The Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty”.
Asking them to teach – and paying an additional education tax for the purpose – just shows how really stupid we are as a people.
We Don’t Need Socialist Education!
That should be the battle-cry of the Liberal Youth Forum – India.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
It has been well said that “the scholar in politics breathes the still air of delightful studies.” That’s me.
Is this dude Ramadoss the health minister or Health Dictator?
Read his latest – on alcohol.
His real job is to oversee the functioning of government hospitals.
Actually, government hospitals do not work.
Let him fix that – and not interfere endlessly in the affairs of ordinary people.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the “Iron Lady” who kicked socialism out of Britain – so much so that the Labour Party now calls itself New Labour – had another ambition when she was young: to join the Indian Civil Service.
As she says, the ICS was the “best in the world” then, setting standards of honesty, integrity and law.
How was this achieved? And how come the IAS is now the worst in the world?
The answer lies in the governing ideology.
The ICS (and before them, the HEICS – the Honourable East India Company Service) were rooted in Classical Liberalism. John Locke was their “prophet”, and every decision they took was based on their deep understanding of liberal principles.
A good book on this is Philip Mason’s The Men Who Ruled India. (There were no women in the ICS). It is a fabulous read, and it tells the story of how a handful of civil servants transformed this country and delivered a far better life to her long-suffering populace.
All this was destroyed by socialism – an ideology still upheld by the IAS.
Some years ago, on a visit to the IAS Academy in Mussoorie, where I delivered a lecture on population and urbanization, I was astounded to find that their resident professor of Economics was a follower of Piero Sraffa, and the bookshelves in his office were stashed with communist literature.
We need a Thatcher in politics to straighten out the IAS mind.
And kick socialism out of India.
Monday, 28 April 2008
What do you feel very strongly about?
As for me, I feel very strongly about the US-inspired “War On Drugs” – and I am on the other side.
I am on the side of the coca farmers of South America, the opium farmers of Afghanistan and, of course, the ganja and charas farmers of India.
The “War On Drugs” keeps these farmers in permanent poverty, while also making the drug user pay so much for his stuff that he too is poor.
And what is even worse for the consumer: the stuff he buys is almost always of bad quality or adulterated – and therefore a major health risk.
The “profits” – if this honourable term call be ascribed to these coerced takings – of the trade are collected by mafias, with the government police on their side. The “War On Drugs” is a pillar of corruption. This must end. Pronto.
I therefore propose the setting up of The Honourable Bhola Unlimited Company Limited, headquartered in Haridwar – “Bhola” being the nickname of Lord Shiva, who was partial to ganja and charas, and is the God of all cannabis smokers, worldwide.
The first product of the Bhola Company will be the Bhola Spliff – advertised as Ganesh ka Baap ka Bidi. It will be available in various flavours – Manipuri, Kashmiri, Manali, Kerala, Morocco and so on. The spliffs will be double the length as well as the thickness of a king-size cigarette – guaranteed to get you stoned, or double your money back.
Later, we will also produce and market Bhola Cola – a bhang ki thandai, for which the ad-line will say “Jaise Coca-Cola mein Coca nahin hai, waise Bhola Cola mein Cola nahin hai – ha ha.”
We will also make bhang sweets, called Bholay ke Golay.
An Initial Public Offering will be announced calling upon all Bholaynath ke Sacchay Bhagats (and them only) to subscribe. Since we will not accept government paper money, the saccha bhagat will have to give up one tola of pure gold for one share of the Bhola Company: Bhola ka Tola!
So while the politicized Rambhakts want to build another temple, the anti-political Bholabhakts want to make some money. Which side are you on?
I trust that in time similar IPOs will be launched in South America, Afghanistan, Laos and Cambodia for coca and opium companies.
Also: Read Lew Rockwell's "Prison Nation" discussing why America is the country with the highest percentage of its population in prisons - because of its own foolish "War On Drugs".
Sunday, 27 April 2008
In my little garden is a plant normally seen only as hedgerow.
It was planted two years ago – and never trimmed. The untrimmed hedgerow is now a beautiful young tree, with dangling sprays of tiny purple flowers and bright orange berries – which are normally never seen.
This most unusual tree is now the pride of our garden.
There is a lesson here for the poor of India.
If restrictions on economic activity are removed, the poor of today – all 2-foot high hedges – will grow, will flower, and spread their seeds.
A happy thought on a bright Sunday morning, what?
Saturday, 26 April 2008
After initial reports saying that the performance will not be allowed, it seems they have now relented.
According to the news report, the minister has clarified that the legislation passed by the Maharashtra assembly some years ago was opposed to 'dance bars' – but not to dance.
In his own words: "The existing law on dance bars stipulates that dancing and serving alcohol cannot be done at the same place."
In other words, drinking and dancing are OK only if done in separate places!
Drink here, dance there.
In reality, this means that the only dancers who can succeed in Mumbai are those that work for film and television – the best and the wealthiest dancers.
Lesser mortals who want to make a living through dance are barred from performing.
This "existing law" is against the poor, the vulnerable, and the weak.
It claims the high moral ground, but is actually perverse. It is blatantly unjust – and there cannot be any morality in injustice.
What is the permanent way out?
We must learn to distinguish between law and legislation.
To be free, we need to rely on "natural law" that has come from the past – like private property, contracts and torts. These natural laws should be above government: "The King is under God and the Law" is a very old saying – indicating that in medieval times, kings could not make law. The Queen of England still cannot make law.
Law should not be made afresh by legislators – 500 'representatives of the people' crammed into a room who vote as directed by "party whips". Confusing law with legislation means that society is never sure of its laws – they are always changing.
Hence, the minister's reference to "existing law" means that this law was not there in the past, and also that this law may not be there in the future. Everything is uncertain. This goes against the very purpose of law, which is certainty. We must be certain always as to what is right and what is wrong.
Note that in the report the minister says his deputy "has not read the law properly". That is, senior legislators have not read the legislations they have themselves inflicted upon society!
The key to Liberty Under Law lies in distinguishing between law and legislation. Let us live under Law – and let us do away with legislative interference in private property.
Dance bars are private property. The legislator cannot decide what happens there. These decision must be made by the owners, his employees and – in the ultimate analysis – the customers.
A great book to read on this is Bruno Leoni's Freedom And The Law.
It influenced Friedrich Hayek, who wrote a 3-volume Law, Legislation & Liberty. The first two volumes are a must read.
Anyone who reads these will soon come to the conclusion that the worst aspect of modern democracy – the reason why it is so despotic – is because it is deemed legitimate for elected representatives to interfere in society with their legislations, which are treated as par with Law.
Friday, 25 April 2008
There were two young lads sleeping on the platform, on cardboard. It was still dark when they woke up, folded their cardboards, and got ready for another working day.
I was reminded of the classic Bob Marley song Rat Race:
“You got a horse race,
You got a dog race,
You got a human race,
But this is a rat race.”
Everyone seems to be working very hard in Mumbai – and they pay the most in taxes.
But the conditions in which they work are horrible.
This is only because the city itself is in such a bad shape.
So what’s new?
Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata, Bangalore… every Indian metropolis is in extremely bad shape.
Working in any of these cities is not easy.
Life in these hell-holes is tough; very tough. Especially for the poor.
Of course, fixing these cities is not going to be an easy task either.
Even if these cities elect very good mayors, there will be little that a mayor can accomplish in one term – and it is therefore unlikely that he will be re-elected.
I am of the opinion that the best solution lies in building entirely new cities. The British built all our cities (and countless ‘hill-stations’) from scratch. We should now do likewise.
The Konkan coast offers many alternative locations for setting up new coastal cities. (see map). Karwar, for example, has a deep-sea port – and can easily become a Hong Kong with the right policies. Ditto for Mangalore.
And there over 20 such locations available on the Konkan, in both Maharashtra as well as Karnataka.
Our eastern seaboard too can accommodate dozens of new free-trading cities.
Many new cities can be built from scratch along both our coasts, to compete with these ruined metros. These can attract the hard-working people of these metros, whose lives are blighted by civic failure – and civic failure alone. All the bhaiyas of UP and Bihar can be welcomed to these new cities.
And a New India can arise.
Recall Bengal when Job Charnock founded Calcutta. Murshidabad was the Nawab’s capital then, and the leading city. Within decades, Murshidabad went into terminal decline and all the notables of Bengal shifted to Calcutta – not only for better living and better business opportunities, but also because property was secure and the Company’s justice was more predictable than that of the Nawab.
Way to go one more time, again.
What lessons can be drawn from that?
A very bright high school kid has discovered all the right answers.
My question: Who taught him?
The answer, of course, is Mises Institute.
No chance of the Delhi School of Economics producing such a bright young spark.
Another reason for closing down government higher education.
Thursday, 24 April 2008
The Goa police deserve all the ignominy that can be heaped upon them for their biased handling of the Scarlett Keeling case.
Even the two autopsies carried out on her body were ‘illegal’, according to European forensic experts, who performed yet another autopsy after the body was taken there.
There is a simple solution to this – and it goes as follows.
All crimes are against individuals.
There are no crimes against the State – except, maybe, treason. There are no 'victimless crimes' - so legislation against these can be thrown out.
Thus, the individual must be free to prosecute his own case.
Now, if courts award financial compensation to all victims of crime (who prosecute their own cases) – then the scenario that will soon unfold will be like this: as soon as an individual becomes a victim of crime, private lawyers will descend upon him with offers to take up his case in exchange for a small percentage of the compensation/damages that will be awarded. Even the very poor will have access to justice in such a setting.
Recall that the goof-up in the Jessica Lal murder case was precisely in the area of prosecution. At that time I had argued for ‘market justice’.
Today, I believe ‘criminal justice’ is a hoax. It is based on the notion that crimes are against the State and that the State must prosecute and punish those found guilty. The police therefore become a monopoly agency for investigation, prosecution as well as punishment. Monopolies are always bad for society.
This system does not work. It cannot work.
On the other hand, a system in which all crimes are against individuals, and these individuals are free to collect evidence and prosecute those who cause them injury and harm – such a system can work.
Because all the incentives will be in the right place.
Further, if ‘punishment’ based on the idea of ‘retribution’ is replaced by ‘compensation’ based on the idea of ‘restitution’, then the right incentives will exist for lawyers, private detectives, private forensic laboratories et. al.
A good book to read on this is Bruce Benson’s The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State. The book reveals that prosecution was always private in Britain.
As this quote indicates, it still is.
“Public prosecution in England required a legal fiction, however. Under common law, prosecution is still private: “English common law maintains that police officers are not distinct from the general body of citizens… therefore, when a police officer initiates a criminal proceeding he is legally acting not by virtue of his office but as a private citizen interested in the maintenance of law and order.” Theoretically, then, the vestiges of Anglo-Saxon law’s reliance on private prosecution remains.”
That is the way we must go if we are to obtain justice.
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
We have already discussed the “misproductive” civilian bureaucracy.
Let us now turn to the “unproductive” armed forces.
When the army recruits a strapping young lad from a remote village, they must pay him more than what he was earning earlier – or he would never join.
However, as soon as the new recruit signs up, the nation suffers these three major economic losses:
1. The recruit has to stop producing whatever he was producing; say, a few quintals of potatoes from his patch of land. These potatoes are no longer available for the consumption of the citizenry. This is an economic loss for society.
2. The recruit is now paid through taxation – which is coerced out of the productive members of society, causing major economic losses to them.
3. The recruit “works” year after year on a parade ground – he is himself “unproductive”. This is a loss as well. Tolstoy described the life of a Russian army officer as one spent in “commanded idleness”.
In “theory” – in the political science classrooms – it may never be challenged that a nation can do without a “national defence”. But the enormous social cost of a standing army must also be drilled into the heads of the students, who will become voters soon.
Here, outside the classroom, let us instead look at the “practice”.
We were horrified at the high security for the Olympic torch run in Delhi. Now think of Srinagar, a little city with 500,000 armed soldiers in permanent deployment.
As an extremely articulate Kashmiri said on prime-time television the other day, “Your Indian army is closely associated with human rights violations in Kashmir.”
I spoke at some colleges in Srinagar some years ago, and a principal told me the story of how one of his best students just “disappeared”.
My own impression of our army in Srinagar was that it is an army of occupation: something to be ashamed of in a supposedly free democracy.
Then there is Manipur. A woman has been on hunger strike for 8 years protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that has bequeathed a rough-and-ready martial law to this state – for over 15 years. She is being force fed through the nose for 8 long years now.
These examples of “practice” go against the “theory of national defence”. These are internal wars against our own people.
Recall that armies are “unproductive”. Here, they are also “destructive”. There is no “economy” in either Kashmir or Manipur.
Thus, there are no revenues to fund the state governments: they depend on the central government for handouts. The taxpayer is picking up the tab.
Armies, navies and air forces must be recruited and deployed with eyes on “economy” always.
In India, the political leadership is blind to economics.
This is particularly true of the 25-year-long high-altitude “war” on the Siachen glacier. It has cost the exchequer 3 or 4 crore rupees per day, every day from 1983 (or thereabouts: I visited the war zone in 1984).
Thousands of soldiers have been physically destroyed because of exposure to the extreme weather conditions on Siachen – including one of my very old friends, a tough commando now reduced to a shadow of his former self.
But what is Siachen worth – per acre?
Can the glacier generate revenues from tourism? Will any hotelier buy land there?
Think about that.
And read The Myth of National Defence.
And My 115th Dream.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Mayawati says Rahul Gandhi does not understand politics; that he is staging a 'political drama' by fraternizing with poor Dalits – who are her flock.
But I daresay even Aristotle would not understand that Rahul Gandhi's antics can be called 'politics' – in the sense in which the philosophers of ancient Greece used the term.
In ancient Greece, the city was everything, and politics belonged to the 'polis' – the city.
There were many great politicians in Athens, with Pericles topping the list. Yet if we look at their political values, we see that the city came first, always.
Rahul Gandhi lives in New Delhi.
(In a highly privileged district, of course.)
Delhi is a city that is collapsing – I ran away – and the latest efforts of the 'transport planners' has proved to be a massive flop.
Rahul Gandhi is not interested in such matters.
His party, the Congress, has never fielded mayoral candidates in its entire history. For them, local self-government has always meant village republics and panchayati raj. Cities still do not matter in their 'politics'.
This is how the word 'politics' has lost its meaning.
It meant something else in ancient Greece.
In means something else in the western world.
It means something completely different in contemporary India.
And I think it was Confucius who said: "When words lose their meaning, the people will lose their freedom."
See my "The Purpose of Politics".
Monday, 21 April 2008
I find all the talk on 'Freedom With Responsibility' very off-putting.
For a reason:
Our enemies, the socialists, believe in 'Power Without Responsibility'.
Indeed, when they 'come into office' they always say that they have 'come into power' – and the crucial word 'responsibility' is never there in their lexicon.
Nothing works in India that is provided by the government, and not a single agency or official can be identified with the responsibility. The buck never stops anywhere in India – it is always passed on.
So why should we, the libertarians of India, not be rabble rousers ourselves, singing the song of Liberty loud and clear, without using that party-pooper word 'responsibility'?
People get excited about Freedom. Let us excite them.
And since no one wants responsibility, let us avoid the very word.
I met a Sardarji in a casino in Kathmandu once, a rather drunken Sardarji, who told me that he had come there with 12 lakh rupees to lose. He said had already lost 10; that he was now proceeding to lose the balance 2 lakhs before returning home to Delhi. He added that he was having the time of his life: he really enjoyed losing all this money. Is this ‘freedom without responsibility’?
Recall ‘Me and Bobby McGee': "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose… "
I do believe my Sardarji enjoyed this extreme kind of freedom – and God bless him for it.
Contrast this with the other Sardarjis: Manmohan and Montek. They have earmarked billions of rupees for the 'employment' of the poor – but they have never accepted any responsibility to oversee the execution of this project.
Indeed, it may be surmised that they have gambled with the public kitty in a vain attempt to purchase the votes of poor people.
They have gambled too – but with public money, and without any responsibility.
And theirs is a losing gamble as well.
So my drunken Sardarji is a better man, and a better Sardarji as well. He played with his money and lost all of it. I am confident that his wife will hold him responsible. And he will humbly accept the responsibility of his excesses.
So, let us sing the songs of Freedom, loud and clear.
And shall we say: Bollocks to responsibility?
Sunday, 20 April 2008
It enters northern Goa just bordering the former 'princely state' of Sawantwadi, now in Maharashtra, and it exits south Goa just short of the port city of Karwar, in Karnataka.
However, according to basic road theory, NH17 should be called a 'notional highway.'
Real highways are meant for 'movement', not 'access.' There is a roadways hierarchy: with local roads providing access at the bottom, connecter or feeder roads in between, and then highways on the top providing movement alone, not access.
My village is just a kilometer away from NH17, and this notional highway is the Main Street of Chaudi, my nearest market-town. Just the other day the bus drivers in the area barricaded the road protesting against the potholed condition of their 'lifeline'.
(The potholes have since been repaired, but it is an example of a spontaneous local political demand for a good road.)
There are at least 20 other towns like Chaudi on the NH17 in Goa alone. There will be hundreds if we add the total number of towns for which NH17 is Main Street in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Kerala as well.
The NH17 goes from Mumbai to Cochin.
But, as we have seen, NH17 is an access-providing road, not a highway.
This is a 'notional highway.'
And the bad news is: NH17 does not figure in the 'Golden Quadrilateral' highway project of the central planner.
Now for the good news:
We can imagine a better future – if we base it on a one-point programme, which is this: highways must come first, and every part of India should be linked by excellent roads and highways.
Highways first means placing a roads programme above all other claims upon government, including (especially) education, healthcare, and employment.
The one-point programme is: ROADS & HIGHWAYS FIRST!
In this connection I have some further good news to share on a bright Sunday morning: the highways of America and western Europe, which we admire so much, are based on technology of the 1940s and '50s – and the vision of those times.
India can therefore 'leapfrog' directly onto the latest in terms of highways.
An idea that I found floating around in Gabriel Roth's new book is 'truckways'.
That is, separate highways reserved for trucks.
Great idea, what?
So we can have truck-free highways for ourselves, our cars – and the tourists!
Thank about that!
Saturday, 19 April 2008
You light up a mighty chillum early in the morning with a Boom Shankar shout – and all you get is Bum Shankar.
Makes you wanna shoot the sheriff and institute a regime in which companies selling good, branded smoke will be felicitated, and those who sell bum smoke will have to fork out tort compensations as damages.
Amsterdam is such a city. Excellent smoke and wide variety.
And the irony is that there is a hash café in Amsterdam called Goa!
Let's build a Great City like that in India - that too, on the Konkan Coast, "where the weather suits my clothes".
And let the civic anthem be Dylan's "Everybody Must Get Stoned". (This site gives you a free ringtone of this great song!)
There are towns in Texas where it is against the law NOT to own a gun.
Let this be a city where it is illegal NOT to be stoned.
And I am running for Lord Mayor.
Friday, 18 April 2008
The rustic cottage in which we live in Goa has a tall TEAK tree growing straight and proud in the middle of the little garden.
Yet, our doors and windows are made out of the wood of the jackfruit tree – they call it 'jackwood' here – because teak is unaffordable. Jackwood invariably warps. Our doors and windows do not shut properly.
There is only one reason why teak costs so much here, where it grows wild: government restrictions.
I cannot cut down the teak tree growing on my own property: I need permission from the State.
I have seen this phenomenon in other parts of the Western Ghats too: for example, in Coorg, where a coffee estate owner complained to me that he could not cut rosewood and ebony trees growing on his estate. Even mahogany grows naturally here.
So, while I am in full sympathy with Barun Mitra's crusade to save the tiger by farming it, I do believe these arguments will ring true only if we begin at the bottom of the environmental pyramid – by farming trees.
As far as wildlife is concerned, instead of beginning with tigers, we could begin with deer and wild boar. Deer can be easily bred in ranches. So can wild boar.
When these efforts at commercializing timber as well as wildlife succeed, the arguments for farming tigers will be better received.
In the meantime, do reflect on the fact that the most valuable tree in the world – sandalwood – can also be easily farmed in this region.
When Veerappan was murdered in cold blood by the Karnataka police, I was the only one to call for free-market sandalwood farming.
These are the best ways of preserving nature and taking the profit out of poaching.
Think about it.
Thursday, 17 April 2008
He quotes a former member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet and the former editor of the London Economist magazine as his authorities.
And he suggests that western-style capitalism is unsuitable for China and India – for two reasons: the first is environmental (ho hum); and the second is the economic inequality that will result (ho hum once again).
Mercifully, he does not ask for more government intervention. He advises more corporate social responsibility kind of stuff.
Yet, the article must go down as one against capitalism – and that too, by one of its most illustrious practitioners in India. This is, to say the least, unfortunate.
In such a climate of opinion, I was happy to read online an article by Ron Paul, Republican presidential candidate in the ongoing US elections, that is most refreshing – for Ron Paul argues for real capitalism, not this interventionist bullshit funded by fiat money:
"Capitalism should not be condemned, since we haven't had capitalism. A system of capitalism presumes sound money, not fiat money manipulated by a central bank. Capitalism cherishes voluntary contracts and interest rates that are determined by savings, not credit creation by a central bank. It's not capitalism when the system is plagued with incomprehensible rules regarding mergers, acquisitions, and stock sales, along with wage controls, price controls, protectionism, corporate subsidies, international management of trade, complex and punishing corporate taxes, privileged government contracts to the military-industrial complex, and a foreign policy controlled by corporate interests and overseas investments. Add to this centralized federal mismanagement of farming, education, medicine, insurance, banking and welfare. This is not capitalism!
To condemn free-market capitalism because of anything going on today makes no sense. There is no evidence that capitalism exists today. We are deeply involved in an interventionist-planned economy that allows major benefits to accrue to the politically connected of both political parties. One may condemn the fraud and the current system, but it must be called by its proper names — Keynesian inflationism, interventionism, and corporatism."
I sincerely hope Arun Maira will read Ron Paul’s entire article – and maybe all his books too – and also root for real capitalism.
So let us talk of another torch.
The torch that carries the Flame of Liberty.
Young people from all over India gathered in Mumbai recently to launch the Liberal Youth Forum – India. If you are under 35 years of age, and want to do battle in the cause of Freedom, join up.
What can such an organization do?
Well, to egg us on, and to give us ideas, there were representatives of two liberal organizations from Pakistan.
That's right: PAKISTAN!
And the good news is that liberal politics in Pakistan is 10 years ahead of India.
There is Freedom Gate – Pakistan: a website you must visit.
There is also a Liberal Forum Pakistan with representatives in every district and a paid membership of thousands. Three ministers in the current Pakistan cabinet are members of this liberal forum. There is a great deal of liberal political education going on in Pakistan – including regular radio and television spots.
The enthusiasm and dynamism of the liberals from Pakistan stimulated every Indian liberal present. Many ideas were exchanged.
So join LYF-India if you are young and want to help carry the Flame of Liberty to our long-suffering, economically repressed populace.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Actually, the only cause of inflation is bad money.
Inflation is a disease of the monetary system.
There is only one cure: Sound Money.
Read my “Funny Money: We Don’t Need A Central Bank” that was published in the Times of India a while back. All the arguments still stand – and will forever continue to do so.
Why can't the Americans be more like the Canadians – especially in foreign policy matters?
Why is there a 'Great American Dream' but no 'Great Canadian Dream'?
Probably because the Canadians aren't asleep.
Looks like the Americans definitely are – or their 'democratic government' wouldn't be so out-of-control.
PJ O'Rourke's Parliament of Whores takes a close look at democracy in the US – and the reader comes out horrified. Of course, the title defames whores, who do not f*** you by force. Governments do. O'Rourke's great book should have been titled Parliament of Rapists.
(Incidentally, he is foreign affairs editor of Rolling Stone magazine – so all you rockers out there should read all his books.)
But what of Canada? What can Canada do that will ease the Tibet crisis?
I suggest that the Canadian government invite the Dalai Lama and his entire flock to set up a great big Tibetan city in Canada. They are screwed in India - just visit Majnu ka Tila in Delhi and see for yourself. My last post discussed the horrible Tibetan refugee camp in Kushalnagar. There is no chhung for Tibetans in India – and chhung was surely invented long before the Buddha was born. They are also screwed in China – and Lhasa is not the same any more.
So why not build a New Lhasa (with a New Potala Palace) in some frozen part of Canada?
Buddhists are trained to be detached from the material world. What could be a more material attachment than that to some piece of earth and some stones? So build anew, Tibetans. Make a New Utopia. And make sure there is lots of chhung in it.
Canada will gain – a new city with a few golden temples, peopled by migrants who are skilled traders, craftsmen, artisans, cooks and brewers; and who are possessed of a deep morality.
How will the polar bear react to the yak? Now that's another question.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
I recall visiting the old town of Bageshwar in the upper Kumaon some years ago. The owner of the extremely old ayurvedic establishment told me that traditionally his ancestors bought medicinal ingredients from Tibetans whose caravans came calling from across the high mountains. They then prepared their mixtures and sold them in the cities of the plains. All this trade stopped after nation-states sealed the borders – causing the old market in Bageshwar, and its ayurveds, to go into terminal decline.
Tibetan refugees in India have more or less taken over the street trade in woolen sweaters. A Tibetan libertarian told me their modus operandi: each trader invests 1 lakh rupees with a Ludhiana manufacturer of woolens – and picks up 2 lakhs worth of goods: this credit is based on personal trust. He then spends the winter selling his wares. Then the profits are counted, the outstandings repaid – and it is back home in Dharamsala for the hot summer.
Other Tibetan traders have made 'momo' (their meaty dumplings) a household word in much of India. It is extremely unfortunate that Gandhian restrictions in India have prohibited Tibetans from doing the same with chhung – their traditional beer. No Tibetan I know campaigns for their right to brew and sell this healthy traditional drink in India. In Chinese Tibet, I am confident, chhung must be freely available.
The conclusion: Tibetans are economically repressed in India. China may be worse in some ways, but India is not too great a place for them either.
This conclusion was reinforced when I visited the other Tibetan settlement in India: Kushalnagar in Karnataka. The Namdroling Monastery with its domes of pure gold was stunning. But I was horrified to discover that the refugees had been divided into 4 or 5 separate camps, each a considerable distance from the other: see map.
Naturally, a big town with all its attendant businesses could not come up. There are vast spaces all around, but the refugees are not allowed to use them. Kushalnagar has been designed to keep the refugees poor.
I spent the night in a small hotel in one of the larger camps. It was run by a friendly Tibetan matron. I inquired after momos – and got them – but was told that chhung was banned. In the only bar there, some distance away from the camp, I drank some IMFL rum – and found many Tibetan men doing the same.
In my book, Tibetans in India should be treated exactly as the kings of Gujarat treated the Parsees when they fled Iran and took refuge there. The Parsees were skilled traders; they immediately struck roots; and even produced a JRD Tata: pioneer aviator and globally respected businessman.
If the Tibetans in India are given the same freedoms that the Parsees got those centuries ago, I am confident that very successful businessmen will arise from their ranks too.
Monday, 14 April 2008
Feni is an alcoholic drink distilled from the fermented fruit of the cashew. We all know the cashew nut - but very few have seen the fruit. It looks like this: that is, the nut hangs outside the fruit. The nuts are harvested; the fruit is thrown away - except in Goa, where they make feni.
Cashews are also grown in Brazil, but I doubt if they make feni there. It is typically Goan, and I commend the locals on their "knowledge" and enterprise. The cashew fruit is inedible - even monkeys don't eat it (and we have lots and lots of monkeys here) - and it is indeed praiseworthy that something so nice as feni is produced from this totally useless fruit.
In Goa, there are many competing brands of feni - and there are also many "unbranded" varieties available (which are better!). What I bemoan is that although Goa is technically a part of India, feni is not available anywhere else in this vast sub-continent of a nation. Having spent a long time in Delhi, and knowing what poor people drink there, I am sure that a Goa-Delhi feni pipeline would be a boon for the poor people of north India.
Yes, I repeat: the poor would benefit. Feni is a healthy and inexpensive drink, eminently suited for consumption by poor people - like me. Indeed, the other day I was lunching at Lounghino's and ordered a shot of urak (the first distillate of feni, which is lighter) and this swank establishment charged me 4 rupees for a 60 ml shot (10 US cents). I immediately ordered another one. And then another. A poor man's 3-martini lunch!
The ban on the trade of feni within India is an example of "real knowledge" going waste, thanks to the senseless restrictions imposed by a government that is desperate to "educate" the apparently stupid people. The funny thing is that not a single Goan politician talks about this. That, I presume, is because alcohol is not discussed in their "politically correct" discourse.
Once again, the only solution lies in Liberty. In the meantime, I am enjoying the smell of feni that is wafting through the air of my little Goan village, morning, noon and night. Eat your hearts out, cityfolk. And when you drink that horrid IMFL this evening, dream of feni and urak.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
First: The US dollar, which is going down the tube, and which must be fixed.
Second: US foreign policy, which must be non-interventionist, and based on the value of Liberty.
On both counts, my choice of candidate is the Texan Ron Paul of the Republican Party.
He understands the logic of a return to gold.
And his foreign policy stance is refreshing, coming from a Republican: peace, liberty, free trade, and sound money.
The libertarians of America are all rooting for Ron Paul. His new book The Revolution: A Manifesto is a big hit with people like us, and one eminent reviewer has dubbed him "the Tom Paine of the Second American Revolution". Heady stuff!
India's libertarians should study up on Ron Paul and extend their support to a man who has, in a political career spanning decades, always shown a "principled defense of freedom, peace, and sound money". That's my kind of candidate.
Saturday, 12 April 2008
They say that “every great city sits like a giant spider on its transportation network” – and so we know why not one of India’s metropolitan cities is “great”. They are all like blobs of jelly on the map, nowhere near the nimble spider.
My Konkan railway train from Goa to Mumbai reached Panvel early in the morning, then traveled onto Thane before terminating at Kurla. Between Panvel and Thane, all that one saw from the window were wide open spaces: “unreal estate”.
Indeed, if you fly Goa-Mumbai you see miles and miles of virgin beaches, and acres and acres of what seems to be unowned and unoccupied land. If we want to use these spaces, instead of overcrowding our cities, we must have fast transport connections from the cities (and their business centres and markets) to all these outlying areas.
My hostess in Juhu showed me photos of her cottage in Alibaug – and the place seemed quite like our own tile-roofed one in Goa. There was also a lovely garden - something absent in Juhu. But we could not visit Alibaug – because of poor transportation. The map shows Alibaug to be just across the waters from Mumbai.
If we want Alibaug to “develop”, an undersea tunnel between Mumbai and Alibaug is all that is required. It will also help the citizens of Mumbai to “sprawl” over a far wider area, rather than cramming themselves into a tiny strip of coastal land. There is lots of land along the coast. The undersea tunnel will pay for itself from the property boom that will ensue in Alibaug – and the consequent revenues that will accrue to the State from property taxes. It is all win-win.
American environmentalists hate America’s “urban sprawl”. In India, we need it. There is more than enough room to do so.
In my book, transportation is the key.
We don’t need socialist education.
We need a transportation revolution.
Friday, 11 April 2008
My rides in Mumbai’s suburban trains were “brutalizing”, to use an exact word. Civilized people, I am sure, cannot ever enjoy the experience of being forced into extreme physical contact with complete strangers. In India, most people do not even shake hands, preferring to do a “namaste” from a distance. It is astounding that in such a civilization, politicians get votes for running a railway system in which everyone is crushed into everyone else.
This brutalism is also exhibited in the politics of the city – aggressive and hostile to outsiders. Civilized people who earn their keep in markets know that the secret to success of any market order is to keep on adding more and more “friendly strangers” into the overall order. But politicians in India do not survive via markets. They survive via coercion. And such a political system is bound to be brutalistic.
Spent a couple of days in Juhu – on the sixth floor of a posh apartment building. Spent some time on the balcony looking out at the uniform ugliness outside. Reminded me that there is also an architectural style called “brutalism”, pioneered by Le Corbusier, Nehru’s favourite architect, who designed the colourless concrete blocks of Chandigarh. Brutalist architecture was patronized by the welfare state in Europe, contributing to great ugliness there. In India, Delhi’s DDA colonies are an example of brutalism – and nothing can beat them in terms of sheer ugliness.
Viewed from the 6th floor of a Juhu flat, it seemed like all our cities are being brutalized in the most fundamental way – the way we build the houses in which we live. That is, the “character” of our cities.
Of course, there must be civic authorities in Mumbai with the powers to pass building plans. I suggest doing away with them. With all their powers, they have achieved nothing but ugliness everywhere. All that is required in a state of “natural liberty” is relief under torts – so if a building collapses, the builder has to fork out huge compensation. Builders will therefore insure, and insurance companies will pass their building plans. With freedom, a much more beautiful urban India can be built. Civilized, not brutal.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Let us now turn from taxes to subsidies – in this case, the low fares on Mumbai’s suburban trains. I took a ride Andheri-Churchgate 1st class at about 75 rupees. I returned 2nd class at about 7 rupees. This is a hugely subsidized fare. Anything that is under-priced is over-consumed – and the huge crowd in the train at 4 pm, long before the office rush, proves this point. There is the added fact that when something is provided by the State so cheap, private alternatives cannot compete – like buses or tramways.
But the most important loss caused by this subsidy is to the Mumbai suburban railway itself, which does not earn as much revenue as would be necessary to expand services and improve them as well. The coaches I rode in were horrible. Getting out was an incredible adventure, what with the fact that the coaches have no doors.
The assumption behind these subsidies is that the people are poor and cannot pay for an essential service. Or, what is more likely, is that the people will vote for politicians who keep this service cheap. This politician with the ‘vote motive’ is helping a section of the population with money that is not his. The poor people of Mumbai pay market rates for electricity, gas, telephones, water and everything else. They work hard (and the pace is furious) to earn the money to do so. But they are taxed to the bone, and there is the attendant inflation.
I do believe if private entrepreneurs were to take over this suburban railway, improve and expand services, charge market-based rates, compete effectively with other modes of transport (including the underground railway that is under construction), Mumbaikars would be much better off.
Better to leave such an important service to the ‘profit motive’ rather than the ‘vote motive’.
So we can all sing:
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Of course, it is taxation (and licensing). But what is more important to understand is the fact that ALL TAXES CAUSE ALL-ROUND LOSSES.
If this high tax had not been there, I would have had 2 or 3 more beers – so I lost.
If I had had 2 or 3 more beers, Leopold's would have gained, but they too lost.
So did the Kingfisher company, and all their employees, distributors and shareholders.
Taxation is theft – as it too is dependent on coercion.
The purpose of democracy is to 'represent the taxpayer': "No taxation without representation" has always been a rallying call of democrats.
Who do our chaps represent?
Check out the meaning of Tax Freedom Day – and fight against this despoliation of the people.
Friday, 4 April 2008
(With apologies to George Bernard Shaw, who was a Fabian socialist and wrote a very popular "Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism.)
Till fairly recently, both economic as well as political activity were the reserve of men. Thus, women had to depend on men for everything, and this led to subjugation.
Fortunately, better days are here. The suffragettes fought for the vote and got it. Yet, despite 60 years of voting, millions of women in India remain backward and poor. The vote is obviously not enough. Some, like the socialist economist Amartya Sen and his protégé Manmohan Singh, say they need “education” – from the government. But prosperity is delivered by markets, and the government of India is scarcely a lamp of learning. Women must therefore think hard as to where their true interests lie. Only then can they campaign for the right policies.
It is not true that women did not “produce” or that they were “ignorant” in the centuries gone by. All over the world, women cooked delicious food, kept homes clean, and managed household budgets. In India, women produced pickles, papad, chutneys, butter, ghee and so many other wonderful things. Tribal women still produce alcoholic drinks like mahua, handia and apong. But all this was for “self-consumption”. These were not produced for “exchange”. If all these are produced for exchange in the market economy, it would become evident that women indeed possess a great deal of useful “knowledge” – even without formal education. They are not ignorant.
Thus, the first step towards the liberation of all women lies not in the vote, nor in “education”; rather, it lies in the freedom for all women to participate in the exchange economy of the market with whatever knowledge they may possess or choose to acquire. Indeed, pickles, papads and chutneys are very big businesses today. Street food is another. Entertainment is a multibillion dollar industry now and traditionally women have always been proficient in music and dance. Rather than the vote, which is “political freedom”, or government education, which can seriously damage the mind, women today should strive for the Liberty to engage in economic activity, which is Economic Freedom. This is a term not found in the lexicon of the socialists.
At the outset, let it be clearly understood that Gandhi got it all wrong. His ideal of “village self-sufficiency” means economic suicide for both rural men and women; but more so for women, because if their men are poor, women are poorer still. Self-sufficiency is production for use; capitalism is production for exchange. If rural women produce surpluses for exchange, they will discover that the markets in which they can find sufficient customers are invariably located in cities and towns. Stuck in a sparsely-populated village, a woman might sell two jars of pickles. But if she took her output to a crowded city, she might sell a hundred kilos of the stuff. Thus, villages, self-sufficiency and “rural development” must be ditched in favour of urbanization: hundreds of free trading cities and thousands of such towns, instead of millions of self-sufficient village economies. Women must produce for exchange in urban market centres. This is my Lesson # 1.
On to Lesson # 2: As far as politics and government are concerned, what these must be able to provide women is Liberty Under Law. Nothing else – no “sops”, no “reservations”. There must not be any politically imposed restrictions placed upon women (or men) when they go to the urban markets. It is here that we find the critical problem that many, many women face in our cities: that the Law does not give them Liberty; rather, the Law is an instrument of coercion. This applies not only to women street vendors and petty traders, but also to women performing artistes, right through to women working in professions like tending bars and serving food and drink. Indeed, although we in India have a huge film industry, we do not possess a “nightlife” industry – where lakhs of women could find gainful employment. There isn’t a Moulin Rouge in any Indian city. Nor are there any casinos. Even bars are strictly licensed, and entertainers are discouraged by the “entertainment tax”. These are areas where women are usually employed en masse, at least in the western world. In our own land, the nautch-girl was a fixture of the Mughal court; she was there in every city; even the British were entertained by her; but our modern-day democracy has thrown her out – and this is repression via legislation. So my Lesson # 2 reads: Fight for Economic Freedom – the liberty to engage in consensual capitalistic exchanges that hurt neither buyer nor seller.
Now, the difference between primitive “production for self-consumption” and capitalistic “production for exchange” is that the latter requires Capital as “investment”. With capitalism, we have “roundabout methods of satisfying wants”. For example, till fairly recently, all yoghurt produced in India was in the home, consumed inside the home itself. Today, we have big companies producing yoghurt. Instead of a woman milking her cow and preparing the yoghurt – which is “direct satisfaction” – we now have the “roundabout” method of companies buying humungous amounts of milk from lakhs of cattle-owners, transporting them to distant factories in big trucks, making tonnes of yoghurt and packaging it, transporting these to shops, advertising these offerings, etc. This “roundabout” method is Capitalism – and this requires capital to invest. My third lesson is on how women can save the capital necessary to invest in capitalistic enterprise.
At the basic level, we save if we spend less than we earn – and this is something every intelligent woman understands full well. (Though Lord Keynes didn’t: but that’s another story.) But there are two factors that erode our savings: taxes and inflation. It is in the interest of all women to campaign for lower taxes (so oppose Manmohan Singh’s “education tax”) and for an inflation-free currency. Inflation is a hidden tax. As the value of the currency falls, so does the value of one’s savings. The gainer is the borrower who takes a loan today and pays back many years later when the money has lost much of its value. The government also gains. Thus, women should understand inflationism and oppose it: Low taxes, balanced government budgets, sound money – these are policies that will allow millions of women to save and invest, and engage in Capitalism. Whenever a finance minister announces a “budget deficit” or another populist giveaway, all Indian women should cry “Foul!” This is my Lesson # 3.
Fourth: Capitalism is based entirely on private property (socialism exalts “collective property” – like the steel plants Nehru built). The unwritten law of any market is that the goods arrayed before a vendor belong to the vendor. If we want some of them, we must strike a bargain and make the exchange, whereupon the ownership rights are reversed. Now, imagine what would happen in the market if the Law said that bread belonged to all, and all were free to consume it: communism. The result would be there would be no bread offered for sale in any market. There would be wheat, flour, chappatis – but no bread. The “natural law” of private property cannot be dispensed with without causing immense economic dislocation.
What properties do women need? Women are homemakers: they need homes. Homes are the most essential private properties. Since all cannot afford to buy them, they rent. But what happens if the Law says that the actual owner of the house cannot raise his rents to market levels and cannot evict tenants who refuse to pay what he demands? As in the case of “collective bread” above, the result would be that rental housing would not be offered on the market. Prospective tenants would not find rental housing. They would have to stay in slums. This is what is happening in every Indian city today. Yet, every bai in Mumbai would have decent rooms on rent if all legislation on “rent control” was repealed. Slums would disappear. I hope my readers will now instruct their bais to take to the streets in opposition to rent control. This is my Lesson # 4.
Finally, what good is the money earned if there is nothing much to buy with it? – as in our socialist heydays. Women are great shoppers. They love shopping. And they have the nose for the best deals. What good can these excellent noses do if foreign products are left out? Free trade is in the interest of all shoppers – so that they can purchase, with their hard-earned wealth, the best goods the world has to offer. So campaign for free trade as an essential component of Economic Freedom – the freedom to engage in consensual capitalistic exchanges with foreigners. This is my Lesson # 5.
Free trade, sound money, private property, liberty under law, production for exchange in urban markets and the consequent rapid urbanization of India – it is with these that all women can prosper. When they do so, men will gain too, because there is a law in Economics that says: When any good is sold it creates the demand for all non-competing goods and services. Thus, when a woman sells a tonne of papad, she will possess the means to buy a good car – manufactured by male engineers.
And even we men will prosper.
Thursday, 3 April 2008
The US presidential elections have mesmerized the world press who look upon it as a “celebration of democracy” – just as they look upon elections in India as well. Yet, in both the USA as well as India, there is growing awareness that all is not well with the sort of government that people are getting – through all these elections.
Many years ago, just before the last elections, Ilana Mercer wrote a piece called “Democratic Despotism” that really shook me. Here she contrasted Rousseau with Voltaire – heaping a great deal of much-deserved abuse on the former.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau embedded the weasel word “social” into political discourse with his “social contract” – and ever since the individual has been sacrificed at the altar of the collective. He exalted the role of the legislator, and it is indeed he who brought about this “democratic despotism” we suffer from today.
Yet, Rousseau was Swiss; his statue sits proudly in Geneva; and we never hear of Swiss elections, nor do we even hear of any Swiss political party. The Swiss landesgemeinde practice direct democracy. The Swiss political system is entirely decentralized and a souvenir I brought back shows the flag of the nation surrounded by the flags of all the 29 cantons. I had read somewhere that no Swiss citizen knows the name of their president – and I tried it out during my week there, asking over 100 locals what the name of their country’s president is, and no one knew! This is the world Rousseau came from. To him, I am sure, US or Indian “democracy” would appear awful.
The problem, then, is over-centralization – a problem that both India as well as the US suffer from. Powerful central governments make a nonsense out of “democracy” because the democratic ideal is to diffuse power, not concentrate it.
In the US, the huge popular disaffection with George Bush’s presidency is reflected in Neil Young’s latest album, Living With War, which contains a track called “Let’s Impeach the President”. There is another plaintive one called “Looking For A Leader” – which clearly shows that what the rebels of the 60s lacked was intellectual leadership and the consequent intellectual clarity.
If America needs a real leader in thought – which always must precede action – then the man is Lew Rockwell. His latest article, “We Don’t Need A President” should be read by all Americans – and all Indians as well. The long quote from Thomas Paine should be inscribed on all public walls, for all the people to read. Paine was one of the giants of the great American Revolution – and a firm believer in a natural social order. Lew Rockwell follows the tradition, and he has noted that I do too.
Rockwell calls for canceling the elections – or putting up a president who will dissolve the central government.
This is an idea India needs as well. And elections here are just a year away. We must think now.
Wednesday, 2 April 2008
There is a full page government advertisement in The Times of India of March 31 on the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act in which the banner headline reads:
TOWARDS A REPUBLIC OF WORK
But work is disutility. We do not work for the pleasure of expending energy and effort; rather, we work for the results, the output – from which we derive satisfaction. Frederic Bastiat clarified this point long, long ago.
Now, this huge advertisement, and the NREGA, are financed from taxation. In other words, we the citizenry have 'worked' to create the necessary wealth. All this money is being spent by politicians and bureaucrats – who do no useful, productive work – in order to 'create work'. Note that they do not create any useful products or services. They just create more and more work – with nothing to show for it. Like the Myth of Sisyphus.
In other words, people who actually work finance a scheme by which people who don't work get money in order to create work for the workless. Work is maximized – but the results of this work are zero. This is analogous to the Gandhian charkha, by which work is maximized, but not output.
Look at it another way.
What if those who actually work in order to produce wealth refused to pay their taxes? What would happen then? Well, in that case these citizens would either spend their money or save it. If they spent the money, they would create work.
If my taxes are refunded and I blow up the refund in all the bars of Goa, I would create work for bartenders, waiters, brewers and the snack food industry. If I save some of this refunded tax, then my banker would lend out the money to viable business ventures that would also create work. That is: The same amount of work is created if the taxpayers did not pay taxes, but spent the money themselves.
But there is an added advantage in this latter case: the work now created is 'useful' in the eyes of the citizen-taxpayer. Henry Hazlitt makes this point brilliantly in his classic Economics in One Lesson – a book that is over 50 years old. If you have a teenaged child studying nonsensonomics in school, but it for her - and read it yourself. Economics is the only engine of survival - and this teaches a child that in ONE LESSON!
There is nothing more foolish than maximizing work. We maximize the output, not the labour.
Work is disutility – even for the poor. The motto of Goa is "susegaad" which is loosely translated as "relax". There is an establishment near my house called the "Relax Bar" but I have never seen it open in two years because the owner is always relaxing, I guess. But that is Goa.
This also applies to the Assamese, whose motto is "lahay lahay" meaning "slowly, slowly" – they are also very relaxed people.
The great dissenting development economist, Peter Bauer (later Lord Bauer of Market Yard) commented long ago that many poor people of the Third World live lives of "needlessness": all their needs are supplied by nature, and they do not have the motivation to work. Lord Bauer said that if we want them to work, the best thing to do is unleash the activities of traders. The traders would offer these needless people some "incentive goods" – like, say, a radio. Hearing the music from the radio, and wanting to possess one, the Assamese might energise himself to work. As more and more incentive goods are offered, more and more people actually take on the disutility of effort in order to obtain valued results.
A Republic of Work, indeed.
We might as well call it a Republic of Disutility.