Sunday, 31 August 2008
Manmohan has given the state government 1,000 crore rupees (10 billion) and much food aid. There are no reports on whether the people in the affected areas had flood insurance.
Yet, the river "belongs" to the government, and a specific central department is responsible for maintaining these embankments. There is no fixation of responsibility; the buck is being passed as usual. I will argue that this "collective ownership," which is, in effect, no ownership, is the real problem.
If the river had been private property, this flooding could have been treated as a "tort." If the river caused a flood and destroyed property, the owner of the river would have to pay. Today, the government is paying – but from the money of taxpayers, who are not really responsible for the tragedy. Thus, tort action against a government is meaningless. It would make sense only if the key officials involved in this negligence were held personally liable and forced to pay damages out of their own pockets.
Yet, water is a resource. Kosi water could be harnessed and sold by a private company that owned the river. This water could be used for irrigation, and the river itself used for navigation, transport, recreation, tourism, fishing and what not – all for a fee – if this precious resource was in private hands.
Although it seems that the people of Bihar are too poor to afford insurance, any private company that owned the river would insure itself against floods. The insurance company would then be closely involved in checking the condition of the embankments and the procedures employed for their maintenance.
Libertarians have for long been arguing for the privatization of rivers – and this flood gives us an opportunity to advance these arguments, an opportunity that should not be missed.
The people of the affected districts should be made aware of the fact that the government is not helping them in their hour of crisis; rather, it is the government itself that is responsible for their hapless situation.
The solution, as always, lies in the market and private ownership – and torts. And in insurance.
I look forward to bottled Kosi water being sold in our markets.
The ad-line could read: "Swallow the Kosi – before she swallows you."
Friday, 29 August 2008
Tushar N Mohapatra favours the "creation of about one hundred states that are substantially autonomous who, in turn, form a EU like structure on purely voluntary basis."
In my opinion, it would be better to have free trading and self-governing CITIES and TOWNS – not like the EU of today, which is a Super-State, but like the Hanseatic League of old. The principle of SUBSIDIARITY should be invoked for giving powers to higher levels of government.
Next, Vipin Veetil is apprehensive about the separatists favouring collectivism. On the ground today, the Kashmiris are united about opening the Muzaffarabad road for trade. Kashmiris today want free trade.
Secondly, although Sheikh Abdullah was a socialist, the common Kashmiris in Srinagar are all traders – and highly skilled traders too, if I may add. As I sipped kahwa on my houseboat deck, boatman after boatman approached me in their shikaras to peddle their wares. There is a floating market on the Dal Lake. My houseboat owner was a trader of carpets – and Kashmiri carpets are second only to Persian carpets – and on his office wall there was a sign in Urdu and English which said that "Allah favours the honest trader, who will surely enter Paradise to be in the company of the Prophet himself." I have no doubt that a liberal movement in the Valley can result in changing the name of Lal Chowk into Neel Chowk – "neel" meaning blue, the universal colour of liberalism.
Lastly, let me take on the miserable comment from a reader who goes by the pseudonym "Opinor," who says: "Kashmir competing with Australia, NZ economically? What a joke .. those Kashmiris cannot even figure out what is good for themselves."
What condescension and what hopelessness! What supreme arrogance!
Actually, many Asian nations have effectively competed with the West, starting with Japan and going on to Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea and now Malaysia. As an independent free trading and self-governing CITY, Srinagar has all the potential to rise quickly to modern western standards.
Incidentally, the Kashmiris know fully well what is good for them.
It is the government of India – The State – that is a totally clueless entity. It does not know what is good for India. It thinks employment guarantees, loan waivers and "education" are what we need. When all we really need are roads, highways and expressways. And Liberty. Nothing else.
Opinor is as clueless as The State. He should visit Srinagar to see the Kashmiris for himself.
So should Vipin Veetil – who could spearhead the campaign for renaming the central market of Srinagar NEEL CHOWK.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Shoot-at-sight orders have been imposed in Orissa.
And West Bengal has come to a grinding halt.
In all these cases, the escalation of disorder has been caused primarily by The State favouring one group while alienating another.
In Kashmir, Hindus were given 100 acres of forest land.
In West Bengal, Tata Motors were given 1,000 acres of land, unjustly.
In Orissa, the root cause is disaffection amongst a tribe that covets ST preferential policies.
In the meantime, a World Bank study finds India doing worse than Africa – including sub-Saharan Africa.
And from the Naxal badlands there is news that they are growing ganja – and selling it for a pittance.
Whatever happened to "natural order"?
Very simple: The State does not have the foggiest notion of the principles underlying good government. None of its policies favour the commonweal. And when things go wrong, the jackboots step in to crush protest. We are not a "rule of law society." We are more or less a "police state." All police action by The State is arbitrary and discriminatory. Things cannot continue such.
There is a world of difference between a rule of law society and "democracy." In the former, The Law is uppermost. In the latter, there is Unlaw – because the democracy is guided by theories of "social justice." These necessarily mean taking from Ram to give to Shyam. In a rule of law society, there is an "equal justice" and each individual is protected, along with his properties and his liberties.
Some of you may have tuned in to my last podcast on natural order. And the events unfolding in Kashmir, Bengal and Orissa may have convinced you that no such natural order can possibly exist in India. Do tune in to my next podcast, which will deal with The Law in a rule of law society.
As far as "social justice" is concerned, do note that the World Bank study referred to above finds more than 76 percent of our people living under 2 US dollars a day. Actually, most backpacker western tourists in India live on 2 dollars a day, or less – excluding room rent. This figure is meaningless in an undercapitalized country. Yet it does show that "social justice" cannot lift the masses out of poverty. 24 per cent of the population cannot be expected to earn enough to give to 76 per cent. It would be more expedient to allow the 24 per cent to keep their money, to save and invest, and thereby generate commercial energy that will offer economic opportunities to the lesser-off.
This means The Law must protect property. This means "social justice" must be abandoned. Justice must be equal and immutable.
And there must be Liberty – so that all, including the Naxals growing ganja, must be free to create wealth for themselves, and to keep that wealth too.
Only then will the "natural order" prevail: when everyone understands full well that The State does not grant favours. And that the only means of survival are through catallactic exchanges in The Market.
Do tune in to my next podcast, scheduled for Saturday the 30th, in which I will outline The Law.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Firstly, whether independent or part of a federal set-up, Kashmir must be "viable" in the economic sense that it collects its own taxes for the maintenance of its own government. Today this is not the case. Over 90 per cent of the state government's budget comes from New Delhi. This does not include the expenditure on the army and the paramilitary. Just the other day, 10,000 additional soldiers were sent to Kashmir. How much does this cost? Swagato must note that it is the situation today that is totally unviable. It cannot be allowed to continue. It is bleeding the rest of the country.
On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that an independent Kashmir cannot be viable. An independent Kashmir can get tourists in both winter as well as summer – and tourism is the world's biggest industry. (Goa gets tourists only in the winter.)
An independent Kashmir can cash in on its many cash crops – from saffron and charas to floriculture and horticulture. We can imagine dozens of KLM cargo planes taking off every day from Srinagar carrying flowers, fruits and charas to the Amsterdam market.
Then Kashmir can be a major wool producing state. With pashmina and shahtoosh as well as lambswool, Kashmir can happily outcompete Australia and New Zealand in wool exports.
Apart from these, Kashmir is rich in handicrafts – from pretty papier-mâché to carvings made out of walnut wood.
With all these, there is no reason to believe why an independent Kashmir cannot be "viable." All that this requires is peace – and Liberty.
Lastly, Swagato must note that Switzerland is "viable" although it is landlocked. The population of Switzerland is just under 6 million. The Swiss are not homogeneous – there is no common Swiss language.
Then there is Luxembourg, which is also land-locked and has a population of under 5 lakh.
I see no reason why borders should not be redrawn. The government of India has lost Kashmir (and the North-East as well.) The rest of the country cannot continue to subsidize clients in these states. A Second Indian Republic would be infinitely better off if it stuck to the knitting – a "core area" which considers itself sufficiently "Indian."
Onwards to that Second Republic!
Tuesday, 26 August 2008
That is the only question.
Well, the Birla Ambassador is being made in West Bengal for over 50 years – and I doubt whether any Bengali has gained from this.
There is no common benefit if protected industries locate themselves anywhere. If we are to pursue "common profit" then free trade is the only way – and West Bengal is located by the sea, so therefore in an eminent position to pursue such policies. With free trade, the possessions of every Bengali – his wealth – would increase. Thus, the "wealth of Bengal" would rise just as Adam Smith said it would.
Secondly, both parties gain in capitalistic exchange. When you buy a book, both you and the bookseller gain, as do the publisher and even the author.
In the case of the land taken over by Tata Motors for the Nano factory, both sides have not gained. This is therefore not a capitalistic exchange. On the contrary, it is not an exchange at all, but a handout involving the use of illegitimate force by The State. This is rank cronyism.
It is being said that other states are wooing the Tatas to locate the Nano factory in their territories, but I sincerely doubt whether any of these state governments will be able to "acquire" land for the factory. I doubt whether farmers in other states will be willing to a forcible transfer of their properties to Tata Motors. Farmers all over India now have a clear understanding of their rights to their fields. They will never sacrifice these rights towards any "common interest."
Tata Motors has made a bad "political investment" in West Bengal. They would have been far better off if they had steadfastly attempted to buy land directly for their factory. They have, instead, sullied their reputation. And bloodied their hands.
To conclude: There are similarities between Amarnath and Tata Nano. In both instances, law and order has broken down because The State has taken it upon itself to give land to those it patronizes. This is clientelism. It is not "common profit." This is happening because in socialist India both politics as well as business are not based on sound principles.
Reminds me of the Leonard Cohen song:
After bitter searching of the heart,
We finally rise to play a greater part,
Not steering by the venal chart,
That tricked the mass for private gain,
This is the faith with which we start,
That men shall know commonwealth again…
Monday, 25 August 2008
Makes you wonder about the popular myth, sustained by governments and their apologists, that "education" is essential for economic success.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
All over the world, highly educated college professors are poor.
Sportspersons, musicians, actors and other performers – often with little education – are rich.
To succeed in the market economy one needs just one "fragment of knowledge" to call one's own. Sachin Tendulkar knows cricket; he need not know anything else. Johnny B Goode plays the guitar; he can be "rationally ignorant" of all else. If you know how to make good pizza, you can easily get by without formal schooling. And possibly be richer than the school topper, too.
The formal school education system imparts "generalized" knowledge, of little use when it comes to earning a living. If you study continuously for 15 years, you can access only limited professions: like medicine, engineering, baboodom, accountancy, science, management, the law and so on.
The market economy is an arena that rewards various other types of knowledge – the VJs and DJs, tattoo artists, performers, sportspersons, chefs. And, of course, entrepreneurs. The story referred to above showcases billionaire entrepreneurs who made it despite dropping out. Thus, there is much that can be learnt outside the formal education system, and there is also much that cannot be taught formally. Successful entrepreneurs rarely have an MBA degree.
I therefore place economic freedom higher than formal "education." With economic freedom, much more real knowledge will get employed in markets, and more people will achieve economic success.
Young people who do not enjoy what they are studying in school and college would be better off dropping out. Instead, they should "seek a calling" and find knowledge relevant to that calling. This specialized fragment of knowledge will enable them to succeed in life.
I too am proud to be a dropout: I opted out of my MA in Economics at the Delhi School of Economics in 1978. I am self-taught.
Sunday, 24 August 2008
"MUMBAI: Tata Motors launched the country's first and its only fully indigenously manufactured car - Indica Vista - at a glittering function here Saturday evening."
What great sense does it make to manufacture or consume "Made in India" goods?
I will argue that such notions indicate insanity.
At the individual level, it makes no sense to have a "Made by Me" policy. We all specialize in one area and get our needs satisfied my scores of similarly specialized people.
Similarly, it makes no sense to have a "Made in our Village" consumption policy. Every villager knows that – which is why they rush to the nearest market town soon after the harvest has been sold. There is no "Made in Delhi" policy in the markets of Chandni Chowk. If every Dilliwallah's mobile phone is made abroad, why not the same about his cars, his clothes, his drinks, etc.?
At the level of a federal state too it makes no sense to have a "Made in Maharashtra" or "Made in Goa" or "Made in West Bengal" shopping policy.
So what sense does it make to have a "Made in India" preferential policy maintained by coercive means – the customs department? This is the department Kamal Nutt employs to keep foreigners out of our markets.
We all drink crappy Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) because of the coercion exercised on our choices by Kamal Nutt's customs department.
Would every Indian tippler not gain if Duty Free Liquor Stores were not confined to airports, and there were one or two on every street?
"Made in India" is a producer's policy.
But what about a consumer's policy?
Are we not all consumers?
Why do we work?
To earn the money to consume.
Then why do we not look at our interests as consumers?
It must be "education" – for Kamal Nutt and his bosses are all educated folk. All the Reichwing editors who applauded Kamal Nutt are "educated."
Ludwig von Mises, the greatest economist of the 20th century, actually used the word "schizophrenic" to describe such "divided selves," who do not see their existence as producer and consumer combined. They see only producers. They are blind to their other half. I quote from Mises' Human Action:
"If one is prepared to indulge in the fashionable tendency to explain human things by resorting to the terminology of psychopathology, one might be tempted to say that modern man in contrasting a producers' policy with a consumers' policy has fallen victim of a kind of SCHIZOPRENIA. He fails to realize that he is an undivided and indivisible person, I.e., an individual, and as such no less a consumer than a producer. The unity of his consciousness is split into two parts; his mind is inwardly divided against himself."
Nuts rule our land – and impose their nutty thinking on us, and on our children.
Away with this Bozo Brigade!
Note: Even the new Tata car would have been a better one if the fuel system was Bosch. Every Indian manufacturer would produce better goods, competitive in the world market, if he could freely use imported components.
Saturday, 23 August 2008
Frederic Bastiat wrote Economic Harmonies based on this understanding.
And Thomas Paine's Common Sense was also guided by this fundamental belief.
Enjoy the podcast and share it with your friends.
This should be strongly opposed.
This is the price we Indians pay for not subscribing the role of The State to its only legitimate and proper function: the administration of Justice.
To this we can add rural and urban roads.
And certainly not education.
Note that the political debate never enters this territory. The politicians never discuss the great question: What is the role of The State in a free society? They are happy with their flexible ideology – because this enables them to interfere in anything and everything.
In my book, Air India and Indian Airlines should both be sold off immediately.
There is nothing further to discuss on the matter.
Friday, 22 August 2008
If you look at the map you will notice that all the area in green is unpopulated. I have seen this elsewhere in the Western Ghats too – indeed, in the entire Konkan belt between Mumbai and Mangalore: that vast square miles are unpopulated.
There is thus tremendous potential to build entirely new "hill-stations", as Greenfield projects, entirely from scratch. These could be satellite towns for the primary cities, which will necessarily be port cities in a free trading environment.
We drove to Kohlapur via Amboli (advertised as a hill station) and returned via Gaganbavda. The drive in the morning was in rainy and foggy weather – and misty Amboli felt just like Darjeeling in the monsoon. The weather was clear when we returned and the spectacular view from Gaganbavda (just 60 kms from Kohlapur) was breathtaking – and you are talking to someone who has seen our mountains. From horizon to horizon stretched the hills, all unpopulated.
Kohlapur seemed like a wreck of a town – but underneath it all there lay a huge potential, for the surrounding landscape is simply beautiful, and the town itself is blessed with a huge lake. There are verdant hills all around. Babbling brooks and flowing rivers too. Once again, the emphasis must be on transportation – so good roads and fast trains all around the satellites can create room for a much needed "urban sprawl." If Kolhapuris do this now, they will escape the fate that befell Poona.
There are other big cities in the Western Ghats south of Kohlapur – like Belgaum and Dharwar. I intend to visit these too.
Must recommend the Hotel Pearl, that served up an excellent Mutton Kohlapuri.
Just two additional points:
First: All along, signboards were in Marathi. I could read the "Saavdhaan" but not much else. In an internationalized economy, signboards should be based on universal icons, not written texts.
Second: Used 35 km of a Golden Quadrilateral highway on the way there, and was charged 25 rupees toll. This is double taxation.
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
The first is the strike called by labour unions that will paralyze West Bengal today.
To libertarians, labour unions are an example of a private entity being accorded the right to use force. To keep everything closed all over Bengal today, the unionists will definitely employ force. This should not be allowed under the Rule of Law.
Further, it must also be noted that this unionism can only benefit some workers: under no circumstances can all workers gain. Thus, unions and their members are actually a group of privileged workers, privileged to use force to raise their wages. But they do so at the expense of those workers kept out of the labour combination. Unions in no way represent the working classes in general.
The second interesting story is about a Green Bangalore festival organized by the forest department of The State. The forest department is giving out subsidized saplings for the people to plant and thereby green their city. This sentence caught my attention:
"A variety of trees including Peepal, Mahogany, Glory of India, Neem and Thespecia were planted at the event."
Why are sandalwood saplings excluded? Sandalwood grows easily in Bangalore – and all over the western ghats.
Actually, sandalwood saplings are not being planted because all sandalwood trees belong to The State.
If this monopoly was abolished, there would be sandalwood farming all over the place.
Veerappan too could have been a sandalwood farmer.
We must conclude that he was a victim of Bad Law.
When Veerappan was murdered by the Karnataka Police, I was the only one who defended the right to grow sandalwood privately.
Read that article here.
There is also an earlier post on the teak tree in my garden in Goa – and how I need permission from The State forest department to cut it down. And why, because of these restrictions, teak is unaffordable here, and all doors and windows in my house are made of inferior jackwood.
The forest department is just another vested interest.
Tuesday, 19 August 2008
And there is no solution in sight.
In the meantime, Pakistan has turned "democratic" and Musharraf has resigned.
Back home, a lead editorial in the ToI laments the fact that Manmohan is a poor political communicator.
Actually, there is nothing more important in politics than the verbal communication of ideas.
I am left with the feeling that the crisis in Jammu & Kashmir reflects a larger crisis in India politics – that The State is but a network of client groups, completely out of touch with The People.
There is Leviathan on one side; there is The People on the other.
And the two do not meet.
And how suddenly the tide has turned from those glory days of "nine per cent growth." Now it is 13 per cent inflation.
I have no words of either wisdom or comfort to offer my reader today.
In the end, all I can say is that theories matter.
Action guided by wrong theories will always lead to disaster.
What is happening today is rooted in the intellectual ideas upon which this socialist State is based. The very fact that the Congress is sticking close to the Gandhi family shows that this party's intellectual stand remains the same. And this is the silent agreement among all parties: they do not oppose Congress socialism in their politics. That is what Amartya Sen's Hiren Mukherji Memorial Lecture in the central hall of parliament represents and attempts to bolster.
This is the crux of the problem.
There is an intellectual consensus that The State represents.
And that is the real issue before Indian politics today.
Monday, 18 August 2008
The full text of the speech can be obtained here.
The podcast can be heard or downloaded here.
The crux of the talk is this: There is a "conflict of visions" between India's socialists and India's libertarians.
They have a village vision.
We have an urban vision.
They see The State as a generator of employment.
We see The Market as a generator of wealth.
They do not see that the most important role of The State lies in the administration of Justice.
Do enjoy the podcast.
Sunday, 17 August 2008
As this news report from the ToI says, the police hoisted the Indian tricolour at Srinagar's Lal Chowk (named after Moscow's Red Square by the socialist Sheikh Abdullah) in the morning, but by the evening, at the same spot, the citizenry hoisted their own flags. Burqa-clad women burnt the tricolour.
I sincerely wonder how assembly elections can be held in Kashmir this November. In either case, Kashmiris have been boycotting elections for over a decade now.
I had the experience of visiting Srinagar in 2002, where I lectured in a few colleges. It was particularly horrifying to be in a city where there are armed soldiers posted every 5 yards. All traffic roundabouts (where there should be flowers) had been converted into military bunkers. Machine gun barrels stuck out of them, and Mera Bharat Mahaan was emblazoned on each. As an Indian, I felt that this was not India at all; it was occupied territory. The principal of Amar Singh College told me how one of his brightest students just "disappeared."
Later the same year, the New York Sun invited me to review Sumantra Bose's Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace. This excellent book is a must read. What it clearly proves is that conventional "solutions" to the Kashmir problem – like a plebiscite – are actually dangerous. It also shows that the "democratic representatives" of the Kashmiris (like the Abdullah clan) are all clients of the socialist Indian State.
I therefore have no solution to offer on Kashmir. All I can affirm is that it is futile to try and beat a people into submission.
We can only win the minds and hearts of a people through moral and intellectual suasion. This, unfortunately, is something that The State is incapable of doing. And the natural fallout of this inability is this total alienation.
But then, such alienation is not limited to Kashmir.
The North-East is equally alienated.
200 districts are under Naxalite control.
And liberals are not allowed to form political parties.
I have decided, therefore, to fly my own flag too.
It is a blue flag with a yellow star in the centre: the flag of the old Swatantra Party.
Saturday, 16 August 2008
The news report says:
"According to the plan, the developers would be allowed to build houses for slum dwellers and in return get a portion of the total space for development which they can sell at market rates. They will avail higher FAR and thus book higher margins in these projects. Delhi has around 900 slum clusters housing almost a fifth of its population."
My question is: Why stop there?
According to me, all the DDA localities built by the government for the middle class are also fit for redevelopment along these lines.
The architectural style employed by the DDA is called "brutalism" – and it is the favourite architectural style of socialists the world over. There is nothing uglier than brutalism: see Chandigarh.
DDA localities are actually slums for the middle class: ugly housing with few amenities. Parking is inadequate; and local markets are insufficient.
If these were handed over to private developers for rebuilding and present owners were given a share in the new developments, it would be win-win all around.
In short: The capital city of New Delhi must be rebuilt. It has been destroyed by socialism, socialist architecture, and socialist organizations like the DDA.
Like all their other "plans," their urban planning is a failure too.
For inspiration, read my old article: "Brand New Delhi".
Friday, 15 August 2008
Indeed, these 61 years have been nothing but a history of power failure: that is, the failure of centralized political power to achieve all that it was set up to achieve. Vast masses remain poor; all the cities and towns have crumbled. The State possesses no "functional legitimacy": it does not perform any of its valid functions well. All it attempts is "clientelistic legitimacy" – as it caters to the interests of various client groups.
It therefore seems fitting that, on this auspicious day, this clientelistic State should hike the salaries of its 5 million staff by 40 per cent or more. This will bust the treasury. As the lead editorial in The Economic Times points out, this "bonanza for baboos" is not in the public interest. But then, who ever said that this State ever considered the larger interest. Every action of theirs is directed at particular interests alone.
These 61 years have been a history of false freedom. We are not free, nor have we ever been so. And certainly not in the economic sense. We are all tied down by a host of restrictions on anything and everything. If we desire to be free, we must get rid of all these restrictive rules and repressive legislations.
India has tremendous potential. We have everything going for us. It is The State that is keeping us down with its "policies."
If we institute free trade unilaterally, if we rebuild our cities and towns, if we allow each citizen the freedom to trade goods and services voluntarily, if we bestow clear titles to properties that people own and if we fix our rapidly depreciating currency, every Indian will get a chance at economic success.
In brief: if we do away with this Socialist State altogether.
That will be true "independence."
Thursday, 14 August 2008
Thousands of new jobs will be created in addition to the 70,000 already employed. Think of all the youngsters studying retail management in India. Their futures would be bright if FDI in retail was free.
Of course, the greatest gainers in all this will be ordinary Brazilians, who will be able to buy better goods at cheaper rates. Incidentally, even in the USA, Wal-Mart is the preferred store of the poor. There are other supermarket chains for the middle class and the rich.
In India, politicians like Kamal Nut are blocking FDI in retailing. They claim that they are doing this to help small shopkeepers survive. As I have argued in an earlier post, this is bunk. Poor people in India buy what they need in extremely small quantities, and they will therefore shop in small stores. Further, if you want to help small shopkeepers, FDI in wholesale supermarkets is the best prescription. These efficiency gains will filter down to poor consumers too.
In underdeveloped countries like India and Brazil, the distributional chain is extremely long and therefore inefficient. This impacts the poor consumer hardest. K Nut & Co. want to "protect" the inefficient. They care nothing for the consumer. Yet, everyone is really fighting for his custom.
This manner of political protection is just a racket, without any backing of sound principles. Thus, they are actually harming the nation.
In either case, it is not that big-ticket retailing has been banned. There are many Indian firms entering this business. Why should they not compete with the likes of Wal-Mart? The consumer gained when foreign automobile companies came in to compete with Tata, Bajaj, Birla and Mahindra. In precisely the same way, students would gain if foreign universities were allowed to set up shop here. The case for opening up the country to FDI in retail rests on similar grounds.
We can either have policies to protect local businessmen. Or we can have policies that will benefit local consumers. Which policies are better for the nation?
Make your choice, dear reader – and tell politicians like K Nut what you would prefer. It is only public opinion that can change the politician's mind-set.
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
That is the only question.
Thirty-two discotheques in Bangalore have been closed down because they were "illegal."
The police closed these discos because they are vested with such powers under the Karnataka Police Act, which does not allow music in any establishment where alcohol is served.
Drink in silence. And never dance.
That is The Law in Karnataka.
These police powers were challenged in both the Karnataka High Court as well as the Supreme Court, but the socialist and illiberal judiciary of The State decided in favour of the authorities.
In my book, the police should not have any licensing powers over any commercial activity. They issue gun licenses – and illegal guns proliferate. They should be asked to sort out the mess in firearms licensing, which is a police subject. But there should not be any role for the police in licensing bars, pubs and discos.
What do we call our politicized, corrupt and repressive police? Killjoys? Wet blankets? Or worse?
Note that Bangalore has been a favourite venue for international rock stars for more than a decade now. Roger Waters, Mick Jagger and Aerosmith have all performed at the Bangalore Palace Grounds.
But local lads and lasses cannot play in a city of music lovers.
This is insane.
And I hope the world is reading this. Bangalore is a city famous in the West because their software jobs are being "Bangalored." Yet, this city is one in which Freedom does not exist.
You earn your money in the face of international competition, you pay taxes, the streets are pot-holed, the city is in a horrible shape, traffic crawls – and the authorities do not do anything to make life better.
Their only response is repression.
More and more REPRESSION.
Our politicians often talk about the "poor and the downtrodden." In Bangalore the rich are downtrodden – under the jackboots of the police.
Note that on Sunday the 10th scores of people from all walks of life, including films, art, music – and all the disco jockeys – staged a protest against the police banning live music and dancing at pubs. The protest was led by Girish Karnad, the greatest living playwright of Karnataka.
I would suggest a VERY BIG PROTEST against this repression. I also hope the mainstream press takes up the matter in their editorials. And the international press reports on this too. The "illiberal democracy" of India would then have its vicious underbelly exposed to international public opinion. All over the world, good people would see that India may be democratic, but Indians are not at all free.
So, fight for freedom, Bangaloreans.
Remember: Liberty requires courage.
Take courage – and fight. And may The Force be with you.
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
It would be preferable if they addressed "governmental ills."
These are the ills perpetrated by government – especially at the level of the petty bureaucracy, who tyrannize the poor. If every poor person was liberated from this tyranny, I believe that these poor people would survive better and look after themselves better too.
The difference in the two approaches must be understood: I believe that Liberty is necessary to enable everyone to help himself.
Sen believes in government action and politics as a means by which a wide variety of "social ills" can be cured. These social ills include "severe deprivation, child hunger, lack of educational opportunities and healthcare for the poor."
I believe in Self-Help and Liberty.
Sen wants more political and State action.
It is noteworthy that this lecture in Parliament was in honour of the late Hiren Mukherjee, a former parliamentarian and communist, who was "a severe critic of bourgeois democracy." This is the intellectual camp in which Manmohan Singh and Amartya Sen have pitched their tents.
Actually, it is liberal bourgeois democracy that has lifted the working classes of the west to where they are now. The capitalist nations of the western world are where every worker is first of all a sovereign consumer. It is this that has raised living standards of the working class to the unbelievable levels they are today.
Prime minister Manmohan Singh spoke before Sen. He said: "Those of us who are in public life find meaning in it only because we view public office as a means of alleviating the suffering of our people and contributing to their well-being and happiness."
As if we haven't heard such lines for 60 years.
Would it not be preferable to allow competing businessmen from all corners of the globe to offer our long-suffering populace goods and services that would reduce their suffering and contribute to their well-being and happiness?
Once again, it seems that our differences with the socialists are irreconcilable. The reader must choose between two diametrically opposed world-views.
Monday, 11 August 2008
While he thrills the ears of our MPs, let us sit back in our own “para-parliament” and dissect this weighty term that all socialists spout. We all know what Justice means – an “equal justice for all.” What then is “social justice”?
As I wrote in an article published in the ToI a year and a half ago:
“In liberal political thought, 'social justice' is bunk. Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek, for example, called it a 'weasel word': the weasel is an animal that sucks out the contents of eggs and leaves behind the intact shell; in precisely the same manner, the word 'social' sucks out the meaning of 'justice' and leaves an empty shell where once stood a grand idea.”
You can read the entire article here.
To add to what I had written then, let us reflect on the fact that the concept of “social justice” implies that the market is somehow unjust. There is thus a role of The State in rendering market outcomes more just. The idea is that The State must “redistribute” the gains we make in markets. Only that will be “just” according to the socialist camp.
Actually, in markets, rewards can never be equal. Nor can they be fair. Nor do they reward merit. Professors are poorly paid; labourers earn a pittance; movie stars, models, sportspersons and other performing artistes rake in fortunes while classical musicians can barely make ends meet and tattoo artists earn more than portrait painters.
Socialists do not like this inequality – which they call ”unjust.” They want The State to institute social justice in order to create that “socialistic pattern of society” they yearn for.
Yet, this is a sentiment more suited to tribes than to developed market societies. In a tribe, the chief has to carve out the animal killed in the hunt so that all members of the tribe get an equal share. This is far removed from life in cities, wherein we are individuals not answerable to any chief. We take risks with our capital without asking anyone’s permission. And we partake in the gains or losses without seeking the intervention of any local leader. The market economy is Individualistic. The socialist idea is “atavistic” – seeking a return to primitive times. The socialist mind-set is therefore primitive – unable to grasp modern life.
We have been listening to the socialists for over 60 years and should have by now seen through their humbug. They have never helped the poor. On the contrary. They have perpetuated poverty. If millions of poor people are finally climbing out of poverty, buying mobile phones etc., the credit goes to the market, not The State.
So if you truly want to help poor people, raise a shout for the market.
And throw out “social justice.”
Sunday, 10 August 2008
“The government school system is a burden. It is a colossal waste of time, money and effort and weighs heavily on the shoulders of poor children. They need a short cut to the market, not the long road to a high school diploma.”
I do not see any role for The State in education – and especially not so in the education of poor children. Indeed, I am of the firm opinion that all education provided by The State, both to the rich as well as the poor, from primary school right up to a PhD programme at the Delhi School of Economics, is harmful for the mind.
There is Amartya Sen on their side.
There is me on the other.
Amartya Sen holds that India’s economic development is hampered by the ignorance of the poor.
I hold that the poor possess useful knowledge and that economic freedom is all that is required to enable them to survive in a liberated market order. That is, The State is The Problem.
Which side are you on, dear reader?
Think about it the next time you pay Manmohan’s “education tax.”
And talking about taxation: I just paid a hefty 12 per cent VAT on a dinner at a restaurant last night. Where does all this money go? Would we all not be better off if taxes were low, if we could conserve our capital and invest it (for the long-term benefit of the poor)?
This, in brief, is the Libertarian Project: a government reduced to its only essential functions – building roads and administering justice. Such a government can happily be run with zero taxation if all PSUs are sold off and the public treasure used to fund these basic tasks of government.
Remember, dear reader, that you are a taxpayer. We all are in a regime of indirect taxes. Even the poor pay these taxes (and the inflation tax). There is only one way out of this taxation – and that is to reduce the size and scope of The State.
So say “No” to education.
Say “No” to the education tax.
Say “No” to Arjun Singh and the Ministry of Human Resource Destruction.
Song of the day: Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out”.
Saturday, 9 August 2008
I suspect a sinister motive behind this: they want to solve the “population problem.”
As an expert in the news report says: a truck does 250 km a day in India, compared to 700km per day in Brazil and Mexico (both Third World nations).
This is because our highways are not world class. Rather, they are third rate.
100 kmph on these third rate highways that carry 45 per cent of all freight is suicidal.
If we are serious about improving transport efficiency we must build brand new modern highways.
I can speak of my experiences on the autobahns of Germany – the world’s most famous highways.
Once, in a big Mercedes with a baby in the back seat, we took the slow lane at a sedate 120 kmph.
On another occasion, in a Porsche Carrera without any baby, we clocked 235 kmph in a “no speed limit” section.
There are signs that indicate “No Speed Limit” on certain stretches of the autobahn.
Now, that’s what we call a highway.
And that’s what we call speed.
And that’s what we call safety too.
So the government of India’s 100kmph speed limit is meaningless blather. No car or truck can maintain such a speed on our “notional highways.” If they do, they will surely crash, if not into an oncoming car, then definitely into an oncoming cow.
So, while the arch-socialist Amartya Sen waxes eloquent on “education” as the medicine India needs, I insist that public investments must be made in a modern roads and highway network.
Highways should be top priority, not this bogus education.
Friday, 8 August 2008
In the modern world, centuries after Adam Smith, Gandhi and his followers in the Congress party wanted to be “builders of great villages.” They also exported their idea – to Julius Nyrere of Tanzania, whose socialism was centered on the self-sufficient village, and failed spectacularly.
I have recently written on why cities are rich, and why India should aim at being a nation of over 500 free trading and self-governing cities (plus 5000 similar smaller towns), and will not repeat those eternal verities of the science of Economics here. This is the link to that previous post.
Today, I am happy to note that our economists are finally waking up. According to a news report, the National Council for Applied Economic Research has come out with a study entitled "Next Urban Frontier: 20 Cities to Watch.” These 20 cities have just 10 per cent of India’s population yet account for over 30 per cent of disposable income. The cities are divided into 3 categories: mega cities, boom cities and niche cities. They are:
The eight mega-cities are the four metros, along with Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.
The seven boom towns are Surat, Kanpur, Jaipur, Lucknow, Nagpur, Bhopal and Coimbatore.
The five niche cities are Faridabad, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Chandigarh and Jalandhar.
I could add one more to the list – Mangalore, and I do feel the study has missed out on many other cities that are booming. But it is still a sign that these dudes are waking up. Good. Very good.
Now for the bad news: a study conducted among expats worldwide has revealed that India is the least preferred place to live and work.
In other words, not one of our cities is “liveable.” If an expat is sent here, his company gives him a “hard duty allowance” – similar to what our soldiers get for serving on the Siachen glacier. Something is seriously wrong with all our cities and towns. We are producing wealth alright, but living conditions are horrible.
This has happened because the theories of our central planners are all wrong – and yes, they want to teach.
Now that the NCAER is waking up to the right theories, perhaps The State will wake up too.
As Mr. Morrison shouted – “Save Our Cities.”
He then added: “Right Now!”
Yes, Right Now!
There is no time to waste. We have wasted 60 years already on this bullshit village vision. Let us now urbanize aggressively – and look after all our urban areas. They are the centres of our civilization and its commercial culture. And let’s do it RIGHT NOW!
Thursday, 7 August 2008
Deng Xiao-Ping smoked 90 cigarettes a day and lived to more than 90.
Must be all the soya sauce.
Onerous taxation to cut cigarette consumption is counter-productive: first, vast masses remain smoking beedis; and second, if the smoker pays 100 bucks a day for 5 packets of Silk Cut (as I do) he has that much less to spend on other things – like Kingfisher beer. Nothing good can come out of taxation – and this is a Law of Reality.
But we were talking of tobacco farmers. No one gives them a thought in all this anti-smoking ètatism.
Now think of the farmer who grows ganja or charas. What is his life like? Where would he be if Bholay Shankar ki Booti – a Law of God – were freed from legislation – the law of men?
In Amsterdam they sell Moroccan brown at 3 euros a gram; Manali black at 13 euros.
No one would grow apples in Manali if the trade were free. They would import apples from China - and good apples these are too.
I have met ganja and charas farmers in my explorations – and their farms are always remote and inaccessible, far from spying eyes. They have no irrigation, nor any “scientific method” of growing their priceless “cash crop.” They are poor, very poor. They get a pittance for their crop from the underground.
At the other end is the poorer consumer, smoking adulterated stuff most of the time – at least in India. The tourist who wants a decent smoke gets rogered as well. In Amsterdam you smoke the best – in the open. A Dutch tourist I met in Goa complained that all he got to smoke there is “bush grass and horseshit hash.”
In between the poor farmer of ganja-charas and the poorer consumer are all the beech ke bandar of The State.
Gareebi Apnay Aap Hutt Jayegi.
I stand by the ganja-charas farmer. His is the cash crop of the future. Some call cannabis “the weed,” but I never do.
I always call it The Crop.
Wednesday, 6 August 2008
Libertarianism places Freedom as its central “value” and therefore subjects its opposite, Coercion, to thorough scrutiny. The ultimate question in politics is the limits to coercion. By valuing Freedom and Voluntary Co-operation in markets, libertarians reduce the scope of coercion to its minimum. In a libertarian order, more and more people are more and more free from government coercion. In such an order, most ordinary people would be able to live their lives without ever seeing the inside of a courtroom or a police station. This is thus a “viable political order” precisely because its foundations do not rest on coercion. On the contrary. They rest on the firm foundations of the market, a natural institution based on mutual co-operation (in a competitive setting). Thus, there is bound to be more “order” and less “law” in a nation governed under libertarian principles. It will therefore be a “successful” political order – leaving aside the Economics and all the filthy lucre.
Secondly, we do not see Society as a monolith, nor do we accord it any metaphysical status, as the Socialists do. Our focus is the Individual. Our “science” is based on the method of monologic, on the logic of the Individual. As we see ourselves as individuals too, we only seek the most “perfect freedom” for all. Socialists, communists, Keynesians, trade unionists – they all base their “science” on group thinking and group logic. They look upon Society in anthropomorphic terms; and since their political credo consists entirely of creating anew a “perfect society” out of the horrible bazaar-culture of today, which they do not comprehend, the realization of their political ideals requires: firstly, organized coercion by The State; and second, the subjugation of all individuals to the great Czar of Planning or some such dictator. Even if we leave aside the Economics and the filthy lucre (and all the consumer goods it delivers to the “working classes”) this is a political credo that is bound to fail, to be unsuccessful, because it is founded on coercion.
There are limits to coercion outside the seminar rooms of Political Science. South Africa released Mandela. The Iraqis and the Afghanis have not humbly offered their heads to the American yoke. The Manipuris, Kashmiris, Naxals et. al. are at war with The State – despite all the coercion. What can Libertarianism accomplish in such a chaotic situation?
Once again, since our political ideals cannot be met by organized coercion, our only method must be moral and intellectual persuasion. We know for sure that even the most powerful and effective state constabulary cannot beat a people into submission. So we reject that method.
Our only method is “political,” in the classical sense of the word: convincing a populace that Freedom for all Individuals means a better Society as well. This blog is dedicated to that goal.
The article quotes some minor US anti-narcotics baboo as expert evidence, and says that the Taliban are being funded through the illegal opium trade. Ho hum.
In the meanwhile, as I scanned The Indian Express, I found a photo from the killing fields of Afghanistan – of a blown up SUV with a US soldier standing guard next to it. Who paid for the SUV? The US taxpayer. The money is now a dead loss. The SUV is irreparable. The US tried to “smash” something-or-the-other and got smashed back instead.
Actually, if Afghanis could legally sell their opium – and their fabulous charas as well – then each of them would be the proud owner of a SUV. And the entire world would prosper. These SUVs would be valuable assets. They would not be “smashed.”
If all governments stood aside and let all opium and charas trades be conducted on a voluntary basis, no Afghan would require Taliban support to sell his stuff.
In India, opium is legally cultivated and sold – as this news report from Rajasthan makes clear. This opium is a part of “tradition”: lest we forget the quaint story of senior BJP leader from Rajasthan, Jaswant Singh, serving opium to his guests. It must be “tradition” in Afghanistan too. I fail to see why traditions should not be upheld by the Law. True law is always “found,” not “made.” Positivism is a great enemy of Law.
From the point of view of Catallactics, two basic laws need to be restated. The first is that “value is subjective.” Such is the case with all “highs.” It is the subjective mind of the user that gives value to the high – be it opium, charas, ganja or single malt whiskey. We may not approve of certain highs – but that does not entitle us to stand between any man and his “pursuit of happiness,” a term that finds pride of place in, ironically, the US Constitution.
Secondly, Say’s Law of Markets indicates that all non-competitors gain when any good is sold. Thus, manufacturers of SUVs, refrigerators, colour TVs, etc. would gain if all this opium and charas got legally sold in markets. It would be Win-Win all around. Today it is Lose-Lose: the tax-funded SUV is smashed beyond repair and the opium and charas are not getting sold; or, worse still, if they do get sold it is with Taliban patronage. An open trading scenario would not require this protection.
Another newspaper today carries the report of a Taliban type affirming that “India is our eternal enemy.” Why make such enemies? Why side with the US in their senseless wars? Why try to “smash” traditional trades, thereby rendering the people poor? If my reader thinks through these questions, the dullness of the minds of these “strategic affairs analysts” would become obvious.
Away with this war-mongering!
Let all trades be free, and let Peace and Prosperity prevail in South Asia.
Tuesday, 5 August 2008
It says that the per capita income of the city is more than 50 per cent higher than the per capita income of India as a whole. Why so? Since there are no statistical laws, the answer must be found through the laws of Catallactics.
But before that, let us note at the outset that this statistical information points to the fact that the “population causes poverty” school is dead wrong: the density of population in wealthy Poona is much, much higher than vacant Jhoomritilkaya. Why then is Poona richer?
As Adam Smith pointed out in the very first chapter of the Wealth of Nations, “the extent of the division of labour is determined by the size of the market.” Since the market is bigger in Poona as compared to Jhoomritilaiya, because of higher population density, there are more specialized niches in Poona’s market. You can be an auto-rickshawallah, receptionist, plumber, electrician etc. in Poona. These opportunities for survival are not available in any of the sparsely populated “self-sufficient village economies” that Gandhi idealized.
Thus arises the primary “conflict of visions” between India’s libertarians and the socialist-Gandhians: We see the future of India as a nation of over 500 free trading and self-governing CITIES, plus another 5000 or so similar TOWNS.
The “free trading” character of these cities and towns is essential to our idea, for this will result in an “international division of labour,” which will not only raise incomes further, but also create even more specialized niches: take that, K Nut.
Equally relevant to our idea is the vision of hundreds and thousands of cities and towns. India today has just 5 cities for a billion people. 65 per cent of urban Indians live in these 5 OVERCROWDED cities. The USA has 350 million in over 200 cities. We must spread out over the vast landmass. Our 2500-mile long coast should see many more new cities mushrooming in a free trading environment.
Poona today is OVERCROWDED – and this is not because of the “population problem.” The cause is poor transportation. I lived a few months in Poona some years ago, and the transportation system there seems to have been designed by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM): it is chock-a-block full of auto-rickshaws and two-wheelers. This choked traffic forces everyone to live close to work – causing all the overcrowding.
Yet Poona was till recently a pensioner’s paradise. It was one among a chain of “hill stations” the British developed on the Western Ghats that were organically linked to Bombay, their primary city. The Poona-Mahabaleshwar belt of hill-stations was of a pattern that the Brits followed in every primary city – like the Simla-Mussoorie belt linked to Delhi. Or the Darjeeling-Shillong belt linked to Calcutta. And the Ooty-Kodaikanal belt linked to Madras.
So, apart from the coastal cities, we should also develop thousands of small towns in our hilly regions. This requires a focus on transportation.
And here, as usual, our “central planners” have got it all wrong. The “Golden Quadrilateral” Highway Project (which is stuck in red tape) is a 5-city vision.
The 500 cities and 5000 towns vision requires: first, twin expressways along the coasts; and second: “hubs-and-spokes” expressways leading out of the primary cities into the surrounding satellite towns, both old and new.
The Bombay-Poona expressway has been a boon to Poona: it is an example of a “spoke”. We need thousands of such spokes linking each of the 5 metros to their surrounding satellites.
We began with a statistic which we interpreted with an old catallactic law. The “planner’s” problem is that he is not in possession of these essential laws with which to interpret all the statistics he collects – and spends a huge amount of our money on. He is thus stuck in a world of government welfare schemes for the rural poor, “model villages” and other such crap.
Sack every planner.
Monday, 4 August 2008
In Bihar, the state government’s attitude is summed up in the following quote from the news report:
“… the population explosion has alarmed the Bihar government. It has started realizing that without checking population growth no welfare scheme can succeed.”
The chief minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar, says, “If the existing rate of population increase is not checked, our efforts on all fronts will go waste and no scheme will remain viable,"
The future of a new-born Bihari does not depend on any “welfare scheme” of the government helping him.
On the contrary.
The future of every new-born Bihari depends entirely on self-help in a free market globalized economy. In such an economic environment, each child will be an asset – especially to his parents.
Poor Bihari parents must therefore choose between government “welfare” and unrestricted catallactic exchanges in markets, or between handouts and personal achievements.
Whereas in Bihar the government is quite clear on a “no coercion policy,” the government of Kerala has no such qualms. They intend to fine and otherwise penalize any Keralite who has a third child.
Once again, the idea is that government “welfare” measures cannot be extended indefinitely. The news report says:
“A family or person having more than two children should also be denied facilities and advantages like free education, health assistance, facilities for housing and other priorities including employment allowed under schemes or projects of the state… ”
I wonder what the free “education” in Kerala teaches a bright eyed, dark-skinned, curly-haired, pretty Malayali girl.
Does the teacher not say, “Child, this Kerala of ours would have been a much better place if you and all your classmates had never been born. Our biggest problem is too many children.”
Stay far away from this “education,” children.
And have faith in yourself and your generation – and in Liberty. You are the “ultimate resource,” to use Julian Simon’s expression. You, alone of all God’s creatures, can create wealth – for yourself, your family and your society.
Cutting to the core: there is ultimately only one question on this neo-Malthusianism: Should governments decide family size or should people take this vital decision on their own?
Take your stance, dear reader.
Sunday, 3 August 2008
Take this story today from Bangalore, on “illegal discotheques” and “live bands”.
With Freedom, these would be seen everywhere.
The lesson: It would be best to have and all-in-one trade license issued by the local municipality, the money going towards the upkeep of the common property on which the market is located.
The current labyrinth of rules and regulations is aimed at alcohol – but affects musicians and performers (even men can dance: recall Mr. Bojangles).
This is also a “livelihood issue”: K Nut please note.
However, it is the customer who drives the market. In Bangalore, these silly rules are throwing out the customer. This is stupid.
It is also repressive. I have a T-shirt from New Orleans showing two African slaves dancing in Congo Square (renamed Louis Armstrong Square). Even slaves could dance – but our youth cannot.
I also have fond memories of a night in one of our tiger reserves, dancing and drinking with the Adivasis.
So, if you want to dance, quit the city and hit the jungle, folks.
Song of the Day: Your Mamma Don’t Dance and Your Daddy Don’t Rock-n-Roll.
Saturday, 2 August 2008
Just 3 quick points on this bright Saturday morning:
First: Police raided a “coin-melting factory” and arrested its owner.
Why are coins being melted?
Only because the value of the metal is higher than that of the coin in exchange.
This is a sign of inflation.
And a pointer to the fact that our great “economists” on top are earning “negative seigniorage”.
Second: There is a news report on a “model village” in Hisar, Haryana, which would be just an hour’s drive from
My question: Would this “village” not have been a TOWN if roads had been built from
Would many middle-class Delhiwallahs not have bungalows with gardens, garages, servants’ quarters et. al. if roads had been built? Would this not have “developed” Hisar just as Gurgaon is developed now?
It is in this connection that the DDA’s sale of 5000 flats in
Further, this is how cities are being destroyed while these eminent “economists” build “model villages”.
Both the melting of coins and the model village indicate that “economists” who take over government and use its might to achieve what they call “development” can never succeed if they ignore the basic laws of Catallactics.
They need to learn, not teach.
Third: There is a headline in my old newspaper, The Economic Times, which is stupid – for want of a better word.
The headline talks of a new search engine that will “break Google’s monopoly.”
But Google was never a monopoly. It still isn’t.
Economic journalists should undertake the task of listing all monopolies: they will find that all these are run by The State: or, more accurately, by its underlings.
There has never been, and there never will be, any monopoly as long as there is “freedom of entry into all markets.”
Away with the Competition Commission and Competition Law!
Does anyone at ET remember the MRTPC?
Friday, 1 August 2008
The law and order situation in the state of Jammu & Kashmir is precarious enough, so the state-wide unrest following the government’s “allotment” of 40 hectares of forest land on the Amarnath yatra route to the “Shrine Board” must be seen as hugely unnecessary, given the fragile peace that prevails there.
I certainly do not believe in arduous pilgrimages as a means to discover Shiva, but a smokey friend does. He trekked it to Amarnath some weeks back. I quizzed him on the facilities on the route – for it took him a few days up and a few days down, in freezing cold – and this is what I heard.
All food on the route is free, gratuitously provided by wealthy believers.
“Where did you sleep then?” I asked.
He told me an unlikely tale. There are tents all along the route where pilgrims can rent a bed for the night. If you rent the bed before 3 pm, the charge is 100 rupees. If you rent it around 5 pm the charge can exceed 500 rupees. So this is how the money is made. My smokey friend said that there were more than 100,000 pilgrims in all. Grab your calculator and do the math and you know you are looking at some pretty big money.
Now, who “owns” the forest land, the 40 hectares (just 100 acres) that the government is giving away?
Actually, nobody owns it.
The huge amount of civil unrest that is currently going on is only because of the fact that it is the government that acted as the actual “owner” of this unowned land.
In Muslim-majority Srinagar there were violent protests because it was felt that the government was showing partiality towards Hindus. So the government revoked their allotment order. This sparked off the Jammu protests – and the law and order situation in the entire state has been unstable ever since.
What would a libertarian solution be?
Let us start with the First Principle: people own things, governments do not. Governments exist only to give titles to properties people acquire – either by purchase or by “homesteading.”
Homesteading means that anyone can lay claim to any unowned land. Thereafter, if he “mixes his labour with the original soil”, he possesses a “claim to title.” This is a claim that the government, at the local level, must recognize.
If the homesteading principle is applied to the whole of India, a lot of “unreal estate” would become “real estate” instantly – including the land on the way to Amarnath. Why just the Shrine Board, lots of others – maybe many Muslims too – would occupy and develop all the unowned land just lying waste there. Then, why a bed in a tent for 500 rupees, pilgrims might get a bed in a concrete hotel with a hot shower for less. If the local government’s only duties lay in recognizing claims to title and building roads connecting all the properties, the Amarnath area would see “development” – and this would benefit the entire state of Jammu & Kashmir.
There would be no civil unrest because the role of the government would be neutral: the government would not exist to give anything to anyone. If the government never shows favours to anyone or any group, but only acts against “outlaws”, no one and no group would rise in protest against any of its actions. There would be peace, harmony, co-operation in markets, the building up of property and towns, and the spreading out of the population all over this vast landmass. The government would enjoy the support and confidence of the society it serves.
This is where liberalism and socialism collide head-on: We differ over the role of The State in a free society.
And these are irreconcilable differences.
Onwards to a Second Republic!
And Booooom Shankarrr 2U2.