Of philosophies and kings

The kind of nation Ayn Rand was looking at, with complete private ownership of everything and no government interference whatsoever, will probably never become reality. In the current scenario it would just cause problems, and I don’t see anyone agreeing to follow a completely open socio-politico-economic set-up in the foreseeable future.

But ultimately, it’s the only way men can truly be free.

Humanity started with monarchies and dictatorships, because that was closest to the concept of the alpha of the pack. Then we realised that that severely restricted our freedoms, that if we had to live under a single totalitarian ruler then we would essentially be under the control of his whims and the whims of his sycophants. So we eventually fought through to democracy.

This is an improvement because there is a chance that our rulers will tone down their whimsical disposal of our lives and livelihoods because they have to be re-elected.

But honestly, look at India’s democracy. Do you see them afraid? Do you see honest, dedicated individuals who want to better the country, succeeding in this system? Or do you see thugs and smug intellectual idiots sitting in power and making our lives a whole lot worse?

Let me give you an example of the kind of interference our government is capable of. I’m observing the processes and formalities a small business has to suffer in order to function, close up. My parents hardly have the time to get and do the work that earns the money that the government wants to tax, because there are too many forms and laws to fill and follow. And none is clear, and they’re all different for different income slabs, and even the auditor doesn’t know what they mean, most of the time.

Why?

Atlas Shrugged puts it rather well. A government servant: “The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? … But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on the guilt.”

That, of course, is how whenever someone goes against the government they end up accused of tax evasion or stamp duty fraud. It is literally impossible to obey all the rules they’ve dreamed up.

It may be possible to live in this current system. (Live, not just survive – of course it’s possible to survive.) But why should it be necessary to force ourselves to struggle through this? After all, what does the government do that the Indian private sector haven’t proven they can do better? What administration do we need? Roads? Private companies make them anyway. If the land is bought from private individuals along the way and developed by the companies and toll charged to make up costs and profits, where is the government needed? Disaster management? The government does a pathetic job. If they get out of the way, I’m sure disaster insurance will very quickly become something that every village can invest in. Education? The private sector has proven that they are better than the government in education. And without governments, there’s no question of reservation. This is true of everything the government today collects money for, except for the defence and the judiciary, defence because it does need centralisation and judiciary because it needs neutrality, which it can’t have if it’s partly or wholly owned by private entities. (Judiciary even now needs more independence, of course.)

The question that I’m sure will have arisen by this point, is: but what about those who can’t afford it? Consider it. Yes, the best services will always be meant for the rich. But there are markets at every level. If there’s no free education for the poorest of the poor (any different from the current situation?), that doesn’t mean there won’t be inexpensive education. If every person looks out for his own interests and the achievement of his own principles, then the poor will gain education by any of the following three ways: (i) A businessman will see a market in providing cheaper education in a city, attracting poorer sections of society. (ii) An industrialist will set up a school intended to educate the youth in processes needed in his factories, subsidising costs since it gives him an employment bank. (iii) A philanthropist will recognise that the poorest children are intelligent too and he cannot allow them to lose their spark for lack of training, and set up a scholarship fund/low-cost school.

In other words, if you have a truly free state, where everything is privately owned and every interaction is a matter of fair exchange and every person acts only for his own selfish interest, to achieve his own betterment and the realisation of his own values, there is no need for a government at all.

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? It does to me, at least, the thought of true freedom – the freedom to earn and the freedom to live.

This is not a call for revolution, because no one would join me and I’d feel rather silly standing alone and shouting for the establishment to “Get the hell out of my way!” It’s just a thought. A thought I’d probably never have had without the woman to whom I owe most of my thinking processes. A thought I’ve had endorsed by the view of my other favourite author, Terry Pratchett – that people lose their minds around kings, that they expect miracles from them, that the only kind of “honest” ruler calls himself a Tyrant – because that is exactly what he is.

This is not a call for revolution. It’s just something to think about.

Posted in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand, Objectivism, Philosophy, Politics, Terry Pratchett | 32 Comments

32 Responses to Of philosophies and kings

  1. I am not sure if the world will work that idealistically. I agree that taxation is messed up and that democracy is flawed but it works in theory. This doesn’t work even in theory.

    If governments don’t make roads or pay private companies to create them, why would they do it? There is no profit to be made and thus no reason to do it. Why would private individuals give up land for roads if they were being selfish?

    How is there a market in cheap education? Who pays teachers who want to make money in a selfish society? If an industrialist is investing his returns have to be greater. Where is the place for a philanthropist in a capitalistic, selfish society?

    This seems like half the world has to be selfish and the other half magnanimous.

    • Priya K says:

      As I said, I doubt this will ever become reality. But that doesn’t mean this doesn’t work in theory. In theory, this is the only way that society can be free, since a government by definition curbs certain freedoms in its citizens.

      I’ll admit I haven’t thought through all the details, but I think I addressed the points you’re raising, in my post. Yes, the private companies would need to invest their own money in building highways, but they would recoup through tolls. They would ensure there is a profit to be made otherwise you’re quite right, they wouldn’t do it. What happens then to places that don’t have roads? The people living there, who need transportation, pool in the funds to hire said company to build a road connecting them to the highway. They profit through the accessibility, companies through the down-payment. NO ONE would be asked to “give up” their lands – it would be bought, or else you’re quite right, that’s not Utopia – that’s a den of thieves.

      If the budgets don’t balance, no, industrialists aren’t going to set up schools of the kind I described, nor are good quality teachers going to teach there. But I still think there is a market for decent, low-budget education. The poor don’t have as much money as the rich, but I stand by it that if they see value in an education for their children at a certain fee, market forces will dictate to the educator what his fee should be.

      Finally, to answer the question re the philanthropist, money is not the only value. I can’t say I’d do it, but I know I’m not the only kind of person in the world. A principle is often worth spending your every last rupee and then some, to achieve it. And as long as YOU do it for YOUR principles with YOUR funds, how is it not selfish?

      This world is based on the assumption that everyone is selfish, and proud of themselves, their achievements and their values.

      There’s no room for altruism here.

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  3. There’s no room for altruism here. Which is what makes me skeptical.

    • Priya K says:

      And which is what will prevent this from becoming a New World Order – fear of shattering the status quo. Altruism is today’s accepted morality. You should know that I disagree.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Superb posting, I share the same views. I wonder why this world truly does not for a moment picture the world you and I see :D

  5. Bharatwaj Iyer. says:

    Hello Priya,
    What an interesting article. The aim and purpose of this was to get a whiff of freedom,eh? The last thing I see in this kind of set-up is freedom. Yes freedom would be there, but for the few, only for the privileged. And how conveniently you suggest that some industrialist will give the education he wants to give to the poor, what is he breeding? Cattle for his ranch?
    Capitalism, more so, free capitalism has its benefits, benefits for the capitalist! Look at the destruction of the small, petty enterprises due to the rise of industrial giants, look at the amount of unemployment among the incapable (because the capitalist is extremely choosy. He’ll destroy small enterprises where the incapable had some chance and on the top of it be choosy as well). The large amount of concentration of property in a few hands, the large scale invasion of multinationals of domestic production relations, domestic culture and way of life. The large heap of mess and pollution released by the industrialist, the creation of privilege and dignity, the creation of landlessness, desolation and hopelessness among those below the normal line of poverty or even those barely above. And etc etc, all this and much to follow, only because the capitalist was exempted from law and let free. So like Karl Marx suggested, Freedom in the modern sense is nothing but bourgeois freedom. We want neither Communism nor Capitalism but some moderate form of Socialism to solve the problem in the exact place where it needs solution, namely, the many, the underprivileged lower working class.

    • Priya K says:

      Hi Bharatwaj,

      As I said, I don’t expect popularity for this idea. But I don’t really see how this can reduce freedom. With any kind of freedom, there will be some risk involved – there’s no choice there. Of course the risk is greater for the poor, who need to worry about day-to-day earning and survival. It is ALWAYS hardest for the poor. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t scope for growth, and freedom, for all classes.

      There is no question of breeding with the kind of schools I suggested. Maybe no industrialist would set up such schools. Maybe they already exist. But either way, how can vocational training ever be thought of as a bad thing?!

      You are quite right when you say that the “incapable” small businesses will be wiped out in a free market. There are however two points that I’d like to raise – first, a quick reminder that those who run small businesses are also capitalists and entrepreneurs who should know that in business, the incapable will always fail.

      Second and more important, why would you want to protect the incapable? The businessmen who cannot produce, the incompetent and incapable, will fail whether or not there is competition from large businesses. But there is no need to protect them, considering that in any case they do not help the common man. They are not productive members of society. So why should policy and planning be tilted towards protecting them? No one would benefit, especially not the end user.

      I know that industrialists aren’t popular and are seen as “not contributing to society” (in spite of CSR and extremely heavy taxation). But I’m rather surprised that you find “the creation of privilege and dignity” to be a bad thing! Especially since you yourself say that the capitalist is the one creating dignity! How can it be a bad thing to create dignity and a sense of self-worth? It is not, in any case, a sense of worth only for themselves. Without big businesses, there would not be large-scale creation of jobs, resulting in large-scale unemployment. To benefit the working class, it is crucial to create jobs where they CAN work. How can that be done without capitalism and capitalists?

      I look forward to your rebut! :)

  6. Nayantara says:

    Have you been reading Spencer by chance? The concept of a government with 2 responsibilities: the protection of citizens from invasion (military) and the maintenance of internal peace (judiciary)- that’s what he suggested. Similar to your argument he too suggested that an individual working for his own benefit would also work for the benefit of his state. (This I have issues with, but we’ll come to this later) He argued a policy of non-intervention: he suggests that private ownership would ensure a certain level of efficiency and yes, freedom. Now, right at the beginning you mention tyrants. Early Greeks believed that a ruler who was good and kind and just and honest would form the best kind of government. ‘Psh, early Greek twaddle!’ you say? You may have one good king. In a good century, two, but then greed and power corrupt them and people suffer. If you were to say this, I would agree. However the same problem lies with you’re argument on private ownership: what is to stop a private owner from becoming a despot (in his field)? You might have one or two that are good and just and fair, but all? Doesn’t history show us otherwise? You could argue that it would be in his interest to not seize the monopoly over his particular area of work and use that to his advantage, in the long run, but history is full of those instances isn’t it? When man has an advantage- nay, the faintest glimmer of an advantage, he takes it. So what could ensure that it doesn’t happen…. an over-seeing committee of some kind? An organization… a ‘government’? Well there you go. Try reading Locke on private property and the formations of government and then read Rousseau on the same. They consider what caused governments and why we need them. What should they constitute and what shouldn’t they. More importantly, Rousseau suggests the ideal democracy. It’s as flawed as any ideal democracy, but maybe you could find in it useful bits for your own utopian society.

    Now, onto man working for his benefit, thus for the benefit of his state. I’ve always had an issue with this. See one, the concept on inequality comes into play. One of mans’ biggest challenges is that natural inequalities exist. We hope science and so on can eradicate it… eventually. But for now, they do exist. If people are unequal, the question of jealousy arises. Natural stratification i.e the division of labor, ensures this. Could you ensure that a man working for his own benefit would use means and methods that would benefit a society, however indirectly, he might see as unfair or unjust? I don’t think so. And if I am correct in assuming that any society when being conceptualized has one base rule: that there is some sort of co-operation (even nihilistic societies ‘agree’ to be nihilistic) then that statement “a truly free state, where everything is privately owned and every interaction is a matter of fair exchange and every person acts only for his own selfish interest, to achieve his own betterment and the realization of his own values, there is no need for a government at all.” is the statement of co-operation for your society, and I don’t see it working.

    Finally I have no idea if I veered off topic at some point: I can on occasion.

    I await a reply eagerly. Also sorry I’m not on your side. But you should know, I’m don’t think I’m on D’s side either. :)

    • Priya K says:

      See, Nayan, that’s why I like you. You give me new ways to think. AND you write long and well and coherently and without internal contradiction.

      I’ve not read Spencer, as it happens. But to me this has nothing to do with the good of the state. Frankly I don’t care about the state in my Utopia, mainly because there IS no state in my Utopia.

      You raise a valid concern. What is to stop some businessman from becoming a bandit lord? (Because essentially that’s the kind of problem you’re looking at, correct? Unethical activity.) Well, that’s simple, they won’t BE businessmen any more, will they? They’ll be criminals. They’ll be Mafia, underworld dons, evil buggers… whatever. A businessman is one who’s into trade. The exchange of value for value. The exchange of value for the removal of a threat is blackmail, which as you may recall is illegal. In such cases it’s the job of the judiciary and related police organisations to stop them. Again, I don’t think you need a government for that.

      My only worry is that, obviously, there will need to be a tax to run the judiciary/police/army so that it is objective and doesn’t end up being in the pay of said Mafia. And then there’s so much that will end up coming in! Tax collection bureaucracy, audit… and then there’s the risk of more taxes coming in and more government agencies.

      To keep a society permanently free of a government? You’re right, it’s near impossible. Not even if everyone agrees that that IS the way to go. (I’m big on cooperation and consent, by the way – selfishness means acting for yourself, but that doesn’t mean acting against anyone else. Where did you get the idea that I dislike consent? I’m talking about this in the interest of free will, for Pete’s sake.)

      I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this won’t HAPPEN. And your point on jealousy is, in fact, exactly why. The reason I didn’t address it in my essay is that I didn’t want to turn it into a whine about incompetence and envy. Of course men are not born equal, but does that mean that those born superior must be penalised or feel guilty? Because the less fortunate can’t do something, must the more fortunate not do what they can do? even if that means that EVERYONE is advantaged? just so that envy is lessened? This is the most ridiculous thing you’ll ever hear, but sadly you hear it a lot. That said, envy does exist and because of this, there will always be those who try to tear down those who are climbing. (Personal opinion? That’s Communism in a nutshell.) If we could get such people to see that someone else rising doesn’t mean that THEY are being suppressed, I don’t think we need my Utopia at all! Governments are fine in that case, no issue at all!

      You didn’t veer off, and you make valid points :) I approve.

      Reply to my reply?

  7. Hi, this is a great post! Thanks..

  8. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    Hi Priya,

    There are many things to be said over here and let me begin with the point of education. You said that an industrialist will go to poor areas and educate the children there in the areas where HE wants them to excel in, which seems as though he has bought these children. Being ignorant is better than learning for someone else. Who is the industrialist to decide what I must learn (although that is exactly what is happening today).

    Second point is the word “incapable businesses”. The word “incapable” I used in relation to the big industrialist. I don’t mean that small businesses are absolutely incapable of serving the people but that they are incapable of doing it to the extent that the industrialist does it. Now you’ll say that if the industrialist is more efficient then why not let him wipe everything away. I’ll answer that I want people to be self-employed, I don’t want concentration of capital in the hands of a few (namely the capitalist), which is dangerous. More the distribution of capital the better, therefore I’ll favor small-scale inefficient traders etc.

    You say that capitalism creates a lot of jobs. Does it? Absolutely not. The capitalist thinking of profits alone, is always persistent in staffing only those people who are capable for his job, what about the rest? Go hungry. A welfare institution on the other hand would not look for capacities or efficiency but would concentrate only on general employment (as opposed to specific employment).

    Finally I’d say that a capitalist mode of society isn’t a proper mode, nor the most beneficent for human welfare. It must go, for in 21st century man is developed enough to know its evils. Anything which wishes to instill the sense of slavery in man (whose fundamental principle according to me is freedom) must exist.

    The solution? The creation of a sort of industrial organisation which is solely based on welfare. Every man will become the owner of the business. The business would be run by various community organisations like guilds, unions, federal councils and committees etc. In which every single person would have a share and a voice. So industry would be divided into a number of syndicates and in these everyone would participate. Production would be jointly owned and everyone will work in a co-operative environment with the motive that human necessities are fulfilled. Every syndicate will complementary to the other which would create a non- competitive environment, but an environment in which every unit of the working class would be satisfied. No longer would the slave-master relationships prevail, for every single person would become the master of his own labour. The concept of wholesale private acquisition of labour will be destroyed. Labour will now be co-operative and man would be able to realise all the fundamental aspects of human nature like creativity, skill and the like.

    • Priya K says:

      Hi Bharatwaj,

      Your first point was regarding education in fields the industrialist chooses. Can I ask what you have against vocational training with a near-guaranteed job at the end?

      Regarding inefficiency being a fair trade-off for greater distribution of capital share, I can’t agree. But this is, I think, a point on which we can agree to disagree.

      As for job creation, I don’t see how you can say that large-scale capitalism does not create large numbers of well-paying jobs. Certainly capitalists work on the profit motive. Certainly they do not want to hire the incompetent. Why would they? But there are large numbers of competent persons who can be hired, who will not be willing to be hired by small-scale firms who cannot afford higher salaries. The large companies definitely want to make profits. So they pay large salaries to keep good employees. Do you disapprove of the principle of fair returns for work done?

      You also mentioned that a welfare state is the ideal for providing “general” employment. Yes, I agree. The question is the value of general employment. This removes the value of specialisation, of rewards granted to quality. If there’s no value provided to hard work and success, why should anyone work hard at all?

      The greatest danger of this kind of welfare state with uniformity of employment is the erosion of the survival instinct and create uniformity in people as well. A removal of pride in one’s work, by removal of possibility of growth, results in no one wanting to work at all. This results in stagnation.

      The real question is one of philosophy. Is it better that the fittest are rewarded, that there is an incentive for human beings to aspire to greatness? Or that everyone has food – and such a sense of security that they have no reason to adapt to challenges or, in the truest sense, live?

      Finally, the point you raise on a welfare industry. This is actually nearly identical with an anecdote in “Atlas Shrugged”. A rich, profitable industry is run by a man for profit, with excellent, hand-picked employees performing to potential in the interest of earning the highest salaries they possibly can. Then he dies, and his daughter takes over. She’s a collectivist. She chooses to make sure that all employees have an equal voice in the running of the business and the allocation of funds. She chooses to allocate equal, miniscule salaries for all, and create a committee to decide on special bonuses based on need – and special overtime allotments based on ability. They had, in theory, complete control over their own remuneration and their work hours.

      What happened is that the cheapest, most terribly useless of the employees pushed for higher salaries. The worst of them made up “needs” to force every last dollar out of the company. The best men were destroyed by the amount of work the committee piled on them, which was seen as only reasonable, considering that they were most competent and therefore most capable of working for the business – or else they quit..

      It took about a year for Ivy Starnes to run her father’s industry into the ground, because she couldn’t understand the connection between a the utilisation of a man’s intelligence, creativity and skill – and the likelihood that he will be rewarded for it. If there’s no reward, there is no motive for the man to use his mind. No motive to grow, no motive to adapt, no motive to live.

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  10. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    Hi Priya,
    Your rebut was awesome. I think the whole argument comes to fair returns then. First of all I don’t wish to discourage skill or efficiency, but I also want the inefficient to be sufficient and enjoy the gifts of life, which are theirs solely by the virtue of they being human. Like a mother who’d love her strong son and her weak, invalid son in the same manner. One more thing,

    “Do you disapprove of the principle of fair returns for work done?” ~ Priya.

    Well good. But what about the labourer on the road who works the whole day under the sun with “skill and efficiency”?? How much does he get? 100 or 200 a day?? And what about a sportsman who works with no better “skill and efficiency” and for even lesser hours a day?

    The sportsman earns more because profits are more in sports and so it is possible to pay them so much. If competitiveness and lust for profit weren’t so much, if the role played by profit in designing the operations of the market were a little lesser, the poor sweating labourer could also have stood with head held high before any confounded sports person in the world.

    Profit motive and the capitalist market in general do not help to provide fair returns for work done that Priya so earnestly desires. Not only do they not help, in very many cases they even positively hinder it.

    • Priya K says:

      Thanks for your continued interest in this debate, Bharatwaj! :)

      It is my firm opinion, and always will be, that only the profit motive – that is, doing things that benefit you and no one else – can improve your lot in life and the world at large. This is true whether you are a labourer or a sportsperson or in business; the better you are the more you will earn and therefore the better you want to become.

      “Fair returns” is a subjective phrase. Who decides what is fair? The person who pays or the person who receives, or both? It should of course be both. So then, what is to stop the labourer who feels he is being paid too little from resigning to look for a job as a cricketer? Simple – he knows that he may not be entirely happy with the salary he is receiving, but he feels it is fair enough.

      Different people earn different salaries not because one deserves to live and the other deserves to die, but because the employer of one feels that he deserves more while the employer of the other feels he deserves less. This is because the first kind of people have talents, inborn or honed, that the second do not have. Is this fair? No, but it is nature. Again I refer you to Natural Selection. The other reason is that certain talents are rewarded more than others. Is this fair? Yes, I would think so. It is the people who are paying the money who must decide how it’s spent. If the workers do not like it, they are free to quit, find a new job, or learn a new talent.

      Regarding the profit motive’s impact on market operations, again, I can’t agree that this is a bad thing. The unskilled labourer is valuable. But he is not as valuable as a man working with his mind, or one who has lived a sport to the extent that he is an icon. This is directly because he is unskilled, and can therefore be easily replaced by another unskilled man.

      The way out of this position is not to ask to be paid on par with those who have prepared themselves for better jobs, but to prepare yourself as well – or at least, to equip the next generation. This doesn’t mean expensive B-schools. It simply means being polite, efficient and absolutely excellent at one’s work, leading to the growth of your reputation, leading to promotions and raises.

      This is possible, but not easy. It is easier to ask for pay that your employer is not willing to offer.

      Think of the natural corollary of both approaches by the labourer. The first produces an absolutely excellent workforce with rising salaries, people who can be proud of their work and their salary because they have truly earned it, not coerced it out of the employer. The second produces a whining, suspicious kind of worker, always more worried about how much he might have been earning if only the employer had been “fair” – and not thinking about how much he is already taking home, or how much more he could do to earn more.

      As for your final point, that a capitalist market does not promote fair returns on effort. I think I’ve explained this sufficiently, that fairness must be defined in terms of what is fair to the worker as well as what is fair to the employer. Everyone will agree that forcing a person to work at sub-standard pay is wrong, something akin to slavery. How many will stand up for the employer forced to employ a man at too high a cost?

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  13. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    Thanks Priya, the debate is seriously very interesting.

    So you are a cut-throat Darwinist, one of those competition lovers. I’ll put in my last word.

    To begin with, I’m not interested in development or high technological or infrastructural success of one nation over the other or of one man over the other. The childish obsession of the westerners. I am not interested in the superman that GB. Shaw talked about. To confess, efficiency and skilled work are all to me secondary considerations.

    Why? Because as we talk and enjoy ourselves with debates and speculations etc, we forget that this very night 20 crore of our fellow Indians will sleep hungry. Lakhs will perish today for want of food. Lakhs will be killed by the army in the name of naxalism. Lakhs will die due to lack of medicine. Crores will loiter around jobless, lakhs of my mothers and sisters will fall prey to evils like soul selling. And in the midst of this I’m not able to look for efficiency, for skill or for knowledge, my heart wouldn’t allow me. The only aim of the state, if it be a good one, should be that every single person, whether ignorant and knowledgeable, efficient or stupid, healthy or handicapped must enjoy, because of the virtue of being a human, all the gifts of life that we enjoy. The state should aim, which it clearly doesn’t, for the emancipation of the devil called hunger even at the cost of its space missions and metro railway projects.

    I don’t want a developed India, I don’t want an efficient India. I only want to see an India in which even a grasshopper doesn’t sleep with an empty stomach. But because of the evils of capitalism, right wing capitalism, this dream will never be fulfilled. For this evil is based on the principal of “the strong must survive and the weak perish!”. The devils believe it is the only way to prosperity.

    Like Arjuna says in the beginning of the Gita, “How will I be happy and enjoy my kingdom, when it is stained with the blood of my brothers”

    Alas! Capitalism will take us to the savage ages, there is no hope.

    Sorry I was awfully sentimental here.

    • Priya K says:

      Hi Bharatwaj, I quite understand the sentiment. After all I’m an Indian too, these are my people also. But the fact is that I don’t see a socialistic position working to alleviate their suffering.

      However, it’s precisely because we have the ability to sit back and look at it objectively that we have to look past the sentiment. In the short-term, what you said would probably help the poor gain a better standard of living. But in the long-term, I stand by it that it’s only by the growth of the economy, with advancements in science, technology and infrastructure, that every section of society can be benefited. Any other system will in the long-term end up creating a society of people on the dole.

      Finally, you said that the state ought to make sure that no one goes to sleep hungry. You’re quite right; as long as the state exists and it is a socialist state, it must take care of the people. But it doesn’t. In fact, that was why I wrote this post in the first place. I don’t understand the purpose of a state that doesn’t perform the functions it is supposed to perform. I think that we’ve given the state enough time; I think that it’s worth thinking of other methods of governance.

  14. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    :) Nice debate.

    Well there are more technicalities to it, but we needn’t go into it at present.

    And yes, Wish you all the very best for your new book. May you attain all success.

    And congratulations for your last book being longlisted for the Vodafone Crossword Awards. Superb!! :) :)

    • Priya K says:

      Yes, I think at this point we can agree to disagree! Thank you for a great debate, Bharatwaj :) Thanks also for the wishes! And wish you the same for your book and forthcoming career too.

      Happy New Year!

  15. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    Sorry Priya I couldn’t end it like that, your blog-post makes me go further. :) :) :)

    I don’t see how you support a (supposedly) free society which can be easily controllable by the whims of the highly rich and influential business class. You point out in your post about Ayn Rand that individually speaking a “self-centered” disposition is most rational and conducive to growth. But you are simultaneously morally outraged by the self-centered politicians and bureaucrats. If that is so then why not with self-centered business classes. In our country it is the business class that coerces and influences the government and the government is forced to yield. The Modi-Nano pact is a text book example of influence and coercion from the business class.

    Public interest, by which I mean the interest of the masses is converted into the interest of the opulent rich bourgeoisie which is easily detectable in your point about education by the industrialist. I don’t see how you think freedom can be protected in this kind of system of society. Freedom of the masses is inevitably converted into the freedom of the powerful, the history of man is an example for this.

    I’m troubled, I don’t understand how you, who believes in freedom of initiative, individual creativity and progress, can believe in an ideology which will inevitably (I stress the word) lead to inequity in all spheres of life.

    • Priya K says:

      :) I understand! Neither of us can at all understand the other point of view. For example, I am proud of the Modi-Nano pact. It shows me a little hope. When Mamata Banerjee chased the Tatas out of Bengal, what were the options? I am proud that one CM saw the opportunity to bring economic development to his state. At the time the Nano looked like a true winner. Every state should have wanted it; instead, the state that got the investment tried very hard to destroy it. That you see this as an example of coercion shows that we don’t have any common ground here.

      I am not outraged by the self-centred politician, I am outraged by the criminal politician. Corruption is a crime. Taking bribes is not about self-interest; it is theft. Another point to remember is, businesses are honest about the fact that they are looking for profit for themselves. Politicians in a democracy claim to be working for “the people”, the masses you’re talking about. Do they? If they did not exist and so couldn’t give preference to certain pressure groups or certain unscrupulous business interests, what happens? The only influence industry will have is what people give it by buying the product or working in the industry. There would be no possibility of any undue influence at all!

      It may be ironic, but I truly believe this is true. The only way to prevent misuse of industry influence is by giving them more freedom. Even if my ideal of removing government is impossible (and of course it is), removing controls gives more freedom not only industry but to every single one of us. I repeat, freedom is dangerous. And yes, it can result in ‘more’ freedom for the powerful and less for the less powerful. But frankly, I don’t think equity is crucial. To me, freedom is infinitely more important.

  16. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    I have only one question.

    Do you believe that the masses must have control over the activities going around them?
    Should they, according to you, have power, as they should, over the opulent, powerful minority.
    Equity isn’t crucial? That’s the very foundation of a democratic system. It is the only thing that is crucial.

    Let me illustrate. We are in the Titanic, it hit the iceberg and will sink in some time. We have only 20 lifeboats and 2500 men in the ship. What would a rational Captain do? Will he allow the people to show their brains, skill, strength etc and compete with one another for the boats? If that is so then the rowdies will have their day. Instead he’ll show equity and let everyone have a chance to save their lives, because it is a matter of life and death. The display of skill, power etc is not appropriate here, for here life of all people is essential.

    Similarly in countries like India it is a matter of life and death, statistics shows us that. America and its pseudo-democracy is an interesting example of how people lost jobs, homes, income etc when a group of industrialists (arms and ammunition industry) gained control over there. Production shifted to useless things like machines of war, which they exported to all the warring countries. America became rich, no not a bit, rich Americans dealing in war goods became rich. Its the same story everywhere. I wont call a democracy a democracy until and unless the count living in the palace enjoys the same privileges and gifts of life that a poor laboring, their labour is far more vital, farmer or road-worker.

    Communism you said is bringing down those who are climbing. I say YES :) Because when we have only 20 life boats and each man because of his strength and power tries to pick one for himself and escape on it all alone hoping for a wonderful boat-ride when people around are dying then he has to be pulled back and put in with the common people. Why? For the sake of equity, for the sake of life. :)

    • Priya K says:

      I believe that every person is unique, and that no two people are the same. In the eyes of the law and the state, they must be equal, but equity cannot exist beyond that. There are obvious differences between people. You can’t tell a school teacher that a topper is equal to the child who always fails every class. They are not equal. In a socialist environment, the weaker person is of more value; in a capitalist environment, the stronger person is valuable. That’s the only difference.

      Your example of the sinking ship is disturbing. 2480 people are going to die whichever way the captain decides. If he lets everyone simply try to get at the lifebelts because every life is equally important, it will be the physically strong and emotionally retarded that fight their way to the boats as, all things NOT being equal, they can reach the boats easier than the women, the children, the elderly and the chivalrous. By the logic of equity, of course, it doesn’t matter that the brutes are the ones saved. All lives are equal.

      I don’t think the “arms and ammunition industry” had much to do with America’s development. Certainly it’s had its part, but there are very many more causes for the start of industrial growth and development in America, most of which were productive and provided work which improved the quality of living of the citizens of the area. There’s a reason that the American Dream is still spoken of: it is there that, in principle and philosophy, talent and hard work are rewarded.

      Your standard for a democracy is too high. No democracy in our lifetimes will provide you with this.

      Common humanity and decency dictate that a lifeboat that can be shared, must be shared. It has nothing to do with Communism, Capitalism, Socialism or even Trade Unionism. In fact, I would say that a Capitalist would pull back the single man trying to steal a boat all for himself, while a Communist would overload the boats since every life is equally important – and, at the end, every life will be equally dead.

  17. Bharatwaj Iyer says:

    Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.
    - John Maynard Keynes

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