Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things. – Adam Smith
We have it within us to work hard and achieve our goals. All we really need is security and freedom, and equal opportunity. As Tao Te Ching said, kings should let things be, for then things would get done “on their own”. The implication being: give people a modestly good government and they will do the rest themselves. That’s it! Just ensure a “tolerable administration of justice” and easy taxes, and a society will become wealthy and successful in every way.
To lead a society to success, the government must not extract excessive taxes to spoon-feed people (welfare state), nor dabble in business (socialism). A government is not a businessman. These classical liberal ideas can help a government regulate optimally by enforcing property rights and ensuring justice, thus neither stifling enterprise nor letting deceit and corruption flourish. Well-designed free societies are highly successful. Empirical studies show that even a modicum of freedom and justice can lead a society to great success.
Liberalism has in many ways become a science now, a far cry from the early days of Machiavelli, Hobbes and Locke. Principles of good governance flow naturally if we study human nature carefully (which is both good and bad, opportunistic and strategic). The free society must aim to maximise everyone’s equal freedom subject to everyone being accountable. Democracy, equal opportunity, social insurance, and individual justice: all form part of the free society social contract.
If we have the theory and we have the evidence to prove that liberty works, then why has it been so difficult for India to deliver a successful society? Because India continues to studiously ignore the imperatives of liberty and the findings of economics and public administration. In doing so, we have created a total mess: a corrupt socialist society, where no one is really safe, and justice not an option.
The Freedom Team of India (FTI), the seed of a political movement for freedom, aims to lead India in the coming years to greatness through good governance. Apart from assembling good leaders, FTI has started designing policies for free India. It has recently released its draft policy on religious freedom and tolerance (also published in this magazine). Religious freedom is at the heart of the modern non-denominational free society. “Members of FTI believe that religion is a purely personal matter, not a matter for government policy”. And “FTI advocates the complete and total separation of the state and religion”. These powerful sentiments demarcate our private and public spaces and clarify the role of the state and religion. In brief, the state must not dabble in religion (and vice versa!). We invite you to provide the Team with your valuable thoughts on our draft policies. Together we can, and will, change India!
[This was my editorial in Towards a Great India, May 2009]
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