Some of you might know I'm in India at the moment on an unexpected and unplanned visit in the peak holiday season, at very significant personal expense.
The reason was that FTI has been trying to work with all organisations, including Arvind's AAP, but very few have bothered to listen to FTI's message of good governance. But suddenly both IAC and Swami Ramdev were listening.
FTI, based on the classical liberal tradition (which matches very well with India's ancient system of governance outlined in Arthashastra) believes in a minimal role for government. It believes that the government is our night watchman and umpire. Its job is security and justice. These are first order functions.
Thereafter the government can do a few more things if necessary (second order functions): some infrastructure, education for the poor, and health for the poor.
Virtually all other roles are unnecessary but if absolutely required in order to protect security, a light handed regulatory touch can be provided to support citizens in their free enterprises which are conducted responsibly.
The key to freedom is ACCOUNTABILITY. There is no freedom to harm.
But it is critical that people be allowed to make their own mistakes and learn from them. The government should not interfere in ANY social matter unless direct harm is caused to others.
As John Stuart Mill said:
"The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise, or even right… The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he is amenable to society, is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign."
But even JS Mill thought that Indians were not ready for freedom because such freedom requires a minimal level of consciousness.
I disagree. I believe that the ONLY way to learn is to make mistakes.
George Bush was a drunkard and alcoholic. Only then did he try to reform himself. After treatment with Alcoholics Anonymous he became a teetotaller. And President of USA.
Unless a person has committed suicide there is still an opportunity for society to step in and assist him or her in reform. That is the meaning of freedom: the freedom to make mistakes. Only suicide is a problem since it is an IRREVERSIBLE mistake. All other mistakes can be corrected through social action and education. That means that even Indians have the right to learn from their mistakes. To say that they don't have such a right would amount to promoting an Imperial or Colonial or Aristocratic position. Such a position is incompatible with Equal Liberty and democracy.
I'm here because both Anna's team and Swami Ramdev's team have expressed some desire to engage with FTI. I've been busy talking to both these groups, and have returned from Haridwar only recently (with a plan to visit once again). FTI's goal is to assist India in finding good leaders for ALL elections. Although FTI is very weak at the moment (only about 150 odd members with only about 60-70 active members), and therefore its members can't directly contest elections meaningfully, I'm happy for FTI to work with like minded groups and people.
The only condition to talk to me is one: TOTAL INTEGRITY. Thereafter, we'll talk policy. Thereafter we'll talk strategy. Thereafter FTI can assist or collaborate with other organsations in some form or shape (like we've been doing with Lok Satta – which FTI members are encouraged to join if they wish). Some members of FTI have even joined AAP, but I hope their main goal is to show Arvind Kejriwal and his team the value of liberty (with accountability) and the key role of government.
Baba Ramdev is an excellent gentleman with total integrity and great personal qualities (e.g. humility, intellectual capacity, flexibility). He has appreciated my message of economic liberty through his speech. Indeed, he requested me to even share his platform and speak about my vision for India. That speech was then aired by Aastha channel and I've received tens of emails as a result.
Two days ago I also shared the platform with him at Jantar Mantar to speak about the basic roles of government – particularly security and justice, which is so weak in in India. I believe we taught our young IAS officers good governance methods at the Academy, and I'd hope that they will all work harder to ensure that, in India.
I've requested my speech to be uploaded on youtube. When that happens, I'll share the link.
I'm 99 per cent convinced that Swami Ramdev is a genuine well wisher of India, and extremely honest. I'm trying to work on a due diligence process so I'm 100 per cent clear.
There are some policy differences but he broadly supports economic liberty. On social matters he is less supportive of liberty, but even there he doesn't see a major role for government.
I'll visit Hardiwar again to ensure that due diligence processes are undertaken that can satisfy me. Only then can I or FTI engage in any collaboration with Swami Ramdev's group.
Indeed where matters of public interest are involved, we need people who are 100 per cent authentic in every way. Not ONE iota of doubt should be entertained by anyone.
Also, I'm totally convinced that Swami Ramdev is NOT communal, and is dead against the caste system as well. He has thousands of Muslims employed in his social enterprises, and wants ALL Indians to do well.
He also opposes any "Hindu" who engages in violence or destruction of any sort. Not a fan of BJP is he, and he is fully aware of the significant corruption engaged in by BJP. He believes in the broad Vedic tradition which my father often writes about. I've no issues with Hinduism in the form practiced by my father and mother. I've never heard them speak derogatively of ANY caste or religion, nor heard them even remotely encourage violence against anyone.
I studied in DAV College Jullundur and have no objection to a religious approach that promotes science and modern learning, even as it seeks to preserve its key values.
Such clarity is important before I or FTI can collaborate in any way with Swami Ramdev and his team. I'm becoming increasingly convinced, but will explore further on a second forthcoming visit.
If you found this post useful, then consider subscribing to my blog by email: