I find myself agreeing with many things Chanakya wrote (if these are taken broadly, not precisely: e.g. when he says that Ministers must be paid 800 times more than the lowest government functionary, I'm considering the broad recommendation to pay Ministers well, not the precise figure of 800).
Policies on which I agree with Chanakya
This is purely illustrative.
1. There must be a state. [This rules out any form of anarchy.]
2. The king /ruler must be strong and powerful. [This is absolutely crucial, in order to provide stability, security, and peace.]
3. Maintaining law and order is a key function of the government. Chankya said, "Government by Rule of Law, which alone can guarantee security of life and welfare of the people, is, in turn, dependent on the self-discipline of the king".
4. The government must be minimal (taxes must not be too high or too little).
5. Taxes must include income tax (he opposed a lump sum poll tax. I agree).
When there was no order in society and only the law of the jungle prevailed, people [were unhappy and being desirous of order] made Manu, the son of Vivasvat, their king; and they assigned to the king one-sixth part of the grains grown by them, one-tenth of other com-modities and money. The king then used these to safeguard the welfare of his subjects. Those who do not pay fines and taxes take on them¬selves the sins of kings, while kings who do not look after the wel¬fare of the people take on themselves the sins of their subjects
6. Income tax should have some level of proportionality built into it:
Kautilya suggested a graduated tax (although only during an emergency but on top of the existing income tax, which was one-sixteenth of the produce) on land holdings according to the yield from them. He suggested that the king “should demand a third or a fourth part of the grains from a region, whether big or small in size, that is not dependent on rains and yields abundant crops; from a middling or inferior one, according to yield.
7. The government must remove obstacles to economic growth ("remove all obstructions to economic activity"). This will result in wealth. ("In the absence of fruitful economic activity, both current prosperity and future growth are in danger of destruction. A king can achieve the desired objectives and abundance of riches by undertaking productive economic activity").
8. To ensure high quality advice from men of integrity, Ministers must be paid very well, but then held to account. Punishment for corruption must be sharp and swift. Those who bribed under duress – and complain to an investigating offer – should be reimbursed their costs.
9. The treasury must not just be balanced, it must be in significant surplus.
10. There should be detailed accounts of all government expenditure (accountability).
11. The government must invest significantly in infrastructure [e.g. state should have good roads and waterways; roads are essential for national security as well as for promoting commercial activities; and ports, etc.]. Not more than 25 per cent of all government expenditure must go on salaries.
12. People must work hard and strive to become rich ["Wealth will slip away from that childish man who constantly consults the stars"].
13. Trade must be promoted, and foreign traders given shelter.
14. Prohibition doesn't solve problems. Regulation does (e.g. alcohol, prostitution, gambling).
15. There shall be a social minimum (in my view, as part of social insurance). Chanakya said: "King shall maintain, at state expense, children, the old, the destitute, those suffering from adversity, childless women and the children of the destitute women".
Policies on which I differ with Chanakya
1. Chankya allowed for some government production (e.g. monopoly over alcohol). I disagree with ANY state production. Anyway, even where a government does decide to produce something, it must ensure profitability. That would have definitely been Chanakya's approach – thus being totally inimical to Nehru's loss making public enterprises. Chankya would have OPPOSED SOCIALISM TOOTH AND NAIL.
2. Chankya does get involved in setting wages and some prices. This is unnecessary and should be left free to markets.
3. Chanakya believes that happiness of citizens should be a goal for the king. In my view, liberty of citizens should be the goal. Free people can work out their own happiness.
That's it for now. More later. I'll keep adding to this blog post.
Much of this material will find its way into the Hindu Capitalism book project.
Chanakya exhorts India to be wealthy and work hard to achieve goals.
I'm amazed at the advanced thinking of Kautilya. In the West, the systematic regulation of prostitution (which was brushed under the carpet in the past) has occurred only very recently (for instance, the state of Victoria in Australia legislated the Sex Work Act only in 1994).
India, on the other hand, had a well-regulated prostitution system 2300 years ago.
My father keeps suggesting that Hinduism should go back to the Vedas. Indeed, I believe there is much that modern India can learn from its past, particularly from its greatest (Mauryan) empire.
I'm not suggesting that we should follow these texts verbatim, but there is undoubtedly much value in their spirit of innovation and freedom.
Unfortunately, Victorian prudishness coupled with socialist policy has led to a rapid spread of AIDS in India. More than anything else today we need realism, not utopia.
The answer is classical liberalism which includes appropriate regulation.
I am providing below a few extracts from Rangarajan's famous translation of Arthashastra on the subject of prostitution. Time permitting, I'll comment on the HUGE difference between Chankya's policies and what socialist India has followed.
I'd like to know what Baba Ramdev or Anna Hazare, the great paragons of Indian "culture", have to say on Chankya's MODERN approach to civilised society.
Extracts from Arthashastra
COURTESANS, PROSTITUTES AND BROTHELS
On many matters, the approach of Anna Hazare is at loggerheads with Chankya's (Kautilya).
Chankya is India's MOST RESPECTED ancient thinker and philosopher who not only wrote India's most famous book, but also built the world's largest kingdom of the ancient world (the Mauryan empire was FAR GREATER than the Roman empire). Hazare has not written a single book (to the best of my knowledge).
Chankya was not a man preached non-violence but he would NEVER have beaten anyone with an army belt. Chankya was too intelligent for such low level thuggery. And he would have ensured that anyone with Anna Hazare's violent tendencies would have been brought to book.
Here's a nice PDF summary of Kautliya's society. Very short. Do read it.
I'm going to provide a few extract from Rangarajan's famous translation of Arthashastra. First I'll discuss alcohol. Then prostitution.
Finally, when time permits, I'll discuss the HUGE difference between Chanakya and Anna Hazare. I would challenge Anna Hazare to try to beat Chankya with an army belt and see the consequences.
Extracts from Arthashastra
The following kinds of alcoholic drinks were made—medaka from rice, prasanna from barley flour, asava from sugarcane juice, maireya from jaggery, madhu from grape juice and arishtas for medicinal purposes [2.25.16,21]. Many varieties of liquor were made. The basic types were: sara and kinva. From kinva, another liquor made from fermented bean pulp, two kinds of sura could be made. These were then flavoured with different spices or fruit juices. A type of liquor was made without using kinva by fermenting wood apple or bark, mixed with jaggery or honey. Grape wine was also consumed. The complete list of all types, along with recipes for making, clarifying and flavouring them is given in Appendix 10.
‘These shall have many rooms, with beds and seats in separate places. The drinking rooms shall be made pleasant in all seasons by providing them with perfumes, flowers and water’ [2.25.11].
[Since the trade measure for liquids was 6.25% smaller than the revenue measure (in which liquor manufactured or bought in from private manufacturers was measured), for every litre of liquor sold 62.5 millilitres of liquor should have been in stock. On the other hand, the customer was entitled to 1/50th or 2% for all liquids sold by measure as sticking allowance; hence, the surplus stock would actually been only 42.5 millilitres.Thus, the stock verification of each kind of liquor was to be calculated according to this formula:Closing stock = Opening stock - quantity sold + transaction tax -sticking allowance.The money to be accounted for by the vintner was the sale price multiplied by the quantity sold at the trade measure for each kind of liquor.The net profit was:Net profit = Sale realisation - cost of production of liquor manufactured by the Crown - 95 % of the sale realisation on private liquor paid to private manufacturers - wages and other expenses.Since the retail outlets had to maintain daily accounts, the Chief Controller was obliged to submit the accounts for a given month before the end of the following month; if he failed to do so, he was fined 200 panas for each month’s delay [2.7.26,27] in V.iii.]