After hearing Karl Marx's unfavourable views of British rule in India (formed towards the end of the East India Company's rule in India), we can now listen to Adam Smith's views, formed when the Company was in its early days of political advance. Smith felt that the board of directors of the Company was indifferent to the condition of India, and therefore unfit to govern India:
Frequently a man of great, sometimes even a man of small fortune, is willing to purchase a thousand pounds' share in India stock merely for the influence which he expects to acquire by a vote in the court of proprietors. It gives him a share, though not in the plunder, yet in the appointment of the plunderers of India; the court of directors, though they make that appointment, being necessarily more or less under the influence of the proprietors, who not only elect those directors, but sometimes overrule the appointments of their servants in India.
Provided he can enjoy this influence for a few years, and thereby provide for a certain number of his friends, he frequently cares little about the dividend, or even about the value of the stock upon which his vote is founded. About the prosperity of the great empire, in the government of which that vote gives him a share, he seldom cares at all. No other sovereigns ever were, or, from the nature of things, ever could be, so perfectly indifferent about the happiness or misery of their subjects, the improvement or waste of their dominions, the glory or disgrace of their administration, as, from irresistible moral causes, the greater part of the proprietors of such a mercantile company are, and necessarily must be. [Source - my copy of Smith's WON]
Why did Smith not think it to be a good idea for the governance of people to be vested in a commercial undertaking?
Because a company would not care for
(a) the happiness of its subjects,
(b) the improvement of its dominions, or
(c) the glory of its administration.
These three, then, can be thought of as the natural functions of the government.
Smith did not show why these things are functions of the government. Not being a social contract nor natural rights theorist like John Locke, he was a practical man who saw the role of government in practical terms. In some ways he was a precursor of the utilitarians.
Came across an interesting hypothesis in a FB note. He argues that Indians have a "transactional" culture and therefore Indians have rarely fought - preferring instead to buy and sell kingdoms.
Is this true?
[Addendum: Corrigendum dated 15 August 2011. Sharad Bailur, to whom I erroneously attributed this hypothesis initially, has clarified: "Please go to my Note and read it carefully. All I have done is quote an e-mail I got from my brother. This is not my original writing. Second even my brother got it from somewhere else. So attributing the view to me or even to my brother is not correct. ... I quoted it merely in order to elicit a discussion."]
Also, could those who know about history please tell me whether such things are unique to India (as this view suggests). I suspect there would be many examples in the world where kingdoms were bought and sold, not just in India. Where such things did not happen, I suspect there would need to have been "fervour" – religious, nationalistic, or egotistic.
Second, the fact that rulers are treacherous does not mean that citizens are treacherous so these things do not represent the entire country. Corrupt actions among the powerful do not imply a corrupt national culture. Just because the rulers of independent India are THOROUGHLY corrupt does not mean that Indians have a corrupt culture. Instead, these actions confirm that incentives matter. It also confirms why there is so much corruption in India today – because we have our incentives all wrong.
In sum, I suspect that this hypothesis is not valid, although I'd welcome your thoughts.
Indian history tells of the capture of cities and kingdoms after guards were paid off to open the gates, and commanders paid off to surrender.This is unique to India… !!!Indians' corrupt nature has meant limited warfare on the subcontinent. It is striking how little Indians have actually fought compared to ancient Greece and modern Europe.The Turks’ battles with Nadir Shah were vicious and fought to the finish.In India fighting wasn't needed, bribing was enough to see off armies.Any invader willing to spend cash could brush aside India’s kings, no matter how many tens of thousands soldiers were in their infantry.Little resistance was given by the Indians at the “Battle” of Plassey. Clive paid off Mir Jaffar and all of Bengal folded to an army of 3,000.There was always a financial exchange to taking Indian forts. Golconda was captured in 1687 after the secret back door was left open.Mughals vanquished Marathas and Rajputs with nothing but bribes.The Raja of Srinagar gave up Dara Shikoh’s son Sulaiman to Aurangzeb after receiving a bribe.There are many cases where Indians participated on a large scale in treason due to bribery.Question is: Why Indians have a transactional culture while other 'civilized' nations don't?
Came across this here. Ambedkar's views on this matter:
What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Gohri to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki Kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors. When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh Kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.