Columns by Sauvik Chakraverti: Antidote Do we need socialism? Newindpress on Sunday
Classical liberals of 18th and 19th century Europe and America would be horrified by the idea of a ‘welfare state as a facet of democracy.’ To them, the great idea was Liberty for all — especially the poor. It was held that people are diversely gifted and only in a liberal, free market order could each find his ‘just deserts.’ And since that is a competitive struggle for all, along with Liberty came Self-Help. Samuel Smiles’ eponymous volume was a classic of its times, selling 20,000 copies in its first year alone. Self-Help was kept next to the Bible in every Victorian home, an aspect of Victorian morality all too easily forgotten today, thanks to welfare statism in the west, and its culture of dependency. (Incidentally, Liberty Institute has republished the book in India.)
Liberty and Self-Help were the two pillars of classical liberalism, especially among the poor. That is why the first ‘mass movement’ in British history was the one for free trade in the 1830s, led by Richard Cobden and his Manchester Free Trade League, in which the working classes eagerly participated. Socialism was not even on the horizon then. The ‘welfare state’ is a product of the 20th century, that too, after the second World War. It has indeed become a ‘facet of democracy’ in several western nations, but not a good facet. The welfare state is the darling of ‘tax-borrow-print-and-spend politics’ that is funded by Keynesian fiat money, that sustains a vast ‘spending bureaucracy’ and subsidises an underclass that is increasingly work-resistant. Yet, even in these countries, there are parties and political leaders that oppose welfare statism — like the Tories did under Margaret Thatcher.
In a truly liberal order, it is unthinkable that every party must swear by the welfare state. But the situation in India is far worse, and there are good reasons to believe that the Chief Justice’s conception of a good society, if ever allowed to come into fruition, will spell disaster for the nation and its people...
If India is to regain her lost glory, socialism must be dumped and her people encouraged to help themselves. Indians are known to be hard working. The new definition of socialism offered by the CJI is patronising and impractical; and it will not lead to the ‘welfare’ of the poor. A liberal party opposed to socialism must be allowed to attract the mind of the smart Indian voter.
The writer is the author of Antidote: Essays Against the Socialist Indian State and its sequel, Antidote2: For Liberal Governance
Others. Holmes rolls in Goa . My 115th dream . ‘Competition is liberty’ . When freedom comes first . A global agenda? . A huge slum? . Role of the Indian Left . The real outlaws . A natural social order . The purpose of politics . Building a merchant ship . A politics to end politics . Raising the civic sword . A natural order exists . Riches for the poor . The real apes . Bureaucrats and chairocrats . End to central planning . The scourge of math . A teenage wasteland . Real histories, please . Knowledge: why less is more . A case for liberalism . The big catch out there! . The navel and the WTO antidote