Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A tribute to Arthur Seldon ...

In the (UK) Telegraph. Via Relapsed Catholic.
The creed was capitalism, a concept about which Seldon wrote his most distinguished book in 1990, and which had been under sustained assault for much of the 20th century. Seldon's work begins with this typically unapologetic statement: "Capitalism requires not defence but celebration. Its achievement in creating high and rising living standards for the masses without sacrificing personal liberty speaks for itself. Only the deaf will not hear and the blind will not see."

If anything, Seldon understated his point. Not only did capitalism raise living standards without sacrifice of personal liberty: it also guaranteed it. Capitalism has nothing to do with its caricature of oppressed workers enslaved to big bosses and exploited by them. Markets, which are the metaphysical temples in which the creed is practised, bring together buyers and sellers of goods and labour, and allow them the freedom to exercise their will about what, or what not, to buy and sell.

If the point is still not clear, then think of how the alternative system operates: a denial of the right to buy and own private property, labour indentured to the state, the state assuming the role of the private individual and his family and, fundamentally, the borders of such countries sealed to try to prevent the forces of freedom getting in, and the genuinely enslaved people getting out.
It seems that the Chinese communist party understands this somewhat (even as they still operate an incredibly repressive regime). Their counterparts in democratic India are simply risible. The only Communists to win elections democratically (and lose them too), they still tenaciously cling to the illusions of Marxist dialectic (except, it seems, when they're ruling, as in West Bengal, and all the horrifically capitalist reforms the state government has implemented there), and now having a lever with the national government (they support the coalition from outside) delight in being, what we would say in Hindi, kabab mein haddi, "bone in the kebab" or stick in the mud.

Back to the article:
In this spirit, and at the start of his book, he quoted his mentor and friend Friedrich von Hayek: "If we ask what men most owe to the moral practices of those who are called capitalists the answer is: their very lives... most of the Western proletariat, and most of the millions of the developing world, owe their existence to opportunities that advanced countries have created for them. Communist countries such as Russia would be starving today if their populations were not kept alive by the Western world."
One of my reading resolutions this year is to get some Hayek under the belt. As well as Adam Smith.

And here's a great book that I recommend to all, which really got me hot on things economic (well, being the son of two economists also helps :)).

3 comments:

Vinayak said...

Hi !

That was an interesting post.

Your blog lead me to think of India, Hinduism and India's image in the world arena.

Communists, Indian Leftists and their cohorts seem to be attacking and maligning Indians regularly. They want Indian Civilization look like a bride burning civilization

To counter this, do Indians have organizations that promote India in the International arena, that boost our public image ?

India, a multicultural society, contributed immensely to Right livelihood (say our Dharma), Knowledge (right from Ship Building, Sashtras to Mathematics, Avaita), and political science (Arthashashtra for e.g.), medicine (ayurveda) over 2 millennium

However, thanks to the invasions, colonial legacy and partially our own disunity, Indians were stuck with a "..curry and snake charmers image .." for a 100 years. Even now, we seemed to have shaken that thanks to Info Tech and IT pros.

Be it politics or social issues, Why do Indians whip ourselves in public ? Look at the Ramdev Issue. We don't need Witzels and outsiders to smear us

Are we turning into a self hating civilization or is our media Left and anti Indian ?

More at
What is happening to the Kanchi Acharya ?

Gudia, a Muslim girl and Ramdev ji, a Hindu male !!

or

http://tinyurl.com/8nn3q

Vinayak

Gashwin said...

Vinayak -- thanks for stopping by. I'm afraid I'm not familiar with any of the stories that you reference.

My beef with the Indian communists is precisely their communism, i.e. their economic policy. In other areas, I would happily claim the label of Indian-leftist: if that means someone who believes in secularism (in the Indian understanding of the term, not the western Christian usage), i.e. a separation of religion and government, classic liberalism, individual rights, democracy and so on.

Though, I guess the one thing I'd agree with the BJP on is the need for a uniform civil code.

Other than that, if I could vote back in India, I'd vote for Congress. Simply because I cannot stand the BJP, especially because of the right-wing groups allied to the party, specifically the Bajarang Dal, the VHP, the RSS and most of all, the Shiv Sena.

I completely disagree with the very basic tenets of Hinduism, that would conflate a very narrow modern reading of "Hindu" with Indian identity in general.

As to India's image: well, yes, of course we must not defame our native country. But, I'm not really a nationalist. In the sense that historical objectivity should be sacrificed at the altar of nationalism, and historical revisionism (another favorite tactic of the Sangh Parivar in the states it rules).

A healthy debate, that is civil and respectful for sure, is a sign of a healthy democracy. (And, if Amartya Sen is to be believed, has been part of the Indian psyche for millenia).

The snake-charmers and bride-burning image is as much a construct of the West, as it of Indians. I generally tend to distrust propoganda, so I don't know if Indians as a whole should (or can) have a united, concerted effort to project a particular image to the world. These things happen organically, without anyone's control really. Though, in theory, I wouldn't be opposed to an Indian version of the ADL. As long as it was Indian and not just Hindu.

And, let me add: yes, I'm sure there are men who are trapped by the anti-dowry laws. This does not invalidate the need for those laws, but calls for a better enforcement of them. I really don't buy the Indian equivalent of "save the males" rhetoric.

Gashwin said...

Whoops --- major typo up there --- I meant, "completely disagree with the major tenets of Hindutva, not Hinduism! Sorry!