A global agenda? Sauvik Chakraverti
Thursday November 22 2007 16:49 IST The Newindpress,
The enormous prestige of the Nobel prize notwithstanding, the concerned citizen worried about the future of humanity should pause to reflect on the 'knowledge' credentials of Al Gore and the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), who share this year's peace prize.
Innumerable failures of such government-inspired 'knowledge' have occurred in the recent past — from the central economic planning of 'scientific socialism', and the centralised management of money, banking and credit of 'Keynesianism', all the way down to the 'intelligence' behind the Iraq War. Even the 'population explosion' scare which led to a UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) lies totally discredited today. From each of these failures of 'government knowledge', we the people have learnt the hard way that the personnel of government are interested not in our welfare, but in their own. The wiser citizen of today should therefore view the claims of an American politician (that too, a statist Democrat) supported by an unwieldy mass of government-sponsored scientists from all the governments of the world with deep skepticism.
Undoubtedly, this politically orchestrated scare-mongering about climate change will lead to massive funding of various government projects and, as always, wealth will be transferred from the people to their rulers, on the pretext of 'mitigating' some imaginary impending catastrophe. What is also likely is that important liberties will be lost.
Consider this: I was cruising along
The environmentalist's position on the energy debate is fatally flawed. If our poor people are to progress, they will need energy, energy and more energy. If all sources of energy are sold at competitively determined market prices, every individual energy user will choose the most cost-effective means. That is, there are serious 'economic' reasons why people use energy 'efficiently' in their own financial interest. That is why they switch off the fan or the air-conditioner whenever they leave the room.
Now, over time, some sources of energy will dry up, causing a rise in their price. This will immediately make alternatives economical, and they will be supplied, as they always have been in the past. From 'dirty' petrol we will then move to 'clean' fuel cells, and from 'dirty' gas turbines we will move on to 'clean' electricity generation using the waves of the oceans. There is no need to 'conserve' energy. History tells us that the more energy we use, the more is produced. We have moved on from firewood, charcoal, peat and whale-oil but not by conserving any of them.
Even if increased energy use in the
Thankfully, the world is possessed of at least one senior statesman opposed to the hysteria of the Al Gore-IPCC camp: Vaclav Klaus, president of the
Monday, April 27, 2009
A global agenda? Sauvik Chakraverti
Sunday, April 26, 2009
The realpolitik of India’s ‘new deal’ by Sauvik Chakraverti
Posted: 2006-07-12 00:00:00+05:30 IST
Updated: Jul 12, 2006 at 0000 hrs IST
Instead of discussing Professor Moriarty’s nonsensical economics on “employment guarantees”, we should consider what the true purpose of this massive expenditure really is. After all, Professor Moriarty is no fool. In this connection, it is useful to look back at when the socialists running
What kind of “right” is that, anyway? Work is disutility. Workers need “rights” to the fruits of their labour—which free trade alone can deliver. Further, anyone who signs a contract to work has an “obligation” to work, while it is his employer who has a “right” to make the worker perform as per contract.
The proliferation of useless rights, including “human rights,” is a marked feature of socialism. These rights are supposedly legal entitlements to things that the state must provide. In this connection, Anthony de Jasay’s Before Resorting to Politics makes a useful read, for it establishes the case for “liberties” as against “rights.” With liberties we are free to achieve our individual ends, requiring nothing from the state via “politics.” The politicisation of life, especially economic life, will cease. Jasay’s little book offers the world the pathway to total freedom, ridding us of that great curse, politics, in which Professor Moriarty excels.
When I compiled a collection of Bastiat’s best essays, I invited Professor Detmar Doering to contribute a foreword. In that foreword there is this nugget about socialist
This indeed must be the true purpose of Professor Moriarty’s scheme. To understand how “politics” in
Hundreds of trucks and buses poured into Jaipur from the surrounds carrying Vajpayee’s supporters into the city. This huge assemblage of rural folk into cities in order to demonstrate political strength is a marked feature of
• The Congress party has always bought support from individuals and groups
Indeed, the curse of “politics” combined with “socialism” and “democracy”, based on the evil “ethic” (sic) of “redistribution,” has made the Indian state a purely clientelistic affair. The Congress Party, which ruled
(Even I was once propositioned by the head of the Indian Council for Social Science Research: “How can we co-opt you?” An indecent proposal, if ever there was one.)
The Congress flag, which became the Indian flag, should be looked upon as “skull and crossbones”: the pirate’s flag. This flag started flying high after the introduction of “democracy” in local government by the British in 1919. One of the subjects transferred to the democratically elected thn was “education.” Philip Mason’s excellent book The Men Who Ruled India (in British times) says that the district collector felt his authority violated when the Congress flag flew atop the local schools. Professor Moriarty made his entry then, and he is still very keen on “educating” Indians: behold the “education cess.”
Thanks to this Congress “politics,” based on “social justice” and every other kind of ideological nonsense, every Indian city lost its civic character, and hoodlums ruled the streets. When Indira Gandhi was assassinated, Congress hoodlums took over
I conclude this essay by offering some idea of the cost of this bizarre, horrendous, corrupt and nonsensical politics in this miserably poor country. In the latest budget, the total amount of resources allocated under social welfare and subsidies amounted to 1 trillion (or 1 lakh crore) rupees: this is the equivalent of spending 1,40,000 rupees per day, every day, since the birth of Jesus Christ. This, while the per capita income barely touches 10,000 rupees.
The opportunity cost must also be noted, for this politics is the reason why there are no roads in
Holmes once said, “Rule out the impossible; whatever remains, however improbable, is the truth.” The truth is that this is a predatory state. It must follow that no parent should allow his child to be educated by Professor Moriarty.
(To those who never read Arthur Conan Doyle: Professor Moriarty was the biggest enemy of Sherlock Holmes.)
—The writer, a former police officer, is the author of Antidote: Essays Against the Socialist Indian State , and its sequel, Antidote 2: For Liberal Governance, Macmillan India.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Pathology of Civilization Walled-In Ideas We No Longer Need Economists By Sauvik Chakraverti 6 Feb 2004
Pathology of Civilization
We No Longer Need Economists
By Sauvik Chakraverti
6 Feb 2004
Our adversaries rail at us liberals for being ideological; they say we are full of empty theories. So here is a simple travelogue. For some months now, I have been living in Mangalore, an ancient city on the west coast. A 13th century Kannada poet has marvelled at the fact that as many as 38 different kinds of coinage circulated in the city’s markets then. It becomes obvious that the city owes its existence to overseas trade: At the centre of the old city is the Bunder, the port.
It is another ancient trading city that came up by the sea, like Alexandria or Venice. They were all glorious centres of civilization although there were no economists then. In modern Asia, Hong Kong and Singapore are thriving port cities and neither has produced a single economist of note. The other day I was taken to a beach just beyond the New Mangalore Port Trust. What struck was the wall. The entire port is surrounded by a 20 ft high wall.
So, because of some theory, Mangalore has moved away from having a port open for the citizens to trade, and now possesses a walled port to which citizens were denied entry. The gates to the walled port are manned by armed guards paid for by the taxpayer. Also at the taxpayer’s expense are a whole lot of customs officials who do not permit trade without prohibitive exactions. All this must be justified by reams of economic theory, for there is an economics department is St. Agnes College here, the oldest women’s college in south India. There is a Mangalore Economics Association.
Driving along the wall, I passed some towering examples of industrialisation: Nehru’s theory. A sizable amount of prime beach-side land is occupied by a phenomenally ugly public sector Iron ore exporting plant.
There is a fertiliser factory which surely survives production subsidies. So the deal between New Delhi and Mangalore is clear: We stop you trading and then we give you industrialisation. There is, at the taxpayer’s employ, an entire Indian Economic Service wedded in this theory. The wall is a bad for sailors as well. I was with a ship’s engineer when he suddenly announced his departure, saying that if he did not return by 10 p.m., he would get into trouble with the personnel manning the wall. He said that even an ordinary sailor spends at least $20 a day while ashore but here the wall keeps them on board.
Mangalore is a dream city for eating and drinking out, famous for its cuisine. The seafood is superb, and much, much cheaper than Goa. Mangalore also possesses many establishments where what is offered might be called cabaret. Surely anyone will realise that we do not need economists to know what is good for Mangalore. What sense does the wall make? The path to commercial success and the regaining of the city’s old glory should be obvious. The citizens of Mangalore should do to the wall precisely what Berliners have done to theirs. then, as with the old Bunder, they should set up a big market there. After all, didn’t God promise Jerusalem greatness by making it a mart for all nations? The mayor of New Jerusalem should issue externment orders to all the customs officials and the armed guards.
The prime land occupied by the ugly iron ore plant and the fertiliser factory ought to be seized and auctioned so that hotels, shopping malls and beach resorts take over the landscape. Within a decade, this will be India’s leading city, especially considering the fact that all the others, including Bangalore, are perishing. To unravel the sophisms in the theories justifying the wall, I recommend Frederic Bastiat, who did not have a formal education in economics, who never taught at university, and who was just a journalist and pamphleteer. In one essay he put the point across thus: there is this steel magnate in France. He sees cheap steel imports coming in from Belgium and this threatens his profits. He now has two choices. One, he can hire a posse of men and arm them with guns, with instructions to shoot anyone who brings steel into France from Belgium. But such a course is highly inadvisable.
So there is the other option: Go to Paris and pay some politician there to do it for you. He will deploy armed men at the borders at the taxpayer’s expense. And the two of them will share the profits, while the taxpayers who paid for the guards will now pay out even more for steel. After reading Bastiat I arrived at a conclusion: We don’t need the WTO; we need unilateral free trade. Get every government out of trade. And every trade economist too.
The late professor B.R. Shenoy, a classical liberal who studied under Hayek himself, was the only economist to dissent officially with Nehru, and in writing. His daughter, Sudha Shenoy, an eminent liberal economist, in a recent interview, said that nearly every economics department in the world could be shut down without having an ill-effect on the world of ideas.
Strong words indeed. She bemoaned the sad fact that economists do not study the real world of human action anymore; they are all lost in theories and models and mathematics and statistics. I entirely agree. The wall proves it.
Social science, bottom-up by Sauvik Chakraverti
Posted: Wed, Apr 22 2009. 9:00 PM IST The Livemint
There is much mystery in how human society invents words, concepts and even real things such as money.
There are two diametrically opposed methods in social science, and only one can be correct. The first, which is common, is to look upon society as a whole and then investigate the commands issued to it by The State. This is the method of central planners, and it is included in our school and college textbooks as “Indian economics”. In this approach, society is inert. Only the commands matter. Social scientists study these commands and, at best, come up with better five-year Plans.
The other approach, first enunciated by the great Viennese classical liberal economist Carl Menger in 1883, has nothing to do with commands and command structures. On the contrary, it finds something mysterious and worth investigating in human society precisely because there is so much that society accomplishes on its own, without any commands. The key question, then, in Menger’s own words, is this: “How can it be that institutions which serve the common welfare and are extremely significant for its development come into being without a ‘common will’ directed towards their establishment?” This quote is from his Investigations Into the Method of the Social Sciences, With Special Reference to Economics.
For example, languages have evolved without commands from on high. Not so long ago, “hardware” was hammer and nails and “software” did not exist. How did the word “software” come about? How is it that year after year compilers of English dictionaries are adding more and more words to the list, all of which have “gained currency” without any commands from 10 Downing Street? There are mysterious forces at work within human society, and it is these that need to be investigated by social scientists, according to the Mengerian view. If only commands and command structures mattered, there is nothing to investigate. Society is lifeless and must receive all its impulses from its rulers.
What about money? Is it the creation of kings and emperors from on high, or has money emerged spontaneously from within society itself? Did cowrie shells “gain currency” in the markets of ancient
The mischief the Keynesians made with their theories was turning money into a creature of The State.
In brief, Menger began by looking at the basic problem with barter—the “double coincidence of wants”. If you have fish and want potatoes, you must find someone who has potatoes and wants fish. If the man with potatoes wants chicken, no deal. To overcome this problem, the mind of the trading human being resorted to “indirect trade”. The central idea was to find the one commodity in the market that had the highest saleability—and exchange one’s goods for this commodity. Once this sellable commodity has been obtained, all that requires to be done is offer this same commodity to the person who is selling what you want. Thus, in the markets of ancient
Menger’s theory of the origin of money tells us that The State has no role to play in the supply of money. If society is left alone, money will emerge spontaneously out of trade. All that The State has to do is to punish fraud. Menger, it must be emphasized, was no anarchist. He was a bureaucrat in the Hapsburg administration and a true-blue classical liberal. He chaired a committee that advised the government on the gold standard. It is surely no coincidence that the word “dollar” comes from a pure gold coin issued by the Hapsburgs, the thaler, which spontaneously emerged as the most popular coin in the early days of the
All this was well before John Maynard Keynes. The mischief that the Keynesians accomplished with their theories is precisely this: They made money a creature of The State. They created “macroeconomics” as a study of the commands and manipulations of central bankers from on high. Money was no longer what people accepted in exchange; on the contrary, it became a State subject. And the Keynesians justified this with their “aggregative theories”. Instead of looking at the minds of trading men, the method of individualism, Keynesians invented the fictitious measures of “aggregate demand” and “aggregate supply”. Thus, Keynesian macroeconomics is not very different from Indian economics: Both study the plans and commands of centralized government authorities. Neither provide any conception or understanding of economic laws and principles. And this is precisely why both have failed.
To clear this mess, we must get The State out of education. As Frederic Bastiat, a classical liberal, wrote in his manifesto of 1842: “If you want to have theories, systems, methods, principles, textbooks and teachers forced on you by the government, that is up to you; but do not expect me to sign, in your name, such a shameful abdication of your rights.” He added: “The monopoly of teaching cannot reasonably be entrusted to any but an authority recognized as infallible. Otherwise, there is an unlimited risk that error be uniformly taught to the people as a whole.” So let us be optimistic. There is much we can achieve without The State.
Sauvik Chakraverti is an author and columnist. He blogs at sauvik-antidote.blogspot.com.Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, April 17, 2009
The real outlaws by Sauvik Chakraverti
The New Indian Express Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Last night, I watched Parzania, a film on the
To begin with, the idea of ‘community’ is not a political one. On the contrary, it is a social concept; that too, one that is not exclusive. All our cities and towns are peopled with a mixed match of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains and what not. They are also open to ‘friendly strangers’ from anywhere: tourists are welcome. There is regional competition for foreign tourists. What then is ‘community’? On the surface at least, it must be a far broader concept than politicians — especially religion-based politicians — would have us believe.
The great social philosopher Friedrich Hayek offers us a dazzling insight into the idea of community: ‘‘What makes a community is the common recognition of the same rules.’’ When we go about the bazaars, gainfully trading with all kinds of foreign people, we all follow certain unwritten rules. This ‘private law’ is what makes up a community. This law has not been legislated, and so is not man-made.
Rather, it is a product of social and cultural evolution, and is our inheritance from the past.
We all make private law. My rental contract with my tenant is an example. My fence along my property, and my name on the gate-post with a ‘Trespassers will be shot’ sign are further examples. I live peacefully in my ‘community’ because all my neighbours and all my tenants ‘recognise’ this private law, and abide by it. I live in
The roots of the ‘common law’ are based on the notion of separate and exclusive domains for private and public law. Till today, the King of England does not make law. This was true even among the Anglo-Saxon tribes of yore. Their ancient chieftains were warlords who never made law. When William, the
If we go through the history of the common law, we find that there was zero ‘legislation’ till modern times. Throughout their history, the purpose of parliaments has been to vote on taxation that the sovereign demanded — and nothing more. That is, neither the sovereign, nor parliament, actually made law. So who did?
Actually, no one did. Whenever there was a dispute between two people, it came up before an impartial judge who ‘found’ the facts of the case and applied his judicial mind, and his ‘sense of justice’, to it: ‘The law is not made; it is found’ was the guiding maxim. As the common law courts became the most popular avenue for justice, and the ‘legal community’ of lawyers, pleaders and so on came about, the role of the lawyers was to look into past precedents and point out to the judge as to which were in favour of their clients. The judge would either apply the precedent, or make an adjustment to it, thereby setting a new precedent, and the law would take a small step forward. This manner of decentralised law-making is an exact mirror of the decentralised decision-making individuals engage in when they trade amongst each other in markets.
The organised rioting we see in
It will then be realised that the outlaws are these very politicians, their political parties, and their corrupt and politicised police forces. Indeed, there are specific provisions in the Indian Penal Code against divisive politics, but these are not being enforced.
What then is public law? The acts of parliamentary assemblies, the public law, since Roman times, have been meant to apply to the organs of government only. These are the rules that the administrative apparatus of the government have to abide by. Today, it is these that are actually ‘lawless’, in the true sense of the word. We are therefore confronted with the classic situation in constitutional history: the people live lawful lives in the private law world, but their rulers are lawless. It is precisely under such circumstances that the English people forced their sovereign to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. ‘‘The original idea behind constitutions is that of limiting government and of requiring those who govern to conform to laws and rules,’’ says the legal scholar KC Wheare. The public law must list out the ‘duties and responsibilities’ of the district officer, the superintendent of police, the roads engineer and so on. Our socialist and absolutist constitution lists out the duties of citizens! That is why there is so much lawlessness in this country.
Parzania clearly shows that our civil communities are peaceful, inclusive and harmonious. It also shows how ugly our politics has become. We need a Magna Carta to limit politics and government. Onwards to a
This article was published in the New Indian Express on September, 06, 2007. Please read the original article here.
19 Nov 2003, 0001 hrs IST, The Times of
The judiciary is blocking
ILG is appealing against the section in the Representation of THE People Act restricting electoral competition to socialist parties. So let us attack socialist jurisprudence, for we have the longest constitution in the world but little justice.
Obviously, there is something wrong with socialist law. An economist commenting on law what cheek, the legal community will cry. I must inform them that great economists have all written on law. Adam Smith’s Lectures on Jurisprudence are a classic. Frederic Bastiat’s slim volume The Law has been published in
Let us begin by understanding the origin and purpose of law. It is because of property that law was necessary. That is, it is not because of law that property exists; it is because of property that there is law. The common law evolved to sort out disputes related to the natural right to property. Liberal judges take this as their guiding principle so let us apply it to important issues before our socialist judiciary and see what results we get.
Take, for instance, what a liberal judiciary would do if Parliament passed a law banning cow slaughter: It would simply tear up the law on the grounds that cows are private property. Each man must be free to do what he wants with his own cow and the state cannot interfere. Did any legal luminary speak this language? Now, apparently our rulers want to de-politicise Ayodhya and the issue is before the courts. What did the courts do? They asked the Archaeological Survey of India to dig up the disputed site and discover what lay underneath. Is this the application of our principle? If a temple is discovered under my house, can anyone lay claim to my property? Certainly not.
If liberal jurisprudence is applied to Ayodhya, the solution is clear and simple: There is no clear title to the site; there are various claimants, each possessed of little legitimacy; therefore, the site must be auctioned. Socialist jurisprudence is not justice. Socialists reject the natural law of property and believe that the purpose of the law (and the state) is to redistribute property. Theirs is a Robin Hood ideology but it is time we stopped looking at their legal plunder (what they call redistributive justice) as romantic.
Rent control, for example, is the only cause of slums. They have destroyed the market for cheap rentals. They do not like landlords so they created slumlords. And they did not settle disputes, the first purpose of law. Rather, they prolonged disputes. My uncle spent 20 years of his youth battling a rent control case. A long-term solution is to promote the teaching of law and economics. We have few economists in law schools all over the country. This must be tackled. As far as the short-term is concerned, there is no solution. We in
I find it amazing that Amartya Sen is recommending mid-day meals in state schools: It is a prescription to assuage physical hunger while ignoring the mind. If, in the short-term, we wake up to the fact that we are faced with a powerful, centralised, nuclearised state that is reporting multi-organ failure, then the medium-term solution would be to challenge what is being taught in economics, political science (or civics), public administration and law. Let us include liberal jurisprudence in law schools. Let us have the political value of freedom included in civics textbooks. Let us teach students of economics how wealth is created, so they value freedom and understand markets. Let us make a bonfire out of Indian economics textbooks, a bonfire of the socialist central planners’ vanities. The liberal only appeals to reason, and it is to reason that we must appeal, even if denied entry into the electoral fray.
In this way, liberalism will gain ground and someday soon we will have the critical mass necessary to re-invent every aspect of our government, including the law and the judiciary. A note of hope: We go through life, getting all our needs from the market, usually without recourse to either civil or criminal law. So we don’t need courts that badly. Second, we have a proud history of private courts in the cities run by the East India Company. Sir Elijah Impey was a great EIC judge. With sound jurisprudence, simple law, and a short constitution, we can have freedom as well as justice.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Demystifying Knowledge by Sauvik Chakraverti
Friday, April 10, 2009 Liberty Institute,
The market economy functions on the basis of what Friedrich Hayek called the “fragmentation of knowledge.” We not only trade goods; we also trade knowledge. This has serious implications for Education, especially that of poor kids. They need hope and encouragement. They should be told that they need to learn one thing only – and that they must find a real guru for the purpose. This will give them the inner strength they need. Free schools and mid-day meals offer no hope, no strength and no real knowledge either, writes Sauvik Chakraverti for the Liberty Institute.
That all our opinion makers, without exception, consented to Manmohan Singh’s “education cess” is a sign of their fatal ignorance. It means that they all agree not only that The State is in possession of knowledge, but that they must be given the resources to transmit this vital knowledge to the children of the poor. Their central proposition is that the children of the poor cannot survive without injections of knowledge from The State.
Note how this thinking fits in neatly with central economic planning, which Manmohan Singh champions, and which is also based on the assumption that The State can centralize knowledge and thereby “plan” all economic activity: “rational socialism.” Manmohan and Montek are busy putting an 11th Five Year Plan into effect. And this planning includes “education.” But do they possess the Knowledge that poor children need to succeed in the market economy?
The market economy functions on the basis of what Friedrich Hayek called the “fragmentation of knowledge.” Each and every person who trades in the market economy does so with a tiny fragment of knowledge all his own. We not only trade goods; we also trade knowledge. This knowledge is in many cases uncodifiable, and cannot be transmitted through books and classrooms – like how to drive a taxi, how to play a violin (a fretless instrument) or how to harvest coconuts. This has serious implications for Education, especially that of poor kids.
The first implication is this: the children of the poor need just one fragment of knowledge in order to succeed in the market economy. But the schooling system that has been unleashed on them is generalized, and myriad bewildering “subjects” are being taught. Such generalized education is of no use to poor kids. Rather, it is a burden. This is why they themselves prefer to opt out of schools – hence the high “dropout rate.” The State is trying to reverse this by offering free meals in schools. Yet, this is simply pouring good money after bad. We might as well close down the schools and open up government kitchens everywhere to feed the kids. This would save money; it would also leave the kids with enough free time during which they could pursue the acquisition of real knowledge – that which will enable them to succeed in market trades – by apprenticing themselves with motor mechanics, tailors, goldsmiths, beauticians, carpenters, weavers, chefs, musicians and the like.
In other words, there is no “knowledge problem” that requires State action to solve. Real knowledge is transmitted through people who practise various trades. And the fragments of knowledge that each individual needs are – with progress – getting smaller every day. In an earlier age, a village child would need to know the crops and the seasons, how to build a mud house, how to look after and milk cows, and so much more. In the modern world, a child needs only to know how to do one thing well, like play the guitar. If he succeeds as a musician in a city, he can hire a cook, a chauffeur, an architect. He can rely on the fragments of knowledge that others possess.
Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh are therefore dead wrong when they say that The State must have a major role to play in the education of our kids – and that too, in a closed economy. If the economy were open, more knowledge would be available for all. A kid who has learnt how to be a motor mechanic can now learn how to repair a Mercedes. Free international trade, which Manmohan’s anti-commerce minister, Kamal Nath, doggedly opposes, would bring in more useful knowledge than all the government schools put together. Sen and Singh believe in central planning and state education in a closed economy. Theirs is a prescription for disaster.
Indeed, this disaster is already upon us. If we look around, we will find that we are suffering most in all those areas where The State has a monopoly – like electricity, roads and water, the bijli, sadak aur paani that all our people are crying out for. Whatever is “planned” is a failure. Why should government schools be any different?
The conclusion: The State is an ignoramus. It does not possess any worthwhile knowledge. All government schools, colleges and universities should be closed down. All government teachers should be fired. They are all, in any case, propagandists on behalf of The State. Schoolteachers in villages are all political party hangers-on. That is why every chief minister is only too happy to hire lakhs and lakhs of “teachers” – all party workers. What do they know that they presume they can teach?
I think it would be a great idea for The State to open a school on road traffic management. But even for this simple subject, it would need to import professors from abroad. The Indian police and the Indian PWD do not possess this knowledge. In this simple area too, basic to its own functions, the
What poor children really need is hope and encouragement. They should be told that they need to learn one thing only – and that they must find a real guru for the purpose. They should be told that this is not a hugely uphill task. They should be told stories of the innumerable people who have become rich and famous without going through formal education – from Bill Gates and Dhirubhai Ambani to The Beatles to the chaatwallahs of
Friedrich Hayek titled his last book Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. We in
Note: A shorter version of this article was published in the magazine Education World in April 2009.
This article was published in the
Author : Mr Chakraverti is the author of "Antidote: Essays Against the Socialist Indian State" and its sequel, "Antidote 2: For Liberal Governance". He blogs at www.sauvik-antidote.blogspot.com.
Fatal conceit of ignorant State by Sauvik Chakraverti
All Indian opinion makers, without exception, consented to prime minister Manmohan Singh’s ‘education cess’ imposed by the Central government upon all income tax payers in 2004. This is a sign of fatal ignorance. It means that they all agree not only that the State is in possession of knowledge, but that it must be given the resources to transmit this vital knowledge to children of the poor. Their central proposition is that poor children cannot survive without injection of knowledge from the State. Yet does the State possess the knowledge that poor children need to succeed in the emerging market economy?
The market economy functions on the basis of what Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek termed the “fragmentation of knowledge”. Each and every person who works in a market economy does so with a tiny fragment of knowledge all his own. We not only trade goods; we also trade knowledge. This knowledge is in many cases uncodifiable, and cannot be transmitted through books and classrooms — like how to drive a taxi, how to play a violin (a fretless instrument) or how to harvest coconuts. This marketplace reality has deep implications for education, especially of poor children.
The first implication is this: children of the poor need just one fragment of knowledge to succeed in a market economy. But the schooling system that has been imposed upon them is generalised, and myriad bewildering ‘subjects’ are taught. Such generalised education is of no use to poor children. On the contrary it’s a burden. This is why they prefer to opt out of school — the high ‘dropout rate’. The State is trying to reverse this by offering free mid-day meals in schools. Yet, this is simply pouring in good money after bad. We might as well close down government schools and open government kitchens everywhere to feed children. This would save money, and it would leave children with enough free time during which they could pursue the acquisition of real knowledge — which will enable them to succeed in the market economy — by apprenticing themselves with motor mechanics, tailors, goldsmiths, beauticians, carpenters, weavers, chefs, musicians and the like.
In other words, there is no ‘knowledge problem’ that requires State action to resolve. Real knowledge is transmitted through people who practise various trades.� In an earlier age, a village child would need to know about crops and seasons, how to build a mud house, how to look after and milk cows, and much more. In the modern world, a child needs only to know how to do one thing well, like play the guitar. If he succeeds as a musician in a city, he can hire a cook, a chauffeur, an architect. He can rely on the fragments of knowledge that others possess.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and his protege Manmohan Singh are therefore dead wrong when they say that the State must have a major role to play in the education of our children — and that too, in a closed economy. If the economy were open, more knowledge would be available for all. A child who has learnt how to be a motor mechanic could learn how to repair a Mercedes Benz motorcar. Free international trade, which Manmohan’s anti-commerce minister, Kamal Nath, doggedly opposes, would bring in more useful knowledge than all government schools put together. Sen and Singh believe in central planning and state education in a closed economy. This is a prescription for disaster.
Indeed, this disaster is already upon us. If we look around, we will find that we are suffering most in all the areas where the State has a monopoly — electricity, roads and water, the bijli, sadak aur pani that all people are crying for. Whatever is ‘planned’ is a failure. Why should government schools be any different?
The conclusion: the state is an ignoramus. it does not possess any worthwhile knowledge. All government schools, colleges and universities should be closed down. All government teachers should be sacked. They are all, in any case, propagandists on behalf of the State. Schoolteachers in villages are political party hangers-on. That is why every chief minister is only too happy to hire lakhs of ‘teachers’ — all party workers. What do they know to presume they can teach?
What poor children really need is hope and encouragement. They should be told that they need to learn enough for just one vocation — and they must find a real guru for the purpose. They should be informed this is not a huge, uphill task, and their inspiration should come from stories of the innumerable people who have become rich and famous without going through formal school education — from Bill Gates, Dhirubhai Ambani and the Beatles to the chaatwallahs of
Friedrich Hayek titled his last book Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism. We in
(Sauvik Chakraverti is an author and journalist closely associated with