Alternative Nation The Public Administration of Anarchy by Sauvik Chakraverti
Published in the Times of India on 25/04/2002
Statism has failed both India and Pakistan. The future of both nations lies in a completely free market with free immigration. This is perfectly Islamic. The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, was a free trader. The Islamic calendar starts on the date of migration from Mecca to Medina. Islam is based on free trade as well as free immigration. These are also in total agreement with the basic tenets of the Hindu faith which said Shubh Laabh, or profits are auspicious, aeons before Adam Smith laid down the philosophical foundations of modern capitalism. The Hindus also said that the four ends of Man are dharma, artha, kama, moksha. We can all happily and unitedly reject statism and opt for a vast free market. Both nations can reject the Hobbesian Leviathan together – that which has brought ruin, degradation, poverty and corruption to one of the most beautiful places on the planet, peopled by a deeply moral people.
The question does arise: Does anarcho-capitalism have a public administration? To answer that, let us imagine a scenario when there is no state, when there are no rulers, and let us think of ‘what’ and ‘where’ we will have to ‘organise’ things? We will feel the need for collective action mainly in our cities and towns, where people are densely crowded. We will scarcely need any organisation in scantily populated villages. This means that we will have to set up sound municipal organisations.
Now, contrast this with the socialist state’s public administration. Socialist India does not possess a single properly functioning municipality other than the NDMC which services the VVIP class. All talk about local government relates to panchayati raj, as though villages are in need of government. What villages and villagers need most of all is good connections to urban markets. Without roads, panchayati raj is just clientelism of the most perverted kind. As Arundhati Roy says: India does not live in her villages; India dies in her villages.
Hence, if we abolish the state, we will think up a far better alternative system of social organisation based on our needs. We will have municipalities that will focus on garbage collection, traffic regulation and the provision and upkeep of urban roads of good quality: because we will need just these services and nothing more. Today, municipalities run schools! Tomorrow, these municipalities can be run by just a handful of honest public spirited public functionaries, who can ‘contract-out’ the work to competing private firms. In this way, we can build an India and Pakistan of some 600 free trading cities.
This will be the best thing that can be done for our villagers. Urbanisation will allow them to find niches in the market economy and reduce dependence on agriculture. Today, the share of agriculture in GDP is declining; but more people are dependent on it. Poverty is the inevitable result. With urbanisation, rural India will depopulate, reducing pressures on land. Agriculture will commercialise. There will be no need for land reforms. Mere property rights will suffice.
Now, in public administration, as in management, there is no one correct method of organisation. With 600 free trading cities, each can experiment with laws, rules, and systems. This will allow for diversity. Thus, there can be towns like Haridwar where it is illegal to consume alcohol or eat meat but it is perfectly legal to smoke a chillum of hashish. The US local government scenario presents us such a view: the system is not uniform. There is strong mayor-weak council; weak mayor-strong council; there are city managers. The same can be allowed in India. Let the ants decide how to run their anthills. Thereafter, free immigration will force the municipalities to compete for tax-paying citizens. If Karachi offers better public goods at lower taxes than Bombay, it will prosper as more people flock there.
In this scenario, politics will be restricted to the polis, as it rightly should. There will no longer be the politics of empire: no New Delhi lording over Kohima, Kargil, and Kanyakumari. There will also be no small imperialists either: like Kolkata lording over Darjeeling, or Patna over Muzaffarpur, or Mumbai over Pune. It will be each to his own. Without the politics of empire, and without the economics of statism, it can safely be predicted that there will be very little need for collective action on a national level. Inter-city expressways can be provided by the private sector. Without statism in India and Pakistan there would be very little need for a large defence establishment. In either case, cities can contribute to a fund to finance a small force for the region for emergencies. Today, the defence establishment is hopelessly corrupt. After Bofors and Tehelka, the socialist state cannot be trusted to handle even national defence honestly.
Now, cities are not self-sufficient. They procure their needs from outside. Cities have ‘footprints’. In anarcho-capitalism, rural roads will be provided because this will be in the interest of the cities. It is said that every great city sits like a giant spider on its transportational network. Socialists have reduced our cities to blobs of jelly on the map. Tomorrow, reason will prompt us to build nimble spiders, so that the maximum amount of trade can take place at the least cost of both money as well as time. Today, our trucks do 250 km a day compared with 600 km a day in the rest of the world.
The poor will prosper in anarcho-capitalism. With 600 free trading cities, there will be plenty space for hawkers, who are a hounded lot today. Without rent control, there will be no slums; instead there will be a vibrant market for cheap rentals. Any poor villager will be able to opt for a city or town of his choice, shift, and rent a room with a toilet. Urban overcrowding will end as more land is colonised by roads. There will be a huge real estate boom. Land in the villages will also become real estate as cities and citizens spread out, equipped with modern transportation.
We must think we can do it. We must believe in ourselves. We have too long been dependent on the state. We must now believe that we do not really need it. We do not need our rulers. We can manage perfectly well without. After all, Man is a socially co-operative, moral creature.