Saturday, July 4, 2020

Hobbes' Mistake - The Rational Case For Anarchy by Sauvik Chakraverti

May 27, 2001, 04.32 PM IST
in his classic leviathan, written in 1651, the english political philosopher thomas hobbes established the liberal case for the state. he said that, without the `mortall god' of the state to hold us all in awe, society would disintegrate, there would ensue ``a war of each against all'' and life would be ``nasty, poore, brutish and short''.
Since then, liberals in the west have upheld statism - and have encouraged state-building in the third world. today, it is seen that almost all the states of the third world are predatory states, enemies of the people. they are huge kleptocracies which amass and then misuse economic powers and keep people poor. when libertarians talk of the need to do away with states and statism, we are accused, even by our liberal friends, of being anarchists. how do we defend ourselves from this charge? the fact is: thomas hobbes was wrong. very wrong. the following thought experiment will show how. carry a tray of ripe bananas before a group of monkeys. what will happen? the monkeys will snatch and steal all the bananas: the hobbesian war of each against all.
Now take another tray of ripe bananas and carry them to a place where there are no monkeys but lots of human beings: chandni chowk, connaught place, crawford market... what will happen? no one will steal your bananas. if they want your bananas, humans will politely ask whether you will offer them in exchange for money. homo economicus is a moral creature. because he has the ability to exchange, which the monkey does not, homo economicus does not snatch and steal. he has an inborn morality that respects property rights. in stark contrast, the constitution of india does not recognise property rights! now, hang around in the market a little longer and observe who are the monkeys amongst us. then you will see the policeman extorting goods for free; you will see the municipal functionary preying on urban commerce. these are the cutting-edge personnel of the predatory state. this clearly shows that: 1) the market is a secular basis of human morality; and 2) power corrupts. yet, it is important to note that thomas hobbes was a liberal. in leviathan he does mention that every man would very much prefer to rule himself.
We sacrifice some of our freedoms in exchange for the law and order that the state creates. the original cover illustration of leviathan shows a huge king-like figure wielding a massive sword. a little careful examination reveals that the body of the `mortall god' is completely made up of little people: the citizens. ``leviathan bears the body of the citizenry,'' hobbes says. in predatory states it is obvious that the sword of state is not borne by a `mortall god'. rather, it is in the hands of a huge monkey. and its body is not composed of the citizenry; rather, it is composed entirely of little monkeys. why should the entire third world continue to suffer this situation? will not absolute freedom - anarchy - be better? the word anarchy has a beautiful meaning: no ruler.
It does not mean chaos, as the enemies of freedom would have you believe. it means, quite simply, that the king is dead, and there are to be no more kings. all human beings are free and equal. there is no one to lord over us. there is no one with power. before dismissing this option outright, let us inquire into what forces within civil society will maintain morality and order in the absence of the state. under conditions of anarcho-capitalism - no state - all the people will seek their survival in the free market. statists believe that under such conditions robbery and thievery will ensue, but are their fears based on reality? after all, in a free market, cheating succeeds only in the short term. every capitalist knows that, for long-term success, he has to protect his reputation. that is why brand names and brand equity matter so much in assuring us of quality. only those who satisfy customers will succeed in the long run, and that is why morality will rule.
Secondly, in a completely free market, credit will go only to the creditworthy. unlike today, when political allocation of credit prompts many to not pay their dues, under anarcho-capitalism, everyone will realise that creditworthiness is something to be cherished and carefully nurtured. free banking will ensure more moral behaviour than politicised banking. thirdly, human beings, apart from being economic creatures, are also sexual creatures. this prompts them to raise families. without a state that will look after them in times of trouble, under anarcho-capitalism, the family will be the main source of support. families will be strong. children will be well brought up. this shows that there are only two secular bases of human morality: the market and the sexual union. not the state, which is a promoter of immorality.
Some will say that the free market cannot exist without supporting institutions. this is true. there must be courts and justice. but law is also an enterprise. today, the monopolistic state courts system is hopelessly clogged and does not deliver timely justice. further, it is based on the socialistic disregard for property rights, which cannot co-exist with the free market. we will need property rights to be enforced; we will need disputes to be settled or adjudicated. all this can happen easily under anarcho-capitalism.
Lastly, we will need some form of policing. this must be done because there will be a few thieves, rapists and murderers amongst us: a free society is not a perfect society. but, throughout history, such plunderers have come from outside the city, and the city people have always organised themselves for their own protection. today, in our cities of joy, entire communities get murdered with tacit state police support. tomorrow, with self-policing, we shall surely be safer.
The entire third world, comprising two-thirds of humanity, is suffering because of thomas hobbes' mistake. we must unitedly reject the notion of leviathan. statelessness and anarcho-capitalism will make us rich, moral and safe. we will all achieve our destiny. the path we must take is not to reform the state and its institutions, but to do away with them altogether. what is required is shifting the paradigm from nation-states to associations of free trading cities: limiting politics to the polis. in brief * predatory states amass and misuse economic powers * the free market promotes morality, the state immorality * self-policing makes humans safer

Friday, August 16, 2019

Trading Places by Sauvik Chakraverti

A teenage wasteland by Sauvik Chakraverti

Shut down HRD ministry!

Shut down HRD ministry! by Sauvik Chakraverti
Shut down the union hrd (human resource destruction) ministry. The ministry is manned by propagandists of a failed experiment in state socialism. It has ensured there are no genuine knowledge workers in the entire education system, except bureaucrats. Its supervision of schools, colleges and universities should be revoked.
Dismantle all licensing requirements for education institutions. The education sector urgently needs to be set free. This will facilitate entry of competing private firms offering short courses that equip young people for vocations or professions, be it plumbing or baking into the education sector. The three R’s can also be easily taught, especially using computers.
Free the student community. In schools, colleges, universities and B-schools across the country students receive state-sponsored ‘education’. Such education churns out limited types of economic actors: bureaucrats, managers, accountants, lawyers, doctors, engineers. In the emerging free market economy, young people will find profitable niches as DJs, VJs, even tattoo artists. The burden of formal education — especially state-sponsored education — is inimical to creativity and intellectual freedom. 
Revoke higher education subsidies. Higher education is a privilege, not a right. Those who actually produce knowledge should be free to work, teach and sustain their respective schools of thought. Every such school should sustain itself on its own resources as it would be fatal to academic freedom to expect or receive subsidies from the state.
Moreover some Indian edupreneurs are venturing overseas. The Manipal Education & Medical Group has promoted state-of-the-art medical schools in Nepal and Malaysia, and the S.P. Jain Institute, a campus in Dubai. And most spectacularly, India-born Sunny Varkey who runs a dozen secondary schools in Dubai and the UAE, has acquired 13 independent schools in Britain and could well be the world’s premier edupreneur.
This urgent flurry of activity within the hitherto somnolent education sector has ensured that the vital importance of qualitative education has permeated down to the lowest income groups across the subcontinent — a development accentuated by the promotion of the country’s 517 urban benchmarked Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya residential schools in rural India (see EW cover story August). Simultaneously it has focussed public attention upon hitherto arcane subjects such as syllabus design and curriculum development and shifted national attention from ritual to real education. Suddenly paper degrees and qualifications are not as important as professional and life skills which school leavers and college graduates must acquire within their institutions of learning.
Therefore the newly emergent consensus that reform of India’s Macaulayan system of education based on rote learning and memorisation rather than development of problem-solving and conflict-resolution skills requires urgent attention. And even as several specialist committees constituted by the Union ministry of human resource development are currently engaged in the process, the public interest demands a wider ambit for the national debate on syllabus and curriculum reform. To this end, to meaningfully celebrate the 5th anniversary of EducationWorld, we deemed it incumbent upon ourselves to ask several educationists and industry leaders with proven commitment to improving the education system to write prescriptions for a renaissance of Indian education.
Inevitably, prescriptions for the reform of India’s patently languishing, if not terminally ill education system by dedicated educationists in diverse professions and vocations differ widely. However on some points there is a broad consensus. The reforms implicitly or explicitly endorsed by all the seven eminent respondents are:
Liberalise and deregulate the education system to encourage promotion of new schools, colleges, vocational and other institutions of higher education.
To a greater or lesser degree all the respondents are in favour of addressing the supply side of education to eliminate capacity shortages which are the root cause of the overwhelming majority of the hundreds, if not thousands, of rackets which plague post-independence India’s education system. The learned justices of the Supreme Court agree. In its historic 2002 judgement in the TMA Pai Foundation Case (8 SCC 481), a full bench of the court expanded the right of minorities to “establish and administer educational institutions of their choice” as mandated by Article 30 of the Constitution of India, to all citizens.
This development prescription is strongly endorsed by liberal economist and writer Sauvik Chakraverti. “The education sector urgently needs to be set free. This will facilitate entry of private firms offering short courses that equip young people for vocations and professions — be it plumbing, or baking — into the education sector. The three R’s can also be easily taught by them using computers,” says Chakraverti (see box p.39).
SAUVIK CHAKRAVERTI is an alumnus of the London School of Economics and former senior assistant editor of The Economic Times. Currently Chakraverti is the convenor of the Liberal Study Group, Mangalore.

Need to de-school society

Need to de-school society by Sauvik Chakraverti

Dr. Parth Shah, president of the Delhi-based Centre for Civil Society in his entertaining critique of Amartya Sen’s stand on government and State as educator of the masses, wrote that a government which cannot be trusted to produce food (by cultivating fields) surely can’t be trusted to produce education, which entails cultivation of minds. That’s why nobody is willing to pay bribes for admission into government schools. Some private schools extract donations and bribes because the licence-permit raj has blocked supply. Unshackle the enterprise of educationists, and there will be enough private education for all.
Socialists like Sen, who plead for a major role for the State or government in education, do so on two grounds: equity and standards. Both pleas are based on false premises. A state that spends hugely on higher education, leaving little for primary schooling, cannot be said to be serving equity. As predicted by public choice theory (which is still not taught at the ‘elite’ Delhi School of Economics), the education budget is hogged by the middle class and the rich, who consume higher education. The poor, whose children need just a little primary education to get going, get naught. So, the equity argument isn’t valid in the current Indian context.
Next we need to address the standardisation argument. Can you imagine anything worse for the minds of children than bureaucrats approving conditions for the promotion of schools and colleges and even universities, mandating courses and syllabuses, listing ‘approved’ textbooks, fixing tuition fees and doing all the other things standardisers advocate? Will this not lead to the politicisation of knowledge? Will we not create an Orwellian ministry of truth? Like ISO certification, the private sector is quite capable of setting standards, as the privately promoted computer education firm NIIT has proved. But NIIT is still not ‘recognised’ by the Central or state governments.
Contrary to official dogma, education is one area in which there should be experimentation. Young people learn music, sports, dance, art, cooking, driving and computers (outside school) from private entrepreneurs. Thus, there is widespread variety and choice and acceptable standards over which both students and parents have control. Therefore there is negligible teacher absenteeism in such courses.
This is the pointer to the future. If, as Rabindranath Tagore had dreamed, India becomes a country “where knowledge is free”, education would be a competitive enterprise over whose products consumers would exercise complete sovereignty. If poor parents want their children to learn English, as in fact most do, competitive entrepreneurs would sell them short courses, as many are already doing. If they seek other kinds of knowledge, the market economy will step in to provide it, either by studentship or apprenticeships. In such a market economy, a child from a poor family can choose a ‘calling’ and obtain knowledge relevant to that vocation. Specialised in this manner — as a beautician or tattoo artist, electrician, mason, plumber, motor mechanic, receptionist, chef or cartoonist — all poor children can seek honest survival in the urban market economy. They can be ‘rationally ignorant’ about everything else.
To understand ‘rational ignorance’, take for example, a musician. If he is adept at playing his chosen musical instrument, he has no need to learn anything else. If he wants a car, engineers build it for him, a chauffeur drives him around, and mechanics keep it in good repair. If he wants a grand house, architects design it for him, masons build it, and interior designers furnish it aesthetically. If he wants gourmet food, he hires a chef. And so on. As far as the musician is concerned, all he knows is how to play one musical instrument well. About everything else, he is rationally ignorant.
The notion of ‘rational ignorance’, which is the key to understanding how free markets use specialised knowledge, implies that children don’t need to spend long and boring years in school that mete out generalised knowledge. Armed with a pocket calculator and only two R’s, children from every household can begin to chase big dreams. We need to de-school society if we truly have the interests of poor children at heart. Instead, we have submitted, without even a murmur of protest, to the education cess: the state as the ‘cultivator of minds’.
A noted philosopher once remarked: “Whoever is the master of education is the master of mankind.” Our socialist state wants to be the master of education as a means to a much more sinister end — control of our minds.
The situation is critical. It demands that parents wake up to their own responsibilities. A video recording of Pink Floyd’s The Wall about how education is ‘thought control’, should be compulsory viewing. As for compulsory reading, I strongly recommend Prof. James Tooley’s The Enterprise of Education, a 38-page booklet from Liberty Institute, New Delhi, which analyses the Indian experience of state controlled education.
(Sauvik Chakraverti is a journalist and author of Antidote: Essays Against the Socialist Indian State, and its sequel, Antidote 2: For Liberal Governance, both published by Macmillan)

Education provision by a failed State

Education provision by a failed State by Sauvik Chakraverti

Every activist in indian education suffers from a ‘delusion of knowledge — the notion that the socialist State, i.e. government, is in possession of knowledge that the poor need to succeed in life.In reality, the State is itself based on failed knowledge. Economic liberalisation was resorted to in 1991 after half a century of socialism, precisely because of knowledge failure. And it is only because of ‘liberty that Indian society can now access various fragments of knowledge that were previously unavailable. Now we have modern automobiles, mobile phones, plasma TVs and the like because we allowed knowledge developed abroad to flow into the country. The State-promoted IITs have been operational since the early 1960s but this knowledge wasnt available in India. The State-owned IIMs are of similar vintage — but there were hardly any business enterprises to manage then.
On the other hand, the poor have traditionally been in possession of various fragments of knowledge — but are denied entry into markets by repressive legislation. Poor girls can sing and dance, but the socialist State has outlawed nightlife. Tribals in the jungles of central India distill stimulating mahua liquor from an eponymous flower, but they cannot sell it. Tapping toddy and fermenting it is specialised knowledge. Last year Karna-taka reported a bumper toddy season — but nowhere on Bangalores swanky Brigade Road will you get a glass of toddy. The north-east is poor and underdeveloped; but boast great music bands there. But these bands cannot perform in heartland states because of State-imposed restrictions.
These are all examples of real, hard knowledge going waste. And ironically the State, which is responsible for this waste, wants to teach. If establishment educationists shout in concert, an education tax is immediately imposed. But the ‘planned flow of knowledge from State to the poor never happens, and it never will. The minister in charge of education is a Nehru family loyalist. As such he will teach Nehruvian socialist propaganda. And his loyal educrats will dictate what private institutes will teach and meddle with what they want to teach.
Thus, for the immediate benefit of the poor, and for the immediate spread of real knowledge, liberty is essential. Just as the public has benefited from foreign car companies entering India, so we will benefit from foreign universities setting up shop here. And just as the poor benefit from freedom, so will the national knowledge pool if anyone with a fragment of knowledge can set up shop and teach to whoever is willing to pay for it. The problem which requires resolution is that of transmission of knowledge from one who has it to another individual who wants to acquire it. The market alone can solve this problem. The State has no ‘collective pool of knowledge. Indeed, the socialist Indian State is a naked propagandist, and all its attempts to secure ‘uniform standards in education have only resulted in the uniform teaching of untruths.
Therefore, the Union ministry of human resource development — actually ministry of human resource destruction — should be shut down. Every educrat should be fired, and all schools and colleges freed from government control and supervision over curriculum as well as certification. Private edupreneurs can then compete for testing scholastic competence and issuing certification — as with SAT, IB or the ISC.
What about poor kids in such a scenario? If they learn how to use a calculator, to read, write and speak English, to type on a keyboard and use a computer, to operate a mobile phone and send SMS, and how to drive a car, they will have all the basic knowledge required for success in the contemporary world. I am positive that private for-profit as well as non-profit efforts can easily transmit these fragments of knowledge to them in a manner that is efficient in terms of money as well as time.
Poor kids need to enter the workforce early. for them, 12 years of school is a massive waste of time. The basic knowledge they need, as outlined above, can be transmitted to them by private edupreneurs, cheap and quick. Thus, there is no role for the State in education either for the rich or the poor, in primary, secondary or higher education.
I conclude with what the great French economist Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) who was also in active politics, wrote in his election manifesto over 150 years ago: Education is also bound up with the same fundamental question that precedes all others in politics: Is it part of the States duties? Or does it belong to the sphere of private activity? I believe that government is not set up in order to bring our minds into subjection, or to absorb the rights of the family… 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.
Indeed, as Bastiat stressed academic monopoly of the State can only work if the State is infallible. In a nation of widespread State failure, the very idea of government infallibility lies in tatters.
(Sauvik Chakraverti is an author and journalist, closely involved with Indias liberal movement)