Drinking and Democracy

Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday on Oct 2nd is observed as a public holiday in India. You could celebrate the day by raising a glass or two. Or you could just remember that Gandhi was not in favor of alcohol and voluntarily decide to abstain from alcohol. But if you want to have a drink all the same, you would be out of luck unless you have some sitting at home or in the comfort of a five-star hotel room. All liquor shops are closed and restaurants will not serve you alcohol.

In India, the government mandates certain days as “dry days” and disallows the sale of alcohol even in states where alcohol is legal, sort of like a “temporary-micro-prohibition.” For example, on the first day of the month—payday—liquor shops are closed in some states. I also found that sale and serving of alcohol is prohibited on some specific festival days, such as the final day of Ganesh festival.

Clearly the micro-prohibitions affect the poor unwashed masses, because the rich can always stock up on booze anytime they like. I suspect that they are also aimed at the poor and unwashed. It is part of that grand paternalistic vision that can be traced back to a feudal mindset of the ruling classes going back centuries but which was since independence promoted by the new political bosses, the ersatz British. The real British denied political freedom to Indians; the ersatz British denied economic freedom.

Banning the sale and serving of alcohol on certain days clearly indicates that the policy makers don’t trust the people to know what to do when. The people are like children who cannot be allowed the freedom to decide for themselves whether to drink or not to drink. Actually, if one closely looks at it, one sees the “can’t trust the people” attitude of the rulers pretty prevalent. Whenever the government prohibits some activity which is clearly not harmful and has no negative externalities, it is stating that the people cannot be trusted to know what is good for them.

What puzzles me is that the same unwashed masses who cannot be trusted to know whether to have a drink or not, who cannot be trusted to exercise judgment in many economic activities, these same people are trusted to figure out who should be elected to be the policy makers and rulers. If the people are so dumb as to not know what is good for them in a simple matter of a drink, can you really trust them with a vote?

Indian democracy, as I have argued before here, is a cargo-cult democracy (see here, and here.) Did you know that Ram Vilas Paswan used a Osama Bin Laden look-alike to woo Muslim voters? And that this fake OBL changed sides and is now with Laloo Prasad Yadav. That an OBL look-alike is a poster boy for two competing political parties in Bihar is a disturbing sign. It implies that the poster boy appeals to the Muslims voters, and that the Muslim voters consider OBL a hero. The same OBL who clubs India among the countries that need to be destroyed as the enemies of the one true god. So it comes down to the tacit admission on the part of these political parties that their Muslim voters have allegiances to parties and people who have India’s destruction as part of their agenda and therefore the Muslims are traitors. Should not both Paswan and Yadav be charged with sedition?

{Followup post: The government as big daddy.}



Categories: Democracy, Random Draws

23 replies

  1. I love how you extrapolate without any restraint, reason or logic. I don’t see any picture of the OBL look-alike anywhere. Could he be a tall-man with a beard, and turban perhaps? It is just what the NDTV site mentions. Further, whatever happens in Bihar, usually stays in Bihar. Voters may have voted for the candidate because he looked like OBL, or not. What proof do you have for these lovely statements? You started off with a great point about Dry day and the whole mai-baap attitudes of the Socialist government, which breed dependence and a culture of victimisation and then go on to ruin it with some silly anecdote. 😦

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  2. Hello TTG,

    Paswan moving around with an Osama lookalike in the Bihar elections is a fact. The “secular” english media reported the incident but were silent on condemning this atrocity as Paswan with Laloo are the resident prophets of secularism in India.

    “Whatever happens in Bihar, usually stays in Bihar” is quite a strange thing to say. Please do throw some light on the comment.

    Also, please go to google.com and type paswan + osama. The proof you seek would be there.

    Regards.

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  3. Yes, “dry days” are an example how backward we are and how much “regulation” is necessary .. (or how much the loony politicians think is necessary)

    Here are some other good examples of how much “cool” we are.

    Anna Univ bans wearing T-shirts and jeans:
    http://www.hindu.com/2005/09/30/stories/2005093009100100.htm

    (Cell phones were banned three months back)

    Dance parties and having fun are a “no no”:

    http://indiauncut.blogspot.com/2005/09/no-kissing-in-chennai-please.html

    (amits post above has lots of links to the insanity thats going on in chennai.)

    It sucks to be frank. What is one supposed to do ? Just sit at home ?

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  4. As you yourself have said so eloquently about the electorate in India’s cargo cult democracy – “Democracy cannot work when the electorate is nearly totally uninformed, where there are strong vested interests, where the notion of accountability is non-existent, where voters can be intimidated and bribed, where the culture is steeped in feudalism, and where illiteracy, superstition and
    corruption is the norm.” It is no surprise that the rulers set up these controls since they too are aware that the people need controlling. This is the very fact (that the people can be manipulated, that they are not a mature electorate) that is exploited by politicians to get votes in the first place. The electorate gets the leaders it deserves – if you have an electorate that is ignorant and susceptile to bullying and bribing, politicians will (and have) make use of those weaknesses to come to power. These politicians have more or less no respect for the electorate in light of their gullibility. The fact of the matter is that the people are immature and though I suspect that the micro-prohitions are more of a token gesture in respect of the occasion (Gandhi’s birthday or any other festival), it goes to show that both the poiticians and the people are aware of it and accept it as a way of life.

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  5. Hi Atanu
    When I lived in St. Louis many years ago, I recall trying to buy some beer at a supermarket on a Sunday. Missouri had “blue laws” and prevented the sale of alcohol on Sunday. I was embarrassed when the checkout girl explained this. I thought “what right do others have to tell me what I can or cannot buy on Sunday and what a store can or cannot sell on Sunday.”

    But these laws survive because most people just adapt (stock up) and are only occassionally annoyed. They think, “if the government felt it was necessary, I guess it’s good.”

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  6. Although many people drink alcohol whether they are rich or poor,alcohol is still considered BAD and thus prohibtion has been included in the Directive Principles of State Policy alongwith your favourite – the Uniform Civil code

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  7. “If the people are so dumb as to not know what is good for them in a simple matter of a drink, can you really trust them with a vote?”

    I fail to see the rationality in your above post. Drinking and Voting?

    This post would probably seem to be more inspired from the fact that you didnt get hold of a drink that day. ( though that may not be the case ).

    Atanu’s response: The point that I was attempting to make is that there is a logical contradiction in the position that Indian society takes in claiming that a person is competent enough to vote–and thus direct the affairs of state–and simultaneously trying to control people as though they are incompetent retards by deciding on their behalf if and when a person should have a drink.

    The micro-ban on alcohol was just an example and it was not meant to convey that there is a direct link between democracy and drinking. The title of the post was just a feeble attempt at alliteration.

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  8. Atanu,

    I am getting my doubts now. If you say “drinking is a basic decision” .. why did then Gandhi himself propose “booze ban” etc.

    I am asking this to you, since you have mentioned earlier that you were reading his autobiography. Just wanted to get the rationale behind Gandhis stand.

    Atanu’s response: Gandhi, as far as I can tell from reading his autobiography, was an egotist in that he was convinced that his preferences are absolute and universal. If he preferred not to drink, he thought it was absolutely reasonable that nobody should drink.

    I am not a mahatma of course. I think that people have different preferences and while I like what I like, others like other things. Together with that, I believe in being free to do what I want to do (as long as my actions do not harm others) and naturally I extend that freedom to others to do whatever the heck they want to do (again as long as their actions do not get in my way.)

    Someone wants to drink, a little or a lot, should not concern anyone. If a particular act of drinking causes harm to another, then the drinker is liable for that harm and for which there must be laws that redress the harm. But banning drinking because some drinkers cause harm to others is like banning driving because some people cause property damage while driving. So if a person drinks and kills himself as a result but no one is harmed, then it is nobody’s business. But if the person is neglecting to support his children as a result of his drinking, that is a different matter for which the laws appropriate to family obligations apply.

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  9. Shivani,

    May be it’s your who is on drinks since you don’t see the connection.

    Navin,

    Gandhi is the greatest human being. The greatest human being does not have to familiar with economics 101.

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  10. Atanu,

    Thanks for taking the time out to respond.

    I am with you on personal freedom and I hate the fate that I can’t have a nice drink in the evening on a holiday 🙂

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  11. Trying to add potency to your argument by saying how can the government trust people to vote when they can’t trust them to drink is silly. People’s judgement to drink can be marred by addiction and substance abuse; excessive drinking leads to terrible things. THAT is why many governments decide to control certain things like guns, tobbaco, alcohol and drugs. Voting does not have properties of these “controlled substances.”

    Trusting people to vote and trusting people to drink are VASTLY different!

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  12. Voting does not have properties of these “controlled substances.”

    I completely agree with Ishani’s views on this matter.

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  13. Antihistamines have pretty much the same impact as too much alcohol. Anyone in the mood to ban them as well. The Government links morality (which usually is the burden of the poor and the connection-less) with alcohol, which is really ridiculous. If people can be trusted not to drink and drive, they can be trusted to go vote by 11 AM and then sit and guzzle all they want.

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  14. As for dry days, I don’t think the Govt. is trying indicate that it does not trust people with drinking. Having dry days is a populist move which plays well to the gallery.
    dry days was just an example to indicate how Govt. is slowly encroaching on our personal freedom( hat books we can read, what we can see on television etc.)

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  15. Atanu,
    Look at “dry day” from another point of view at least that of 2nd oct.If MKGandhi is ok to be called “father of Nation” and majorty of Indians remember him as one, “dry day” is like paying tribute to him the way you will pay tribute to your father on his birthday by doing something that he thought right.

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  16. Dry days dont matter to the rich and the corrupt.
    They get their supply anyway…..
    People wont die if they abstain for a day. I feel this is not an issue at all….
    I take an RSS feed to your site through opera browser. But for those who use Internet explorer… You should do something

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  17. The XML feed you provide doesn’t seem to work on Opera browser though. But I’m happy with the in built RSS feed reader through which I get your posts.

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  18. I agree with Sunil, that dry day is a tribute to Father of the Nation. In addition, it prevents many (in fact, most) of us to go boozing on a day. Isn’t that good. Leave discussing the case of riches, because the one who has got power, uses it! It’s that simple that money and the number of followers brings you the power.
    So, the step, which should be taken care of , on such dry days is to keep a watch on all the sources(especially the ones, which are the usual sources for rich) on these particular days, which I think is a feasible job if serious thought of.
    Vikas

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  19. So those who think (Vikas and Sunil) that a “forced” dry day makes them pay tribute to Gandhi, can we can conclude that if there was no dry day they would not have paid that tribute ? So my question is what’s the point in forcing a tribute from someone who may not be interested in it in the first place ?

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  20. Respected Sir,
    please tell me that my result has been publised or not?
    my Reg-No:-61603114002 (B.E Mech)Regulation 2001(Anna University)

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  1. DesiPundit » i want to vote (hic!)
  2. Atanu Dey on India’s Development » The Government as the Big Daddy
  3. Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » India: Alcohol and the Government
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