Atanu: You are a Phd in economics, I am sure you know enough how the world works. There isnt always a meaningful reasoning to everything more so in the world of politics. BY your logic since India itself spends so much on nuclear weapons it has no right to recieve any kind of aid. And since the US spends more on military than the rest of the world put together it has no right to talk of peace. Yet it also funds the UN and then bypasses it when it suits her. No country that spends on military should have recieved any aid during the devestating tsunami. But thats not the way the world works. As for your comments on muslim invaders you should remember “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” Also, if we are so concerned about our past we should shut down the british high commission . At least till the british arrived india was still the richest country. Just by changing the name of the missile doesnt change its character. Be it Prithvi or ghauri they’ll still kill an equal number of people.
One really does not have to have a PhD in economics to know how the world works. Anyone past puberty and of average intelligence is equipped to figure out how the world works given a bit of pondering. The basic principle upon which the whole argument hinges I stated in the first line of the post: Money is fungible.
There are limited resources available to any entity, be they an individual or a nation state. It is a matter of choice which uses these resources are employed in. If the entity chooses to waste resources into destructive activities, there is no moral ground for anyone to promote those by providing additional resources to the chooser. It is a shortsighted ethically unsupportable act. As long as a country is wasting resources arming itself to wreak havoc on another country, that country does not deserve any sympathy or material help, irrespective of the circumstances. I would apply this principle to all states, but I would be especially vehement in my objection when it comes to terrorist states.
By this standard, I would argue that India should not be offered, nor should it accept, any material help from any other state, as long as India is spending any resources stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. I am quite aware of the fact that India lives in a dangerous neighborhood and needs nuclear weapons to deter its nuclear-armed neighbors who seeks its destruction. India has to do what it has to do–stockpile nuclear bombs and missiles to deliver them as a deterrence. But as a matter of principle, India should not accept any charity from any other nation.
More importantly, India should not offer charity to nations that use their limited resources to arm themselves with weapons for India’s destruction. There are two reasons for this, the first of which is that money is fungible: what India gives to Pakistan–even if ear-marked for feeding the poor–is indistinguishable from a gift for Pakistan to employ and equip a huge army of jehadis to kill innocent average Indians. This is unconscionable and irresponsible. The reason this sort of insanity happens is simple. Those who are incharge of this insane magnanimity are shielded from the effects of their folly. The politicians are not the ones who will have to pay with blood, sweat and tears when the next jehadi terrorists–funded by the Indian politicians–strike and kill by the scores in India. It is a sad and lamentable fact that the politicians have security (unlike the average guy on the street) and are immune to the consequences of their actions.
The other reason for my opposition to state-directed charity is based on the recognition that charity should be voluntary. If I pick your pocket and then even if I give the proceeds to charity, there is no virtue in it, is there? It gets worse if I take your money under the threat of violence and then give the money to someone you may not wholly approve of. That is in effect what the government of India is doing when it takes tax payer’s money and gifts a part of it to Pakistan. I think that the people of India should have the freedom to decide which charity they wish to support. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as a citizen of India, is entirely free as much as the next guy to take his money and gift it to Pakistan. But it is absolutely immoral and unprincipled of him to take my money and give it to Pakistan. He did not ask my permission and even without asking it is easy to figure out that I would not approve of his taking my money to fund Pakistani jehadis. I am sure that the Prime Minister is capable of this simple thought experiment: if he were to ask the 400 million Indians who live on less than $1 a day if it is alright with them if $25,000,000 were given to fund terrorism, what does he imagine their response would be?
With all due respect to the Prime Minister of India, I think it is totally stupid and asinine and I hold him responsible for such blatant idiocy. You can quote me on this one.
I should hasten to add that this is nothing new. Indian prime ministers have had a particular penchant for their asinine policies with regard to Pakistan. It starts off with Nehru (ack-poo!) and his refering the Pakistani invasion of Kashmir to the UN. It continues with his daughter Indira not negotiating the mess that he father created when she held all the chips following the humiliating defeat of the Pakistani army in Dhaka and the taking of over 90,000 Pakistani prisoners of war. Then Vajpayee continues that tradition so well-associated with Prithviraj Chauhan. He goes on a “bus yatra” and is amply rewarded with a knife in his back planted by General Musharraf. No, I take that back. He is not the one who got a knife stuck on his back–it was a thousand poor soldiers who died in the icy wastes of Kargil who paid the price. Vajpayee was safe and comfortable at home, just as all his predecessors were. Neither Nehru (ack-poo!) nor his kin paid for his Himalayan Blunder. It was the poor sods who enlist in the Indian army that pay with their lives. In the meanwhile, Nehru (ack-poo!) sheds crocodile tears while listening to Lata Mangeshkar sing “Aye Mere Vatan Kay Logo“.
Economists always stress that as long as we get the incentives right, the world will work out the right solution to any given problem. I sincerely and totally believe in that. The problem of modern state warfare is a problem of incentives. How eager would Bush the Idiot have been to attack Iraq if his children were among the first to be sent to Iraq? How eager would the US Senate be to authorize invasion and wars around the world if the necessary requirement for being a senator was that you have to have your children in the military? How eager would any government be to wage war if the requirement was that to be in government, you have to have all your children in the military serving at the front? It is only because the politicians and often the generals don’t have anything to lose that they wage wars.
Coming back to Tanveer’s comment: yes, no nation that is engaged in arming itself against any threat is incapable of helping its own citizens when faced with a tsunami or an earthquake. If Pakistan wishes to spend five billion dollars ($5,000,000,000) buying F16s from the US and then go about with a begging bowl for a hundred million dollars to provide relief to its citizens, it is a pathetic hypocrite and scorn should be heaped upon it rather than pity and money.
I have always been amazed at the well-meaning stupidity that most NGOs display when they beg around the world for a bit of money to help the needy and do nothing about the insane waste of resources by militaries around the world. I have volunteered for some of these–and yes, it was stupid of me. In one organization, hundreds or even thousands of volunteers in the US would spend enormous amounts of time raising money. Their take? About a few hundred thousand dollars. And they would congratulate themselves for it. That same time could have been spent in lobbying the powers that be to reduce military expenditure, to think beyond war, and that would have resulted hundreds of millions of dollars–not a hundred thousand–being available for education or whatever. But no. Stupidity is the defining characteristic of the charities that work to raise a few dollars while not working to change the dysfunctional system.
I took a break from blogging. The primary reason is that I am totally disheartened. Of late I have been thinking that the system is so badly flawed that there is no way that any good will come out any attempt to change it. It is a vicious circle: the government is bad because the people from which the government is drawn are ignorant and stupid. And given a bad government, there is no way that the people will find a way out of their ignorance and stupidity. I am sure that some readers with over-active PC sensibilities will be offended by my characterization of the majority as ignorant and stupid. But where is the argument that will persuade me that the majority are not stupid and ignorant. What accounts for the sorry scheme of things? Surely there has to be some reason. India has 250 million who are below a poverty line which is so low that all it requires is that you can purchase 2000 calories a day. Imagine: if all you have was about seven rupees a day to buy just 2000 calories, you are above that poverty line. You are, by that definition, not poverty stricken. And yet there are a quarter billion people, the size of Western Europe, who have less than that in India. How did we get here? When India gained independence, there were only 350 million people, half of which were poverty stricken. So after all these years of advancement, growth, progress, poverty alleviation schemes, amazing Nehruvian (ack-poo!) socialistic schemes, we have increased the number of the abjectly poor by about 75,000,000. What was the reason if not the collective inadequacy of the nation? Were the leaders stupid? Or was it the people who consistently vote these thugs into power?
The same policies that have brought us to this unimaginably pathetic pass, there is more of it coming down the pike. And why not? The incentive structure has not changed. The politicians and bureaucrats have the same incentives to continue implementing the same failed policies. The economy loses but they don’t. Until that incentive structure is changed, there is no hope for India.
I am sorry that I am unable to sign a happy song and talk glowingly of the amazing Indian consumer and how that growth is going to transform India. Those who join that chorus are generally anaesthesized. Perhaps I should also swallow a happy pill. But until then, I will write a bit more about how to bring the incentives of the policy makers in line.