Criticizing Modern Indian Holy Cows Considered Dangerous

A little while ago, I saw this tweet — which I append below. It relates to the mainstream media’s response to Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s comment that “Mother” Teresa was motivated by her desire to convert people to Christianity. That seems really odd to me. I would have surmised that the fact that Teresa was basically in the business of proselytizing and converting would be as unremarkable as the fact that the Pope is a Catholic. Whatever she did — and she was remarkably candid about it — she maintained was because she was serving her lord and savior Jesus Christ. Christ wanted everyone to be saved through him. So what’s so bloody remarkable about noting that she was primarily motivated by what she admitted to: saving souls?

Anyway, here’s the tweet by @rvaidya2000:

I agree that the left-liberals are particularly prone to getting their panties in a twist if any of their holy cows are gored. Prof Vaidya mentions only three of course considering that it’s a tweet. The herd is fairly large and membership into the herd requires (among other qualifications) a proven ability to negatively assess anything and everything that the Indian civilization has to offer. Be that as it may, here I would like to talk about the second-oldest holy cow, Jawaharlal Nehru (the oldest being Mohandas K Gandhi.)

His Holy-Cowness Nehru (henceforth HHC Mr Nehru) is special in the sense that he conferred on himself the status of being an Indian holy cow. (His Self-Anointed Holy Cow Mr Nehru, or HSAHC Nehru.) Now you may recall that this was a bit of a habit with him. He gave himself an award, the highest civilian award. He conferred on himself the exalted status of being a “Bharat Ratna” (a Jewel of India.) Now ordinary mortals like you and yours truly would be deterred by basic decency and an innate sense of fairness from decorating ourselves so shamelessly as HHC Nehru did. But he was far from ordinary. (His daughter followed suit, I believe, in the “Jewel of India” shamelessness department.)

HCC Nehru did not like his holy-cowness to be gored. His response to public criticism was that of any tinpot dictator’s, namely, imprison the dissenter. I am too lazy right now to get you the gory (neat pun, eh?) details but here’s a quick excerpt from Milton Friedman. Good ol’ Uncle Milton visited India three times, in 1955, ’63 and finally in ’79. In a brief paper titled “Indian Economic Planning”, he lays out his impressions about the Indian economy, what ails it and what in his opinion should be done. At one point he talks about the pernicious effects of corruption. Remember, this is from over 50 years ago!

As we all appreciate, centralized government control leads to corruption. Friedman says that corruption, aside from destroying the morale and efficiency of the civil service, it also undermines the free press by muting any negative opinion of the government. Naturally, HHC Nehru was the government in the ’60s. (Later his sainted daughter topped that, and was hailed as “Indira is India, and India is Indira.”) HHC Nehru did not like to be criticized. Friedman wrote:

For example, as a result of the Chinese episode, a not-negligible fraction of the intellectuals I met, even those strongly in favor of the general economic policies for the government, have become disenchanted with Nehru and believe that he should be replaced. Yet I read not a single editorial or column in any major English-language newspaper voicing such a view. Published statements to this effect were either in explicitly party organs or in small-circulation personal journals. I head of one journalist who had been discharged from a leading newspaper because of anti-Nehru comments in his articles. Three persons who circulated a public letter after the Chinese invasion urging that Nehru be replaced were held in jail for some months without ever being brought to trial and then released. While I heard different stories about the extent to which this event had even been reported in the press, apparently none of the newspapers conducted a vigorous editorial campaign about the incident.

The bottom line is that old habits die hard. The media has become used to bowing and scraping under HHC Nehru & his progeny’s regimes. The pseudo-intellectuals have been nourished at the ample teats of the government holy cow. So little surprise that these idiot pseudo-intellectuals are all complaining that Teresa, the Catholic Holy Cow, is being led into some disinfecting sunshine.

7 thoughts on “Criticizing Modern Indian Holy Cows Considered Dangerous

  1. Celebrating politicians along with their *achievements* might have two broad causes — Indoctrination & discretionary govt institutions.

    Even educated Indians exhibit cognitive bias when analyzing problems deeply connected with Indian context. According to Ronald Coase and Ning Wang we are strikingly similar to the Chinese:

    “A profound cognitive change takes place at the individual and societal level when
    an institution that we adopted for its expected pragmatic function assumes a
    status role, coming to define our individual and collective identity.”

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13539381-how-china-became-capitalist

    Uncertainty caused by discretionary govts can be mitigated only by associating with some political institution. There is a larger profit in voicing *truth* which fits within a narrative of interpreting events through a political filter, whether it’s Manmohan Singh liberalization or Modi’s Gujarat.

    Indoctrination and discretionary govts generate complementing feedback loops where media and their readers perceive and reinforce the same narrative of attributing prosperity to political solutions instead of market forces. We are shamelessly electing an omnipotent monarch every few years.

    The real root cause is the *rules of conduct* we endorse, deep flaws reside within our own ethical and theoretical perception. If our ethical code categorically stated that a politician/bureaucrat employing their judgement to tax and redistribute pvt wealth is a moral travesty then Nehrus/Gandhis won’t exist.

    Western markets emerged out of a certain ethical view which accidentally resulted in a prosperous order. Unfortunately ethics cannot be shaped, it simply emerges over time and we can only hope that a similar propitious accident will happen in India.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, msreekan. I especially appreciate the link to Coase’s book “How China Became Capitalist.” That prompted me to refresh my memory of “The Nature of the Firm” and “The Problem of Social Cost.” Both papers are worth reading repeatedly. As a student, I was thrilled when I first read of Coase’s theorem. As time went on, it is one of the more important ideas in my intellectual toolkit. Ronald Coase wrote that book at the young age of 100 and passed away at 102. Really great guy.

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    2. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, msreekan. I especially appreciate the link to Coase’s book “How China Became Capitalist.” That prompted me to refresh my memory of “The Nature of the Firm” and “The Problem of Social Cost.” Both papers are worth reading repeatedly.

      As a student, I was thrilled when I first read Coase’s theorem. As time went on, it is one of the more important ideas in my intellectual toolkit. Ronald Coase wrote that book at the young age of 100 and passed away at 102. Really great guy.

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      1. Atanu,
        Very true, Ronald Coase’s insight on transaction cost is deep and pertinent like Hayek’s knowledge problem or Ludwig von Mises’s calculation problem. It’s one of those theories which fundamentally transforms the way we perceive reality.

        Coase mentioned in one of the interviews that he was always curious about China, even at the age of 100 his intellectual vigor was going strong. In fact this never ending intellectual pursuit is a common attribute shared by Ludwig von Mises, F.A.Hayek, James Buchanan, Ronald Coase and Milton Friedman, these scholars never stopped contributing.

        Some might think that Mises deserves a special mention because at the age of 60 he had to flee the Nazis, move to the US, learn English and face the worst of the intellectual atmosphere. Human action came out when he was almost 70. Glad that the work done by these great scholars are more accessible than ever.

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      2. A stray thought. In maths and physics, if you have not got your best work done by 25 or so, you are over the hill. But in economics, it appears that the deeper work gets done later in life. It is as if one has to mature a lot before one gets to have the deep insights.

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  2. Now that Mr. Modi has spent enough time in the PM’s chair and you had in past had shown so much hope in it, I am really waiting for an assessment of his performance on your blog.

    Bashing Nehru and his progeny is important but then, if Indian civilization is unable to throw up some badass person to undo what Nehru did then its probably fault of all of us and not just Nehru.

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    1. acrutiapps:

      You are right. I have been thinking of writing about that for a while. What’s more, I even started writing a blog post. What I had thought would be a 500-word post, is getting longer by the day. So I think I will finish whatever ends up being and then post it in parts only after I have completed it.

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