Without a doubt, Pat Condell is one of the most articulate, hard-hitting commentators in the English-speaking world. He certainly has the gift of the gab together with a sharp intellect that sees it like it is. Here’s a video of his which speaks to me. It’s central focus is on the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which as you may know is the first in the Bill of Rights. It’s 45 words, as Condell points out, “are among the most important ever written in the English language.”
That’s a tall claim but undeniably true. Read — no, not just read but memorize — the 1st Amendment and judge for yourself:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Condell reminds us what is packed into those 45 simple words: “The five freedoms protected by the First Amendment – yes, there are five, although I wouldn’t necessarily expect too many students to know that – freedom of religion, speech, the press, assembly, and petition – are essential components of a healthy society.” 
It’s no secret that I am not a big fan of the US Government. In fact, I detest all governments but I reserve special contempt for the US government. Americans, on the other hand, are decent people. But the most special thing about the US is its constitution, and the most important part of that is the Bill of Rights, and in that, the most important statement is the 1st Amendment, and the most important bit of that are the first five words, “Congress shall make no law …” To me those five words are the sweetest of all because they explicitly prohibit the making of any law that restricts the freedom of the individual. The Bill of Rights provides the essential constraints on the government that are indispensable for guaranteeing the freedom of the citizens.
I never tire of reminding people that the constitution matters immensely. It sets the stage and specifies the ground rules of the great game that is society. Bad constitutions necessarily create bad societies; good constitutions are necessary, though not sufficient, for decent societies that allow individuals to flourish.
The Indian constitution, being the flawed set of rules it is, condemns India to be a desperately poor country. Yes, despite all the hype about GDP growth, India has around half a billion people living in extreme poverty. This is shameful beyond words. What’s more, it is entirely man-made. It did not have to be this way. Indians are as capable of creating material prosperity and a peaceful civil society as any other people. But they are burdened with a bad set of rules that literally kills by the millions.
Anyway, I still hope. I hope that sufficient number of Indians will learn the truth about the source of their troubles, and make a move to eliminate it.
For now, here’s the redoubtable Pat Condell.
 Just BTW, the 1st Amendment to the Indian constitution is about 1,750 words long. Among other things, it gives the government the unreasonable power to restrict and censor speech. Indians don’t have freedom of speech. They are only allowed what their political masters permit them to say. The claim that India is a free country is bogus to the core.
10 thoughts on “Pat Condell on “The Anti-American Dream””
One nit: India does not have half a billion people living in extreme poverty. It has less that 100 million living in extreme poverty. Still a large number, but the consensus is a number that is somewhere between 3% and 7% of the population. And that % has been decreasing. Recall seeing this in Gates’ reports.
Actually, the definition of extreme poverty is very conservative. If one is even a bit above the starvation point, one is not in extreme poverty. I define extreme poverty as the state where you are constantly in fear of not being able to meet any adverse condition such as loss of income, even mild sickness, and the inability to enjoy a little material pleasure. By that measure, India has too many hundreds of million poor people.
And regarding your ending note about India not being a free country: you are so, so right. The framers were low IQ across the board who took the colonial (oppressive) framework that had these nice sounding ideals but cast it as some sort of benevolence streaming from robust, excessive, must-have government, than a self-evident human right. The American framers got that part perfectly right.
I thought you and your friend might have seeded Modi with a small spark of an idea in whatever minor interactions you have had earlier, to redo the basics in the constitution. I loved your simple and modern draft from months ago. But Modi is chicken. Need someone really brave and cerebral who deeply studies 20th century history and what triumphed in countries that flourished and what happened in those that failed. IMO, India is turning with more realizing what you are saying. But that ‘more’ is still so small, that it happens at a glacial pace. I will quote Gates again who shared the real positive changes in India most often come from competition between states. Some CM sees what worked elsewhere and copies it and sometimes good ideas that have been proven to work get copied.
I thought you and your friend might have seeded Modi with a small spark of an idea …
You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink.
Sorry to be spamming the comments section with an AMA request. It is related to freedom.
Elsewhere you have (rightly) stated your support for the Second Amendment. How do you square that away with the crazy, large number of school shootings. Is it consistent to be (and are you) a strong supporter of the Second Amendment but restricting it to the lawful possession of only non semi-automatic weapons do damage is quite limited? Is sensible gun control legislation needed. Thanks.
I am a 2nd Amendment fundamentalist. People have a right to possess arms for self-defense and for recreation. That does not include weapons of mass destruction. Here’s a quote from Hayek that makes an important point in this context: “Freedom granted only when it is known beforehand that its effects will be beneficial is not freedom.” The freedom to bear arms is not costless; no freedom is. It’s up to the people to decide if they value the freedom, and if so, they should be willing to pay the price.
The full text of the 1st Amendment to the Indian constitution is given here:
The parts relevant to restrictions on free speech are:
The citizen’s right to freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by article 19(1)(a) has been held by some courts to be so comprehensive as not to render a person culpable even if he advocates murder and other crimes of violence. In other countries with written constitutions, freedom of speech and of the press is not regarded as debarring the State from punishing or preventing abuse of this freedom.
“(2) Nothing in sub-clause 19(1)(a)) shall affect the operation of any existing law, or prevent the State from making any law, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the right conferred by the said sub-clause in the interests of:
the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.”;
A total of 141 words.
Dear Engr. Ravi:
Thanks for taking the trouble to comment. I am not sure what your point was about the 1st amendment to the Indian constitution. I am guessing (but I could be wrong) that you are comparing its length to the US constitution’s 1st amendment. The relevant part of the US 1st amendment reads, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.” That’s 14 words. First note that the constitution of the US does NOT grant freedom of speech or of the press. That freedom exists prior to the constitution. The 1st amendment explicitly prohibits the government from futzing around with that freedom. “Congress shall make no law abridging …”
Secondly, there are more than 141 words relating to the “freedom” of speech and expression in the 1st amendment of the Indian constitution. One cannot understand the bit you quoted without including the article 19(1)(a) sub-clause. How many words are those? Any 10th grade student can read, understand and memorize the full text of the 1st amendment to the US constitution. Can you even memorize the 1st amendment of the Indian constitution–leave alone understand it?
Next, the 1st amendment to the Indian constitution restricts the freedom of speech that the constitution grants. It gives with one hand and takes it away with the other. What the constitution giveth, it can taketh away. Remember that. That’s a critical difference. See the word “reasonable”? It all depends on the eye of the beholder. As does “security of the Sate” and other weasel clauses.
Seriously, Engr., you need to look a bit more carefully at what you promote.
1,750 words of restrictions on free speech just seemed too lengthy to me. So, I had to check it out.
I think the clause defamation and to a lesser extent decency and morality are the ones that gives the most leeway for interpretation and therefore abuse. The other restrictive clauses, I guess, are harder to abuse.
Read the 1st amendment and note that it is around 1750 words. Here’s what I wrote:
Just BTW, the 1st Amendment to the Indian constitution is about 1,750 words long. Among other things, it gives the government the unreasonable power to restrict and censor speech. Indians don’t have freedom of speech.
Now tell me if there is a difference between 14 words protecting the freedom of speech and the press in the US 1A, and the Indian 1A which basically says that Indians are not allowed to say or write anything that the govt disagrees with. Enough said.
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