In a tweet on Oct 12th, Prime Minister Modi boasted, “I feel proud that even at the peak of COVID-19, 80 crore Indians got access to free food grains.”
It takes an extraordinary amount of self-deluded arrogance for a prime minister to claim credit for something that any person of average morality and sensibility would be ashamed to admit. It is shameful that India is so desperately poor that 800 million (out of a total population of around 1,400 million) would starve under adverse conditions without government food assistance.
“If you feel driven to feed the poor, get your checkbook out and keep your tyrannical mouth shut about it.” – Lewis Goldberg
If it was Modi’s personal fortune that was the source of the largesse, he could have been justifiably proud for having helped the poor in distress. But it was not his money; he merely extracted the wealth from about 600 million at the point of a gun and transferred it to the 800 million. In doing so, he forcefully demonstrated that Indians can be conceptually partitioned between two mutually exclusive and exhaustive groups: those 800 million who are reduced to beggary, and the 600 million who are reduced to slavery.
Beggary and Slavery
Beggary, a state of extreme poverty or penury, is not a happy state to be in. Nobody would voluntarily wish to be a beggar, taking what he has not earned. Slavery, a state of being owned by another, is not a happy state to be in. Nobody would voluntarily wish to be a slave, one from whom his property is taken by force.
No decent human being would like to be a beggar or a slave. No decent human would be in the business of promoting beggary or imposing slavery. Every decent person with even minimal moral and ethical sense would revolt against the conditions that Indians have been forced to endure.
It’s an awful tragedy that 800 million Indians are reduced to such a dire state that they need a government to feed them, a government that has to indulge in crime to satisfy the hunger of the majority of its citizens. The worst part of this is that this state of beggary and slavery is entirely due to that government.
To add insult to injury, Modi claimed that “we ensured that the basic rights of every individual are respected.” No you did not respect any basic rights. That’s a barefaced lie.
The basic rights of individuals include the right to property. The right to property means that very person has the right to not have his property taken away from him by others, especially the government. By forcibly taking from one group (the slaves), the government is violating the right to property.
Right to Property
Here we must admit that while the right to property is a basic human right in the civilized world, Indians don’t have property rights. The constitution of India gives the government the power to confiscate private property at will. Therefore the Modi government’s taking from one group to give to another group is entirely legal, but theft, robbery, force and coercion is no part of any civilized country. Legitimate does not mean it’s moral or ethical.
For all of human history, all peoples have been abjectly poor by modern standards. In the last couple of centuries, slowly at first and then rapidly, some nations began to emerge out of extreme poverty. Around the year 1800 CE, around 90 percent of humanity was extremely poor; in 200 years, by the year 2000 CE, only 10 percent of humanity was still extremely poor.
It is proper to ask why does India continue to be so poor? China was as poor as India in 1980. Now in GDP terms, China rivals the US. But what’s so special about India that it could not reduce poverty as rapidly as China did?
There could be many reasons for a nation’s poverty: foreign occupation, frequent external aggression, protracted civil war, periodic natural disasters, severe lack of natural and human resources, extremely poor culture. None of them apply to India. Only one reason can be advanced for India’s continued poverty — the government.
India’s poverty can only be explained adequately as the result of malign governments. The British colonial rule can explain India’s poverty. No country under foreign rule can reasonably be expected to thrive. But the British rule ended in 1947. So what explains India’s continued lack of progress? Simply this: the rules that the British had made continued to oppress Indians.
Every Indian government has behaved exactly as if they were colonial rulers of Indians. Nehru was a de facto British ruler of India. His daughter, Indira Gandhi, intensified the government war against India by turning India socialist. Simply put, the Congress rule of Nehru and his descendants ensured that India would continue to be poor. India was not free under the British Raj; and post-1947, India continued to be not free, and therefore it continued to be poor.
The 2014 Change
Fast forward to 2014. The stranglehold of the Congress over India was finally broken. Modi’s electoral success gave many observers (including yours truly) hope that perhaps Indians will finally gain economic freedom and thus break out of poverty.
Modi had, unlike most of his predecessors like Narasimha Rao or Atal Bihari Vajpayee, near absolute control of the government. He could have transformed India’s economy. But no such luck. He followed the failed policies of Nehru and Indira (who, we must remember continued the awful policies of the British.) Indira Gandhi had dealt a bad blow to India’s economy through nationalization. Modi outdid Indira Gandhi with his insane assault on the Indian economy — the November 2016 demonetization.
Modi claimed that he was fighting “black money” and “corruption.” Only the severely deluded would believe that demonetization can end “black money.” Only the extremely stupid can believe that the government, which is the source of all corruption, has any interest in eradicating corruption. Believing that the government of India (Modi’s or any other politician’s) is going to fight “black money” and corruption is akin to believing that ISIS will fight terrorism.
Starving the Poor
The claim here is simple. India’s continued lack of prosperity is India’s government. No amount of do-goodery rhetoric can paper over the fact that action is missing. Redistribution may look good in the short run but in the long run, it creates the poverty which then gives the corrupt leaders an excuse to seize more power and control over others. The British ruled India for nearly two centuries under the excuse that they intended the salvation of the poor Indians, the excuse of shouldering the “White man’s burden.”
Modi’s government, just like all the rest before him, were intent only on saving the poor, starving Indians. But the truth of the matter is that his government, just like other governments before him, is the primary cause of India’s poverty.
“Socialists like to tout their confiscation and redistribution schemes as noble and caring, but we should ask if theft is ever noble or caring.” – Robert Hawes
The fact is that only the government has the power to engage in legalized theft. By taking from those who produce and giving it to those who don’t, the government ensures that the productive stop producing, and the non-productive have no reason to start producing since they too will become victims of government theft.
People are Responsible
We should step back for a moment and ask whether the people have any responsibility in this continued theft by the government. The answer is an unqualified yes. The people are ultimately responsible for the kind of government they get. If they are willing to give up their freedom in exchange for free food, they will have to suffer the resulting poverty.
Freedom is a necessary condition for not just material prosperity but is essential for human dignity. The sad fact is that Indians don’t appear to value freedom. I conclude this from the fact that a bunch of few thousand people from a nation thousands of miles away, a nation that was a small fraction of India’s size, were able to rule India for so long. If Indians really wanted to, they could have overwhelmed the colonizers over a weekend.
The proper response to oppression is opposition. Remember that the numbers are always on the side of the oppressed. Servitude is always voluntary since the rulers are very few and the ruled are overwhelmingly many. Indian politicians, bureaucrats and judges probably number at a few hundred thousand but tyrannically control around 1.4 billion Indians. If Indians really valued freedom, they could take out their oppressors any day of the week without breaking a sweat.
It’s all karma, neh?
That idea doesn’t occur to Indians. Just like they passively allowed a bunch of Britishers to rule over them, they allow themselves to be dictated by the native-born oppressors. They appear to be content with the inflated rhetoric that’s so characteristic of Modi. The beggary and slavery is really sad but can it be otherwise if people are not virtuous? It’s all karma, neh?
But perhaps it’s not fair to blame the poor. In their desperation, they have to support anyone who throws them a few crumbs. One doesn’t have the luxury of standing on principles when hunger lays one low to the ground. The savior is whoever gives one a bit to eat, and not ask if the food is stolen from others. One has to believe that the giver is benevolent, even if the truth of the matter is exactly the opposite.
There were good reasons for why most humans who’ve ever lived have lived lives of relentless misery. But those reasons no longer hold. Now poverty is a matter of choice. It’s chosen by the the leaders of countries. Venezuela, for example, could have been extremely rich — but thanks to Chavez, it suffers extreme poverty.
Consider China, a country not too dissimilar to India. Mao killed more Chinese than any other person. He’s still revered and celebrated in China. He appears on their currency. Lenin and Stalin killed more Russians than the Germans or Japanese. They were hailed as saviors in Russia.
Gandhi is hailed as the “Father” of the nation. He appears on currency notes. His idiotic ideas have killed more Indians than any of the dozens of foreign invaders combined ever did. The tragedy that Gandhi set in motion continues unabated. If there’s any justice, Gandhi would be recognized as one of history’s worst mass murderers. But it’s futile to expect justice in this vale of tears.
Does Modi not understand what is the way out for India? My generous take is that he does not. He may sincerely believe that denying freedom to Indians is the best way to help India. Perhaps he sincerely believes that an intrusive, all powerful, all controlling government is the only way. Perhaps he thinks that for India’s salvation, he has to be in absolute control of Indian industry, of Indian media, of India’s education, and of India’s currency.
Freedom and Modi
If he thinks that freedom doesn’t matter, he’s simply mistaken. But I think that even if he knows that freedom is what gives meaning and dignity to life, and creates material prosperity, he would not like Indians to have freedom because it would mean that he would not have the power and control he so evidently relishes. You cannot move ten steps in India without seeing Modi’s image at every street corner, at every bus station, airport, railway station, petrol pump, on every publication, on every form, on every newspaper and every website remotely connected to the government.
The popular perception is that Modi has reduced corruption. That’s patently false and everyone who does business in India know it. It’s general knowledge. But people are afraid to speak up. The media is totally controlled by Modi’s government. The license/permit/control/quota raj is not something that Modi invented but he uses it with ruthless efficiency.
Any media channel — radio, print, TV — can be, and is, controlled by the government by its power of revoking license, denying government advertising, by jailing recalcitrant editors and journalist, investigating them with trumped up charges of tax evasion, and a hundred other ways.
Price of Free Food is Freedom
But maybe I’m mistaken. Maybe Modi does have benevolent motives, unblemished by narrow interests of self-aggrandizement. Sadly, benevolence does not guarantee harmlessness. Justice Louis Brandeis in a 1928 judgement warned–
“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
India is in deep distress. And it appears that most Indians are unaware of the continuing disaster. Too many Indians believe that Modi is benevolent. Just read the comments to Modi’s tweet that the head of this post (here’s a handy link to that tweet.) You’d think that Modi was Krishna and Ram rolled into one.
My main gripe against Indian governments is that they all treat Indians as children which infantilizes them and makes them dependent on the mai-baap government. Children have to believe in the benevolence of the parents because their day-to-day lives depend on the parents. Without parental care, the children would starve. That’s what Modi was boasting about last month.
Now that sufficient number of Indians have been given food by Modi, he can reasonably expect to be voted back into power for as long as the wishes. It’s a cozy scheme: reduce a country to beggary and slavery, and continue to rule.
Gandhi was a self-absorbed, sexual pervert and a severely deluded idiot. He thought that all that India needed were lessons on morality and it will be “Ram Rajya” all over again. I would excuse him because it is kind to excuse insanity.
Nehru though sophisticated was an uneducated gullible retard. He swallowed without examination the idiocy of centrally planned economy. He can be excused to some degree for his promotion of socialism because the Soviet Union was proclaimed a success.
Indira Gandhi, like her sainted father, was an uneducated, megalomaniacal, supremely cunning control freak. She claimed that the mass illiteracy of Indians was no handicap — because when has literacy done anything for the poor. She did not understand economics of development — which should not come as a surprise because she did not understand pretty much anything. She was a master of manipulation. She had a file on her friends and enemies. She cannot be excused for the damage she did to India.
Manmohan Singh is a despicably dishonest person. Although he had formal training as an economist, he was a statist and did not understand that economic freedom matters. He is dishonest enough to take credit for the 1991 partial liberalization of the economy which was entirely the doing of Narasimha Rao. Manmohan Singh was the perfect puppet for the Italian madam to put her hand up him — he lacked a backbone — and manipulate him. He has half an excuse — he was not in control.
But what excuse does Modi have for his disastrous decisions? Modi saw that socialism doesn’t work. The USSR collapsed, and China too gave up that idiocy. Modi saw that countries that embraced free market capitalism, open trade, reduction of government interference in the economy, reduction of the public sector, etc., leads to rapid economic growth and the ending of poverty. The world has had decades of advances in science, technology and engineering that has radically shortened the time for an economy to developed. Every advantage that developing economies was available for Modi to formulate public policy. And on top of that, he had absolute majority in the Lok Sabha — not once but twice.
Modi has no excuse for mess he’s made. I think history will judge him worse than it will judge all the others that went before him.
 The biggest gains in the reduction of global poverty followed the reforms in China which began around 1980. That lifted an estimated 700 million Chinese out of poverty. Around the year 2000 CE, half the population of China was below the poverty line. Brookings.edu Jan 2021 reports that, “China is almost as well off today as the United States was in 1960 when it became a high-income economy (using the World Bank’s classification).”