I have been arguing for a while that the fountainhead of India’s troubles is the Indian Constitution. Recently I contributed a chapter to the CCS publication “Liberalism in India: Past, Present and Future“, and also wrote an opinion piece for LiveMint on the same topic “Why India Needs a New Constitution.” The question naturally arises: replace the constitution with what? Here’s my answer. Continue reading
The most important thing for the constitution of any civilized society is the guarantee that it provides that all people are treated equally and without discrimination by the government. The other bits follow logically from that principle.
And the back story to that is here. (I don’t like the video style of getting multiple people to say bits of a sentence — it’s tiresome and distracting.)
The First Amendment to the US Constitution is 45 words long. The full text reads:
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.
Just by the way, the first 10 amendments to the US constitution is collectively known as the “Bill of Rights.” They were all ratified on Dec 15, 1791.
The First Amendment to the Indian constitution was introduced by Jawaharlal “Cha-cha” Nehru and was enacted in June 1951. The full text of the amendment is below.
It is not for the fainthearted. You ask why? Because here’s a very brief extract from the more than 1700 words.
No law in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of the Constitution which is consistent with the provisions of article 19 of the Constitution as amended by sub-section (1) of this section shall be deemed to be void, or over to have become void, on the ground only that, being a law which takes away or abridges the right conferred by sub-clause (a) of clause (1) of the said article, its operation was not saved by clause (2) of that article as originally enacted.
Please do check out full text below.
In the previous parts (first and second) of this essay, I discussed some aspects of constitutions and governments. The discussion was general and was principles based. In this part, I examine the particular case of the Indian constitution and the governments that it gives rise to. And I conclude that the constitution needs to be replaced.
In part 1 of “Constitution, Government, Economy”, I had explored what a state is, what an economy is, the need for a constitution, the restrictions that must be imposed on a government, etc. This is a continuation of the same. In this, I go into some details on redistribution and why it must no be done by government.
Hayek’s monumental work “Law, Legislation and Liberty” contains deep insights into what the proper functions of governments are, and how they should be understood and implemented. Every paragraph is worth quoting in full. But here are a few select bits extracted from the 3-volume work to give you a sense of Hayek’s ideas.
The constitution is that set of “top-level rules of the game” that are relatively few, relatively inflexible, general and persist across generations, or periods.
In the extended social order we call society, individual persons are the basic interacting units who attempt to realize their individual objectives, individually and collectively. Some of these objectives or goals can be realized by organizing privately, and others only through collective actions. Organized private activity is called “the market” which meets the private needs of the people. For those goals which require collective action, collective decisions have to be made.
That is what “government” is. In James Buchanan’s view, government is “that complex of institutions through which individuals make collective decisions, and through which they carry out collective as opposed to private activities.” And “politics” according to him “is the activity of persons in the context of such institutions.”