My post, A few home truths for Indians, did not go down too well with some. They don’t like my pointing out the fact that the Gandhi-Nehru dynasty has been India’s primary curse, and one commenter apparently believes in shooting the messenger when he disagrees with the message. But it is a small price to pay for my continued education. (In recognition of the fact that I use this blog for my own education, I categorized that post as “My Continuing Education on the Web.”) I’d like to share with you one comment that clearly advanced my education.
“One of the lessons of history is that nothing is often a good thing to do and always a clever thing to say.” Thus spoke Will Durant, the celebrated American historian and philosopher, the author of the 11-volume The Story of Civilization. I sometimes wonder if Dr Manmohan Singh, the PM of India appointed by the Italian boss of the Congress Party, ever read history and if he did, whether he learned that lesson. Doing nothing is a good thing if the default is to do stupid thing. As the Buddha, the Enlightened One, the One Who Went Thus, had said, “First do no harm; then try to do good.” It appears that the appointed (as opposed to elected) PM is ignorant of what the Buddha said and what Durant had pointed out. He should have struck to doing nothing instead of what he actually did.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea,” advised Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Does makes sense, doesn’t it? Motivating the task is the real job of the leader, not messing around with petty details.
Of Economic Freedom and Bondage
This is the concluding part of my re-write of PM Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech to the CII. (Previous part on Social Contracts here.) The PM in his speech had quoted from Tagore’s Gitanjali. I suppose the irony of quoting Tagore in the context of the government’s sustained effort to divide the country along caste and religious lines is lost on him. Severe cognitive dissonance perhaps. I have critically examined the PM’s speech for what it was, an attempt to browbeat the Indian industrialists into further crippling the Indian economy. It is all very sad.
I have a strong aversion to sanctimonious hypocritical idiotic talk (just to spell it out) but it happens, as they say. Perhaps it doesn’t just happen, it is demanded. A sort of reverse Says’ law, “demand creating supply.” If not actually demanding it, sufficient people are not disgusted by it that the supply is maintained. Lack of aversion, or at least a publicly stated aversion to the peddling of it.
With that, here is part four of my re-write of PM Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech to the Confederation of Indian Industries.
Fair and Just Profit
Why has profit become such a profane word in India? I believe that it is due to a failure to fully comprehend the nature of what humans do when they engage in economically productive activities and what results from that action. If you believe that the world is static in the sense that there is only a limited amount of stuff to go around irrespective of what one does, then naturally you would believe that it is a zero-sum game, a game in which Ramesh gains only at the expense of Suresh. But perhaps the world is dynamic and when economic activity takes place, the available amount of stuff goes up and Ramesh’s profit is not necessarily Suresh’s loss. True, the question remains about the distribution of the total gain from the activity: perhaps Ramesh gains disproportionately more than Suresh. But even in that case, it can be argued that it is better for society to allow that activity than to prohibit it merely because of the unequal division of the gain.
Anyway, on with our continuing series (earlier bit here) on what the PM should have said at the CII address.
Yesterday I posted the first part of the fake speech that I wish the real PM of India had delivered. The message in the first bit was simply that there are things that the government is supposed to do and there are things that individuals and the private sector is supposed to do. There is a natural division of labor arising from comparative advantages of the competing parties. The government has a comparative advantage in governance, not in producing stuff. The government must stick to governance. Here’s why.
Division of Labor
The “fake”qualifies the “speech” and not the PM, I hasten to add lest there be any misunderstanding. You must have come across the much celebrated speech that appointed Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh gave the other day at a CII conference. I read it with rising disappointment and dismay. Smeared with high-sounding socialistic rhetoric, the message was clear: take care of the mess or else dire consequences will follow. Never mind that the mess was not the creation of the Indian industries, that it is not their responsibility, and most importantly that they are not equipped to clean up the mess.
It appeared that the PM’s speech writers are ill-educated socialists. You can’t get good speech writers for the money the government is willing to pay, I suppose. (Even the PM is paid Rs 30K a month.) Now if they had hired me to write the PM’s speeches, that would be a different matter. But then, I suppose they can’t afford me. So as a public service, I present in five easy-to-read parts the speech as I would have written it. This is the fake speech.