The Road to Tyranny

Slowly raising the temperature allows a frog submerged in water to get accustomed to its ever-worsening condition until it gets cooked to death. So goes folk wisdom regarding how to cook a frog. Though a pointless exercise, it does serve as a good metaphor for how countries gradually advance on the road to tyranny — in very small, nearly imperceptible steps.

But it is possible to notice small objects and minute changes if one gets sensitized to them. It is hard to notice a commercial jetliner at cruising altitude from the ground without its telltale vapor trail. However, after someone points it out to you, it’s easy enough to track the nearly invisible object in the sky if you focus on it.

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Freedom is an acquired taste

I am convinced that freedom is an acquired taste, somewhat like dietary preferences. People brought up in a vegetarian households are likely to prefer vegetarian food. People brought up free tend to prefer freedom and those brought up under command structures, prefer that. Muslims apparently prefer the stifling, humanity-denying strictures of Islam that non-Muslims generally find horrifying. Continue reading

India and Foreign Direct Investment

The economic growth of any economy depends on how much is invested in creating productive assets in it. Factories, buildings, ports, the transportation network, natural resource extraction, manpower training, the use of modern methods of manufacturing, energy production and distribution networks — all require investment. Part of the investment arises from domestic savings, part from foreign borrowings, and part from foreign direct investment (FDI.) Let’s look at how India does in FDI compared to other countries.

Here I will not address what kind of changes need to happen for India to attract, say, 10 times as much FDI as it currently does. That’s feasible but not with the current policies and leadership. Anyway, here are the facts.

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Speaking of Freedom of Speech

“If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led like sheep to the slaughter.” –George Washington

The importance of the freedom of speech is underestimated by most people.

George Washington stressed the instrumental role of the freedom of speech — as a defense against oppression. But freedom of speech, like the right to be left alone, is also something of value in and of itself, even if there was no possibility of being oppressed.

I wrote this piece for India Current (June 2016 issue). I reproduce it here, for the record. Continue reading

Quote: Liberty and Government

“Liberty and good government do not exclude each other; and there are excellent reasons why they should go together. Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life. Increase of freedom in the State may sometimes promote mediocrity, and give vitality to prejudice; it may even retard useful legislation, diminish the capacity for war, and restrict the boundaries of Empire.”

— Lord Acton, The History of Freedom in Antiquity [1877]

An ad from 1947: “The Uphill Task Ahead”

My friend Veer shared this advertisement from 1947.

uphilltaskahead

After 68 years, Indians are still fighting a war on poverty and it is still an “Uphill Task Ahead.” Very little has changed since 1947 in the economic environment, and what little change there has been regressive. Certainly relative to 1947, Indians have progressed but relative to others, India has slipped further behind.
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The most dangerous man to any government

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are. ― HL Mencken

And usually these troublemakers are the ones who need to be muzzled through suppression of speech and expression.