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(Caution: Lengthy post) Suggestions for AAP / Notes to self

January 19, 2013

Democracy:

Democracy is one BIG area where Arvind and Anna have already given INVALUABLE lessons to the nation. This is the reason why I’ve been supporting them despite many differences!

However, since we have democracy on paper (although not in practice), a lot of people wrongly dislike democracy and hope for a ‘good’ dictator. On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 = dictatorship, 10 = democracy), India is roughly at 3. We can jump to around 8 by a couple of changes:

  1. massively decentralize power from central govt to state to district to the village / ward level. See Arvind Kejriwal’s short and sexy book Swaraj. (My only issue with this is he doesn’t go far enough  – power should be decentralized further to the individual level i.e. govt. should be involved only in national defense and law and order issues. That’s true freedom and self-governance!)
  2. change our first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system to list proportional representation (PR). (I am not sure if Yogendra Yadav, who understands the high entry barriers of FPTP, supports PR and has explained its massive advantages to Arvind)

Infact, any 1 of the above 2 steps can solve many of our ills.

PERSONAL AND ECONOMIC FREEDOM (Libertarianism):

Moral argument:

  • As citizens of a free democratic nation, we are free (and capable enough) to choose our PM and formulate our national policies. Hence, we atleast deserve (and are capable of) complete individual freedom. Freedom means the ability to do ANYTHING to my own person or property. We are also accountable in the sense that we cannot violate anybody else’s person or property or forcibly prevent him/her from doing anything.
  • At the very least, anybody who wants to restrict individual freedom (personal as well as economic) should be required to prove clear benefit to affected individuals.
  • See this VERY interesting Nolan Chart to quickly understand the left wing and right wing ideologies and understand how both restrict our freedom. (Ideologies have been twisted and abused by crooks for such a long time that most people believe all ideologies are bad. However, even when one doesn’t want to be wedded to a particular ideology, a very broad understanding helps in forming and communicating ideas to the masses.)
  • Hopefully, you’ll also understand why more and more Americans are becoming ‘libertarians’ i.e. asking for freedom. If there is one thing we can learn from America’s flawed democracy, its not the deceptive master orator Obama but the strong grassroot ‘freedom movement’ energized by the dashing 77 yr old Ron Paul . Thanks to social media, this movement is gaining followers across the world despite complete mainstream media blackout.
  • If you take the time to understand this with an open mind, you’ll become an expert in public policy/ politics and will be VERY addicted!
  • People and ethics are above the laws made by our rulers: Our current Constitution, our laws and our regulations have come from either the British rulers or from our esteemed politicians and bureaucrats. Our original Constitution has been considerably weakened over time by the Gandhis  by ~120 amendment bills each having many amendments. Similarly, we now know how our parliament makes laws and what kind of parliamentarians & bureaucrats we have had since independence. Yet, we have this strange and irrational belief that we have the best laws and we just need to follow/execute them. We have the most horrible laws. We’ve rightly started to keep some watch on new laws being passed but keep eulogizing the existing ones. Also, we have grown up thinking that every citizen should either follow the laws or get them changed but never violate any laws, even when they are contradictory and your competitors are violating them making you noncompetitive ! In reality, ethics and individual freedom are more important and the easiest way to get rid of bad laws is widespread violation (civil disobedience).

Economic argument for FREEDOM:

  • Capitalism is VERY GOOD. Most big corporates in India are not true capitalists…they are cronies since they thrive on govt favoritism and artificial monopolies / oligopolies cunningly created by govt. regulations. Capitalism means ZERO government interference (positive or negative) in any business, small or big. This ensures a level playing field – free market competition that benefits the customers, spreads profits among all efficient businesses and removes scope for govt corruption.
  • Capitalism doesn’t allow govt to bailout big business, forcibly acquire land, decide land use, pick favorites by licensing chosen corporates using arbitrary criteria or create monopolies by granting patents, etc.
  • Despite good intentions, most govt. policies hurt the poor. India’s civil society haven’t experienced true capitalism to understand that capitalism is the best friend of the poor. Take labour laws for example. When govt. makes it difficult to fire labour, businesses hire less labour by automating processes, by hiring labour on temporary contracts, by moving factories to places with easier regulation or by otherwise sidestepping /violating the law. Good guys that follow the law suffer and bad guys that violate the law progress. Similarly, minimum wage laws ensure that people with the least skills (usually the young and inexperienced poor who have studied in poor quality public schools) do not find jobs if their market value is lower than the minimum wage. Without minimum wage laws, these poor can alteast get a low paying job, acquire skills on the job and break the circle of poverty.  If the employers are forced to pay the high minimum wages, they will either automate things or hire only the better skilled workers.
  • Land use / zoning laws: To ‘protect agriculture’ and for ‘planned development’, our govt. restricts use of all our private property to either agricultural, residential or commercial uses. Land use change permissions are granted by bureaucrats on poorly defined criteria. As a result of this infungibility, agricultural land is extremely cheap compared to NA (non-agricultural) land. This one govt regulation has created ENORMOUS problems for the nation. If we completely remove this regulation, then:
  1. Value of agricultural land will increase substantially lifting numerous farmers out of poverty. They can use the land for something else or sell the land and change occupation. Many will continue farming but will be able to get cheaper loans from banks because of higher value of collateral. I bet farmer suicides will more than halve since they’ll have real freedom. (Allowing corporate farming, allowing farmers to sell their produce outside of mandis at market prices, removing all restrictions on new bank licenses, microfinance and NBFC companies, etc. are other measures that will eliminate farm poverty very swiftly)
  2. Value of residential and commercial land will decrease substantially reducing cost of business (making india competitive) and making affordable housing a reality. Wealth of existing homeowners will go down but it won’t  significantly impact a middle class person having just one house – he will get less money if he sells the house but he will also be able to buy the new house at a low price. Investors will take a one-time hit. (Removing restriction on FSI, removing most building regulations will also go a long way in increasing supply and reducing home prices.)
  3. Acquiring agricultural land at low prices (either directly or via govt. mandated acquisition) and reaping massive profits by converting land use is the standard modus operandi in almost every scam. This source of corruption will simply vanish because the price differential will narrow significantly.
  • Current constitution has no individual right to property ..no right to trade, business or profession. So, an Indian adult has been qualified enough since 65 yrs to choose the PM and decide the national policies, etc. but he is not mature enough to decide his personal things. eg: when a poor man decides to send his child to a paid private school inspite of having already paid (via taxes) for the public schools, we think the private school is looting the poor idiot and we require it to have a playground and fulfil so many other requirements that the poor man can no longer afford it. Its hard for us to draw the conclusion that the public school needs to be closed and the money returned to the poor via education vouchers or via low taxes/inflation. theWe ask looted by the If has to follow the thousands of rules laid down by our rulers to decide what to ear, what business to do, how to use his own land, what type of school to send his children to, etc.
  • Even original constitution has wrong ideas – centralization, encroaching on policy making, etc. The amendments (except the 73-74th amendments on Panchayati Raj) only

Govt. spending hurts the poor the most!!

  • First, understand that nothing is free. ALL govt. spending is equally paid for by the poor. How?

–  Indirect tax is paid by everyone – the poorest pay the highest as % of income since all their income goes on consumption.

–  Direct taxes (Income tax) – Incidence of tax is more on rich businessmen / corporate executives but the actual burden of tax is shared by everyone depending on price elasticity of demand. eg: Higher corporate income taxes generally mean a combination of higher prices for consumers, lower prices for suppliers, lower salaries for employees, lower profits for shareholders and lower spending or lower savings by the rich guys. It only means higher income for chartered accountants, auditors, lawyers, lobbyists, etc. who are hired by these corporates to evade taxes and to bribe the bureaucrats and politicians to create loopholes for them. This is also a big source of corruption!

–  Finally, when govt. spends money by borrowing or simply printing new money (yes, they do that a LOT! with RBI’s kind help), it hurts the poor the most in the form of inflation.

  • So, lower govt spending means lower taxes, lower govt borrowing and less money printing (and less scope for corruption)
  • I can GUARANTEE that if we simply cut govt spending in each category by 50%, then prices and corruption will actually DECREASE EVERY YEAR.
  • It will also not meaningfully reduce the money in the hands of the poor since most of the govt spending anyways doesn’t reach the poor (misdirected subsidies, corruption, bailout, bureaucrat and politician salaries, numerous other wastages, etc.)
  • Also, low govt restrictions = higher supply = more competition = falling prices, better quality and better services
  • We need smal
  • Decentralization (Swaraj) is sexy. By the same logic, extreme centralization (i.e. nationalization, public sector undertakings) is HORRIBLE. Government has no business to be in business. Remember our ancient wisdom:  जहाँ की सरकार हो व्यापारी वहां की जनता हो भिखारी (Jahaan ki sarkaar ho vyaapari, wahaan ki janta ho bhikar i.e. Where the govt is involved in business, the people are eventually force to beg!)

Strategy to push the govt to change things:

  • AAP should focus on contesting 20-25 of the 70 Delhi Assembly seats and try to win 8 to 12 of them so that neither BJP nor Congress can form the govt without its support. Then, support govt formation on the condition of immediately making some key changes as requested by us. [I don’t think there is enough of a wave yet for it to win more than 15-20 seats. Ofcourse, depends on how much of these suggestions AAP really incorporates :)]
  • Where AAP expects less support, it should act as a political pressure group and campaign for the party that agrees to implement a key change or two BEFORE the elections (the change can be implemented either in the same state or another state)

Be different from other parties in a good way

  • ‘small govt’ ideology (see above)
  • kingmaker in legislature
  • kingmaker in weak seats
  • Transparent decision making process
  • Transparent Funding and expenditure

Candidate selection:

  • Sign a Right to recall agreement
  • IQ tests
  • physical fitness tests
  • candidates to annually declare assets of self and family and legally agree to anyone buying all or part of those assets at 1.5 times the declared value within 2 months of the declaration date
  • legally agree to donate undeclared assets to some credible charities
  • legally agree to donate any increase in assets greater than 20% CAGR while being in office (including 1 years before and 2 years after)

Internal party functioning:

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3 Comments
  1. I just hope people do read and get themselves more aware of what could be the real solutions of the problems in hands rather than simply saying….there is no solution…and nothing is ever going to be change…..i am glad someone is taking the initiative and showing us the way……atleast first step is been taken……thanks for coming up with solutions……implementing is the next challenge once the voice of such solutions grows……

  2. Satish permalink

    Pure democracy is dangerous. India should stay as republic, it shouldn’t become a democracy. We don’t need mob rule in India. India should continue as a republic as envisioned by our constitutional writers and guarantee every individual a right to life, right to freedom of speech, right to pursue happiness and a right to the property they own, with no guarantee of physical comfort. Even if 99.99% percent of people of India are against fundamental rights we should still protect the 0.01% with fundamental rights. The problem with democracy is majority dictatorship over minority. So what we need India to be is a republic and not a democracy.

    In India we should have a representative constitutional republic and not democracy.

    Here is interesting article in US of A regarding this

    An Important Distinction: Democracy versus Republic

    It is important to keep in mind the difference between a Democracy and a Republic, as dissimilar forms of government. Understanding the difference is essential to comprehension of the fundamentals involved. It should be noted, in passing, that use of the word Democracy as meaning merely the popular type of government–that is, featuring genuinely free elections by the people periodically–is not helpful in discussing, as here, the difference between alternative and dissimilar forms of a popular government: a Democracy versus a Republic. This double meaning of Democracy–a popular-type government in general, as well as a specific form of popular government–needs to be made clear in any discussion, or writing, regarding this subject, for the sake of sound understanding.

    These two forms of government: Democracy and Republic, are not only dissimilar but antithetical, reflecting the sharp contrast between (a) The Majority Unlimited, in a Democracy, lacking any legal safeguard of the rights of The Individual and The Minority, and (b) The Majority Limited, in a Republic under a written Constitution safeguarding the rights of The Individual and The Minority; as we shall now see.

    A Democracy

    The chief characteristic and distinguishing feature of a Democracy is: Rule by Omnipotent Majority. In a Democracy, The Individual, and any group of Individuals composing any Minority, have no protection against the unlimited power of The Majority. It is a case of Majority-over-Man.

    This is true whether it be a Direct Democracy, or a Representative Democracy. In the direct type, applicable only to a small number of people as in the little city-states of ancient Greece, or in a New England town-meeting, all of the electorate assemble to debate and decide all government questions, and all decisions are reached by a majority vote (of at least half-plus-one). Decisions of The Majority in a New England town-meeting are, of course, subject to the Constitutions of the State and of the United States which protect The Individual’s rights; so, in this case, The Majority is not omnipotent and such a town-meeting is, therefore, not an example of a true Direct Democracy. Under a Representative Democracy like Britain’s parliamentary form of government, the people elect representatives to the national legislature–the elective body there being the House of Commons–and it functions by a similar vote of at least half-plus-one in making all legislative decisions.

    In both the Direct type and the Representative type of Democracy, The Majority’s power is absolute and unlimited; its decisions are unappealable under the legal system established to give effect to this form of government. This opens the door to unlimited Tyranny-by-Majority. This was what The Framers of the United States Constitution meant in 1787, in debates in the Federal (framing) Convention, when they condemned the “excesses of democracy” and abuses under any Democracy of the unalienable rights of The Individual by The Majority. Examples were provided in the immediate post-1776 years by the legislatures of some of the States. In reaction against earlier royal tyranny, which had been exercised through oppressions by royal governors and judges of the new State governments, while the legislatures acted as if they were virtually omnipotent. There were no effective State Constitutions to limit the legislatures because most State governments were operating under mere Acts of their respective legislatures which were mislabelled “Constitutions.” Neither the governors not the courts of the offending States were able to exercise any substantial and effective restraining influence upon the legislatures in defense of The Individual’s unalienable rights, when violated by legislative infringements. (Connecticut and Rhode Island continued under their old Charters for many years.) It was not until 1780 that the first genuine Republic through constitutionally limited government, was adopted by Massachusetts–next New Hampshire in 1784, other States later.

    It was in this connection that Jefferson, in his “Notes On The State of Virginia” written in 1781-1782, protected against such excesses by the Virginia Legislature in the years following the Declaration of Independence, saying: “An elective despotism was not the government we fought for . . .” (Emphasis Jefferson’s.) He also denounced the despotic concentration of power in the Virginia Legislature, under the so-called “Constitution”–in reality a mere Act of that body:

    “All the powers of government, legislative, executive, judiciary, result to the legislative body. The concentrating these in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. It will be no alleviation that these powers will be exercised by a plurality of hands, and not by a single one. 173 despots would surely be as oppressive as one. Let those who doubt it turn their eyes on the republic of Venice.”

    This topic–the danger to the people’s liberties due to the turbulence of democracies and omnipotent, legislative majority–is discussed in The Federalist, for example in numbers 10 and 48 by Madison (in the latter noting Jefferson’s above-quoted comments).

    The Framing Convention’s records prove that by decrying the “excesses of democracy” The Framers were, of course, not opposing a popular type of government for the United States; their whole aim and effort was to create a sound system of this type. To contend to the contrary is to falsify history. Such a falsification not only maligns the high purpose and good character of The Framers but belittles the spirit of the truly Free Man in America–the people at large of that period–who happily accepted and lived with gratification under the Constitution as their own fundamental law and under the Republic which it created, especially because they felt confident for the first time of the security of their liberties thereby protected against abuse by all possible violators, including The Majority momentarily in control of government. The truth is that The Framers, by their protests against the “excesses of democracy,” were merely making clear their sound reasons for preferring a Republic as the proper form of government. They well knew, in light of history, that nothing but a Republic can provide the best safeguards–in truth in the long run the only effective safeguards (if enforced in practice)–for the people’s liberties which are inescapably victimized by Democracy’s form and system of unlimited Government-over-Man featuring The Majority Omnipotent. They also knew that the American people would not consent to any form of government but that of a Republic. It is of special interest to note that Jefferson, who had been in Paris as the American Minister for several years, wrote Madison from there in March 1789 that:

    “The tyranny of the legislatures is the most formidable dread at present, and will be for long years. That of the executive will come it’s turn, but it will be at a remote period.” (Text per original.)

    Somewhat earlier, Madison had written Jefferson about violation of the Bill of Rights by State legislatures, stating:

    “Repeated violations of those parchment barriers have been committed by overbearing majorities in every State. In Virginia I have seen the bill of rights violated in every instance where it has been opposed to a popular current.”

    It is correct to say that in any Democracy–either a Direct or a Representative type–as a form of government, there can be no legal system which protects The Individual or The Minority (any or all minorities) against unlimited tyranny by The Majority. The undependable sense of self-restraint of the persons making up The Majority at any particular time offers, of course, no protection whatever. Such a form of government is characterized by The Majority Omnipotent and Unlimited. This is true, for example, of the Representative Democracy of Great Britain; because unlimited government power is possessed by the House of Lords, under an Act of Parliament of 1949–indeed, it has power to abolish anything and everything governmental in Great Britain.

    For a period of some centuries ago, some English judges did argue that their decisions could restrain Parliament; but this theory had to be abandoned because it was found to be untenable in the light of sound political theory and governmental realities in a Representative Democracy. Under this form of government, neither the courts not any other part of the government can effectively challenge, much less block, any action by The Majority in the legislative body, no matter how arbitrary, tyrannous, or totalitarian they might become in practice. The parliamentary system of Great Britain is a perfect example of Representative Democracy and of the potential tyranny inherent in its system of Unlimited Rule by Omnipotent Majority. This pertains only to the potential, to the theory, involved; governmental practices there are irrelevant to this discussion.

    Madison’s observations in The Federalist number 10 are noteworthy at this point because they highlight a grave error made through the centuries regarding Democracy as a form of government. He commented as follows:

    “Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed, that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.”

    Democracy, as a form of government, is utterly repugnant to–is the very antithesis of–the traditional American system: that of a Republic, and its underlying philosophy, as expressed in essence in the Declaration of Independence with primary emphasis upon the people’s forming their government so as to permit them to possess only “just powers” (limited powers) in order to make and keep secure the God-given, unalienable rights of each and every Individual and therefore of all groups of Individuals.

    A Republic

    A Republic, on the other hand, has a very different purpose and an entirely different form, or system, of government. Its purpose is to control The Majority strictly, as well as all others among the people, primarily to protect The Individual’s God-given, unalienable rights and therefore for the protection of the rights of The Minority, of all minorities, and the liberties of people in general. The definition of a Republic is: a constitutionally limited government of the representative type, created by a written Constitution–adopted by the people and changeable (from its original meaning) by them only by its amendment–with its powers divided between three separate Branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Here the term “the people” means, of course, the electorate.

    The people adopt the Constitution as their fundamental law by utilizing a Constitutional Convention–especially chosen by them for this express and sole purpose–to frame it for consideration and approval by them either directly or by their representatives in a Ratifying Convention, similarly chosen. Such a Constitutional Convention, for either framing or ratification, is one of America’s greatest contributions, if not her greatest contribution, to the mechanics of government–of self-government through constitutionally limited government, comparable in importance to America’s greatest contribution to the science of government: the formation and adoption by the sovereign people of a written Constitution as the basis for self-government. One of the earliest, if not the first, specific discussions of this new American development (a Constitutional Convention) in the historical records is an entry in June 1775 in John Adams’ “Autobiography” commenting on the framing by a convention and ratification by the people as follows:

    “By conventions of representatives, freely, fairly, and proportionately chosen . . . the convention may send out their project of a constitution, to the people in their several towns, counties, or districts, and the people may make the acceptance of it their own act.”

    Yet the first proposal in 1778 of a Constitution for Massachusetts was rejected for the reason, in part, as stated in the “Essex Result” (the result, or report, of the Convention of towns of Essex County), that it had been framed and proposed not by a specially chosen convention but by members of the legislature who were involved in general legislative duties, including those pertaining to the conduct of the war.

    The first genuine and soundly founded Republic in all history was the one created by the first genuine Constitution, which was adopted by the people of Massachusetts in 1780 after being framed for their consideration by a specially chosen Constitutional Convention. (As previously noted, the so-called “Constitutions” adopted by some States in 1776 were mere Acts of Legislatures, not genuine Constitutions.) That Constitutional Convention of Massachusetts was the first successful one ever held in the world; although New Hampshire had earlier held one unsuccessfully – it took several years and several successive conventions to produce the New Hampshire Constitution of 1784. Next, in 1787-1788, the United States Constitution was framed by the Federal Convention for the people’s consideration and then ratified by the people of the several States through a Ratifying Convention in each State specially chosen by them for this sole purpose. Thereafter the other States gradually followed in general the Massachusetts pattern of Constitution-making in adoption of genuine Constitutions; but there was a delay of a number of years in this regard as to some of them, several decades as to a few.

    This system of Constitution-making, for the purpose of establishing constitutionally limited government, is designed to put into practice the principle of the Declaration of Independence: that the people form their governments and grant to them only “just powers,” limited powers, in order primarily to secure (to make and keep secure) their God-given, unalienable rights. The American philosophy and system of government thus bar equally the “snob-rule” of a governing Elite and the “mob-rule” of an Omnipotent Majority. This is designed, above all else, to preclude the existence in America of any governmental power capable of being misused so as to violate The Individual’s rights–to endanger the people’s liberties.

    With regard to the republican form of government (that of a republic), Madison made an observation in The Federalist (no. 55) which merits quoting here–as follows:

    “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust: So there are other qualities in human nature, which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government (that of a Republic) presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.” (Emphasis added.)

    It is noteworthy here that the above discussion, though brief, is sufficient to indicate the reasons why the label “Republic” has been misapplied in other countries to other and different forms of government throughout history. It has been greatly misunderstood and widely misused–for example as long ago as the time of Plato, when he wrote his celebrated volume, The Republic; in which he did not discuss anything governmental even remotely resembling–having essential characteristics of–a genuine Republic. Frequent reference is to be found, in the writings of the period of the framing of the Constitution for instance, to “the ancient republics,” but in any such connection the term was used loosely–by way of contrast to a monarchy or to a Direct Democracy–often using the term in the sense merely of a system of Rule-by-Law featuring Representative government; as indicated, for example, by John Adams in his “Thoughts on Government” and by Madison in The Federalist numbers 10 and 39. But this is an incomplete definition because it can include a Representative Democracy, lacking a written Constitution limiting The Majority.

    • yes, ofcourse…i actually believe in zero government (anarchy / complete freedom).

      if we have govt, i too prefer a republic i.e. a govt tightly constrained by constitution in most areas

      and finally, those powers that constitution bestows upon the govt should be exercised in a highly democratic manner…that’s my argument for democracy!

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