In Defense of the Status Quo

While India’s parliamentarians were busy brokering power deals, managing defections and alliances, arranging, accepting and reporting bribes supposedly over the nuclear deal, The Times of India was busy defending the status quo with articles like this and this.

From the first article (titled “For India’s Future”)

“…a superficial look at news headlines conveys the impression that the vote is all about the loaves and fishes of office, a numbers game, where not much is at stake…
…Let’s not be fooled. This is a time for sober reflection. The trust vote is not just about the survival or fall of a government. It is about the future direction of India…
…Those are the issues at stake in tomorrow’s trust vote. Let parliamentarians now choose which way India should go.

And from the second (titled “It’s Messy, But It Works”)

“…It was indeed a new low in the history of Indian democracy…
…Over the better part of two days, the best speakers from major political parties held forth with varying degrees of eloquence on the Indo-US nuclear deal and its consequences for the country…
…And the best part was that there was a mad scramble for seats in the visitors’ gallery to hear speeches.
That is precisely what Parliament is supposed to do – debate issues of national importance before voters…
…This is not a pretty picture. But we must not make the mistake of judging Indian democracy and Parliament only by its low points…
…Indian democracy can often be exasperating and messy…For all its chaos, Indian democracy and its institutions have served us reasonably well.

Yes, in spite of the tamasha in Parliament that you all saw last evening.”

Most people look at what is going on and worry about what the country and its institutions are coming to. But those who bear the responsibility of analyzing current events and forming the basis of educated opinion tell us that not much is wrong with our political institutions, that we should contain our outrage, that we should be happy we are not a banana republic, that our institutions are serving us reasonably well, and above all that we must not judge these events as a failure of democracy.

But the events we see today are inevitable in a system that places majority opinion over rights. When people realize that they can succeed only by being in the majority, they will try to manufacture a majority by whatever means they can. A system that prevents people from achieving their ends by fair means, encourages them to resort to foul means. A democracy is an embodiment of the principle “Might makes right”. Is it any wonder that rogues succeed at it? We must realize that these failures are inherent in a democracy, that the role of government is to subordinate might to right, that the right is not a matter of consensus and that the only way to achieve the right is to leave men free to follow their judgement. Our national motto is “Satyameva Jayate” (Truth alone triumphs). We need to realize that truth triumphs only when it is left free.

Nuclear Deal

Here is a hilarious post on the nuclear deal that makes the point that “common people” have no clue of what the whole nuclear issue is all about.

And that is as it should be. Issues such as “energy security”, the extent of availability, nature and feasibility of various energy sources cannot properly be the concern of “common people”, i.e, those who are not involved with the energy industry. All that common people need to do is to vote with their money for the best producer of energy and these complex issues will be taken care of by those who are best equipped to deal with them – the energy producers in a free market – who have the necessary information, the ability to understand and interpret it and most importantly the motivation to do so. 

That these issues are going to be decided by the political circus that is going on is not as it should be. No matter what decision the government takes, the right of some people (companies) to act on their economic judgements will be violated. This fact has gone unnoticed in all the commentary and debate that the nuclear deal issue has raised, mainly because energy is usually considered far too important to the nation’s economy to be left to the free market. But as Ayn Rand eloquently noted in this speech in Atlas Shrugged

When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men.

An industrial economy cannot survive without trade. The only choice that a society has is whether the trade is in money, goods and services in a free market or in favors, cabinet seats and MP’s. And once the latter is chosen, the original issues lose significance. The issues shift from “What is to be done?” to “Who gets to decide?”. That is the irony of this debate – the debaters who want a voice they have not earned in the running of an industry they know very little about have made the result of the debate inconsequential.

Balancing Rights

In a blog post about pre-marital HIV testing, Sakshi Juneja writes,

“The question of pre-marital HIV testing has been debated in media and on blogs. We are still searching for a balance between:
A) A nation’s effort in curbing a dreaded disease
B) Freeing the society of its prejudices/taboos
C) An individual’s right to protect what is ultimately a private and confidential matter regarding his/her health”

Who is the “we” that is searching for a balance? Presumably it is the voting public. How is the “balance” going to be decided. By majority vote1. What happens to the rights of the dissenting minority?2 They get “balanced away”.

There can be no standard by which to balance any individual’s rights against any “desirable social outcomes”. No social outcome can be desirable if it comes at the cost of deliberately violating someones rights. The sole purpose of proper political action is to secure everyone’s rights. Unless we3 realize this, we will reach a stage where there will be no rights left to balance against anything.

1) By majority vote – in the theory of democracy; by whoever happens to be in a position of power – in actual practice
2) This is not about the privacy of an HIV+ person in particular. The issue of pre-marital HIV testing raises several legitimate questions which I will try to deal with in another post.
3) We here is everyone who cares about rights.

Found this on Professionalism

“Professionalism is not about adherance to the policies of a bureaucracy. Professionalism is about having the integrity, honesty, and sincere regard for the personhood of the customer, in the context of always doing what is best for the business. Those two things do not need to be in conflict.”

I found this in a reply to a comment on an interesting post on Eric Lippert’s blog. Very well put.

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