Head of Indian Economic Organization: A Plea for a Modern India

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Investors are not confident in investing in a nation where people are still killed for eating beef.

Third World corruption and poor performance in every field of human endeavor, particularly in governance, is the hallmark of India. The results of India’s chronic misgovernance face us every day, at every step.

Instead of choosing liberty, our political parties have chosen the path of collectivism. Not only have they placed innumerable obstacles on our liberty and violated all principles of good policy, they have institutionalized deep-rooted incentives for corruption within our governance system. As a result, the governments of India can no longer deliver even basic services, such as police and justice.

Sixty years of socialism has left India with grinding poverty: Mumbai awash in slums, trains crammed to capacity with hundreds traveling on roofs. Investors see a country trapped in a medieval mindset, with its khap panchayats that forbid girls under 18 from using cell phones, and people who agitate to be “backward.” Investors see turmoil, whether it is people killed for eating beef (or for merely transporting cattle) or jailed for speaking out, or for making caricatures of public figures.

The Constitution of India protects us first and foremost against oppression by the government of India. We are protected from the use of arbitrary power or action by government. That is the core function of rights. This idea of rights is therefore very limited.

A government cannot stop us from our rights to thought, expression and action so long as we don’t physically harm others. Similarly, we have the right to our property. We own ourselves and the fruits of our labor. This includes ownership that is passed on through generations, for our children are the fruits of our labor and we can lavish whatever attention we wish on them.

Unfortunately, rights have become an all-purpose term used for evading both facts and logic by saying that people have a “right” to whatever the socialists want to give them by taking from others.

Let us remember – that anything that does not arise from our fundamental opposition to arbitrary interference from government is not a right.

All money and wealth is created by the people through their production, transactions and trade. Government does not create. It has no resources of its very own. It can distribute only what it first taxes away from the productive efforts of individuals.

If the government gives one person something that he did not earn, it necessarily requires that the government deprive somebody else of something that he did earn. It is fundamentally immoral for the government to give to one individual or group the fruits of the labor.

Every ounce of wealth created in this world is created through these individual transactions and trades. A vast amount of effort and energy is involved in creating wealth. Everyone is entitled to distribute their wealth to others voluntarily, if they so wish. But there is no basis for anyone (even a government) to seize this wealth and try to redistribute it to others.

Indeed, there is even evidence that the government is busy taking money from the poor and giving to the rich. Only the poorest of the poor must receive support through the government.

Strict rule of law is a critical and vital ingredient for a society’s success. Rule of Law means that social rules are made according to principles and not according to personal whims, arbitrary notions, or legislative caprice. The rule of law means that laws apply to everyone equally. No one is above the law. And justice requires that the law privilege no person or group, or create special laws for ‘special’ groups of people. 

Maintenance of the rule of law requires ensuring that laws which are implemented are simple to comprehend and thus limiting the personal discretion of government officials to move resources and make decisions. We must abolish stupid laws that don’t make sense while also enforcing a zero tolerance for corruption and abuse of power and maintaining an impartial police force and judiciary.

The legal system needs to be world-class. English Common Law is reputed to be the best for private enterprise and economic prosperity. Seven of the ten most economically free countries in the world have a common-law legal system.

By rediscovering a commitment to free enterprise and a legal system that is modern and intolerant of corruption, India can reach its potential.

India can be a great country or “Sone kind chidiya” once again and really be one of the greatest nations in the world if we commit to changing the current course.

Asif Iqbal is the president of the Indian Economic Trade Organization.

Asif Iqbal is the president of the Indian Economic Trade Organization.

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