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Left, Right; and Liberal Economists



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>>I do NOT subscribe to such a view. I hope this was a joke, Prof.Roy.

-- no I mean it seriously, and perhaps it ought to open a discussion.   I 
may have said it badly but it is my experience.    Let me try to improve on 
it.  I mean that the academic economist (as opposed to e.g. someone in the 
private sector as an economist or someone in an international organisation), 
is committed to examining and expressing the truth as he or she sees it in 
as objective a manner as possible.  Society pays him/her well to do not very 
much other than exercise academic freedom to speak out coherently as and 
when required.   (Of course most academics often ignore this responsibility, 
and are fast asleep but that is a different mater).

Those in power, whether communists or fascists or centrists or whomever, in 
any country at any time, usually have their own agenda of action, which may 
or may not  find any resonance in what objective analysis might point to 
being in the national interest.    Hence, if the academic economist does 
his/her job properly, then it might inevitably mean he/she finds himself in 
intellectual opposition to whomever is in power at a given time.   To put it 
differently, if the political power does something right, the academic 
economist need not praise it because there are plenty of other people around 
to do that instead;  on the other hand, if the political power does 
something wrong, then few other than the academic economist may be able to
even recognise that it is wrong, and hence has a responsiblity for stating 
this publicly.

In my own case,  IPI has recorded that I have been pro-Vajpayee since 1996; 
but I have slowly begun to speak out on economic grounds against the present 
Government's economic policies where I have identified them as being 
palpably wrong.  One of these has to do with the power being accorded to big 
business in the so-called "organised" sector  in economic 
decision-making....  I have a whole paper on that which I have been giving 
in talks..

Liberal economics has to do with being one the side of the individual,
anonymous, consumer, farm-worker, industrial worker or small businessman.... 
they tend to get the shaft from organised labour when the Left is in power 
and from organised capital when the Right is in power....

In the late 1970s, I was literally laughed at when I put forward liberal 
ideas for India.    The power structure at the time could not imagine life 
without Brezhnev and the Berlin Wall.     Now the same or similar power 
structure has changed its colours and claiming to have been liberal all 
along...

>>(P.. S.  I am also of course surprised how many great Indian
>>economists
>>and/or bureaucrats from whom not a whisper could be heard against
>>totalitarianism before the fall of the Berlin Wall, have now become the
> >>>champions of liberty, marching right there beside Lincoln and
> >>>Jefferson...... )
> >
> >Whom do you refer to,
>

-- it would not be polite for me to name names here and now....  but ask 
yourself this question, or could some enterprising Indian grad student at an 
American University do this as a simple exercise...

look up the statements of any allegedly great Indian economist in recent 
decades, especially what was being said about democracy and communism, e.g. 
in India, China, the USSR etc before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and after 
the fall of the Berlin Wall.... and see if there is a significant 
difference.     I

>and WHY do you bother AT ALL about these jokers? Why
> >do you call these jokers "great"? Who told you that such folk are 
>entitled
> >to be called great?

-- I am being polite, that's all.

>Why do you expect bureaucrats to speak out anyway?
>

-- no, by bureaucrats, I did not mean anyone young... I meant those economic 
bureaucrats who have published records of having been rather bluntly 
Stalinist in their economics suddenly turning out now to be really warm 
Jeffersonian liberals all along...

Of course I have no desire to have anything to do with the organised power 
blocs masquerading as the Left in the Universities, dressed up as Che 
Guevara.... their writing is usually grotesque in its lack of understanding 
of economics...  But that still leaves it open that the Liberal economist 
must oppose alone the errors of the Right...

In short, the Liberal economist may find himnself/herself inevitably
buffeted between the organised interests groups of both the Left and the 
Right. I am reminded of a statement Peter Bauer made to me in 1978 or 1980, 
and which I quoted on IPI in late 1998; he said that the Liberal (and he is 
the archetypal Liberal), often has an inadequate understanding of political 
power... which the Left and Right instead do understand rather better....  I 
think he may have been referring to the Left/Right conflict in Germany which 
led to the collapse of German liberalism in the inter-War period.

Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my thoughts on the matter.  (Please 
post my initial message to which Dr Sabhlok responded.)

Subroto Roy.

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