Blame it on freedom

Beware of Middle India, Swapan Dasgupta says-

[T]here is a deepening realisation that no amount of reassuring platitudes delivered in slow, loud and impeccable diction by the finance minister is going to prevent the Incredible India dream from turning into a nightmare. The ideologically-inclined may direct their ire at smug investment bankers and hedge fund managers who descended on India to educate the natives on modern capitalism. However, to the new middle classes that extricated themselves from the shortage economy, enjoyed the benefits of housing, car and education loans, a rising stock market and surfeit of consumer goods, the party-poopers are at home.

The outrage over Jet Airways’ proposed job cuts was a revelation. At one level, it symbolised the end of hope in the New Economy. But it also suggested that even impeccably groomed kids, trained in hospitality, will not hesitate to kick butts and even solicit the help of Raj Thackeray to safeguard their future. Politically, all this is bad news for the government. Regardless of who was really to blame, the ultimate responsibility for things going wrong is invariably pinned on incumbent administrations.

For governments it’s a no-win situation. Adopting a hands-off approach is impossible because the mismanagement of private greed has a knock-on effect on the whole economy and mar people’s lives. At the same time, bail-out packages (including nationalisation) invite charges of cosy stitch-ups – in a Vanity Fair article Christopher Hitchens described them as privatisation of profits and socialising of debts.

Electorates need someone to pillory and governments are first in the retribution queue.

The impeccably groomed kids first. No one likes losing their job. But bringing in the goon squad (read political parties) to “fix” the problem is nothing but playing with fire. The economic argument for hire-and-fire is pretty simple – laws that restrict the ability to fire impact the businessman’s willingness to hire. The moral argument, put bluntly? Its my company, my money, my risk; and if you want a job, it will be on my terms.

Imagine that the shoe is on the other foot; the employee is now the employer – at home, he employs the “bai”, the newspaper vendor, the milkman. What happens when he – decides to fire the bai because he’s bought a new washing machine and dishwasher; stops buying newspapers because Google News gives him the latest updates 24×7, and milk because he’s switched to black coffee, US style; and he finds the domestic servants’ union, Raj Thackeray and Laloo Yadav at his door step the next morning telling him – “you cannot hire and fire people at will, after all its a question of employment?” Surely what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? But then, the “greedy” businessman and the “poor” employee are hardly ever seen in the same light.

If you want to see how crazy restrictions on employment can get, all you have to do is visit socialist France with its 35 hour work week-

Mariam, a 28-year-old retail chain employee, went to great lengths to get fired.

Knowing she would be ineligible for unemployment payments if she simply quit, Mariam asked her company to fire her, but she was turned down. Then she simply stopped showing up for work. Her wish was granted at last – she was fired, went on the dole and found a new job six months later.

Soon, such convoluted yet surprisingly common schemes may be a thing of the past. An unusual new proposal, prompted by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s push for a more flexible labor market, would allow employees to get unemployment payments even if they quit.
Schemes like Mariam’s are a symptom of how those fears have made workers risk-averse, and of just how much France’s rigid labor market needs to change. (Mariam asked to be identified by her middle name only because she lied to her new employer about how she left her last job.)

Now the electorate and its perpetual quest for a whipping boy. When governments fall because the prices of onions and oil rise, and when people assume that it should cater to their every whim – that MPs should build toilets in their constituencies instead of making and reviewing laws in parliament – why should they be surprised when the government decides to take more interest in their personal affairs? Sauvik Chakraverti refers to this report on Gordon Brown

“I admire the market’s ability to release the dynamism and enterprise of people and so this new Labour Government is pro-business and pro-markets and always will be,” he wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

But I also know that we do not live by markets alone. I have long understood that markets rely on values that they cannot generate themselves. Values as important as treating people fairly, acting responsibly, co-operating for the benefit of all.”

and says

Actually, we do live by markets alone. All our needs are supplied by markets – from pizzas to potatoes to plasma TVs.

As far as the “values” Brown talks about, these are propagated by churches, by religions, by philanthropists. It would be ridiculous to expect markets to generate these “values.”

Markets are impersonal and competitive. The results have nothing to do with “fairness.” Rather, they have a lot to do with luck. Countless entrepreneurs fail. Yet, civilized society cannot exist without the market.

After socialist Brown, here is Barack “Robin Hood” Obama

“It’s not that I want to punish your success,” Obama told him. “I want to make sure that everybody who is behind you, that they’ve got a chance for success, too.

Then, Obama explained his trickle-up theory of economics.

“My attitude is that if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.

People’s lynch mob mentality (education is meaningless here; being educated and being wise are two different things) – the need to blame everybody but themselves for their position – makes it impossible for any honest man – one who does not advocate theft and murder in the name of “socialism” – to ever win an election and form a government; and instead allows politicians like Brown and Obama to get away with making outrageous statements the essence of which is – since you have declared that you don’t know or want to manage your lives, we will do it for you.

The warning is out there for all to see. The free market is the canary in the coal mine – when it goes, so will freedom.

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  • you12  On October 19, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I agree. The world looks so clouded and chaotic right now. I don’t know how and when the economic crisis will end.

    Previously I thought Obama was good. Now I think McCain is much better for everything except for the fact that his junior is actually a stupid stewardess. If he had been campaigning like he is doing now instead of supporting Bush, it would have been all different.

    Still so much depends on the next US election Its scary. Society needs to end its dependence on politicians otherwise problems will keep arising.

    If only politics was able to solve anything!! But it can’t since politics is the business of selling and distributing problems. And we all are big consumers!

  • you12  On October 19, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Or may be we all are overreacting like we did during the recent oil-price surge.

  • Aristotle The Geek  On October 20, 2008 at 3:06 am

    We are not overreacting, and oil prices will climb again, if not within the next few months, then within the next couple of years. If stupid politicians don’t mess things up and we avoid a recession, oil should probably go and settle around the $200 mark in five years time.

  • Undercover Indian  On October 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Very nice piece. I like “decides to fire the bai because he’s bought a new washing machine and dishwasher” bit. So true. Those jet employees who were fired, they should have known that thier galmorous and high paying career came with some inherent risks.

    What is even worse is that they went to Goon like Raj T.

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