Didn’t know of him

Deepak Lal, I mean. A Professor at UCLA, he is a classical liberal who writes columns for the Business Standard. Read this column, for example-

The Supreme Court has rightly allowed this 1989 amendment to be challenged by the PIL, which claims it is “a grave breach of the liberty provision of the Constitution”. But, its summary rejection of the plea to declare that socialism is not part of the “basic structure” of the Constitution has prevented it from discussing the relationship between socialism and liberty, which Dr Ambedkar, the father of the Constitution, saw clearly in opposing the inclusion of “socialism” in the Preamble. He said: “If you state in the Constitution that the social organization of the State shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organization in which they wish to live.”

Revealingly, the Chief Justice in dismissing the petition to delete “socialism” from the Preamble, stated: “Why do you take socialism in a narrow sense defined by the Communists? In a broader sense, socialism means welfare measures for the citizens. It is a facet of democracy. It hasn’t got any definite meaning. It gets different meaning in different times.” This raises a number of points.

First, words do matter. If a word has no definite meaning it has no place in a Constitution. Second, socialism does have a meaning. All the various socialist sects share a belief in egalitarianism. The major difference between the Communist and Fabian versions is that, the former seeks to promote egalitarianism by socialising the means of production, the latter by seeking to socialise the results of production. Third, there is an alternative set of political beliefs, classical liberalism, which promotes liberty but eschews egalitarianism. It, however, accepts the need for the State to help the deserving poor and to finance merit goods like health and education for those unable to pay for them (see my Reviving the Invisible Hand). This is close to the Chief Justice’s definition of “socialism”. But he seems confused about the two different political philosophies, which both accept “welfare measures” but with different ends. Socialists wish to promote equality, classical liberals liberty. Classical liberals eschew socialists’ egalitarianism because (as Nozick demonstrated) “equality” conflicts with “liberty”. As he wrote: “The socialist society would have to forbid capitalist acts between consenting adults” (Anarchy, State and Utopia, p. 163). Fourth, egalitarianism as a moral belief is part of the cosmological beliefs of the monotheistic religions, and not part of those set of moral beliefs, including Hinduism, which accept what Louis Dumont called Homo Hierarchicus (see my Unintended Consequences). Fifth, socialism is a modern instrument of control of the Predatory State.

You can find his columns here. If you hit a paywall, try some voodoo with the browser (click on the address bar, and hit enter; Indian newspaper websites are pathetic – their CMS guys need to wake up), or read them at Lal’s UCLA page (the articles are scanned and archived in pdf format). All the idiots writing for ET should take lessons from him.

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Comments

  • chandra  On April 9, 2009 at 11:40 am

    Mr Geek,

    it is not surprise me when you “All the idiots writing for ET should take lessons from him.”

    In my view Mr Lal is no longer a true classic ‘liberal’ just see what he has said in his recent column in the Business Standard. he said “US banks urgently need to be restored to health, perhaps through temporary nationalisation as in Sweden in 1992.”

    http://www.business-standard.com/india/storypage.php?autono=353433

    To my mind it is totally misleading argument. One liberal will not think that easy.

    • Aristotle The Geek  On April 9, 2009 at 6:26 pm

      I agree. In fact, you can see the “signs” in the very column I quote-

      Third, there is an alternative set of political beliefs, classical liberalism, which promotes liberty but eschews egalitarianism. It, however, accepts the need for the State to help the deserving poor and to finance merit goods like health and education for those unable to pay for them (see my Reviving the Invisible Hand). This is close to the Chief Justice’s definition of “socialism”. But he seems confused about the two different political philosophies, which both accept “welfare measures” but with different ends.

      Lal is just like Swami and many others of the Centre for Civil Society. Their “philosophy” is broadly utilitarian – that is, “we believe that government should ‘as far as possible’ choose liberty over egalitarianism.” The only people who are true “liberals” are those who assert man’s moral right to life and property based on the “natural rights” theory of ethics; there are very few of them around today. The moment you accept the role of the State in the economy, however small it may be, you are no longer a “liberal”.

      In so far as Lal accepts the role of the State in the economy, he’s no liberal. That said, the ET folks – there are too many – could take a few lessons on “minimizing” the role of government from him. That’s just a temporary fix however. The real answer lies in philosophy. Without ethics, there is no politics.

  • chandra  On April 9, 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Geek,

    Yes I could see, in fact we are on the same line. But one more point there is new group is coming up I am yet to see full frame of this group. You may be aware see below.
    http://freedomteam.in/?file=main
    http://www.sanjeev.sabhlokcity.com/

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