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Chapter No. 12
Pretty Good Principles

I have only two rules which I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.

Albert Einstein

That government is best which governs least.

Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience

India, like every successful entity, must have a set of principles at its core from which all governance and policies are derived. These principles must be understood by its citizens and therefore must be comprehensive, comprehensible, and minimal.

These principles have to be an expression of fundamental and foundational values which are acceptable to a large number of people who have different secondary value systems. We call them “Pretty Good Principles,” or PGP for short. They are:

Minimal Government

  • Based on the precept “that government is best which governs the least.”
  • Government should be involved only in the basic duties of a government such as providing public goods that cannot be efficiently provided by the private sector.
  • Removal of government monopolies.
  • Independent regulators must be created for all sectors that require regulation — such as public utilities, education, transportation, monetary policy, etc.
  • Government should be a referee and not a player in the economic game.
  • Focus on increasing income instead of being obsessed with employment.
  • Ensure equality of opportunity and not force equality of outcome.

Individual Rights

  • Analogous to the First Amendment of the US Constitution which protects the citizens from government abridgment of their rights.
  • Full freedom of speech and expression.
  • Non-discrimination against anyone regardless of their group identity. No special status for any individual based on their religious, caste, or linguistic background.

The Relationship Between the Individual and the Government

  • Liberal society with the individual as the principal and the government as the agent.
  • Economic assistance based on the merits of individual needs, not group based economic assistance.
  • Government should provide a level playing field for all people and institutions to be free to do whatever they wish to do and make sure that no person or institution encroaches on the rights of individuals.
  • People must be treated equally and without reference to any groups that they belong to.

Those principles are fundamentally at odds with the principles that the Indian government currently follows. The intrusion of the government into areas where it does not belong harms the national interest. It is a “maximal government.”

Maximal Government

  • The government is involved in airlines, railways, power generation, oil and natural gas, heavy machinery, telecommunications, education, and so on. These can be more efficiently and effectively provided by the private sector.
  • No protection for the individual. The government is too powerful and the individual has severely limited or no recourse against the government.
  • Very limited freedom of expression. The print media is somewhat free but not totally free. The government still prohibits the publication of certain books and the expression of certain views. Private television is allowed current events programming but private radio is prohibited from news and current affairs programming.
  • People are treated unequally. People get privileges based on their group affiliations — religious, caste, etc. Certain groups are taxed and the proceeds are used for buying the affiliation of other groups.
  • Groups are privileged over individuals. People face discrimination in jobs and public assistance because of their group membership.

For India to prosper, India has to move away from maximal government to minimal government.

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