Monday, September 02, 2013

A letter to Mr.Tariq Ali

To : Mr.Tariq Ali

Dear Sir,

I heard your excellent speech about journalism, whistle-blowers at Chennai.
It was an eye-opener in many ways.

I can call myself as a 'neo-liberal'  (but opposed to neo-conservatives) and
of course disagree with you on some issues (and not all issues).

1. You have clubbed neo-conservatives like Bush & Co, Heritage Foundation, etc
along with neo-liberals (a loosely defined term). They are bitterly opposed to
each other in many important matters like foreign policy, Iraq invasion, abortion, 
secularism and Christian fundamentalism,  military spending, etc.

2. Economic freedom certainly promotes political freedom and civil liberties. It 
is not a cliche or mere rhetoric of the 'right' as you said. Best example is Chile 
and India. India is now more democratic and free than 70s when 'socialists' 
dominated the political scene and Indira was the PM for more than 17 years. 
Corruption and bad governance are major issues today, but we need not 
'fear' the PM today like in those days, when enormous amount of economic 
and political power was concentrated in New Delhi. Media today in India is more 
freer than those decades. Esp electronic and internet media. Suppose if Indian 
govt had not liberalised many sectors in India from 1991, I could not be mailing 
you now ; and internet, computers and telecom would be still at the level in 
today's Myanmanr.

In Chile, as Milton Friedman argued correctly, free market policies under the 
dictator Pinochet subsequently created new social dynamics which destroyed his
dictatorship and ushered in democracy. The emergence of new middle class, wealth
and opportunity for upward mobility by poor created this change.

from M.Friedman's speech about Chile :

"..The economic development and the recovery produced by economic freedom in
turn promoted the public's desire for a greater degree of political freedom exactly
what happened, if I may jump from one continent to another, in China after 1976
when the regime introduced a greater measure of economic freedom in one sector
of the economy, agriculture, with great success. That, too, generated pressure for
more political freedom and was one of the major factors underlying the
dissatisfaction that led to Tiananmen Square.

In Chile, the drive for political freedom, that was generated by economic freedom
and the resulting economic success, ultimately resulted in a referendum that
introduced political democracy. Now, at long last, Chile has all three things:
political freedom, human freedom and economic freedom..."

I am an entrepreneur with nearly 25 years of experience in many sectors. I have
seen the dramatic change in India in these years : reduction of poverty levels,
unemployment levels, etc. I come from a small textile town in Tamil Nadu and
know something about the poverty levels, standard of living in the 70s and 80s.
when compared to today's India.

The is no viable alternative to the much maligned 'neo-liberalism' ; Yes, it is an 
imperfect system, but so far man has not invented a better one !

And an article I wrote about the fallacy of labour theory of surplus value :

Thanks & Regards

Dear Sir,

In continuation with my earlier mail about you speech in
Chennai, you spoke about the corporatisation of media and
reduction of free press now. But the following points need to

be discussed :

1. In the heydays of socialism in India, esp under Indira
Gandhi, when corporate taxes were raised to confiscatory
rates of 98 % (for highest marginal rate), all media house
and other corporates were under the mercy of govt ministers
and bureaucrats. As it was impossible to operate honestly,
tax evasions was rampant and hence the threat of income
tax raids were always hanging over the heads of media
houses. There was acute shortage of news print and foreign
exchange (due to closed economic polices and license raaj).
Hence the print media was totally under the thumb of the
govt, unlike today. Moreover as there was not much private
sector (like today), in those days the major part of advertisement
revenue was from ad from govt and govt run companies. Hence
there was less freedom for media then when compared to now.
No wonder the quip about media during the emergence of
1975-77 :'When they were asked to bend, they crawled' !!

2. There was total govt monopoly in electronic media then.
only doordarshan and AIR. No private channels were permitted
until 'neo liberalsim' in 90s. and no private telecom and airlines
too. Hence communication was restricted while the govt run
TV was totally a propaganda instrument of the govt. Today,
with hundreds of channels, we get all kinds of news and views.
Certainly current situation is much much better than the 70s.

3. Poverty levels were terrible until the 90s due to stagnant
economy. In spite of doubling of population levels to 1.25 billion
today, poverty ration is reducing fast due to the much maligned
'growth'. Pls refer to the front page report from The Hindu :

Poverty levels down by 15% in eight years

And this rapid change is due to implementation of 'neo-liberal'
polices. Hence sweeping generalisations about neo-liberalism is
wrong, esp in Indian context.

And finally a word about your tirade against Montek Singh
Ahluwaliah. He and Manmohan Singh saved India during the
1991 balance of payments crisis. But for their vision and hard
work in those critical years, India would have become bankrupt
(like Zimbawae recently) with soaring hyper inflation and hunger.
History will record their contribution more accurately. You may
disagree with them, but to label them as 'conservatives' is

Sir, you mentioned about the misuse of the term 'reforms'
whenever economic issues are mentioned. But more misused
are the terms 'progressive' and 'conservative' ; these are mere
labels which assume a lot. And the term 'conservative' is
unfairly stuck on many idealists right simply because the are
pro-market. Conservative means to conserve the status quo
and against any change, esp of standard of living of the poor.
Nothing can be farther from truth. The present neo liberal
polcies of the 'conservatives' are applied in most parts of the
world, not because of any 'imperialistic' conspiracy, but simply
because they are now deemed as rational and better than old
polices of statism. And these conservatives are more
'progressive' in their outlook than the real 'progressives'.