Welcome to my personal blog. I mostly write on entrepreneurship, economics, libertarianism, movies, and my travels.

Search This Blog

May 25, 2010

Present anarchy and the future of freedom

-Surath Giri

"None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free." -Goethe

The prevailing anarchy in the country seems to have taken its toll on the importance of freedom. While discussing on ways to get Nepal out of this mess and start on the path of progress, I mentioned that we need to have more freedom in all aspects of our lives upon which I encountered a passionate criticism from a person. “If you let people have more freedom, if you leave most things to the market, then that would just perpetuate looting that is continuing at the moment. We need a strong, authoritarian government to set things straight and bring prosperity, “he said.

With the widespread anarchy and impunity, our society is getting extremely unfavorable for living. Violence and terror seem to have spread in all aspects of our lives. With everyone claiming numerous rights and initiating violence to achieve their ends, it not surprising that general people have started to think the concept of freedom has gone too far in this country. At the same time, collectivists seem to be gaining a stronghold in the public discourses these days. However, confusing anarchy with freedom and thereby asking for an authoritarian government would be a great folly that will further make our lives miserable. What is really needed is the understanding the principles of a free society, how a free society looks like and making demands that are justifiable. First step in understanding a free society is; understanding the difference between anarchy or impunity and freedom.

Anarchy and Freedom: Cain and Abel of the society

The underlying principle of freedom is that if you want to enjoy certain rights of yours, you must respect the similar rights of others. Any rights that interfere with similar rights of others cannot be a right.  Anyone who seeks a coercive power over others for any reasons in the name of freedom is truly despicable. What we are experiencing in our country is anarchy, lawlessness. Not in any sense is it freedom at all. Anarchy, like Cain can kill freedom easily when a society degenerates into the rule of the mob from rule of law.

A free society demands the rule of law and that no one should be allowed to initiate violence against others. There is nothing called freedom to initiate force against others. Only the government, for very limited purposes like maintaining law and order, administrating justice, and preventing citizens from hurting each other, is allowed to use force. A free society demands the security of life and property of every citizen, not only that of the rulers or organized groups. What we need to understand here is a free society is in fact a society where rule of law is maintained.

The transitory period and political instability has coupled together to create an anarchic society in our country.  Violent criminal activities are mushrooming all over the country, many of which are being promoted in the name of rights and freedom, and yet the government is acting as helpless as the victims of the crimes themselves. Everyday we hear and experience cases of extortion, kidnapping, rape and murder. Political parties themselves are the de facto, leader of such activities. When political parties who have been elected to government with the hope that they will protect our lives and properties, themselves are the carrying out criminal activities of confiscating private properties,  extorting money, destroying properties, kidnapping and murdering people, how can we say our society is free? It is just anarchy that we are experiencing. The worrying fusion of the concept of anarchy and freedom is endangering our freedom and our hope of becoming a prosperous society.
A classis example of ineffective government contributing in the anarchy is, while organized criminal groups are kidnapping and murdering people everyday, the government is turning a blind eye to these activities. Whereas at the same time, government is introducing laws like banning export of orchids, forcing cigarette companies to put statutory directives covering more than three fourths of their cigarette packets in the name of providing security to the people. It’s an irony that state is failing to save you from being kidnapped and killed but is seriously concerned that you might not know cigarettes are harmful for your health and you might die by smoking. The first case is the case of government promoting anarchy whereas in the latter case, the government is encroaching on our freedom.
More freedom: Path to destruction or prosperity?

Is more freedom necessary? The answer is yes, an absolute yes. If we want more prosperity and a peaceful society, more freedom is a must. In fact, if we look at our history, we have never been free although we are fond of pointing to the fact that our country was never colonized as a gesture of freedom. Through pre-modern Nepal to Rana rule to Shah Rule to the collectivist governments after the advent of democracy, we have always been oppressed by the state.
Rana rule sowed the seed of darkness and impoverishment with their autocratic rule that denied the citizens of political, civil and economic freedom. The rule that punished entrepreneurship, innovation, hard-work, and creativity, where whims of the rulers became the law, where getting educated was a sign of disobedience and heretical, where your property is only secure until it doesn't catch the greedy eyes of the rulers and  their patronized opportunists, is never supposed to bring any growth and prosperity and it did not. Rana rulers used coercion to get rich at the expenses of the general citizens. Shah rule continued down the same path though with lesser privileges and the democratic governments did the same though their power of oppression was considerably limited.
We have known freedom helps to bring out the best in people and society. In depths look at the flourishing media sector and finance sector after the economic liberalization of 1990s provides sufficient examples for the importance of freedom. If freedom were not so important why do we clamor about press freedom, freedom of speech, rights of self determination so much? If freedom didn’t work, why are our media and financial sectors and recently telecommunications sector so better off as compared to other sectors like hydropower, industries, agriculture? Freedom works! Our giant neighbors who unlike us had to face the clutches of colonization before and internal state oppression there after are now basking in freedom and taking the world head on , especially after the economic liberalization of 1990s in India and 1980s in china. If freedom didn’t work why couldn’t India develop during the second half of the twentieth century and why couldn’t china develop until 1980s?
If our media and financial sector could be so competent with freedom, imagine how our educational system or our tourism sector would develop if freed from the clutches of the state and oppressors? If we could free the transportation sector from cartels and stringent government regulations, wouldn’t we be using better buses or transport services? If we could free the petroleum sector from the coercive monopoly of the state, wouldn’t we get petroleum products easily? We saw what happened to Nepal Telecom after it was relatively freed?

Yes, freedom works and anarchy doesn’t! If we want to be prosperous, having more freedom and less anarchy is the only way!

(Published in The BOSS magazine, Mar 15 -Apr 14  2011 issue.)