United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 1)

When Leaders Fail Us

For many of us who believe that India needs a new direction on both the political and economic fronts, the most important question that needs to be discussed is about how this change can be brought about. Political power is a prerequisite for economic transformation. Our leaders across political parties are ignorant of the differences between policies that perpetuate poverty and those that put people on the path to prosperity. They have consistently taken us in the wrong direction. A successful new national political party is hard to create – the last one has been the BJP and it was launched 40 years ago. So what is the solution? Is there a solution? Or are we doomed to suffer through another generation of middling growth and lost opportunities?

I have been thinking about those questions for the past few years. I had hoped in 2014 that the BJP would free Indians from the past decades of economic controls. Instead what we got and are still getting has been a throwback to many of the failed policies from the 1960s and 1970s. Instead of dismantling India’s anti-prosperity machine, knowingly or unknowingly, what India’s leaders are doing is continuing to feed the system that has prevented Indians from becoming rich. Repeated and deep interventions in the economy, a disregard for markets, trade, disrespect for property rights, high taxes, wealth redistribution without incentivising wealth creation, a return to licence-permit-quota-raj, a tax on exports by the imposition tariffs on imports, a mighty state that has crossed the line to cronyism, institutions that have been conquered and subjugated, increasingly insidious restrictions on individual freedom – all of these hurt Indians who would otherwise create a better lives for themselves and their family. [See my previous essay: Nations, Leaders and their Decisions.]

The hope of 2014 has given way to an economic status quo as we repeat the failed mistakes of our past and make new ones. An intellectual elite that has mentally (and in some cases physically) seceded, a middle class too embroiled in the daily struggles of life, a subservient and ignorant media are all combining to crush aspirations that tomorrow will be significantly better than today. A small number of entrepreneurs with foreign capital willing to bet everything are India’s last heroes – fighting against a system that does not understand wealth creation and prosperity. They build businesses and better lives for many – and yet run the risk of a bureaucrat’s regulations killing enterprises with the stroke of a pen. (Witness the recently announced regulations for cab aggregators.) No private transaction between two consenting individuals is shielded from the eye of the rulers, themselves descendants of the British colonists who extracted and exploited a helpless population.

In this New India what can we the people do? Give up hope for a better tomorrow and go into their cocoons? Forget the dreams of an India that could match China’s rise and lift hundreds of million out of poverty? Continue with the sometimes-up-sometimes-down life and entertain ourselves in the artificial reality created by WhatsApp forwards and OTT web series looking into a small screen and away from the sad reality around? Is there anything we can do? [See my previous essay: The Revolution India Needs.]

My answer: Yes, but only if enough of us leave aside all the differences that divide us, pledge to come together as one, and use the power of our united vote to bring about political change for a better economic future. The answer lies not in another politician but the aggregate power of the people – the United Voters of India.

Tomorrow: Part 2

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.