United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 8)

Rules, Not Rulers

As we have seen, vote banks are what are very well known to politicians – and leveraged opportunistically by them by pandering during election campaigns. One can also think of them as “special interest groups.” In India, vote banks have largely been based on identity (caste, community or language). A principles-based vote bank would be something different – and could be a potential game changer. This vote bank needs to be based on a single agenda – good rules are needed to change the system, rather than depending on good rulers.

What changed in India in 1947 was just the skin colour of the rulers, not the rules. What India got was only Swaraj (self-government), but not Swatantrata (freedom). And it is only freedom – personal and economic freedom – that can bring prosperity to India. That freedom works is apparent both from the success of Indians outside India in countries like America (different rules), and from industries in India where entrepreneurs can operate with freedom (airlines, telecom, IT services, private banks). Where the government has skewed the rules in its favour, the outcomes have been bad — education, health, agriculture, criminal justice, public sector banks.

All Indian political parties are for increasing government intervention and varying degrees of socialism. None are for increasing individual and economic freedom, free markets and rule of law – which are the building blocks for prosperity and wealth creation. Bad rules create interfering governments which constrain citizens and lead to bad outcomes. Conversely, good rules constrain those in power and maximise freedom for citizens and create good outcomes. Therefore, rules that constrain behaviour prevent people in authority to engage in opportunistic behaviour. That means we have to design better set of rules that do not require “better people” to be in power.

In the words of Milton Friedman, “I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

This is where collective action via a voting bloc comes in.

Tomorrow: Part 9

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.