Vantage point

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Micro Libertarianism

Just noting down something I said to Ravikiran during the Bombay Blogger's Meet.

I have one complaint about Indian libertarians, including myself. We keep debating policy at the macro level, and about organised industry. So we will talk about TRAI, APM, PSU disinvestment, etc. But very rarely do we actually discuss issues at a micro level. Very rarely to we actually talk about how the misery and hardships faced, even by the poor and in the unorganised sector, are because of state control, and how liberalisation can make their lives better.

There are posts like this one by Amit, but by and large, we don't really play in that space. And I guess it is natural. It doesn't really affect our lives, one way or another, what trouble our chaiwalla or rickshawwallah went through, just to get the permission to make a living. What affects our lives directly is mobile bill, petrol prices and power cuts.

I guess that's why libertarianism is primarily an upper-middle-class-drawing-room entity. The reason leftists win elections in India is because they connect with the masses. They will raise a stink about local dhabas going out of business due to competition from Nestle shacks, and earn "Pro-Poor" labels. They..... or we, would better off noting how "getting into" the business is made so tough by the state and its rentiers, that going out of business seems like a distant problem.

In fact you show me a business threatened by globalisation, and I'll show you a business tortured, weakened, and sapped by socialism. This applies not just to telecom, power and petroleum, but even to chai shops, rickshawwallahs, and rice farmers.

A few months back, I had made a post - Selling Reforms to the Poor, in which I mentioned my conversations with a taxi driver. Us Indian libertarians should have more such conversations and write blogposts about them, try to get it published in the mainstream media, and maybe even the regional language press. This issue will be at the top of the agenda for the cartelians meet.