An Incomplete Manifesto of my Politics
Here are a few principles which form the lenses with which I view politics and governance. Of course, many of the principles overlap, and the list is neither exhaustive nor engraved in stone.
- Development is freedom and freedom is development. The test of progressiveness of any policy is whether it enhances the freedoms of people, in terms of mobility, access, opportunity, security, peace, speech, health, personal choices, and so on.
- Economic efficiency and liberty matters. Human nature will ensure social collectives and excessive centralisation fail without adequate liberties and protections.
- Markets can fail, and it is the government’s task to correct these failures. Market failures include monopoly power and externalities (such as air pollution). The government should attempt to (even if imperfectly) internalise externalities.
- An important role of the government is to provide public goods, i.e. those goods that would be imperfectly provided by private entities. These include public health, highways, core scientific research, security, and so on.
- An important role if the government is to prevent the collapse of the individual or the family due to extraneous factors, such as a financial crisis, perverse social practices, or skyrocketing healthcare costs.
- While longer term goals should be the improvement of human development indices, in the absence of alternatives, measures of economic growth are important in shorter intervals of time.
- Fiscal responsibility is important. It is all too tempting to solve the problems of the world in one fiscal sweep, but that is unsustainable and leads to problems for future generations.
- Always ask: how would this policy affect and reach the last person in the development queue? Also ask, why is the said person standing at the end of this queue in the first place? Address these concerns.
- The state has a role in combating social injustices. Awareness and affirmative action is necessary in certain cases.
- Policies should value natural explanations of the universe over the supernatural.
- Politics should not lose sight of who we are and how we got here: the cosmic time scale gives the perspective needed to shun petty politics bound by imaginary lines and divisions.
- Idealism is intrinsically valuable, but stubborn idealism can lead to perverse outcomes in day-to-day governance. Governance requires compromises in order to not let social progress come to a complete standstill. However, ethics cannot be compromised upon.
- There is room for everyone in the society. The government must not hound an individual or group of people, whether citizens or not.
- Laws on freedom of speech must take into cognizance the harm principle and the offence principle. The latter is not a crime, while the former may be, depending on the nature of the harm.
- Sometimes, the spirit of the rules are as important the rules themselves. Not all situations can be envisaged while framing laws. Policy frameworks must evolve accordingly.
- Leadership matters. While systems and institutions are necessary, leadership is critical for social progress. Passiveness in politics can have grave consequences.
- Communication matters. The perception of progress is important, next only to progress itself. Disenchantment based on incorrect information can lead to adverse outcomes.
- Action based on incomplete science or impartial expert consensus in certain cases is better than no action at all, as along as the goal itself uplifts the human condition or prevents tragedies.
- Power should steadily devolve to lower rungs of government, therefore giving progressively greater power to the people, however, within each government department or agency, power must not fragment between the bureaucracy.
“Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them… well, I have others.” — Groucho Marx