In defence of freedom

In defence of freedom
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First Published: Thu, Feb 01 2007. 11 45 AM IST
Updated: Wed, Jul 25 2007. 05 10 PM IST
The editorial pages of this newspaper will have three central themes: free people, free economies and free societies. Each is important in itself. Together, they can create the sort of fissile energy needed to ignite the aspirations and energies of every one of our countrymen. We will stand up in defence of every move that increases the freedom of Indians to think, express, invent, work, trade and invest. We will oppose every move that tries to bring unreasonable restrictions on these essential freedoms.
Economic freedoms have increased manifold since 1991. Yet, India continues to have one of the most fettered economic systems in the world. We still live in a country that is technically socialist and where the right to property is not a fundamental right. The state can brazenly take over private land for what it believes to be the public good. The freedom to truck, barter and trade is still suppressed. A farmer cannot sell his grain in the next state. We believe that trade among people and nations promotes specialization, transfers knowledge and advances prosperity. The creative energies of Indians have been suppressed by a state that once had paternalistic ambitions, but which has become increasingly corrupt and inefficient. This paper will be a voice in support of the transfer of power from state to market. Our editorial page editor writes on the core philosophy of this newspaper—to promote freedom in all its forms India has been a free society through the ages. The spirit of tolerance is built into our national spirit. But certain castes have had few rights till about a hundred years ago. Women still live with less social freedom than men. Caste and gender atrocities leap into prominence every once in a while. Religious pogroms, too. No country can claim to be free when people can be killed because of the accident of birth. We will support the individual against the insanities of tribalism in its various forms.
The state has a role to play in defending these freedoms. It also has a more activist role to play in ensuring that every child is in school, that every ill person has access to affordable healthcare, that extreme inequities between individuals and regions are minimized. We realize that the current vitality can turn to rage if a large section of the population feels it is being left behind in the march towards prosperity. There are also insurable risks that the state can cover on behalf of its citizens. We are not opposed to a welfare system, as long as it does not destroy the incentives to work, save and invest.
We believe that prosperity is achieved by giving the market a free run. It is the market that despite all its obvious imperfections, can best coordinate the disparate decisions and choices that define an economy. It is a proven fact that technological progress and innovation take stronger root in market economies. Knowledge is diffused in modern societies—it lies embedded with millions of individuals and their organizations. It is not possible for any government or group of planners to grasp this diffused knowledge and the bewilderingly complex web of transactions that transmits it from one economic agent to another. That is why the communist system could produce steel, but not cars. We are convinced that a planned economy can neither serve the needs of consumers nor promote new technologies.
Our commentary will look at the world through the prism of freedom. Besides the daily editorials giving the house view on the hot topics of the day, our roster of weekly columnists will write on public policy, financial markets, economics and life. We will also seek outside experts to write for us, even those who do not agree with the core propositions of these pages. The attempt will be to engage in informed debate. Most importantly, these pages will be written to appeal to every reader, rather than a select few.
We welcome our readers’ opinions and suggestions about these pages at views@livemint.com
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First Published: Thu, Feb 01 2007. 11 45 AM IST
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