Saturday, April 30, 2011

Is Prashant Bhushan's anti-corruption movement too inclusive?

Prashant Bhushan blamed India's post-1991 economic liberalization policies for creating a "corporate mafia" and fueling corporate demand for corrupt governance and policy-making, at a meeting of a Coalition of Democratic Movements in Delhi yesterday.

The Indian Express reports: 

“Liberalisation gave rise to the industry of privatisation. In the name of privatisation, and disinvestment, the government is now in a position to transfer thousands of crores of public money in the public sector undertakings to private hands. A similar thing happens when the government gives away natural resources, like oil or gas, to private companies. This has led to the creation of a corporate mafia,” Bhushan said. He claimed that futures trading, “speculative” market mechanisms and “non-transparent financial instruments” were all contributing to corruption.

Bhushan said the present Lokpal Bill was not “perfect” and needed improvements. He said in any case, the office of the Lokpal would only be able to deal with “supply side corruption”.

“Unless we deal with the demand side as well (from the corporate sector), we would not be able to fight corruption effectively,” he said.

Arundhati Roy was among the other activists who seconded Bhushan's views.  Aruna Roy, member of the National Advisory Council, pointed out slow policy-making deliberations is yet another form of corrupt practice.

I am pro-capitalism and free enterprise but even more pro-regulation and pro-social justice.   So why should I have a problem with anti-globalization activists joining the anti-corruption movement?  If the balance of economic power is tilted too egregiously towards the corrupt and the connected, who's going to protect the next factory owner from a mob of fired workers?  

“It would be correct to say that there is a politics of anti-corruption. And it is our duty to tell everyone what our politics is. It is our duty to say who we stand against,” said Nikhil Dey, an activist from the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan.  I agree.

I will never forget the day I saw this slide in my introductory microeconomics lectures: max {min (x)}.  While I wasn't inspired enough to research John Rawls any further than required for my coursework, I did however recognize in me, the innate characteristics of a Rawlsian.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy writes about Rawls (b.1921 d. 2002):

His theory of justice as fairness envisions a society of free citizens holding equal basic rights cooperating within an egalitarian economic system. His account of political liberalism addresses the legitimate use of political power in a democracy, aiming to show how enduring unity may be achieved despite the diversity of worldviews that free institutions allow. His writings on the law of peoples extend these theories to liberal foreign policy, with the goal of imagining how a peaceful and tolerant international order might be possible.

Source:Inclusive Solutions
In the Rawlsian spirit of achieving enduring unity despite the diversity of worldviews, looking at the case at hand for the second time, I don't think the anti-corruption movement is getting too inclusive.

If you hadn't already realized it, do consider that the movement relies on the critical mass support of millions of ordinary awakened Indians, some of whom (or their parents) may well have given and taken the odd small bribes to "get work done" during the course of their lives.  So lets all focus now.  Who do we really stand against?


Jaai said...

Oh well. I can't say India is a functioning anarchy anymore. Hierarchies can never be completely done away with, and I think you're leaning dangerously close to communism. But this is a great post. It might have convinced me had I not decided not to get convinced at all.

Pundit Commentator said...

:-) I'm just dead set on keeping my eye on the ball. I'll take an Arundhati Roy if it gives me an Amar Singh, Mayawati and the entire DMK. (by the way, roy has zero support and brings zero following into the movement so this is just me being generous towards the anti-globalization activists). If these activists want to join the party, who am I to stop them?

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