India has had a difficult time since independence when it comes to governance. The virtually unlimited expansion of government and bureaucracy to all aspects of life gave the opportunity for corruption to take root in society. As Mises pointed out in his seminal book, Bureaucracy, a government does not produce any wealth on its own. It only extracts revenue from those who produce wealth and tries to allocate it for the good of society. In all cases, free individuals operating in a market always outperforms a centralised entity like a big government.
For thousands of years, India was ruled by dharma-minded kings who ruled their subjects in accordance with Varnashrama Dharma. This system was the product of a historic evolution of Indian society over several millennia. The coherence and stability of society could thus be sustained over such a long period of time. This system was responsible for making India one of the richest lands in the world for over 1700 years as seen in the below picture.
Economic prosperity is important for Hindus
Dharma is based on immense respect for ancient wisdom. From ancient times, India has developed a vast knowledge bank from research not only in the fields of the soul and the mind, but also, living in a society. The product of this research was the development of the idea of purushartha (goal of human life). The four traditional purusharthas include:
- dharma (moral virtue)
- artha (economic success)
- kama (physical love)
- moksha (liberation)
Dharma forms the basis of both artha and kama. By pursuing the first three goals, one is able to achieve the credentials required for the final goal of liberation from the cycle of rebirths. Ancient Indians had extensively researched all these four goals of life and come up with a vast ocean of learning. In Sanskrit, the writings on these topics come under the following classifications:
- dharmashastra on the science of dharma
- arthashastra on the science of economics and economic well-being
- kamashastra on the science of physical love
- mokshashastra on the philosophy of liberation. The Upanishads, the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita, are most famous among this
The purusharthas were designed to organically complement each other. One cannot have artha without dharma. Also, one cannot have dharma without artha. One feature of bureaucracy is that it assumes that the citizens are not competent enough to take care of their own affairs. The basis behind the nanny state, as developed in the West, is that people have to be taken care of by the government from birth to death.
Problems of bureaucracy
In socialism, the bureaucratic systems impose government-provided healthcare and mandatory government schools on the population. Large public works are undertaken, requiring vast number of citizens to be employed. However, in the long run, such systems are not sustainable. As the decades go by, the lack of dharma (moral virtue) & artha (economic motivation) makes people lose interest in maintaining these projects. As a result, most of the giant megalomaniac projects undertaken by socialistic governments tend to decay and die.
On the other hand, the Indian system of purusharthas gives each citizen the responsibility and duty to help each other. Citizens in control of their own destiny undertake charity and large public works following the precept of dharma. This was the case for thousands of years in India. The immense wealth of the Vijayanagara Empire was built based on the dharmic system. Dharma neutralises the need for a nanny state.
Wherever socialism has been tried, the long term effect on citizens has been devastating. In the former Soviet states, the economy spiraled into oblivion because all the wealth-producers were severely restricted, thus preventing the development of artha.
We can consider the case of the European countries such as the UK, Sweden and Germany. In these countries, the nanny state has not been as economically restricting as in the Soviet Union. In such countries, the nanny state has choked the life out of the citizens throughout the twentieth century. Today, there is a spirit of dissatisfaction and hopelessness prevalent.
It is important to distinguish religion from dharma. Religion refers to the abrahamic faiths and dharma refers to the Hindu, Buddhist, etc traditions. In the West, religion has suffered immensely because of the nanny state. Because the nanny state makes all the life decisions for the citizens, the citizens do not see the need to follow any religious moral precepts. Hence, majorities of people in these countries have turned irreligious over the past century. Needless to say, atheism was an official policy of the USSR and the PRC. Now that the Soviet system has fallen, religion has made a huge comeback in both Russia and China. In Western Europe, Islam is growing because of the influence of immigrants and refugees.
One of the main reasons why both dharma and religion remain a force to be reckoned with in India is that our bureaucrats were not as brutally efficient and competent as their European and Soviet counterparts. The corruption of the Indian political-bureaucratic class has been a small silver lining as Indian citizens can now mostly see through the lies of socialist planners. The solution to this mass-scale corruption is to dismantle socialism and bring about a decentralised government in accordance with dharma.