30 April 2017

'Baahubali' - Raja Dharma

A lot has been said and written about Baahubali – and will continue to be said and written. But the central theme of Baahubali is Raja Dharma. What is Raja Dharma? It means that the duty of a king is to work for the good of the people. It means that the king is not the master of the people – he is the servant of the people.

This simple but profound concept of Raja Dharma is at the core of the Indian civilisation. It was first laid down in the Vedas and later the Dharma Shastras. It was beautifully expressed in the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata (in the form of Rama and Yudhishthira). It was scientifically analysed by Chanakya in his Artha Shastra. It was the foundation of the ancient Indian political system.

After independence, we were fortunate to have great leaders like Sardar Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri who were living embodiments of Raja Dharma. But soon in the name of secularism, we got rid of all Dharma – including Raja Dharma. The result is today we have MPs who beat airline managers with their chappals because they don't get a business-class seat . . .

29 April 2017

'Baahubali - 2': Review

Review of 'Baahubali-2':

Remember when we were kids? We used to make up stories of brave kings, princes and warriors. We used to turn our simple toys into vast armies of soldiers, horses, chariots and elephants. And we used those armies to fight big bloody battles. Then we grew up. We became mature. And we forgot those stories. But one kid called Srisaila Sri Rajamouli refused to grow up. He remained a kid. He kept those stories with him. And now he has told it to us with a ₹ 200 crore special effects budget. Watch Baahubali-2 - and feel like a kid again . . . :-)

There have been a few negative reviews criticising Baahubali-2 for its lack of subtlety, restraint and understatement. Such criticism only reveals the reviewers' complete ignorance of Indian society, culture and art. Because the same criticism can also be made about any village drama version of Ramayana or Mahabharata. But it misses a much larger point.

For 5000 years, India has been held together by Dharma. But Dharma is an abstract philosophy. And only 1% of people are interested in philosophy. So how do you teach Dharma to the remaining 99% people? The genius of our ancestors lies in successfully dealing with this challenge. They wrote two great epics - Ramayana and Mahabharata - that taught the abstract principles of Dharma to ordinary people by using entertaining stories and characters. Thus our ancestors taught Dharma to every man, woman and child in every village - and nourished this civilisation for 5000 years.

True, Baahubali is no Ramayana or Mahabharata. And Rajamouli is no Valmiki or Veda Vyasa. They don't have to be. They are what they are. And that is good enough for 21st century India . . .

PS: My review of Baahubali-1

Basava Jayanti

India is the world's oldest civilisation – 5000 years old. How is this possible? How can a civilisation survive for 5000 years – especially when it was subject to invasions and conquests for half its history (2500 years)? Two reasons:
1. The foundation of the Indian civilisation is a way of life (Hinduism) that is built on universal and eternal moral laws (Dharma).
2. From time to time, great thinkers came and interpreted this way of life and its moral laws for their time, and taught them to the people - like Buddha, Mahavira, Shankara, Guru Nanak, etc.

One such reformer was born in the 12th century. His name was Basava. He taught the fundamental truths of Hinduism to ordinary people in their own language. More important, he practised what he preached. One of the truths he taught was 'ಕಾಯಕವೇ ಕೈಲಾಸ' (Work is worship). If all of us follow just this one teaching of his, we can make India a superpower very soon. Bharat Mata ki jai . . .

PS: Today is Basava Jayanti.

09 April 2017

The Economics Of Government

The economics of government:

* Govt has no money of its own. Its money is nothing but the people's (tax-payers) money. When govt spends on something, the money doesn't come from politicians - it comes from the people.

* The govt/people's money is finite, not infinite. When it is spent on something, there will be less of it to spend on other things.

* Leftists have succeeded in making 'efficiency' a bad word - by painting it as 'elitist' and 'anti-poor'. The truth is the opposite: there is nothing more pro-poor than efficiency and nothing more anti-poor than inefficiency. Why? Because the poor depend the most on the govt. So they are the ones who lose the most when the govt is inefficient. We must restore efficiency to its rightful place.

* "Giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching him how to fish feeds him for a lifetime". Poverty can't be removed by simply throwing money at the poor. That will only keep them poor. We must give them the ability to work and earn - ie, we must give them education, healthcare and infrastructure. That is, govt's money must go into investment and not expenditure.

* Debt is bad. When you borrow, you have to pay back the amount you borrowed and also the interest on that amount. So your spending must not be more than your income. This is a basic principle of economic management - every family knows it. But strangely, we don't apply it to our govt.

* A system's efficiency is directly proportional to its simplicity. And nowhere is this more true than for the tax system. Tax exemptions make the tax system complex and therefore inefficient. So all tax exemptions must be removed. As a compensation, tax rates can be reduced.

* Govt's job is to make rules and enforce them. It is not to make products - which can be done much more efficiently by private sector. So all govt-owned industries must be privatised.

* The price of any product/service is decided by the demand for and the supply of that product/service. If prices are decided in this way (the 'free-market system'), then a society's resources will be allocated in the most efficient way. Any deviation from this leads to inefficiency. The two biggest deviations are:
a) Govt directly fixing the price of any product/service
b) Govt paying a part of a product/service's price (this payment is called 'subsidy')
Subsidies reduce the price of a product/service for its buyers. This distortion in the price leads to inefficient allocation of resources in the society. So subsidies are bad.