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 Freedom of Expression
 
A natural social order
The New Indian Express, India Monday, August 20, 2007

Sauvik Chakraverti
Go to any Indian bazaar, in the cities or the mofussils, and you will see innumerable hordes exchanging goods without the presence of any policemen or recourse to either civil or criminal law. This ‘natural social order’ that already exists is the true subject matter of any science of society. There is a need for a science of society precisely because there is an order without design, writes Sauvik Chakraverty in his column Antidot in the New Indian Express.

Go to any Indian bazaar, in the cities or the mofussils, and you will see innumerable hordes exchanging goods without the presence of any policemen or recourse to either civil or criminal law. This ‘natural social order’ that already exists is the true subject matter of any science of society. There is a need for a science of society precisely because there is an order without design. If the order was the product of a central planner or a central legislature, then there would be no need for a science of society, because the particular arrangements of the planner or the legislature would explain and account for the order.


The reason why this natural social order exists is because the elements, individuals like you and me, obey unwritten and even unknown rules when we go about our lives surviving through the processes of market exchange. The true social science, therefore, proceeds with the rule-following individual and thereafter attempts to derive theorems applicable to the whole. A true science of society must be based on individualism as well as subjectivism: that is, the mind of the thinking, acting human being. Once the individual is understood, then only can we begin to understand the big picture: society.


An example of such an approach is history. To arrive at the big picture of, say, the industrial revolution, the good historian will study the elements first: the politics of the age; the literature and arts; the individual entrepreneurs and their daring ventures; the squalid conditions of the new industrial towns etc. Thereafter, he will ‘compose’ a picture of that age.


The false social science applies ‘polylogic’ and conjures up conflicts between groups, which are then used to foment strife: fascism, racism, socialism, communism, trade unionism and Keynesianism are all examples of polylogic, false ideas of society based on group-think and aggregation. In reality, the very factual existence of the natural order is proof that the elements co-exist in harmony; and that just as God has made the movements of the celestial spheres harmonious, so also He has made the social world one in which individuals interact harmoniously through market exchanges.


If we apply the individualistic method to our understanding of Indian society, we are left with a sobering conclusion: that there is a great deal of hope for us because almost all of us are rule-following animals plying their individual boats in the great waters. We are a civilised people with a deeply ingrained commercial culture – which we do not understand, nor appreciate. This shows that the science of society is very much in its infancy. This is precisely because, neither in Economics, nor Political Science, nor Law, is this rule following individual the central focus of attention. There is, instead, something peculiarly socialistic in its conception: Sociology!


Let us now sit back and imagine ourselves all as boatman-peddlers on the Dal Lake. For those who haven’t seen Srinagar, let me explain: as you idly sip kahwa on your house-boat deck, boatman after boatman pulls along selling goods as diverse as flowers and perfumes, leatherware and cookies. (I bought some charas, but that’s another story!) This natural social order is present as much on the Dal Lake as anywhere else in the country, where the people follow unwritten rules of just conduct during their market exchanges. If all of society was composed of such people, if such a way of life was the universal ethic and the highest moral code, then humankind would have reached its zenith and perfection, and government would be unnecessary. Some impartial judges, some learned lawyers – and that would be all. If this is an impossible ideal, so be it: but the true social scientist must visualise it, and direct all moral and intellectual faculties towards its attainment.

 

Let us now turn our attention to the government. All the false social scientists who apply polylogic call upon this government to solve all the ills they believe society is possessed of. If people are poor, the government is to act. If people are unemployed, or sick, or whatever, call in the government. They all see the very same society – all of us in our individual boats on the Dal Lake – as full of imperfections, and they see the government as composed of perfectionists.

 
But who are the individuals in the government? They are ministers, bureaucrats, policemen, generals, diplomats etc. How do they survive? They all survive because government tax collectors extort money from us. There are, thus, on our idyllic Dal Lake, many armed pirates who are snatching away at our honest gains. That is the government. The true Political Science, the highest principles of Jurisprudence, and the noblest ideals of Democracy concern themselves principally with the limits to this coercion, and the only just purposes for which it can be used. Those who have never considered these limits have created a Frankenstein. Mary Shelley’s monster was created by science; ours is a creature of a very false social science. This is the ‘predatory state’ and its predations are proved by the sorry fact that we get precious little in exchange for all the taxes we cough up. This government is not the solution; this government is the real problem.

 

Our blindness to our predicament is compounded by the fact that our science of society has been unable to distinguish clearly between a business organisation powered by the profit motive and a political organisation powered by the ‘vote motive’. We know what drives businessmen, but we are blind to what motives drive the processes of politics, into which the bureaucracy is hopelessly enmeshed. What are the motives that make people form these political groups? Our children are taught that it is selfless service, but even they do not believe this humbug any more. The situation is grimmer because the government is their teacher. But, as Dylan sang, ‘‘There must be some way outta here,’’ and I’m looking for it.

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