The following article, published in the January 1958 issue of the Indian Libertarian by Kusum R Lotwalla highlights the basic tenants of libertarianism and highlights the fact that the fight for freedom is not a lost cause. Her words hold as true today as they were then. Around the world, and in India, people today are taking to the street to defend the freedoms our forefathers fought for. Just like Ms Lotwalla, we at Spontaneous Order also pledge to “fight against all the old and present-day socio-political clichés that thwart human progress, explore new roads to human happiness, along the libertarian paths, while examining anew old traditions and institutions, drawing from them all which human experience has proved valid and sound. That is our creed and our belief.”
Time marches on and one more year–1957–has gone into the limbo of oblivion. We face the new year–1958–with hopes and aspirations for better times and a world free from the tensions of hot wars or cold wars. the rivalry between the rival Power blocs on the international plane, the end of internal tensions between “haves” and the “have-nots,” the exploited and the exploiters, the workers and the employers, between class and class and nation and nation.
To the eternal rivalry between the Power blocs is added the enormous destructive potential of the nuclear weapons and the atomic developments. Humanity is threatened with total annihilation. Underlying all these conflicts are institutions that breed exploitation, inequality and oppression. These old, archaic and anti-diluvian institutions have to be replaced by a society based on Libertarian principles, which proclaim “equal freedom for ALL in a Free Society.”
The libertarians have no cut and dried Plan or a blueprint. Without trying to put forth a so-called Code of Conduct to be strictly adhered to, we can indicate the general lines along which a solution for these problems could he found.
The exploitative societies of today be replaced by a new Libertarian world, free from oppression and exploitation. Freedom without equal opportunities leads to privilege and injustice. Freedom without political liberty leads to totalitarianism. The monopoly of power which is the State must be replaced by a federation of free communities, labour councils and cooperatives operating according to the principles of free agreement, healthy competition and co-operation.
Centralism, totalitarianism or Marxism means regimentation from the top down. This must be replaced by federalism which means cooperation from the bottom up.
What is libertarianism
In a word, the world must switch back once more to Libertarianism. Libertarianism, as described by Webster’s dictionary, means, “One who holds to the principle of free will; also one who upholds the principles of liberty, especially individual liberty of thought and action.”
Politically it means strong opposition to the authoritarianism of all kinds. whether of the Right or of the Left. It is opposed, therefore, to all forms of regimentation and totalitarianism which absorb the whole field of private relations and individual life into the sphere of Government action. It is opposed to all the so-called welfare plans. It stands for limited Government. Government, according to the philosophy we stand for should confine itself to Defence, Justice and the Rule of Law as against “welfarism” or regimentation.
The Libertarians oppose that the Government is above the law, whether in the name of Government, administration or the State. Thus, we run counter to the present-day fashionable slogans of socialism, communism, and even Planned Economy.
The Libertarians believe that the human collective has no being and consciousness of its own, to override the rights and happiness of the individual citizen. The State has evolved into being, in the course of human history, to defend society against external aggression and to enforce justice between man and man. Beyond it the State should not go and if it does that, it encroaches on the inalienable rights of the individual. In the limited government the right entrusted to the State to enforce justice between man and man, and to defend against aggression, through organised Army and the Police, is to be used strictly according to law and in conformity with the rights of the individual.
The libertarians are not concerned with the metaphysical discussion as to the ultimate nature of the human being, whether it is a soul, a spirit or only organic nature with an emergent consciousness. In any case, it is clear that the human being needs liberty of action to realize its full consciousness, and blossom forth to the full height of his stature. Liberty of action is part of his being, and without this liberty of action, he is reduced to a robot or a mere tool in the gigantic machinery of a totalitarian State. Freedom to choose his calling or trade, his hobbies and his pursuits, is an integral part of human nature. If these rights are denied to the individual, as it always happens under totalitarianism. such as earning a livelihood of his choice, associating with men of like mentality for the enjoyment of art, science and fellowship, the life of an individual is reduced to dead routine. without purpose and without any future.
Libertarianism doesn’t mean licence
Libertarianism does not mean licence or anarchy. Libertarianism, with its limited government, sets a limit, both on the actions of the individual as well as the State. Liberty of one must not encroach on the like liberty of his fellow-being. Citizens of a State under libertarianism have full right to do as they please so long as they do not infringe on the like rights of their fellow-beings. Under libertarianism, the State is not allowed to become the industrialist, the trader, the transporter, the educationist, the ethical preacher, the “do-gooder”. The practice of all “Welfare” States in taking upon themselves these duties invariably lead to corruption and an irresponsible and unremovable bureaucracy. As obligations of the State increase under totalitarianism, the taxes rise to ever-increasing spiral, until all incentive to production diminishes and production takes a downward trend. Added to these on the economic plane, the political trends of socialism and communism are ultimately destructive of democracy and democratic institutions. Since the Government of India embarked on their Planned economy all these evil trends are seen in the country. It is, therefore, all the more necessary for the intelligent section of the Indian public to clearly understand what is meant by “socialist pattern of society” and what is connoted by socialism or planned economy. It is here that the Libertarian philosophy shows the way out. It may appear to the superficially-minded person that we are championing a “lost cause”. It is not so, the more so when one knows how the British Socialist Party found itself against a dead wall in its crazy pursuit of socialism, and it had to be ousted. This has led to real re-thinking amongst the “brain-trust” of the British Socialist Party. The same thing is happening in the Iron Curtain countries, the hesitant policy of de-Stalinisation in Moscow, the Gomulka programme in Poland, and lastly the Hungarian revolt against communism and planned economy-all these events show that we, the Indian Libertarians, ARE CHAMPIONING A LIVE CAUSE. Man cannot be long deprived of his inherent right of Liberty and Freedom.
On this New Year Day, the Indian Libertarian pledges itself to go ahead with its propaganda and education, strong in the belief that in the ultimate end it is bound to succeed to the glory of India and of Humanity. The Libertarian Social Institute, Bombay, with its branches at Bangalore, Baroda, Nagpur, Patna and Madras is keeping aloft the torch of Libertarianism in the country. By our consistent propaganda and education, we shall fight against all the old and present-day socio-political clichés that thwart human progress, explore new roads to human happiness, along the libertarian paths, while examining anew old traditions and institutions, drawing from them all which human experience has proved valid and sound. That is our creed and our belief.
Here’s wishing all our readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year and the best of life’s good things.
The original document can be accessed here.
IndianLiberals.in is an online library of all Indian liberal writings, lectures and other materials in English and other Indian regional languages. The material that has been collected so far contains liberal commentary dating from the early 19th century till the present. The portal helps preserve an often unknown but very rich Indian liberal tradition and explain the relevance of the writings in today’s context.
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.