2008 has indeed been an eventful year with a serious impact on how we think about ourselves and the world.  My one learning was in preparing for a talk for the Foundation for Restoration of National Values. What are these values, how do we come to acquire them and why do we follow them? All the issues were captured in one simple question: How do I convince my 11 year old nephew to tell the truth? Yes, how?

I reflected on my own values, grouping them under three heads: 1. Personal Values: Rationality, Honesty, Integrity;

2. Social Values: Tolerance, Benevolence, Free Exchange;

3. Political Values: Liberty, Rule of Law, Subsidiarity.

How did I come to believe in them and practice them?  I can’t really decipher among all the varied influences over the whole period of life.  It seems that such a critical aspect of our life is left practically to chance. It becomes a serious concern when there are organized groups that preach and practice diametrically opposite values. Or suggest that there are no foundational values at all—relativism and nihilism.

Some of the worst corporate malpractice, fraud and theft we have seen recently reflects this lack of values. The latest example is of Satyam. Is it the end of capitalism or of basic values?  I still believe in the libertarian utopia of universal peace, harmony and prosperity, a borderless world where all individuals can live upto their potential and fulfill their dreams.

However the big learning of 2008 is that we need to think harder and strengthen the system of checks and balances across the state, market and civil society. And that the state and public policy would play a far more critical role in the evolution of our utopia. Along with the state governance, we need to focus on corporate governance and the governance of civil society organizations. We need to guard against mis-governance in the state, market and the civil society.

The official CCS blog, Spontaneous Order, was ‘stolen’ a while ago. We have now got back all the old posts, see it at www.ccs.in/blog. We will start new entries from Jan 1. Do send your posts and comments.

May the New Year give us the time and courage to reflect on our basic values: Think, Speak, and Act.