As we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, it is worth our while to revisit the man and his ideas.
Gandhi exemplified certain virtues that lie at the heart of liberalism–virtues of peace, toleration, freedom and liberty, and skepticism of state power. Below are some of his quotes that allude to these principles.
On the State:
“The State represents violence in a concentrated and organised form. The individual has a soul, but as the State is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence”
“I look upon an increase of the power of the State with the greatest fear, because although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality, which lies at the root of all progress.”
On Individual Liberty:
““If individual liberty goes, then surely all is lost, for if the individual ceases to count, what is left of society? ….No society can possibly be built on a denial of individual freedom. It is contrary to the very nature of man”.
“Every individual must have the fullest liberty to use his talents…Individual liberty and inter-dependence are both essential for life in society.”
On Political Power:
“To me political power is not an end but one of the means of enabling people to better their condition in every department of life. Political power means capacity to regulate national life through national representatives. If national life becomes so perfect as to become self-regulated, no representation become necessary. There is then a state of enlightened anarchy. In such a state everyone is his own ruler. He rules himself in such a manner that he is never a hindrance to his neighbour.
In the ideal State, therefore, there is no political power because there is no State. But the ideal is never fully realized in life. Hence the classical statement of Thoreau that Government is best which governs the least.”
On the Meaning of Freedom:
“Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err and even to sin. If God Almighty has given the humblest of His creatures the freedom to err, it passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human Beings of that precious right.”
“I shall strive for a constitution, which will release India from all thralldom and patronage, and give her, if need be, the right to sin.“
There are a few posts that examine Gandhi’s liberal views; and make for a compelling read.
- Gandhi, the Liberal by B Chandrasekaran; and
- Does Gandhi deserve a place in the libertarian tradition?
Few men in history have had as tremendous an impact as Gandhi. As we look back upon his legacy today, let us remember that he fought, principally, for a freer world and a freer India; one that would have secured liberty and dignity for all its people.
The opinions expressed in this essay are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of CCS.