ANTIDOTE / Democracy... sans Prof Sen’s glasses - 3
WE now turn to the hand-maiden of democracy: bureaucracy. Its purpose is `rational-legal administration’; governance based on reason and law. This claim to reason is basic to bureaucratic legitimacy. After 50 years of socialism, the Indian Administrative Service has lost this claim. It is simply profiting from status quo.
ICS generalists were steeped in classical political economy. They applied its principles — and greatly encouraged the market. The IAS embraced socialism. They wanted to be at ``the commanding heights’’. Today, their knowledge and their administrative philosophies are proven falsehoods. Therefore, theirs is not ``generalism’’; theirs is ``functional illiteracy’’. This is not unique. The writings of George BN Ayetti lament functional illiteracy amongst African administrators. These are the IAS equivalents of those African countries which chose the state, and not the market, as a means to development. So, while Prof. Sen stresses the need to educate the people, I insist that it is not the people, but the state, that is suffering from a knowledge deficit.
Public administration is an alive subject. The Department of Government at the LSE actively pursues an ``academic-practitioner interface’’ so that knowledge informs administrators. Elite administrators the world over do not function without this interface and this knowledge. In the UK, public choice analyses of the consequences of self-interested behaviour on the part of politicians and bureaucrats inspired the popular TV series Yes, Minister.
William Niskanen’s theorisation that bureaucrats rationally maximise budgets just as businessmen maximise profits led to a new public administration — since bloated budgets were unsustainable. New Zealand set the ball rolling, and much of the world has now seen a revolution in administration. Ours wish to continue forever maximising budgets. Theirs is not ``rational-legal administration’’. Therefore, with socialism, we have a democracy that is really a kleptocracy; and a bureaucracy that is functionally illiterate. Hayek’s Road to Serfdom contained a prophetic chapter: ``How the worst get on top’’. India voluntarily took this road; the worst are now on top. I do not see any role for such a state. Many talk of the role of the state in ``regulating’’ market forces; this state is not qualified to regulate traffic, let alone markets. This, the First Indian Republic, should be terminated with extreme prejudice. It has destroyed the prospects of more than two generations of Indians. Our bright-eyed children deserve better. For their sake, we must usher in a Second Republic.
The science of government comprises three subjects: Economics, Political Science, and Public Administration. This series of articles, in turn, used insights from each of these subject areas: Political Science proved a spoils system — kleptocracy; Economics looked at the rupee, and found that these kleptocrats are monopolistically churning out unsound currency; and Public Administration says that our elite bureaucrats are functionally illiterate.
This is a unique historical moment. Democracy is trying to put up a government, but we know we are witnessing the dying moments of an Empire. Anthony Giddens, Director of the LSE, recently said that the Indian state was facing a ``crisis of legitimacy’’; the editors of The Economic Times agreed. Time for civil society to act. Knowledge based political action is what is required of civil society. How?
The President of India is the Head of this Democratic Socialist State. He is an alumnus of the LSE and he has been a member of our elite bureaucracy. He is a person on whom knowledge can have an effect. He must be made aware of these disproofs of socialism and he must be asked to respond to them. If this is done, and if intellectual honesty prevails, our kleptocrats can be jolted out of complacency. Satyameva Jayate?