9 June 2014

Principles of Economics, Governance and Education

     In an earlier post 'The present disorder in the nation', I ended with a question as what could be an alternative to modern-day chaos. This post tries to answer that question, with a proposal listing fundamental principles of economics, governance and education. 
     Basis 1: Economics
     A large society, or nation, is a collection of sustainable communities. Economically, it is important that every community be sustainable in itself, in as much as it produces a large number of its needed goods. Every citizen is assured of a livelihood in that community itself. When we don't have this, then we see the sorrow of migration, exploitation and poverty.
     A community is a socio-economic-ecologic unit; a sustainable community implies that social concerns, economic concerns and environmental concerns are all effectively addressed within the system. This underscores the fact that livelihood is not just about 'making money' – it is a socio-economic-ecologic action. Every family is provided opportunity to be industrious – it works to produce goods needed by itself and its community, it derives satisfaction from that action and result, the work is done in social harmony, strengthening the social fabric, and that work, done on and using natural resources, ensures ecological balance.
     Any movement towards a just, equitable and sustainable order will naturally reduce and minimise the role of money, of money-lenders, of financial speculation. It will naturally move towards eliminating exploitation.
     To realise such a self-sufficiency, our economic principles would be:
1. Zero-debt system; no domestic debt, no foreign debt. This implies zero fiscal deficit planning.
2. Production-driven economy: Cottage-level production, community-level industry.
3. De-centralised focus: Distributed production, diverse methods, diversity of products.
4. Maximum consumption within the community, within the district. Minimal transportation.
5. Appropriate use of technology for sustainable communities. Innovation in mechanical devises, animal power and renewable energy, minimal use of coal and petroleum energy.
     Since Agriculture is the most important component of self-sustainable economic activity, we can derive the sub-principles of agricultural production as:
     a.) Natural farming methods based upon principles of sustainability.
     b.) Zero use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
     c.) Zero-budget farming - no loan-based activity.
     d.) Farming for self-sufficiency, for self-consumption, to aim to produce more than one's needs.

     Basis 2: Governance
     A sustainable community can be a village, it can be a group of villages, or for certain objectives of self-sufficiency, we can even have the district as a community unit. Logically, therefore, governance, too, should have a decentralised focus. Local self-governance of gram sabhas are of greater importance to the citizen than the state or central government. Governance can then be rightly addressed towards strengthening socio-economic principles, ethics and education.
     Unfortunately now, we are giving too much importance, and too much power, to the central government, a power which it has repeatedly abused. It has made us hugely indebted, it has acted to devalue our currency, it has signed agreements with foreign institutions which are unfavourable to us, it has sold our national resources like forests, minerals, rivers and mountains. But who is the central governmment? It is, after all, a collection of our own citizens - in the form of politicians and bureaucrats - who are given too much power for the nation's good. They are also open to too many temptations because of a centralised economic system, temptations offered both by Indian and multinational businessmen, leading to most of them accumulating huge amounts of corrupt money.. 
     We have to take the scent of power and money out of politics. That may not happen easily, simply by defining some good principles, but it may not happen at all if we do not attend to the principles and make it clear to ourselves. After this, as awareness and acceptance of these principles gains momentum in society, there is definite possibility that we can take the scent of money out of politics and governance – so that then people of right character will undertake political responsibility as seva, and good conduct may begin to flower throughout the community.
     To promote and support such an ethical system, we would need these principles of governance:
1. A politician has to ensure ethical behaviour in society, that is his work. He does this on the basis of principles of a just socio-economic system, and by study and understanding of these principles. All actions are rooted on these, and so the politician is not a law-maker; he can devise rules on the basis of these principles, that is all.
2. All social principles rest on the spirit of justice and right conduct. It is rooted in tradition; it espouses what is good for all, and not just what may be good or profitable for some. The economic principles have been listed above.
3. The spirit of justice encompasses our relationship with nature; as a corollary, right conduct and means of livelihood will ensure zero exploitation and zero pollution of natural resources.
4. Party-less local self-governance through a community, or gram panchayat, is the basic unit, and the most important unit, of the political system. It will ensure the success of social and economic principles and help to remove any obstacles in its flow.
5. State levels of governance are made up of representatives of the district level; they will study and suggest solutions for inter-district issues like movement of goods, sharing of natural resources, and appropriate use of mass technology.
6. The Central level of governance is the least important, in the day-to-day life of the citizen. At the same time, it represents the flowering of a national tradition of ethical behaviour; the representatives here are primarily to provide guidance and inspiration through their own proven expertise and understanding of ethical principles; they will work for peace at the nation's borders, and also enable exchanges of people between nations.
     Since we have a history of gross political mis-governance, it is important here to add some sub-principles of what politics and the politician may not do:
     a.) Politics is not a career. It is not a livelihood.
     b.) The politician is not a promoter of commerce and business.
     c.) The politician is not the owner of the nation's properties, he cannot sell or mortgage national assets.
     d.) The political representative cannot sign agreements with other nations or institutions which are contrary to our socio-economic principles. In fact, it is the duty of the political representative to be aware of and to correctly educate the world on India's ethical principles.

     Basis 3: Education
     Why are we stating the socio-economic principles again, 70 years after so-called independence? Why have we strayed from these principles, strayed so far away that we have become an exploitative, individualistic, greedy, unjust and cruel society? Seen thus, we begin to grasp the significance of education.
     A colonial centrally-governed education system is a hangover of British rule, and should actually have been purged in 1947 itself. The reason is that it removed ethics from education, it removed self-sufficiency from education, it removed responsible living from education, and it removed spiritual development of the human being from education.
     If we re-introduce these as the basis of education, then it will naturally be locally rooted, culturally rooted, and the result of education will be a strengthening of community rather than a destruction of community. The proof of such an education will be that contentment, beauty, joy and complete fulfillment can be seen and realised in the community itself.
     To have a learning system which will naturally prepare us to understand and live ethically, we need these principles of education:
1. Schools are rooted to community; they are a part of community life, language and customs.
2. Learning is through direct observation; of self, family and society.
3. Learning is from the local environment; understanding the world through the village.
4. Production-integrated learning - the school itself is a real producing environment.
5. Education should result in an ethical, confident, livelihood-ready person. Education should result in strengthening the village or local community.
     A question may arise as to whether all this can be achieved with our contemporary syllabus, which is fragmentary and information-based. To make clear the generic syllabus, we add these sub-principles of the content of education:
     a.) Understanding the self.
     b.) Understanding the environment, the relationship of self to environment.
     c.) Understanding the ethical principles of tradition and socio-economic society.
     d.) Understanding right livelihood, learning skills for self-production.
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