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Archive for the ‘Political Philosophy’ Category

The dead, the living and the unborn

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 26, 2014

wheel of life

Several demands for changes in our governing policies are quashed under the pretext that they contradict the laws laid down by our founding fathers. And when logic makes support for archaic constitutional laws untenable, our lawmakers rant about the ill effects of radical changes on future generations. Examples can be found all over the world; the heated argument over raising the debt ceiling in the US, the quandary that European governments find themselves in with regards to spending, the endless debates over the caste reservations in India…the list goes on.

Such instances bring to mind whether a relationship must exist between the dead, the living and the unborn. While most eastern religions would certainly attest to such an existence, the universal occurrence of above arguments leads me to believe that culture and religion have no bearing on the thinking of our policymakers.

Thomas Paine, in his work “Rights of Man” puts forth his thought regarding this relationship and whether it must be acknowledged while formulating ways in which we are governed.

Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of tyrannies. Man has no property in man; neither has any generation a property in the generations which are to follow….every generation is, and must be, competent to all the purposes which its occasions require. It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated.

…Those that have quit the world, and those who have not yet arrived at it, are as remote from each other as the utmost stretch of mortal imagination can conceive. What possible obligation, then, can exist between them; what rule or principle can be laid down that of two non-entities, the one out of existence and the other not in, and who never can meet in this world, the one should control the other to the end of time?

I wish more governments solved today’s problems with solutions that are born out of present day thinking. This means embracing change in one’s opinion and school of thought as a triumph and not a shame. I was particularly impressed by what Iran’s foreign minister and chief US negotiator, Javad Zarif, said on Amanpour last night:

“So we’ve got to think about a different paradigm. I think a paradigm shift is necessary in the U.S. Congress, in the United States, so that they would look at the situation in the world differently, so that we can change this world. This world in the old paradigm doesn’t work anymore.”

His words apply to so many governments. Lawmakers and their inertia are depriving millions across the world of their right to enjoy this beautiful gift that is life. Let’s not lay the blame on Karma.

Posted in Philosophy, Political Philosophy | 1 Comment »

Name and Shame

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on August 8, 2013

rti

“Name and Shame” has been a much touted policy in India over the last couple of years. Towards the end of 2012 there were calls to “name and shame” sex offenders. Earlier this year, the Election Commission of India proposed using the same treatment for politicians colluding with media houses. And last month, national banks decided to “name and shame” loan defaulters as well as guarantors of those loans by publishing their photographs and other details in newspapers and at notice boards of bank branches and community centers.

Amartya Sen, in his book “An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions”, highlights the power of media in not only designing the framework of behavior and social norms but also in manipulating human behavior within that framework.

The activism of the media has a definite role to play both in demanding and encouraging institutional reforms, and in influencing human behavior. Human beings respond to incentives. To want to do well for oneself is not the same as cupidity, and there is no dishonor to humanity in accepting that completely selfless behavior is very rare. Incentives include not only financial gains and profits, but also public admiration and praise as a positive influence, and naming and shaming as a potential deterrent. Adam Smith noted that it is ‘praise worthiness’ that should move us most in our moral thinking, but also recognized that it is actual praise that tends to encourage human beings, just as actual blame restrains them.

Over the last few years, the Indian media has displayed activism that is altering the social and political landscape of the country. Scams are being unearthed, the guilty are being exposed. Even though the weak judicial system allows a lot of the culprits to walk free, the drive to “name and shame” is having its desired effect. It is this activism that has prevented skepticism from turning into a “fatalistic acceptance” of the current corrupt state of affairs. We finally have reasons to believe that things can really change in our country.

Posted in Philosophy, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Immigration

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on February 19, 2013

Its not easy to be an immigrant. While in most cases it is in search of a better life, it does come with a price, Sacrifice. An immigrant sacrifices his cultural and family ties, he sacrifices the innate bond that he shares with his motherland, the land where he is born. Its not easy to swear allegiance to a new nation.

I find it bewildering that historical references are cited to support arguments on either side of the immigration debate. Here is a beautiful piece from the book “History of Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300” by Romila Thapar.

One of the current debates relating to the beginnings of Indian history involves both archaeology and linguistics, and attempts to differentiate between indigenous and alien peoples. But history has shown that communities and their identities are neither permanent nor static. Their composition changes either with the arrival of new people in an area, and the possible new technologies that are introduced, or by historical changes of a more local but far-reaching kind. Some areas are more prone to change, such as borderlands, mountain passes and fertile plains, whereas densely forested areas or deserts may retain their isolation for a longer period until such time as there is a demand on them for resources. To categorize some people as indigenous and others as alien, to argue about the identity of the first inhabitants of the subcontinent, and to try and sort out these categories for the remote past, is to attempt the impossible. It is precisely in the intermixture of peoples and ideas that the genesis of cultures is to be found. Such arguments arise from the concerns of present-day privilege and power, rather than from the reading of history.

The world was never an island, and will never be one.

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

Pakistan bashing week?…..nah!

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on January 28, 2013

After publishing my last post, I thought of dedicating this week to bashing my neighbors. With the recent beheading of Indian soldiers on our western border, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been an all out military confrontation. In fact I’m surprised that we haven’t attacked them in more than a decade. While my heart goes out to the families of the martyrs, Im glad that our government has exhibited a lot of wisdom by showing restraint.

And in line with my government’s position, I too shall be kind to my ill-guided neighbors. Why waste my thoughts on a country that had no logical reason for being created? Why bother about a country that is an economic disaster? Why wage war with a bunch of provinces adamant on self-destruction? Why engage with an entity that can boast Afghanistan and Iran as its neighbors? Why write anything about a country, when even my laptop crashes when I am writing this post about it?

Not worth it. A patriot has spoken.

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

A Perfect Constitution for Imperfect People

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on January 26, 2013

indian_flag

On this day in 1950, India formally adopted its Constitution and became a Republic. The unthinkable was achieved and an unknown future awaited 350 million people. A population that had been oppressed for over thousand years by hundreds of invading armies, was free. Indians finally had a country to themselves and for the first time in history, the right to vote. We became a democratic republic. Were we prepared for it? I doubt it.

My belief in the righteousness of the Indian Constitution is total and unwavering. A country as diverse as ours has been a stable democracy for over 60 years. We have faced no military coups or major religious conflicts. If that was not miraculous enough, we have grown into a significant economic entity and are headed in the right direction. Slowly, yes, but surely.  Everytime I look at the demographic spread of India, my respect for the founding fathers and their foresight only grows. The fact that we are still a united country is a testament to the greatness of our Constitution.

But what explains the ills that pervade the Indian society today? Why are we ranked so low in almost all human development indices? Why are women still not safe in India and why is there so much poverty and destitution in the country?  Any panelled discussion on the above topics inevitably ends up pointing fingers at our politicians and their corrupt ways. While I do not agree with the attitude of blaming our politicians for all the mess, I am particularly disturbed when the “civil society” raises doubts about our constitutional institutions. And this questioning of our Constitution and our system has become a fashionable trend lately. To all these people my answer is clear, “Ours is a perfect constitution”. We are “Imperfect People”.

In a democracy, the government and politicians are a reflection of the people. In India, I have absolutely no doubt about the verity of this. We have corrupt politicians and bureaucracy because we are corrupt. Women do not feel safe on our cities’ road because we in our houses do not respect our women. The devils that commit heinous crimes like rapes are no strangers to our land. They have come from among us. We do not have good infrastructure, because we refuse to pay our taxes. We have such economic inequality because our caste system has tuned us into accepting an unequal society. We have a population explosion problem because we “f#@ked up”, literally! I could go on and on.

The devil lies within us. Lets not blame the politicians or the constitutional institutions for our own failures. Lets be thankful that our great constitution gives us a chance to become the greatest nation in the history of the world. We can do this. Lets become the greatest human beings in the world, and leave the rest to the constitution.

Thats it. I’m done.

Posted in Philosophy, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Twelve Years of Fasting….Story of a Paradise Lost.

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on November 5, 2012

Irom Sharmila personifies greatness. This social activist has been on a fast for the last 12 years, demanding withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from her state of Manipur. She is being fed through nasogastric intubation to keep her alive.

When the nation of India was formed, it was a collection of extremely diverse provinces and states. Attached to India were the seven states of North East that could not be more different from the rest of India; Culturally, Religiously and Ethnically. Naturally the locals resented and out of this opposition arose several militant movements that fought the state demanding freedom from the Union of India. While most of these movements were quelled, either by bribing the rebels into submission or pumping alcohol and drugs into the veins of their residents, one state remains “disturbed” in the records of the Indian Government. This state is the beautiful land of Manipur.

North East India is “Heaven on Earth”. And Manipur is the capital of that Paradise. The most pristine landscapes, the most breathtaking views, a place hand made by Gods as their resting place. But Gods seem to have abandoned the state since the 1950s. Warring factions, militant rebels, vendetta driven Army have colored the land red. Thousands of lives have been lost, several atrocities committed. Yet, more than 60 years later, there is no peace. Or maybe, that is what groups with vested interests would like us to think. Hence, Manipur is still labeled “disturbed” by the government and this categorization is used to justify the implementation of the dark law that is AFSPA.

The colonial law used by the British in 1942 was adopted by the Indian Union and further tweaked to make it even more draconian. The law gives the Army and supporting operations groups unlimited powers. They can apprehend anyone without a warrant, not even an excuse. It gives Army officers legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review. Needless to say, the law has been misused more than a few times.

While it sounds despicable, the law is required. However, it was always intended to be used for a very short time, for three to six months which would let the Armed Forces clean up the disturbed areas. But when the law is applied for a period beyond that, it takes on an evil character. In Manipur, the law has been in force for decades!

So this post is dedicated to the people of North East, who are my fellow Indians and I feel sad that they are being treated as unequal Indians by our government. Worse, no one seems to be giving two hoots about what is going on in land that we Indians should be grateful for possessing. Its a blot on our democracy.

I salute Irom Sharmila. She is the modern day Gandhi! I do wish she ends her fast and uses her energy to bring together like minded people and create a strong democratic forum to fight the system.Her fast is losing its bite. Because, like one analyst said, people have just gotten used to her fast.

But who cares. India’s GDP is growing at 8%. Some Indians are counting their riches while the rest are being bribed by alcohol, drugs and bullets.

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

The 2012 Undecided Voter’s Guide

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on November 4, 2012

One of the best posts I have read this season! To all the analytical pundits out there, this is how it should be done. J.Palmer simplifies it all! do take it with a pinch of salt 🙂

Politic Discourse

If you are among the twelve undecided voters left in America, it is not too late to make an educated selection at the ballot box on November 6th. While the eenie-meenie-minie-mo strategy would likely prove to be just as effective 50% of the time, making your choice for President based on any one of the six following criteria will allow you to logically explain to your uninterested friends and family why you chose the lesser evil that you did.

#1. If you are rich, vote Romney. If you are poor, vote Obama.

View original post 952 more words

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , | 10 Comments »

I Still belong to the Centre Right

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on November 1, 2012

In one of my earlier posts I presented my views on what the role and responsibilities of a government should be. Then, I really looked forward to following the Presidential Election Campaigns and see if and how my views would change. Today, ninety days after scripting that post, Istill belong to the centre right. A lot of this can be attributed to the utter lack of intellect and logic in these elections. They have left me completely disappointed which is reflected in the absence of political post on my blog in recent times.

However, seeing that we are so close to elections, I publish a final political post to explain my position. Who would I vote for if I were an American citizen?

The federal response in the wake of Sandy has justified Government’s involvement in domains that ensure the safety of it citizens, both from foreign and nature’s aggressions.

A welfare state seems utopic but it might help to remember that whenever the government gives us an impression that it is giving more, rest assured it is taking more from us in good times. This strip illustrates the same. Imagine the father being the government and the son the citizens.

Entrepreneurship is the key to building a progressive state. I live in a country where the opportunities of becoming one were next to zero in the Socialist era. The country suffered and is dealing with the effects of that era even today. We are creating jobs based on funding from foreign companies looking for cheap labor. However we are not creating enough entrepreneurs. Budding entrepreneurs need ease of business and low taxation. Entrepreneurs create jobs. Government does not create jobs. It creates dependence.

In my country, the government doles out huge subsidies to the “poor”. At the time of independence, Indians were in dire need of this support. The entire system seemed like Utopia. But it was like that only for a short time. The system has been in force for over 60 years and we still have record poverty. Clearly, big government supporting those in need has not solved the problem. It has resulted in more people becoming dependent upon government’s gifts. A heterogeneous society with a sizable population might find a welfare state attractive, especially in current times. But over the long run, such economic positioning introduces lethargy into the public at large. While the short term results seem just, fair and idyllic, the fact is that slowly but surely the competitive and ambitious spirit that has ensured evolutionand survival of the human race begins to wane.

During these times of economic distress, I believe that the Government needs to support the country by increasing spending. I support the policies Obama has employed so far. In these times we need higher government spending and balancing of deficit by taxing the higher earning citizens. These are times that call for sacrifice. Obama is doing the right thing. But that is the only good news I have for my Democrat friends. I would not vote for him again.

Re-election will send the signal that people accept his leftist agenda and this will embolden him to make institutional changes that may change the character of  US forever. These institutional changes will put US on the path of Socialism that is bound to result in an undesirable outcome.

I would vote Republican. I am sure that Mitt Romney upon being elected will continue heavy government spending. In spite of his Rightist talk, he will have no choice but to continue government support for the people. He will not be able to reduce spending nor reduce taxes. However, he will not create institutions and regulations that will steer the US towards the Left. He will keep the US in the Centre and that will be a great position for the country to catapult from into economic supremacy once again. US will have a chance to bounce back. With Obama, this chance will be lost.

On social issues, I cannot agree with the conservatives. However, I feel that Romney will reveal his moderate self once he gets elected. He will have to if he wants to get reelected.

I may be way off the mark here. As always, comments welcomed. I have my armor on 🙂

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , | 26 Comments »

Alternate View: The Great Game behind India’s Partition

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 27, 2012

Partition of India, the biggest migration witnessed by the world, one of the worst ethnic manslaughters on the face of the earth has unfortunately not received the emphasis it deserves in the annals of historic literature. Somewhere between the trauma of the Second World War, the Jewish genocide and the Atomic Bomb, the world forgot the millions who lost their lives thanks to agreements reached by England educated politicians in their cozy rooms.Indians then were not important enough to be noticed. Unlike now, we did not control the software industry then.My father was part of this utterly uncalled for dislocation. While on his way from Pakistan to India, he witnessed uncountable hate crimes and even saw his uncle burnt alive by a mob from the other side.

In classrooms, debate panels and cocktail get-togethers in many a Indian households, ill informed people share their “accurate” views that are as unbiased as Fox News itself! While religion is considered the primary force that drove this division, people also lay a lot of the blame on leaders such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi and Jinnah. Some even believe that Jinnah wanted Pakistan to be created so that he could fulfil his ambition of becoming a Prime Minister. Others blame Nehru for not letting Jinnah become the Prime Minister of United India. One aspect that is rarely cited or discussed or even known is the British role in the partition. Did Britain have anything to gain from it? Lets take it a step further. Did the U.S have a role to play in the partition? Maybe.

The Shadow of the Great Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition is a wonderful book written by Narendra Singh Sarila, who at the time of the partition, served as ADC to Lord Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India. He was also the Maharaja of Sarila, a small kingdom in the heart of India. I was fortunate to have been presented this book by his wife, the Queen of Sarila herself. Narendra Singh bases his reasearch on East India Company communication that in recent years has been declassified by the British government. It is interesting to find evidence that points towards British and American collusion in effecting the partition of India.

To strengthen British and US domination in Asia, the English asked Indian leaders if after independence they would allow the British and the Americans to establish military bases in India. Indian leaders including Mahatma Gandhi flatly refused this proposal. They would not compromise India’s sovereignty and also wanted to set an example of Non Alignment in the world. This snub did not go down too well with the British. They then look toward Jinnah and asked him that if they facilitated the partition of India, would Jinnah allow UK and US to use the newly created Pakistan to position strategic military bases there. Jinnah was only too keen to accept. Not only would this help him gain a new country to rule, but American an British presence would safeguard Pakistan’s interests against India. The British and the Americans couldn’t be happier. The location of the proposed land for the Muslims was strategically perfect to influence the politics of Central Asia and most importantly tackle the new enemy, the USSR. Hence, despite opposition from supporters of United India, the English hastily got the two parties to agree to a partition.

The result: displacement of millions of people, ethnic genocide at a scale unimaginable, creation of two mortal enemy states, one blood, two countries. Not that it mattered to the English or the Americans. They had just won over a new ally in Pakistan and had established an invaluably strategic presence in Asia.

I am a great admirer of English and American political thought and wit. Their well thought out, selfishly motivated execution of the Partition does not seem too implausible to me. Does it to you?

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Part 2: Corporate Acquisition 101: Inspired by Niccolo Machiavelli

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 24, 2012

“When states are acquired in a country differing in language, customs, or laws, there are difficulties, and good fortune and great energy are needed to hold them, and one of the greatest and most real helps would be that he who has acquired them should go and reside there.”

Niccolo Machiveli, The Prince

I was reading one of my earliest posts and wondered how it would be if Machiavelli’s golden words could be applied in present day and age. Would it help if President Barack Obama sets up residence in Baghdad and spends three months in a year there? What if the probable next President Mitt Romney builds a million dollar mansion in Kabul and runs the American Empire from there? (no comments allowed on the use of “next president 🙂

I think they should. If the strategy worked in medieval times, I see no reason why it cannot now. Superpowers are capitalist empires driven by economic motives. American presence in Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of territorial conquests, and seeing how much tax payer money has been spent in these wars, it would only make sense to continue in these new acquisitions and get a worthy Return on Investment. I would not expect anything less from such a risky venture.

Below is an excerpt from my previous post. Replace “Corporate Acquisition” with “Territorial Acquisition”, “CEO” with “President” and “employees” with citizens and the message is clear.

Now here lies a lesson for all those consulting or undertaking Corporate Acquisition, especially one where entities from different countries or cultures are involved. Just replace “states” with “companies” in the above quote and the message is clear: The CEO or Chairman or Decision Maker of the company that makes an acquisition overseas, must move his office to the acquired company and run his business from there until Integration of the two entities is truly complete.

Further he wrote, “Because, if one is on the spot, disorders are seen as they spring up, and one can quickly remedy them; but if one is not at hand, they are heard of only when they are great, and then one can no longer remedy them. Besides this, the country is not pillaged by your officials; the subjects are satisfied by prompt recourse to the prince; thus, wishing to be good, they have more cause to love him, and wishing to be otherwise, to fear him.”

Proximity to employees of the acquired company will go a long way in allaying their fears and insecurities. Needless to say, this is of utmost importance when you wish to leverage the resources of the acquired firm to the fullest.

As always, comments welcomed.

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

[Repost] Utopian Government: Plato…of Desire, Emotion and Knowledge.

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 20, 2012

” Like man, like state…governments vary as the characters of men vary…states are made out of the human natures which are in them.”- Plato

One of my favorite ideas of Plato is the one where he puts forward the drivers of human behavior. Plato categorizes these drivers as desire, emotion and knowledge and sorts the populace of a state based on varying degrees of each driver in an individual. Clearly for Plato not all men are alike and these drivers are the scales for measuring their suitability for the role they would play in the state.

Desire(appetite, instinct, impulse) is associated with the loins and is heavily influenced by sexual needs. Emotion rests in the heart while Knowledge rules the head. These drivers and qualities are present in all men but to varying degrees.

Men that are ruled by Desire are bestowed with ambition and a lust for luxuries.Such men must comprise the industry of the state. Those that are passion personified due to high levels of emotional drives that instil courage in them must make up the armies and navies. The remaining that seek delight in knowledge and understanding must guide the nation.

“Ruin comes when the trader, whose heart is lifted up by wealth, becomes ruler.” Wouldn’t be wrong to call Plato one of the earliest Communists.

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

Joke of the Day: Of Nobel Peace Prize

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 14, 2012

In 2009 I thought that the Nobel Committee was on the verge of insanity when it awarded Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. I was not a member of the blogging world then, hence I have no recorded remnants of my reasoning at that time. Now I am, and with no hesitation do I say that the Nobel Committee has completely and absolutely lost it!

Which brings me to the joke of the day.

“This year’s Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to the EU.”

Justification:

European Commission President Manuel Barroso said on Friday it is a “tremendous honour” for the European Union to be awarded with the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize. It is the “strongest possible recognition of the deep political motives behind our union: the unique effort by ever more European States to overcome war and divisions and to jointly shape a continent of peace and prosperity,” he said in a statement in Brussels.

My Response:

Are they nuts! Did they really think that nuclear powered countries like France and Germany would go to battle again! Please kill me, if they truly believe that the EU was formed only to avoid military conflicts and give peace a chance. So the selfish economic motives of Germany and France had nothing to do with forming a bloc that would allow free trade, expand the market for German and French manufactured goods, create an illusory sense of prosperity for the smaller countries, pump money into Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy so that they could buy German and French goods and services and in turn, pile on a heavy debt!

What did the EU countries do when right in their neighborhood, the Balkans were burning? Ask the common Greeks how much love they have for their EU counterparts. Remove all the weapons from the EU and open the borders allowing a free for all, hand to hand brawl. Then lets see how much peace remains between the EU citizens.

The Euro zone too was a result of France feeling jittery over the German Mark’s rising influence. The only way to counter it was to push for a common currency. Its funny how the German constitution did not require a referendum to shun the Deutsche Mark and adopt the Euro. Soon enough, we had a zone that had a common monetary policy, but no common economic and fiscal policy. This was a disaster and yet no one did anything about it. Why? Because it was in France and Germany’s interest to keep it like this. It allowed them to exploit the smaller countries in the EU to fill their own coffers. Had they formulated a strict fiscal policy, countries like Greece, Italy and Spain would not have been able to borrow as heavily as they did. This would have reduced their ability to buy German and French products and in turn reduce the latter’s revenues. While Greece is being blamed for its fiscal indiscipline, the truth is that Germany and France wanted it to be like that.

People of Europe have always been for peace with each other. All wars and conflicts have been results of political and economic greed and opportunism. Similarly, peace too is slave to political and economic opportunism. The minute peace ceases to be politically or economically beneficial, EU leaders will show no hesitation in resorting to violence. If the Nobel Peace Prize is deserved by the citizens of the EU, then every citizen of the world has an equal claim to it.

As always, comments welcomed.

Posted in News, Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments »

Remembering Greatness…

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 2, 2012

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

2nd October 1869 – forever

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

Can Iran be Won?

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on October 1, 2012

No.

About a month back I published a post presenting an argument for the outcomes of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In it I applied Machiavelli’s thoughts to these countries. Let’s see if we can predict the outcome of an attack on Iran.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, erstwhile Persia, is for all practical purposes, ruled by the Supreme Leader and a Guardian Council that consists of twelve members nominated by the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. The official religion is Shia branch of Islam and 90-95% of the population belong to this religion.

After the Supreme Leader, the Constitution defines the President of Iran as the highest state authority.The President is elected for a term of four years. Presidential candidates must be approved by the Guardian Council prior to running in order to ensure their allegiance to the ideals of the Islamic revolution.

So why do I think Iranian authority cannot be overturned?

Firstly, Iran is one of the few Arab countries where the ruling authority belongs to the same religion as the majority of people. Iranians hold the Supreme Leader in very high regards, almost divine. His authority is absolute and justified by God. The members of the Guardian Council do not hold sway over any territory or any clan of people. So, the Supreme Leader’s authority is unquestionable and does not depend heavily on his ministers. To defeat such a system is difficult.

Secondly, people of Iran are religiously connected with the Supreme Leader. An attempt to overthrow the Iranian authority will be perceived as an attempt to overthrow the Supreme Leader. This is completely unacceptable to a big majority. The religious string that is used by the Supreme Leader to rule Iran is stronger than the heavy handedness Saddam used to rule Iraq. An attack on Iran will be perceived as an attack on Shia Islam. The Iranians will not revolt against the Supreme Leader. I repeat, the Arab Spring type revolt will not happen.

And lastly, the provision to have a democratically elected President is a “clever” ploy in the Constitution. All ills of the society including a poor economy can be blamed on the President. This ensures that people never raise their fingers towards the Supreme Leader and his Guardian Council. A lot of the Iranian anger is diverted towards the President and abated by giving Iranians and illusory hope that they possess a democratic right to change the President in the next elections.

Hence, I do not think that Iranian authority can be overturned by force.

Comments welcomed.

 

 

 

Posted in Political Philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

What She Said. What I Thought.

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on September 5, 2012

“Over the past few years as first lady, I have had the extraordinary privilege of traveling all across this country. And everywhere I have gone and the people I’ve met and the stories I’ve heard, I have seen the very best of the American spirit.”

Oh no! Another fairytale recital. Please, please don’t lead me to where I think you are going!

“I’ve seen it in teachers in a near bankrupt school district to vowed to keep teaching without pay.  I — I have seen it in people become heroes at a moment’s notice, diving into harm’s way to save others, flying across the country to put out a fire, diving for hours to bail out a town. And, I’ve seen it in our men and women in uniform and our proud military families. In — in wounded warriors who tell me they are not just going to walk again, they are going to run and they are going to run marathons. In the young men blinded by a bomb in Afghanistan who said simply, “I’d give my eyes and 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done, and what I can still do.”

Really! So now the government is praising people for fighting difficult situations. Aren’t they in that situation because of the government? You can’t finance the school district, so you appease the teachers by praising their will power. You hail the spirit of the young soldiers, and so easily forget the fact that you had promised to get them out of there before they were blinded. Empathizing with people is a good way to escape one’s own guilt in contributing to their sorry state. But its a temporary escape.

“Every day they remind me how blessed we are to live in the greatest nation on earth.”

There are more than a few billion people in this world that will contest that claim. Stop trying to hypnotize people into believing they live in paradise.

” I loved Barack just the way he was.  You see, even back then, when Barack was a Senator and presidential candidate, to me, he was still the guy who picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by in a hole in the passenger side door. He was the guy whose proudest possession was a coffee table he’d found in a dumpster.”

Another attempt at celebrating struggles and minimal living. I support minimal living but only when it is out of choice. I do not like this strategy of trying to make people feel wonderful about their struggles by recounting your own. The truth is that while you have left your struggles way behind, the common man has been living far too long with them. Do not try to allay their frustrations and anger by pretending to be one of them. You are not!

“And for years, men no more qualified than she was, men she actually trained, were promoted up the ladder ahead of her, earning more and more money while Barack’s family continue to scrap by. But day after day, she kept on waking up at dawn to catch the bus, arriving at work before anyone else, giving her best without complaint or regret.  And she would often tell Barack, “So long as you kids do well Bar, that is all that really matters.”

Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock….I have still not heard anything that makes Barack electable. By this very example, every Tom Dick and Harry in my neighborhood is electable.Please First Lady, tell me something that is relevant. How will he create jobs, reduce debt, bring soldiers back etc. etc. Please!

“We learned about dignity and decency.  That how hard you work matters more than how much you make.  That helping others means more than just getting ahead yourself.”

That does it. I’m feeling sick now. Another attempt to belittle wealth. Do not celebrate poverty. Beware!This statement reeks of extreme socialism. Did they write this speech in a Seance session with Marx’s ghost?

“That’s how he brought our economy and the brink of collapse to creating jobs again.  Jobs you can raise a family on, good jobs. Right here in the United States of America.”

Of course, in socialist lingo “good jobs” do not mean “decently paying” jobs. And since she has already set the scene for minimal living, a pittance of a salary seems mighty good now, doesn’t it?

“Because for Barack, success isn’t about how much money you make.  It is about the difference you make in people’s lives.”

Again! I thought only spiritual gurus talked like this. So obviously, Americans have to get used to lower and continuously decreasing  salaries.

“the story of unwavering hope grounded in unyielding struggle.  That is what has made my story and Barack’s story and — and so many American stories possible. And let me tell you something, I say all of this tonight, not just as a first lady, no, not just as a wife.  You see, at the end of the day, my most important title is still mom-in-chief.”

Another blatant attempt to play with Herd Mentality. Hope!Hope! Hope! But how long can one keep the public hypnotized under the pretext of Hope!

Conclusion: Everybody get ready to come face to face with cyclic nature of global business. Economic balance has shifted to the East. Jobs have gone and it will take some time for them to come back. What most politicians can do is only condition your minds into accepting struggles, lower salaries and minimal living. Once U.S labor is cheaper than Chinese and Indian labor,companies will bring manufacturing and service jobs back to U.S. The next time someone from India calls IT Helpdesk, it will be Richard answering the phone and saying, “Hello my name is Raj. How can I help you today?”

Disclaimer: I am a student of philosophy and politics. My analysis is only an attempt to share my thoughts and soliciting both conforming and opposing views from readers.

 

 

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Why I Don’t Keep My Money With My Government

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on September 4, 2012

Image courtesy: Conor Ogle

A few years back, I started investing in a Government Savings Plan. The deal was that for 15 years, I would have to put a minimum amount into the fund annually, and after the completion of the maturity period I would get the principal amount back along with the accumulated interest. The real incentive was that my investment every year would be tax exempt.

Yesterday, I withdrew the money I had invested so far. I was penalized a small amount, but it didn’t change my decision. I had decided that I was not going to keep my money locked in with my government for a long period. The Government is not only injudicious in its spending, it is also taking me for a ride with its unfair tax policies. Let me elaborate,

1) Our President until 2 months back spent more than US$ 50 Million of taxpayer’s money and sovereign debt on foreign travels. Why is that a problem? Because in India, the president is only a nominal head with no powers at all in decision making. It is a post which is a legacy of the British Raj and contributes mere pittance to the running of our affairs.

2) In 2009, our government allocated Coal mines to randomly selected business entities at prices only fraction of the market price. The Auditing Agency in a recent study reported that by not auctioning the national resources, the government has cost the exchequer of our country close to US$ 33 Billion. The Coal blocks were allotted as per the whims and fancies of those in power.

3) Similarly, in another recent finding of the Auditing Agency, it has been alleged that another national resource, the 2G Mobile telecom spectrum was allotted to the private telecom operators on a first come first served basis instead of an auction. The loss to the country from this unpardonable act was close to US $ 32 Billion.

4) Recently, a group of District level politicians traveled to China on a state sponsored trip. The objective of the trip was to study the best Dairy practices and replicate the same back home. The group returned saying that they learned nothing that was better than what we were already practicing in India. Duh! Who said that China has the best Dairy practices in the world! That trip should have been to New Zealand, Denmark, US or the EU.

5) In India, only close to 3% of the population pays income tax. No, its not a typo. 3% it is and I am one of them. This figure is unpardonable after 65 years of self rule. This figure is low NOT because our laws are slack. It is low because our government mechanism is not efficient and honest enough to get more people to pay income taxes. Since India taxes both income and consumption, it is only these 3% people that get taxed from all directions. In no court of law can that be called fair treatment.

6) I fall in the income tax slab that ends up paying close to 30% as tax. I was taught in school that we must pay taxes for the development of the country, our infrastructure, education, health services, military etc. etc. But I don’t see any of that happening.

a) Most of the National Road Highways are developed as Public Private Partnership (PPP). So I end up paying a heavy toll fee whenever I use a highway. This means I am paying for that infrastructure out of the income I have left after paying income tax!

b) India did not win a single Gold Medal in the recently concluded London Olympics. A country of 1.2 Billion and not a single Gold. Clearly the government in not using my tax money to facilitate sports either.

c) Government hospitals are either non-existent or lie in ruins with the most unhygienic services. Not to mention the grave shortage of competent doctors in them. Not surprisingly, most of us have to visit private hospitals for treatments and spend more money from the money I had left after paying my taxes! So evidently, my tax money is not being utilized in providing me good healthcare either.

7) Apparently a lot of my tax money is going to pay salaries of government employees who’s efficiency and work ethics are a crying shame. The rest of my tax money is spent in giving subsidized food and other incentives to poor people to win their votes and come back to power. And all the while, sovereign debt keeps increasing while my currency keeps declining.

And this is why I do not want a big government. I do not question its intent. Socialism is a benevolent concept, but impractical. It works in small communities but not at a Federal level. Big governments cannot put a mechanism in place which will deliver services effectively. With time they will only accumulate so much debt that you can kiss your country goodbye. Do you think the Greeks own Greece, or that the Italians are the true masters of their country? NO! Leftist policies and attitudes have pawned these countries to others….and there is no getting them back!

Sadly, above stated facts have raised doubts in my mind about long term fiscal health of my country. I do not want to keep my money locked in with a government that doesn’t know how to manage its finances.

I have better odds at a roulette table.

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Why Iraq will be won and Afghanistan lost

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on August 30, 2012

“…principalities of which one has record are found to be governed in two different ways; either by a prince, with a body of servants, who assist him to govern the kingdom as ministers by his favour and permission; or by a prince and barons, who hold that dignity by antiquity of blood and not by the grace of the prince. Such barons have states and their own subjects, who recognize them as lords and hold them in natural affection. Those states that are governed by a prince and his servants hold their prince in more consideration, because in all the country there is no one who is recognized as superior to him, and if they yield obedience to another they do it as to a minister and official, and they do not bear him any particular affection.

The examples of these two governments in our time are the Turk and the King of France. The entire monarchy of the Turk is governed by one lord, the others are his servants; and, dividing his kingdom into sanjaks, he sends there different administrators, and shifts and changes them as he chooses. But the King of France is placed in the midst of an ancient body of lords, acknowledged by their own subjects, and beloved by them; they have their own prerogatives, nor can the king take these away except at his peril. Therefore, he who considers both of these states will recognize great difficulties in seizing the state of the Turk, but, once it is conquered, great ease in holding it. The causes of the difficulties in seizing the kingdom of the Turk are that the usurper cannot be called in by the princes of the kingdom, nor can he hope to be assisted in his designs by the revolt of those whom the lord has around him. This arises from the reasons given above; for his ministers, being all slaves and bondmen, can only be corrupted with great difficulty, and one can expect little advantage from them when they have been corrupted, as they cannot carry the people with them, for the reasons assigned. Hence, he who attacks the Turk must bear in mind that he will find him united, and he will have to rely more on his own strength than on the revolt of others; but, if once the Turk has been conquered, and routed in the field in such a way that he cannot replace his armies, there is nothing to fear but the family of this prince, and, this being exterminated, there remains no one to fear, the others having no credit with the people; and as the conqueror did not rely on them before his victory, so he ought not to fear them after it.

The contrary happens in kingdoms governed like that of France, because one can easily enter there by gaining over some baron of the kingdom, for one always finds malcontents and such as desire a change. Such men, for the reasons given, can open the way into the state and render the victory easy; but if you wish to hold it afterwards, you meet with infinite difficulties, both from those who have assisted you and from those you have crushed. Nor is it enough for you to have exterminated the family of the prince, because the lords that remain make themselves the heads of fresh movements against you, and as you are unable either to satisfy or exterminate them, that state is lost whenever time brings the opportunity.” – Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

In Iraq,  Saddam Hussein, along with his ministers ruled with a heavy hand and ruthless authority. Saddam’s reign over Iraq was total and complete. To topple him, the U.S relied solely on the might of its own alliance. It is evident, that people of Iraq, once they settle their own sectarian issues, will be more ready to accept American presence and dominance in their country. As Machiavelli suggested, Iraq is America’s for the keeping.

Image Courtesy Mikhail Evstafiev

Afghanistan, is equivalent to the “Kingdom of France” in the quotes above.The central Asian republic has always been an unnatural co-existence of several different tribes being ruled by their respective warlords. Every occupation of Afghanistan has been achieved by bribing these warlords towards oneself. The Soviets did it, and the U.S is doing the same. It is evident in the form of government which they have put together. It is a coalition of tribal leaders that helped the U.S fight the Taliban. Beyond this, the leaders have nothing in common. It is a state of affairs that is bound to collapse and Afghanistan, thanks to some medieval curse, is going to return to becoming what it always has been, the land of the dead.

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Raped, pregnant and ordeal not over: Shauna Prewitt

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on August 23, 2012

This article deserves to be shared on blogs around the world. Unlike many other opinions, Shauna Prewitt’s take on recent discussions surrounding the Akin gaffe, is both touching and objective. She highlights facts that I have not come across in several op-eds. What are your thoughts on it?

“When I was in law school, my criminal law professor introduced us to the crime of rape by reading us a quote from Lord Chief Justice Sir Matthew Hale, a 17th-century English jurist: “In a rape case it is the victim, not the defendant, who is on trial.”

It was not merely a history lesson. I had lived it.

While a student in my final year of college, at age 21, I was raped. I have dissected that moment — the horrifying moment that I became a “victim” — from every possible angle. I have poked and prodded, examined and re-examined. Regrettably, I have even suspected myself in a desperate, ultimately futile attempt to understand how I became a victim.

But blaming myself was neither my idea nor my first inclination. I thought such 17th-century notions were long dead. I was wrong. People who did not even know me were quick to comment or speculate on my rape. What were you wearing? Did you scream loudly? Did this occur in public?

As my history lesson said, I found myself on trial, facing the most fierce judge and jury: ignorance.

Eight years after my rape, I find myself on trial against ignorance again. Rep. Todd Akin’s recent comments that “legitimate rape” rarely results in pregnancy not only flout scientific fact but, for me, cut deeper. Akin has de-legitimized my rape.

You see, nine months after my rape, I gave birth to a beautiful little girl. You could say she was conceived in rape; she was. But she is also so much more than her beginnings. I blissfully believed that after I finally had decided to give birth to and to raise my daughter, life would be all roses and endless days at the playground. I was wrong again.

It would not be long before I would learn firsthand that in the vast majority of states — 31 — men who father through rape are able to assert the same custody and visitation rights to their children that other fathers enjoy. When no law prohibits a rapist from exercising these rights, a woman may feel forced to bargain away her legal rights to a criminal trial in exchange for the rapist dropping the bid to have access to her child.

Continue Reading…

 

 

 

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Democracy Democrac Democra Democr Democ Demo Dem De D…

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 31, 2012

Part of Peter Joseph’s series Culture In Decline. Love the fact that he does not contribute the present reality to a conspiracy but a manifestation of a value system we have come to accept. Now that’s a welcome change from the theme of most thought provoking videos. I truly believe in democracy but only when the noblest are elected by the wise.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to chose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.”
– Winston Churchill

“If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”
– Mark Twain

 

 

 

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I Belong to the Centre Right…As of Now.

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on July 30, 2012

The main responsibility of a government should be to protect its citizens and their rights. That’s it! Nothing more and nothing less. The size of the government and its spending should be just enough to fulfill these duties. Leave the rest to the people.

So which sectors must the Government control in order to “protect its citizens and their rights”? Here are a few that come to mind:

1) Defense

2) Internal Law and Order

3) Education

4) Healthcare

5) Environment

I advocate absolute control and ownership of these sectors by the government. No privatization at all! The implications of these domains to the character of the nation are too critical to be profit driven. Barring these, state’s presence in industry must be bare minimum to none.

 

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