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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Concept of a Nation State

Introduction – The concept of a nation state is not very old. Nation state, in its present sense. is more or less a nineteenth century phenomenon. The theory of state was developed in the 19th century.  In 1815, at the Congress Of Vienna the Final Act recognised only 39 sovereign states in the European diplomatic system. Earlier there used to be City State, or small or big states Princely States. The role of the ruler used to be different from that of modern of Multi-national states, Empires, Confederation or other state forms.

Power to Govern The source of power has kept on changing with passage of time. Earlier, during the times of city-states, there used to be small independent (sovereign) citystates/countries,, It usually consisted of a single city and its dependent territories. The power to govern was in the hands of physically strong persons, i.e. warriors. With the start of Industrial era, wealth took over the place of muscle power as a source of power. And in modern times, knowledge has become one of the major source of power. Creation of more wealth and control over muscle power depend to a large extent on knowledge, exchange of data and information. More the Knowledge, more strong/advanced is a nation in present day in modern global society.

Tasks of the government of a Nation state – What is a nation state? – Idea of nation state is associated with the rise of modern sovereign state, in which its government governs its specific territorial area for the unity, social, economic and cultural development of the people living in that area. According to Shaw, Malcolm Nathan, p. 178. Article 1 of the Montevideo Convention  on Rights and Duties of States, 1, Published by Cambridge University Press, 2003) lays down the most widely accepted formulation of the criteria of statehood. A state possesses the following qualifications: ‘(a) a permanent population; (b) a defined territory; (c) government; and (d) capacity to enter into relations with other states’

Tasks of a Nation State – Of all the acts of civilized society, the role of the government of Nation State is perhaps the most complex one. It has to deal with living human beings, prone to unpredictable behaviour. It deals with the issues – political, economic or social, which directly affects day to day life of its people.

The role of the Governing Authority of a city state changed with the emergence of the concept of nation state. Earlier during the times of city states of ancient agricultural societies, the task of the ruling authority was not so difficult. Expansion of territory along with the process of modernization and new inventions in the field of transportation gave rise to the idea of Nation State.

and protection of its people from foreign invasions, controlling internal disturbances and collecting revenue were the main tasks of a government. †††††

The concept of “Laissez-faire” – With the rise of the concept of nation state all over the world, the principle of Laissez-faire was followed by the governments..  It began with Adam Smiths’ “The wealth of nations”. Laissezfaire is a French meaning “allow to do”. The British economist John Stuart Mill was responsible for bringing this philosophy into popular economic usage in his Principles of Political Economy (1848).

The principle of Laissez faire was the guiding principle of governance throughout the 19th century. Policy of minimum governmental interference in the economic affairs of individuals and society was its motto. The government’s main tasks were only to maintain law and order and collect revenue. The philosophy’s popularity reached its peak around 1870.

The policy of laissezfaire received strong support in classical economics as it developed in Great Britain under the influence of economist and philosopher Adam Smith. It led some nations through success after success in the economic field. USA became world’s largest economy. Australia achieved one of the highest per capita income rate. Many European States emerged as great imperial powers.

Some inherent weaknesses of capitalist system and mass awakening had turned the world opinion in favour of socialism. It turned many countries to totalitarian regimes. In the late 19th century the acute changes caused by industrial growth and the adoption of mass-production techniques proved the laissez-faire doctrine insufficient as a guiding philosophy. 

Eighteen Seventy three (1873) marked the decline of laissez-faire concept. It ended with the crash of Vienna Stock market. The early 1870s, several Banks in Europe collapsed, which led to the crash of the Vienna Stock Exchange. It was the beginning of an economic crisis, the Great Depression, which lasted until 1896. The crisis affected central Europe and later the United States. The Panic of 1873 triggered an economic depression in Europe (Paris, London, Frankfurt) and New York that lasted from 1873 until 1877, and even longer in France and Britain. In the United States the Panic was known as the “Great Depression” until the events of the early 1930s set a new standard.

With the process of modernization, industrialization, emergence of new techniques in war equipment, new inventions in the field science and technology in the sphere of transport, communication, there emerged a new era. Now the governments of modern nation states are involved in multifarious activities, like –

  • Control functions,
  • Service functions,
  • Technical functions like Building up Infra-structure for country, and
  • Research and Development in various areas for a better future of its citizens, and
  • Protect the nation from internal as well as external aggression.

Control functions – Control functions deals with maintenance of law and order within the country. Normally administrators, intelligence services, and revenue services perform the control functions. They are responsible for decision-making and monitoring activities of the government.

Service functions – To provide services to public at large, there are some non-technical professionals as well as technical services like various Railways, Post and Telegraph etc, which provide services to the public at large.

Technical functions – The responsibility of building up permanent infra-structure for the sustainable development of the nation falls on the shoulders of technocrats.

Research and Development functions – Modern world has set up research goals for the development of national governments in areas like economic growth, environment protection, Good Health and Well-Being, behavioural science, Quality Education, and developing new monitoring techniques.

Protection from internal or external aggression – It is the responsibility of every nation to protect its citizens and the nation from terror activities with the help of its armed forces.

Turning points, rise of the concept of Welfare State – Peter F Drucker says that in 1873, the world moved away from the dominant political concept of “Laissez-faire” to “Welfare State”. The crash of Vienna Stock market had changed the course of politics and led to the rise of welfare state and its immense power.

World War-I was the turning point. The first one to opt for totalitarian regime was Soviet Russia. Italy became a fascist nation and Nazism grew in Germany. War made every democratic government to play the role of a guardian, as far as its economy was concerned. Government assumed the responsibility of protecting its citizens from the shocks of every day life.

By the World War-II, socio-economic justice was the idea that swept the entire world. At that time, it was not only a political or economic ideology, but also a radical philosophical alternative, which assured to create a new integrated, casteless, classless egalitarian society, free of discrimination and inequality. It was supposed to destroy all inequalities of race, sex, power, position or wealth and to distribute equitably social, material and political resources of the nation. It meant to place in full or in parts means of production and distribution under State’s ownership or control, as against private ownership and free enterprise. It believed in planned development for removing poverty and leading the nation to prosperity.

Concept of Welfare State – French Revolution, Bolshevik Revolution, Industrial Revolution and Contemporary developments had a great impact in widening the scope of State activities. Poverty and misery, which were earlier accepted as the lot of masses, are no longer regarded as inevitable. Millions of people started demanding, with persisting insistence, better standard of living, better housing, better education and better medical facilities. The masses started wishing that they themselves should be benefited a much as possible, from the resources of their nation. The desire of public to go forward quickly and to establish a new economic order, in which common people could have better deal, gave rise to the concept of `Welfare State’ and Developmental Administration.

Tasks of a welfare state Government – In a welfare state the government assumes the responsibility of its citizens from `womb to tomb’. It aims at improving the quality of life of its masses. It tries to bring about `social, political and economic justice’. The main aim of initiating and nurturing this concept is to bring about betterment to the lots of weaker section of society by building up a rapidly expanding and technologically progressive economy. It aims at the upliftment of poor, the provision of basic necessities to all irrespective of their caste or creed, the voluntary abdication of riches and power – that these riches brings and establishment of a productive, vigorous and creative political and social life. In short its objective is a massive attack on five major evils of society – want, disease, ignorance, squalor and idleness.

The welfare concept, national reconstruction and development, has no utility in itself unless it is translated into action. Developmental activities can be successfully comprehended, when government is able to assess properly what is attainable, what is practical and how to formulate plans and policies.

“Rob Peter and give to Paul – Critics say that n most of the developing and under-developed nations, in the name of democracy, the Government has assumed enormous powers to govern its people in any manner it likes. To achieve quick results, democratic governments of welfare states usually adopts the policies of ‘Appeasement’ and “Patronization”, which are basically based on the practice of “Rob Peter and give to Paul”.

 It is a humanitarian obligation for the government of a welfare state to think about its weaker sections and plan for their uplift. But at the same time, the Government should not put a full stop on the progress of advanced sections of the society. It needs to pay equal attention to the elite sections of society, too, by boosting their initiative, courage, intelligence and talent, so that the nation could compete confidently with developed nations of the world. Any attempt to reverse the position of elite class of the society would not be proved beneficial for the whole society, because it is the cream of the society which has the vision, knowledge and awareness to find out alternative routes to progress.

The next turning point 1991 – Aversion for the Concept of ‘welfare state’ began after the collapse of USSR in 1991 as a super power. Common men in general have lost faith in the Concepts of ‘welfare state’ or ‘Development State’.  Somehow, in the name of providing socio-economic and political justice to its people, the governments of welfare states functions in such a way, that it has done more damage to the underprivileged sections of society.

The governments of welfare socialist states have centralized the planning, controls and ownership leading to abuse of power. Their attitude have been Grab more political power. They have closed its economy to the world, nationalized industries and services, initiated rigid controls on the private sector and created monopolies in the public sector. In the name of socialism, it has created a domineering State controlling the smallest detail of the economic and social life of the people. People were made pigmies and enslaved by politicians, planners and bureaucrats. It has neither wiped out poverty, nor created effective distributive system nor equality.

In the name of Welfare State, the Government has acquired enormous powers. Government now exercises excessive control over the resources of the nation. Such a system has made the common men pigmies. People, in general, have gradually lost their motivation to make their own efforts  work for prosperity. In addition to it an unfettered market system led to grave economic inequalities. Altogether, it has slowed down the process of sustainable growth of the nation.

After independence, what successive governments in India have done, is that in the name of social justice, the government has kept on giving only false promises to the people, that too, during election times. They have given rise to a closed, centralized and unproductive system, The political authorities have chosen the path of appeasement in order to create their vote banks. Its paternalistic policies have destroyed the work culture, which has divided the society socially, politically and economically into two water-tight compartments ‘Haves” and ‘Have-nots”. The system as a whole has jammed the wheels of morality and conscience. Corruption, inefficiency and red-tapeism have increased beyond control in government circles. It developed tentacles of corruption, scams, scandals and callousness in almost every sphere.

Scene after Information technology Revolution

Roughly, 1973 marked the decline of welfare state and social justice era At some point, between 1965 and 1973, the world passed through A great divide into a new era, leaving behind the creeds, commitments and alignments, which had shaped the politics in the 19th and the 20th centuries. Now again the situation has changed. With the start of the third great revolution – the Information Technology revolution – and the collapse of super power USSR, there is a wave in favor of knowledge-based systems and free economy. More focus is now on economic enterprises. People all-over the world are adapting to the free economy. In order to succeed in modern world, the attention of the youth is on attaining proper qualifications, competitiveness and positive motivation.1973 marked decline of the concept of ‘Welfare State’. The oil shock, the floating dollars and the student rebellion in western world set had changed the scenario.

Planned Economy of Welfare State – Political leaders of many democratic nations still talk about concepts of Welfare nation and ‘social justice’. But common men, in general, have lost faith in the concept of social justice. It appears to them as unrealistic.  “Social Justice of a ‘Democratic Welfare State’ itself is a contradiction in terms. Planned economy cannot be democratic. The uneven distribution of economic power and benefits through manipulations of polity have created major distortions and problems for government of democratic nations.

The welfare nations had made following six specific mistakes: –

  • It adopted an inward looking, import substituting path, rather than an outward looking, export promoting route, thus denying itself the chance to share the world’s prosperity of the 70s and 80s,
  • It set up a massive, inefficient and monopolistic public sector, to which it denied the autonomy of working,
  • It over-regulated private enterprise, thus diminished competition in home market,
  • It discouraged foreign capital and denied itself the benefit of technology and world class market,
  • It pampered organized labor responsible for lowest productivity of labor and capital, and
  • It ignored primary education at the cost of higher education

Views of some eminent persons – Mr. Paul Johnson, a historian of 20th century says, The more the State grows and impedes the free exercise of market forces, the more the quality of information deteriorates, and the more likely those decisions based on such information will be wrong. A Polish communist Government planner says, In this crazy system, we do not know, the true cost of anything. We do not know which factories are efficient and which are hopeless. So we are continually reinforcing failure and punishing success.

Mr. Subramanyam says, The hypocrisy of socialism developed along with centralization of authority, denigration of democratic institutions and strangulation of Panchayat Raj institutions as part of one integrated political process in the country

J. Krishnamurthy said, Working for social welfare is to fill water into a pail that has holes. The more water is poured in it, the more it pours out and the pail remains empty.

Milovan Djilas, a Yugoslavian revolutionary and writer, who predicted the fall of communism and fought both Tito and Stalin, concluded on the basis of his experience, The suppression of classes would be the first step towards the extinction of society… There can be no society without classes. The problem is how to create a balance between the classes, to prevent some from getting rich at the expense of others and to prevent the oppression of one class by another. It must be recognized, however, that it will never be possible to establish an ideal equilibrium among different social classes…The future ideology of the reformist left must not become a barrier to the achievements of capitalism such as efficiency and the profitability of business. The central problem is, how to distribute wealth without disrupting economic activity, while at the same time building a society based on human solidarity…. This idealism should not be confused with the chimera of establishing a society with rigid and permanent forms – I believe the more varied a society is, the better and more creative it will be. There will always be injustice and inequality in the world, which will be the task of the social democrats to combat.

Switching over to Liberalization/free economies again after 1990 – After 40-45 years, another wave swept the world. Surprisingly, this time, it was led by capitalist ideology, which was supposed to have been defeated by now. The shift from economic control to economic freedom took the shape of a larger global movement engulfing democracies of welfare states, former communist forces and almost all the developing nations. After experiencing destructive effect of tampering with market forces, Welfare states started switching over to free economies again.

Even communist leader and USSR President Mr. Gorbochov admired and watched her actions with interest. Another example is of New Zealand. Alarmed that the country might finally become bankrupt, the Government, slashed welfare spending and sold off state owned enterprises running at loss. Price and wage controls were lifted, subsidies and trade barriers were lowered and Government employment was trimmed. The result was that New Zealand reduced its inflation to below 1% very soon.

The collapse of the Soviet Union as socialist super power in 1990 effected adversely the commitment of the world to an egalitarian social order and towards socialism as an ideology and a program. Today socialism has its usefulness as the vision of an ideal society.

Governments of many Welfare states, in its effort to control excesses and transgressions of the private sector through state capitalism and controlled economies had collapsed in 1990s like a house of cards all over the world. Since 1979 onwards, under Margaret Thatcher’s supervision, British Government that had a huge inefficient public sector and a heavily taxed private sector, started reducing its involvement in the economy boldly. Tax rates were cut and simplified. Her success fostered a fundamental change in people’s attitude towards the role of government. The inherent weaknesses have given to the public want, deprivation, fear and dissatisfaction, which has led to its disaster.

Some economists had collected data on the policy of ‘economic Justice’ of ‘Welfare states’, from the world over and concluded –

  • Those countries, which promoted private enterprise performed better than those dependent on state enterprise,
  • Those nations, which encouraged foreign investments, did better than those who discouraged it,
  • Those nations, which opted for an export path with free imports or low tariff, did better than protectionist nations,
  • Nations encouraging productivity through right labour policies did better.
  • The countries investing in primary education were better off and had brought down their population rates. Japan, Korea, Taiwan set the example and Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia followed. Latin America, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica etc., pursued the same success path.

Developments of Twenty first century – With the start of Twenty first Century, many technological advancements has happened at a very fast speed. In this space age, knowledge has grown faster than human ability to handle it. There are changes in the strategy, structure and management techniques. Social-economic-political atmosphere is also in a stage of flux due to technological advances at a very fast speed.

Recent changes are posing tough challenges before the government of a nation state people, particularly living in developing or under-developed countries. Human beings, in themselves are full of psychological and sociological complexes. In addition to it, a rapidly changing and turbulent environment, characterized by complexity and uncertainty, due increased knowledge, technological advancements and continuously rising aspirations and demands of its citizens, all together have made the task of good governance very difficult.

Winding up – The great lesson of the 20th Century, which has been learnt the hard way, is that the government of a nation should not become so beneficent that it should undermine people’s capacity to help themselves. Such an attitude of the national government tends to develop inaction and parasitism. It is necessary to remember that while State intervention can bring short term benefits, it invariably involves a cost, sometimes hidden at first, but usually enormous in the long run.

Free economy is now destined to shape the world of 21st century. Mr. Paul Johnson says, “The question, future historians will ask, is not why politicians and public opinion turned against the welfare state, but why it took them so long. Indeed, if ever a theory has been tested and disapproved, it is that of the all powerful, all benevolent state – a theory that has led in practice to violence, to the death of millions of people and to the scorching of the entire economics and environments. Never before, mankind has created such an all consuming monster. In both its totalitarian and social democratic versions, it has proved efficient in nothing except a capacity to squander resources and lives”.

In the past, knowledge was often used (abused) to curb thinking and dissent and inculcated blind obedience to authority. Info-tech Revolution along with the dissatisfaction in the hearts of common men led to the emergence knowledge based society in recent past. Now the key to success is knowledge, which can brings awareness, empowerment, and prosperity.

July 1, 2019 Posted by | General | | Leave a comment


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