Let the Field of Work be Limited
Constantly expanding the area of work of the government has become an intoxicating disease afflicting all States today. This becomes inevitable in a State with political parties. Appanna’s government, in their election campaign, promises the people that they will obtain the moon. Tamayya’s party says, “What’s the big deal in that! I will pluck all the planets together and bring it for you; just give us your vote and you shall see.” Thus in fierce competition, various political parties end up carrying bigger and bigger burdens. As a result, the field of work of the government keeps on expanding.
Even children know that as the circumference of a lake goes on increasing, the water level will correspondingly drop. However much power and wealth the government might have, they are ultimately limited. Therefore, as the expanse of administration increases, the strength of the government decreases; its acumen gets duller; both investigation and supervision become weaker and lesser; it becomes more and more difficult to keep things in check; wastage and apathy increase; bribery and corruption grow; cheats, fraudsters, and free-loaders have filled up bellies; the competence of the government wanes; and the morals of the people become lopsided and finally get destroyed. In the course of time, the entire establishment of the State becomes decrepit.
The government must keep its field of work in check. If the goal of the government is the peace and happiness of the common man—whom the great Nehru used to constantly praise—then it should not expect any excessive adventure (or undertaking) from the ministers. The request of the common people is that there should be no excesses. They don’t request for milk to flow instead of water in the Kaveri; they don’t expect a shawl to be draped over the Baba Budangiri (mountain). What the noble ṛṣis [seers] wished for thousands of years ago is the same that we desire today –
kāle varṣatu parjanyaḥ
sajjanāḥ santu nirbhayāḥ
May the rains shower upon us in the right season
and the earth be luxuriant with many plants;
may the land be free from distress
and the noble folk live devoid of fear!
To manage rains and crops is by the compassion of the Divine. What we need after that is peace of mind. And to that end, the State’s support. If the State can keep the wicked and villainous under control, that will suffice. That is Freedom.
In the name of prosperity, development, and social well-being, the government is carrying a burden that it cannot possibly bear and is transferring that burden on to the citizens – this does not nourish freedom. True freedom is the opportunity for the natural blossoming of the innate strength of the people. The various opportunities and facilities that the government makes available for the meaningful blossoming of the innate strength of the people—for their prosperity through their own hard work, without any bindings—is true freedom of the people.
In that case, don’t we need economic welfare and prosperity? Who said that they don’t want it? We need wealth and prosperity on one hand and social welfare on the other; without doubt, we need it. But that is the task of the people, of the citizens. To the extent they can accomplish that with their own efforts – that alone suffices. If the culture of self-effort is ignited in people, it will grow and develop on its own. When the people request the government for help, then let it extend a helping hand. But if the government, of its own accord, interferes in matters related to wealth and society, not only does it destroy the fundamental objectives [of governance] but also ends up crushing the morals of the people and causing trouble to the citizens. This is something we have seen and experienced in the last twenty years.
When [Herbert Henry] Asquith was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom [1908–16], a delegation from China came to London and met him. The delegates requested Asquith: “Sir, seeing that you have a parliamentary system here, we too established a parliament. You have seven hundred members of parliament. We too have the same number. Here, you all speak day and night. There, we too speak day and night, relentlessly. But work gets done here; no work gets done there – what could be the secret behind this? Kindly come to our country and teach us the secret of getting the work done through the parliamentary system; if you agree, we will take care of your travel, stay, and other incidental expenses quite happily.” Thus they pleaded with him.
Asquith, the consummate statesman, apparently said with a laugh, “Our path is right for us. You should find the path that is appropriate for you.”
The experience has been similar in Europe and North America as well. Even in Communist nations, people have begun to feel that the ancient traditions and customs that they abandoned were better. How does it matter what the West thinks! Even earlier I had indicated that in the fundamental aspect of the purpose of life—the topic of hierarchy of the puruṣārthas [fundamental purposes of human life]—there is a basic difference arising from traditional practice between Bhārata and the West. Even in the present times, if we maintain belief in the greatness of the spiritual vision (or philosophical perspective) that has come to us from thousands of years ago, then we should not aggrandize wealth creation and blow it out of proportion.
Our ancestors have summarily described in a couple of sentences the primary duties of the State: 1. Duṣṭa-nigraha – Controlling and punishing the wicked, 2. Śiṣṭa-poṣaṇā – Nourishing and protecting the good. Wealth creation and quest for prosperity – traditionally described as vaiśya-dharma [natural traits of wealth creators and traders] – are included in Śiṣṭa-poṣaṇā. Thus it becomes clear that the State has to be a pillar of support to those who seek to create wealth in righteous ways.