Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Mohandas Gandhi, the libertarian

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There is no doubt that Mohandas Gandhi is one of the greatest people to have ever promoted peace and fought against injustice. Because of this, people of many different political backgrounds have claimed Gandhi as one of their own, especially statists of a leftist persuasion. Is it accurate for such people to make such a claim? In the face of many of the problems that people face today, what would Gandhi do?

I recently discovered a website that happens to be called What Would Gandhi Do?. The position of this website is that Gandhi's answers to many societal dilemnas would be in harmony with libertarian ideals such as individual liberty and a minimal state. While reading some of the quotes on that page, I even noticed Gandhi refer to anarchy in a positive manner. Before even getting to the part of the site devoted to his thoughts on government, I came across this gem of a quote: "No action which is not voluntary can be called moral." This immediately made me think of the many instances of government forcibly robbing people in order to erect things such as Social Security and the welfare state in general. Here is the section devoted to Gandhi's thoughts on government:
Government control gives rise to fraud, suppression of Truth, intensification of the black market and artificial scarcity. Above all, it unmans the people and deprives them of initiative, it undoes the teaching of self-help...I look upon an increase in the power of the State with the greatest fear because, although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality which lies at the heart of all progress...Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the Act depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest....We find the general work of mankind is being carried on from day to day be the mass of people acting as if by instinct....If they were instinctively violent the world would end in no time...It is when the mass mind is unnaturally influenced by wicked men that the mass of mankind commit violence. But they forget it as they commit it because they return to their peaceful nature immediately the evil influence of the directing mind has been removed....A government that is evil has no room for good men and women except in its prisons.

Hmm... he sounds like a bonafide libertarian to me.
I also discovered this image recently. Found on this webpage, it shows one of those "World's Smallest Political Quiz" cards that some libertarians like to pass out, filled out by Arun Gandhi, one of Mohandas's grandsons. He claims to follow his grandfather's philosophy, and as you can see from the picture, he happens to fall into the libertarian category.

Most people who claim to be libertarian would consider themselves to be compassionate and peace-loving, in the face of those statists who like to falsely claim otherwise. Given how Gandhi feels about large and intrusive government, maybe those statists should reevaluate their judgments.


Blogger bkmarcus said...

Thank you for this post!

1:40 PM  
Blogger MDM said...

Gandhi is a great example of the links between left decentralists, anarchists, and libertarians. Gandhi was deeply influenced by Tolstoy and Thoreau and it shows throughout his writings. The Gandhian Sarvodaya movement is a great example of non-statist, voluntary, local mutual aid that libertarians would do well to study. Check out Geoffrey Ostergaard's The Gentle Anarchists for lot's of good stuff on this topic. Great post!

11:24 AM  

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