Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Corruption and the Metic

Purvapaksha- Our Nation is unique, no matter what Nation it might be, for its pure, uncorrupted, National Spirit is the envy of all- which is why everybody is conspiring against us and trying to belittle us. 
Unfortunately, the foreigners with their fancy ideas and loose morals have corrupted us. That is root cause of corruption. 
Look brother, I'm first to admit, we also have our some peculiar customs of our own. After all, to give postman a little something when he brings registered letter is part of our ancient custom. In the Epics, the messenger always received a present from the King. Similarly many things which are going on with us are not properly appreciated by outsiders. See, we are like one big family. If I slap the traffic cop and threaten to have his family killed- it is because I consider him my own son. Similarly if he demands a bribe from you it is because he is like a younger brother who has got sulky because Father beat him and he is only asking money to buy some sweets or drugs or something like that. See, in family life, first thing one should learn is TOLERANCE.
Outsiders don't understand our little customs. They think everything should only be by the law book. They think people are just machines only. It is because they are not part of family. They have no TOLERANCE.
In Japan, the Emperor came to hear that there was one family which had been living in the same place on the same plot of ground for 1000 years. Never had that family been broken up by any quarrel or fighting. He sent his Daimyo to investigate how this Magic was possible. Answer was simple. They had TOLERANCE. If younger brother gets angry and beats up sister-in-law due to she is not giving fooding on time- so what? He is young. He will learn. If Great Uncle wants to sleep naked with his nieces. He is old man. Be tolerant.
If elder brother sells off some property to pay debts- don't get angry just murder the new proprietor and don't mention the matter. This is called TOLERANCE. 
Outsiders don't understand it. Not just outsiders, there is always scum born from dirty puddles or other impure wombs. What can they understand of family? True they may be having twenty thirty children of their own. Does that mean they understand Family? Does it mean they have TOLERANCE? Not at all. Beat one and see how the fellow howls and goes running to Police Station! Even animals have more sense.
But, I am telling you, it is the Outsiders who are the real problem. They have no TOLERANCE. They just know enough of our language to know the Law Book. Other than that, they just jabber like monkeys. It is they who are spreading all these false ideas and agitations. Let them go back to their own place.
I tell you- that is the Revolution we need today!
True meaning of Marx and Mahatma and Manu and Mayawatiji and everyone is only this.
Mind it, kindly.
The proletariat, according to the Labor theory of Value, are those who serve the country only by their power to produce children. Under diminishing returns and assuming Malthusian population growth, they- as a class- will never possess land, financial capital or even what we now call human capital. In a sense, theirs is a 'tragedy of the commons'- they immiserate themselves by the very manner in which they are productive to the State. Unless, of course, they emigrate.

It is characteristic of the first stirrings of the Economic Sciences in Germany- in which such of the Bidungsburgertum as amounted to more than mindless pedants, were tasked by the Prince to increase the yield of his forests, farms, mines and markets (Novalis, himself, was an actuary actually!)- that emigration would be overlooked or castigated because it represents a route by which the proletariat might stop serving the State and save themselves. Thus, Marx's 'dictatorship of the proletariat' is wrongly taken to signify a vanguard role for industrial working class rather than a meaningless moment in Hegel's pie-in-the-sky dialectics.

Workers who can emigrate don't serve the State solely by having children. People who won't emigrate but do consider it their duty to be periodically driven to the brink of starvation by 'the iron law of wages' may be termed proletarian but they aren't really people, or even cattle, but spiritual lemmings merely.

Emigration turns workers into 'metics'- the artisan or other member of the productive class, but of foreign birth, whose activities enrich the Polis- but Marxism has no theory of the metic. Certainly, the Comintern or whatever meretricious evil it has mutated into, can keep up the pretense that the State itself will wither away and so no metic/ proletariat distinction exists on the plane of essence. No doubt there are 'contradictions' which Party hacks can pontificate upon.  But, no real cognizance can be taken of the fact that there is a second 'tragedy of the commons' to which the proletariat is peculiarly subject viz. that the capitalized rent accruing to its leadership, to the degree that leadership is contested, would tend to cause it to over-reach itself and kill its own golden goose-think Datta Samant or Arthur Scargil etc . If uncontested, however, the rent to its leadership is maximized by its own immiseration- as happens under Single Party rule.

These two 'tragedies of the commons' specific to the proletariat drive a sort of internal and external migration and transformation from proletarian to metic. But, the metic has diametrically opposed economic interests. The external metic faces 'bhumiputra' hostility from the 'sons of the soil' which can quickly turn into Racism or Communalist sentiments. The internal metic- for example the factory worker who has started up a small workshop- finds his business opportunities arise from 'Dis-integration' viz. supplying goods and services to previously vertically integrated behemoths and this gives rise to a 'Dual Economy' where the Zaibatsu pay high wages to their own workers but keep costs down by outsourcing to the Small Scale sector with much lower wages and benefits. Since there are purely economic advantages to 'Dis-integration'- and moreover a large Small Scale sector existing cheek by jowl with Business behemoths endows the whole Sector with external economies of scale and scope- it won't disappear even if some magic legislative wand is waved and wages and benefits are equalized.

No doubt, metic and proletarian may cohabit along with peasant proprietor in the same body. Indeed, in India or other countries which had no Napoleonic code to break up co-parcenary land ownership, the same man may be a metic an industrial downturn, a proletarian during an upswing, while returning for the harvest to the land he 'owns' but in which he has no clear fungible title.
But such amphibian existence- like that of Duryodhana, his army slain, sheltering himself in the waters of a lake- is a last ditch clinging on to entitlements arising from the old order. It represents no vehicle to class power or means of transformation for the Polity.

Over the last thirty years, Economists have come to realize that the globally footloose Metic is the key to economic success. Something like Romer's 'Charter Cities' have become the template for Urban renewal, tackling structural unemployment and averting things like 'the Dutch disease' (deindustrialization due to a bloated Primary sector) or 'Eurosclerosis' (welfarist disincentives to work and enterprise coupled with a costly bureaucracy) or the Populist Ponzi scheme characterizing the PIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Spain).

Anna Hazare, a nativist, had long been harping on the Corruption issue as a stick with which to beat Sharad Pawar's brand of rural development- which unlike his own Puritan panacea actually garners votes at the hustings. Sonia loyalists were happy to see Hazare put Pawar in his place and send a message to other regional satraps that Rahul would take the Prime Ministership as a second Indira- an Emperor by divine as much as dynastic right. The RSS, far from being capable of any sort of meaningful leadership,  is still in post-Mandal mode and will bow its Brahminical head to any retarded or Backward caste Hindu- Ramdev because he is Yadav, Modi because he is Ghanchi, Hazare because he is Maratha.

There is one caste- a new caste- not mentioned. There isn't even a word for it. Let us for the moment call this class the Metic class. The... not 'bhumi-putra' but ....what? Are we not all, in some sense or another, part of this class? Are we not made faceless, do we not feel like some sort of illegal alien in our own country, when forced to pay 'nazrana'- a bribe for audience? Is this not the visceral appeal of the Lok Pal agitation?

Anything not thymotic and heteronomous,  essentially tribal or feudal in Indian culture arises from attempts at creating Metic-friendly spaces in Society. Yuddhistra's Indraprastha was Metic friendly. But Duryodhana old fashioned tribal 'thymos' (Rajas) was affronted by the wealth he saw there. This sowed the seed of Kurukshetra.
We may ask, in the Vyadha Gita, how come some low class butcher is living in such a beautiful palace? How is it possible? The very word 'Vyadha' in the Mahabharata is synonomous with fraud and deceit, not to mention Himsa and acharabrashta status. The text itself supplies the answer. The man lives in a City characterized by impartial laws and impersonal institutions. So long as he conducts his business lawfully, he can do as he wishes with the profits. If some rival butcher gets jealous and reports him to the authorities...what? They investigate and acquit the honest party. There is no meat-vendors' version of Kurukshetra with everybody in the mohulla fighting each other and breaking heads.

Corruption, in a sense, is what legitimates impersonal laws and institutions from the thymotic, tribal, perspective. "I am proud," says Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, 'that everything I have- sugar mills, property, kids in posh schools, etc...though I come from a wealthy family myself... yet has come to me only through the Martyred Leader and Asif Zardari and as for Bilawal- I will give my blood for him etc." This is the voice of the old tribal, thymotic politics. Corruption is the price 'Civil Society' must pay for the charade of 'Universal values' and 'the rule of Law'.
In Richard Attenborough's 'Gandhi' great play is made of the young lawyer being thrown off a train. But that wasn't the real climacteric in Gandhi's life. His family had sent him to England hoping he could take over from his father. On his return, by chance, his brother finds out that the new English official was known to Gandhi from London. He urges Gandhi to go and pull strings with this young man. The Englishman, quite properly gives Gandhi short shrift. What Gandhi should have done was to immediately write to his head of Chambers back in England. A 'Silk' from his own Chamber on the Opposition bench would have been delighted to raise the matter of 'Barrister Gandhi's humiliation by these Jacks-in-office who have grown haughty under the present Administration'. The Indian newspapers would have made the affair a cause celebre. Gandhi would have been put on a retainer by Maharajas who wanted to signal their annoyance to the Viceroy. His articles and speeches and books would have received a wide audience. He'd be set up for life.
Why didn't Gandhi take this road? His own caste-fellows would have been delighted. They'd have said 'look at the red blood in his veins! Others go crawling before any 'Laat Saab'. We are made of sterner stuff!' The very people who demanded his ostracization would have come humbly to take brides from his family. But, that was the problem. Gandhi would have been a hero from the tribal, thymotic, heteronomous point of view of his own father and grandfather. But, Gandhi had a wider horizon. That of the Metic. He realized that the English official, though lacking in courtesy, had been right in principle. His own brother was not thinking of the greater good, but just the advancement of their own family and community. Gandhi's greatness, at that time, is that he embraced the novel status of Metic, not a 'bhumiputra'.
However, like the other 'Barristocrats' of the time, Gandhi did not think seriously about reforming India's feudal, paternalistic laws especially as they related to land-ownership and inheritance. Indeed, the progressives collaborated with the ICS to restrict transfer of title of agricultural land and inter-state commerce, while the rabble rousers raised mischievous slogans to prevent the needful overhaul of items in the code relating to marriage, inheritance, Trusts and so on.
If these gentleman admitted they formed a class of Metics (including in the Isaiah Berlin sense) then they would have to admit that the Indian Empire was itself the creation of Metics- British ones- and that it had been an unexampled success in achieving paramountcy and carrying the spark of progress, by reason of its Metic friendly character. Thus the Indian Metics pretended to be bhumiputra autocthones strutting around in absurd loin cloths or karakul caps etc. so as to chase away the British Metics by playing the nativist card.
The result?
Indians and Indian capital started emigrating to the U.K. The subcontinent subsidized the British National Health Service to the tune of billions. Whether it was Swaraj Paul, or Ravi Tikkoo or Mittal or Aggarwal or the Hindujas- Indian capital and entrepreneurship has been defying the Economic Law of Gravity (Stolper-Samuelson) whereby factors of production are going from where they are relatively scarce to where they are relatively plentiful.
That is the price of our 'nativism'- even if it was all only a charade, or, rather, more especially because it was all a charade- the damage can only be computed by comparing ourselves with Malaysia in the 70's (they had a full scale bhumiputra revolution but it was once and for all), China in the 80's and 90's (while we were talking about 'Angrezi hatao' they imported thousands of English teachers and completely transformed their Higher Education Sector) and... whom in the last decade? Only ourselves, only what we could have been, no other country was so advantageously placed, no country less prepared for the shake-out coming its way over the next three years.
True, things could be worse- indeed, they will be worse. When the shake-out comes, nativism (bhumiputra chauvinism) will tear up the social fabric because no one is thinking ahead.
India needs a theory of the Metic. What is happening in Karachi now is the fate that awaits us whether we get a Lok Pal Bill or a Joke Pal Bill.
The Proletariat you may always have with you, but Metics are footloose. Those who can vote with their feet alone have a Voice it pays to take note of. The Metic alone constitute a Commons- indeed, an Oikumene- not defined by its own tragedy.
Created by English Metics, who were driven out by English speaking metics pretending to be nativist, the Indian State is fragile and has multiple fault-lines. It must develop a language in which the class which enables it to cohere and which gives it a horizon other than Hobbesian anarchy or Malthusian meltdown, can express itself and pursue a positive sum agenda.


Rajiv said...

I preferred your older idea of corruption as homesteading- I forget in what context- something about Coase perhaps? It might be an idea to have a separate section for Econ related arguments.

windwheel said...

Corruption as homesteading? Dunno unless the chain goes Coase , radio bandwidth, cybersquatting or something like that.
Or is it something like- homestead something so it looks like it could be scarce or rather becomes scarce in atleast one respect viz. relationally to you so then you get rent seeking and that sets up a relationship with the Law which needs revenue to propagate itself...
Yes, that could work. The corollary is that Rights are actually rents to Identity. Or put another way, Identity is a potential rent derived from Rights payable on exercise.
Things that make you go hmmmmmn