Differences Among PROUT, Capitalism, and Communism
Dr. Susmit Kumar
Capitalists want to produce commodities at lowest cost and sell them at highest price. To produce commodities cheaply requires efficient transportation, cheap raw materials, cheap labour, cheap energy, adequate water supply, etc. No matter what form capitalism takes—individual capitalism, group capitalism, or state capitalism—capitalists will always prefer centralized production. All these forms of capitalism are essentially the same in this regard.
Communism is state or governmental capitalism, which is why it shares some of the defects of individual capitalism. State capitalism, like individual and group capitalism, controls industries in a centralized manner. It centralizes production and other economic functions through state-controlled industries, rather than through private ownership. Thus, while communism appears to differ from capitalism on the question of personal liberties, the two are the same internally. They both put all or most control of the economy in a few hands. Fruits of the same variety may have different color skins, but their seeds are the same; capitalism and communism are fruits of the same variety.
Prout, capitalism, and communism differ in numerous ways, of which the following are among the most important:
(1) The Prout economic system is three-tiered: The cooperative sector occupies the middle industrial tier; local governments run key industries, industries that are huge, complex, or focussed on the extraction of raw materials; and small, private enterprises conduct business too small in scope for the other sectors to run and where entrepreneurship is to be encouraged. The latter, as well as cooperatives in their true sense of being directly worker-owned and run, were outlawed under communism. Capitalism is committed only to the interests of the private sector.
(2) PROUT’s approach to cooperative enterprise is based on voluntary, not forced, cooperation. Soviet farmers were forced to join agricultural collectives, which was extremely unpsychological, and not paid according to their individual output, which was non-productive. Capitalists, to compare, want to minimize the costs of production in order to maximize their profit. In the United States, for example, they now use millions of illegal immigrants, who are paid only a fraction of the wages of legal workers, in agriculture and other labour-intensive industries. They are trying to legalize these immigrants as well. Once immigrants are legalized and their families move up the economic ladder in one or two decades, capitalists will find more millions, also illegal, to work at low wages. If allowed to continue, it will be a never-ending saga.
(3) Communism’s industrial approach was centralized, with huge factories producing one item to be widely distributed, whereas capitalism’s approach is to locate production units where they can maximize their profit.PROUT ’s approach is based on complete and wholesome decentralization and local self-reliance.
(4) Communism dictated all decisions from above, such as five-year plans for industry; it was a party dictatorship. All economic planning was highly centralized and controlled by the state. Capitalism centralizes the major part of economic planning in huge corporations that now span continents. In PROUT, economic governance is bottom-up: Local people have all the say regarding the development and utilization of local resources, etc. PROUT decentralizes the planning authority to the level at which people are most aware of economic problems and potentialities, and therefore best able to plan for their common welfare.
(5) Workers in both communist and capitalist economies are alienated due to lack of ownership and control of their workplaces. PROUT’s enterprise system is based on worker participation in decision-making and cooperative ownership of assets, conditions that increase motivation and enhance possibilities for personal fulfilment.
(6) Communism’s command economy was responsive to production quotas. Capitalism’s free market economy is profit-motivated. PROUT’s economy is consumption-oriented. It aims at increasing consumer purchasing power and the availability of consumer goods as the primary means of meeting people’s basic and amenity needs and maintaining economic vitality.
According to Sarkar, it is incorrect to say that advanced scientific technology is the root cause of unemployment. This is rather misinformation or propaganda, carried out by leaders having little knowledge of socio-economics. The question of unemployment arises only in the capitalistic framework, where industry is for profit. In an economic structure based on cooperation, where industry stands for consumption and not for profit, the question of unemployment will not arise. Automation and other advances in technology will not reduce the number of laborers; rather, working hours will be reduced and the remaining hours used in non-work pursuits. A reduction in working hours depends not only on productivity, but on the demand for commodities and the availability of labour.
Those who want to promote public welfare without antagonizing the owners of capital will have to oppose mechanization. This is because when the productive capacity of machinery is doubled, the human labour required is decreased by half, such that capitalists retrench large numbers of workers from their factories. A few optimists may say, “Under circumstantial pressure other ways will be found to employ these surplus labourers in different jobs, and the very effort to find these alternatives will accelerate scientific advancement, so the ultimate result of mechanization under capitalism is, in fact, good.” This view, though not useless, has little practical value, because it is impossible to arrange new jobs for retrenched workers as quickly as they become surplus labourers in consequence of rapid mechanization.
In a collective economic system, no scope for such an unhealthy situation will arise; rather, mechanization will lead to less labour and more prosperity. With a twofold increase in the productivity of machines, for example, working hours will be reduced by half. A reduction in working hours will of course have to be determined keeping in view the demand for commodities and the availability of labour. Science will thus be used benevolently, for the purpose of human welfare. It is possible that as a result of mechanization no one will be required to work more than five minutes a week. Not always being preoccupied with the problems of acquiring food, clothing, etc., people’s psychic and spiritual potentialities will no longer be wasted. They will be able to devote ample time to activities like sports, literary pursuits, and spiritual practices.
PROUT divides economies into areas of approximately 100,000 inhabitants called “blocks.” If each block is made economically sound, an entire socio-economic unit will become sound and self-sufficient as a result. Only then will a country or federation become economically strong and developed in the real sense. This is a unique feature of PROUT’s decentralized economic planning. While forming socio-economic units, several factors should be considered. These include having the same economic problems; uniform economic potentialities; ethnic similarities; the sentimental legacy of the people; and similar geographical features.
Having the “same economic problems,” firstly, refers to the common economic problems confronting people in a particular unit, and may include the lack of markets for locally produced goods, surplus or deficit labor problems, communication or transportation difficulties, and lack of irrigation water. Ascertaining whether or not a similar set of economic problems exists in a given area is the first thing that should be done when forming a socio-economic unit. The economic problems of the socio-economic unit, and their solutions, should be well understood.
Secondly, the unit should possess uniform economic potentialities. Despite natural variations from place to place, overall the people in a particular unit should enjoy similar opportunities for economic prosperity.
Thirdly, a socio-economic zone should be formed on the basis of ethnic similarities. PROUT does not demonize ethnicity, as do some ideologies, but rather racism, acts and ideologies harmful to ethnic and racial groups. As Sarkar has so succinctly stated,
In the past many races and sub-races have been suppressed and exploited by powerful or dominant races. Racism has been propagated by those with evil designs in order to divide society and establish their own pre-eminence. Society must guard against such narrow and dangerous sentiments. This can be done only if every ethnic group has adequate scope for its expression and development. The multi-coloured garland of humanity will be enriched to the extent diverse human groups blend together from a position of strength and independence out of a genuine love for each other, and are not forced together through fear or compulsion.65
Fourthly, sentimental legacy includes factors such as language, historical traditions, literature, common usages, and cultural expressions. It is the common chord in the collective psychology of a particular group of people and gives them their unique identity and sense of affinity. As such, it is a powerful source of solidarity, the cultural complement of the solidarity that will be created by PROUT ’s economic programs.
Finally, the formation of a socio-economic unit should also take into account similar geographical features, such as topography, river systems, amount of rainfall, and availability of irrigation.
India, to take an example, can be reformed on the basis of about 44 socio-economic groups. In most cases, each socio-economic group would form one socio-economic unit, but in some cases a unit may consist of more than one socio-economic group, when, for example, each is too small to be economically independent.
Economic planning should occur on several levels, including the block, district, state, national, and global levels, but block-level planning will be the basic level of planning. This “bottom-up” approach is essential for economic decentralization, so should be adopted in all blocks. Its specifically economic elements include costs of production, productivity, purchasing capacity, and collective necessity. Being dominated by local concerns and undertaken with a mandate to utilize the potentialities of the local area to meet local requirements, block-level planning will lend itself more easily to the welfare of the local people. A constitutional provision organizing a particular nation on this basis, rather than on the basis of provinces, states’ rights (an ideology held by some Americans in protest against political and economic centralization), the free market, or centralized state planning, would further that nation’s socio-economic development.
Because the amount and kind of natural and human resources vary from block to block, separate economic plans will have to be made on a block-wise basis. This will require that each block have a planning body, which will prepare and implement a plan for its development. Above that level will be a district-level planning board, and so on through progressively higher levels. It must be remembered that planning should be in an ascending order, starting at the block level, and including all levels of a socio-economic unit.
When planning is prepared for the all-round growth of a single block exclusively, it is called “intra-block planning”. Each block, once again, must have its own developmental plan, adjusting with the overall plan of the socio-economic unit at its various levels.
Problems that traverse block boundaries and cannot be solved by one block alone, such as flood control, river valley projects, communication systems, higher educational institutions, afforestation projects, the environmental impact of development, the establishment of key industries, soil erosion, water supply, power generation, the establishment of an organized market system, etc., will, however, require cooperation among blocks. This kind of planning is called “inter-block planning,” and pertains to the joint organization and harmonization of socio-economic development conducted by two or more adjoining blocks.
All levels of planning should include short-term and long-term components. In all cases, the maximum time limit for short-term planning should be six months, and the maximum time limit for long-term planning should be three years. Short- and long-term plans should be drafted in such a way that they are complementary to each other. The immediate goals of planning at each level are to guarantee the minimum requirements of the local people, eliminate unemployment, increase purchasing capacity, and make socio-economic units self-sufficient.
Development of local industries will provide immediate economic benefits. The unemployment problem will be rapidly solved, and in a short time it will be possible to create a congenial environment for permanent full employment. In fact, the only way to solve unemployment and bring about full employment is by developing block-level industries. Products manufactured locally may not be cost-effective from a capitalistic point of view, but because most products will be for local consumption, the expenditures associated with production, such as transportation, will not be a major factor. Nevertheless, constant efforts will be made through other means to reduce them. Capitalists regularly shift production units from one place to another for the purpose of cost savings, causing unemployment. By employing local people, local industries will provide them social security and create greater opportunities for their all-round advancement.
The never-ending creation of new industries, new products, and new production techniques incorporating the latest scientific discoveries will increase economic vitality. It is a misunderstanding to think that such advancements belong only to capitalism. In the long term, capital-intensive industries should also be developed, to increase the productive capacity of the socio-economic unit. As part of the long-term economic plan, working hours may also be progressively reduced to maintain full employment without reducing the standard of living.
When there is economic parity, cultural mixing, equally developed communication facilities, and administrative efficiency, it will be easy and natural for two or more adjoining units to cooperate, because they will have attained a high degree of socio-economic uniformity. In such cases, they should merge to form a single, larger unit. This will further the welfare of their respective citizens and enhance their socio-economic prospects.
The size of PROUT’s socio-economic units will thus be ever-expanding. A day may come when all of South-east Asia becomes one unit. The following four factors provide the basis for merger: diminishing inter-unit economic disparity, the development of science and communications, administrative efficiency, and socio-cultural mixing.
In accordance with these ideas, PROUT advocates the formation of self-sufficient socio-economic units worldwide. They will work to enhance the all-round welfare of the people in their respective areas and unite humanity on a common ideological base. The provision of necessities to local people will be guaranteed and their interests gain proper recognition. As each unit becomes strong and prosperous, it will merge with other units. The formation of a world government will assist this process of integration. Socio-economic units will thus facilitate the comprehensive, multifarious liberation of humanity. They provide a rational method for solving area and ethnic socio-economic problems that can be characterized as universal in spirit, but regional in approach.
The General Economy
The general economy includes the organization of the industrial structure and the coordination of economic planning at all levels to ensure collective welfare. As mentioned, PROUT advocates a three-tiered industrial structure that includes key industries managed by the immediate government, cooperatives, and privately owned enterprises. Key industries will function on a “no profit, no loss” principle.
The widespread nationalization of industry cannot be supported for a number of reasons. The two main reasons are as follows: Firstly, if a state is completely dependent on its bureaucrats (it should be kept in mind that no matter what people say, bureaucrats will always play an important role in the structure of a government, because without them the administration cannot function), the effective management of all the large- and small-scale businesses and industries spread over an entire country will be impossible. Secondly, state-controlled enterprises are less proficient than private enterprises, which can make products more cheaply and with greater efficiency. Without the backing and preferential treatment of the state, state-controlled industries are generally unable to compete with non-government enterprises.
Setting up the economy on a mixed, private-state line is also a poor idea. According to Sarkar, running a business as a private enterprise under state control is worse than running a business that is completely nationalized, because it will not only suffer from the defects inherent in nationalization, it will lead to the creation of a group of rich but disgruntled capitalists who in all likelihood will harbour anti-national sentiments and stoop to any means to re-establish their power. Indirect state control over industrial enterprises and attempts to prevent them from increasing their profits are doomed to failure, because it will be possible for business people to deceive the government by falsifying their accounts with the collaboration of dishonest officials.
Any proposal to run all industrial and commercial enterprises as cooperatives is also unrealistic. This is because a cooperative is built with the collective labour and intelligence of a group of people who share a common economic structure, have the same requirements, and have markets available nearby for the goods they produce or purchase.
The industrial system must also be reorganized according to the principles of a decentralized economy. If a certain part of a country is over-industrialized, it will impede the economic progress of other regions because the export of its surplus will undermine their industry. Economic decentralization will prevent such a situation from arising. In a decentralized economy, key industries, medium-scale industries, and small-scale enterprises will, respectively, be managed by different groups of people. In a centralized economy—whether capitalist or communist—to compare, businesses are usually managed on one line only, as either private companies or state enterprises. Most key industries should be managed by the local government, and should be guided by the principle of “no profit, no loss.” Most medium-scale industries should be managed as cooperatives, and should not be guided with a view to monopoly production or profit, although cooperatives will be allowed to have some profits. The cooperative sector will be the main sector of the economy. Cooperatives are the best means to organize local people independently, guarantee their livelihood, and enable them to control their economic destinies. Most small-scale enterprises will be in the hands of individual owners. Small-scale enterprises should be confined mainly to the production of non-essential commodities, such as luxury items, as well as small-scale services like restaurants and dry cleaners, most anything that requires only a limited amount of manpower. Though privately owned, they must maintain adjustment with the cooperative sector to ensure a balanced economy. Thus: (1) small businesses should be left to individuals and families; (2) big industries should be owned by the immediate government; and (3) industries between these two in size should be run on a cooperative basis.
It is important that key industries be managed by the immediate government, even though cooperatives may best exemplify the idea of economic democracy, because cooperatives will be unable to run them efficiently owing to their complexity and size. The national government should not control large-scale industries, because this may hamper the interests of local people. Where there is a federal system of government, these industries should be controlled by the immediate government, such as that of a town or city, and where there is a unitary government administering the entire nation, they should be managed by local bodies.
Decentralized Economy and Cooperatives
The welfare of local people is the primary concern of PROUT’s concept of decentralized economy. In a decentralized economic setup, local people should not only control cooperative bodies, but also supervise all activities related to the local economy. It is a bottom-up system, as opposed to the relatively centralized approach of capitalism. It will require political centralization, however, in which the national or world government enforces from above the necessary policies required to liberate the economic sphere.
Production should be based on consumption, not profit. Most countries in the world have adopted economic systems that are profit-oriented. Producers give first preference to items that bring maximum profit, and keen competition regarding production of the most profitable goods ensues. To increase the general standard of living, a new system of production will have to be introduced. Consumption, not profit, should be its underlying motive.
In a decentralized economy, commodities produced by a socio-economic unit will be sold in the local market itself. As a result, uncertainty will be eliminated from the local economy and economic life of the local population. In addition, money will be circulated within the local market so there will be no outflow of local capital, retaining it for local investment. The possibility of an economic catastrophe will largely be eliminated. As explained in chapter 6, not only the U.S. but several African countries are losing manufacturing jobs to China and have trade deficits with China year after year. African nations will be unable to sustain the trade deficits and their economies are going to collapse in the very near future. But in PROUT’s decentralized system, owing to circulation of money within the local economy and policies like full employment, people’s income will have an upward trend and their purchasing capacity will progressively increase. No other economic system has been able to accomplish this historically, because economic power has been concentrated in the hands of a few.
The organization of production and distribution through cooperatives is one of the main principles of a decentralized economy. One of the principal reasons for the past failure of the cooperative movement is economic centralization. It is extremely difficult for cooperatives to succeed in an economic environment of exploitation, corruption, and materialism, so people are unable to accept the cooperative system wholeheartedly. Cooperatives are forced to compete with monopoly capitalists for local markets, and the rights of the local people over their raw materials are denied recognition. Such circumstances have undermined the success of the cooperative movement in numerous countries.
A decentralized economy will, however, be one of the principal reasons for the success of the cooperative system. The availability of local raw materials will guarantee constant supplies to cooperative enterprises, and cooperatively produced goods will easily be able to be sold in the local market. Economic certainty will create increasing interest and involvement among cooperative members, and as local people will be confident of their economic security, they will more easily be able to accept the cooperative system wholeheartedly. Adequate safeguards will have to be arranged for cooperatives to ensure their survival, and private ownership of all except small businesses should be abolished in stages.
Countries that followed a centralized economic system, like communism’s commune system, denied their peoples the possibility of participating on a more equal and fuller basis in a system of coordinated cooperation. Society was reduced to being merely a production-distribution mechanism under a regimented system of control. In addition, rather than increase production, the commune system forced production levels down. The consequences, like food shortages, could be seen wherever communism was practiced, and capitalist nations like Australia, Canada, and the U.S. were selling grain to the Soviet Union and China. Moreover, commune workers did not feel oneness with their jobs, and nor did they have freedom to develop and express all their potentialities. Such a suffocating and mechanical system fostered a materialistic outlook and produced atheistic leadership.
Nor did it allow personal ownership. Without a sense of personal ownership, people do not labor hard or care for property. If farmers feel they have permanent rights to the land, to compare, they get a better yield. Such a sentiment was suppressed in the commune system, resulting in sluggish production and psychic oppression. Intelligent people were forced to do work that was unsuitable for them and were paid the same wages as ordinary workers. There was no incentive system, and individual initiative by meritorious people was discouraged, so naturally people avoided working hard. Beyond a certain point, such a system could never solve society’s economic problems, either in agriculture or in industry. Rather, after a certain point of development it aggravated existing problems and created new ones. The production and distribution systems of the commune system were fundamentally defective, exploitative, and anti-human.
The commune system was unpsychological in another way as well. It fostered a type of relationship based on subordinated cooperation—that of supervisor and supervised, or master and servant. Such relationships are suppressive and so are detrimental for human progress, and retard any possibility of progressive movement. They obstruct the wonts of the human mind.
Besides agricultural cooperatives, PROUT advocates the formation of other types of cooperatives as well, including producer and consumer cooperatives. Producer cooperatives include agro-industries, agrico-industries, and non-agricultural industries. The total profits of such cooperatives should be distributed among the workers and members of the cooperative according to their individual capital investment in it and the service they render to the production and management of the enterprise. The cooperatives may have to sell equal shares to their members so as not to give some people more power than others.
Similarly, consumer cooperatives should be formed by like-minded persons for the purpose of coordinating the purchase of consumer goods. Their members will share in the profits according to their individual labor and capital investment. Here again, the cooperatives may have to sell equal shares to their members so as not to give some people more power than others. Those who are engaged in the management of such cooperatives will also be entitled to draw salaries on the basis of the services they render. Consumers’ cooperatives will distribute consumer goods to members of society at reasonable rates.
Commodities can be divided into three categories: essential commodities such as basic food items and clothing; demi-essential commodities such as non-basic food items and antiseptic soap; and non-essential commodities such as luxury goods. If hoarders create artificial shortages of non-essential commodities, the ordinary person will remain relatively unaffected, but if they accumulate essential commodities then people will suffer tremendously. This situation can be avoided if consumer cooperatives purchase essential commodities directly from producer or agricultural cooperatives.
Many small, satellite cooperatives should be formed to supply various items to large producer cooperatives. Take an automobile factory, for example. The many different parts needed to construct an automobile can be locally manufactured in small cooperatives. Members of these satellite cooperatives might even carry on their work from home, involving their family members. The main function of the larger producer cooperatives in this case would be to assemble the parts. This will have two benefits: Large cooperatives will require fewer laborers, minimizing labor unrest, and labor costs will be reduced, keeping the costs of commodities low.
The cooperative system will solve unemployment. As production increases, the need for more workers will increase, as will the need for more facilities and resources. More educated people will be employed as skilled workers, and the need for tractor drivers, laborers, and cultivators will grow. Villagers in turn will be spared having to move to cities for employment. In the cooperative system as Prout envisions it, there will be no compulsory age for superannuation. People should be free to work as long as they like, providing their health permits.
Socioeconomic units or regions that lack a sufficient supply of raw materials will have to manufacture synthetic materials. Suppose a unit lacks an adequate supply of fodder to feed its cattle or sheep. Will it import fodder from another unit or region? No, it should manufacture artificial fodder instead. Similarly, more than 66 percent of all U.S. crude oil is imported. It would be better for the U.S. to find a substitute, as Brazil has done in developing sugarcane-based alcohol to run autos, so that it need not depend on other countries for essential commodities. Following this policy would also diminish the need for potential military intervention to protect vital resources, and thus for a burdensome military budget and destructive wars. By cutting down on the pollution created during the transport of goods and materials, economic localization and the development of local resources would positively affect the environment and quality of life as well.
As science advances, cooperatives will develop and manufacture more and more commodities from synthetic raw materials. In the capitalist system, raw materials are imported from other countries or regions in order to manufacture finished products. Cooperatives will not follow this system. They will develop their own raw materials through research so that they are independent of imports.
Some Examples of Local Planning
During the 1980s, P.R. Sarkar provided examples of how local resources could be utilized by socio-economic zones in South Asia in order to show how the people there could obtain their minimum requirements without the investment of significant amounts of money. In Appendix 1, we will study Bengal in detail as well as tips on planning in the Contai Basin in West Bengal, Angadesh (in Bihar), and Bangladesh. The people who now live in these three areas are very poor. The annual per capita income in Bihar is less than $100, which is about one-third of the national average; for West Bengal, it is at about the national level, but the Contai Basin is a poor area within that state; and for Bangladesh, in 2006 it was about $470. These people struggle to survive.
Political democracy has become a great hoax for many people around the world. It promises peace, prosperity, and equality, but in reality creates criminals, encourages exploitation, throws common people into an abyss of sorrow and suffering, and in some nations, like the U.S., is a participant in ever-new wars. According to Sarkar,
There are several forms of government structure and among them the democratic structure is highly appreciated. Democracy is defined as government of the people, for the people and by the people. But in fact it is the rule of the majority. Hence democracy means mobocracy because the government under a democratic structure is guided by mob psychology. The majority of society are fools. The wise are always in a minority. Thus finally democracy is nothing but “foolocracy”.66
Government of the people, by the people, and for the people will only mean government of fools, by fools, and for fools.
We are witnessing this phenomenon in the U.S. As noted earlier, although after a 16-month, $900-million-plus investigation, American weapons hunters known as the Iraq Survey Group declared in 2004 that Iraq had dismantled its chemical, biological, and nuclear arms programs in 1991 under U.N. oversight, a Harris Poll released on July 21, 2006 found that a full 50 percent of American respondents said they believed Iraq did possess forbidden weaponry when U.S. troops invaded in March 2003. A poll conducted in March 2006 by Steven Kull of WorldPublicOpinion.org found that seven in 10 Americans perceive the administration as still saying Iraq had a WMD program. On July 21, 2006, when Hezbollah guerrillas were fighting the Israeli army in Lebanon, Fox News—without any evidence—suggested another enemy of the Bush administration also had WMDs by displaying the following headline on the television screens of millions of Americans: “Are Saddam Hussein’s WMDs Now In Hezbollah’s Hands?”67 Democracy is a mockery of good government in a country where many people are uneducated or gullible.
This is generally the case with most Third World nations. In much of the Third World, cunning and fraudulent persons very easily secure or purchase the votes of illiterate people. Moreover, the general public is easily misled by the propagation of casteism or religious communalism. Democracy, however, requires educated, sensible voters; the spread of education is thus of the highest priority. To facilitate its spread and strengthen democracy, the educational system must be free of cost.
Democracy has been likened to a puppet show where a handful of power-hungry politicians pull strings from behind the scenes. In liberal democracies like America, capitalists manipulate people through the mass media, while in socialist democracies like India, corrupt politicians and bureaucrats lead the country into lawlessness and economic collapse. In both forms of democracy, little scope exists for honest, competent leaders to emerge, and virtually no possibility for the economic liberation of the people.
Because of relatively insignificant factors like the “3 G’s” (“Guns, Gays, and God”), incompetent persons such as George W. Bush win elections and ruin the country for decades by committing massive blunders like invading Iraq and turning a projected 10-year, $5.6 trillion budget surplus into a projected 10-year, $1.9 trillion deficit. Elections, like beauty contests, have become popularity contests. Political parties try to find candidates like Bush who can get votes by fooling the people.
For the welfare of people in general, it is not fitting to leave the onus of the administration in public hands, even through representative democracy. Suppose a certain couple has five children. All of them are happy and comfortable. But if the children, on the plea of being in the majority, suddenly claim full authority and the right of management of the family, does that make it feasible? Let us say they call a meeting and pass a resolution to smash the glasses and dishes. Is this a wise resolution? To take another example, the number of students is always greater than the number of teachers. If students, on the plea of being in the majority, demand a right to draw up their own examinations, would this make sense? Such is the logic that results, however, when majority rule is made the central criterion for the functioning of a society. Democratic reforms are thus urgently needed.
Democracy was first introduced over 2,500 years ago in the ancient state of Vaishali, in East India. Called the Licchavii democracy, it drew up the first written constitution. Prior to that, the word of the king was law and kings ruled according to the advice of their ministers. Under the Licchavii system, only the elites, not the people in general, could exercise and enjoy adult franchise. The representatives of the people were known as Licchaviis, and they formed an executive body known as Mahalicchaviis through elections. The Mahalicchaviis controlled the power in Vaishali that had previously been controlled by the monarchy.
If people want to drive automobiles, they need to know traffic rules and have to pass driving tests in order to get a driving license. If the government decides that everyone above the age of 18 will automatically, without proof of skill, get a driving license, that government is playing with the lives of its citizens. Similarly, by giving everyone the right to vote on the basis of age, irrespective of political consciousness, problems are bound to arise. In order to be eligible to vote, a person needs to have some political awareness.
PROUT proposes the formation of an electoral college as the voter list. It should consist of several tiers—local, state, and central or federal. For local elections (mayoral posts, etc.), the franchise should be universal adult if the population is small. But to vote in state and central level elections (and in cities with populations in the millions), people should have some basic political consciousness. They should have basic knowledge of the political system and manifestos of various political parties, and should know what persons elected in the previous election have done for the city, state, or country. Determining whether people possess this knowledge can be done through voter-eligibility examinations. Exam questions should depend on the election level, and should include the option of being taken orally or written. Preparation for the exam will be provided by governmental bodies free of charge. And just like driving tests, a “democracy test” should be able to be taken as many times as a person needs until s/he passes it. Children should be taught the country’s constitution in schools so that as they grow up and become able to vote, they will be politically conscious.
In order to expand the scope of the electoral college beyond knowledge of politics and the political system, PROUT also suggests that institutions be established to provide moral, social, and basic economic education, qualifying them as a voter. Such institutions should be free from political influence; they should administered by an independent body like an election commission; and their curricula should be carefully designed by experts—educationalists, sociologists, philanthropists, and spiritualists, among others. To be in the electoral college, a voter needs to take this examination before every major election or at periodic intervals.
If people have the right to vote, it should be their duty to vote, too. In some countries, like Belgium and Australia, if voters avoid voting they must either pay a fine or explain their non-participation. This idea could be followed in other countries.
Electoral candidates should similarly be required to pass an examination, but for them passing marks should be higher than those for voters. Candidates in Western countries usually face each other in televised debates; in this way the general public can gauge their knowledge. But in Third World countries like India, this concept is nonexistent, and voters have little knowledge about candidate qualifications. Most state-level candidates lack any idea about the Indian constitution, fiscal policy, etc., but after getting elected to state assemblies they are supposed to be the constitution’s guardians.
Usually society’s top layer (in terms of intelligence) avoids fighting elections and joining the political system for several reasons: lack of economic security, the need for money and muscle power to get elected, and the lack of a secure career outlook. Instead, they join the bureaucracy or the private sector. In Third World countries, people from the bottom layer of society, who are incapable of getting jobs, usually join the political system and lead a country’s affairs. The chief minister of Bihar once said publicly that most of his cabinet ministers were incapable of getting even an orderly’s job. Politicians like these have legislative powers, however, and wide authority over bureaucrats, who take tough examinations and belong to the intellectual elite.
In the proutist system, the role of the electoral college will remain unfinished even after it has elected members of various political bodies. It will continue to remain in touch with the people and apprise them of the points and counterpoints of various socio-economic issues. Constant vigil will be required to make sure that all arms of government function efficiently and honestly, and this vigil will have to be exercised by the ever-watchful electoral college.68
In many contemporary democratic systems, governmental actions and policies are carefully examined by opposition parties and the press. This is a healthy practice which serves to keep official arbitrariness under control. But it has also its faults. Quite often the opposition engages in destructive criticism, or plays upon narrow tendencies in the public mind. The party in power counters with the same game, and, as a result, the country does get two viewpoints on an issue, but not necessarily the best viewpoint. The electoral college that PROUT calls for will have a different role to play. Since it will not belong to any faction or party, it will be able to offer constructive criticism of government policies.69
PROUT also proposes full state funding of the entire election process so that all candidates have equal opportunity to present their positions. It allows no individual or private funding of elections, so wealthy people will be unable to buy influence.
Candidates will need to produce their programs in black and white. They will furthermore be required to stick to their programs; if they do not, they will be legally liable and may be tried in court on breach of promise or similar charge. If an elected official is found guilty of deceiving the public, his or her election will be cancelled. During an election in Bihar, the state’s leader, Laloo Yadav, promised villagers that he would construct rural roads so that they were as smooth as the cheek of a beautiful leading actress in Bollywood. After he formed his government, people asked him to fulfill this promise, and he replied that poor villagers did not need smooth roads because they did not have any cars.
A properly constituted democracy should have four compartments of government—a legislature, executive, judiciary, and public exchequer, or treasury—and each of them should be independent from one another. To strengthen their legitimacy, certain reforms need to be undertaken.
The democratic system allows elected officials from one party to comprise more than 50 percent of the officeholders even though the number of votes secured by their party may be less than 50 percent. In such a condition, their party is sometimes said to form a majority, but in reality it is government by a minority. Moreover, since governments are formed by particular parties, the opinion of other parties may not be respected in the legislature. Though all parties participate in passing legislation, bills may be passed according to the wishes of the party that is in the majority. When this occurs, that party often derives benefit from the enacted law while the people at large may derive little benefit at all.
In democracy as it is now practiced, securing the highest number of votes is proof of a person’s qualification to hold office in most countries. However, this qualification is not adequately examined in all cases. In my opinion, the popularity of a candidate securing the highest number of votes needs to be tested again if he or she polls less than half the total number of votes cast. In this test, arrangements will have to be made so that people can vote either for or against the candidate in a second vote. If the candidate polls more favorable than unfavorable votes, only then should he or she be declared elected.
Nor should a candidate be elected without a contest. In some Third World countries, wealthy and influential people can sometimes compel other candidates, by financial inducements or intimidation, to withdraw their nomination papers. So in cases where only one candidate is running, that candidate’s popularity will have to be tested. If he or she fails the test, the candidate and all those who withdrew their nomination papers will forfeit the right to contest the subsequent by-election for that constituency and will have to wait until the next election to run again.
The manner in which the civil service is selected is also important, so that government can run well. In the U.S., the majority of public service jobs on the federal, state, and local levels are awarded on the basis of the spoils system; after winning an election, the party in power dispenses public service positions to donors and campaign workers, awarding posts as if they were rewards for political battle. This contrasts with the merit system, under which jobs are awarded on the basis of ability, irrespective of a candidate’s party affiliation. Federal appointments had been made according to merit before 1829, but this changed when President Jackson started the spoils system to reward his supporters. The process in India, to compare, is quite different, and might prove instructive. Even though poverty and political corruption are widespread, the country does maintain a few jewels in polished condition, and the civil service is one of them. There, civil service candidates undergo a year-long examination at more than 30 different locations to select about 500 top-level bureaucrats. This is done on an annual basis, and more than 300,000 candidates between 21 and 27 years of age contend for the few positions available. Once they are selected, they represent the executive branch of the Indian government and hold all top government jobs. This attracts the best brains of India to the executive branch. If they were not subject to corrupt politicians, the government might run well. Victorious parties in American elections, once again, are, however, allowed to nominate anyone they choose. This results in major donors and party members being nominated to posts for which they often lack any experience at all, because of which the nation sometimes has to pay dearly. As discussed above, when hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, FEMA was unable to do anything, largely because five of its eight top officials had no experience in handling disasters. Although for major executive posts Senate confirmation is required, the president can bypass this process by nominating a person for one year during Senate recesses. PROUT prefers the merit system for the executive branch.
According to PROUT, to provide a fearless and independent character to the administration, the executive branch or secretariat should be kept free from pressures from the cabinet. The executive branch should run by experts in their respective fields; for example, the department of health should be run by a group of eminent health experts, not staff choices dictated by someone nominated by the legislature. The cabinet should confine itself to legislation, passage of the budget, the implementation of its plans and policies, defense, etc. The power of ministers should remain confined to the parliament, and they should refrain from poking their nose into the workings of the executive branch. The chief secretary or the head of the entire executive branches should not be subordinate to the president or prime minister, and should act independently as the executive head. All the secretaries should work under the chief secretary. A secretary is head of an executive department. Free from cabinet pressures, every department will serve the people well.
PROUT also supports the independence of the judiciary. In the present system, judges are either elected along party lines or selected by elected officials like the governor or president in the U.S. In the Bush victory in the 2000 presidential elections, ultimately decided by the narrow, 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the Florida ballot case, the majority decision was written by conservative judges. Late night talk show hosts joked that the Court had selected the president, and now the president would select it. Judges should abstain from fighting elections along party lines, however, because the judiciary should be above party politics, i.e., impartial. And for the nomination of judges to higher courts, a committee of experts, consisting of distinguished lawyers and members of the Supreme Court, needs to be consulted, and will have veto power over judicial nominees. If people fail to keep this issue under close scrutiny, justice will give way to injustice.
Finally, for the proper utilization of the treasury, or public exchequer, the independence of the audit department too is a must. Only an independent audit department can keep proper accounts of every department. The auditor general should be independent of president or prime minister.
According to P.R. Sarkar, we are one human civilization. Hence, PROUT supports the establishment of a world government in the form of a confederation of federated states. The constituent federated states will consist of self-sufficient economic units, or zones, formed entirely on socio-economic and geographical considerations, as discussed.
In the initial stage, it will be a law-framing body. The first beneficial effects of such a body will be that no country will be allowed to frame laws detrimental to the interests of its minorities. The right of execution of those laws will be vested with the local government, however, and not with the world government. The world government will decide on the principles to be used to enforce a particular law in a particular country.”70 The world government will also, according to Sarkar, be bicameral:
There will be two houses—a Lower House and an Upper House. In the Lower House representatives will be sent according to the population of the country. In the Upper House representatives will be sent country-wise. First bills are to be placed before the Lower House and before their final acceptance they will be duly discussed in the Upper House. Small countries which cannot send a single representative to the Lower House will have the opportunity to discuss the merits and demerits of the proposed act with other countries in the Upper House.71
Sarkar favored English as the world language and the Roman script as the world script because both are the most scientific, but he also said that these are subject to change. Local and national scripts and languages would still be recognized for local and national use.