This is a low hanging fruit. Someone must have written it already and not having one shows the depth (or shallowness) of discourse. It took a Forbes to call this immoral, whereas, we were even unable to articulate why this is immoral. Taking only from poor is not immoral but taking from rich as well is immoral.
There is no economic study published by the government for us to dispute; for all we heard was homilies on black money, counterfeits and terror financing. These are motherhood statements which no one can or will dispute but there is no economic case which proves or disproves such homilies. Even the newest fad of cashless or less-cash has no economic study but only conjectures presented as facts.
Next comes the question of morality of government taking away our cash. This is where it gets interesting and this is the issue we must address, because herein lies the true nature of our rights (not legal but given by nature), nature of government and our relationship with government.
Guided by few principles, case against demonetization is presented.
First question: does the government have the right to take away our property?
Before we answer this, we must understand why men come together, form a society and allow a government to make laws?
Government’s “great and chief end, therefore, of men uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property; to which in the state of Nature there are many things wanting.” Note that it is preservation of property, not public property and not common property only, but chief of all is the personal property. Allowing a government to subjugate us itself is an inconvenience which at times turn to hardships because, we wilfully limit our personal freedom, which is the true state of our nature. “The inconveniencies that they are therein exposed…. therein seek the preservation of their property.” We bear this inconvenience for our own benefit, chief among these is the protection of our personal property from the encroachment of others. That is why laws are made.
The natural right of a man is of life, liberty and property. It is this aspect, that the move of demonetisation has attacked, thus attacking our principal right, which no constitution need give not grant us explicitly, but inherently present in the laws of nature. “For the law of Nature being unwritten, and so nowhere to be found but in the minds of men.”
Supporters of this move, hide behind the legality of it whereas the issue is not just with the legality under current laws but the morality under the laws of nature. How is a property acquired? A property is acquired through a person’s labour. It is his unquestionable right to exploit his property the way that he sees fit. For once, let us assume that government has been empowered to enact laws. But what kind of laws can it enact? Is there any boundary to the legislative power? “Though the legislative, whether placed in one or more, whether it be always in being or only by intervals, though it be the supreme power in every commonwealth, yet, first, it is not, nor can possibly be, absolutely arbitrary over the lives and fortunes of the people.” Furthermore, and this is important, “nobody has an absolute arbitrary power over himself, or over any other, to destroy his own life, or take away the life or property of another.” There is nothing legal in the order of nature which strips our property.
Now, comes the question of cash in bank. Is it a fundamental duty of every citizen to be part of a banking system? Afterall, what is banking? It is true that we need to pay taxes but shouldn’t we be allowed to stay away from banking, if need be? If thus, banking is not mandatory and I, as a citizen has paid all my taxes, why can’t I exchange my hard earned money, which is nothing but fruit of my labour and instead deposit in a bank? In which agreed law, have we accepted banking to be mandatory? If there is no acceptable law which makes banking mandatory, then what does this move does to people who have stayed away from banking? Or deliberately want to stay away from banking?
It may be argued that our money is safe in banks, thus, it is not snatched away from us. But what is the use of money, if I cannot exploit it in a way I want it? What is the use of money if access to it is curbed by digital locks which cannot be breached? What is the use of money which cannot be transacted in a way I want?
Remember this. Government doesn’t own our money. It has usurped it by fallacious acts of parliaments. Government doesn’t own our land. It has usurped it by fallacious acts of parliaments. Remember, “the supreme power cannot take from any man any part of his property without his own consent.” Have we consented to this? Examples in the past and in various parts of the world do not contribute as logical arguments. A classic whatabouttery has to be avoided. Also government, “however it may have power to make laws for the regulating of property between the subjects one amongst another, yet can never have a power to take to themselves the whole, or any part of the subjects’ property, without their own consent; for this would be in effect to leave them no property at all.”
Government may have the right to withdraw a bill it has issued but not take away our property which, with a trust we held in those bills. Even if it is done, there has to be a laid down practice and not an arbitrary and vulgar display of power, which comes across as sadistic. What is taking away our property, if it is not sadistic? We gave our legislature to make laws to protect our property and not take away ours. Is it not prophetic that someone stated, “Whereas by supposing they have given up themselves to the absolute arbitrary power and will of a legislator, they have disarmed themselves, and armed him to make a prey of them when he pleases” more than four centuries ago? This arbitrary power is dangerous. Today, it can be money in the form of cash, tomorrow, the cash transaction can be penalised and the day after, it can be the total stock of gold or any asset that we can hold. If a seizure by a dikkat is possible, what is not?
And that is why “the ruling power ought to govern by declared and received laws, and not by extemporary dictates and undetermined resolutions, for then mankind will be in a far worse condition than in the state of Nature if they shall have armed one or a few men with the joint power of a multitude, to force them to obey at pleasure the exorbitant and unlimited decrees of their sudden thoughts, or unrestrained, and till that moment, unknown wills, without having any measures set down which may guide and justify their actions.” Dissect the above sentence.
Have we been given any rationale but motherhood statements? Have we been provided with any studies to justify the action? If the answer is none, then why should we submit to the whims and sudden wills of someone? We are told that this was not a sudden thought. Well, lets us take it in its face value. If it’s not the sudden thought, where is the study which weighed pros and cons, positives and negatives, benefits and cost and how did the government come to the conclusion that benefits outweigh the costs? Do we know? Is it a national secret that it cannot be revealed? The monetary authority is mum, the finance ministry is mum and the first among equal is on a tangential plane. If we are to justify “how did we earn so much money,” then for sure, the government is duty bound to explain “how it did arrive that removing some bills is good for the economy.”
We shouldn’t expect; for we are in an era of incompetence and mediocrity masquerading as efficiency and goodness; for we take the cowardice of opaqueness to the boldness of transparency; for we take the application of arbitrary power as application of reason; for we are confused with executive edict as law of the land. By not publishing the studies which led to this decision, the monetary authority, Reserve Bank of India, to whom we surrendered money making, committed suicide. The suicide of a coward. (‘An Obituary to Reserve Bank of India’ is currently in progress). I digress. This is a case against the move, not the proponents of the move.
The most obvious answer to everything will be “public good.” What is now, public good? We will come to that in a bit. Now imagine I own a property. If that property can be taken away from me without my consent, can I actually call that I own that property? How do I own if I cannot protect it? For I have truly no property in that which another can by right take from me when he pleases against my consent. Hence it is a mistake to think that the supreme or legislative power of any commonwealth can do what it will, and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily, or take any part of them at pleasure.
Now, coming back to public good. This arbitrary enforcement of a will, is what is called a prerogative, for there has been no law that is promulgated. It is right that the executive has the prerogative, but only for public good. But how do we agree or understand that it is for the public good? If everyone is negatively affected in a society, then what good can it be of? But prerogative cannot override our primary laws of nature which protects our property. Anything contrary is immoral in the agreement between man and government and indefensible against laws of nature.
It will be wise to remember “That the reigns of good princes have been always most dangerous to the liberties of their people.”
Looked from any angle, any perspective, any antecedents, any argument, this exercise, even if it bestows the public with economic good, is never a moral right; for our property is legitimately ours and no power on earth has the right to take away without our consent.