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Liberalism is distinguished by its focus on the primacy of the individual in all spheres of human life—political, economic, and social. Individual well being is the standard to assess suitability of norms, customs, policies, and institutions. As Adam Smith’s invisible hand or Friedrich Hayek’s spontaneous order theory demonstrates there is no conflict between pursuit of self-interest and social good. Liberalism helps identify the rules necessary to achieve the harmony between self-interest and social good: limited government, rule of law, private property, free competition, and voluntary interactions.

Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is again set to tighten the law against insider trading. The law was first passed in 1992 and amended very recently in February 2002. As the amendment is more than ten times longer than the original law, one would have thought that SEBI must have plugged all the loop holes. But one would be wrong; a lot more work is apparently required to banish insider trading from the Indian securities market.

I am writing this column on Dhanteras, the beginning of the five-day festival of Deepavali. (Dhan: wealth and Teras: the thirteenth day of the month of Ashwin). It’s the day when Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshiped. Dhan is celebrated by purchasing new clothes, utensils, and ornaments, and in villages by decorating cattle, the main form of wealth.

Deepak Suri’s cycle rickshaw got impounded by the police. After years of living off petty thefts, he felt enough was enough. He decided to earn an honest living; he bought a used cycle rickshaw. For 1200 rupees. The police asked for Rs 400 to release it. Distraught, Suri borrowed twenty rupees and bought a bottle of kerosene.

The tenth anniversary of India’s liberalisation program came and went. Mostly unacknowledged and uncelebrated, like that of an unwanted child, a child forced upon by the unpleasant circumstance that one rather not remember. It’s not just unwanted but also illegitimate. The father prime minister has disowned it. Even after ten years of birth, its intellectual, political, as well as bureaucratic parentage is in debate.

The Cabinet has approved the competition bill despite crucial differences among the members of the Committee on Competition Policy. The importance of these disagreements could be judged by the rather unusual inclusion of two Supplementary Notes, a Note of Dissent, and a Comment on Dissent in the Committee’s report. This is no typical committee report!

The competition law claims to protect consumers against monopolistic, collusive, predatory, restrictive, and unfair business practices.

On July 1, 2001 the European Union will implement a new banana import policy, ending charger brought ending the charges brought in April 1996 by the U.S., Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico (the G5) against EU about discriminatory import policy for bananas. The battle highlights serious problems with the WTO Dispute Settlement Mechanism, which weaken the case for the existence of WTO.

Facts an scientific evidence apparently play little role in the formulation of environmental policy, argues Parth J Shah

Is our public policy about economy to environment based on science? Do facts, evidence, and objective deliberations determine it? Or do we rely largely on our hunches and gut feelings, our general sense of how the world works, or what Thomas Sowell termed “vision”? Is the stand on a policy issue set by our subconscious sense (Sowell’s vision), and the science used mainly to rationalise it?

Nothing in life is more certain than death and taxes. Death however comes once, taxes every year. How many days of the year an average citizen works to pay for government expenditures? When does he become free from being a slave to the government? Tax Freedom Day (TFD) is the day you stop working for the government and start working for yourself. It refers to the number of days one has to work to pay off the taxes. During the years 1980 to 2000, it has varied between 65 days (1980) to 80 days (1987). In other words, people had to work from January 1 to March 5 (1980) and to March 20 (1987). The Tax Freedom Day for the year 2000 was March 14 (74 days).

For a Gujarati today, to think about social problems is to think about the Godhra carnage and its inhuman aftermath. Underlying it all is Ayodhya. No lasting peace and harmony seems possible unless the Ayodhya problem is solved.