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Definitions and Meanings
bullet.gif (859 bytes) Definitions of key words  




Obviously there can be many interpretations given to words. However, it is not possible to debate and arrive at any conclusion unless there are simple meanings attached to words commonly used. The following represents a tentative attempt to pin down the meanings of words commonly subject to differences in connotation. As far as possible, authentic sources are given.

  1. Capitalism Capitalism, also called free market economy, or free enterprise economy, is an economic system, dominant in the Western world since the breakup of feudalism, in which most of the means of production are privately owned and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets.

    Economists tend to think of Capitalism even more specifically. See these these notes for more detail. For reading material, please click here.

    Principal Qualities of Capitalism of interest to us: "In a capitalist society, all human relationships are voluntary. Men are free to cooperate or not, to deal with another or not, as their own individual judgments, convictions, and interests dictate. They can deal with one another only in terms of and by means of reason, i.e., by means of discussion, persuasion, and contractual agreement, by voluntary choice to mutual benefit. The right to agree with others is not a problem in any society; it is the right to disagree that is crucial. It is the institution of private property that protects and implements the right to disagree - and thus keeps the road open to man's most valuable attribute: the creative mind" (Ayn Rand, in Capitalism, an Unknown Ideal).

  2. Socialism Socialism is a system of social organization in which private property and the distribution of income are subject to social control, rather than to determination by individuals pursuing their own interests or by the market forces of capitalism.

    According to economists, Socialism is distinguished primarily by its use of central (social) planning, price fixation by bureaucracts, and direct management of economic activity by government. In that sense, India is essentially a socialist economy.

    It is very important for us as Indians to know what Nehru meant by socialism. According to him, socialism meant (as cited in Subroto Roy's 1984 paper: "Pricing, Planning and Politics,") "... the ending of private property, except in a restricted sense, and the replacement of the private profit system by a higher idea of co-operative service. It means ultimately a change in our instincts and habits and desires. In short, it means a new civilization, radically different from the present capitalist order. Some glimpse we can have of this new civilization in the territories of the USSR. Much has happened there which has pained me greatly and with which I disagree, but I look upon that great and fascinating unfolding of a new order and a new civilization as the most promising feature of our dismal age. If the future is full of hope it is largely because of Soviet Russia and what it has done, and I am convinced that, if some world catastrophe does not intervene, this new civilization will spread to other lands and put and end to wars and conflicts on which capitalism feeds."

  3. Fabian Socialism [Paraphrased from the Brittanica explanations for those facts. The scien Online] This is an evolutionary form of socialism rather than revolutionary, in which the state involvement in economic activity is supposed to increase, steadily.

    The typical way a Fabian socialism works is by nationalizing private industry (slowly stealing private property, instead of at one shot as in the case of Communism), stifling private initiative (allowing a little bit of initiative to operate so that people get used to the idea of handing over their initiative to government in a phased manner), and ultimately achieving the Commanding Heights of The Economy which is the same as complete State Control (Communism) of economic activity.

    India's self-declared "Socialism" (see The Preamble of the Constitution of India) is entirely modeled on Fabian Socialism, and was intended to usher in Marx's dream of Communism in the long run. All actions taken by India are completely in line with this form of Socialism.

  4. Welfare State "Welfare state [is a] concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organization."

    The key ingredients of a modern welfare state as practiced in the most advanced capitalist nations, are:

    1. Social insurance: This includes things like the National Insurance Program of U.K., and the Old-Age, Survivors, Disability, and Health Insurance in the USA (OASD and HI, or Social Security and Medicare). These programs are funded by the people themselves, through compulsory contributions when they are working. Some, minor, redistribution, is also achieved through these programs, but they are primarily meant as insurance against the riskiness of capitalist societies.

    2. Public provision of BASIC education, health and housing services. Only in a very few nations does this concept spill over into tertiary education.

    Note the possible problems with this system: (as mentioned in the above Britannica web page):
      "The principal problems in the administration of a welfare state are: determining the desirable level of provision of services by the state; ensuring that the system of personal benefits and contributions meets the needs of individuals and families while at the same time offering sufficient incentives for productive work; ensuring efficiency in the operation of state monopolies and bureaucracies; and the equitable provision of resources to finance the services over and above the contributions of direct beneficiaries."

  5. Democracy "The term has three basic senses in contemporary usage: (1) a form of government in which the right to make political decisions is exercised directly by the whole body of citizens, acting under procedures of majority rule, usually known as direct democracy; (2) a form of government in which the citizens exercise the same right not in person but through representatives chosen by and responsible to them, known as representative democracy; and (3) a form of government, usually a representative democracy, in which the powers of the majority are exercised within a framework of constitutional restraints designed to guarantee all citizens the enjoyment of certain individual or collective rights, such as freedom of speech and religion, known as liberal, or constitutional, democracy."

    Direct democracy would imply a referendum on each issue. Clearly we have never used this kind of democracy in India. We do have a representative democracy, instead, which allows a group of people who obtain a simple majority, nationally, to represent us. Further, by virtue of the constitutional restraints governing the behavior of these representatives, we have a constitutional democracy. To change these restraints requires a rather over-whelming support among the citizens.

    The word "democracy" will be used to represent the concept of constitutional democracy.

  6. Scientific

    1. "outlook and practice of scientist." from p. 338 of New Webster's Dictionary and Roget's Thesaurus, 1992. Book Essentials.

    2. "adj 1: of or relating to the practice of science; 2: conforming with the principles or methods used in science; "a scientific approach" [ant: {unscientific}]," from WordNet (r) 1.6 (wn) at http://work.ucsd.edu:5141/cgi-bin/http_webster?isindex=scientific&method=exact

    3. Irving Copi, Introduction to Logic (1982): "As the term 'scientific' is generally used today, it refers to any reasoning which attempts to proceed from observable facts of experience to reasonable (that is, relevant and testable) explanations for those facts. The scientific method is not confined to professional scientists: anyone can be said to be proceeding scientifically who follows the general pattern of reasoning from evidence to conclusions that can be tested by experience. The skilled detective is a scientist in this sense, as are most of us--in our more rational moments, at least."

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Thought for the Day

   Watch out World!!
The Giant is beginning to wake up. The race for the top slot in the world is now officially on!
      Go, India!!

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