End vigilante acts, says Rajan

Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan on Saturday called for an end to vigilante acts in the pursuit of enforcing bans, saying that they will stifle progress. This comes a day after ratings agency Moody’s asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to rein in his party members or risk losing global credibility.

“Indeed, if what you do offends me but does not harm me otherwise, there should be a very high bar for prohibiting your act. After all, any ban, and certainly any vigilante acts to enforce it, may offend you as much, or more, than the offence to me. Excessive political correctness stifles progress as much as excessive license and disrespect,” Dr Rajan said while delivering the chief guest’s address at the convocation at IIT-Delhi.

“A quick resort to bans will chill all debate as everyone will be anguished by ideas they dislike. It is far better to improve the environment for ideas through tolerance and mutual respect,” the Governor added in his speech on why India’s tradition of debate and an open spirit of enquiry is critical for its economic progress.

Taking offence suffers from a feedback loop, Dr Rajan said. Groups looking for insults everywhere suffer from the theory of confirmation bias in psychology, he explained. That is, the more they look for insults, the more they find them.

“While you should avoid pressing the buttons that upset me to the extent possible, when you do push them you should explain carefully why that is necessary so as to move the debate forward, and how it should not be interpreted as a personal attack on me. You have to tread respectfully, assuring me that a challenge to the ideas I hold is necessary for progress,” Dr Rajan said.

At the same time, people should endeavour to hold very few ideas so closely intertwined with their personality that any attack on them is deemed an intolerable personal affront.

The RBI Governor went on to explain that tolerance implies not being so insecure about one’s ideas that one cannot subject them to challenge. It implies a degree of detachment that is absolutely necessary for mature debate, he said.

Dr Rajan concluded his speech by exhorting the graduating classes at IIT-Delhi to uphold India’s traditions of debate in an environment of respect and tolerance.

On the role of educational institutions in encouraging debate, Dr Rajan said that the first essential is to foster competition in the market place for ideas. “This means encouraging challenge to all authority and tradition, even while acknowledging that the only way of dismissing any view is through empirical tests. What this rules out is anyone imposing a particular view or ideology because of their power,” he said.

The RBI Governor is an alumnus of IIT-Delhi, having graduated in electrical engineering in 1985.

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2020 1:29:40 PM |

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