GOVERNANCE ANCIENT IN SRILANKA

THIS IS A STARTLINGLY MODERN VIEW OF POLITICAL ECONOMY- DD KOSAMBI

Buddhist scriptures work out the duties of a householder and peasant regardless of caste, wealth, profession-and with no attention whatever to ritual. They argue against Brahmin pretensions and specialized ritual with consummate skill but in the simplest words. Caste might exist as a social distinction; it had no permanence, no inner justification. Nor did ritual, which was irrelevant and unnecessary for the good life. The canonical writings, almost all supposedly from the Buddha’s discourses and dialogues, were in everyday language and plain style without mysticism or Lengthy speculation. This was a new type of religious literature addressed to the whole of contemporary society, not reserved for a few learned initiates and adepts.

Most important of all, the Buddha or some anonymous early disciple ventured to propound new duties for the absolute monarch[ now to parliament]: the king who merely collected taxes from a land troubled by brigands and anti-social elements] was not doing his duty. Banditry and strife could never be suppressed by force and draconic punishment. The root of social evil was poverty and unemployment. This was not to be bribed away by charity and donations, which would only reward and further stimulate evil action. The correct way was to supply seed and food to those who lived by agriculture and cattle-breeding. Those who lived by trade should be furnished with the necessary capital. servants of the state should be paid properly and regularly so that they would not then find ways to squeeze the citizens.

New wealth would thus be generated , the regions liberated from robbers and cheats. A citizen could bring up his children in comfort and happiness, free from want and fear, in such a productive and contented  environment. The best way of spending surplus  accumulation, whether in the treasury or from voluntary private donations[ Public sector], would be in public works such as digging wells and water reservoirs and canal or planting grove, along the trade routes[ now super highways].

This is a startlingly modern view of political economy. To have propounded it at a time of vedic yajna to a society that had just begun to conquer the primeval jungle was an intellectual achievement of the highest order. The new philosophy gave man control over himself. What it could not give limitless scientific and technical control over nature[ floods and natural disaster] with benefits to be shared by all mankind according to individual and social needs.

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