Wednesday, November 6, 2019

15 November 2019: Dealing with Natural Disasters - Shrinking role of the community and the market, and the expansion of the state

Barun Mitra
Founder Director Liberty Institute

Organised by
National Institute of Public Finance and Policy, New Delhi

Throughout much of history mankind has relied on its own ingenuity and imagination in the face of many natural disasters. Many cultures across the world recognise in their epics the enormous disruption a natural disaster caused, in the form of a great flood or lost continents. These shared experiences not only disrupted the communities, but also often reshaped the relationships within it.

With the rapid progress of science and technology in the last few centuries, many secrets of nature have been unraveled. With economic development man’s capacity to reduce his vulnerability to the natural hazards have greatly increased.

However, with rise of the nation state, particularly in the last two centuries, the onus of dealing with disasters, natural or man-made, have been increasingly claimed by the state. This is also a phase when citizens and the community have slowly surrendered their own responsibilities and capacities.

Disasters, man-made ones such as wars or social and economic turmoil, or natural ones, like a flood or an earthquake, have increasingly opened the space for unbridled expansion of the State, at the cost of freedom of the citizens and integrity and autonomy of the community.

The threat posed by natural disasters is now being superseded by the threat that is emerging to human civilisation itself from the agency of the state that is threatening to play God, in the name of protecting her people from the wrath of nature. This is threatening to turn the clock back towards the dark days of the divine rights of the rulers who wielded absolute power over the people by claiming absolute knowledge and complete command over resources. In contrast, citizens in a community and in their interactions in the marketplace acknowledge the limited knowledge and the scarcity of resources.

Two contemporary episodes, the never ending war on terror, and the endless horse trading over climate change, illustrate how the misguided state policies have fuelled the sense of crisis. Then the same sense of fear have enabled the state to continuously claim more authority and power to deal with the challenges that it has singularly contributed to create. A perverse incentive has developed to fuel and perpetuate the sense of crisis and fear, and leverage that to ensure the expansion of the state power.

Date: November 15, 2019
Time: 04:00 P.M.

Conference Hall, Ground Floor
R&T Building
National Institute of Public Finance and Policy,
18/2 Satsang Vihar Marg, Special Institutional Area,
New Delhi-110067(INDIA)

Those who are interested may please confirm your participation at


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