The first Indian American voted to the Republican National Committee, in 2016 Harmeet Dhillon covered her head and sang a Sikh prayer with assurance at the Republican gathering in Ohio. This brought her in limelight. Let us here something from her own mouth.
Are we reaching a boiling point when it comes to the free-speech debate?
Well, no. When I was in college 30 years ago I was in a running battle with the administration over free-speech issues on campus. There were constant disputes, without the [recent] addition of the violent left. We didn’t have gangs of masked criminals and domestic terrorists attacking people in the streets like we do in Berkeley today.
What we have today is a very liberal political leadership in some cities on the West coast, Portland, Berkeley, some others, that don’t want to be seen as politically incorrect, and they don’t do their basic job of law enforcement. Violent suppression of speech should not be tolerated on any side.
Let’s step back a little. These two words—liberal and conservative—are thrown around a lot, often without much clarity. How would you define these words today?
I consider myself a classical liberal with a small ‘l’. I believe in the rights of the individual and that people are responsible for their own actions and not for some collective good or what have you.
What capital ‘L’ Liberal means today is socialism, in California and some other parts of the country it means illegal immigration, AKA open-door immigration. It means the rights of criminals are elevated over the rights of law-abiding citizens. It means that the government should steal from the rich and give it to the poor, basically.
Conservatives today are what I consider to be the classical liberals. They believe that people should be responsible for their own actions by and large. That the role of the government in our lives should be very limited to the essential aspects that are required to maintain physical order and perform basic functions. Water, clean air to a certain extent, roads, close the borders, make sure people are protected from crime. Beyond that the government has a limited role in regulating things, controlling our speech, telling us what to do with our own property, etc.
Increasingly, here in California, which is very liberal, taxes keep going up on the successful people. Business owners like me have to deal with more and more regulations. Half the state doesn’t pay taxes. People like you and me who follow the law are at the back of the line. I have clients who are here with an H1B visa, they’d like to get their green card, and they’ve been waiting in the queue for seven years. But if you just cross the border illegally, you can have DACA and all the rights of citizenship. So we have a really fractured society in that regard.
You spoke of regulation. The Bay Area, especially the tech industry, is right at the heart of the debate around regulation in business.
The government has a role to make sure citizens aren’t cheated. Having the corporate form is a privilege granted by the state, separate from, say, my right to bear arms or own property, which are natural rights enshrined in our Constitution. If the government gives you some rights, it can also impose some restrictions. You can’t lie or sell security under false pretences. You can’t limit the right of citizens to challenge your illegal activities by various clauses in your contract …
Regulation of new-fangled businesses is a hot-button topic in India as well… In your country, it’s a fairly new regime. Just 20 years ago, it was a semi-socialist country. Now it is so-called capitalist without the regulatory framework to keep people honest. Frankly, there is a whole culture of dishonesty in India. That’s the reason my parents left India. They didn’t want to bribe someone to get a telephone.
In the US, we do have examples of dishonest behavior but they are not tolerated. Any little guy can find a lawyer and sue a company and hold it accountable. So you do have an Enron or an Equifax. Equifax made a mistake but then it covered up, and the board profited from it. I don’t think the company is going to be around in six months, frankly.