I have previously observed here that India has what I call a “cargo cult democracy.” In India’s neighborhood that is not a distinction. The entire Indian subcontinent suffers from that malady. The short version is that around here democracy as practiced is a simulation, a facsimile that should not be confused with the real thing that has something to do with informed choice based on differing perceptions of priorities that matter in the larger scheme of things.
Informed choice is not a matter that can be delegated to people who are not only not informed but for the most part cannot be informed even if you wanted to because the basic channels for information transmission are denied to them. Most of the electorate is illiterate to begin with and to add insult to injury, meaningful debate concerning the issues is entirely non-existent in the mass media. In the absence of substantial policy choices, it all boils down to names and faces. In every nook and cranny of the country, one comes face to face with huge billboards with the faces of people with names—never mind what they represent or what their accomplishments are.
One of the more irritating aspects of the change of calendar years is the increase in meaningless messages that land in one’s inbox. I love the internet and the world wide web, but that love is severely strained when I have to wade through gratuitous messages wishing “All” a happy new year. It’s a palpable sign of the Age of the Content-free Communications.
Time to take stock. It’s been a good year overall, but I am sure that 2008 is going to be even better. The trends are all good. Except in the US, thanks to George W Bush. No, I take that back. GWB is only the visible sign of decay, the festering pustule on the diseased political body of the US. I don’t see much hope in the inevitable change of administration post the 2008 presidential elections in the US either. It’s stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea.
I see India doing well. Narendra Modi’s win is going to cause some short-term trouble. The UPA led by Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi is weakened sufficiently and therefore will not be able to make any policy changes desperately required to chart a reasonable course for the economy. The foxtrotting commies have the UPA by the short and curlies and will continue to threaten to bring down the government. But the commies are convulsing in their death throes, taking their last gasps as they choke on their stupidity. I believe that in 2008, India will be able to give the commies a decent burial. It is high time. India can only get on with life after the death of the commies and their fellow travelers.
Good riddance. “Those that live by the sword, die by the sword” as Jesus is supposed to have cautioned Peter according to Matthew.
And as they say in India, “Indian government, hai, hai.”
The Hubble Deep Field and the Most Important Image Ever Taken by Humanity.
Watch it and wonder. Wonder how insignificant our concerns are, how parochial our interests, how utterly immaterial even our greatest conflicts are. Watch it and wonder how ignorant the so-called sacred scriptures of humanity are. The visible universe is 78 billion light-years across. Our galaxy is huge — with about 5 billion stars, one of which is our sun. There are hundreds of billions of galaxies.
Today’s Mint carries my opinion piece “Walking Around the Elephant” — a write-up on my conversation with Pranab Bardhan, professor of economics at UC Berkeley. The transcript of the conversation is also up on the Mint website under the title “Reforms do not address the anxieties of the general population.”
Go read Arun Shourie’s op-ed in today’s Indian Express. I agree with him. I think that passivity in the face of naked aggression is morally wrong. It encourages those who harm society. I have written about that in my post The Unbearable Silliness of Loving One’s Enemies. He touches on that principle.
At another point he mentions that India’s dismal economic growth pushed by socialists had been branded “the Hindu rate of growth.” I call that dismal rate of growth “the Nehru rate of growth.”
The main point is that there is a point beyond which even laid back people attacked needlessly do retaliate and are quite capable of extreme violence. He believes that a tectonic shift has been happening in the Hindu mind for the last 200 years. Go read it all.
The Acorn explains why the US paid big money to Pakistan following a report in the NY Times that “Billions in Aid to Pakistan Was Wasted, Officials Assert” which begins:
After the United States has spent more than $5 billion in a largely failed effort to bolster the Pakistani military effort against Al Qaeda and the Taliban, some American officials now acknowledge that there were too few controls over the money. The strategy to improve the Pakistani military, they said, needs to be completely revamped.
In interviews in Islamabad and Washington, Bush administration and military officials said they believed that much of the American money was not making its way to frontline Pakistani units. Money has been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India, not Al Qaeda or the Taliban, the officials said, adding that the United States has paid tens of millions of dollars in inflated Pakistani reimbursement claims for fuel, ammunition and other costs.
The Acorn responds: Continue reading
The Acorn remarks (in the context of Narendra Modi’s electoral victory, no doubt) that voters have nothing against an incumbent government that is competent. He says, there is no such thing as anti-incumbency, only anti-incompetency. It is certainly a plausible explanation. But then, how do you explain the continuation of the communists in West Bengal, election after election? They are supremely incompetent and yet keep getting voted back.
I believe the answer is that it is not whether a government fails to deliver that matters — what matters is perception. Perhaps in West Bengal, they don’t even realize that the communists are failing miserably and should be shown the door. Perceptions and expectations matter. Chandrababu Naidu was thrown out by Andhra voters. In some objective sense he was very competent and was succeeding in improving that state. The voters did not perceive that. Their judgment was that he had failed them.
My conclusion: Bongs are trusting and stupid (hey, I am one, ok?) and Gults are impatient and stupid. 🙂