One Snowmobile Per Child

Here’s another guy who is not all that thrilled with the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program. The Strange Case of One Laptop Per Child is made by Eric Posner, a faculty member at the University of Chicago Law School. Money quote:

It takes little insight to see that laptops would be low on the list of priorities of the developing-country poor. One Laptop per Child makes as much sense as One iPod per Child or One Snowmobile per Child.


Author: Atanu Dey


2 thoughts on “One Snowmobile Per Child”

  1. Atanu,

    I am really surprised that you have written so much about OLPC and Tata’s new car. This seems to me so much against economics principles you extol.

    if OLPC is economically viable, it would work. else, it would wither away.

    Either way, if it is available to people like us, many may buy it. i would buy it, for myself and other children around. perhaps, its price will keep dropping due to the economy of scale.

    I agree, Indian government should not buy and commit my tax money As it is, it wastes too much of money. however, OLPC does not have any orders from India as of now. They should just sell the laptops to common man, it would be better that way.

    About Tata Nano: making roads is government’s job, right? Why should Tata worry about their conditions? If at all, the consumer has to make up his/her mind before buying a car.

    It is another matter if Tata pays money to industry minister or similar goons, that is something that everyone needs to do to move forward. why beat only Tata?

    Is there any economic argument that prevents these things being sold or made? I would like to know.


  2. Ashish, I write about the OLPC precisely with the view to explore the economics behind it. It makes little economic sense in certain contexts. If it were to compete in the market and win, more power to it. What the OLPC people are doing, however, is arm-twisting public officials to spend limited resources on a questionable intervention. That needs to be questioned and if needed opposed. As the guy asked, why not One Snowmobile Per Child?

    About the Tata Nano — I have no problems with the car. Sure most Indian roads are congested and it is hard to move about. But people can decide if they want one or not. That is not the case with the OLPC, where the government decides whether you should have one or not, and more importantly the government decides if I am forced to pay for it whether I want it or not.

    There is no economic argument against any economic activity that has no negative externalities. If there are any externalities, then it should be internalized so that the price reflects the full cost — that is, the price should include not just the private costs but also the public (or, social) costs. That is the basic economic principle. The rest is mere details.



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