Mumbai makes me mad. Never mind the alliteration, I cannot stand the horrendous traffic, the repeated demented wail of mosque loudspeakers, the incessant honking of vehicles, and the crowds. But then, I was on Bangalore a few days ago and it was not much better. (Bengaluru is now the proper name but it sounds strange to a Bengali.) Bengaluru too has horrendous traffic, demented wailing from a few thousand mosques, the honking, . . . Signs of urban decay and disastrous descent into chaos is depressingly ubiquitous and inescapable. If that has not cheered you up, continue reading.
“Delhi Nursery Schools Still Tougher to Crack Than Harvard?” says a blog post at the WSJ.
The post does mention the government a couple of times — “. . . the government decided to abolish interviews at the nursery level . . . In 2006 a government committee came up with a system that gave kids points from 0 to 100 for . . .” — but does not reveal a connection between the acute and persistent shortage in the education sector and government action.
The government through its heavy-handed control and ineptitude has brought the Indian education system to this sorry state. The people are clueless about this fact — naturally so since they are largely the product of that same inadequate education system which does not equip them with critical thinking skills. In a different state of the world, the parents would have dragged out the bureaucrats in charge of controlling the education system and given them a sound whipping.
I am repeating myself here but here’s the story about government control and shortages. The government engineers the shortage by imposing barriers to the supply. This is done through a licensing scheme. It hands out the licenses at a price. That’s where the black money originates, which then ends up in overseas banks. The quantum of black money abroad is now reportedly around $1.5 trillion.
According to media reports, the Italian-born UPA Chairman Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi’s family has a few billion dollars salted away. These reports have been surfacing regularly and have met with stony silence from the accused, underlining their veracity.
The billions of the Gandhi family being both bribes and monies stashed away in Swiss banks, they are inextricably linked to the larger issue of bringing back the huge national wealth stashed abroad. All world nations, except India, are mad after their black wealth secreted in Swiss and like banks. But India has shown little enthusiasm to track the illicit funds of Indians in Swiss and other banks. Why such reticence?
Why such reticence? Because the government of Antonia Maino cannot reasonably be expected to recover the money from her. The money was not taken for safe-keeping. It was taken away for keeps.
Before moving on, here’s a point worth noting. In the quote above, it says, “India has shown little enthusiasm to track the illicit funds . . . ” India is a country and not an individual. Individuals have emotions and motivations that abstractions like a country cannot have. As a figure of speech (synecdoche), writing “India” to mean “people who are in the government of India” is understandable. But we have to be careful that that shorthand way of writing does not lead to shortcuts in thinking.
The word “government” is an abstraction, and what the government does is done by real flesh and blood people. These flesh and blood people are self-interested people, just like you and me. The people who run the government do what is in their interest, which may or may not be in the larger interests of the people they are supposed to serve.
Anyway, back to our main story. The government erects barriers to entry, and charges a high price for handing out licenses. The resulting supply shortage leads to high prices. Desperate people pay whatever they can. The difference between the high prices and the costs is profits — which is absolutely needed to pay for the licenses that were obtained through black money.
Same old story in every sector that the government controls — which means practically all aspects of the Indian economy since India is a socialist economy.
Talking of which, the other day, I was at a dinner party. One dinner guest was surprised to learn that India was a socialist country. He was surprised to learn that to contest elections, political parties have to swear that they uphold socialist principles.
Socialism is great — for the leaders, not the people. In socialism, the state is supreme and controls everything. The people obey and the leaders command. The vicious cycle of socialism goes thusly: the people are serfs; the leaders lord it over the people and impoverish them; the people beg for their existence; the leaders throw out scraps to those people who bow and scrape and grovel on bended knees; the people reduced to beggars hold the leaders up as their benefactors; the cycle of impoverishment and dependence continues.
Every street of Mumbai is resplendent with huge bill boards with pictures of Antonia Maino aka Sonia Gandhi and other Congress leaders. These are the people who have billions stashed away. The people vote for them. In exchange, the government of Antonia Maino taxes the working stiffs and uses the tax monies to fund schemes that are named after the Nehru-Gandhi family. The people who are reduced to beggary by the Nehru-Gandhi family vote for the Congress. The middle-class watches helplessly.
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Back to the WSJ blog post. One comment by someone who goes by “frodo” says — frodo wrote:
Reading this, I am puzzled as to why parents don’t skip school and form homeschool groups instead. Given the tuition charged by the top schools, a group of as few as four students would be able to hire good quality tutors for the children. Or do the schools function more as childcare establishments, such that most of their value is in taking the children off the parents otherwise busy schedules?
I could not agree more. I have been telling people that they should homeschool their kids. The current system of sending kids to schools where they sit in classrooms of 30 or 40 kids of the same age is about 200 years old. The system was invented to meet the specific needs of a world that is totally different from the world of today and tomorrow. If you want your kids to be prepared to meet the world that they will face, you have to get them out of a system what is totally outdated and obsolete.
If you want the school system to turn your kids into retards, by all means get them enrolled into schools — the government mandates who will teach, what will be taught, who will attend, etc. But be prepared for the consequences.
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In my opinion, homeschooling is not really a choice any more. It is the only alternative for parents who don’t want to handicap their children.