Ask me anything

It’s time to have a conversation. I intend to have google hangouts on a regular basis. I am taking suggestions on the day and time. But first, would you like to join? Would the weekends be a good time for you? And if so, what time? Of course, you can ask me anything by leaving a comment on this post. I hope to hear from you on this open thread.

Author: Atanu Dey


19 thoughts on “Ask me anything”

    1. That question — what is the proper role of a government — is certainly the most important question that needs to be debated in India. Unfortunately, that is never addressed. I believe that if the general public were to become sensitized to the question, it would help India move forward.

      The best way to approach the questions you ask related to primary education and healthcare is to start with general principles. Based on those general principles, they are easy to answer. Moreover, the answers to all related questions (what about water, what about public safety, what about garbage, what about higher education, what about transportation, what about scientific research, what about the internet, what about foreign aid, what about this that and the other …) naturally follow.

      It’s like in the sciences. Once you understand the general principle, all specific instances are easily understood. Once you learn about gravity, you know why things behave in certain ways in a gravitational field.

      The topic of the role of government is a great topic worth discussing.


  1. How can India put an end to caste reservation system without talking about caste? All problems of India are interlinked and when I analyze it it boils down to the ugly word ‘nonmerit’/reservation


    1. Reservations of any kind are a mechanism for rationing limited supplies through non-market mechanisms.

      Generally speaking, if demand far outstrips supply, there needs to be some way of deciding who gets how much of the limited supply. The market uses the price mechanism. High demand is reflected in higher prices and therefore those who are willing to pay the higher prices get what they want. If prices are not allowed to rise, then rationing has to be done by other means such as reservations.

      Caste based reservations are a political solution to rationing. As long as politics is the chosen mechanism for settling conflicting interests, there is no way around the problem. The rational thing to do is to increase supply so that the need for rationing is reduced.

      About 20 years ago, when telephone connections were very limited in supply (waiting time was counted in years), there were reservations for getting a telephone line. Now, telecom firms compete for customers. If anyone were to demand caste-based reservations, they would be properly suspected of being insanely stupid.


  2. 1. What exactly do you do for living at the moment ?

    2. Do you think your opinion of Mr. Modi has changed post his election as PM ?

    3. What do you think of Arun Shourie’s recent criticism of Mr. Modi’s government ?

    4. If you have to suggest 2 books to say a 15 year old which would those be ?


    1. 1. For a living, I don’t do anything at the moment. I live within my means and the means are my savings.

      2. Indeed my opinion of Mr. Modi has changed. I had expected that he would do what I believe the government must do. So far he has done almost precisely what I would have expected the UPA/Congress to do.

      3. I have not seen what Mr Shourie said or read an accurate and comprehensive report of what he actually said. My impressions are based on the incomplete reports that I have read. It appears to me that he should not have spoken with Karan Thapar, a person known for his antipathy towards Modi. However, there is much that must be criticized in the way the Modi government has acted. I hold Mr Shourie and his judgement in the highest regard. I hope Modi pays due attention to Shourie’s concerns.

      4. I find it difficult to answer the question about two books for a 15-year old because it is too broad. If narrowed down a little bit — say for a particular person — I may have some suggestions. I fundamentally believe that our individual diversity implies that our interests are different and therefore any recommendation on what to read has to be tailored to an individual. For instance, if someone had suggested to the 15-year old me that I should read books on cricket, I would have ignored that advice. But if someone had recommended reading Asimov or Clarke, it would have resonated with me.


  3. Hi Atanu, visiting your site after some gap. Have you posted any thing on net neutrality? If not, can you please share your thoughts on the debate raging in India these days? I saw Rajesh Jain’s piece on Niti Central the other day, and was disappointed at his stance supporting the Telcos.


    1. I have not paid any attention to the net neutrality issue. Sorry about that. Therefore I cannot give an opinion on that matter.

      But I trust some people who are for net neutrality. Lawrence Lessig and Edward Snowden are two of the many who are for NN. So if I had to vote on the matter, I would follow their lead.

      I read Rajesh’s piece and honestly I told him that I could not understand the point he was making.


      1. Thanks, Atanu. To be honest, most of the ‘friends of BJP’ seem to support the stance of Telcos, and spinning it as ‘right to free internet’. We all know how the rights based approach of UPA (right to education, right to food etc.) worked, and in the case of NN, the people close to the Modi administration seem to mimic the UPA style thinking. To quote you: It is all karma, neh !


  4. Hi Atanu, can you comment on the Land Acquisition bill that is currently being debated both inside and outside Parliament? If this bill is ratified, what might be the consequences for farmers, industry and the Indian economy in general?


    1. Hi DP,

      I am not familiar with the land acquisition bill. Part of the reason that I do not follow the issue is because I am a firm believer in property rights. That means, when A owns something and B wants to buy it, it’s a transaction between A and B only. No third party is required unless A and B both agree that there is a need for that to intervene in the transaction.

      Land is property. If someone owns the title to a piece of land, then it is for that person to decide what to do with it. End of story. I don’t understand what complications can arise from this unless there are third parties that get involved so that they can get a part of the action.


  5. Hi Atanu,
    I would be great if you could write a monthly article on Economic policies adopted by Modi Gov and your recommendations for improving it. More so on reforms that needs to be taken-up on war footing.


    1. Thanks for the suggestion. I don’t know if I can deliver. I rely more on general principles and their consequences. The economic policies that Indian governments follow are socialist. That is generally wrong and will never yield prosperity. The answer is quite brief: India has to discard this socialist way. But there is a reason that socialism appeals to the politicians and bureaucrats — the policymakers. It gives them control and therefore the necessary levers to enrich themselves.

      Socialism also appeals to the masses. It gives them a way to get something that they are unable to make for themselves. Socialism holds a promise to them: give power to the government and it will reward you by giving you handouts that it has taken from others who do the production.

      Stated thus, I am afraid that this is a counsel of despair. But it is not impossible to break out of this trap. People need to become aware of one fundamental truth: that in the long run, you can only consume what you produce.

      It is all karma.


    1. Please feel free to ask the question — considering that this post title is “Ask me anything”.

      My email id is my name at gmail.


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