I got asked a few questions in the latest “ask me anything“, including some via email. “You have questions, I have answers” is my motto 🙂
I will address the emailed questions later.
Q: Can you please share your thoughts on the Second Amendment? Is the horriffic gun violence in the US directly attributable to the law? Is it an anachronism that should be repealed?
A: I answered that at some length in here, “Guns are instruments, not sentient beings with volition.”
Q: Do you have any reasons against education-voucher system?
A: Just to be sure that we are talking about the same beast, let me state what I understand to be “education vouchers.” The matter is related to public support for education.
We all pay for private goods out of our own pockets. Food, clothing, shelter, gadgets and gizmos, etc, are private goods. Depending on your means and your preferences, you choose how much of what to buy.
There is some justification for believing that education (as a service) is not a private good. We will not go into that here. But the upshot is that a case can be made for financially supporting primary and secondary education for those who are unable to pay for it. One way is to fund some schools out of public funds (taken from taxpayers). In this scheme, there are private schools that charge a tuition and there are free public schools.
An alternative to allocate the public funds into vouchers and distribute them to all students. That is, there are no free schools at all. All schools are private, fee-charging schools. Under this scheme, people choose the school and pay with the vouchers (either in full or in part.) This scheme funds students instead of funding schools. Students (or usually their guardians) choose the school much as they would choose which store to buy their groceries from. This has the advantage of inducing market competition and therefore greater efficiency and accountability. I would support a voucher system over a public school system.
Q: What are your thoughts on Universal Basic Income in lieu of the Welfare State?
A: False dichotomy alert. A welfare state is what provides a “universal basic income” (UBI). Perhaps the questioner refers to this choice: (a) Have a whole bunch of subsidy schemes for food, education, housing, etc etc, or (b) Dismantle the whole complex mechanism for subsidies and replace it with a cash-transfer to everyone regardless of economic status and let them choose how they spend the cash.
Naturally, I prefer the unconditional cash-transfer scheme over a rat’s nest of complex subsidy schemes. The latter are prone to massive leakage and corruption; the former less so. However, a cash transfer scheme has major pitfalls too in the case of a poor economy. I define a poor economy as one in which not sufficient amount of stuff gets produced. If the economy produces so little that there’s not enough to go around, the cash transfer scheme will not do much at all.
But overall it is better to simply transfer the cash directly to every person (which means Mukeshbhai would get it too) instead of the current system. A more detailed analysis will have to wait.
Q: A list of suggested readings for youth here in India?
A: This is hard to answer since it is too open-ended. “Youth in India” is a very, large, heterogeneous group. The age group would range from five to 25 years. Areas of interest would be diverse too: art, social sciences, hard sciences, etc.
If I were to narrow it down to just undergraduates who are familiar with English, I would recommend books that are consistent with what some label “a 21st century liberal education”. The Association of American Colleges & Universities defines it thus:
Liberal Education is an approach to learning that empowers individuals and prepares them to deal with complexity, diversity, and change. It provides students with broad knowledge of the wider world (e.g. science, culture, and society) as well as in-depth study in a specific area of interest. A liberal education helps students develop a sense of social responsibility, as well as strong and transferable intellectual and practical skills such as communication, analytical and problem-solving skills, and a demonstrated ability to apply knowledge and skills in real-world settings.
As I am more familiar with English-language authors (primarily American) than with Indian authors, my recommendations will be biased. But this is an important topic that requires more time. So stay tuned.
Q: Do you really think that 1st amendment protects free speech in USA?H . . . How can a constitution guarantee anything that the people themselves don’t believe in?
A: I replied to this over in the comments section. Here it is.
Constitutions are not engraved in stone. When the popular sentiment changes, then constitutions can also change. If most Americans don’t like a certain provision, it will (eventually) be reflected in the constitution.
As it happens, the constitution provides guarantees against the restriction of free speech. But there are mechanisms for changing the constitution. It could well be that if the population wants the freedom of speech to be restricted, then the 1st Amendment can be repealed, just as the 18th amendment was repealed.
The constitution is not an unalterable law of nature. It is just an artifact of human understanding and will.
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That’s it until the next AMA. Thanks.