This Policy, Alone – Part 8

NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING economist Douglass North observed that “economic history is overwhelmingly a story of economies that failed to produce a set of economic rules of the game (with enforcement) that induce sustained economic growth.”

A sound education system is the foundation of sustained growth. Yet, nowhere is the failure to produce a set of economic rules more evident than in the Indian education system. India’s literacy rate of around 60 percent places it in the company of countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Sudan, Burundi and Ghana. Broadly speaking, India accounts for 50 percent of the world’s illiterates even though India has only 17 percent of the world’s population. The failure of India’s primary education is predictably reflected at the higher education level: gross enrolment ratio is a mere six percent. Furthermore, the quality of Indian college graduates is poor to the extent that only about a quarter of them are employable.

Education in India is heavily controlled by the government both at the state and federal levels. Government agencies and regulations dictate every aspect of education, sometimes to the smallest details: who can run educational systems (generally only non-for-profit trusts can), who teaches, what is taught, who learns, what the fees and salaries should be, and so on. Most unfortunately, the entry barriers that the government imposes on the sector lead to such effects as high costs, low quality, and rampant corruption. Continue reading

Amazon is Amazing

Nothing warms the cockles of this economist’s heart like seeing a market do its bit beautifully. As we say in the trade (pun intended), markets work and incentives matter. That sums up very neatly two of the fundamental insights of economics.

Consider this fact (from a Dec 2013 Quartz article): “Amazon changes its prices more than 2.5 million times a day. By comparison, Walmart and Best Buy changed their prices roughly 50,000 times each in the entire month of November.”

Those numbers for Amazon must have gone up since then. Perhaps Amazon changes its prices 4 million times a day now. Continue reading