From the archives: Bhagwati on Markets and Democracy

Jagdish Bhagwati

This one is hauled from the archives from Aug 2013. Bhagwati on Democracy and Markets. In that post I quote Bhagwati’s three broad lessons that arise from his typology of countries into a democracy-market space. Continue reading “From the archives: Bhagwati on Markets and Democracy”

Democracy is Bloodier than Monarchy or Aristocracy

John Adams (1735 -1826) was an American Founding Father, and the second president of the United States (1797 -1801). Read the wiki page on Adams.

One marvels at all the natural wealth that the US has — immense land area, minerals, rivers, forests. You name it, the US has it all. But all that natural wealth pales in comparison to the wealth it had in the character of its founders. They were extraordinarily learned, wise, thoughtful and prudent. Given this sort of advantage, it is not at all surprising that the US became the richest and the most successful nation in the world.

The leaders that a nation gets is ultimately a random draw. The US was extraordinarily lucky. It would have drawn a Stalin, or a Lenin, or a Mao, or a Gandhi, or a Nehru. Had the US been unlucky like Russia, China or India, no amount of natural wealth would have saved the US from perdition. The US was born lucky. Continue reading “Democracy is Bloodier than Monarchy or Aristocracy”

Democracy and the Economics of Politics

Lord Acton“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men . . .”

The truth of Lord Acton’s observation gets confirmed with sickening regularity. Here I explore that point in the context of democracy. Why do democracies, particularly those with powerful governments, tend to elect bad people? What’s the analytical relationship between power, politics, money and corruption? Continue reading “Democracy and the Economics of Politics”

Democracy in America

If you thought that I was about to quote Alexis de Toqueville, you were wrong. I quote H. L. Mencken. “As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Voter Turnout and Identity

Scientific American Mind (dated Jan 10th) has a piece titled, “Voter Turnout Is Tied to Sense of Identity.” Unfortunately it is behind a subscription wall and therefore unavailable to me. But the short summary (reproduced here below the fold) is sufficient for us to get the general idea.
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On Identity Politics, Personality Cults, and Democracy in India

Who you are determines what you do. That’s not the most incisive of observations but one’s identity is inextricably mixed up with what motivates one. Consequently identity does have predictive and explanatory power regarding the behavior of people. Naturally political parties – who must understand crowd psychology to be successful – understand that. Particularly in India, identity based politics has been refined to an impossible degree.
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Yes, India is a Democracy

But that’s too generic a description. Besides being too general a description, democracy is hardly a comprehensive description of the Indian government. Surely, the democracy found in say Switzerland is quite different from what’s in India. We need better descriptors of Indian governance. Here’s a partial list, offered in the hope that you will add your own favorite.
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The BJP Must Get its Act Together

It is widely rumored that India is a vibrant democracy but one wonders if the rumors are wild exaggerations with little bearing to reality. I could be wrong but doesn’t the idea of a democracy include having an effective opposition to the ruling party? Or is it still a democracy if it is a one-party rule which does whatever suits its narrow interests because there is no opposition to provide the checks and balances that are needed to assure that the ruling party does not use its rule to enrich itself at the cost of the national interest? In a sense, one cannot entirely blame the staggering misgovernance of the Antonia Maino, aka Sonia Gandhi, led UPA — it is partly a consequence of the utter failure of the BJP to provide a suitable opposition to the misrule of the UPA.
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Citizens United in the US

US President Dwight D. Eisenhower had warned of the danger of the military-industrial complex 50 years ago in Jan 1961. Too bad the Americans did not take the warning seriously enough to do something about it. Here’s a short text and video excerpt:
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Creating New Vote Banks

It’s been a while since I contributed to “The Indian National Interest Review: Pragati.” I had to write a piece. I didn’t want the editor, Mr Nitin Pai, to get mad at me. It’s always best to be on his right side. Never get the press angry, is what I always say. Now if you know me, you know that it takes me forever to write anything. At the very mention of writing, I feel a writer’s block coming on. Writing is the hardest thing I try. But anyway, I dusted off the old keyboard, put on my thinking cap and pondered market failures, government failures, and what can be done about them. Here it is for the record.

(Click on image for a PDF copy of the issue.)
Continue reading “Creating New Vote Banks”