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.)
Thus spake Heinlein. “The America of my time line is a laboratory example of what can happen to democracies, what has eventually happened to all perfect democracies throughout all histories.” Continue reading
The news item is titled “Subramanian Swamy wants ATM-like receipts after casting vote through EVMs.” As Baldrick would have said, “That’s a very cunning plan, my lord.” And as Blackadder would have replied, “It is also bollocks.” Continue reading
In today’s Business Standard, Pranab Bardhan in his article “India — A case of bad governance“, makes a number of very important points.
It’s been a while since I caught up with my contrarian friend CJ. I asked him what he’s been up to. I nearly dropped the phone when he said that he read in the newspapers that Indian elections were announced. It wasn’t the news of the impending elections that jolted me – I knew that already. The admission that CJ read a newspaper that was shocking.
So it’s time to unveil the IT policy that I had been promising for a while. I have already laid a bit of ground work in the previous three posts — “BJP’s IT for All“, “A Rational IT Policy: The Preliminary Bits“, and “Of IT and Pascal’s Wager.” In the following, I will conclude the introduction with a brief discussion on tools as means, and then present my version of a rational IT policy.
Elections are the most visible of the external trappings of the institution called democracy. Democracy, like other important institutions that support a liberal civil society, has an inside structure — a deep back-end — that is not visible. What you see is definitely not all that there is. There is an internal structure to this institution without which it is only a facsimile and not the real object. It could be a cargo-cult democracy.
We are urban Indians and we number around 400 million. Our aspirations are principally related to working hard for a living, caring for our families, educating our children, and being good and responsible citizens.
As an urban Indian, I will vote for a party that promotes the values that matter to my country, my family, and me. I address this open letter to the political parties who seek my vote in the upcoming elections. Drop me a line if you can credibly demonstrate that you share the concerns and values that we have.
Although I had planned to, I will not be attending the “5th National Conference on Electoral and Political Reforms” of the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR). It’s happening in Mumbai, and I alas, am in Pune. My colleague Rajesh Jain is going there to be on a panel on “The role of business and Government.” Rajesh mentions on his blog the context of the event.
Since 2002, the major impacts of these campaigns have been on criminalization of politics, and transparency in candidate and political party assets. Leaders of both the BJP and the Indian National Congress have made public statements that they would not field candidates with criminal records even if they were likely to win in the coming Lok Sabha elections . . .
Interesting, isn’t it? I added the emphasis above because it is worth noting. That phrase is a recognition of the fact that criminals routinely contest and win elections. Let me understand that a bit more. That criminals contest elections is a choice that the criminals make. The laws of the land, for whatever they are worth, permit criminals to contest elections. That they win elections is the more remarkable fact. Contesting the elections is within the control of the criminals; winning elections is not. People — the much celebrated wise Indian voters — are the ones who vote criminals into power.
They at ADR could conference the whole day long till the cows come home, but I am afraid that the fault, dear Brutus, lies not with the criminals but with the people who vote for them.
If in your generally free and fair elections, you elect criminals as your political leaders, you might be a third world country. (Or in the case of the US, you might be aspiring to become a third world country.)
Institutions as Ideas
Institutions defined most generally are essentially ideas. They are big ideas, ideas that are persistent and which have a profound effect on the populations that evolve, and adopt, the ideas. Examples of powerful institutions – therefore powerful ideas – are easy to find: markets, state constitutions, legal systems, systems of governance, and so on. The institution called democracy is also an idea. The instantiation of an idea — its embodiment or implementation or incarnation – varies from place to place, and from time to time. How an institution is implemented depends on, among other things, preferences of the population and on the available technology. As tastes and technologies change, institutions can be implemented differently, and generally they are more efficiently implemented as time goes by.