Andhra Pradesh (AP) election results are in and Chandrababu Naidu is out. He was an unusual CM. He wanted to make Hyderabad into a Singapore, and make AP a shining state. From what I hear, it appears that his stress was on the use of hi-tech for bringing about transformation. I am not too informed about what the game plan was but it appears that the common person did not obviously share his vision and they voted him out. Perhaps he fancied himself to be a Lee Kwon Yew and did not realize that unlike the Singaporean dictator, he had to seek a mandate from the masses. The masses are more interested in the short-run rather than the long-run.
Social planners face a difficult task in the context of a ‘democratically’ run economically backward state. To win the mandate of the masses, they have to give handouts to the people. Given limited resources at the disposal of the government, the choice is often between doling out the resources to the masses for short-term consumption needs, and using the resources for investment for future growth. To the masses living close to subsistence, short-term consumption wins over long-term investment.
Alexander Fraaser Tytler wrote in his The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic (1776)
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years.
I am convinced that any social planner within a democracy who does not promise and deliver government largesse to the masses, is not going to hold on to his job for long. Will dictatorship follow inevitably? I am not sure of that. The next social planner will learn the lesson and to maintain his job, he will focus on the short-term and hand out goodies to the voters at the expense of long-term growth.
The lesson? Beware of boundary conditions and corner-solutions. When you hit the corners, the usual rules don’t apply. The function is not differentiable at that point.