I maintain that it is a always a good sign that people are seriously making an attempt at forming political parties. The marketplace, so to speak, has to expand. With some luck, the good ones will take root and flourish. But the creation of a good party is not just a matter of luck. It has to be the result of some deep thinking. Impassioned calls to “WORK TOGETHER & TAKE ACTION BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE” by “the literate noble thinkers, bloggers & critics” is a bit premature if the hard thinking has not been done.
I am risk averse and believe that it is better to not do anything than to get all fired up with missionary zeal and rush headlong into doing the wrong thing. To an unfortunate degree, many of our misfortunes are the result of well-meaning people who thought that they were doing the right thing when in fact (and here comes my favorite quote) they were like the monkey who tried to save a fish from drowning by putting it up on a tree. I wish more people would understand the wisdom in the Zen Buddhist admonition: “Don’t just do something, sit there.”
I would like to ask any reformer these questions. Can you convince me that you understand what precisely is wrong with the system and why? Why is what you are proposing to do any different from all the others that have meddled before you and messed up?
One should be able to defend oneself against honest critics. Indeed, one should welcome criticism because that is the way to improve one’s chances of success. It is like product testing which reveals what bits need to be designed better. If the response to criticism is defensive posturing, it is a sign of trouble.
My criticism of the Jago party is that they do not fully appreciate the importance of economic thinking. Setting prices, as I had pointed out earlier, is completely futile. Mr Joseph’s explanation of why Rs 2 is the correct price for electricity is not persuasive. In fact, just that explanation reveals that he did not quite understand what my objection is and why that objection matters.
His claim that Jago party’s knowledge of economics compares favorably to Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav’s could be true. But that still does not mean that the Jago party knows any economics at all. I would conjecture that Mr Yadav’s knowledge of anything at all is a very low bar and any educated high school child can step over it with ease.
My feeling is that Jago party does need to do some serious thinking. In my opinion, any party that holds Arundhati Roy in high regard needs to seriously examine its beliefs and core principles. Perhaps she is a good fiction writer but her grasp of reality is tenuous at best. Any party that even mentions her favorably is more likely to hinder India’s development than to help in any way.
One of the greatest sins that well-meaning but poorly informed reformers commit is that of arrogance. Yes, they want to help the poor. And how they propose to do so? By dictating to them. “Here, you must go to the schools we have built for you, and you must learn what we have decided you should and for how long.” That sort of arrogant attitude characterized Nehruvian socialism and has created most of our present problems.
Mr Joseph writes:
Reserving seats in education – In our manifesto what we say is that: All poor Indians: (i) will get free/subsidized modern day education (ii) Mandatory education upto the 10th Std.
Why “free/subsidized modern day education” (whatever that means) instead of, say, “all poor Indians will get free/subsidized food and healthcare”? What are the trade-offs involved in forcing “the poor” to be educated up to the 10th standard as opposed to making the opportunity available for everyone to become as educated as they wish? To me that seems to be a better option. It is both economically efficient and morally defensible because it gives people a choice to do what they feel is in their interests.
This is an important point that I feel lies at the core of our previous public policy failures: the failure to realize that socialistic paternalism is not a good thing. It is alright to call someone “Chacha” affectionately but the moment that uncle of yours decides what you should do, it is time to tell the Chacha to back off and keeps his hands out of your pockets.
Mr Joseph concludes his comment with
I think our greatest challenge, now is to convince people like Sh. Parijat Garg that it is high time we stop criticizing people who want to do something instead the need of the hour is to pool in our talents together & work in unison under this open platform which we have readied called – “JAGO”.
I respectfully disagree. Critics serve a valuable function. I think that we should call bullshit when appropriate. We should never stop critically evaluating all proposals regardless of who it is and how much “sacrifice” the proposer has made. “You must swallow this because you can hardly imagine how much trouble I went to in making this for you” is barely tolerable when it comes from one’s mother but is not palatable from those whom one does not yet have much reason to trust.
Yes, we have to do something and it is going to be hard. But let us not fool ourselves that figuring out what to do is going to be any easier than the doing. Therein lies the real challenge.