Vote Wisely

This is probably the first election where votes will be influenced not just by the parties, media and leaders but also by the behavior of the supporters of those leaders. In general I have a very high tolerance for abuse and nonsense on social media but even for me the proverbial shit has hit the roof and I have chosen to withdraw from all public discussions on politics.

Politics and religion are two things where everything has an opinion and a hard one at that. There is no agreement as to what kind of competence is required to talk on these matters and everyone continue to thumb in the tub. I have never stood for any election in my life neither I have ever tried to rally people for any cause what so ever. That is simply not my forte. I am more of a lone ranger. For politics I mostly rely on few smart political observers and Dr. Arun Shourie is one of them.

I think India is into deep trouble. Our troubles were not so visible purely because India managed to grow at a decent pace in last 20 years which created jobs and opportunities for many people if not all. Someone like me had a fair shot at pulling myself out of poverty purely through education. Unfortunately as the GDP growth goes down, the number of job opportunities decline. GDP as a measure of overall economic activity in the country tells us many things and affects almost all of us. Economist Atanu Dey has a short piece on GDP.

In last 10 years the Congress government not only wrecked the economy but also introduced several new phrases and cliches out of nowhere. The first was “inclusive growth” which itself suggested that growth is somehow not “inclusive” by default. I guess the Congress and it’s voodoo economists were probably suggesting that somehow the growth numbers were helping only few people. This assumption is mostly false. Prof. Bhagavati and Prof. Panagariya has punctured this assumption really well in their recent book. The 8% growth not just helped the rich but it also helped the OBCs and SC/STs as well.

Obviously, well off people will have better access to education and health and hence will grow faster than others but this is only natural. The Congress’ assumption that the growth is by default not inclusive is not just false but somehow tries to give a wrong impression to people that “pro-growth” policies will not help them and some kind of government intervention is required to help the poor. Congress government has used this argument to come up with one disaster after another in the form of MNREGS, Food Security, Right to Education and now have proposed Right to Health, Right to Housing and many more rights.

The uneducated masses buy into these kind of schemes because the overall understanding of how economics works is not so good among the masses. Even if we assume that the implementation of these schemes will be flawless, what people forget is that for any product and service that costs money to make/offer, someone has to foot the bill. As the government’s intervention goes higher and higher the government spending will have to go up. This will eventually come out of our pockets in the form of tax or inflation. In both these cases the people who are earning above tax limits will have less incentives to do business and make more money. This will further increase the people living off government’s dole. This is a spiral that will take us back into 70s poverty.

Congress’s party voodoo economics and overall propaganda about state of economy has given people a false sense about what are the possible solutions. Indian society is positively predisposed towards giving up their freedoms and letting government control everything to bring some kind of utopian society into existence. So far even horrible laws such as Right to Education have been passed without any opposition from any quarter of the society. Thinks are so bad that Supreme Court has to get itself involved into the matters related to nursery education in Delhi.

Instead of blaming the role that government has been playing in our lives people seem to blame the government’s ability to enforce this labyrinth of regulations. The corruption is perceived as the main evil. But this is not the case. The real cause of corruption is the the role that government plays in our lives. Government dictates how schools will function, how many students will be admitted, how much sq. foot should be the area per teacher and per student. When schools can not meet these standards they try to bribe their way out or try to cut corners. The schools and government officials are then termed as corrupt. But the real problem is that it is not government’s business to regulate education. What kind of conditions should student be in must be left to the parents and school management and schools should be allowed to make profits out of education. Interestingly all evidence worldwide has shown that the private schools funded by the parents are better at educating students on almost all parameters. Not just for rich students but this model has been very effective in educating poor children as well. James Tooley’s book “The Beautiful Tree” goes to great lengths in studying this phenomenon in India, China, Kenya and Bangladesh.

Unfortunately our society has meekly accepted that government must control education, energy, water, agriculture, sex and almost everything else. Where there are too many government controls only two people thrive. The people in government and those who can bribe them well. Everyone else suffers.

I think the key issue in upcoming election has to be growth. I do not understand the complexities of this metric but if the growth is not high enough to give employment to a well educated college graduate, it only means trouble.

I do not think any political party has outlined a clear agenda for achieving this high growth. We were told that BJP is pro-growth but the party had decided not to release it’s vision document. Narendra Modi too has not outlined any liberal pro-growth agenda in his speeches and instead stuck to empty rhetoric.

Aam Adami Party’s stand on all the issues is greatly confusing. People like Yogendra Yadav or Medha Patkar are not really pro-growth people. These people might be clean and well intentioned but not good for the country. There is no point in having a non-corrupt government that follows the same policies of current government. For example if Mr. Clean Kejriwal continues to enforce Right to Education Act on schools it will not help the education sector at all. His aides such as Manish Siodia made it clear that he will not allow profiteering by schools. When AAP takes such stand on most of the issues Kejriwal’s claim that he will work on simplifying ease of business etc. are pretty much meaningless.

Narendra Modi’s overall track record on this account seems a bit better than everyone else. I think the biggest achievement by Mr. Modi is that he has steered the public discourse away from emotional and idiotic issues such as secularism to more of a result oriented metrics. For example now no one cares if Congress party is Gandhiji’s party and if Sonia Gandhi is related to Gandhi or not. Somehow everyone talks about malnourishment in Gujarat and roads in Maharashtra. Even if we assume that most of Gujarat model is hype event than this is a healthy trend which is furthered fueled by media. Every chief minister is getting busy to get high rating from this agency or that.

If Modi comes to power the question will the party actually show the courage to implement the right policies such as scrapping welfare schemes, privatization of PSU, deregulating government and allowing FDI in most of the sectors including defense. I dont think the answer is clear YES but there is a hope. For which I feel people should vote.

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