Serial Bus

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Welcome to the Stone Age!

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According to the famous Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem that I studied as an economics undergraduate, for all ranked preference orders, no voting system can simultaneously comply with the criteria of unrestricted domain, non-imposition, non-dictatorship, Pareto-efficiency and independence of irrelevant alternatives. In simplistic terms, no voting method can ever be fair. Another famous voting paradox, this time by Condorcet, reveals that a minority can be an agenda-setter by casting the deciding vote if two groups of majority are tied. These theories perhaps best explain how  a small regional party like Samajwadi Party (Socialist Party) can hold the development of India to ransom in the context of the forthcoming General Elections. SP’s recently-released manifesto promises, amongst other equally ridiculous things, to fight against computers and English medium education in India. Welcome to the Stone Age!

It is a fact well-known that around election time, every political party attempts to ensnare its electorate with a populist agenda. During the presidential elections last year, US witnessed a similar ascendancy in rhetoric e.g. Obama wanted to rein in the excesses of Wall Street and re-negotiate NAFTA. However, very rarely does anyone try to totally quash common sense and propose something ludicrously bad. SP crossed the line this Saturday when they released their election manifesto.

At the press conference following the release of the manifesto, Mulayam Singh Yadav, the party chief, made the following ‘promises’ expressly known:

1. “The use of computers in offices is creating unemployment problems. Our party feels that if work can be done by a person using hands there is no need to deploy machines,” Mulayam said.

Wasn’t this something India debated vociferously in the eighties and ultimately decided in the favor of computerization? Seems like the debate was not over. SP wants to eradicate the malaise of computers from the government offices across the country and encourage their removal from private institutions too. If this philosophy that glorifies manual labor ever finds its way into law, may be the axe will fall on use of home computers too. It would then be logical to extend that ban to any machine that helps with calculations – so outlaw calculators, watches and abacus! Demise of each of these devices will unleash employment for our youth – every computer equals may be 10 jobs, a watch may be 3 jobs (working 3-hour shifts), a calculator may be 1 job and an abacus may be 1/2 a job.

2. The party is against the use of agricultural machines too. Yadav said, “A harvesting season brings employment for the labor class for at least six months but these harvesters will snatch their earnings.”

Ahh! That is such a powerful piece of logic! Let us also outlaw machines that separate rice from husk or grind wheat into flour or squeeze cane for sugar. Each such move will release countless jobs for humans. Lest anyone consider it inconsistent, SP should extend its Luddite designs to other machines too. How about outlawing phones and telex?! – Imagine the number of people that can then be employed to carry messages from one place to another! If the avowed goal is employment generation, may be legislate out all earth-moving machinery (cranes, bulldozers etc) from construction sites and mines. Instead, equip armies of people with shovels – better still, give them spoons – so that more people can be employed to perform the same amount of work!

3. The party’s manifesto also mentions that it will work to abolish schools providing expensive education in English medium. Perhaps seeking to calm the English-spewing journalists, Mulayam said: “We will only press for removing the compulsory use of English language in education, administration and judiciary. We favor the use of national and regional languages.”

The cultural hypocrisy associated with English clings to India even 60 years after independence. There is not a single good reason for opposition to English except somehow using the language makes us servile to British?!! What we don’t appreciate is if English weren’t there, India would be like Babel. English provides the glue that links this incredibly diverse nation together and imposition of any particular Indian language will rightly enrage speakers of other regional languages. The funny thing is that all parents in India (even Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose son studied in a convent school) want their kids to learn English so that they may rise in life. SP wants to flush out English from our schools and universities – apparently because Porter’s Five Forces and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle lend themselves beautifully to teaching in the Bhojpuri medium! I think SP needs to start by purging its English website and create versions in each and every original language of India!

4. Aiming to remove the gap between haves and havenots, he said, “the salaries provided by private firms should be in sync with the minimum wages that have been set by the government. This is only the way to build up a strong national capital.”

I have no idea what he meant by ‘national capital’ and I doubt if he knew. If he was alluding to talented and skilled labor, I have no doubt that the brain drain which had slowed down recently, will only accelerate if you force the CEO of Microsoft India to take home INR 80 per day (about USD 1.6). Hey – but that’s an incorrect premise – if computers and machines have been outlawed already, Microsoft may no longer be in India. Alright, let’s say CEOs of all the companies engaged in any economic activity – how do you make sure they don’t abdicate? I am sure SP has a back-up plan – may be they will revoke the passports of all college graduates and create gulags for them to toil in. We will soon resemble the socialist heavens fantasized by SP – North Korea, Cuba or former USSR!

5. The tirade against free market did not stop at salaries. “Previous governments have promoted forward trading, share trading and mall culture. Any government formed with our support will either reduce or stop it completely,” he added.

‘Forward trading’, ‘share trading’ and ‘mall culture’ – all in one breath as if they are intricately linked to each other! I understand there have been concerns with derivatives trading of late, but what is wrong with share trading? I can appreciate the opposition to ‘mall culture’ though – a party that claims to be seeped in socialism will consider any instance of conspicuous consumption evil. That the malls have brought convenience and happiness to millions of middle-class Indians is obviously capitalist propaganda!

6. Seeking to connect with the huge peasant population of UP, SP also wants to ensure ‘the agricultural land of farmers is not forcefully confiscated for industrialization’ and ‘profitable rates for agricultural produces.’

Blessed are those that toil the land for theirs is the world of indefinite subsidies! While India tries its best to move its labor force towards manufacturing and services, SP wishes to reverse all gains by making agriculture least productive and artificially remunerative. The fact that industrialization is what brings people out of poverty and that most developed countries have only a fraction of their people working in the farm sector has fallen on SP’s conveniently deaf ears.

7. Finally, for all those unable or unwilling to find jobs, SP will pressurize the central government to implement an unemployment allowance scheme (INR 500 per month per unemployed individual) in the entire country.

No doubt India needs a social security net for those who are truly unable to employ themselves gainfully, however establishing an incentive for being unemployed creates unimaginable situations of moral hazard. As it is, there is significant under-employment in the country – the above scheme will remove any marginal benefit associated with moving one’s limbs, not to talk of the fiscal strain this will put on the exchequer that already continues to print money and fuel the national and state deficits.

One might wonder how SP can hope to be credible if it supports ideas as unsound as above. It’s time to invoke another economics guru, James Buchanan, whose Public Choice theory does a great job of explaining why it makes sense for SP to espouse the above causes. Public Choice theory explains that a politician (like any other rational individual) will always seek to maximize one’s self-interest i.e. the votes from their electorate. From the perspective of a low-caste illiterate farmer in the feudal and heavily politicized hinterland of UP (SP’s power base), the above ideas, once marketed with fiery rhetoric, can easily sound like a panacea for all his woes. Now, if this farmer is representative of the teeming majority, SP’s got it made.

The tragedy inherent in this demagoguery is not how gullible UP’s electorate might be; it is the possibility that SP might actually try to implement these harebrained ideas across the nation, if it ends up being the difference between a near-majority and a razor-thin majority in a hung parliament.

In a nation of more than 1Bn people, more than 700m people are eligible to vote during the General Elections over the next 2 months. These people are anxious to let their nation take its rightful place in an increasingly modern and complex world. By taking the above 7 vows, SP is championing India’s return to the Iron Age when agriculture was the primary means of livelihood and technology was primitive. What SP perhaps does not realize is that a backward spiral like the one imagined by it will only halt at the Stone Age!

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Written by serialbus

April 12, 2009 at 1:50 pm

2 Responses

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  1. […] if they can’t inspire then they can surely anger enough to get you to write. Our CCS grad Mohit has taken on the Samajwadi Party menifesto. He was angry enough to even analyse some of the bigger […]

  2. Is there a way we can claim these parties are against national interest and see to it they go behind the bars?

    Prasanna

    October 7, 2009 at 10:42 am


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