Thanks to Atanu Dey, we now have the recipe for that perfect anti-quota soup many of you have been waiting for. [Note: All the bold emphasis in the quotes, below, is from me; none of it is in the original.]
1. Take 7 standard measures of open display of intellectual heavy artillery [some of it fortified by a hectoring tone, and gratuitous mini-lessons in 'economic thinking'].
- In a free market, price ... rises sufficiently to equate the quantity demanded and the quantity supplied. There are no shortages. Thus, for instance, there is no 'shortage' of diamonds or of Microsoft shares ...
- Rent seeking behavior ... is not motivated by ignorance; it is motivated by greed and is informed by knowledge of how the system works.
- If the gainers gain more than the losers lose, then it is theoretically possible for the gainers to compensate the losers for their loss ... Such a policy effects what is a called a 'Pareto improvement' ...
- ... (after all, we are all Bayesians)...
- ... before one can propose a solution, one should understand the problem.
- ... distinguish between the causes and symptoms (or consequences), and address the causes, not the symptoms if you want to solve the problem.
- ... understand the distinction between the equality of opportunity and the equality of outcome ...
2. Mix it well with 4 standard measures of intimidation or bullying.
- ... it should come as no surprise that yet another idiotic scheme is hatched by the party in power ...
- Persistent and widespread poverty is a consequence of asinine policy choices, just as much as prosperity is a consequence of wise policy choices.
- Since the mindset which in the past consistently evolved and doggedly pursued illogical policies has not changed, ... any proposed new policy is also going to be flawed.
- [...] This should be evident to the meanest intelligence, it would appear, but then perhaps our policy makers don't make even the meanest intelligence grade.
3. Boil the mixture for five minutes on low flame. Before taking it off the stove, add two pinches of questionable assumptions.
- Unqualified candidates who enter the system are by definition unable to benefit from the opportunity to the extent that a qualified candidate would have done.
- It is undeniable that certain segments of the population are ill prepared to compete for seats in higher education.
4. Garnish with some 'just-so' model of economic efficiency .
Assume that the full cost of, say, a 4-year IIT education is $50,000 (or about Rs 22 lakhs). Further, assume that a quota student ends up benefiting less than the full cost, say, $10,000, while a non-quota student gets at least $50,000 of benefits. The net loss is then at least $40,000. Instead of wasting $40,000 on one backward class student at the IIT ...
5 A drop or two of irony will be an added plus.
... why quotas ... [are a] morally repugnant policy. It penalizes certain people based on their group membership.
Indian educational system [is] a structure created by the incompetent and uneducated to produce more of the same sort of people.
Et, voila! You now have Atanu Dey's Original Anti-Quota Soup. It is guaranteed to taste even better when you keep chanting mantras such as "address the cause, not the effect", or "equality of opportunity, not outcome". Atanu has also planned a multi-course meal, so get ready for a quota-free
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Atanu makes some points that I actually agree with. He argues, quite rightly, for expanding the supply of higher education with the help of private sector [though I don't share his enthusiasm for for-profit universities] and improving primary and secondary education. These are unexceptionable goals; what I fail to see is how pursuing these goals come in the way of using a policy of reservation (or, affirmative action) to help bring disadvantaged groups into the mainstream.
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 Have you tried your hand at creating one of those toy models that are, ummm, 'just so'? I have. Here. It's a lot of fun! And, it is so satisfying too. You know why? My model 'proves' that quotas are economically efficient. As I said: 'Just So!'