Friday, May 06, 2005

Sweet irony

In this interesting post, Ravikiran Rao takes Dilip D'Souza to task for being sloppy with logic in his Rediff piece. I am not sure that the allegation sticks. Here's why.

The usual goal of a country's economic management advocated by almost everyone (including libertarians) is growth in GDP; in other words, a bigger pie. Usually, one ignores how the pie is divided. Suppose, for a moment, you start with a different primary goal for economic policies: to reduce poverty (with enhanced GDP as a secondary goal), and if what you see indicates that poverty doesn't seem to have decreased (or, it seems to have increased; "seems" is the key word here ;-) after traveling 15 years down the garden path, then you are apt to question the wisdom of the reforms as they are being pursued. I believe this is what Dilip has done:

There's no doubt in my mind: reforms must happen. But 15 years after the process began, I can't help feeling that something is wrong about the way we are pursuing them. For I am yet to see the one effect they must have, first and above all: a visible lessening in the level of Indian poverty. Fewer poor Indians around us. I can't see that.

So, in spite of Dilip's support for reforms (after all, he is not questioning them; he is only wondering about better ways of doing them), Ravikiran gives him a gratuitous remedial lesson in how to talk about "reforms and the poor"!

In any case, one could argue that Dilip has achieved something fundamentally very significant with far-reaching consequences: He has made card-carrying libertarians acknowledge -- and talk about -- certain economic policies and defend them on their impact on the poor.

Congratulations, Dilip!


  1. Anonymous said...

    >> He has made card-carrying libertarians acknowledge -- and talk about -- certain economic policies and defend them on their impact on the poor.

    On the other hand, a card-carrying communist like Dilip has been made to acknowledge the success of reforms :-P And nobody had to write no article to convince him B-)

  2. Anonymous said...

    Yes, I too think Dilip has achieved sth very important in that post. One is forced to take a stand on what he says. What more an article can ask for?

    I too had a small post based on Dilip's and Yazad's articles. Here's the link: In defense of anecdotes.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Hey Abi, got email from someone just now pointing me to this that you wrote and I wanted to say, thanks a lot. You got just the point I wanted to make, and explained it better than I could.

  4. Anonymous said...

    Excellent piece Abi. It wasn't very clear from Dilip's article whether he supported liberalization or not. I surely missed the "reforms must happen" part in the article. In one comment on Yazad's post, Dilip clearly mentions:
    "my feeling is that the reforms process has not been as wide, as rapid, as sincerely pursued if you like, as it must be."

    From this point, I wasn't sure what the big argument was about: both parties seemed to agree that more reforms and not less are required.

    It wasn't much later that I realized (I am not sure if I am correct or wrong) what Dilip was saying. That perhaps the reforms have affected the rich and the middle class, while leaving the poor behind. More freedom is required at individual level, and perhaps a "bottom up" type of approach is needed.

    But haven't Amit and Yazad saying pretty much the same thing? They have also been arguing for faster reforms. In one of his posts, Amit Varma talks about the midday journalists who took up various jobs such as a maid, newspaper boy, flower seller etc, and concludes that greater individual freedom and lesser interference from the authority is required for the conditions of the poor people to improve.

    I think I have learnt quite a bit from Dilip and Yazad and Amit. And this post is excellent summary as well.