India! I dare you to be rich

Swedish “school voucher” system is guaranteed to fail since it is badly designed

A commentator pointed out a recent Slate article showing that the Swedish voucher system is a failure. I had one quick look and dismissed the Swedish model outright. It simply is NOT well designed. If you don't implement fundamental principles into it, it just won't work.

This view is further confirmed by a quick extract from a 2011 article, below:

"a system where funding follows the student regardless of their parents’ income. If a school chooses to be part of the voucher system, it has to be all-inclusive, provide national standards and have its performance monitored. And it has no right to charge its students fees beyond the voucher." [Source]

Results are poor – as expected.

A proper design would include key elements outlined in BFN.

The Swedish system is a sham. Don't point to this sham and tell me that the voucher system doesn't work!

First design the system properly and then let's talk.


Haven't reviewed this document but will do so: School vouchers in Sweden by Jan Sjunnesson

Did vouchers cause the decline in Swedish schools? by Tyler Cowen

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Making the government redundant through technology

There are few things which, when property rights are properly allocated, private citizens can't manage themselves. But most of the 'easier wins' in this area have been achieved. The complex ones remain.

For instance, privatisation of roads is possible theoretically, but practically has been very challenging to implement. New land records technologies that permit tiny parcels of land to be registered and traded can allow privatisation of the kerb for bus stops (I've discussed this earlier) but also road lanes. 

Unfortunately, governments will remain reluctant to transfer property rights back to the people even though they can do so (under regulatory control), since governments are a monopoly and suffer an extreme form of inertia.

So what can be done to reduce the role of government? This would involve finding ways to short-circuit government itself. Many public goods/ collective choice problems are coordination and/or reputation management problems that could (with a lot of thinking) be broken down into component parts and resolved technologically. It is these coordination/reputation problems that led to the demand for government in the first place. We can get rid of such demand and help shrink government.



Government provided/managed public transport could become irrelevant as "super-uber" type applications that have mastered identity and reputation management, as well as pricing and auction models, allow thick markets in transport.

This could, for instance, involve algorithms that automatically calculate the best person to hitch a ride, with certified riders and drivers on both sides. I could type into the app that I want to go from A to B – and will pay $5 – and someone who meets the algorithm could get a signal (if he is open to that signal and driving that way), decide he wants an additional $5 and a SAFE rider, and pick me up in one minute, since he was nearby. It would involve linking with GPS and an identity and reputation management system – plus an auction model (so if I'm in a hurry I could offer $10).

[Someone has informed me that such a thing is already in operation: https://www.folksvagn.com/]


This app would allow approved individual teachers to directly (and individually) teach students from across the world (each of whom could change each day, depending on what a person is doing). So if an app agrees to a syllabus and approves thousands of teachers then students could, based on their availability, tap into whichever teacher is teaching at that moment (each teacher being limited to 20 students at a time, say), thereby completing their course work with total flexibility. Payment would be by bitcoin etc. per lecture/tutorial, and approved teachers would also hold course exams on demand (i.e. as mutually convenient). This would eliminate the need for any government role in education, even if the government wants to have a role.

This is different from MOOCs etc. in the sense it is interactive and involves direct teaching by a human. Would be particularly useful for standardised school courses and bachelors degree courses, and would allow voluntary teachers from across the world to teach individual children.


If people can cheaply agree to reliable private justice systems (assisted by technology such as robotics) they could resolve their justice issues (particularly civil matters) without access to the government justice system.


Innovations like Bitcoin can eliminate both banking and central banking. [There are huge risks to Bitcoin at this stage, but I think it does illustrate the general principle].

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Sorry, Modi, you can’t hide Amit Shah’s criminality. Censoring newspapers doesn’t work – any more.

Amit Shah and Modi seem to be working overtime to remove all traces of Amit Shah's criminality. This article published by DNA is no longer available. There is no explanation provided by DNA. The only logical implication is that this article – which was widely shared on social media – was inconvenient for the Modi government, which must have asked DNA to remove it.

But censorship doesn't work today. Thanks to Google. And the internet.

I'm re-publishing the copy retrieved from Google cache.


Thank you, Google!

ORIGINAL URL: http://www.dnaindia.com/analysis/standpoint-a-new-low-in-indian-politics-2000913


The full text below, followed by the image copy. Let there be freedom of the press in India. Already one of the least free countries in the world, Modi wants to make India a basket case.

[Opinion] A new low in Indian politics

Wednesday, 9 July 2014 – 5:11pm IST | Agency: DNA

Late last week, a special CBI court adjourned the bail application of Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter cases, accepting his excuse that he was engaged in political work in New Delhi. Shah, 49, the first serving Home minister of a state to have gone behind bars in a criminal case of murder and conspiracy had a legitimate reason to skip court hearings. He was presiding and taking part in day-long meetings in Delhi with senior RSS leaders and BJP functionaries who were all set to seal his fate as the next BJP President

There is a significant back story to his exemption which did find its way as a small snippet in the media but needs to be brought to light as Shah, the man who waved the magic wand for BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the PM’s confidante and the number two in the government now takes over the reins of the party. Amit Shah had twice in the past sought exemption from personal appearance citing political work, but the then CBI judge JT Utpat had found his excuse inadequate for the court to grant him relief. On June 20, while hearing the application, Utpat allowed the same but made a scathing remark “Everytime you are giving this exemption application without assigning any reason,” he told Shahs counsel. In less than a week, Utpat was transferred to a Pune court before he could preside over Shahs discharge application. Shah managed his way out with a tried and tested formula of transferring judges, practiced brazenly in his home state of Gujarat through his tenure as Home Minister.

As a journalist covering Gujarat extensively since 2005, as someone who exposed Shah’s role in the fake encounters in the state and who can claim to have knowledge of his political trajectory, I would not mince my words in suggesting that by appointing Amit Shah as the president of the party, the BJP has hugely disrespected the law of the land and signalled an all time low for the criminal justice system of India. For the cases against Shah are for crimes so gruesome that the cloak of political astuteness will be too short to cover it.

In its chargesheet filed in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, the CBI which had been investigating the case under the watchful eye of the Supreme Court of India had not just named Shah as one of the key accused and conspirators but also named him as the head of an extortion racket which involved underworld thugs, politicians and businessmen. In its submission before the apex court bench of Justice P Sathasivam and Justice BS Chauhan, the CBI stated that the minister was in cahoots with senior cops from Gujarat including the likes of DG Vanzara and Abhay Chudasama who had been sentenced for cold-blooded murder – concluding that Shah was a hardcore criminal. Shah was also chargesheeted in the murder of Kauser Bi, the wife of Sohrabuddin who according to the official papers was raped, sedated, killed and her body burnt and thrown in a river.

One could have well debated the merits of the CBI chargesheet and read political motives but for the fact that the Supreme court itself gave CBI the sanction to arrest Shah at the same time, coming down harshly on the Gujarat state police investigation led by the then top cop Geeta Johri for going slow and misleading the courts. If the SIT verdict on Narendra Modi’s role in the Gujarat encounters is to be held as the final word, by virtue of it being monitored by the apex court, it is baffling then that Narendra Modi who promised clean and transparent governance to this country and setting up fast track courts to look into cases of criminal charges against politicians has turned a blind eye to Shah’s criminal past.

Shah has been Modi’s confidante since his days as a pracharak in Gujarat and Maharashtra. With Shah's induction on the national scene first as the General Secretary of the BJP and now as the BJP President, Modi has risked his own political image for the sake of his ally and friend who has put to shame the best political pundits and strategists from North India with his shrewd manoeuvring. In the coming days, the party will have to prove its popularity not just in the by-elections of Uttar Pradesh but also in the forthcoming Assembly Elections in three states, the most significant being the battle for Maharashtra. Party insiders have stressed on Maharashtra being a prestige battle for Modi whose party swept the Lok Sabha elections a couple of months ago. Going by the minutes of the internal meetings held between Modi, Shah and senior heads in the BJP and the RSS, the Prime Minister has silenced his detractors in the party who were against Shah's elevation citing his ability to churn out big numbers.

Many in the Gujarat BJP believe that Modi has been under tremendous pressure by Shah to return the favours he has allegedly bestowed on his mentor in the last two decades of their association. It’s a well known fact that during Modi's rebellion against former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel and in his fight with the ex-Home Minister of Gujarat Haren Pandya, it was Shah who stood firmly by Modi's side galvanizing the cadres and leaders in favour of his boss.

As the second in command in the Modi dispensation, the youngest minister in his cabinet who held charge of twelve ministries including the powerful Minister of State for Home, Shah single-handedly thwarted all trouble that came in the way of Modi with his office getting the infamous tag of the “dirty tricks department of the CM”. It was under his tenure as Home Minister that the Gujarat police went on a spree of fake encounters in the state – holding regular press conferences for the media with the bodies of the alleged assassins on display. The officers would claim that the Gujarat CM was under threat from jihadists who were out to assassinate the man who brought back Hindu asmita in Gujarat.

While the chief minister managed to leave unscathed during the investigations of most of the encounters which were later pronounced as fake, Shah found himself listed as the prime accused in three encounters, his role in the other two being probed by the CBI with investigations in the case still on.

Another major dent in Shah's image came with his alleged involvement in the Snoopgate scandal, in which he is heard instructing one of his key lieutenants – IPS officer GL Singhal who was then incharge of the ATS, to carry on surveillance on a young woman. The tapes which were released late last year created a furore after it became obvious that Shah as the Home Minister of the state was using state machinery to snoop on innocent civilians, monitoring their moves. In this particular case, a young woman whose movements, including aspects of her personal life were being reported to the CM on a daily basis.

With such serious criminal charges against him, has Modi denigrated the position of the party president by handing over Shah the reins of the party. Would it now be safe to assume that Prime Minister Narendra Modi acted against the interests of the judiciary by rejecting the nomination of Gopal Subramaniam as a Supreme court judge as he was also the amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case. Ever since the Prime Minister assumed office, ex-CBI directors including Ashwini Kumar and AP Singh who were at the helm of affairs in the CBI during the investigation of the encounters, find themselves being at the receiving end of Shah's wrath. While Kumar has stepped down as governor of Nagaland, AP Singh is reportedly under pressure to step down as member of the UPSC after the Income Tax department served notices to him and his family members in an investigation into alleged tax evasion by meat exporter Moin Qureshi.

These could all well be coincidences if one were to take a larger liberal view of the developments including the transfer of 89-year-old ailing governor of Gujarat Kamla Beniwal, who under her tenure locked horns with Modi and Shah over the appointment of Lokayukta in the state. But even if one were to dismiss these actions against officials, lawyers, judges who played significant roles in the criminal justice process involving Amit Shah as conjectures, will it not be pertinent to suggest that by appointing Shah as the BJP President, Modi has acted in contradiction to his promise of a free and fair government, which will have no space for vindictiveness. Hasn't Modi and the BJP under the guidance of the RSS just made the first attack on the principle of clean governance on the basis of which the party came to power? Prime Minister Narendra Modi needs to answer this one.

Rana Ayyub is a journalist and a writer. She tweets at @RanaAyyub
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the views of dna​.

[click image to view a larger copy]

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A tiny sliver of humanity contributes more than 50 per cent to our progress and wealth. #3

The human capital literature in economics does not have refined studies that distinguish top talent from ordinary talent. The paper I cited here was the first I had come across but it was not an empirical analysis.

Now, the Economist has written about a paper that proves this hypothesis empirically, that top talent matters most.


"It is the skills held by top engineers and entrepreneurs that enables a society to innovate and foster the type of rapid technological progress that characterised the industrial revolution".

(Word version of the Economist article and PDF of the paper). 

All the more reason for India to focus on “upper-tail knowledge” – or ultra-talent.


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