India! I dare you to be rich

Category Archive: Public policy

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:]


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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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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“Why the IAS should pack up and go” – a booklet for free download

A batchmate recently wrote to me:

While I agree with most of your views and understand where you are coming from  are you not too harsh on the IAS?  There are as you agree many great individuals- honest, dedicated, hardworking- but for some reason the bureaucracy is failing collectively. Is it is only to do with one particular service, or it is reflection of the society as a whole- its value system, its attitudes and what it prioritizes? Are we not the product of the same society- so to expect that just because one has cracked any particular exam one would be very different from the norm is expecting too much. 

I have many (many!) issues with the IAS/ tenured services. Without understanding them it will be hard, if not impossible for someone to follow what I'm suggesting.

Therefore, in response I've compiled my writings on this subject to date (at least most of them – I keep writing on such matters in numerous places and don't have time to compile all such material).

I hope these writings are able to answer my batchmate's question and persuade him that India DESERVES GOOD GOVERNANCE. We simply can't keep doing what we did 65 years ago and expect different results. This is not about the PEOPLE in the IAS. That too (particularly after a point in their career), but it is mainly about the SYSTEM and incentives. People respond to incentives.


(This is a Microsoft Word version stored on Onedrive. Also available from the right-hand bar of this blog)

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Hindus agree that the buffalo is not sacred. Let there be a “EAT BUFFALO FOR HEALTH” movement in India.

I've discovered an interesting fact – that even the most fanatic supporters of the "sacred cow" hypothesis (it is a false hypothesis, but that's a different point) have nothing to say about the buffalo.

The buffalo is not "sacred" in India, or is just as "sacred" as a chicken. [Also this]

As a blog notes, "all the northern states have buffaloes now. Farmers have accept it because of clear increase in demand for buffalo milk and meat. There is no sentimental attachment to a buffalo" [Source]

Not only is the buffalo not considered sacred, it is sacrificed EVEN TODAY in many temples in Hindu India, like a chicken or goat may be sacrificed. (In the past even barren cows and bulls were so sacrificed, but that's not relevant to the point I have to make.)


From India Today – photograph of a temple from the outskirts of Guwahati

Kamakhya temple has buffalo sacrifice (Youtube). “Almost three to four  buffaloes are sacrificed at Kamakhya every month and dozens of them are slaughtered during Durga Puja festivities.” [Source]


There are regular sacrifices of buffaloes in some temples in Kerala, and there is massive consumption of buffalo/ cattle meat in Kerala.


Nepal, a purely Hindu kingdom, holds massive ceremonious slaughter of buffaloes.

The point I wish to make

I have no interest in people's personal food choices but it is clear that:

a) Regardless of the veneration (or otherwise) of the cow in India, the buffalo is NOT so venerated TODAY. (In the past only the MILCH COW was so "venerated", not barren/bull).

b) Significant HINDU populations in India (and Hindu Nepal) regularly consume buffalo meat.

c) India is forced to export its buffalo beef to the rest of the world since domestic consumption is very sporadic and poor.

d) India has THE highest rate of malnutrition among children in the world. There is massive protein deficiency.

I also don't like the idea of animal sacrifice (although I don't wish to dabble in people's religious beliefs). I prefer humane slaughter in proper abattoirs. Animals must be treated humanely. There is no excuse to treat them badly – even as food.

Solution: Let there be a EAT BUFFALO FOR HEALTH MOVEMENT in India which will lead to a new industry, improve the buffalo stock, and improve the nutritional status of our children.

A win-win for everyone. Without firing up the mad Hindutva fanatics who are determined to make India as backward as they possibly can.


“There has been a huge demand for Indian buffalo meat in China" [Source]. What's the point of this – when our own children are badly nourished, we are making China healther?

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