India! I dare you to be rich

Category Archive: Public policy

Milton Friedman’s video lessons on economics and public policy – for those concerned about the welfare of humanity

I've read Friedman sporadically but nothing beats listening to him directly. I'm delighted at the good number of video snippets from Friedman's talks that are sprouting on the internet. This post (a placeholder) is an attempt compile a few of them.

Negative Income Tax

Minimum Wages

Equal pay laws

Anti-dumping laws

Role of government in a free society

Free trade

Regulatory tradeoffs, free choice, cost benefit and risk

More on the dangers of unthinking regulation that doesn't take into account all consequences

Freedom of speech

Classical liberalism and role of the government

Why economic equality leads to coercion and neither freedom nor equality

How prohibitions on "immoral behaviour" make these things more profitable

Market failure, sure, but don't jump to government solutions, for there is government failure


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There is no way any “leftist” can be feminist. Feminism is necessarily a (classical) liberal idea.

I've been asked a question by email:

Feminism in US has been talking about "equality" all the time for the past 50 years. Is this equality different in some ways from the equality we talk about in socialism ? Because what they are saying is "average income of groupA should be equal to average income of groupB". Otherwise it is injustice.   One Indian feminist wrote something about it here –   Opinion ?


I'm not an expert on feminism. I've only tangentially read the work of its leaders. To me the main struggle is for women's equal status (unlike socialism, which is a demand for economic equality). Btw, a demand for equal pay for equal work is quite different from equal pay for unequal work (socialism). 

I've briefly reviewed the history of women's emancipation here: Classical liberals like JS Mill played a significant role in this emancipation. Every single classical liberal has and will fight for the rights and liberty of ALL humans, including men, women, trans-sexuals, children, everyone.

Without knowing much about it, I'd hazard a view that feminism is a byproduct of classical liberalism. It never exist in pre-capitalist societies nor (I think) in any communist (i.e. foundationally socialist) society, such as USSR/ Mao's China. As women started receiving high quality education in the West (based on the efforts of classical liberals) they started questioning the status-quo. 

The author of the article you cite has framed the issue under 'left-wing – right-wing' categories. In my view, the issue is best framed under the 'free-unfree' dichotomy. The classical liberal is not a conservative ('right wing'), so I dislike being counted as part of the 'right-wing' .   

One can't be "left-wing" and "feminist" since that implies that one can be free in one thing (right to equality of status) but not in another (right to work/ trade). I published my exchange with that half-baked leftist 'feminist' Kavita Krishnan here: She is hopelessly inconsistent, incapable of thinking deeply about what she says. And she won't care to debate when her views are shown up as confused/ illogical. 

I believe all humans must be treated equally under the law and should be free to bargain and achieve their goals in the market. The law can't discriminate in any way (including through 'affirmative action') in favour or against of any particular group (including women).   Second part: Why does the market not pay 100 per cent of men's wages to women in all cases? That's a research project I don't have time for, but it requires solid controls, to isolate the truth.

This idea has no theoretical foundations (hence such claims are questionable). The idea that there are highly talented but underpaid women in the West is fundamentally untenable. If that was the case, anybody (including any woman entrepreneur – and there are plenty of them) could head-hunt them at higher rates, achieving massive profits for themselves.

Imagine if a woman's marginal product is $100 per hour but she is paid $83. Not only could she start off her own business to fully capture her product, but someone else (including a woman entrepreneur) could pay her $86 and keep the profit. That's a lot of value to arbitrage. $17 per hour sitting untapped. Of course, someone else would then re-grab this talented but (still) underpaid woman and pay her $90, say, … and so on till she was paid her marginal product.

That's what happens in a free market. It is hard – indeed ridiculous – to suggest that people aren't paid their marginal product in a free competitive market. It is therefore hard (if not impossible) to argue for the existence of systematic bias against women in free societies, particularly modern Western societies.    There are a LOT of stupid and shoddy studies that exist in the field of social science and I'd be loathe to 'believe' them. Logically it is impossible to argue that there is a systematic bias against women in a free market. 


Chanced upon this video by Milton Friedman who makes the same point I do – but far more clearly, and shows why equal pay laws HARM women.


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The brilliant Ajit Varadaraj Pai. How I wish we had even one such forthright person in India.

I chanced upon this article in Reason. Do read it and watch the entire video. 

I'm merely providing 2 minutes from it below, which says things as clearly as I'd want anyone to say. Ajit Pai is one of the most brilliant thinkers I've come across. In just 30 minutes of listening to him, I know he is a true leader.


Do read my compilation of articles here.


Why Net Neutrality Regulations Should Concern You

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Millions of Indian women need URGENT support for safe menstruation. Kudos to Anshu Gupta for raising this issue.

I had a major blind spot till today – till I came across Anshu Gupta's video – below.

Please watch this fully (only 4 minutes) and then read the rest of this post. You won't get the point of this post till you listen to this talk.

Now for how did I come to this video?

A few days ago 18-year-old Anisha Bhavnani – younger than my daughter – wrote an article that I shared on my FB page. It focused on the useless taboo in India about menstruating women not being able to enter temples. Fortunately her mother doesn't think so. Which is why, I suppose, Anisha had the "guts" to write about this issue.

When I wrote against this utterly useless taboo on FB, someone objected vigorously. Anyway, I moved on.

Today I received this email:

Dear Sanjeev,
It has been brought to my attention that you (among others), are not very well informed about menstruation and why Hindus have a problem with women entering temples during that time. You think you are very advanced and modern and more educated than the ancient Hindus. Well, since it appears that your wife must not have told you this and maybe you never studied it at school, let me tell you that in simple terms, menstruation involves a lot a waste, dead matter, something similar to shit. And since you would not carry shit around with you to a temple (hopefully you will know why), similarly women should not 'carry' their waste matter to a temple.
Temples and kitchens were considered very important. Kitchens because the food cooked had to be Sattvic ( I shall not go into a detailed explanation of satvic. Try the internet). Temples too were meant for satvic bhakti vibes. True bhaktas were also empaths and wrong vibes adversely affected their bhakti. The original temple stones also had strong ions to aid satvic bhakti vibes.
Also, PMS is an issue for most women. This affects their mental health and they would prefer to rest.
Now, that temples are so crowded and kitchens and other living areas are so cramped not to mention other drastic changes, it may appear as if such customs are useless. But in theory they are not useless. And regardless of bhakti/satvic vibes, would anyone feel comfortable praying next to someone who may be carrying around a pile of shit on her? It is not the woman who is considered impure per se. Just because some people may not know how to express themselves properly does not mean you have to put everything down. People like you just exhibit your ignorance, wash dirty linen in public, and then when some white people applaud you for your disloyalty and idiocy, you start feeling very proud.
SHAME ON YOU. As an adult shouldn't you know better than to throw the baby and the bath water?
Today it is necessary to assess and understand each custom and ritual rationaly and then decided what to keep and what not to follow. Plus how often do people like you go to a temple anyways? You don't even care so why don't you just mind your own business?
Hari AUM

I posted this on FB and received a comment which directed me to this website.

And from there I've discovered Anshu Gupta, the founder of Goonj.

I had heard about Goonj before but never knew the details. Now I know. And I am very proud to discover a TRUE FIGHTER FOR WOMEN'S RIGHTS. Nothing can be more important than acting to overcome all preventable barriers to the health of Indian women.

In India they say the woman is the mother and Goddess. The way the treat women, though, doesn't sound much like treating a Goddess. Let this taboo against menstruation be urgently broken. Please support Anshu.

Anshu, you are a genuinely good man. You have educated not just thousands (millions?) of women, you have enlightened me, educated me. I wasn't aware that this is such a FUNDAMENTAL problem in India's villages. 

I've travelled and worked in hundreds of villages – but on economic livelihood projects, not on such basis social issues. I've known Aruna Roy for a very long time and heard her talk many times. But not once did she raise this issue. And she lives in villages. Even Aruna Roy missed this fundamental social problem.

Hats off to you, Anshu. I will now study more and raise awareness about this issue at every opportunity. 

THERE IS NOTHING SHAMEFUL ABOUT NATURAL PROCESSES. IT IS BECAUSE OF MENSTRUATION THAT WE EXIST. It is nature's way of clearning "used" tissue after each unused egg cycle and creating fresh tissue for the birth of a child. Each child deserves brand new tissue on which to grow. That's what menstruation is: preparing a woman for the next child. What could be more miraculous than this.

The woman is a Goddess, but the Goddess has certain needs. Please help fund Goonj and similar efforts to get each Indian women sufficient supply of sanitary napkins.

When an egg (out of a woman's 400 odd eggs) matures it reaches the fallopian tube (btw, I remember this vividly from 40 years ago – from my biology textbooks, but it is time to provide more accurate biological refresher for everyone, including myself. Over to google search).


I think this is a good enough video to explain mensuration. Unfortunately I can't embed it, so you'll have to visit youtube:

Once again, join me in commending Anshu Gupta's work. Well done, young man. 



औरतों की माहवारीः कब तक जारी रहेगी शर्म?

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Delhi’s population: 25 million. Party agenda = 12 pages. Melbourne’s population 4 m. Party agenda: 225 pages

I noted earlier today (on FB) that India is an immature democracy. People don’t ask basic questions about what their government should do.

And here’s what gives it all away: the quality and length of the manifestos of India’s political parties.

Delhi, with a population of 25 million (source) had two main competing parties in the recent elections. BJP produced a 28 page ‘vision’. AAP produced a 12 page ‘plan’.

Compared with this, Victoria has a population of 5.7 million (Melbourne being around 4 million). The agendas of the Labor Party are over 225 pages in length, and of a very high quality (some of them have extensive citations of underlying research).

Download these agenda to understand how a serious democracy works (as opposed to an immature democracy like India). More agenda are available on the ALP website.

PLUS there were detailed costings (many other detailed costings are available separately)

The Sone Ki Chidiya agenda is currently an outline agenda (of around 100 pages). As detailed policies are developed over the coming years, I expect the complete liberal package for India to come to around 1000 pages in all.

If Indians are going to continue to avoid serious politics, India is doomed to a low level of achievement.

Serious democracy requires serious thinking and serious policy work.

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Fundamental design flaws in the Modi government’s mining ordinance #2

The report regarding auctions of coal is positive. This is consistent with good policy – where reserves are proven.

However, all flaws I have identified here, remain.

In particular, a CRITICAL flaw is that the ordinance (s.12A) only allows the transfer of licences obtained through auction. That means EXISTING rights holders can't transfer their rights. As I noted in my previous blog post, FULL tradeability of the mining lease is absolutely critical.

I chanced upon an observation by the Indian Supreme court in Special Reference 1 of 2012 (download here):

130. A fortiori, besides legal logic, mandatory auction may be contrary to economic logic as well. Different resources may require different treatment. Very often, exploration and exploitation contracts are bundled together due to the requirement of heavy capital in the discovery of natural resources. A concern would risk undertaking such exploration and incur heavy costs only if it was assured utilization of the resource discovered; a prudent business venture, would not like to incur the high costs involved in exploration activities and then compete for that resource in an open auction. The logic is similar to that applied in patents. Firms are given incentives to invest in research and development with the promise of exclusive access to the market for the sale of that invention. Such an approach is economically and legally sound and sometimes necessary to spur research and development. Similarly, bundling exploration and exploitation contracts may be necessary to spur growth in a specific industry.

This more or less summarises my position and the economically correct position on such issues.

The ordinance must be amended to address the problems I've pointed out, and aim to achieve world-best practice policy outcomes, not some obtuse outcomes that may be useful for certain types of auctions but choke the bulk of the mining and exploration industry.

Moreover this policy is effectively retrospective. Retrospective law is the worst possible kind of law. Companies that invested in the past to explore minerals would have done so on the understanding that they would (if they so chose) be able to sell this right.

The policy is a serious mess. This should be fixed asap 

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