Thoughts on economics and liberty

It doesn’t matter if IITians enter the IAS. The issue is the quality of India’s governance system.

I operate a google group with around 100 retired IAS officers from batches much older than mine. In that group someone shared this article:


In my view, the best talent of society must enter politics. The second best must enter senior management in government. The rest of society can manage with other talent – which is specialised in some skill or craft. The job of the highest level of talent is to create systems of flourishing for the rest of society. It involves a high level grasp of philosophy, systems, and human rights.

It is possible that some IITians might have become too specialised for the kind of high level thinking required in the IAS. But from my experience, that’s not been the case. These officers were as good or bad as others in terms of grasping high level concepts and philosophy.

The fact that a few IITians enter the IAS is therefore irrelevant to India. The issue is the quality of our governance system as a whole – which makes these (and all other) brilliant officers underperform. Our governance system is long overdue for reform, as I’ve been arguing now for over two decades. For instance, the kind of wisdom you see in LKW’s books and speeches is at a level never seen from any IAS officer or politician. Our system creates second-raters out of first-rate people (and no amount of training at the Academy can help).

That’s the kind of discussion I’d like to have in the public arena – particularly while I’m here in India for a few more months. The IAS as a whole is squarely responsible for providing atrocious advice to politicians during the covid pandemic. There was no wisdom, no sense of proportion, no concern for human rights during this response. That’s the biggest issue facing us.

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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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