Sanjeev Sabhlok's blog

Thoughts on economics and liberty

Modi uses my copy of the Emergency newspaper cutting – pretty weird

Modi issued half page ads in newspapers yesterday. Prominently featured in the ad was the scanned copy of the front page of a newspaper of that day that I had kept with me at the end of Class X. I was in Hyderabad when the Emergency was declared. We moved to Jullundur just a few days later – from where I completed school in April 1976.

I’m referring to the copy of the front page of Indian Herald that I had kept with me:

I still have the original hardcopy in one of my old folders.

What is surprising is that this truly minor and non-descript newspaper – Indian Herald – was used by Modi in his ad. Someone clearly avoided work to find a more representative newspaper of that day, such as Times of India or other such major newspaper.

Or is my copy the only one left in the world today that reminds us of the declaration of the Emergency? – Then this piece of paper must be protected and enshrined in some national archive.


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The miserable economics education of Indian Administrative Service officials

A so-called economist who doesn’t understand economics can obviously never explain economics to the people.

We had professors of economics at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussoorie in 1982-84, who failed to teach the most basic concepts about the market and the price system. That’s because they did not understand these ideas themselves.

When the Haileybury college began in the early 1800s, to teach the writers of the East India company, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations was one of the key textbooks used. By the time socialist Nehru had gained power and corrupted the basic teaching of economics in India, the training of civil servants of India had deteriorated to the most deplorable levels, possible.

I was taught under these circumstances in 1982-1984, by gross incompetents.

Sadly even the academic courses in India in the 1980s were extremely poor. And so my Masters Degree in economics of 1986 from Panjab University did not help me, either.

It has been a very long journey to understand the basics of economics. I wish I had the knowledge I have today about economics, when I began my civil service career.

Fake economists are the bane of India. I can’t name anyone who understands economics sufficiently to inform good public policy including the design of governance.

Yes, Atindra Sen had come in by 1994 as a faculty member on the Academy. That was an excellent improvement, but I unfortunately the overall tenor of the Academy remained socialist. There was no way IAS officers were going to be educated in basic principles of the market.

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Modern economics begins with Hayek, who made the invisible hand visible

Adam Smith identified the invisible hand but had no idea how it works. People like Marx then went off on a complete tangent using the labour theory of value.

Menger, Jevons and Walras demolished the labour theory of value in the 1860s and 1870s. They were getting close enough but still did not understand how the invisible hand works.

It was only through Hayke’s 1945 paper, The Use of Knowledge in Society that we began to see how the invisible hand actually works. Hayek made the invisible hand visible.

Economics should be dated from 1945. Prior to that it was proto-economics – merely the seed of economics. Without understanding information that informs the “invisible hand”, it is not really possible to be an economist.

(Btw, I was the first to publish Hayek’s paper on the internet).

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From economics to action – my 1999 draft paper – to be completed one day

While completing my doctoral studies I started writing this paper for potential publication in some academic journal. Due to extreme RSI the paper never got completed. Note that I not only had extreme RSI from around end-1998 due to intensive typing for India Policy Institute, but also had to complete my dissertation by April 1999 and defend and submit it for approval. I also was given the privilege of being the only student from my batch of PhD students to teach a formal intermediate economics course. And yes, at the same time, World Bank also gave me a consulting project for a study they were conducting. Despite the most amazing pain, I continued to bang on, on the computer.

I’m publishing the original 1999 version – which was a preliminary draft – here – unchanged.

But I’ve also taken this version into Onedrive here – where I’ll edit it over the coming months/ years in an attempt to finish it.

The paper underpins my belief that the findings of economics are effectively worthless unless it is used in daily life. In that sense it is just like science: it need to be APPLIED in our daily lives.

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