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Don’t worry about inequality

If people are totally free, the most talented (and lucky) will get far richer than the dullest and unluckiest. So, freedom will create inequality. Communist countries aimed for equality of outcome through totalitarian controls, but this was hypocrisy: there was no equality of power between those laying down the rules and those forced to obey. More >

Osama’s death may end bloom of Arab Spring

I did not celebrate Osama bin Laden’s death. Killing an individual is easier than killing an idea. Osama’s idea of jihad survives his death. He was the mastermind of 9/11 and the most iconic jihadi figure. Yet he had long ceased to direct jihadi movements and had run foul of some by killing Muslims opposed More >

Why the poor want to stay very poor on paper

Poverty has declined from 37.2% in 2004-05 to 32% in 2009-10, according to preliminary Planning Commission estimates based on consumption surveys of the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO). Some welcome the news; others complain that fast growth has not reduced poverty fast enough. Still others, notably economist Surjit Bhalla, pour scorn on the data, and More >

Lokpal not enough, we need radical reform

I wondered in this column some years ago why top businessmen were frequently prosecuted and convicted in the US but not in India. Answer: crooked politicians had mangled the police-judicial system such that it could never convict them beyond all appeals, and obviously such a moribund system could not convict crooked businessmen either. Solution: only More >

Poor states reap big demographic dividend

Poor states reap big demographic dividend Many have celebrated the census revelation that Indias population increased only 17.64% in the last decade, down from 21.54% the previous decade. Yet, the best news relates to kids aged 0-6.Their numbers have actually fallen 3.08%. Fewer children translate into a demographic dividend that will send per capita income More >

Literacy improves fastest in poorest states

The census has good news on literacy. This explodes leftist claims that economic reforms have benefited only elites while bypassing the poor, and that social improvements have slowed, not accelerated, after 1991. Literacy is a not an elite benefit. It benefits those at the social bottom, giving them dignity, status and income potential. The census More >

Famous Populist, Secret Liberaliser

There is no contradiction between accelerating economic growth, being fiscally prudent and showering welfarist handouts to woo voters. An excellent example is documented in The Economic Freedom of the States of India 2011, brought out last month by the Friedrich Naumann Institute and Cato Institute. It shows that under Y S Rajashekhara Reddy (or YSR), More >

Fast breeder reactors are the least safe

Nuclear safety has become a top priority after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Safety at all Indian plants is being reviewed, and coastal reactors may be built on higher ground for tsunami protection. Critics have objected to unproven French reactors for the Jaitapur nuclear power complex. Yet critics and agitators are ignoring the biggest More >

Forget WikiLeaks, codify House privileges

WikiLeaks continues to amuse rather than enlighten us. The latest leaks took us back to the cash-for-votes scandal of 2008, when the Congress and allies desperately sought the support of small parties to survive a confidence vote after the Indo-US nuclear deal. At that time, BJP MPs displayed huge stacks of currency allegedly offered by More >

Freedom means faster growth

How do we measure economic freedom, and how relevant is it for economic growth? Some answers come from Economic Freedom of the States of India 2011, a report just brought out by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, Cato Institute and Indicus Analytics. The report shows that measuring economic freedom at the state level is a difficult More >

Cash transfers are a good idea but hasten slowly

The finance minister’s Budget speech proposed a radical change in subsidies: instead of trying (and failing) to provide subsidized goods to the needy, the government would provide cash transfers. This would cut leakages in subsidies, which former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi estimated at 85% of outlays. By June, a task force headed by Nandan Nilekani More >

Budget 2011: A tie between deficit and growth

In response, the Sensex initially jumped nearly 600 points, but handed back much of the gains after investors realised some of the Budget’s projections were based on statistical revisions and future optimism rather than fiscal stringency. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Budget lacks tax pyrotechnics, yet it reveals a remarkably improved fiscal position and a conceptual More >

Gulf: Rising Shias, uneasy Sunnis

Indians are rightly excited by the jasmine revolution that has overthrown autocracies in Tunisia and Egypt, and may oust Muammar Gaddafi in Libya too. They hope that the jasmine revolution will spread to the rest of the Middle East, bringing some sort of democracy throughout the region. However, there is one huge difference between North More >

Dump opium in Afghanistan, bankrupt Taliban

One reason for the Taliban’s resilience in Afghanistan is the big money they make from the opium trade. Attempts to cut off external financing for the Taliban have failed since it generates so much money within the country. The US has tried destroying the poppy crop. It has tried to use friendly mullahs to denounce More >

Middle East’s uncertain democracy

Excitement over the revolution in Egypt is tempered with worries that old autocrats will be replaced by new ones. The Middle East has no tradition of democratic institutions. Why so? There are many reasons, but we will focus on the shallowness of the Middle East’s colonisation. Britain and France directly ruled colonies in Asia and More >