December 6, 2005Economy

All the reforms the government can get away with

Common Maximum Programmes, whatever they are called.

This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.

Amit Varma is right. Ravikiran Rao’s post on why we reformed what we did is excellent.

If you want to test out the efficacy of a drug, you split a population into two, give one of them the drug and the other a placebo. If the group that receives the drug improves and the control group that received the placebo does not improve, we know that the drug makes a difference.

You cannot take the drug’s lack of effect on the control group to claim that it isn’t effective, can you? But that is exactly what I’ve been hearing for the past ten years that I’ve been following this debate. It is bad enough that we are conducting this cruel experiment - where the rich and the middle-class are administered the medication while the poor are given the placebo. What is worse is that we’ve been ignoring the results of those experiments on the ground that the supporters of these experiments wear supercilious smiles on their faces…

We get the reforms that the government can get away with. If anyone tried to liberalize the product market, they’d face the unions, the “small scale” industrialists, the communist parties in a shameful alliance with them, and the conscience of an entire nation that still feels guilty about abandoning Gandhianism. [IEB]The most pernicious manifestation of stealth-mode reforms is the monstrosity called the common minimum programme, which itself is a misnomer. Because the agenda of recent Indian governments has been based on the lowest common denominator of allies and partners, progress on any meaningful reform process is circumscribed. The correct term for coalition manifesto is common maximum programme. That too, maximum not in what it will deliver, but maximum that it will attempt.

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