The Human Cost of Zoning in Indian Cities

Read my article The Human Cost Of Zoning on I hope zoning in the third-world gets more attention with essays like this. I am glad that Financial Times, Bryan CaplanTyler Cowen, Alex Tabarrok, ACI Scholarly Blog IndexOrange County Register, FreakonometricsUrbanomics and economist Ajay Shah blogged about this article. Government Of South AustraliaQuartz shared it, and NYU Stern School Of Business’ Urbanization Project, Marron Institute,  and Brandon Fuller tweeted it.

The Niche That She Found

tumblr_me72yeT3W81rlif9vo1_500If Howard Roark were an architect in India, he would have been lynched by the mob. In The Fountainhead, Howard Roark is a kind, gentle man with strong values and principles. But, in a country where humility is considered the fundamental moral virtue, they would have sent this arrogant young man to a lunatic asylum, to see to it that he is salted away for a very long time. He could not have reached them through rational arguments. It is not surprising that the “mystic muck of India” evoked nothing but contempt in Ayn Rand. I do not blame her.

But, for many young Indian men and women, Howard Roark epitomizes individualism and character strength. There are ardent socialists who consider Ayn Rand the greatest novelist in history. Much to the chagrin of their boyfriends, many women want their men to be like Howard Roark. A collegemate once told me, “Women do not know that it is not possible for a man to be Howard Roark. He can only pretend to be Howard Roark. Hell, he can’t even pretend to be Howard Roark.”

As a teenager, whenever I felt depressed, I turned to Gail Wynand for inspiration. Once when I met a girl who has the same cognitive and personality traits of that of mine, she told me that her favorite novelist is Ayn Rand, her favorite novel,The Fountainhead, and her favorite fictional character, Gail Wynand. It is strange. For nearly four decades after the Indian Independence, every aspect of the Indian economy was “planned” and “regulated” by the socialistic state. The economy has become far more liberalized in the past two decades, but India’s is still one of the most controlled economies in the world. Virtually every literate Indian has heard of Karl Marx. Karl Marx’s political views are much closer to the typical Indian’s than Rand’s. Outside the market niche she has found, Ayn Rand is virtually unheard of. Yet, Ayn Rand outsells Karl Marx by sixteen-fold in India. This is in all likelihood an understatement because I first noticed her works when I was a teenager, in a rickety street stall in a small town. Those were pirated copies.  Continue reading “The Niche That She Found”

The Accidental Prime Minister:The Making And Unmaking Of Manmohan Singh

It would be a mistake to think that Manmohan Singh did the best he could. Politicians usually do not. When Baru once sent an SMS to the editors saying the MNREGA was a birthday gift from Manmohan Singh to the people, he was severely reprimanded by Singh. The Congress wanted to maintain that this was Rahul Gandhi’s idea. Sound economists have opposed public work projects for centuries calling it Sisyphism, but Singh was not opposed to that idea. But he wanted to minimize the costs and often reminded his allies that money does not grow on trees. Manmohan Singh was against Arjun Singh’s plan to implement reservations in higher educational institutions, though he was never too expressive about it. Curiously enough, Manmohan Singh claimed credit for the loan waivers issued to farmers, though most economists consider it another dole scheme that would harm the economy.  The PMO has denounced Sanjaya Baru for writing this memoir, misusing his privilege. But that is unfair. Indian government servants rarely write memoirs. They probably want to believe that this is a mark of nobility, but this is often cowardice. Once you have proven your willingness to speak your mind, who will hire you?

Read my review in DNA.

Post Script: The heading was not written by me. What I meant was that it was good that Sanjaya Baru wrote this memoir, because government servants rarely do so. And with all his flaws, Manmohan Singh was a more economically informed Prime Minister than others. It was not an unqualified endorsement of both. I hate politicians as a class.

The Interviews with Tyler Cowen, Avinash Dixit and Cyn-Young Park

Tyler Cowen

Tyler Cowen is one of the greatest minds of our times, and one of the economists who have influenced Bryan Caplan—my favorite living thinker.

Excerpts from the interview I did for Business Standard when he was in Delhi:

“Q. You think that an artist is as much a trader as a businessman, and that the making of a Bollywood movie demands as much talent as that of a Satyajit Ray movie. Many would disagree with that.

A. They should try making a good Bollywood movie. When you make a Bollywood movie, a lot of co-ordination is required. In my view, it is not less of an art than a Satyajit Ray movie. It is harder to make a commercial movie, because the audience has less patience with you.  You really have to grab their attention somehow.

Q. Why do you think that Amartya Sen has done good work in economics, despite the fact that he underestimates the importance of corporations and capitalism in eradicating poverty?

A. I think that he grossly underestimates the importance of corporations and capitalism, but, he has done a lot of good work. His work on missing women is important. His work on development and capabilities is very important. But, when it comes to policy, I think he is often wrong.”

Read the whole interview here: Wal-Mart will help improve agricultural productivity in India: Tyler Cowen

Continue reading “The Interviews with Tyler Cowen, Avinash Dixit and Cyn-Young Park”

The Lies Of The Land

The Cradle

Kerala is the most “socially developed” Indian state. It is also the state where mothers used to tuck their children into bed whispering the punishment for bed-time resistance. All it took to put a baby to sleep was a warning: “I will hand you over to communists.” 

Kerala is yet to go through an Industrial revolution. Yet, Kerala has the highest life expectancy and the lowest rates of malnutrition, and infant and maternal mortality among Indian states. It also has the highest literacy rate. In the United Nation’s Human Development Index, many developed countries are no match for God’s Own Country. Perhaps, it is true that the Harvard researchers who visit Kerala are convinced that this is the pinnacle of civilization.

Some think it to be a paradox. But, many believe that the “Kerala model of development” is a vindication of man’s desire to be placed in a cradle where all his needs are met. Even as a worldview, it feels so good. The security of the cradle, however, is tempting only to a pampered baby who has turned too lazy and difficult. Otherwise, a frown appears on its forehead. But, this is nothing to worry about. The cradle seems to exist and function-precisely because of this.”

Read the whole article in the Open Magazine: Lies Of The Land