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 Anatomy Of Greatness

“Robert Greene thinks intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy. A sensible man would regard this “insight” somewhat suspiciously, because intelligence is also his greatest strength. But Mr Greene can say in his defence that he understands people really well. When he writes about the faults and foibles of little people, he does it with the authority of the highest level of scholarship. His erudition would put most academics to shame.”

“As much as he understands people, Mr Greene ignores some elementary facts of human nature. He claims that talent is not inborn, nor it is a product of privilege. But one is confronted by an embarrassing fact: “Success often runs in families.” This cannot be explained away by the claim that talent is a matter of practice or will. Unfortunately for Mr Greene, you cannot have it both ways. Geneticists had long established that many of our differences are innate. Perseverance cannot explain why Steve Jobs thought that his products were a fusion of scientific and liberal arts thinking, and why a designer I once worked with could not spell “Cleopatra”.”

“Another important truth is that most people are conformists. They do not want to achieve mastery by breaking free from all precedents and traditions. Even when they convince themselves that they are being rebellious, they are just replacing one form of conformism with another. There are perhaps people who attempt to go against the tide, but when push comes to shove, they will be back to where they were. Our society punishes non-conformism, and this is beyond reform because conformism is essential for a division-of-labour society. But it is possible that that introspection failed Mr Greene. Before he wrote his vastly popular books on power and strategy, Robert Greene had 80 different jobs. In the longest job he ever had, he lasted 10 months.”

 Read my review of Robert Greene’s Mastery in Business Standard