Politics without Romance

James Buchanan

“When a Nigerian gifts us his estate over email, we tell him: “Thanks, but no thanks!” We know that there are no such easy solutions to our personal woes. But, when an ex-army truck driver claims that he has found the solution to a nation’s woes, even otherwise sane men think that they have found their Messiah. It feels so good because in politics and religion, people refuse to use their mind.”

“Feel-good policies fail partly because people often forget that politicians, bureaucrats and activists are people too. And people are wolves. Our representatives are also driven by self interest and power lust—at least as much as a businessman is, at least as much as the man on the street is. It is not “common good” or some such noble virtue that motivates them. This is the central theme of Buchanan’s work, and that of public choice literature. Buchanan was a realist.”

“One interesting conclusion of public choice research is that people are willing to be roasted in hell if their betters are to join them. Even when facts lie flatly against them, people hold on to their delusions. But, this is fine. As it is evident by now, Buchanan was a realist. But, even he wanted to believe that at least to an extent, a science exists for providing psychologically satisfying explanations for what happens around us.”

Read my tribute to the Late James Buchanan in Business Standard. 


Merchants Of Policy

Do think-tanks matter?

When I decided to give the job a shot, I had little idea what was in store for me. I had believed that think-tanks engage in research and policy advocacy. But it was not easy to miss that my colleagues were incapable of giving the world anything more than their mindless labour. I remember two new recruits wondering what a ‘think-tank’ was, struggling to spell the word. It took a while for them to come to grips with the various nuances of Google search. A young girl had a difficult time telling ‘international economics’ from ‘environmental science’. Another girl had a Master’s degree in mass communication, but did not know what the word ‘molestation’ meant. They badly wanted to improve their writing skills, but even the tycoons of mass market fiction were beyond them. The think-tank head spent much of his time flying across the world. And my modest salary cheque often arrived months later.

Read the full article in the Open Magazine: Merchants Of Policy