10 July 2008

Group Appeasement vs Individual

Around two years ago, in some small village in Northern India, a 6 year old child, named Prince, fell into an open empty borewell. As the borewell wasn't very deep, he survived the fall with minor injuries, but safe at the bottom. This event would have gone unnoticed and uncared for had it not been for a news-starved and a low-on-trp television channel. The rescue effort to get the kid out of the borewell was aired live on the channel for the whole day.

As the day progressed, and the rescue was getting delayed due to various reasons, the live-program on television got more and more viewership and in a matter of hours became a national sensation. This might have been left out as a small abberation or an example of the effect of mass communications in public life and closed the chapter. But that is not to be so. Seeing such popularity for the show, a few politicians showed up at the scene of rescue, and bashed up the poor police for their lack of sensitivity to the issue and delaying the rescue. The icing of the cake came when a local MLA declared that the kid would get Rs.1 lakh in compensation and free education till school.

This is exactly the misfortune of our governmental policies. An MLA gives Rs.1 lakh (that is not his) to a kid for falling into a borewell. For what is government compensating the kid? What if other kids take the example and start jumping into borewells. Do we compensate every one of them? Who's money was the MLA donating anyway? Do we suppose that an MLA can exhibit his sensitivity to such issues at the expense of tax-payers. This is not very different from the Kings we had a few centuries ago, where if the King was pleased he could graciously give any amount to anybody. The only difference here is a politician would give any amount to anybody,
as long as feels that the public is pleased with it, or he should manipulate the public to get pleased at his donations. That is the rule of the game, and a very dangerous one at that. A lot of government policies are just that. They are aimed at pleasing the public at large.

Milton Fredman, the nobel prize winning economist, once said, Our policies should be measured not by intentions but by the results they achieve.

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