Monday, July 9, 2012

Merchants of Policy

That the post of this title is a long way walk.

I buddy of mine landed in city. After works, I had a long walk today. Probably we might have walked for not less than 12-15 km. All in a single park! The conversation between the steps in walk was pleasant and so the walk was so long then expected.

The conversation was not about politics or economics or who gets elected as next president. But it is all about the good writer versus bad writers in the world and at home in India.

This buddy of mine had a experiences which is of different sort in a developing society like India.

Here is a piece wherein he describes his journalism career. The case in point is compelling to read and ponder how bold is the buddy.

  • "I saw one charlatan after another coming to my apartment on various pretexts. The accountant who believed that siphoning off funds is an acceptable norm begged that he should be spared. The chairman and funding organisations refused to look into the evidence, despite my persistence. But there was not one person who was willing to give me a written disagreement. The German foundation funding the think-tank thanked me for the information, but hiked the funding generously the next session. Though few think-tanks are above swindling their donors, this is rarely necessary. In many cases, the ‘illicit relationship’ is mutually beneficial as the funds are often the hapless taxpayer’s.
  • There was an underlying rationality to all this irrationality. When a young anarchist friend pointed his finger at the tax amount on the bill at a coffee shop in South Delhi and said, “I really hate this, but my salary cheque comes from here,” I felt it perfectly illustrated a fundamental problem associated with the think-tank industry. He had just joined a government think-tank that did empirical research. But he did not believe in empirical research or mathematical modelling. He loathed the tax collector. I gathered that he was slightly embarrassed about the whole affair. Wasteful spending in the name of noble intentions is bad enough, but what if the intentions were not noble in the first place?
  • There are many who do not share the embarrassment, and lean on the cowardly excuse that it is hard to be honest while working on policy matters. A think-tank president had once confided to this young man and another intern that his innermost convictions contradicted his organisation’s open agenda. Not long back, I read the experience of an author who lectured at this organisation’s seminars. The think-tank long owed him some money, but the president was not willing to reply to his mails. What differentiates many of them from outright criminals is the respectability in the perception of simple-minded men."

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