Thursday, January 31, 2008

Democracy is very bad at fine-tuning the details of economic policy

I believe that we should revere democracy as one of the modern world's greatest achievements...That all said, we should not demand from democracy what democracy cannot provide.
Democracy is pretty good at pushing scoundrels out of office, or checking them once they are in office. Democracy is also good at making sure enough interest groups are bought off so that social order may continue and that a broad if sometimes inane social consensus can be manufactured and maintained. We should expect all those things of democracy and indeed democracy can, for the most part, deliver them.
But democracy is very bad at fine-tuning the details of economic policy. Democracy is very bad at bringing about political solutions which are not congruent with the other sources of economic and social influence in a country. The solution is not to be less democratic, but rather to appreciate democracy for what it is good for. And the excesses of democracy should be fought with ideas, albeit with the realization that not everyone will be convinced. Those are the breaks, as democracy needs all the friends it can get...
Social democrats and progressives often view democracy as a potential instrument of control, and as a way of giving us "the best policies." I do not, and that includes for my own economic views as well. Here is Matt Yglesias on libertarianism and democracy. Here is a Hilton Root review of the new Michael Mandelbaum book praising democracy.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Lust for power, fame, and the tawdry glory

Nature of the Politician from Cafe Hayek by Donald J. Boudreaux
Behind all the soaring (if vacuous) rhetoric, all the shamelessly Janus-faced pandering, and all the sleazy campaign tactics lies one motive: each candidate's lust for power, fame, and the tawdry glory that comes with high political office. Make no mistake: while pretending to tug for my heart, these candidates really are tugging for my freedoms and my wallet.
Ignore the rhetoric and follow the money from ~C4Chaos by ~C4Chaos
If you're a regular reader of this blog it's no secret to you that I've been following the 2008 Presidential election very closely.
But here's a confession. I despise politics. I grew up in a developing nation where politics is an open charade and corruption in government is the norm.
When I moved to the U.S. I was impressed by the "civility" and "sophistication" of the political system along with the intellect and educational level of politicians. However, the longer I look and the more I see, I've come to realize that it's the same dirty corrupt politics I was running away from. In fact, due to the superpower status of United States, its corrupt politics is worse and more globally destructive than that of a developing South East Asian nation. So why am I following this election? Well, let me put it this way. I'm not a big football fan but I get ecstatic watching a close match during the Super Bowl.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Democracy not only permits dissent but raises it to a place of honour

SWAMINOMICS Democracy depends on the unelected STOI 27 Jan 2008, Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar
Republic Day, January 26, celebrates the day India became a democracy with a written Constitution. Indians are proud of their democracy. Yet, they view politicians who win democratic elections as knaves and thieves. What a paradox!
The institutions that command the most respect are the Supreme Court, Election Commission and Army. All three are unelected. We have little respect for the elected and immense respect for some who are not. Why?
Because democracy means much more than elections. Dictators across the world hold elections and make quite sure they win. Enver Hoxha, former communist head of Albania, was outraged when he got only 99.9% of the vote, and not 99.99% he expected. Across swathes of the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa today, you get elections but not democracy. The fundamental mark of a democracy is not elections but an institutional framework that lays down the rights of the people and rules of political engagement, and cannot be trampled on by the ruling government. The framework is typically a Constitution. In many countries, Constitutions are mere pieces of paper, ignored by rulers.
In a true democracy like India, the Constitution is actually enforced. So, democracy stands on two pillars. One is Constitutional democracy, which lays down the rules of political engagement. The second pillar is popular democracy, which elects politicians. Popular democracy dominates our attention. Yet, Constitutional democracy is more important. Popular democracy empowers majority groups. But Constitutional democracy protects minorities, and that is crucial. The Bilkis case is an example of Constitutional democracy enabling a fair trial being denied by popular democracy embodied in the Modi government.
Majority rule does not guarantee equality before the law. The Constitution does. Popular democracy empowers the majority. Yet, democracy is critically about the right to dissent and make life difficult for the ruling majority. Historically, dissent was equated with treason - you could be beheaded for daring to oppose the ruler. But democracy not only permits dissent but raises it to a place of honour. The leader of the Opposition is not merely a dissenter, he is potentially a future prime minister. That is why he is given Cabinet rank. Constitutional democracy nurtures dissent, which elected politicians would dearly love to squash if they could. Left to themselves, politicians would place no voluntary limits on their powers.
The Constitution erects a series of checks and balances to ensure that elected politicians do not become a law unto themselves. It creates institutions - such as the Supreme Court and Election Commission - to limit abuse of political power. Politicians know how fleeting power can be. So, they seek to create patronage networks and make money while they can. They create vote-banks by catering to the narrow interest of some groups, rather than aim for the national interest. Left to themselves, they would convert the entire economy into a series of vote-bank enclaves. Fortunately, the Constitution lays down equality before the law. So, governments have a lot of power, but this cannot be exercised arbitrarily.
Popular democracy is very short-termist. Politicians are elected for only a few years, and want policies and actions that yield immediate, visible results. They are not very interested in long-term reforms which might help the country immensely, but will only benefit some future government. The main focus, therefore, is on quick-fixes. It is quicker to create job and educational quotas for backward castes and Muslims than to invest in basic education that empowers them to compete without props. This accounts for the huge political emphasis on quotas, reservations, subsidies and permits. This enables politicians to be seen as champions for this or that cause. They lose this visibility if they go for reforms that make them redundant.
From a long-term perspective, every country needs strong institutions that work without political interference. But it is against the interest of politicians to have a system where everything works smoothly. Rather, they want a system where things do not work well, enabling politicians to intervene and be seen helping voters. Besides, to make money politicians have to first create hurdles and then charge a fee for overcoming them.
The framers of the Constitution did not face such perverse incentives. Members of the Constituent Assembly were not elected, and did not face re-election. So, they had no need to create patronage networks, or make money for fighting the next election. They were not obliged by the electoral cycle to focus on short-term fixes, and so could concentrate on long-term aims and ideals. They could focus on creating independent institutions that would provide checks and balances, limiting the discretionary power of politicians.
On Republic day, we need to remember with thanks those framers of the Constitution. Ironically, they contributed greatly to Indian democracy precisely because they were not elected. The Constitution created other unelected bodies - such as the Supreme Court and Election Commission — which are the most respected in India precisely because they keep elected politicians in check. Democracy needs unelected positions of power, no less than elected ones.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The passions that haunt real and regular encounters with others

January 26, 2008 Elusive Texts Posted by larvalsubjects under Analysis, Appearance, Assemblages, Blogging, Communication, Difference, Writing
At the conference, the academic individuated in an ecology of books and articles, encounters the rude and belligerent questioner as a jerk who is just being difficult and who has failed to behave reasonably. Yet in the blogosphere one discovers that the reasonable is a sort of transcendental illusion or fetish, borne of those who spend their time silently with the non-responsive book or article, seldom encountering the passions that haunt real and regular encounters with others.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Commodification of integrity: Competition does not lead media to hold each other accountable

God help the fourth estate and Indian democracy
Home > Edits & Columns > People’s media? Pratap Bhanu Mehta Indian Express: Wednesday, January 23
The blunt truth is that there is a quiet crisis of credibility facing the Indian media. And the media is living in a fool’s paradise if it mistakes resisting the Left with putting its own house in order.
On the surface, there is a simple story about accountability in Indian media. On this view, there is competition; and competition, we assume, produces accountability. But competition alone does not work on many dimensions. Running a newspaper is a financially complicated business. This is particularly true in a country like India where newspaper readers are not willing to pay anything close to the costs of producing quality news. The rest will have to be subsidised by activities like advertising revenue.
Although related, competition for advertising revenues is not the same thing as competition for the needs of readers. Both have different logics. There is a sense in which intellectual ambition is a genuinely public good, but is under-supplied by the market...
Competition does not lead media to hold each other accountable.
This point has come home in a story that should be a frontline scandal in any democracy. A couple of newspapers have been reporting on an open secret of the media, the existence of private treaties. Under these, media houses invest in companies, which then receive favourable media treatment in turn, including column inches favourable to these companies...
But more importantly, economically free to choose cannot mean that there are no ethical lines to contend with. Unfortunately liberalism in India has come to be identified, not with exalted aspirations, but both these tendencies: no sense of discrimination, and total commodification of everything, including integrity.
The challenge for the media is this. It is caught between a CPM that wants the state to have more powers than it should, and a market structure that thinks literally everything should be for sale. If these are the only choices available to us, God help the fourth estate and Indian democracy. The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Politicians are irrational actors trying to pander to irrational voters

As I understand Tyler's worldview, he thinks individuals are a whole lot more rational and economically capable than I do. I think folks, in many circumstances, need a bit more help, and that, as beings fairly aware of our own irrationality, lapses in long-term attention, and assorted other deficits and shortcomings, we often smartly conclude that the whole is stronger and wiser than the one, and build communal institutions that sacrifice some autonomy but create structures better fitted to the messy and occasionally disappointing ways in which we actually engage the world.
This comes out strongly in health care, which is where I also tend to interact with the libertarian view the most. As far as I can tell, most libertarians appear to believe that if you just rip away all cost insulation, forcing individuals to pay costs they can barely burden, that threat of financial ruin will sharpen their minds and lead to better health decisions. I tend to think it will just lead to their financial ruin, and because most of us know that we're not nearly as assiduous as we should be about saving for retirement and putting money in our health savings accounts, we're wise to understand that we do a poor job planning for risk, and so should preemptively enter into agreements that radically reduce the level of insecurity in our lives. If we can add in some incentives and penalties encouraging smart behavior and discouraging poor decisions, that's all for the good.
But it is, at base, a disagreement over the likely behavior of humans, and how we should respond to it. The Cato employees of the world -- Tyler is not one, incidentally -- simply have a much more optimistic take on the individual's mastery over his sphere. We are, with a bit of an assist from price signals, doctors, stockbrokers, bond traders, pension planners, and much else. I on the other hand, see more in the way of frailty and shortcomings, and am instead deeply optimistic that our self-knowledge of those vulnerabilities allow us to stand together and protect each other against not only the vicissitudes of a dangerous world, but occasionally, against ourselves.
All that said, it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Tyler is right that there is much more that unites us than divides us. Kung pao, for instance. And that ain't no small thing. Posted by Ezra Klein on January 21, 2008 10:53 AM TAPPED Beat the Press Ezra Klein
A very good post. On the specifics: relative to most libertarian economists, I am more likely to think -- or should I say admit -- that human beings are irrational, even when the stakes are high (see the self-deception chapter in Discover Your Inner Economist). But, relative to social democrats, I tend to think that politicians are irrational actors trying to pander to irrational voters and that it can't be any other way. I am much less optimistic about democracy as an instrument for fine-tuning good policy or for that matter as a medium for enforcing progressive sentiments.

Wanted, a popular upsurge against the system

The burden of the Light By (Debabrata ghosh) A few persons even today, fifty seven years after he left his body, are aware of what Sri Aurobindo did in his life in Pondicherry. For people of India it is not unusual. For thousands of years the sanyasins in India lived in seclusion ...BABUL'S WORLD -
India would have grown much faster than China had she not wasted much of her time in parliamentary democracy. Even Hindu-Muslim conflict would fail to be an issue under a proper political system. Sri Lanka had tried with this system but after a time she left it for a French Presidential system i.e. combining presidential rule with a parliamentary government headed by a prime minister, which I think, is not suitable in Indian situation. In the French system the head of the government is the Prime Minister, who is nominated by the majority party or coalition in the National Assembly. The Prime Minister recommends Ministers to the President, sets out Ministers' duties and responsibilities, and manages the daily affairs of government. He issues decrees and is responsible for national defense. As per Shashi Tharoor
“...given India’s fragmented party system, the prospects for parliamentary chaos distracting the elected president are considerable. An American or Latin American model, with a president serving both as head of state and head of government, might better evade the problem we have experienced with political factionalism.”
Indira Gandhi, at one time thought of French Presidential system and as per some press leaks she discussed the matter with the then visiting French President. But nothing further could be heard thereafter. Only Charan Singh divulged it and opined that it was only the American system he was prepared to accept. At that time some journalists and a few veteran politicians were vocal for a change of system. But it was for a short period and then the debate failed the steam for a national issue. But what is an American system at all? In the US the President is not directly elected by the people but direct involvement of the people in general helps the President to be elected. The presidential election takes place every four years. People across the country cast their votes for whichever candidate they believe will do the best job. Votes are counted, and this is called the popular vote, but it is more than a popularity contest. This is where the Electoral College comes in.
The Electoral College is a group of people who gather to cast their votes for the various presidential candidates. When the Americans are casting their votes for the presidential candidates, they are actually casting their votes for electors, who will cast their votes for the candidates. So they form an electoral college for electing the president.When all the electoral votes are counted, the president, with the most votes gained by him or her, in this way, wins. In most cases, the candidate who wins the popular vote also wins in the Electoral College. The American President wields wide powers. The President and his or her cabinet, for example, are not members of Congress, unlike the British or Indian Prime Minister and his or her cabinet, who are all members of parliament. The all three institutions – the Congress, President and Supreme Court are so devised in a system where checks and balances in which the three branches of government work separately from each other.
Some may argue that an American President may be an authoritarian so far as the powers he/she wields. But no American President has so far been an autocrat. But in India – Indira Gandhi proclaimed emergency even not discussing the matter with all her cabinet colleagues for their approval. Moreover to offset the autocratic tendencies of the president – an executive chief minister or a governor for a state should be directly elected as it is in the US. I think that considering all the aspects of Indian situation the model of American Presidential system is the best available model for India and a change over to this model is urgently necessary. Otherwise the disrespect and loss of faith in the government may lead to anarchy. Indian cities and towns are fast being ghettos of criminals-who act under the secure umbrella of petty politicians on whom the big leaders depend in times of electoral battles.

But why it has not been discussed in national level and what are the main obstacles for a switch over? We Indians have fallen in a trap. For a change of system the matter must get approval from two thirds members of the parliament. Will they – the executives ever agree? Once elected an MP in the parliament – enjoys enormous perks and family pension securities. But apart from this official payments they get access to earn form various sources including businessmen. This evil is two-fold. First this means that joining in politics is lucrative and so the persons who have power – both money and muscle – make it do or die ventures to get somehow elected. And secondly once elected they are after personal privileges. So this is a vicious circle. More so that these people will never allow for a change of system. So this is fait accompli for India unless there is a popular upsurge against the system...

ADDENDUM- (Tamil Nadu) The two main parties are like two individual companies headed by two persons whose only motive is to keep the parties as their personal zamidaries. I can not reconcile how such a great race like to remain as the subjects of two persons. It is because of this parliamentary system. Tamils feel it not comfortable (because of thousands of years of living in other side of Vindhyas) to be ruled by the pre-dominant North Indians. This psychology has been narrowly exploited by the regional parties. As I have told earlier – this could have been avoided under a Presidential system. India as a whole suffers from not having the Tamils in the mainstream politics... Posted by Babul at 14:15:00

Monday, January 21, 2008

New regulatory frameworks, new delivery systems, new processes

Home > Express News Service > Ministries resisting our recommendations: NKC
Indian Express
: Sunday, January 20, 2008 NEW DELHI, JANUARY 19:
The National Knowledge Commission (NKC) has said it is concerned that there is still resistance to new ideas, experimentation, process re-engineering, external interventions, transparency and accountability due to rigid organisational structures. “As a result, the real challenge lies in organisational innovation with new regulatory frameworks, new delivery systems, new processes,” it says.
In a terse statement issued on Saturday after it presented its second report to the Prime Minister, the NKC came down heavily on the resistance shown by Union ministries—from Education, Health, Science and Technology and Law—towards its recommendations when it came to their implementation.
The commission released its second annual ‘Report to the Nation’, which was presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
NKC chairman Sam Pitroda emphasised that the commission “must be involved in ensuring the implementation of their innovative ideas”. “The focus of NKC work has therefore been on ensuring that while the Central Government designs appropriate strategies supported by financial allocations to implement their recommendations, the commission engages simultaneously with diverse stakeholders to build up a groundswell of favourable opinion and assist preparation of implementing strategies at the grassroots. Continuing dialogue with a wide and diverse set of stakeholders has been a critical part of its process both in formulating recommendations and in their subsequent dissemination. The NKC has tried to provide a platform for sharing and debating ideas, a critical requisite for accepting and steering change,” he said.
The NKC, Pitroda said, was now moving on to the next stage of its work, which was formulating Knowledge Initiatives at state and district levels to ensure that there was institutional and mental preparedness at the grassroots level to absorb financial outlays of the 11th Plan. At present, the NKC is engaged in discussions with about 17 states towards this end.
The NKC’s report assumes importance in the context of the UPA Government’s initiatives in the 11th Plan endorsed recently by the National Development Council. The Plan places high priority on education and this is reflected in the proposed allocation of Rs 3,00,000 crore, a five-fold increase over the 10th Plan.

Work, grow, and align the whole organisation toward a common purpose that is bigger than making money

Home > Op-Ed > Op-Ed THINKING ALOUD The Toyo-Tata Way to nation-building
Sudheendra Kulkarni Indian Express: Sunday, January 20, 2008
Can the making of a car become a symbol of the making of a nation? Can manufacturing become a metaphor for nation-building? The proposition may sound preposterous, but it’s worth exploring.
The British had mocked at Jamsedji Tata’s plans to establish an indigenous steel plant in India, with Sir Frederick Upcott, head of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, saying, “I shall eat every pound of steel rail the Tatas succeed in making.” The archives of Indian Railways have no record of how many pounds of steel the arrogant angrez ate once the project got underway in 1912. Similarly, when Jamsedji’s worthy scion, Ratan Tata, unveiled the Indica car in 2001, he disproved many sceptics. More recently, Nano is his answer to nay-sayers who had said “impossible”, when he promised to make the world’s cheapest car in India. If nation-building is about building national pride, Tata Steel and Tata Motors have built a good deal of “Yes, we can do it” spirit among Indians.
But it is from Japan that we can truly learn a deeper philosophy linking manufacturing and the making of a great nation. One evening early last year, while looking for second-hand books on the pavements of Matunga in Mumbai, a title caught my attention — The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer, by Jeffrey Liker.
“Toyota is as much a state of mind as it is a car company,” said a blurb on the book-cover. I completed reading it overnight, and said to myself, “This is mind-expanding stuff. The best minds in politics and governance in India must read this treatise to get ideas on national reconstruction.”
This conviction was reinforced when, during a visit to Japan last year, I made it a point to spend a day at Toyota’s sprawling headquarters in Nagoya.
“Respect for Humanity” is at the foundation of the Toyota Way, also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is now studied globally by students of manufacturing management. The company’s president Fujio Cho says, “Since Toyota’s founding, we have adhered to the core principle of contributing to society through the practice of manufacturing high-quality products and services. Our business practices based on this core principle created values, beliefs and business methods that over the years have become a source of competitive advantage. These are known collectively as the Toyota Way.”

There has been a great misunderstanding and deliberate misreading of the fourfold society that the ancients saw

Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Globalisation or an Integral Society?
by RY Deshpande on Sun 20 Jan 2008 05:45 AM PST Permanent Link
We understand globalisation essentially in terms of economics, commerce, industry and political dynamics; but there are basic social, religious, philosophical, scientific, cultural or idealistic aspects which often get sidelined in the respective discussions. The question of humanity in its proper sense, of harmonious life of happiness as expressed by mystics, sages, rishis, enlightened thinkers is hardly raised and seen in its deeper or far-reaching implications. Globalisation today is driven by a motive force and does not have its true or authentic content offered to the larger collectivity in the enduring values of the spirit. It is a mechanistic or, to use the modern idiom, a digital phenomenon. The identity of man with things material, the appreciation of the wonder that living reality in its thousand moods is, the recognition of the all-pervasive beauty in nature, or the sweep of cosmic thought, the subtlety of creative perception and expression have to be a part of the global perception.
There have to be different families and nations, there have to be different races, different languages, different arts, and even in the same kind of art different expressions, different games, different sports activities, different recreations; yet there can be a kind of genuine underlying globality in all our occupations. This world is not just a shrunken global village; it is one rich Family of God, vasudhaiva kutumbakam, as says the ancient scripture. In it each member of the family has his own unique soul, his own inalienable individuality and it is that which is valued most in the progress of the both. In the all-inclusive collective life is provided the scope for one’s own uninterrupted growth which, in turn, helps to grow itself, symbiotically helping each other. That is what true globalisation should mean. Are we nearer to it? ...
Yet we have to face the realities of life as it presently exists. Today’s civilisation is an urban civilisation, indisputably with more of science and less of religion, and is moving with the urban speed, carrying urban comforts,—as also urban problems and anxieties. In the entire process the Wealth of Nations has become the handbook of the haves, only to be questioned by the creed of the Welfare State supposedly meant for the have-nots. Modern society is a commercial society. Communist society emphasized “to each according to his needs and from each according to his abilities.” This principle reflects a consideration of individual capacity. Unfortunately, it is defined only in material terms.

But as we enter into the global multicultural and multi-religious age, as we step into the age of information, exclusive forms can no longer be justified in our society. But we have to be also alert about global exploitation and, in the rapacious commercialism, mindful of the ecological devastation that we are causing.

Perhaps we may have to evolve altogether new political systems that go beyond norms of the democracy as we understand it. There has to be an economic system that does not does not suppress economic freedom; nor can there be wealth-production as the single aim of all life. Naturally this will require much thinking, planning and new experiments.

There are certain spirituo-philosophical leads available in figuring what that “new” approach could be. In the extreme situation, to the Buddhist it was the relinquishment of the world of suffering and agony, of duhkha, and he did it by stepping into the selfless blank of Nirvana. This certainly is of no avail to the life that must be lived here in its fullness. Nor can a Mayavadin help us. For him oneness with the passive Brahman is the goal, with the single imperative of getting out of this illusory existence. In their extreme negativism these made room for the rush of unregenerate forces to take possession of human pursuits. This disownment deteriorating itself into tamasic indolence finally drove away the spirit of God from the affairs of the world.

In fact we have conflicts between the world of spirit and the world of phenomena; we also have conflicts caused by the various imbalances, of opportunities and capabilities clashing with each other. We have esoteric conflicts and we have secular conflicts. If one extreme of the first throve in India, the other of the second was flagrantly and very insensitively adopted by the West.

In this context when we hear Vivekananda’s message we at once realise that it has a twofold significance. To the West he cried: “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within.” To the Indian his one firm exhortation was to break all idols and worship God the Poor, daridrī-nārāyaņa: “…the only God I believe in, the sum-total of all souls,—and above all my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, of all species is the special object of my worship.”

If we are to see a purpose in the creation then that purpose would seem to be to live, even here, in the joy of God-awareness. Someone said, “Put God in your programme.” True, but please, let also God have a programme for us if there is none.

Pragmatism or usefulness is a fact of existence today; the possibility to widen its scope of action, to bring newer dimensions in its swift operative dynamics, is also an aspect of its broader and ennobling intention. The thetic and the anti-thetic have to meet and join in the synthetic. The division between the secular and the esoteric has to disappear; ‘this’ and ‘that’ must unreservedly merge into its happy oneness. The will of man, his reason, his emotion and sensibility, his deeper and purer intuition, the calm and silent promptings of his soul, and its unobtrusive persuasion, all have to be recognised and given a natural place. The cry of the Rishi to lead him from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality, mŗtyormāmŗtam gamaya, in such an eventuality acquires another poignancy. It becomes an imploration, to put in Sri Aurobindo’s phrase, for “bringing out the Infinite infinitely into form of being”.

That should lead us to understand the nature of a well-balanced and harmonious wholesome society which allows different aspects, collective as well as individual, to come together. Perhaps in it is the sense of an organisation that can meet a thousand and one demands without leading to conflicts. There has been a great misunderstanding and deliberate misreading of the fourfold society that the ancients saw as a proportioned and fulfilling expression of the spirit in life. Only when that is established is there the possibility of higher powers entering into the scheme of collective life, eastern or western, be it today or tomorrow, as it was in the deep past. We should have at least a quick look at it even as we shall try to understand the sense of globalisation.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Economists like to separate the "positive" and "normative" aspects

Every now and then I feel a deep responsibility to rebut an argument. In my view anyone doing policy economics has an obligation to learn more about ethics -- much more -- than the guy in the street would know. Would someone doing experimental economics feel free of the obligation to learn some empirical psychology? Would someone doing trade feel free of the obligation to learn some trade law, some history, and some political science? No. What's the difference? Economists like to separate the "positive" and "normative" aspects of what they do, but this distinction has not much impressed the moral philosophers who have looked at it nor has it impressed Amartya Sen.
The very decision to use economic tools emphasizes some considerations and excludes others. The final policy analysis is not just pure prediction but rather it is also an implicit presentation and weighting of both different kinds of information and different values. So if you are doing policy economics, it is imperative that you think about ethics at a very deep level, and read widely in ethics. You are doing ethics whether you like it or not! Furthermore I don't doubt that Dani already has a deeper understanding of ethics than the (often very crude) man in the street.
That said, I don't agree with the ethics Dani does discuss, noting that he must have felt he had some good reason to put forward the concerns he did and not others. (As a rule of thumb I'll note that those who profess the impassability of ethical terrain have just in fact traversed it.) I don't worry much about the procedural fairness if a poor country trades at better prices by paying its labor less or by polluting. Low wages are precisely the wages we want to see bid up, and if there is a concern for the losers I would not call the issue a procedural one but rather one of outcomes. And pollution can be a moral crime but attacking trade is not usually a good way to go after it. Tax the pollution, not the trade.

Voters — all of us — make emotional, intuitive decisions

Op-Ed Columnist How Voters Think By DAVID BROOKS NYT: January 18, 2008
The truth is that many of the theories we come up with are bogus. They are based on the assumption that voters make cold, rational decisions about who to vote for and can tell us why they decided as they did. This is false.
In reality, we voters — all of us — make emotional, intuitive decisions about who we prefer, and then come up with post-hoc rationalizations to explain the choices that were already made beneath conscious awareness. “People often act without knowing why they do what they do,” Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, noted in an e-mail message to me this week. “The fashion of political writing this year is to suggest that people choose their candidate by their stand on the issues, but this strikes me as highly implausible.”
Nobody really knows how voters think, especially during primary seasons when the policy differences are minute, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the cognitive chain went something like this:
After seeing a candidate for 100 milliseconds, voters make certain sorts of judgments based on expressiveness, facial structure, carriage and attitude. Alexander Todorov of Princeton has found that he can predict 70 percent of political races just by measuring peoples’ snap judgments of candidates’ faces.
Then, having formed an impression from these thin-slice appraisals, voters rack their memory banks. Decades ago, Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued that human judgment is less a matter of calculating probabilities and more a matter of trying to fit new things into familiar patterns. Maybe John Edwards reminds one voter of the sort of person he disliked in high school. Maybe Barack Obama evokes the elevated feeling another voter felt watching John F. Kennedy.
It is no accident that the major candidates in the Republican field are a pastor, a businessman and a war hero. These are the three most evocative Republican leadership models. Nor is it an accident that the Democratic race is a clash between a daughter of the feminist movement, a beneficiary of the civil rights movement and a self-styled proletarian. These are powerful Democratic categories.
In making these associations, voters are trying to perform trait inference. They are trying to divine inner abilities from outward signs.
At the same time, voters embark on an emotional journey with candidates. Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux have shown that emotion isn’t the opposite of reason. We use emotion to assign value to things, thus making decision-making possible.
As the campaign drags on, voters see candidates at different events. Maybe at one event Mitt Romney smiled without dipping the outer edge of his eyebrows. This is a cue that the smile is fake, and produces distrust. On the other hand, maybe he vowed to bring all the manufacturing jobs back to Michigan. A voter might have known this was impossible, but appreciated the concern nonetheless.
As the months go on, emotions oscillate and voter preferences do, too. Voters listen to policy proposals and infer character traits. A social contagion like Obamamania might sweep the country. A global shock might set off a wave of fear, producing a powerful intellectual cascade.
Social tribes rally for and against certain candidates. Rush Limbaugh is currently going bananas because Mike Huckabee threatens to disrupt the community of conservative dittoheads he has spent decades cohering. Work by researchers at Stanford’s Business School suggests that the voting environment itself — in say a church or a school — can influence choices.
Each of us has an unconscious but consistent way of construing the world. Some of us light up when we see a candidate being intelligent, others when we see a candidate being friendly or sentimental. This is the mode we use every day to make sense of the world.
My own intuition is that this unconscious cognition is pretty effective. People are skilled at judging character. And through reading, thinking and close observation, they can educate their unconscious to make smarter and finer distinctions.
But if there is one lesson from this wacky primary season, it is that we analysts should be careful about imposing a false order on voter decision-making. We can do our best to discern how certain politicians are making connections with certain voters, but in that process we have as much to learn from William James as from political scientists and pollsters.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Durkheim and Mauss were both socialists who emphasized the human interdependence entailed in an expanded social role for markets and money

My case for a recent speed-up of global integration rests on three developments of the last two decades: 1. the collapse of the Soviet Union, opening up the world to transnational capitalism and neo-liberal economic policies 2. the entry of China’s and India’s two billion people, a third of humanity, into the world market as powers in their own right and the globalization of capital accumulation, for the first time loosening the grip of America and Europe on the global economy and 3. the abbreviation of time and distance brought about by the communications revolution and a restlessly mobile population. The corollary of this revolution is a counter-revolution, the reassertion of state power since 9-11 and the imperialist war for oil in the Middle East...
Humanity is now caught between national and world society; and that is why new ways of thinking are so vital.
Classical liberals promoted markets as a means of greater individual freedom from the arbitrary social inequality of the Old Regime. But the industrial revolution brought about a shift to urban commerce that made vast new populations of wage workers rely on markets for food, housing and the rest of their basic needs. Under these circumstances, society itself seemed to retreat from view, being replaced by an ‘economy’ characterized this time by market contracts instead of domestic self-sufficiency. Others hold that society’s remaining defenses are simply too weak to hold out against the rising tide of global money: you can’t buck ‘the markets’. This notion of markets as a natural force beyond social regulation serves to legitimize wealth and even to make poverty seem deserved.
The founders of modern social theory all considered markets to be progressive in that they broke up the insularity of traditional rural society and brought humanity into wider circles of discourse and interaction. But they differed over what should happen next. Marx and Engels considered that private money (‘capital’) was too fragmented to organize the urban societies brought into being by machine production of commodities; so they looked to the large concentrations of workers for a truly collective remedy. Max Weber recognized that the formal rationality of capitalist bureaucracy often led to a substantive deterioration of livelihood for many. But, as a liberal, he considered wholesale state intervention in markets to be a recipe for economic disaster. Durkheim and Mauss were both socialists who emphasized the human interdependence entailed in an expanded social role for markets and money, while rejecting the Social Darwinist claim that capitalism ensures the ‘survival of the fittest’.
Polanyi never denied the utility of markets for the allocation of some goods and services. What he condemned was the elevation of the ‘self-regulating market’ to a position of dominance and the high price the British working classes paid for this. Laissez-faire liberalism was not the necessary, ‘natural’ concomitant of industrialism: the market regime could only emerge and reproduce itself thanks to specific interventions by the state. At the same time, there were counter-movements within society like Chartism, as the victims of the new liberalism sought to defend themselves. This ‘double movement’ constituted the self-protection of society. Polanyi sometimes wrote of the disembedding of economy under laissez-faire liberalism; but the market remained thoroughly ‘embedded’ in two senses: first, in its dependence on the state and second because it was associated with a range of social institutions, including some formed to counter allegedly impersonal and ‘natural’ market forces. Polanyi’s real objection was not to the market as such, but to ‘market fundamentalism’.
I find Marcel Mauss’s position on markets and money to be more persuasive than Polanyi’s as a basis for ‘institutionalist political economy’. The Gift is an extended commentary on Durkheim’s argument that an advanced division of labour could only be sustained by ‘the non-contractual element in the contract’, a largely invisible body of state-made law, custom and belief that could not be reduced to abstract market principles. Mauss held that the attempt to create a free market for private contracts is utopian and just as unrealizable as its antithesis, a collective based solely on altruism. Human institutions everywhere are founded on the unity of individual and society, freedom and obligation, self-interest and concern for others. The pure types of selfish and generous economic action obscure the complex interplay between our individuality and belonging in subtle ways to others.
Mauss was highly critical of the Bolsheviks’ destruction of confidence in the expanded sense of sociability that sustained the market economy. In his view, markets and money are human universals whose principal function is the extension of society beyond the local sphere, even if they do not always take the impersonal form we are familiar with. This was why he disputed Malinowski’s assertion that kula valuables could not be considered to be money. Mauss advocated an ‘economic movement from below’, in the form of syndicalism, co-operation and mutual insurance. His greatest hopes were for a consumer democracy driven by the co-operative movement. The true significance for him of finding elements of the archaic gift in contemporary capitalism was to refute the revolutionary eschatology of both right and left. Most of the possibilities for a human economy already co-exist in our world; so the task is to build new combinations with a different emphasis, not to repudiate a caricature of the market in the name of a radical alternative. Here Mauss follows Hegel — rather than Aristotle, Marx and Polanyi — in seeking the integration of institutional possibilities that have been variously dominant in history rather than representing them as mutually exclusive historical stages.
When the market is represented, as in neo-liberal ideology, as a force of nature giving expression to individual interests outside society, political opponents are apt to advocate either its abolition or at least closer control by collective interests. But this generates unrealistic and unsustainable programs that reproduce the neo-liberal model by negation. Mauss’s approach draws our attention to the institutional complexity of markets, while emphasizing their evolutionary function as means of drawing humanity into society on an ever-widening scale. Markets are thus an essential and dynamic feature of the human economy.
Money in the human economy
By calling the economy ‘human’ we insist on putting people first, making their thoughts, actions and lives our main concern. Such a focus should also be pragmatic: making economy personally meaningful to students or readers, relating it to ordinary people’s practical purposes. ‘Humanity’ is a moral quality, implying that, if we want to be good, we should treat other persons, people like ourselves, kindly. Since theoretical abstraction is impersonal and leaves no room for morality, a human economy would have to pay attention to the personal realm of experience; but it would be a mistake to leave it there. Humanity is also a collective noun, meaning all the people who have existed or ever will. So the human economy is inclusive in a sense reinforced by our contemporary witness to the formation of world society...
Money is often portrayed as a lifeless object separated from persons, whereas it is a creation of human beings, imbued with the collective spirit of the living and the dead. Money, as a token of society, must be impersonal in order to connect each individual to the universe of relations to which they belong. But people make everything personal, including their relations with society. This two-sided relationship is universal, but its incidence is highly variable. Money in capitalist societies stands for alienation, detachment, impersonal society, the outside; its origins lie beyond our control (the market). Relations marked by the absence of money are the model of personal integration and free association, of what we take to be familiar, the inside (home). This institutional dualism, forcing individuals to divide themselves, asks too much of us. People want to integrate division, to make some meaningful connection between their own subjectivity and society as an object. It helps that money, as well as being the means of separating public and domestic life, was always the main bridge between the two. That is why money must be central to any attempt to humanize society. It is both the principal source of our vulnerability in society and the main practical symbol allowing each of us to make an impersonal world meaningful.
Money thus expands the capacity of individuals to stabilize their own personal identity by holding something durable that embodies the desires and wealth of all the other members of society. Money is a ‘memory bank’, a store allowing individuals to keep track of those exchanges they wish to calculate and, beyond that, a source of economic memory for the community. The modern system of money provides people with a wide repertoire of instruments to keep track of their exchanges with the world and to calculate the current balance of their worth in the community. In this sense, one of money’s chief functions is remembering. If persons are to make a comeback in the post-modern economy, it will be less on a face-to-face basis than as bits on a screen who sometimes materialize as living people in the present. We may become less weighed down by money as an objective force, more open to the idea that it is a way of keeping track of complex social networks that we each generate.
The reality of markets and money is not just universal abstraction, but the mutual determination of the abstract and the concrete. If you have some money, there is almost no limit to what you can do with it, but, as soon as you buy something, the act of payment lends concrete finality to your choice. Money’s significance thus lies in the synthesis it promotes of impersonal abstraction and personal meaning, objectification and subjectivity, analytical reason and synthetic narrative. Its social power comes from the fluency of its mediation between infinite potential and finite determination. To turn our backs on markets and money in the name of collective as opposed to individual interests reproduces by negation the bourgeois separation of self and society. It is not enough to emphasize the controls that people already impose on money and exchange as part of their personal practice. That is the everyday world as most of us know it. We also need ways of reaching the parts we don’t know, if we wish to avert the ruin they could bring down on us all.

Classical liberal way of looking at the world

Gautam Adhikari, in an important piece on the Times of India edit page, lays down the philosophy of the ToI edit pages...I quote at length because I approve wholeheartedly of such a direction. Apart from publishing voices from across the spectrum, I hope Adhikari also ensures that ToI‘s editorials reflect this classical liberal way of looking at the world, and defend freedom in all its senses. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha of Mint had made a similar commitment when that newspaper launched, but ToI, with its massive audience, could have a far greater impact on public discourse.

Mutually incompatible inclusion, expansion and excellence

Home > Edits & Columns > Let’s plan nano-towns P.V. Indiresan Indian Express: Monday, January 14, 2008
‘Inclusion, Expansion, Excellence’ is the three-part motto of the XI Five Year Plan. It is a good way too to define the social engineering issues of modernisation and globalisation. Unfortunately, it is not possible to maximise all these three simultaneously:
  • Inclusion of everyone will not lead to excellence; it will retard expansion too.
  • Rapid expansion will necessarily place a premium on the competent, exclude the less able and increase disparities. Due to paucity of skilled manpower, rapid expansion will have to sacrifice excellence too.
  • Likewise, maximising excellence will adversely affect both inclusion and rapid expansion.

The challenge of social engineering lies in putting together the mutually incompatible inclusion, expansion and excellence in such a manner that it causes least offence. The solution is not easy. Compromises will be necessary, and no compromise will satisfy everyone. The writer is a former director of IIT, Chennai


Home > Edits & Columns > Track every rupee Jaithirth Rao Indian Express: Monday, January 14, 2008

Over the years, we have developed excellent think-tanks in Public Policy. The Centre for Policy Research is a good example. As a result, we have a broad consensus on policy issues. Everyone is agreed that inclusive growth is a must. Leaving the majority of the country abysmally poor (in absolute, not just relative terms) is morally obnoxious; those who are not troubled by morals will relate to the fact that a large sullen underclass represents a danger to private prosperity inside high-rises or gated communities...

We are in need of think-tanks that are focused, not on policy objectives, where there is more unanimity than we give credit for, but on the mechanics, processes, systems and incentive signals for implementation and execution. The beneficiaries of high growth in India’s private sector need to rise to this challenge. Dealing with this challenge will determine what kind of India we bequeath to our children. The writer is a student and observer of the contemporary Indian scene

Monday, January 7, 2008

Numerical majority doesn’t mean that the capable are being elected

Maulana Amir Siddique, the head of Lal Masjid and nephew of Maulana Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed last July in the Pakistan Army operation on the mosque-madarsa complex, told The Indian Express: “In democracy, the weightage of votes by an illiterate or a drug addict is the same as that of an educated, pious person. Numerical majority doesn’t mean that the capable are being elected.” ...
“In today’s elections, people are gaining power using money. What else can you expect from people who consume nicotine or alcohol? They get sold out to people who lure them with money,” says the 42-year-old madarsa-educated Maulana, who took charge of the family-run Lal Masjid about three months ago when it re-opened following the Pakistan Supreme Court’s order...
“We feel that democracy is not the solution, because it’s the writ of Allah that is supreme and not the writ of the people,” he says. However, he qualifies his “anti-democracy” stance by saying he believes in an individual’s democratic rights of freedom...The Maulana adds that “violence always begets violence, it never achieves peace”. “The siege of Lal Masjid was not an action, but a reaction... in our Islamic traditions, there is no room for violence,” he says. Lal Masjid’s new chief takes old line: democracy is no solution Shubhajit Roy
Indian Express: Monday, January 07, 2008
11:16 AM

Others will trust you and you will benefit by betraying the trust

Rationality, Trust & Development Kaushik Basu Hindustan Times January 06, 2008
Individual rationality is a central concern of economics. This is because of the influential view, associated with Adam Smith, that, even if all individuals are selfishly rational, the ‘invisible hand’ of the market will guide society to achieve efficiency. Smith’s work in the late eighteenth century had a huge impact because it seemed to controvert Thomas Hobbes’ thesis that human beings, left to themselves without the controlling hand of the government, would end up in anarchy and chaos.
Over time, neo-conservative writers contorted Smith’s thesis to assert that, as long as the government does not interfere with the individuals’ pursuit of self-interest, an economy will prosper. All the government has to do is not be there. But this thesis is flawed.
First of all, modern game theory illustrates that rationality itself is a contentious idea. In ‘strategic’ situations, where several ‘rational’ agents confront one another, the meaning of rationality may be innately contested. Last year I published a paper in Scientific American, called ‘The Traveler’s Dilemma’, to demonstrate this. I had also hoped that it would rid some of our public intellectuals of their neo-conservative predilections. But, while I got a lot of response from around the world, the article went virtually unread in India. However, my paper now shows up on a travel and tourism website next to the announcement: “Fight Traveler’s Diarrhea, developed by a gastroenterologist.” Given the Indian obsession with gastric health, my hope is that people will find this website and then mistakenly read my paper.
Second, new research in economics shows that while the individual urge to maximise income and accumulate are stimulants to growth, a society also needs altruism, integrity and trust. These are the flora and fauna which enable industrialised economies to flourish, and their absence can doom an economy to stagnation. In some of the poorest parts of India, there is no trace of government. By the conservative argument these should be the most prosperous regions. One reason they are not is because they lack the enabling social norms and customs.
If a group of people is known to be trustworthy, they will find jobs more easily (since they will not have to be monitored closely), others will be willing to sign business contracts with them (since they will be less likely to renege), and, over time, this society will become more advanced. There is evidence that some groups are believed to be more trustworthy than others. Some recent laboratory experiments in Israel show that Ashkenazi Jews are more trustworthy than Eastern Jews. In Delhi, South Indians were believed to be more trustworthy as used-car sellers. I remember in the early eighties numerous car advertisements in newspapers claiming: “car owned by South Indian”. (When I went to see some of these cars, on more than one occasion I was met by a large North Indian, who assured me that the South Indian owner was having a bath.)
The reason why individual rationality is not sufficient to generate trust is the ‘free-rider problem’ — If your community is known to be trustworthy and you are not, you will do even better. Others will trust you and you will benefit by betraying the trust. Hence, trustworthiness and pro-social behavior survive only when these are social norms, and people adhere to them instinctively, without thinking of self-interest.
Inculcating the norms of honesty and pro-social behavior is important not only as an end in itself but because it is good for development. A part of the trust problem can however be solved, without overcoming the free-rider hurdle, if people become far-sighted. Being more trustworthy means being willing to take some immediate losses in order to build up a good reputation and do better in the future. I believe this is happening in India. It is difficult to provide hard data for this, but there is one piece of indirect evidence. India’s savings rate has risen sharply in recent years. But saving is the desire to sacrifice current consumption for future gain. This suggests that Indians are beginning to taker a longer run view of their own welfare. This in turn is making them more trustworthy. And from the point of view of development, this is reason for hope.
Kaushik Basu is Professor of Economics and Director, Center for Analytic Economics, Cornell University

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The spiritual man who can guide human life towards its perfection is typified in the ancient Indian idea of the Rishi

The Western recoil from religion, that minimising of its claim and insistence by which Europe progressed from the mediaeval religious attitude through the Renascence and the Reformation to the modern rationalistic attitude, that making of the ordinary earthly life our one preoccupation, that labour to fulfil ourselves by the law of the lower members, divorced from all spiritual seeking, was an opposite error, the contrary ignorant extreme, the blind swing of the pendulum from a wrong affirmation to a wrong negation. It is an error because perfection can- not be found in such a limitation and restriction; for it denies the complete law of human existence, its deepest urge, its most secret impulse. Only by the light and power of the highest can the lower be perfectly guided, uplifted and accomplished. The lower life of man is in form undivine, though in it there is, the secret of the divine, and it can only be divinised by finding the higher law and the spiritual llumination.
On the other hand, the impatience which condemns or despairs of life or discourages its growth because it is at present undivine and is not in harmony with the spiritual life, is an equal ignorance, and ham tamah. The world-shunning monk, the mere ascetic may indeed well find by this turn his own individual and peculiar salvation, the spiritual recompense of his renunciation and Tapasya, as the materialist may find by his own exclusive method the appropriate rewards of his energy and concentrated seeking; but neither can be the true guide of mankind and its law-giver. The monastic attitude implies a fear, an aversion, a distrust of life and its aspirations, t and one cannot wisely guide that with which one is entirely out of sympathy, that which one wishes to minimise and discourage. The sheer ascetic spirit, if it directed life and human society, could only prepare it to be a means for denying itself and getting away from its own motives. An ascetic guidance might tolerate the lower activities, but only with a view to persuade them in the end to minimise and finally cease from their own action. But a spirituality which draws back from life to envelop it without being dominated by it does not labour under this disability.
The spiritual man who can guide human life towards its perfection is typified in the ancient Indian idea of the Rishi, one who has lived fully the life of man and found the word of the supra-intellectual, supramental, spiritual truth. He has risen above these lower limitations and can view all things from above, but also he is in sympathy with their effort and can view them from within; he has the complete inner knowledge and the higher surpassing knowledge. Therefore he can guide the world humanly as God guides it divinely, because like the Divine he is in the life of the world and yet above it. Page-168

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Genuine democratic governance and rule of law involve dignity, opportunity and justice

Lok Satta has no intention to support communal agenda. The 2007 Gujarat verdict bucking the usual anti-incumbency trend and several local adverse factors needs to be interpreted in a citizen-friendly manner.
There can be two possible inferences of the verdict. First, hardcore Hindutva has won again. Second, it is unrelated to religious sentiments, and people responded to better delivery of services and reduced corruption. Clearly, the latter interpretation is both accurate, and is more likely to encourage parties to improve performance rather than polarize people on caste and communal lines. Such an interpretation in no way lets a government off the hook elsewhere. It merely emphasizes the importance of delivery to gain public support. The net result is a shift from communal agenda to development agenda.
Clearly, genuine democratic governance and rule of law involve dignity, opportunity and justice. Lok Satta aims at all these. In today’s India, all three are at a premium and Gujarat reflects that deficit. Happily, there is no trade off between development and justice, and both need to go together. That we value development does not mean we value justice any less. Nor does it mean that poor development guarantees justice. We have to strive for both. That is our goal.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

A true democracy demands constant revitalisation of the spirit of openness, generosity and liberality of opinion

It appears that the champions of a resurgent Hindu identity are acutely embarrassed by the presence of the erotic at the centre of Hindu sacred art. As they may well be, for the roots of Hindutva do not lie in Hinduism. Rather, they lie in a crude mixture of German romanticism, Victorian puritanism and Nazi methodology.
What happens next, we wonder? Will the champions of Hindutva go around the country chipping away at temple murals, breaking down monuments, whitewashing wall paintings, and burning manuscripts and folios? Perhaps they will not stop until they have forced the unpredictable richness of Hindu culture to conform to their own tunnel vision of life, art, image and narrative. The first move in the establishment of a fascist system is thought-policing, the curtailment of the liberal imagination. We see this in the breaching of the sanctity of academia, with goons ransacking the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune, in January 2004, or police entering the M S University campus last week. And physical attack or arrest has become the first response to any criticism or departure from convention. If anyone had a problem with Chandramohan’s images, for instance, surely they could have resorted to the old-fashioned option of talking to the artist? But conversation has long ago vanished from the menu of problem-solving devices, as India turns into an illiberal democracy.
Periodic elections do not, by themselves guarantee a liberal democracy; they only guarantee periodic changes of government. A true democracy demands constant revitalisation of the spirit of openness, generosity and liberality of opinion. Democracy is not an achieved set of laws or a manual of instructions; it is a work in progress. It is a space that allows diverse imaginations to interact, it is a community of conversations. Given the direction in which we are heading, can we recover democracy as a community of conversations, rather than as a space segmented and partitioned by communitarian claims? Can we allow for the interplay of diverse imaginations, with none exerting a monopolistic claim on experience? Can we productively reconstitute the same objects in different discourses, without inviting assault on our civic and cultural freedoms? Can we preserve nuance, detail and polychromy in our accounts of ourselves – as complex selves in a complex society – without being coerced into subscription towards one group identity or another by colour-blind demagogues? Can we protect the right to artistic truth and the right to critique?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

It wasn't too long ago that what we call the modern individual Self did not exist

It's an Ideal World to Become Who You Are from One Cosmos by Gagdad Bob

In One Cosmos, I don't explicitly delve much into politics at all, but if there is a coonfluence between my political and spiritual views, this is it. For if the purpose of life is to realize one's archetype, then the ultimate value of a culture or nation or political movement will be the degree to which it either impedes or makes this realization possible (see page 180):
"We must each of us, in our own way, fight for the cultural circumstances that make intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth possible, because most cultural circumstances actively suppress our growth as human beings."
As such, any purely materialistic political philosophy will be a non-starter. I never say that "Republicanism" is any kind of ideal. Far from it. It's just that the left is so incredibly dangerous and destructive to human ends, that it must be opposed, just as the Islamofascists must be. In the case of the latter, their great evil is the same: the systematic smothering of our spiritual individuation. To force women to live in bags -- i.e., to deprive them of their face -- is a terrifying metaphor of what they do to the soul, which is to say, bury it in darkness. Likewise, radical feminism sophicates the beautiful archetypal feminine form in an airless black bag of faceless ideology.
At any rate, all of the archetypes are collective save for one, which is your unique Self, and which is yours to keep as a consolation prize for this difficult journey we call life. Now, presuming there is a Creator, each person represents a unique "problem of God," something spoken of by Sri Aurobindo. And this is where we can run into a bit if trouble with institutionalized, "big box" religions, which can tend to cater to a psychological "type" rather than the individual. It doesn't have to be this way, any more than a Big Mac has to taste the same at every McDonalds in the world, but it's amazing how you can get people to choose things that aren't in their interests with enough salt and fat.
Now, there was clearly a time when it was necessary for institutionalized religion to be geared toward the collective, since it wasn't too long ago that what we call the modern individual Self did not exist -- or at least for only a very few lucky souls. If you don't believe me, try digesting Charles Taylor's 600 page explanation, Sources of the Self, followed by his latest offering, A Secular Age, and get back to me. I think he pretty much covers the waterfront on that topic.