Wanting it Both Ways

In India.  Seems that large portions of the industrialized/commercialized areas are in the grip of massive strikes, brought on by proposed fiscal and economic reforms.  The government is proposing to cut the subsidy to vehicle fuel, and is also proposing to open India to big-box retailers.  The small operators are livid.  And so transportation especially is being hard-hit, with large segments of the rail network idle.  It’s not uniformly spread about the country, though; from the admittedly brief reports it seems as if some large cities are more affected than others.

India is of course the world’s largest democracy.  Not perfect, but then who is?  It’s got massive problems with corruption, over-regulation, and inefficiency, and desperately needs to address those problems (as was demonstrated earlier this summer when hundreds of millions of people were without electricity for a prolonged period).  It can try to do so through governmental action, but the government appears to be a good part of the problem and besides, if the government could by fiat change the rules of the game, would it not already have done so?  What to do?  I’m going to suggest that introducing into the economy large players who have no mind to put up with that sort of nonsense, either from their customers, their vendors, or officialdom are a relatively efficient way to begin the process of cultural transformation which is what really needs to occur.  Perfect?  No, but there’s no ideal way to change traditions that run back generations upon generations, in a population of a billion-plus.  And by the way, enlisting private actors lets you shift some of the unquantifiable but all-too real costs of the effort onto them.

Here’s hoping that India figures out a workable way forward.

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