Is it at least better than what you have today?

About 3 weeks ago I wrote about a working paper written by India’s chief economic adviser: Kaushik Basu in which he suggested that for a certain class of bribes which he termed harassment bribes – the bribe giver should be given immunity so that he can later on take action against the person who took the bribe without the fear or getting punished himself.

A lot of you had interesting comments on it, and there was quite a bit of skepticism as well, which is understandable given the nature of this idea.

I had forgotten about it but this week I see the paper getting a lot more attention because other people are discovering it and writing about it, Tweeting about it and generally talking about the idea.

As you’d expect – there is a lot of criticism, but what I find disturbing is that people say this plan will not work to remove all sorts of corruption, or a particular kind of corruption, or it is too hard to implement, or there will be roadblocks by corrupt politicians, or it is not big enough to solve problems and that somehow makes this idea bad.

Not many people (if any at all) are actually asking if this will make the situation better than what it is today? And of course, no one is offering any alternatives that are better than this option.

They’re just there to criticize, and they will leave after criticizing.

There object is not to debate an idea, refine it, come up with alternatives, but somehow prove their intellectual superiority by dissing it and poking holes in it.

I’m sure you know several people who will start telling you why something won’t work as soon as you open your mouth. The next time you meet such a guy ask him for alternatives. Ask them what they would do. It’s very likely that they won’t have a clue – I’m amazed at how people who have so many ideas on why something won’t work have not one idea on how to make something work.

This mindset holds a lot of us back.

I didn’t start blogging for a long time because I was worried I wouldn’t do well, and the blog will not become popular and big.

Then one day I was playing a video game on my Wii, and it hit me that maybe the blog won’t do too well, but it will at least be better use of my time than playing this silly video game.

That was the first time I realized that even if it didn’t become popular I will at least learn to use a comma, and who knows – with a little luck I might learn to use a semi colon as well!

Wouldn’t that be better than where I am today?

If life is a journey then don’t you want to have as many experiences as you can? Shouldn’t you try to do as many things as you can without worrying about how you might fail?

Who knows what will fail and what will work – could you have predicted Twitter’s or Facebook’s rise? Could you have even predicted that a successful company like Google will have as many failures as it does?

With anything you do – you don’t have to solve all the world’s problems; if it has the potential to improve your life then it’s worth trying out.

Do you want to be the smug guy who disses ideas, or the one who takes risks and tries out things in the hope of bettering lives?


14 thoughts on “Is it at least better than what you have today?”

  1. Well said Reminded me of the quote: A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.
    Life is about living, about experiences – not about existing. It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. Find your passion and follow it. The Top 5 regrets that people have on deathbed

    Imagine if we were scared of making mistakes: would we learn how to walk, cycle, fall in love :-). Wrote an article on the magic of making mistakes Oops I did it

    Good you decided to write the blog instead of playing Wii(my kids are crazy about it) and we all benefited.

  2. Though I got no time read the paper, but I agree with what you say. Its very easy to point out problem in the idea and being negative about anything and everything. What’s difficult is finding alternatives that work. I had a manager who used to say, “whenever you are coming to me with a problem, also come up with few possible solutions of the problem.”And trust me, this approach will change your perspective about the situation. But there are few people who are like this, most of the people fall in category you just talked.

    1. Thanks IT – sometimes I argue with people just to prove (to them and myself) that they don’t have anything better to offer, and their attempt at criticism is just a lame way to feel smug about themselves.

      Not something I’m proud of but there’s only so much crap you can take.

    1. I just clicked through to your blog and read your last two posts and see that you share some of the same frustrations as well. In fact I also saw our intellectuals talking about democracy and parliamentary process and all that jazz and thought to myself would these guys deign to come out of their air conditioned offices for a half day fast? Will they give out any practical suggestions. Some of the discussion in this whole thing is very depressing.

    1. I read this article earlier, and in fact this was the one piece that really pushed me to write my own article. Before this I was going through several other Tweets, and a few posts here and there, but when I saw that a paper with Hindu’s readership chooses to publish such a rant really made me upset.

      I left a comment there as well, but somehow it doesn’t appear as yet. There was no profanity in it, and I think it’s only fair that I be allowed to attack Sainath personally in the comment since he has done the same.

      That article was in very bad taste in my opinion and betrays a severe lack of understanding on what Basu has proposed. Couple that with another article I read today in the Hoot about the internal politics in Hindu and “paid news” phenomenon and my own respect for that paper has diminished significantly. Not that one reader matters to such a large publication.

      That article is in fact a letter by N. Ravi Editor of Hindu and is a fascinating and insightful read.

      You can find it here Aditya:

      I strongly recommend going through it if Hindu is part of your daily reading.

      1. When I had read about Basu’s suggestion, it made a lot of sense especially considering the plight of the middle class. However the objections raised by Sainath also makes sense to me (not the secret pens etc) as well, only I hadn’t thought about the issue in the larger context as Sainath places it.
        This is a serious issue that needs to be debated and changes need to be carefully made, as there is an enormous potential of misuse. We have seen how bills are manipulated over and over and over again by vested interests (via the politicians? via the bureaucracy? via both?) as in the case of the Nuclear Liability Bill. I’d say a no-legislation on this issue might be better than a bad legislation.

        I’d rather go with the merits arguments in this issue than the arguer, whether it is Basu or Sainath.

        1. I don’t know how feasible it is legally, but if there were a way to try it out in a district or someplace and observe the result – that will be a good way to go forward with it.

          1. I disagree, Manshu. Even if it were feasible to try it out in a smaller district, the scale of corruption is likely to be smaller, and hence the risks might be smaller– giving skewed results.

            However I guess a simulated model could me made [disclaimer– I am not a simulator/modellor/IT-software person/economist etc], where one has the freedom to add in more and more parameters of corruption etc (Radia, Raja, international kickbacks, parliamentary horse trading (e.g. the no-confidence motion of UPA-1, etc etc etc) as well as effects such as RTI, judicial activism, Anna Hazare, elections, sting operations etc, and see how situations compare with each other, in either of the two cases.

            I’d think what I suggested would be a great PhD thesis in economics 🙂

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