Me too madrassa

The rational school operators of Uttar Pradesh

Just like over nine out of ten families in Karnataka, many school operators in Uttar Pradesh demonstrated that they are rational actors. If the Indian government has announced that it will give Rs 325 crores over the five years to madrassas (which, among others, means "an honorarium of Rs 6,000 per month to graduate teachers and Rs 12,000 per month to post-graduate teachers") then it is perfectly rational for private non-religious schools into madrassas. Perhaps private schools operated by Muslims are taking a lead in this—but it should not surprise anyone if people from all faiths jumped in to get a share of the pie.

Of course, the Ministry of Human Resources Development officially doesn’t get it. It has called upon the Uttar Pradesh state government to conduct an enquiry into why people are behaving rationally, and responding to incentives.

The UPA government has been schizophrenic in its understanding and application of incentives (see this post on Acquired Incentivo Deficiency Syndrome, by The Rational Fool). It seems to understand them at a political level where it has extinguished equality of opportunity for an entitlement economy. But it has repeatedly failed to understand them at a policy level, where it has pretended that nice sounding intentions can replace sound incentive structures.

6 thoughts on “Me too madrassa”

  1. Speaking about the poor families in Karnataka, how do you propose to sustain their livelihood in the immediate present, without some sort of state assistance in the form of vouchers, price discounts etc? And when such state assistance is deemed necessary, if the implementation goes awry because of deficiencies in the law enforcement should we just blame the law? One of the often used arguments against income-based reservations is this inability of the state to correctly identify the poorer sections of the society.

    In fact, irrespective of the validity of state assistance, should we always enact only those laws that are “easy” to implement or should we also try to improve the law enforcement mechanisms? The current law enforcement mechanisms are deficient to enforce most laws, irrespective of their nature.

  2. @jujung

    I’m sure no one would disagree about helping the poor. However, it is important to keep the sense of entitlement contained, as Nitin points out. No system is perfect, and this is where feedback becomes valuable in designing a better delivery system.

    I would look at the example in this context, as one that shows how welfare policies, however well-meant (eg. reservation) actually end up promoting rational (ie self-interested) behavior among individual agents, irrespective of the eventual outcome to the society as a whole.

  3. Those who advocate government mandated quotas, reservations and subsidies, based on caste, gender, income, religion or whatever, often in the name of ensuring a “level platform”, would be well advised to read Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron.

  4. The first and foremost goal of a rational society and hence a rational state would be “self-preservation”. If a majority of the society feels they don’t have any “opportunity” to prosper, then the situation is ripe for a revolution and disbandment of the state. So, any democratic state should be able to keep a majority of its people relatively happy about their “prospects of success”. To argue that such a claim is a claim of some absurd notion of equality of people/intelligence/etc is disingenuous.

    And I am not anti free-market. I am just asking if we should look at the validity of a law in terms of its implementability?

  5. >>..would be well advised to read Kurt Vonnegut’s>>

    Interesting read, but it is about individual handicap. The quota system in India is about rigid group benefits staged via a flexible super group. Without evidence, it is nothing but a tiered citizenship status held hostage to political formations best equipped to protect the said status. With evidence, it could become a valid social justice delivery platform.

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