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Well, then, where is the cancer virus?

Dear Prabhu,

Hypothesis I:
>      Corrupt people will  (be) 
>      corrupt any system.  This is what has happened to us since 
>      Independence.

Hypothesis II:
>      Our political system was not badly designed at the time of 
>      Independence.  The increasing corruption of our people increasingly 
>      corrupted the system.

(New) Hypothesis III:
>      I conclude: corruption has grown like a disease.
>      Perhaps I should compare corruption not to an ordinary 
>      disease but to a cancer.  
>      So, in what ways has corruption been like a disease in the case of 
>      India?: it has spread enormously and its efffects have been enormously 
>      debilitating.  

Isn't that a bit of good news? That corruption is a biological
disease like cancer? Hopefully all the corrupt will die a quick death and
we'll be rid of them.

Oh well, I know what you are saying. You are saying that human beings are
like one-celled organisms who manage to get cancer from another cancerous
agent which passes near them. Alternatively, cancerous cells multiply
(reproduce - have corrupt babies) endlessly.

If this is the diagnosis, then we can lose hope, since till today, there
has been virtually no cure for cancer. It is a biological disease which
has affected millions of Indians somehow, and we can write off India and
in fact leave India as if it were a plague-affected nation: settle in
Switzerland, instead, where the disease will not come close.

No, no! You must be saying. What a clumsy interpretation! You mean that
the MINDS of the Indians have been affected: it is not a biological

But honestly, I did not notice any mental disability among the corrupt
Ministers (and bureaucrats) that I knew. To the contrary, these guys were
very sharp, and very powerful.

You know, Prabhu, based on my experience of over 12 years in the field in
Indian government and so much study here and there, as well as experience
of living abroad for 5 years, in two countries, and seeing a few East
Asian countries, I have not noticed any sign whatsoever of Indians being
mentally affected by any germ.  I am completely unable to distinguish an
"affected" Indian from a non-affected one. Even the US (which quarantines
all kinds of disease) does not ban the entry of Indians on the grounds
that they are likely to be carrying a mental disease germ with them.


If you do look a little bit into the human mind, you will find it is
amazingly simple to analyze: the normal human mind has been trained by
millions of years of exposure to the wild life of nature, to be highly
skilled in survival. It is always seeking self-interest. It is also very
sly, and very clever. These qualities are the ones that permit the best to
survive. Those who are charitable, generally die childless, or their
offspring come to no good. The human mind is always devious. If that were
a bad thing, nature would have wiped out all "bad" men by now and all of
mankind would be Buddhas. That did not happen. 

Nature has always promoted those who looked after their families first
over and above the nation or any other concept (even that great and famous
Social Democrat, Prof Ari, of Oakland university, admitted that he is in
the USA and not serving the poor in India primarily because he, poor
'social democrat,' has to look after his family first!). Your reasons for
living in Switzerland are also perhaps at least slightly related to your
need to foster your family or some such thing. You would rather see
sacrificial goats like me and the MPs of India "serve" the poor, sacrifice
themselves, and risk their lives on a daily basis, while you and Prof. 
Ari and others, of course, promote your families in sheltered nests.

Let us issue an appeal to get more of these self-sacrificing suckers to
join politics and the bureaucracy and be honest! Frankly, I too got taken
in by this hoopla! I joined the service thinking that I was going to do a
great deal of good for India even thought it might hurt me and my family
financially. I was taken in for a good ride by appeals issued by those who
live in palaces, even while living in Ashrams (remember Gandhi's info I
got hold of a little while ago: I could almost vomit when I think about
the fake life of 'simplicity' that I was led to believe about him that he
led). I have, dear Sir, lost faith even in Mr. Gandhi, today. I knew that
Nehru was privileged from the very beginning. His family claims to "Garibi
Hatao" from India while living in 5 star comfort. That was known to
everyone. But Gandhi? I do hope that what I read recently about him is
false. He was the only last hero I had. Today I will not accept any
preachings about self-sacrifice from anyone, particularly from a person
living in Switzerland. I will not have anyone mislead our youth.

Instead, I am even more confirmed in my belief that we have designed a
terrible system in India, fully of hypocrisy.

Today, I stick very strongly to the simple argument. 

a) Be a scientist and study the actual human being. Not an ideal that you
or I create in our minds. When even Gandhi has failed, then which ideal
exists, anyway?

b) The human being ALWAYS will be greedy and self-interested, including
being devious and 'clever' (opportunistic) at times. 

c) It is POSSIBLE to design a very good system of checks and balances
whereby all human beings can interact 'fairly' without dampening anyone's
incentives to work. The two conditions required:
	i) the participation constraint must be satisfied
	ii) the incentive compatibility constraint must be satisfied
	called PC and IC in the literature

Today, you have left India for good, and gone to Switzerland. The key
reason for that was that the above two constraints were not satisfied. 
When your reservation wage becomes equal to your global marginal product,
you will leave India at once. When my bosses are all going to be corrupt,
I will leave IAS and perhaps India, at once. 

The contract I was designing for the MPs, for example, was based on this
principle. Today, everyone - including Charu, the great well wisher of the
"poor workers of factories" - refuse to join politics since the rewards do
not compensate for the risk. The expected return is negative. Everyone's
reservation wage is higher than what is offered as an MP. Even the PC is
not satisfied. Even with the new emoluments that some of you have
criticized, NONE of you are willing to take the risk of becoming an MP.

About the incentive compatibilty constraint: clearly, as I said, there is
no incentive to work in a system where people like me - and I do not
either boast nor lie when I say that I was among the very honest and hard
working in the IAS- are booted around from post to post by guess whom? The
worst scum of India who are my "bosses." Forget the talk of meeting
challenges. I will meet challenges, I am meeting them head on, right now! 
But give me, a hard working, self-sacrificing goat, some self-respect. Do
not kick me around. At least, if you kick me around, wear a clean boot. I
don't like to be kicked by corrupt boots. QED: The IC is not met. Good
people will leave India and the system. Mr. Sahrid Ganguly committed
suicide. I would rather do that than work under corrupt bosses and take
the force of corrupt boots hitting my bottom on a daily basis. I re-assert
my rights and self-respect to be a human being. 

All I am saying is that satisfy the PC and IC for every job, starting from
MPs job down to that of a police constable. ENSURE that the best enter -
and stay on - in our governance. Our system design in 1947 was a terrible
one. Indians are no more corrupt or lazy than anyone else in the world.  I
challenge you to prove to me any shred of empirical support for any of
your claims.  I love every one of you on this List. I trust you, even
though you are an "Indian," possibly infected by the cancer hypothesized
above. I believe you are essentially human: both good and the bad reside
in each of you and me.

Let us forget the stupid system we have in India today, and like good
scientists, start afresh and design proper incentives so that our best
brains like you, stay behind in India; our self-sacrificial goats like me
stay behind and risk their lives providing you security and economic
growth by continuing to work in the IAS, and some of the best amongst all
of us alive today, join politics. I don't want to be preached at, even by
Mr. Gandhi, now. I am sick of these things about changing human nature all
the time. 		

Well, I hope when you will read the 'findings' posted on the web page so
far (the free citizen, manifesto, etc.) you will realize that this task of
system re-design has just begun. There is no assumption being made about
Indians being affected by any cancer. That "cancer" which you see in them
is nothing but Nature-given human nature, and I GUARANTEE that the
probability of your doing exactly the same as the Tis Hazaari clerk (I
mentioned a few days ago) is almost 100%, IF you were to work in the same
situation. You too will find it necessary to be a corrupt CM and
completely loot public property and funds if you want to go about trying
to "say" that you will not accept donations from corporations. I challenge
you to show me that money grows on trees.

Thanks for your patience, and I hope this did not sound too personal. I
too have all the qualities of a usual human being, and I too claim that I
would behave like the clerk described above if I that was the only way I
could support my family. In fact, you might be the one Buddha that India
needs, and so forgive my impudence. 

I remain,

humble and confused, as ever,


Doctors tell me that every human being has 
>      "cancer" in his system all the time, but "normal, healthy" human 
>      beings constantly have the upper hand on this cancer; people are said 
>      to contract cancer when they stop having the upper hand on the 
>      cancerous cells.  In the same way, it seems to me, every society has 
>      some corruption; the question is: when does the system as a whole stop 
>      having the upper hand on it.  And how much corruption is necessary 
>      before the whole system seizes up.  We have not reached that point yet 
>      of course but how much further, considering that it only finally takes 
>      a straw to break a camel's back.
>      Prabhu

>      The error is a simple one: IMO you mistake the nature of corruption.  
>      It has nothing to do with genes or half-lives.  It has to do with the 
>      will of individuals and with the consequences of exercising that will 
>      in one direction (honesty) or another (corruption); the consequences 
>      are of course a matter of social and political engineering, which is 
>      why I find the IP discussion group so interesting: we can all help 
>      create systems in which corruption is more (or less) easy to indulge 
>      in, more (or less) detected, more (or less) punished, more (or less) 
>      severely.  Of course it is our daily words and actions which help to 
>      "lift" or "lower" the overall effectiveness of any system. 
>      IMO corruption is more in the nature of a disease (at least it has 
>      been so in the case of our own country, as far as I can make out).  I 
>      have not undertaken a proper study of it, but am basing this 
>      "hypothesis" on my personal experiences:
>      when I was growing up, in Delhi, from 1957 onwards (earlier elsewhere 
>      but I was unaware of these things in the provinces), it was not 
>      "necessary" to bribe to get routine and legal things done eventually, 
>      but it was "necessary" to get routine things "expedited" (which meant 
>      within one's patience or convenience).  I imagine it was necessary to 
>      bribe in order to get ILlegal things done, but those were beyond my 
>      ken in those tender years.
>      As time went on, it became necessary to bribe in order to get routine 
>      and legal things done at all.  But it was necessary to give only a 
>      relatively small bribe (say Rupees one to five) and it was necessary 
>      to give it only once (it did not seem to matter in those days whether 
>      the bribe went to the clerk or to the man at the door).  
>      Today, it seems necessary to bribe everyone at every step, and the 
>      amounts have grown enormously, certainly beyond the legal means of the 
>      ordinary citizen (though five rupees was a lot of money in those 
>      days).
>      I recollect a Prof at the Delhi School of Economics who once gave me a 
>      lift from the Delhi University campus (where I studied) over the Ridge 
>      to the city centre.  During our conversation, I asked him if DSE was 
>      really as good as it was reputed to be (in those days, people there 
>      compared it to the London School of Economics).  He replied that there 
>      was no doubt in his mind that it was (he had studied at LSE, if I 
>      recollect aright).  I then enquired why, if we had such good minds in 
>      India, we seemed to be doing so badly as a nation from an economic 
>      point of view.  I have never forgotten his reply: "My dear chap, we at 
>      DSE and in the government can make the best possible plans in the 
>      world, but there is no way in which we can account for how ingeniously 
>      people can turn and twist the system for their own benefit.  That is 
>      why some people grow richer and richer at the cost of the country".   
>      The theory in those days was that the "commanding heights" of the 
>      economy were to be in the hands of the government while the market was 
>      supposed to rule everywhere else.  The government machinery worked 
>      less and less effectively (though there continued to be outstanding 
>      examples of well-run and profitable government enterprises - it all 
>      depended on the top man), while the "rest" of the economy was 
>      eventually organised to the benefit of a small percentage of people 
>      (am I being generous?). 
>      Anyway, let us look at things at a somewhat different level.  I don't 
>      think anyone seriously argues that our first Prime Minister was very 
>      corrupt (even his worst enemies during his lifetime and after never 
>      charged him with being corrupt, as far as I know).  However, people 
>      did charge him with tolerating at least one corrupt individual in his 
>      cabinet, which he began to do at least in the Sixties, inspite of 
>      stinging denunciations in the press (I seem to recollect Blitz doing 
>      several exposes).  Gradually, it seems (though it may have been very 
>      rapid, in reality) more and more people became corrupt (or corrupt 
>      people were raised to power) till the whole political machine seems 
>      incredibly corrupt today - so much so that you and I may legitimately 
>      harbour doubts about whether there are many honest people left in our 
>      politics and even whether any originally-honest people can survive 
>      honest for long in our system.  Perhaps I am being too pessimistic....
>      Unfortunately, I don't know of any social scientist who has documented 
>      the growth of corruption in India since Independence.  
>      I do know that there have been various attempts at estimating the 
>      extent of the black economy (these are of course only estimates, and 
>      economists differ on how to make such estimates and how accurate all 
>      such estimates are in any case).  And again, I don't have even these 
>      estimated figures to hand (Indian economics is not my field), but I 
>      recollect clearly that the relevant figure kept going up and up till 
>      today the estimates are overwhelming.  How can a government be 
>      expected to make sensible monetary and fiscal policies when so large a 
>      section of the economy is outside its ambit?  Anyway, this is the best 
>      evidence I can offer - perhaps others on this list can offer better 
>      evidence, or can quantify it better than I can at this moment....

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