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Method of summarizing debates
On Tue, 6 Oct 1998, Dr. Subroto Roy wrote:
> The aim of the India Policy Initiative pioneered by Mr. Sanjeev
> Sabhlok and his associates should be, I believe, to make possible more
> rational and better informed political decision-making on the part of
> the median voter in India. For this to emerge it may be better to
> structure a political dialogue between classical liberal ideas (in the
> manner of a Kantian antinomy if anyone remembers Critique of Pure
> Reason) rather than a single manifesto.
I do believe that this is a very useful strategy. I think that this is
already being done in the summaries, to some extent. The method of debate,
as recorded should read:
Counter to the opposition:
Counter to the ....
That of course requires a lot of editing of the existing summaries, but it
should be worked upon in the end. Those writing the summaries could keep
this in mind. Maybe we can standardize the format of the summaries.
For the main objective of IPI, though, I am not quite sure if we want to
publish a hodgepodge of alternative arguments. We do need to provide a
coherent bunch of best "high level" (applicable at the political level)
As stated in the Plan of Action page:
"Ambiguity, uncertainty, and inadequate knowledge do not eliminate strong
convictions in political life. Despite the enormous complexity of the
world, behavior is driven by normative convictions and basic principles.
True believers in any 'ideology' are disinclined to attend to events
contradicting their core normative and causal beliefs. Given this harsh
reality, that none of us is truly or completely an objective observer of
life, and that what may appear to be a 'lesson' learnt might actually be
found after a period of time to have been a misinterpretation of facts, or
a distortion of history, human beings have the need to act to 'the best of
their knowledge and beliefs' at any given point of time.
"It is the belief of this forum that better and better ideas will
continuously emerge from discussion and debate, but that action cannot be
delayed beyond a point as it will amount to a contradiction and a
nullification of the sense of urgency with which this effort was taken up
by many seriously concerned individuals."
The fact that one has arrived at a particular consensus does not preclude
its improvement or even reversal. However, merely documenting alternative
viewpoints will seriously reduce the value of this exercise. We are
basically taking upon ourselves the task of telling India: "Look friends,
here is what science and research says are the best policies and
strategies for India. We are offering you these policies for your
consideration, on a tentative basis."
These best policies are not being designed with a popularity contest in
mind. Hence the fact that no classical liberal party ever got elected does
not quite bother me. If we make ALL the voters classical liberal, and
scientific in their viewpoint, treasuring human freedom and respecting
each other, then the median voter would automatically be classical
liberal. That's how I view the value of the median voter theorem, not as a
static entity predicting a permanent dichotomy between the left and right.
Professor Kuran of USC has documented many cases of apparent 'sudden
shifts' in public perception and has an excellent theory of why these
happen. "Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of
Preference Falsification",Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995. These
shifts have a cycle. We are at the beginning of the cycle. We can easily
use the internet to greatly magnify the speed of this shift.
Has it EVER happened before that a 100+ serious people have sat together
and discussed policy to the extent we are discussing before? For 7 months.
And produced so much? And spent so little money? And never even met each
We are on a new dimension altogether now. The internet has permanently
changed the nature of policy discourse. As one of my Professors at USC has
told me: "Congratulations on a very enterprising project. As you are
finding out, the Web is a very miraculous instrument for communication!"
(Prof. Michael Magill, the doyen of General Equilibrium theory and
This is miraculous, indeed! Let us therefore make miracles happen!
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