NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!
On the role of the media
Hi NL team,
This is my 4th letter.
Just heard NL Hafta 245 (I’ve been lagging a bit, new job) where you discuss the role of the media.
In economics (and finance), one of the commonly known principles is the principal-agency problem. I’m sure most NL listeners know and understand it, but for the layman, a principal-agency problem typically arises when the agent makes decisions on behalf of the principal (whose money or resources are at stake). For agents, you can think of stock brokers, hedge funds, real estate brokers, etc. In our case, it is the government, which at the end of the day uses the principal’s capital (taxes) to make (ideally, yet seldom, good and profitable) decisions on our behalf.
One key pillar of the principal-agency problem is the information asymmetry between the agent and the principal, which allows the agent to exploit the principal’s capital. Here, the government and the citizens, respectively. I think the only role of the media is to reduce this information gap since typically the agent has an information advantage which it tries to leverage for its own gain. That is why the media’s mandate appears to be more often anti-establishment/agent than not.
Ideally, the principal (citizens) should pay an independent third party to work as an auditor in order to reduce this asymmetry. For example, Newslaundry.
Why Indians are angry
I am no expert in psychoanalysing a country of 1.2 billion people, but I had a few thoughts regarding unhappiness and rowdiness of Indians. When the protests against guns, sexism, Donald Trump, or climate change happened across the world, there was almost zero violence. I have talked to collegegoers here in the United States who were arrested during the protests. They know that when they get arrested, by and large, they will not be facing intimidation or violence by the police or the government. Indians have no such trust in their institutions. If you are poor and penniless, you know that anyone having little access to power will treat you as vermin who should squirm under their authority.
Also, the poor and uneducated are much more violent in their protests than the educated and rich. We shouldn’t be squeamish saying this, and the reason is what I precisely said, they have almost nothing to lose. They are beaten up, bullied, harassed by everyone 365 days a year. When they see a mob being formed, it’s the first time they taste power and they exercise it by burning buses. I also dislike this fetish of viewing poverty as character-building. Debilitating poverty makes you miserable and immoral and mannerless.
My personal theory for India’s unhappiness is that it has a large number of people vying for a small pool of jobs and resources. But it’s a mystery that no one seems to know the answer to; all the think pieces I read were full of wild guesses. Perhaps Newslaundry should do a deep dive into it.
Shoor Veer Singh
On making Hafta better
This was the best Hafta in a while, although the last few have had really good bits. To me, good Haftas are clearly the ones in which you spend time on a topic. And there’s some back and forth. The bad ones are when you do lots of topics that you guys don’t seem to care about.
I, for one, would rather you discussed fewer topics at length. I really think you should discuss this with your subscribers and not feel pressured to include all topics equally. You now have Daily Dose to tell us what’s going on.
I particularly enjoyed the trouble Abhinandan was having keeping Madhu from taking over.
PS: Given that you have a really nice article by him up right now, would you consider having David Devadas on your show?
On the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation strike
Dear Hafta team,
I know you will all be busy this week covering the elections. But please take some time out to discuss the ongoing strike at the Telangana State Road Transport Corporation. Since the strike started, the state government has issued several press releases saying all 48,000 striking employees will be considered “self dismissed”. I spoke about the strike and some demands with Suno India. You can listen to that here. I am sharing a bunch of other links below to help you catch up on the strike. This is already shaping up to be the longest strike in the history of the TSRTC (called APSRTC in undivided Andhra Pradesh).
Gurugubelli Sai Ratna Chaitanya (Ratnam)