Judging a Government


 must be truly Tamil.

In the glorious tradition of the peoples of this great land, I always find myself supporting the aalum katchi. It makes me immensely proud of my own self and of my ilk — the tree Tamils[1]. The last time I remember supporting an opposition party in an election was in 1996 — that was when I was too young to claim I will not vote and I probably believed corruption was a bad thing. Perhaps I believed Sun TV more. Maybe both. Or, all three.

That brings me to the question — wouldn’t people who are doing reasonably well for themselves, more often than not, retain the power structure they are in? Australia only recently switched to Labor after over a decade of Conservative rule. The Republicans have been the majority party in America for reasonably long now[2] and the power shifts in Britain have become increasingly less frequent.

In the past four years, India experienced one of its fastest growth phases in its history. After four years of growth at over 8% and an average pay hike of 15% per annum in the organized sector, isn’t it natural that the average middle-class citizen feels good about oneself? If one were to be cynical and argue that the growth rates must be taken into account in comparison with those in the rest of the world, shouldn’t inflation be as well[3]? And more importantly, the middle class voter is more likely to consider what one will risk — not incremental changes in growth, one is tempted to think[4].

Of course, that rationale, even if true, does not hold for poor people. And poor people form the overwhelming majority in a poor country. That basically means, those in power can’t use growth rates — however fantastic they may have been — as an electoral plank. Which is probably why the Indian National Congress is mute about its rather splendid achievement and is acting embarrassed about it.

In other words, poor countries can’t judge governments either way. And rich countries can judge them only when they go very stale or very bad. Like Bush Sr or Jimmy Carter. In sum, the feedback loop is inefficient and the middle-class voter in a developing country should not care. Which they do not; long live Classical Tamil.

[1] — Tree as in caste, not as in plant. Vellore Mutiny, Warrior Caste etc.

[2] — One can discount Carter’s win. And one must. Only Bill Clinton has won the Presidency on a Democratic ticket after Lyndon Johnson. New Deal is safely dead. At least, was.

[3] — Assuming, the argument is restricted to middle class. Which still may not hold. But then, one has to say impact type things.

[4] — Pet theory type.

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