Getting stuck in the bad equilibrium in India

The poor in India are victims of state indifference and corruption; somewhere between a quarter and a half of all subsidized food meant for them, for example, is stolen by corrupt government officials.  And yet if one asks the poor what jobs they would like their children to have the number one answer is to work for the government.  (See also my earlier post on Regulation and distrust for a model.)

In his magnificient, if poorly titled, In Spite of the Gods: The Strange Rise of Modern India, Edward Luce provides a sadly, poignant analogy: 

To the poor the state is both an enemy and a friend.  It tantalizes them with a ladder that promises to lift them out of poverty but it habitually kicks them in the teeth when they turn to it for help.  It inspires both fear and promise. To India's poor the state is like an abusive father whom you can never abandon.  It is through you that his sins are likely to live on.

Luce's book is the best of recent books on India, highly recommended.


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