In India Everyone Gets Affirmative Action

India has long affirmative-action-like programs for members of scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes (yes, that is the official name). The programs typically reserve a certain number of political seats, government jobs, and educational placements for members of historically disadvantaged and discriminated against groups, hence the the term reservations. Over time, the number of reservations has been increased and the category expanded to more and more groups. In fact, under a new reservation program just announced, virtually everyone will be covered by one reservation or another!

The new program will cover household income of less than 8 lakhs which is $11,000, far above India’s GDP per capita! The new program is meant to benefit middle and upper castes who have chafed under reservations for the historically discriminated against. The fact that the program is open to so many people, however, means that it’s really not much of a benefit at all.

Moreover, ultimately reservations mean very little if there aren’t private-sector, wealth-creating jobs which is India’s primary challenge.


Yet, America keeps supporting the Indian backward regime while attacking Brazil, a civilized country.

Thiago I cannot agree more with you. US and India can NEVER align on anything as latter is a thoroughly socialist rot. Brazil is 100 years ahead of India. I mean no satire here.

Yes. And yet the Indians are ungrateful and despise America. If I were an American leader, I would give those socialist fakirs the boot.

@TR - Das Boot? That's fascist, that's Bolsonaro. And Brazil has a little problem with Indians in their country as well (Amazonian Indians).

Bonus trivia: if South America and Africa were once joined at the him, it means South America must have had elephants at some point (as Indian does now); where are they?

I can ssure you the Indian situation is under control in Brazil. The Natives are being well-treated.

LOL. When South America and Africa split, elephants and humans had a common ancestor named Rat Lopez.

Check out this site for rankings by country, pretty nice. Greece is tied with Brazil, which in turn is tied with Thailand, which sounds about right, having visited two of those three countries; Russia is about in the same league. The USA is not so bad, in the top 10, but hardly #1, which is Switzerland. Italy does surprisingly well (#15, ahead of Switzerland), considering everybody assumes it's a basket case, as does France (about tied with the USA). The Philippines is a Third World basket case as I expected but scores points in being cheap.

Sorry, Italy is ahead of Singapore. Singapore is like the "Switzerland of southeast Asia" meaning it's a safe haven relative to the rest of SE Asia, that's why I confused the countries when typing.

Singapore's growth is a remarkable accomplishment, but, on the material quality of life aspects at least (the least subjective part of that list), their living standards are kinda overrated by people who just look at the GDP per capita.

Actual individual consumption in Singapore is around the Euro-Japan mid tier -

Compared to European and Japanese areas of equal urbanisation, Singapore may well have lower consumption measures. Let alone US areas of equal urbanisation.

There's clearly some inflation of GDP per capita going on there, well beyond their consumption of goods and services. Closer to an Asian Luxembourg with 10 times the population than an Asian Switzerland.

Africa & South America split 180 million years ago. The first animal that looked like an elephant showed up 30 million years ago, and the African elephant that we recognize today only appeared 1.5 million years ago.

@Mr. Econotaruan - good point, pace the mastodon via the Bering sea land bridge: ("A mastadon was killed, cooked, and eaten by humans in Ecuador circa 1500 BC.")

I lived in India for several years - they love Americans. The British not so much. Meanwhile, Brazilians hate America, as Thiago proves over and over again. Brazil is a terribly led, terrible nationalist country (with amazing people and culture).

Not true at all. Brazil respects America, that is why we elected pro-American candidate President Captain Bolsonaro. Mr. Bannon has oficially invited Mr. Bolsonaro to join his pro-American, anti-mainstream mivement. Mr. Bannon also visited Mr. Bolsonaro's foreign affair's ideologue Mr. Carvalho.
A group of Brazilian Congressmen who visited Red China has been strongly criticized. People has vowed to throw garbage at them as soonnas they are back in Brazil. Brazil supports America unlike the ungrateful communist-far-right Hinduist radicals from India.

Brazil has the hottest chicks, the best music, and they know how to party.

I want to be joined at the hip, so to speak, with a Brasileira.

You're right. The fact that you could get robbed at any moment means Brazil is so much more exciting than visiting a non-sh*thole country. Every child in Brazil is a thief in training. Good morals they have there.

Countries that still use yards and gallons have to stick together.

Thiago instead of engaging with Brazil don't you think the U.S should learn to constructively engage with China? China is light years ahead of Brazil on all counts: it is an economic powerhouse, a military superpower, and is making great strides in research. The Chinese excell in sports too. Compared to China Brazil is a huge pile of stinking garbage and will remain so for centuries to come. So Better the Americans be good friends with China

6. Additional bonus might apply if you have friends or family in high places.

Alex, this is a pre-election stunt by the supposedly 'right wing' party but ultimately the present leadership is NO way different from the Gandhi scum who perpetrated this nuisance of reservation in a system that does NOT have any jobs to begin with. E.g. just the day before they received 7000 applications of people with Graduate degrees for 13 jobs of waiters in the local secretariat of the state. That is how ridiculously affirmative is India. Thiago is perhaps right. America should keep India at arm's length as former has nothing to gain.

If it's a publicity stunt akin to outlawing gravity, then this AlexT story is a non-story, akin to the newspaper "Weird News from Around the World" column. Move along, nothing to see here.

Bonus trivia: Nixon and Moynihan, US pols on opposite ends of the political spectrum, once collaborated in the early 1970s on a guaranteed national income for the poor. If the minimum is set low enough it's actually cheaper, said a Hoover Inst fellow a few years ago, than today's welfare and affirmative action, though, like the US income tax and the 16th Amendment, it opens the door to abuse from deadbeats clamoring to raise the minimum (not unlike today's minimum wage).

The political spectrum was a bit narrower then. Nixon appealed to a lot of Democrats (or he would not have been reelected with 60.7% of the vote). Moynihan, a moderate to conservative Democrat, appealed to almost everybody. Is there someone today you can say that about?

it is true that this is an election stunt by the current government. But reservation for the scheduled castes and tribe is a much needed crutch in my opinion. reservation is used to solve the problem of representation of opressed and under-represented communities. Not for giving economic aid to economically weak communities.

The top 10 global cities by projected GDP growth through 2035 are all in India. Private sector and wealth creating indeed.

Contrarian take: I'll go "That was here and this is there" on this and argue that what Affirmative Action even means in India is way different than the US, because of their vastly different historical context.

The US has had an ethic of shared citizenship and an ideal of assimilation, and actually achieved a large white middle class with a shared sense of peoplehood. AA effectively undermines this. AA's champions were also frequently the champions of radical left wing programs, those who wanted to undermine the idea of the US as a mostly just capitalist society to remake its economy in their image.

India has a weak history of shared citizenship and little desire by any of its population to actually practice assimilation into a single people. AA is much more likely to undermine an elite stranglehold on power by forward castes, by mobilizing India's diverse communities into shared institutions where they will interact together and realize common interests. Unlike in the US, where as mentioned, it serves to undermine the broad white middle's hold on power and breed distrust across ethnic groups.

AA also needs to be considered quite differently within jobs that exist to mediate with a community and the government - police, community relations, public school teachers - where it actually has arguable value, and jobs that have an external and hard meritocratic standards - firefighters, medics, construction workers - where choosing candidates on the basis of preferred characteristics is mainly likely to result in people being killed and hurt.

Indeed that's the most positive spin on Indian reservations. And there is some truth in it.

It has also always been a way of buying votes, and of increasing the footprint of government in everyone's lives. And has arguably had the effect of keeping some ethnic lines sharper than they might otherwise be.

While I have not read all the details of this latest move, reservations for (almost) everyone sounds a bit like a move to water down the reservations-for-some system. It is also very interesting that this is explicitly economic, not caste/ethnic/etc based, I'm pretty sure that is a first.

AA in the US was proposed to give deserving blacks a chance, which they were not getting from individuals and communities with political and economic power (i.e., whites.) In other words, it was used to counteract discrimination against blacks on average. Those reasons may not be (as) relevant today, but calling it a socialist plot even during its conception is a ridiculous misreading IMO.

The same rationale applied in India, and still applies today to some extent (more so than in the US.) The problem in India, which you have misconstrued, is not that "forward" castes are systematically discriminating against the "backward" castes, but that the share of people with meaningful political or economic power is a very small share of the country's population (much less than in the US.) In the competition to gain such power, a forward caste person is better placed than a typical backward caste person. Hence forward castes seem to hold most of the reins of power (modulo AA.)

But the truth is that most of the forward caste people themselves are locked out of the system. That really is what has created a lot of resentment, not just against AA, but perversely the scramble to gain backward caste status for oneself. Hence the increasing expansion and complexity of AA rules.

"The same rationale applied in India" as in the US, AA "used to counteract discrimination" but "The problem in India, which you have misconstrued, is not that "forward" castes are systematically discriminating against the "backward" castes".

... OK.

I assume you meant that sarcastically and didn't bother to read the rest of the comment. All that shows is that though you may have the capability to judge your own country fairly, you insist on applying stereotypes to other countries; i.e., you do not have an open mind.

I read the whole thing. It seemed contradictory (hence quoting an example of that in case you didn't get it) and "Not all forward castes" (obvious and somewhat besides the point).

Perhaps you're used to being to make assertions and then have your interlocutors back off in fear that they will be not perceived to be open minded and cosmopolitan.

So say more about the contradiction.

Perhaps I wasn't clear, but I was saying that forward castes used to systematically discriminate against backward castes, thereby warranting AA policies. But at this point in time, such discrimination is not a significant problem, or at least not as much of a problem as it used to, though individual cases of discrimination can of course be found (just like white racism isn't really much of a problem in the US today, though individual cases can be found.)

Money talks much much louder in modern India than caste, and if you see over-representation of certain castes in certain professions, the cause is likely to lie more in culture and family backgrounds rather than insidious discrimination.

"But at this point in time, such discrimination is not a significant problem, or at least not as much of a problem as it used to"
"Money talks much much louder in modern India than caste"
this is not true. I'm sure you are an upper-caste buffoon

Wealth being productive capital assets created by paying workers.

"Moreover, ultimately reservations mean very little if there aren’t private-sector, wealth-creating jobs which is India’s primary challenge."

All that is needed is incentives as called for by Keynes, and rather well executed by China for several decades:

"I feel sure that the demand for capital is strictly limited in the sense that it would not be difficult to increase the stock of capital up to a point where its marginal efficiency had fallen to a very low figure. This would not mean that the use of capital instruments would cost almost nothing, but only that the return from them would have to cover little more than their exhaustion by wastage and obsolescence together with some margin to cover risk and the exercise of skill and judgment. In short, the aggregate return from durable goods in the course of their life would, as in the case of short-lived goods, just cover their labour costs of production plus an allowance for risk and the costs of skill and supervision."

What is needed is much higher cost of living to pay more workers to build more revenue generating assets which the increased income would cover after accounting for the added demand for consumptions goods would pay many more workers, such that increased demand for labor would raise all wages.

Economies are zero sum. Pay workers low wages and consumption will be low, thus production also low, GDP growth requires consumption growth which requires income growth, or population growth.

The US has population growth from immigration, thankfully, because cost cutting, ie holding down worker incomes, has tended to hold down or drive down incomes, and consumption.

In India, hundreds of millions have been left behind, their incomes depressed, so they immigrate to cities with the double impact of seeking to increase incomes high enough to cover living costs, and for those who do increase incomes, they compete with existing "middle class" for both jobs and resources, like housing, school seats for kids.

The problems are merely on a larger scale, and changing faster, than the US. Trump voters who feel left behind are in the parts of the US with strong cost cutting policies driving mostly the young from low living cost rural to high living cost coastal regions, conservative to liberal.

In a global economy, increasing living costs is required because, zero sum, that's the only way to increase incomes.

Note living costs "leak" so rural areas must pay high costs for vehicles out of loow incomes, while cheap food from rural areas is sold cheap in high income areas, but after high cost labor jacks the cost way up, making rural people even worse off.

This program is of far more economic significance:

So I'm guessing that 999 square foot homes are going to be really popular in India now

I don't think so.

"The new program will cover household income of less than 8 lakhs which is $11,000, far above India’s GDP per capita!"

Per capita income vs. Household income - not a fair comparison Alex. Per capita income in India is ~$2,000. With an average household size of 4.5, the average household income turns out to be ~$9,000 only slightly below the threshold of ~$11,000.

Well, sure. As a matter of practical politics, abolishing the reservation system is more difficult than diluting it to meaninglessness. And looking ahead to a potential change in government, removing new beneficiaries to un-dilute it will be harder than re-establishing an abolished program.

That is true. This could be the unintentional outcome from this policy.

Comments for this post are closed