The story of Calvin and Hobbes!

Calvin and Hobbes comic strip by Bill Watterson is a marvelous piece of creativity and imagination. It has many philosophical lessons in the mischievous conversation between Calvin and his imaginary tiger friend Hobbes. This comic strip makes you laugh, gives you insights about life and also discovers the beautiful relationships of friendship, growing up and the meaning of life. The special bond between Calvin and Hobbes makes it relatable for many of us. Calvin’s behaviour also reflects our inner child.

A fascinating part of the comic strip is its beautiful layout and hues of color. Bright yellow color, the picturesque landscape and Calvin and Hobbes’ expression makes you feel energized and smile while reading.

Ending this blog with some of the best lines by Calvin and Hobbes:

How to eradicate poverty from the world?

Nothing is more dreadfully painful than poverty, and gripping poverty robs a man of the lofty nobility of his descent”- Thiruvallur

On July 10th, 2020, a six-year-old girl fell into a stormwater drain in the Marathahalli area while playing with her friends. She is the daughter of Nityananda and Boni Koli. They are migrants from Assam, living in the nearby slum area. Her father works as a security guard and mother as a domestic worker. There has been no update on this incident as of now. Who is responsible for this tragic incident? This incident shows the ‘hazards of being poor’ as also mentioned in the book. The poor people’s lives inextricably linked to huge amounts of risks not only related to income/food but also related to health, political violence, crime, and different kinds of shocks like the recently declared lock down amid the covid-19 pandemic.

This book has always been part of my reading list but when both the authors of this book won the Nobel prize last year, I decided that I have to finish this book soon. The curiosity and the zeal to find solutions how to eradicate poverty and why they do whatever they do in their lives and why policies world over fail to bring about a substantial difference in their lives, has always intrigued me.

“Poverty leads to an intolerable waste of talent. Poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”

Amartya Sen

I have always been moved by people’s lives. If I see people living in difficult circumstances, I always ask myself why life is so unfair for a few people and a bed of roses for some. And many times I felt like crying inside because I am helpless as if I can’t do anything about it. Why someone has to lose its dignity because of a lack of resources. This is inhuman. Poverty is itself so inhuman. It makes you miserable from inside and you don’t have the strength to face the world.

These are some of the pertinent questions asked by the authors in this book. Why is there still poverty in the world or India? Why well thought out policies of the government of India have been failing to eradicate poverty for a long time? Why does no one ask the poor about their choices, their priorities, and why they are making the choices what are they making? It is absolutely necessary to understand the reasons behind their choices/decisions in life to frame better policies for eradicating poverty?

It’s not that the world has not tried to eradicate poverty. However, there are different ideologies/views present in the world to solve the problem of poverty. Jeffrey Sachs in his book, “The End of Poverty” says that ‘foreign aid’ is the key. Even aid establishment institutions like the United Nations and the World Health Organization believe in spending money on aid. William Easterly, Dambisa Moyo & others are not in favor of providing aid as they both argue that aid does more harm than good. They believe that we should respect people’s freedom if they don’t want anything, there is no point in forcing it upon them. Darren Acemoglu & James A Robinson’s theory of institutions given in his famous book-“Why Nations Fail”, believes in a fundamental change of the institutions to bring about any positive change in the country. However, there is hardly any focus on understanding the choices of the people and why they do what they do.

Mostly we judge poor people about the choices they make in their lives. Why don’t they save enough for them for the difficult period? Why do they produce many kids if they can’t afford a better life for them? Why don’t they take benefits of the government schemes? Why poor people don’t want health insurance? Do the poor really have a choice to control their fertility decisions? Why children of the poor don’t learn anything despite going to schools? Why don’t they get enough nutrients?

The authors had made it clear that there is really no difference between the decision-making of the poor and other people because they are also normal human beings. They also have the same problems of temptations, lack of self-control, weak beliefs, procrastination, and the problem of ‘time inconsistency’. Through various surveys, interviews and other evidence, the authors have shown that somehow the whole system is designed or exists in a way that makes it really impossible for the poor to come out of the vicious circle of poverty. For instance, they don’t have access to formal banking institutions and if they have, they have to pay higher interest rates, they don’t have any fallback option in the condition of shocks like demonetization or the recent lockdown, poor children are not wanted in schools unless they show some exceptional capabilities and also forced to drop out, they don’t have faith in the public health system because of the combination of beliefs as well as psychological sunk cost effect. And because of all these things, the poor may become skeptical about supposed opportunities and the possibility of any radical change in their lives, and also since they suffer from low depression, they lack the capacity to make sound decisions. And the vicious circle continues.

However, it’s not all doomsday scenario as the authors have also provided ways that can be used to bring about substantial change in the lives of the people. The fundamental argument of the authors is that ‘it is not always necessary to fundamentally change the institutions to bring about any positive difference rather change can also happen at the margin.’ According to the authors, though they didn’t find any magic bullet, they certainly found out few ways to improve the lives of the poor:

  1. Poor lack of credible information. So there is a need for innovative, credible, and simple information campaigns to make people aware of various schemes and their benefits and also their rights.
  2. Use the default options and nudges to enforce positive behaviors as they don’t have enough time & resources to think about themselves to make decisions.
  3. There are reasons like moral hazards, adverse selection, and lack of self-control that prevent markets to exist for the poor.
  4. Policies are failed in poor countries because of three Is-Ideology, Inertia and Ignorance and there is a need to realize the fact that change can also happen at the margin.
  5. There is a need to change the expectations of people. There was evidence that when villagers in remote areas of Karnataka got to know that girls can get jobs if they are skilled in computers, they started sending their girls to school.

Not only this, micro-credit, better education for their children, good jobs, insurance against health & weather disasters, social safety-net and minimum income support can help the poor to get out of the trap. And these small initiatives will bring a little bit of hope and comfort in their lives which will give them strength and courage to think about their future. However, as even authors of this book agree that there is a lot more to know and understand regarding the lives of people. The authors talked about all the basic problems that keep the poor in the vicious circle and what can be done and how we should not reduce all the problems to the same set of general principles. The time has come to listen the poor and the understand the logic of their choices.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please click the link below to buy me a coffee.

Buy Me A Coffee

Government’s work is God’s work?


It is ironic to see that “Government’s work is God’s work” is written on the Vidhan Soudha, the seat of the State Government of Karnataka but the 24% of newly elected MLAs of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly face serious criminal charges. Even  India’s temple of democracy ie. parliament is filled with lawmakers who have criminal backgrounds and more disturbing thing is that the percent of legislators facing criminal charges have increased in the subsequent General Elections. For instance, 34% of MPs elected in 2014 faced criminal cases as compared to 24% of MPs elected in 2004. 

On the face of increasing criminalization of politics, Milan Vaishnav, senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC, book “When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics” is an eye-opener in terms of understanding the puzzling co-existence of criminality in politics along with the democratic accountability. The author has tried to address the questions of their co-existence since the beginning when they acted as “anti-social elements” to mobilize the voters for their masters(politicians) to becoming the lawmakers themselves.The author has beautifully applied the concept of a market in terms of ‘supply’ and ‘demand’ to understand the “electoral marketplace” where voters play a ‘role of buyers’ and political parties play a ‘role of sellers’. And the most interesting thing is that all these players are guided by their self-interest. Voters want the governance vacuum to be filled, political parties want self-financed candidates and criminal candidates want self-preservation and self-protection.  

The origin of this whole criminality in Indian politics which has deep historical linkages in the post-independence era when these anti-social elements acted as a facilitator to the politicians. However, these elements entered into the political fray due to the breakdown of the Congress party’s patronage networks, vacuum created in the governance process due to the emergency declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975, increasing social demands in terms of ‘identity politics’, the huge ‘crisis of governability’ when Indian state fails to deliver basic services to the citizens. However, the author has provided an important insight into the book,

“Electoral support for the politicians with criminal records is not necessiarily symptomatic of a breakdown in democratic accountability. Instead, malfeasant politicians and popular accountability can in fact be compatible to each other”. 

“When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics”-Milan Vaishnav

In fact, this whole idea refuted the concept of “ignorant voter scenario hypothesis”. In fact, the voters are not ignorant or uninformed, they are simply looking for candidates who can best fill a perceived vacuum of representation and protect the status of the community. The author through his various field surveys, as well as interviews of the candidates, provided interesting details of the criminalization of politics in India and what are the causes as well as how it is sustained in the strong society like India. 

The supply of criminal politicians and money power is intertwined to each other as money plays an important role in the election expenditure. This also has historical underpinnings when the corporate donation was banned by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to appear harsh on ‘crony capitalism’ which in turn created the pathway for black money and hard cash to enter into the election financial regime. Not only this, India’s grand corruption in terms of ‘regulatory rents’, ‘extractive rents’ and ‘political rents’ created a linkage and interaction among them created more ground for criminal politicians to emerge. The author has quoted the example of ‘Reddy Brothers‘ in Karnataka, Madhu Koda of Jharkhand, YSR & Jagan Reddy from Andhra Pradesh showing that how they have extracted rents from natural resources taking advantage of severe gaps in India’s governance system. This whole corruption and hard cash create a lot of money power which helps in winning the elections. In fact, as per the analysis provided by the author, candidate’s wealth and electoral success are highly linked, richer is the candidate, more chances of winning. It answers the questions of why political parties select the candidates from the criminal backgrounds.

There is also calculated reasoning on the political parties to select ‘self-financing candidates’ who do not drain the party coffers but can provide rents to the party in the wake of costly elections, increasing competition etc. Criminal Politicians are like “Robinhood- one who robs the rich and gives to the poor” who act as a credible representative in a multi-ethnic society like India. The idea of Robinhood has been a recurring theme of Bollywood movies sometimes inspired by the real characters of Indian politics.  That is why the author has named one of his chapters- doing good by doing bad to address the demand side of criminality. In fact, this shows that these bad politicians use various tools like ‘redistribution’, ‘coercion’, ‘social insurance’ and ‘dispute resolution’ to signal their credibility to protect the interest of their community. This whole politics of dignity rhetoric creates an extensive ground for “defensive criminality” to flourish.

The failure of the state to maintain rule of law, deeper social cleavages and ethnic differences create demand for criminal politicians to protect the interests of their community. The author has also provided an interesting insight in terms of the role of ethnicity in creating push of criminality as it was found that less number of criminal candidates contest from reserved constituencies as compared to general constituencies. The less criminality in reserved constituencies is due to the need of appealing to all section of voters for winning the election.

Ultimately, the conclusion of the author in the book is that the real factor of the emergence of criminality in politics is ‘institutional erosion’ of the Indian state. In fact, the capacity of the Indian state was questioned many times by various authors. Gunnar Myrdal in his book “Asian Drama” called India as a “soft state” because of its failure to implement basic economic and social policies efficiently and effectively. There is also a paradox of “weak strong state” as called by Lloyd and Susanne Rudolph where the Indian State is able to send Mars Mission in its maiden attempt but it is not able to fulfill the basic necessities of its citizens. 

In fact, most of the book related to Indian politics reach this conclusion that we have achieved so much but our ‘institutions’ need radical reform to strengthen the capacity of the state. That is why the author also says, “Downsizing the state” or “enlarging the state” are imperfect catchphrases; what is needed, in a nutshell, is for the Indian state to be “right-sized”. It means that we need a radical restructuring of the institutions like the police, courts, political parties, the election system in terms of funding etc to make it more strongly to perform the role of a strong state who is not mocked when it can do more difficult things but not able to provide basic necessities of the people. 

The author in 311 pages has provided a comprehensive study of the nexus between crime and politics which also has implications for other countries of the world. As the author also wrote about the other countries like Brazil, Mexico and many African countries where similar scenario exists. This book was quoted by the recent Supreme Court Judgement on the criminalization of politics where the Supreme Court has ordered the Parliament to legislate to bar the criminals entering the mainstream politics. It is also the winner of Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya NIF Book Prize for Best Non-Fiction Book of 2017. 

However, as per my understanding, the book has fallen short in providing concrete solutions to deal with the problem of criminalization of politics. It has provided broad solutions which are already there in the public domain regarding the strengthening the institutions, reforming the whole governance process which is, in fact, an ongoing process. The criminalization of politics is a deep malaise also agreed by author reflects the overall attitude of society in terms of voting behavior guided by narrow interests of self-preservation, development and quick success. We obviously need the restructuring of the institutions along with that there is a need to inculcate good values, ethics, and morality in the society since childhood to make India a better nation because of it’s the people who constitute nation and state. 





We are irrational beings?

new image

Nobel laureate Herbert Simon gave the concept of “bounded rationality” which tells us that the human mind can not cope with the complexity of the world due to the limitations in their mental capacity. To make sense of this complexity, we create a simplified mental model of reality and work with this model. Obviously, the model created by us is full of biases, stereotypes and irrational views. On similar lines, the author of this book-Dan Ariely tries to understand the rationale behind irrational decisions taken by human beings who are termed as the most intelligent species of their time. A personal tragedy motivated him to write this book.

The quote “Man is not truly one, but truly two” by Dr. Jekyll tells the crux of human behaviours. We always wonder after seeing various newspaper reports related to irrational crimes like teenage pregnancy, rape of children, extreme violence etc committed by sane individuals. Generally, it happens in a fit of arousal which can vary from hunger, anger, excitement, jealousy and importantly sexual arousal. This happens because human beings are not only irrational but systematically and predictably irrational. MIT Behavioral economist Dan Ariely proved in his book through various experiments which makes you understand irrationality in human behavior so that we can design our choices for the better decision-making process.

Dan Ariely in this book has tried to substantiate through various experiments that despite all achievements and wonders achieved by human beings, we behave irrationally in our daily life because of wiring in our brains. We behave irrationally because its easy for our brain to make things clear in a complex world. He talks about relativity and tells that we don’t have ‘internal value meter’ that can evaluate the worth of any product or other emotional things also. We always compare things to understand its worth. In fact, relativity helps in the decision-making process but it also makes life miserable because of never-ending quest of getting physical and other emotional things in life better than others.

These ideas are very much visible in our daily life. We all experience the phenomenon of comparing with our neighbors, friends, colleagues etc. In fact, we also get suggestions from others that don’t compare yourself with others. However, we can’t stop doing this because we don’t have any other way to measure things.  Not only this, we make very crucial decisions in our life like buying things, subscribing magazines, choosing the life-partner etc with the help of relativity.

The zero-price effect creates an emotional pull for all human beings to participate in the processes which offer things for free. We automatically accept the free beer or Pepsi or energy drink not because we liked it or we needed it but because it’s free. At times, the zero price can affect our decision-making process in a negative manner also as seen in terms of wastage of common resources owned by humanity.

One of the interesting findings in the book is that “we live simultaneously in two different worlds -one where social norms prevail and other where market norms make the rules”. In fact, social norms and market norms exist together in the society but whenever they collide, it creates a lot of problems. We can not measure the value of emotions and other social norms in monetary terms. When the social norms are converted into market norms, it is very difficult to go back. Here the author gave the example of a study conducted in a school in Israel where parents were penalized if they came late to pick up their children. The result was disastrous after this, as parents now didn’t feel guilty about coming late to pick up their kids, as social norms were converted into market norms.

The author also talks about the rampant consumerism, procrastination, problem of self-control, the high price of ownership not only in terms of physical products but also in terms of ideas, point of views. When we agree to one point of view, we just don’t want to change it because of the fallacy of high valuation of whatever we have. And he also proves that due to our stereotypes and expectations, we get in what we expect. The value of price is very important in our life. We lavishly enjoyed the food in a high-end restaurant even if the food is bland because we have paid more for it. That’s why the author mentions that our headache disappears when we take a 50 cent aspirin but it persists when we take an aspirin worth of a penny.

At the end of this book, the author spoke about the character of human beings and why we are dishonest? In fact, as per the author, we are honest till the moment it suits our requirements. When there is an opportunity, many honest people will cheat. It happens because small transgressions do not wake up our conscience and super-ego as propounded by Sigmund Freud. We cheat on small things because of the absence of internal honesty monitor.

In the era of digital banking, the author provides a radical perspective that people are more prone to cheat when they are not dealing with cash. He makes the argument that when we cheat under electronic transactions, we don’t feel it in our hands and therefore we don’t even realize that we are doing something wrong. In fact, it is so true that when we spend money through credit cards, we don’t feel the pinch but when we buy things through cash, we feel about spending money. In fact, this can be the reason behind various electronic frauds happening in various parts of the world. Daniel also revealed one interesting thing about honesty. That is when someone reminds us about moral values and principles, we follow it immediately.

The author also talks about our behavior to influence others and sacrifice ‘ personal utility’ to gain ‘reputational utility’. It happens because we want to show others that we are ‘unique’ and different.

However, the realization that we are predictably irrational also creates opportunities to frame our choices and influence the decision-making process of individuals to make better decisions in life. The zero-price effect can be used to frame good policies in terms of making it free to travel in public transport, using electric vehicles etc. Social norms are cheap and have a strong emotional backing which can be used to influence people to pay taxes, to take care of the elderly etc. In fact, we need to be reminded of moral codes every now and then so that our super-ego does not sleep and makes us aware whenever we try to commit any dishonesty.

In this book, the author provided stimulating and thought-provoking details of human behavior and how human beings are systematically irrational because we repeat our behaviors again and again. This book along with “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness” authored by Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein and “The Art of Thinking Clearly” written by Rolf Dobelli provides  a holistic understanding of human behaviour, its irrationality and how to capitalise on this irrationality by using incentives, nudges, social norms, default options, providing feedback etc to improve decision-making process.

Why Nations Fail?

This book was an interesting read for everyone who is curious to know why some nations are rich and why some are poor? This book is a must-read for all those who work for the welfare of the people of the country. It gives a compelling perspective about the origins of power, prosperity, and poverty. In fact, everyone who is interested in public policy, they must read this book to get ideas how to change or modify policies/institutions at a critical juncture to create a path towards prosperity for a nation. We can look for a better example in our own South Asian Sub-continent in terms of the evolution of India and our neighboring countries. Why Indian democracy despite its various flaws is still flourishing? Why other countries in the Sub-continent are still not able to achieve a substantial form of liberal democracy? That is also interlinked with our economic growth and progress as well as reduction of poverty.

It is a hot topic of discussion and debate to find out the reasons behind poverty. Not only this, in the process, policymakers and leaders are eagerly waiting to know the real formula to bring about prosperity for their people. We live in an unequal world. There is a massive amount of inequality prevalent among nations of the world. Why it is so? Why one person in “developed north” lives healthier and prosperous life and another one in “developing south” lives a miserable life with no health and security? This inequality is not only prevalent between countries but also there within a country also. The stark inequality is not only impacting the lives of poor but also creating grievances and resentment among the people of Western countries of the USA and the European Union. The election of Trump as US president, Britain’s exit from the European Union, Islamophobia, Migration crisis, and anti-migration rhetoric are some of the symptoms of the real problem. 

The authors of the book have also discussed and refuted various theories regarding origins of poverty and prosperity before giving their own theory of “INSTITUTIONS”:

  1. The Geography Hypothesis claims that geographical differences create poverty and prosperity. Montesquieu, the French philosopher propounded this theory. He argued that people in tropical climates tend to be lazy and lack inquisitiveness. The modern version of this theory says that tropical diseases have adverse consequences on health and labor productivity.However, we have a lot of examples from past as well as present to refute this theory. We had a lot of great civilizations(INDUS valley, INCA civilization) in tropical areas and developed countries like Singapore and Malaysia in tropical areas. Nogales , Arizona(US) and Nogales, Sonoro (Mexico) are very close to each other but they are different not because of their geography but because of the border existing between the two countries which separate them to live in different institutions.thin_line_between_rich_and_poor-520x346.jpeg
  2. The Cultural Hypothesis relates prosperity to culture. Max Weber argued that the Protestant Reformation and Protestant Ethic played a key role in the growth of Western Civilization. It can also be refuted by seeing the countries of Japan, Singapore, South Korea and China. They have different cultures as compared to western countries. North Korea and South Korea had same cultures till 1950. However, today both the nations are far apart not because of their culture but they have different kinds of institutions after their division.korea-5ac0a6353ba0201b5cb2fcf37552aee89ee4a258-s900-c85.jpg
  3. The Ignorance Hypothesis asserts that world inequality exists because we or our rulers do not know how to make poor countries rich. However, it is also not true because it is not that some leaders do not know things but it is something else. As per the author, poor countries are poor because those who have power make choices that create poverty. They get it wrong not by mistake or ignorance but on purpose.
  4. Here comes the theory, given in this book- Theory of Institutions. As per the authors, institutions matter a lot. They shape not only the destiny of the particular country but also influences the world. Institutions can be of two types: political and economic institutions.  In fact, both are interlinked. The poverty and prosperity is the interplay of political and economic institutions. What kind of political and economic institutions are created/formed in the country decide about the future of the nations? There are two kinds of Economic Institutions- Inclusive as well as Extractive Inclusive Economic Institutions foster economic activity, productivity, and prosperity. They also pave the way for two other engines of prosperity-Technology and Education. Similarly, Inclusive Political  Institutions are pluralistic  and centralized enough to create a peaceful climate for people to pursue their ideas.

On the other hand, Extractive Political Institutions concentrate power in the hands of a narrow elite and place few constraints on the exercise of this power. Extractive Economic Institutions naturally depend and sustain the Extractive Political Institutions. They both are interlinked. The real thing is that we and our leaders get the opportunity to decide about these institutions at the critical juncture of history. For instance, Black Death(Bubonic Plague) has created the ground for new and progressive economic and political institutions to emerge in England. On similar grounds, we can see our Independence and formation of our constitution in 1947-1950 was a critical juncture for our country. It can also be related to the present situation in India. The NDA government led by Mr. Modi, our Prime Minister got a massive majority in 2014 election. It was a critical juncture and opportunity provided to leaders of the country to usher into a radical transformation of our politics and economics to create prosperity for Indian people.

It means that history also plays an important role. In fact, Institutions are formed at the critical juncture to decide about the future of the country. But the real question is that why not always choose prosperity? Because some leaders want to become rich themselves rather than making their country rich. The colonial legacy also played a role here. Colonies were exploited by the colonial masters for their own benefits. Not only this, they established various institutions to perpetuate disparity and poverty in the colonized countries. We can see the examples of this legacy in Sub-Saharan African and the Middle East countries.

So what needs to be done?

Extractive Political and Economic institutions must be replaced by Inclusive Political and Economic Institutions. At every critical juncture, the people, as well as leaders of the country, must embark on a journey to create inclusive institutions to create prosperity in the country. For instance, our country is at a critical juncture when our “demographic dividend” is so high and our country is a fastest growing economy in the world, we must seize the moment to create bountiful opportunities for the youth of the country.

Review of the Nudge

This book was really different and difficult for me because I never read this kind of book before. The title of the book conveys the main idea of the book. Nudge can create a sustained push for not only changing the human behavior towards everything but also help in various policy matters.

Richard Thaler, the writer has provided various examples to prove his theory. In fact, after reading these ideas, we can also realize those things after a keen observation in our personal life.

The most recent and important example can be remembered in the context of India is the issue of prohibition. Supreme Court of India has banned the shops from serving liquor if they are located within a 500m distance of national highway. Various state governments have also banned liquor in their state. Bihar is the recent example. Here, the question is: Will banning any substance solve the real issue? Will it really solve the issue of drunken driving?  It was always found that banning/ restrictions have failed miserably to solve any problem. Here we need an innovative form of pushes in the form of nudges as described in the book. Why not the government should start an innovative campaign of information dissemination regarding prohibition. For instance, popularize the information that spending on alcohol can be used for other productive purposes like buying a house or a vehicle. There is need to create a feedback mechanism to make the people realize about their choices.   For example, banning junk food will not solve the problem of obesity but providing the fresh fruits, vegetables at a reasonable rate to the public will create a powerful nudge. Make eating fresh fruits as a fashion statement. It is really happening nowadays for organic foods.

This book has provided various concepts:  Libertarian Paternalism, Choice Architect, Default options etc. These concepts decide the choices we make in our life. Our parents, governments act as a choice architecture which provides us various options to choose in our life. Why not provide good choices to the people so that there is no need to ban anything.

In fact, I found something very interesting in this book regarding how we think and why we choose bad options despite knowing that they are not good for our well being:

  • Because we use our automatic system to think which is effortless and uncontrolled.
  • We generally do not use our reflective system which is rational and controlled.
  • The most prominent example is of Voters who seem to rely primarily on the automatic system. They just go by the pictures or possibilities that who is going to win.
  • We follow guesses, rules of thumb, behave in overconfidence, work in the spirit of unrealistic optimism and more worried about losses than gains. Not only this, the status quo bias also hurts our choices.
  • We are not able to resist temptation and sometimes act mindlessly. For example, eating is one of the most mindless activities we do in our life despite knowing that it affects our health, well being and overall life. But we don’t care whatever garbage comes in front of our eyes, we just grab on that because of lack of self-control.
  • Sometimes, we also behave in that manner due to social influences.

So, the issue is how to solve these issues: There is need to NUDGE people towards good choices. And the writer has provided six principles:


The policymakers, as well as people at the helm, should provide incentives to the people to follow rules. The recent example, I can remember about providing various prizes under DIGI DHAN MELA programme of Government of India to make India digital.

The default options are very powerful and ubiquitous. People generally do not change the default options. So why not make good choices as default so that number of people can follow it. The writer discusses this option so many times. For instance, if we want to save money, why not deduct the amount from the salary automatically. In fact, the saving and insurance ideas of today are mostly based on this concept. In fact, he has highlighted the concept of SAVE MORE TOMORROW.

Providing feedback is also a good option. If we provide feedback to the people in comparison to others, they tend to improve their situation. This also works in cases of comparison.

The writer has written this book analyzing the policies prevailing in the USA. However, the basic idea of nudge can be used in India’s various public policies. In fact, the campaign of Texas-DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS was very successful in reducing littering in the city. It can be adopted in India in various manners. For instance- DON’T MESS WITH DELHI.

The writer also discusses various objections to the idea of LIBERTARIAN PATERNALISM.

In fact, the book is a good read for future as well as present policymakers who really want to provide good choices to the people to make their life better.

Just now, I found a very interesting implementation of this idea by the UK government. The UK government has a “NUDGE UNIT” in the name of BEHAVIORAL INSIGHTS TEAM.  This organization was set up to popularize “nudge theory”, which is a combination of behavioral economics and psychology. It is helping the government to improve policy options and bring about change in the behavior of the people.

Review of An era of Darkness

After finishing this book, I can say that it is true that the British era was really an Era of Darkness for India and its people. The British government did not do anything good for us. Whatever looked promising and progressive at that time, there has been hidden agenda behind that. Their only aim  was to extract as much as they can from India. It was really not a “British” but “Brutishempire of India.

They have looted India, pushed it towards deindustrialization, impoverishment, famine and poverty. They have drained our resources to the extent that India is still not able to come out from the dreaded poverty.

They practiced the policy of ” Divide and Rule” to divide the diverse and fuzzy society of India. It ultimately led to partition of the country. Not only this, they have communalised our history. They divided us by identifying Indians through census, giving various identities to people when in India, people have multiple and complex identies. They helped in reinforcing the divisive identities among the people.

Though they were fair in skin,but they were never fair in their approach. They not only practiced extreme racism but also extreme brutality. For instance, The Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre is a grim reminder of this fact.

They have also contributed a lot in the colonization of Indian minds. They were like our ” intimate enemy” as said by various postcolonial authors. We have imbibed their ideas so much that when we oppose them, it seems that we are opposing to ourselves. We are overwhelmingly hegemonized by their ideas and beliefs that we are not able to see the dividing line. In fact, even after Independence, we have number of colonial legacies in the form of laws, attitude of bureaucracy, functioning of government etc.

However, In the last seven decades of Independence, Indians are turning their colonial legacies for their own advantages and taking the country towards prosperity and recognition. In the present time, manyIndians are established their mark and Indian has become the fastest growing economy of the world. Not only this we have become the first country to send Mars Mission in our maiden attempt. It is really astonishing that when India and its people becoming prosperous, UK is exiting European Union which is popularly known as “Brexit“. In fact, we could have progressed in different as well as better manner if British would have not colonized us for such a long time for their rapacious motives.

However, as author of the book also agrees that they were not the only who are responsible for our domination but our kings, nobles and other high class people did not stop them in effective manner to colonize us till the Indian National Movement was launched in the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. However, here we should not forget the role played by common masses in India’s struggle for Independence.