Development / 02.05.2011

There is a set of people in every country who are called the ‘poor’ and the ‘non-poor’ have quite contradictory assumptions about them. For example, despite ample evidence it is considered politically incorrect to say that the ‘poor’ trade their votes because the entire legitimacy of representative government rests on responsible voting behavior. Yet, the same people often say that the ‘poor’ do not know how to spend their money; they waste their income on inessentials ignoring higher priority needs of food, health and education. Hence, policymakers recommend the ‘poor’ be given ration supplements or food vouchers instead of equivalent cash transfers. The question is inescapable: Are the ‘poor’ rational or irrational? How can the same set of people be rational in one domain and irrational in another?
Modernity, Religion / 11.11.2008

By Bettina Robotka  The question of whether there is any positive role for Islam or for religion as such in a modern world is gaining urgency in the light of an ongoing "War against (Islamic) terror" and the spread of militant and conservative interpretations of Islam. The picture which this Islam tends to paint of an ideal Muslim society is that of a patriarchic, male-dominated community inhabited by intellectually unquestioning Muslims who live in closely knit kinship relationships including tribal, biradri and caste units, who accept existing society as given, and who are supposed to follow what the state defines as right or wrong through its laws. There is limited place for individuality, no place for questioning of the basics of social, political and economic life and the task of moral, political, economic and spiritual guidance seems to be left to a small group of Islamic...

Governance / 07.10.2008

The implication in an earlier post (Who Wants Peace in the Subcontinent?) was that the non-existence of political parties advocating peace was evidence that voters did not want peace with neighboring countries. Here we immediately fall into the trap of taking foreign concepts and applying them uncritically to alien situations. Are political parties in Pakistan really ‘political’ parties or are they something different? When one thinks about it, there are no major political parties in Pakistan today that advocate anything specific in terms of policy. One would be hard pressed to unambiguously associate a party with big or small government, free trade or autarky, protection or competition, privatization or public sector dominance. What one does find are parties associated with various personalities all of whom promise to do the same things better than anyone else. This observation calls for a closer look at the nature of democratic systems...

Politics / 30.09.2008

It is often asserted that the majority of people in India and Pakistan desire peace. Do you believe that? Even if they don’t, some suggest that if only people knew how much it is costing to keep up the state of conflict they would become advocates for peace. Well, here is the information as calculated in 2004 by the Strategic Foresight Group, Mumbai, in their report Cost of Conflict between India and Pakistan. The summary of the report claims that “the Siachen conflict alone will cost India Rs 7,200 crores and Pakistan Rs 1,800 crores in the next five years;” that “India and Pakistan have the potential to enjoy a trade of about $1 billion if the hostile environment continues and $13.25 billion if peace prevails on a cumulative basis for the next five years (2004-08) resulting in an opportunity loss of $12 billion;” and that “Kashmir...

Politics / 09.03.2008

With reference to our comment on the Politics of Identity, a number of readers have taken issue with our conceptualization of rationality and the claim that all voters are rational. In this post we respond to the issues raised by the readers.  The gist of the points raised is as follows: You have failed to stress that the rationality of the Pakistani voter is different from that of the liberal citizen who was the subject of the Stanley Fish column on which you commented.  What about the frequent comments made that Bush was a great guy to have a beer with and that is why he was worth voting for? How do you view that? Is voting always rational or is it sometimes visceral?...


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