Reason Writers Around Town: Shikha Dalmia on Western Pollyannas who think India will surpass the West


Wriiting from London, Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia notes in her morning column at The Daily that a deep gloom has set in Europe that its glory days are over. Private bank excesses and public-sector legacy costs are poised to drag the continent — and America — down for generations. Only India and China are seen as the rising stars in the global firmament. Their young economies have stalled this year. But they are expected to recover, learn from the West's mistakes and become economic powerhouses, displacing the West's global hegemony.

But Dalmia notes that India isn't going to perch its tricolored flag atop the globe anytime soon for one big reason. "The world's largest democracy doesn't have rule of law," she says, "it has the rule of babus, the local term for petty bureaucrats. And so long as they keep challenging India's entrepreneurs, there isn't much chance that India will challenge the West."

She describes her own traumatic encounter with the Babu Kings whose bizarre ways turned a simple travel request into a nightmare.

Read the whole thing here.

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  1. “The world’s largest democracy doesn’t have rule of law,” she says, “it has the rule of babus, the local term for petty bureaucrats. And so long as they keep challenging India’s entrepreneurs, there isn’t much chance that India will challenge the West.”

    Hey Sheika, read the post just below this on the food trucks in California. The west doesn’t have a rule of law either. So India might do just fine.

    1. Yeah, no shit. Somebody might want to educate Sheika about local code enforcement officers.

    2. Exactly. The fear is the US will surpass India in Babus.

    3. Sweet babus.

  2. India, like China, has endemic problems that aren’t going away. However, I do think India has a shot at being the great economic power in Asia. Much more than China, which has too many issues to do much more than be the cheap labor of the world. . .for a little while longer.

    1. There was a saying in ancient China “become a bureaucrat and grow wealthy.” I suspect they’re saying it again, after a 60 year hiatus.

      In moving from being a liberal to a libertarian, one of the most compelling arguments was the performance of freer vs. controlled economies. The contrast was so stark, I was amazed no one had ever pointed it out to me prior to college. But then, I went to public schools.

      1. In human history, no one pointed it out until civilization had been around for almost 7,000 years.

        1. In human history, no one pointed it out until civilization had been around for almost 7,000 years.

          Wrong again Tulps.

          Just one example from the top of my head

          In the 6th Century BC, Lao Tsu argued that “governing a large country is like frying a small fish…

        2. Islam was relatively pro-market.

          IIRC, the Quran set a maximum limit on taxation – 10%, I think – and places a lot of emphasis on fair dealings.

          Probably because Mohammed was a merchant prior to his religious ‘calling’.

      2. You’re lucky it was pointed out to you in college.

  3. But they are expected to recover, learn from the West’s mistakes and become economic powerhouses, displacing the West’s global hegemony.

    I have seen no indication whatsoever that politicians in the West learn from their mistakes; I cannot imagine Asia has any brighter bulbs in the political class.

    1. If a broke politician who can’t repave her roads takes a promise of monies from another completely broke politician in exchange for her vote, the system is hopelessly broken.

  4. For some reason I read that as Western Polynesians.

    1. Square dances on the beach?

      1. We’re gonna need some bigger horses.

  5. “The world’s largest democracy doesn’t have rule of law,” she says, “it has the rule of babus, the local term for petty bureaucrats.

    Is she talking about the US or India here?

    1. Is she talking about the US or India here?


  6. Don’t worry, we let enough 3rd World savages immigrate and we will sink down to India’s level.

    1. Shut up, Slappy!

    2. Goddammit, somebody call Stormfront and tell them to come pick up their tard.

  7. Who cares if they surpass the west. They are smart people, hard-working and their women are hot. And what a vast array of tasty foods!

    1. Unfortunately many people see it as a zero sum gain.

      If Indians get richer we will somehow necessarilly become poorer.

      And then the greens just believe that if Indians achieve a Western standard of living it will kill Mother Gaia.

      1. The same people who view economics as zero sum almost always refuse to view politics as such.

    2. While I will agree that they are smart having worked with Indians extensively for the last 10 years I can say that creativity and originality are extremely lacking in their culture, not non existant certainly but present in far smaller quantities than with those raised in Western Countries. I have also noticed a near complete avoidance for taking personal responsibility, either for good or bad, for anything, everything must be shared and a group effort and they go to tremendous lengths to make sure that no act can be tied to any specific individual.

      I suspect both are actually side effects of that bureaucratic stratification present in their culture It teaches you from a young age to keep your head down, blend in, and don’t draw any undue attention to yourself lest the Babu decide your paperwork is out of order.

  8. Isaac Bartram|7.13.12 @ 1:08PM|#
    “Unfortunately many people see it as a zero sum gain.”

    This, despite the obvious evidence of increasing prosperity.
    If it were a zero-sum game, all the world’s population would be beating each other over the head for that lump of lichen for dinner. Instead, Wong’s actually got rice on his plate while I’ve got potatoes.

  9. Sometimes dude you jsut have to hit it up man.

    1. Well, it’s 4:20 somewhere.

  10. Anyone else remember when the Japanese were going to over take us?

    1. Well they probably would have but having your capital city demolished by giant monsters repeatedly will tend to repress the output of any country.

      1. To the contrary! Those were forces of creative destruction at work = do you not note how said monster attacks always inevitably inspired the rapid development of advanced Maser-weapons technology? The Markalite Cannon? he famous Atomic Heat Ray Gun? The Cryogenic Tank? The famed Garuda anti-godzilla flying cannon? One need not even mention Mechagodzilla… it is well known that these technologies are precisely what lead to the Japanese commercial development of the walkman, the laser-disc player, and the revolution in vending machines…just as a start!…..rom-japan/

  11. I would like to see some example of one of these polyannas who thinks India is an ascendant global power likely to outstrip america in prosperity and global leadership. ‘Cause I aint ever heard anyone actually make that claim. Even the Friedman isn’t that crazy.

  12. Shikha Dalmia, why didn’t you short circuit that rigamarole with a simple bribe? Instead you exhausted yourself then lied. How is that better? Anti-India Indians go to such great lengths to make themselves miserable in India. Just stop.

    1. I would have gladly done so, johnl. But there was no good opportunity. You need to get the right signals from the right person and do so discreetly or they stand to lose their jobs. Also, the new anti-corruption drive has made it harder to offer bribes because the babus fear that it is a set up. So, in our case, they didn’t seem interested in bribes — just in harassing us.

      1. It would be a shame if “anti-corruption” efforts turned Indian bureaucracy into USCIS. Can’t you hire an assistant who will help with document prep and bribe signaling?

  13. Damn, that’s a shame. I thought that the permit raj had fallen with the Congress obsession with socialism. It appears not.

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