Sunday, September 24, 2006

Against easy answers

Swami Aiyer has a characteristically intelligent article on Laloo Yadav and the demographic dividend. Its about time we buried "Hum do, hamare do". The Economics of this slogan were always dubious- the assumption seemed to be that the national output was created in some centralized fashion (by the government, perhaps?), and then distributed, so that people who had more children were somehow getting more than their "fair share". In reality, of course, people consume what they produce so that, as the population grows, so does output. (A simplification, but closer to reality than the Malthusian nightmare). Of course, how productive the kids are when they grow up depends on the education that they receive.

How much education is required? The answer to that question is another assault on the conventional wisdom. Not much, is what the research indicates. Its probably sufficient if we can at least ensure that everyone can read, write, and do sums.

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