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Vested Interests and the Government

6th March, 2011

The usual: full chai and single-idli-single-vada. Frayed Lemon Tea - by Kartikayhair, crumpled shirts, dusty floaters and barely-opened eyes. All four zombies looked the same, aloof and unaware of their environment. One person raised his hand, slowly, in a precise calculated move, cleared his throat to speak but then decided to stop. His hand flopped down.

Saturday mornings, you see, when it dawned upon me that I didn’t eat much the previous night (in all its revelry) and needed a solid breakfast to get me through the day. And it turns out that I managed to lose some part of my voice too. Was I screaming the previous night? No idea.

The first sip of that frothy chai. Soothing. My eyes finally opened. Woh! I was nowhere near my bed. Oh well, things like this keep happening. What’s new?

Hey! Whose this fourth guy? Generally three of us head out for breakfast. After a courteous “Hi! Hello! Erm, who are you?” it turns out that he’s a friend of a roommate and will stay with us for a few days.

Slowly, various body parts realized they existed too. My arm responded back. Good, good.

So, a new guy eh?

I’ve played this bit out before, and this time nothing changed either. In half-an-hour we were all arguing at the top of our voices.

The Argument

“Libya provides for 2% of the world’s oil man .. Gaddafi is totally bought over!”

“Yes, I know, but that doesn’t change the fact that Anushka looks good in Band Baaja Baraat.”

“Why can’t my office provide such decent idlis and vadas?”

“That’s because there’s no communism in office. What is communism by the way?”

I’ve tried to provide a gist here. You can, however, see that it makes no sense to provide any gist whatsoever. Skip? Yup, let’s skip it.

Anyways, all this fueled a burning question inside: how does a government handle vested interests of corporations? At the end of the day, corporations and high net-worth individuals have a far greater influence on the organs of power – the government – than the middle and poor classes. With this inherent skew, how does the government go about doing its usual business?

The Worst Example

Lets assume that rich individuals and big corporations have interests that are directly conflicting with interests of the general population. We see this happen many times: farm / tribal land annexed for open-pit mining, large slums razed to build gated communities, the unfortunate ‘collateral damage’ in the business of war, drug and tobacco profits versus the health of the people. The point is that competing with the sound theory of economic profits is like taking on a bull by its horns.

How does a government handle such situations? Look at Libya. It’s got a lot of oil. Large oil corporations have been milking Gaddafi for 40 years and aren’t going to give up so easily. What they want is consistency in the functioning of the government – that it should always be on their side. It makes natural sense to promote autocratic power. The problem with democracy is that you never know when an opposition may come in power. That could mean repeating bribes with new officials or, gasp, get oil-block licenses revoked and given to competitor companies. Ouch.

Autocratic government it is, then.

Human rights violations? Meh. Tell the autocratic ruler to handle it. That’s what he’s being paid for, right?

Luckily That’s Just a Few Countries

Ya, luckily.

Most countries have managed to function for the people. In that aspect, democracy was a brilliant idea! If the organs of power are elected by the people, eventually corporations and rich individuals will have interests that align with the interests of the people. Either you appease the people, pander to their demands or you fool the crap out of them. Sadly, our politicians have found loopholes to maximize on the latter method. Bummer.

So, What’s the Best Example?

Communism? No, and that is not my point. Let’s just reverse the worst example to create the ‘best’ example: that the interests of the people are are treated at higher priority than the interests of corporations or any other interests.

Let’s list this down. Considering the interest of the people:

  1. There would be no alcoholic beverages. Bummer.
  2. There would be an upper limit on the amount of work an individual would do (and this would be an average figure, meaning that people who could be more productive, the upper crust, will not be able to) in the name of fairness.
  3. The environment would suffer. Tigers would be killed because they harm humans, fragile hill stations would lie in waste as humans bulldoze over the mountains.
  4. The population would explode, or be far more if you call the current growth an ‘explosion’ anyway.
  5. Pollution, and lots of it. Enough to hasten our demise.

[Maybe universal suffrage, the right to vote, should extend to animals and mountains too?]

What The? Don’t Confuse Me!

Okay okay, I’m not clear with what I’m trying to say. In a way, I’m trying to define what a government should do, starting from the basics.

We’re clear that the government should work in the interests of the people. What it should also work towards is a better nation – that includes its natural resources, its flora, fauna and ecology. Some interests have to precede the interests of the people so that our future generations can enjoy their years.

Things get complex when corporations and rich individuals come into the picture. Corporations and governments have a give-and-take relationship: companies need the government and the government needs companies to build its economy.

So Basically, It’s One Helluva Compromise?

A great government is one that can handle all the vested interests and merge them into one. Make people realize the importance of forest reserves for tigers, and they won’t mind not killing tigers. Make people realize that they don’t need tiger bones in their balms. Make corporates realize it’s no longer profitable to make these tiger-bone-balms. See – all interests merged into one!

It’s not impossible, nay-sayers. We can work towards this!

I’ll quote a classic case: Polio vaccination! Pharmaceutical companies along with governments of different nations have ensured that almost all children in this world have had this vaccine. We’ve almost eradicated polio from the face of this Earth!

Let’s accept the fact that there are vested interests, but with some concerted effort we can combine them to make this world a better place!

If that doesn’t happen, bummer. But there’s always more chai to argue this over with.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. 6th March, 2011 10:04 AM

    Hmmmm….just finished reading it three times. You have managed to convey a serious message in a wacky tone. I commend you for that.
    And next time, talk about Snow Leopards. 😛 Only a handful are left in the wild 😦

    • 6th March, 2011 10:25 PM

      Hehe .. dude Snow Leopards are as good as extinct man! If a government can’t protect them, which individual or corporation will? Point na, point point?

  2. 6th March, 2011 11:44 AM

    woooahh.. one helluva post!
    all through i was wondering.. if you were trying to poke fun or really argue over the situation..
    a great read after a long time 🙂

    • 6th March, 2011 10:40 PM

      First of all, I have to say this: ‘S’ is so cool! Vary vary cool!

      Yup, this is one helluva post. I must commend you for going through it – I fell off asleep after the first paragraph! I have to start contracting the length of my posts. I. Must.

      Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Anukool Junnarkar permalink
    6th March, 2011 12:40 PM

    Trying to define a theory of morality from first principles in one blog post? I do not envy you.

    • 6th March, 2011 10:41 PM

      Damnit dude. You’ve got to create a blog so I can then comment such absurd stuff on your posts.

      Payback.

      HA!

  4. 7th March, 2011 2:44 PM

    Does that make India a greeeat Government? Nopety nope!

    Nice post. Thoughtful too!

    • 7th March, 2011 5:14 PM

      I like politicians because they, in general, are like magicians. They do a lot of crappy wizardry and make things disappear, yet still manage to “please” the crowd!

      Also, long over-due post from your side. Let it be known that this is an official complaint!

    • 7th March, 2011 7:03 PM

      🙂 Politicians are like snake charmers.. they wave their yielding stick at us, and we just sway…

      Post – uhmmm… yeah I will. Been pretty knocked out this last week. Can churn out only sad sob stories, don’t want to do that. I want to kick some star wars butt!

    • 8th March, 2011 4:44 PM

      May the force be with you!

  5. 7th March, 2011 3:05 PM

    Loved the clarity of thought and yet you made it sound so simple.

    I think I’ve told you before, you should be in academics! You are brilliant.

    • 7th March, 2011 5:16 PM

      Woh! That is saying a lot! Thanks so much!

      Academics huh? I entered that world in a small way, it’s a whole lot of fun! *gentle nodding gloating with the knowledge of new career move*

  6. 11th March, 2011 12:52 AM

    Such a lengthy post! Yet managed to finish it. Well argued!

    • 11th March, 2011 8:50 AM

      By the way, the photograph up there is of one Mr. Anand Shankar. Muaahhahhahha!

  7. 15th March, 2011 12:20 PM

    Hi kartikay…nice post. You try to weigh the poignancy of different set ups with fun:) And as you say, there is no one proper setup that can govern a country. It always depend on various factors-social, political. What is transpiring in Middle East is still confusing- Muslim Brotherhood’s control if Egypt may not be good at all. Tunisia still awaits its promised elections…India- yet to wake up from slumber. China- heading for a jasmine revolution…One thing is for sure- the world order and equations are changing fast!

    • 15th March, 2011 8:35 PM

      Thanks for dropping by, cloudnine!

      Yup, I totally agree with you when you talk of various factors that influenze the governmental setup of a country. It’s a difficult problem indeed! And that’s the problem – I don’t think any one country has managed to ‘solve’ it 🙂

  8. delhizen permalink
    15th March, 2011 12:38 PM

    Brilliant post Mr. Sahay

    I think I have said this before- you write occasionally but when you do the result is a long post which is funny yet sensible.

    PS: What are you doing in Bangalore-I say, let’s send this post to Dr. Singh and tell him to take you on as an advisor –vision of the youth and his Govt. really needs a lot of it right now

    • 15th March, 2011 8:37 PM

      Oh Delhizen, you’re flowering me with such nice words – haha! You do know that I’m the last person to deserve it 🙂

      Also, I think I should leave Dr. Singh alone. He has a lot to handle right now – adding me into the mix is only going to make him go bonkers!

  9. Priyanka permalink
    12th May, 2011 11:55 PM

    It’s always great to read a post addressing a serious issue but with undertones of satire n apathy .. ppl keep telling me i should sound more convicted/serious but what the hell! 🙂

    • 13th May, 2011 11:15 AM

      Seriousness? Seriously, who wants that 😛

  10. Giggity giggity permalink
    6th August, 2011 11:51 PM

    Kartikay,

    Here are a few pointers/ solutions to the questions posed/ questions-

    1. Why are you called Mr. Sahay occasionally? 😉
    2. I remember watching an old Kannada movie in which a character gives a simple explanation about the difference between USA and India. The gist of what he says- ‘Building a new house is easier than restructuring an existing one. Clearing up the mess created while restructuring is an overhead which not only kills a lot of time, it also debunks your efforts at creating a new beautiful house and you end up with an ugly baby. USA is a new house, India is a restructured (Still being restructured) house.’ So my point is, the solution to this global mess, the oil crisis, dying tigers et al ; is a world war 🙂 Wipe out the whole world once and build it again I say! 🙂
    3. Why did I type the second pointer?! It makes no sense whatsoever!! Probably because I’m cloud high right now or because I’m a budding Hitler 😉
    4. Hope the Hitler remark was not sniffed by an NSA supercomputer.
    5. Mom, I’m high on life, not on drugs.

    Anyhow, sorry for barging in uninvited. On a serious note, the blog was fantastic and I agree with almost all the things you’ve said. Keep more of ’em coming bruh.

    Peace

    • 28th August, 2011 11:27 AM

      Muaahhahahhahahahahaaa!

      May NSA supercomputers never detect you!

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