Thursday, May 08, 2008

Election Freebies

The state elections start in a few days in Karnataka, and the political parties have started promising not just the moon, but the entire solar system.

The JD(S) [where S stands for their "Secular" credentials] has been promising:
  • All debts of farmers and unorganised labourers written off within one year
  • 30 per cent reservation for Kannadigas in IT and Biotechnology companies
  • Free cooking gas and stoves for the poor
  • Free treatment for all kinds of diseases for BPL cardholders
  • Fill up all government vacancies
  • Model the development of Bangalore on Beijing and Shanghai
  • Provide houses for all homeless within five years
  • Age limit to SC/ST candidates would be increased by five years and that of others by three years
  • Government would pay the fees of children of BPL cardholders for admission in private educational institutions
And in the ultimate proof of their "secular" credentials, Peshimams and Mouzans of mosques would get a monthly pension of Rs 500 from the WAKF board after retirement. However, in the only fiscally responsible statement the JD(S) has made, it ridiculed the BJP and Congress promises of free power to farmers, "“Karnataka is a power-deficit state. From where will they give free power?”

If the JD(S) wins the election, Karnataka and Bangalore would soon resemble Bihar.

Not to be left behind, the Congress is offering:
  • poor families in Karnataka a colour TV each
  • farmers loans up to Rs 50,000 at three per cent per annum interest
  • 25 kg of food grain such as rice, wheat, jowar and ragi per family at Rs. 2/kg
  • Unemployed youth would get a stipend of Rs 1,200 a month for two years
The BJP is offering
  • Free power to farmers
  • Rice at Rs. 2/kg for the poor
  • Cyber cafes at all villages
  • Community halls in villages with color TVs and Internet access
This is probably the first election where parties are vying in offering Internet connectivity to rural areas. Free computers with free connectivity and free power would most likely mean the middle-men will get a big cut of the contracts.

As Milton Friedman said, "There are four ways in which you can spend money. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money.

Then you can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.

Then, I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!

Finally, I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get. And that’s government.
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