Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pragmatism vs. Prudence

Prof. Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2002. He teaches at Princeton University and is credited as being the founder of behavioural economics. According to him, political leaders have a tendency to take big decisions on the basis of impulse or intuition rather than on the basis of deliberate conscious calculation.

One of the most common problems, he points out, is overconfidence. “It is very common for people to have more confidence in their judgement than they should,” he says.

He believes that people make decisions on the basis of their past and present experience. They have no expertise in predicting the future. He believes that if decision makers considered the consequences of their actions, say after ten, fifteen or twenty years, they would arrive at a much better decision.

To prove his point he cites the Iraq war. “The big problem is that once the organization begins to make up its mind, everybody falls in line. And then the information that goes to the top gets biased. This is clearly something that happened with the Iraq war. What the decision makers wanted was known, and the intelligence community basically gave them the information they wanted – and of course, it turned out a disaster.”

The reason why I am mentioning all this is to point out that this is exactly what happened in the case of reservation for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes, Indo-US Nuclear Deal, and the same is going to happen in the case of Women’s Reservation Bill. Once we make a reservation on the basis of gender, how can we stop making similar reservations on the basis of caste, class, religion, language and region? Before taking big decisions, it is always better to think of their long-term consequences and make the right choices as far as possible

Let prudence take precedence over pragmatism.

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