Saturday, June 9, 2007

Backwards Competition

I often find Ayn Rand to be a little over the edge. A lot of what she says is insightful to me, but I find her ideals exaggerated. A perfect objectivist is as rare as a perfect communist.

(In fairness, I should point out that Rand specifically anticipated that people would make this criticism of her and she called us "lovers of death," if I recall correctly. She did not consider her philosophy an exaggeration at all.)

And perhaps she was right. A common theme in her writing is that schemes of handouts encourage people to compete not on the basis of compotence and productivity, but on the basis of incompotence and need.

All of this is a lead-in to this story, out of India.

Enraged mobs from one of India's myriad lower castes blocked roads with fiery barricades, stoned police and battled rival castes across a wide swath of northern India for a week to make a single, simple point: They want to be even lower.

With 25 people dead, the unrest spread to the fringes of the capital before the Gujjars — a class of farmers and shepherds — called off their protests.

They did so only after officials agreed to consider their demand to be officially shunted to the lowest rung of India's complex hereditary caste system, so they can get government jobs and university spots reserved for such groups.


In other words, the fastest way up India's modern economic ladder is a quick step down its age-old social ladder.


The move immediately drew threats from leaders of a powerful rival group, the Meena, who are already classified among the lowest castes and clearly do not want more competition for jobs and school spots set aside under quotas. During the unrest, fighting between Meenas and Gujjars left at least four dead.


India's Supreme Court temporarily suspended the plan in a March ruling that presaged the Gujjar protests.

"Nowhere in the world do castes queue up to be branded as backward," it said. "Nowhere in the world is there a competition to become backward."


No comments: