The problem with private provisioning of public goods

… is that private players who are providing those goods have an incentive in blocking attempts by the public sector to provide those goods. For the purpose of analysis, let us take the example of Gurgaon, both because I’m reasonably familiar with it and because it has been in the news in the international media thanks to a recent profile of the city by the New York Times.

Now, Gurgaon has a major problem with power supply. It is said that (I don’t have first hand info for reasons you’ll soon understand) the “city” faces about four to six hours of regular power cuts every day. I don’t know the exact reasons for it (surprisingly, Haryana sells power to other states so it appears there is no power deficit per se in the state), but it could be a pricing issue, with free power for farmers and all that. Anyway, the reason for the power cuts doesn’t matter so much.

In reaction to this, apartment societies have taken it upon themselves to provide “power backup” to the residents (for a fee of course). Even in that, there are three grades. I used to live in a DLF complex that had “one hundred per cent power backup”, which meant that I was assured of 24/7 power supply. Every time there was a power cut, the generators would start in a matter of a few seconds, and with “one hundred percent backup”, I could run just about any device on the “backup” power supply. In return, I would pay the apartment association six rupees per unit (as opposed to 3 rupees I pay here for sarkari power in Bangalore).

Then, there as “eighty percent backup”, in which you could use the generator-power supply to run all appliances except air-conditioners and geysers (both extremely important in Gurgaon given the weather). Then, there was another level with fifty percent backup, though I didn’t particularly understand it. The individual houses in the city, though, had no backup, and people living there had to make do with inverters.

Now, suppose that magically Haryana were to become a power surplus state, would the state government be able to provide uninterrupted three phase power supply to Gurgaon? I would think not, for there are several “private players” in that city whose source of profits and wealth is derived from the fact that they provide backup power supply. Think of all those people who invested in DLF flats because they had “one hundred percent power backup”. Now, with power backup not being a distinguishing factor, these flats will lose in value since they cannot command the same kind of premium as they used to (rather, the supply of “apartments with assured power supply” goes up, thus reducing demand for the only ones that offered this luxury earlier). Then, there are scores of generator and inverter dealers in Gurgaon, who again depend on the power shortage for their livelihood. And so forth.

It doesn’t appear as if Haryana has power shortage any more (recently, Karnataka bought power from that state to tide over its power crisis). However, there are enough powerful lobbies in Gurgaon who depend on power cuts (!! ) for their income and wealth, and it appears they have managed to lobby the government there (officially or unofficially) to block the provision of assured power supply. The moral of this story is that once “public goods” start being provided by private players, it is hard to displace them, and this results in a lifetime of inefficiency.

Relationships and IIT

So the basic premise of this post is that being in a romantic relationship is like studying at IIT.

Everyone wants to get into IIT. They do thipparlaaga to try and get in. They join expensive coaching classes. Some of them even move cities. They wait for several years giving multiple attempts. People work extremely hard. Still, success is not guaranteed. There is that luck factor. There is the day’s performance that matters. Some days are important than others. Cracking the JEE is a “discrete” job.

While preparing for JEE, everyone thinks that if they clear the exam, their life is made. They come under the impression that after JEE, life will become smooth. That they won’t need to put any fight for the rest of their lives. That all that matters for their future is their cracking the JEE. And so forth.

It’s only after people come to IIT that they realize that life is not the cakewalk they assumed it to be. It is only after they get there that they realize that life after JEE is quite hard. That it is necessary to work hard. That if they don’t work hard, they will do very badly, and might flunk. It is only when they get to IIT that it hits them. Some learn quickly but others get disillusioned and give up in life. Several people do badly. Some even drop out.

So it’s similar with a romantic relationship. Everyone wants to get into a romantic relationship. Everyone looks only about the “entrance examination”. Everyone believes (before they get in) that life ban jaayegi after they get into a relationship. And getting into a relationship is a “discrete” job. It’s about how you “perform” during those blading sessions. It takes that bit of luck. It takes those set of fateful events to happen together in that precise coincidence.

And it is only when you get into a relationship that you realize how hard it is (provided you haven’t been there before). It is like being in IIT all over again. You know that you will need to work really hard to keep it going (applies to both parties). It is a continuous job, and you need to continuously “perform”. The randomness is much smaller than it is during the “relationship acquisition” phase.  However, you necessarily need to work hard. There is no “stud way out”. Some people give up when they find this out and break up (drop out). Others understand and put in the requisite effort and sustain the relationship. And continue to work hard.

The thing with arranged marriages is that you are typically forced to commit as soon as you’re done with “evaluating” the other person. You don’t get to test the counterparty on their ability to work hard and keep things going. It is like offering someone a job as soon as he has cleared the JEE.

And I wonder if one can draw an analogy between marriage and (academic) tenure.

Arranged Scissors 14 – Losing Heart

I’ve been in this market for a while now. It was sometime in February that my mother decided that I had utterly failed in my attempts to find myself a long-term gene-propagating female partner, and that she needed to step in and find someone for me. It was sometime in March that I went to this shady photo studio at DLF Galleria in Gurgaon and got a “wedding profile” snap taken. Later in March, I got listed at some shadymax exchange in Malleswaram. And there was the “market visit”.

The last weekend of this March I was in Bangalore, and was taken to this shady-max exchange in Malleswaram for a “market visit”. My uncle had told me that we needed to go sufficiently early, since there were apparently profiles of six hundred girls that I had to inspect that day, and make a shortlist. We had had a hurried breakfast at a Darshini in JP Nagar and then headed out to the exchange. My uncle, aunt and mother took turns to go up to the counter there and fetch the “smartha brides” files one by one. And I would spend about a minute on each file – which had fifty profiles. The six hundred profiles were done in less than a quarter of an hour. Phallus had simply refused to budge.

Aadisht, via his friend Vishakh, came up with this awesome framework of “head, heart, phallus“. The basic funda is that in order for you to enter into a long-term gene-propagating relationship, your head, heart and phallus need to independently like the counterparty (women insert appropriate substitute into the 3rd component). There is nothing earth-shaking about this framework as another of my friends pointed out, but the important thing is that it distinguishes between heart and phallus. Which I think most other explanations of louvvu (including bollywood movies) tend to ignore. And people also ignore it and get confused between heart approval and phallic approval, leading to disaster.

I had taken a long break from this arranged scissors market – a combination of being generally disgusted, poor health and being in between jobs. Recently (with the advent of Navaratri) I’d gotten back, and realize that I’ve lost my heart. Yeah, you might think this sounds funny but it’s not. I’ve truly lost my heart. And the only good that can come out of this is that if a crocodile catches and threatens to eat me, I can tell it the truth.

This whole arranged scissors concept seems to dehumanize the wonderful concept of long-term gene-propagating relationships. You are expected to make your decisions quickly, and you are expected to design “questionnaires” so as to get the maximum amount of info through each meeting. You are expected to browse through files containing six hundred profiles and make a shortlist. And when you are in the process of making the shortlist, you have your mom and aunt peering over your shoulder with helpful comments such as “this girl’s mouth is too wide” or “that girl’s nose is too blunt”.

For a while you resist, and resolve that you won’t get sucked into this mess. You resolve that you are still looking for “true louvvu” (whatever that is) and won’t settle for a common minimum program. You resolve that you’ll use the arranged marriage exchange as a dating agency. And soon it begins getting to you. You begin to see the merits of judging noses as too flat and mouths as too wide. You start breaking a girl down into components, and giving marks to each, and taking a weighted average to see if it is beyond “pass marks” (ok I’m obviously exagggerating here). You agree to meet potential counterparties even if you know that it’s improbable that you’ll like her.

My head, I think, is doing quite fine. So is the phallus. However, I think I’ve lost my heart. It’s been three and a half years since I even hit on someone. My heart seems to have forgotten how to love, and to have a “crush”. I’ve forgotten how my heart used to react during prior blades. In each of those cases, if I remember right, it was the heart that initiated it, and the head and phallus only gave approval later. Now, I have no clue how that used to happen. That seems so improbable.

This whole concept of meeting people with the explicit intention of evaluating them for long-term gene-propagating relationships is seedy. I think it goes against the laws of nature, and completely ruins that wonderful feeling that one usually associates with louvvu. It makes you too judgmental (I’m judgmental otherwise also, but not this judgmental), and you are so busy evaluating her that you don’t enjoy it at all. And how can you trust your judgment when you know that you haven’t liked the process of judgment at all?

Yesterday I met a friend, an extremely awesome woman. Once I was back home, I sent a mail to my relationship advisor, detailing my meeting with this friend. And I described her (the awesome friend) as being “super CMP”. I wrote in the mail “I find her really awesome. In each and every component she clears the CMP cutoff by a long way”. That’s how I’ve become. I’ve lost it. I’ve lost my heart. And I need to find it back. And I don’t know if I should continue in the arranged scissors market.