Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Of Regents and Mathematical Analogies

The Economist - an excellent newspaper in most respects - used the same incorrect analogy as many other commentators in comparing the Common Minimum Program to the Lowest Common Denominator. Here's what I wrote to them:

Dear Sir,
You erroneously equate the "Common Minimum Program" with "Lowest Common Denominator" (Leaders; May 12th 2005; India's reformist government, one year on). We should be so lucky - lowest common denominator would've meant that our economy was reformed at least as aggressively as the most aggressive constituent of the UPA. Instead, both in statistics and in practice, the CMP is actually the Highest Common Factor which, in a government that includes both clueless mild-mannered regents and hard-core criminals, tends to zero.
best regards,

More generally, this one-year-review (the "self-inflicted" one by the PMO and the unsolicited ones by the media) has attracted wide coverage in the popular press. Almost all - I have only seen one exception till now - are puerile in their analysis. The one exception is here (Seven Commandments of Mr Singh; Swaminomics; Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar; Sunday, May 15, 2005; Times of India) where he presents a straightforward delineation between the de-jure and de-facto realities.

And yes, this regent theme is beginning to interest me (note the reference in my letter). All I remember of regents from my history lessons is Bairam Khan who exercised power on Akbar's behalf for a few years. I seem to recall that he was imprisoned or exiled to Mecca (or both). Hmmm... This looks like something I should look up in more detail (history repeating itself etc.) - and certainly something which Dr. Singh should think about (there must be other models - smoother transition et al - but I wouldn't bet on it).

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