Jan 23, 2012

The unemployment myth and the Right to Employment

When Nepal Airlines Corporation announced a vacancy for 119 positions last month, it received an astounding 23,000 applications . As in the past,  the state of affairs was touted as another instance of the severity of unemployment problem in Nepal. The scenario is not unique to the case of Nepal Airlines Corporation , any government vacancies  announcement  is overwhelmed with applications and there is hue and cry about the unemployment scenario in the country. Unemployment problem gets highlighted time and again in the political discourse of Nepal and right to employment is even considered to be a fundamental right to be guaranteed in the constitution. However, the ratio of applications to vacant posts in a government agency is a poor , in fact, a very misleading way of ascertaining the unemployment status of Nepal and listing out employment as a fundamental right in the constitution is more likely to exacerbate than solve the unemployment problem.

The real scenario and the lure of government job

The exact figure of unemployment rates of Nepal is yet uncertain. The range of unemployment rates ranges from as low as single digit to as high as almost half of the population. Underemployment rather than unemployment remains the major issue plaguing Nepalese economy. The astounding number of applications has more to do with the lure of government jobs than high unemployment rates. The private sector has never held any charm as a career for majority of the populace as private sector is in its nascent stage and Nepal is just taking its first steps towards industrialization. With the declining industrial sector and anti-entrepreneurship forces in dominance everywhere, private sector and entrepreneurship has further lost its attractiveness to job seekers. Finding skillful and competent people is among the top concerns for Nepal's private sector.

Government jobs on the other hand provide anyone with an opportunity to not only get a secure job for life regardless of performance but also myriads of opportunities to get rich through less visible and less legitimate means. Besides these, a government job also shields the job seeker from the competition and the urgency to remain updated and skilled in one's own vocation to accommodate the new innovations and changes in an industry. It would be no surprise that if customs were to announce vacancy for 100 seats we would have more than a million applicants. Would that be any good measure to judge the unemployment scenario of Nepal?

So what's the harm in it ?

Writing Right to Employment in the constitution (as a fundamental right) may sound as a brilliant way of solving the unemployment problem of Nepal but it would be as effective as writing “Right to a vehicle” and expecting everyone to have an automobile. It may seem mere addition of another line in the constitution but its implications can be disastrous. Any 'right' written in the constitution entails other fundamental questions “How?” and “By whom?”. If we were to have right to employment as a fundamental right in the constitution, who is to provide the jobs and how is that to be done. If the government is to be provide the jobs, how is it supposed to do it: though increasing the number of public enterprises which are a kick in the face of any financial prudence, or over-staffing the already ailing current public enterprises or coming up with populist, self-aggrandizing schemes such as youth self-employment fund or increasing the already bloated  bureaucracy?

Making state responsible for providing jobs is nothing more than creating extra avenues for politicians to interfere more with the economy and lives of general citizens. Besides this, the harm in asking government to create jobs means attracting even more people towards bureaucracy. Nothing could be more detrimental to economic health of a country than having its best and the brightest people, , busy with the dead end , unproductive, paper-pushing jobs in the government bureaucracy and many a times, working to hinder other productive people through various regulations and controls rather than being engaged in wealth creation. It is a very depressing scenario that many Nepalese youth would want to work for a highly mismanaged, corruption infused organization like Nepal Airlines Corporation (or any other government run entity for that matter) , than aspire to work for an innovative and profitable company or dream of creating their own company. Hence, the astounding number of applications attracted by vacancies in government agencies are not an indicator of how severe the unemployment problem is but how distorted the incentives are for Nepalese youth to build a career in.

Since economic well-being of any economy depends on the level of productivity of its citizens, it is imperative that our policies and actions align towards  encouraging people to be engaged in more productive jobs. It is necessary to understand that employment is not an end in itself but rather a means to achieving the end of creating wealth. Jobs created in government sector or even jobs created by spoon-feeding schemes by the government may employ people but ultimately they fail in meeting their end objective. i . e. to engage citizens in wealth creation.

(Published in The Reporter Weekly on January 23, 2012)

Jan 7, 2012

14 very interesting books I read in 2011

I had planned to read at least 40 books in 2011. Due to various other engagements I was able to read only 25 books and partially read 3 other books. However, I am very happy to have read some very interesting books during the year. Below, I present you the 14 most interesting and informative books I read in 2011 (In no particular order):

1. Here comes everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

I came to know about this book while reading an article on social media on one of our national dailies. The article had mentioned this book as a source of some key concepts in the field of social media. As the sites like Facebook and Twitter have pervaded every aspects of our life, social media has become a bit too familiar to anyone with an access to internet. As it is said, familarity breeds contempt, social media's ubiquity though hasn't bred contempt , has surely make us overlook the way they have and are transforming our societies and the way we live and interact with each other. Reading this book, makes one comprehend deeply the way social media is shaping up our societies and the way we connect and collaborate with each other. 

2. Good Capitalism, Bad Capitalism: And the economics of Growth and Prosperity by William J. Baumol, Carl J. Schram and Robert E. Litan

No word is more misunderstood and villified than 'capitalism' in political discourses around the world. At the same time, no political system tried till date, has helped more people to get out of the circle of poverty than capitalism itself. This provides a very good understanding of capitalism , its various forms and their implications.The book carries two ideas: The first notion is that capitalism is not a monolithic form of economic organization but rather that it takes many forms, which differ substantially in terms of their implications for economic growth and elimination of poverty. The second notion is that it takes the mixture of two forms of capitalism, namely entrepreneurial capitalism and big-firm capitalism to achieve and sustain economic growth.

3. Libertarianism Today by Jacob H. Huebert

At first instance, libertarianism indeed sounds like a plain crazy idea and libertarians, a loony bunch of people. However, if there is anything to libertarian thought then it's logic, reasoning and deep understanding and respect of human nature. The book starts with the basic libertarian idea that people should be free to do whatever they want as long as they don't harm anyone else. Then the book examines what that means for a wide range of contemporary issues, including the economy, health care, guns, drugs, online file-sharing, and more. It is a must read for anyone interested in the libertarian ideas and their application in most prevalent issues in societies of today. After reading the book, a reader will surely think twice before waving off libertarian thoughts as crazy or inapplicable.

4. The World is Flat:A brief history of the 21st Century by Thomas L. Friedman

The seminal work of Thomas L. Friedman is too well known, argued, supported and criticized already to have anything left to be said about it. The author uses case studies and anecdotes from all around the world to show the readers how the globalization and the new developments in the field of information and communication technology is changing  transforming the world beyond our comprehension. His description of the way India is benefiting from outsourcing jobs and the way jobs are being done these days left me with eyes widened with disbelief.

I think every Nepalese interested in the nation's development and economic prosperity should read this book, just to get to know how the world (including our neighbors) has already moved so far ahead while we are still tangled in ideological battles.

5. The end of History and the last man by Francis Fukuyama

If I were to choose one book out of the total books I read in 2011, The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama would be the one.Written in the aftermath of collapse of communism in USSR and Eastern Europe, the author makes extensive use of Hegel's philosophy of universal history to present and vindicate his thesis that after the failure of communism, the liberal democracy remains the only viable form of government in the modern world and this form of government is most probably the end point of humanity's sociocultural evolution and the final form of human government. In his own words:

What we are witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or a passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.

I have written a review of the book which can be found here.

6. Clash of the civilizations and remaking of the world order by Samuel P. Huntington

After reading Francis Fukuyama's “The end of history and the last man” , I went through a couple of reviews before posting my own review. Almost every review had a mentioning of Samuel P. Huntington's “The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order” which enticed me to seek the book and read it. I found “Clash of the civilizations” a brilliant and insightful read. 

Unlike Fukuyama, Huntington doesn't find the post-cold war world unifying into a single type of government system- liberal democracy and finally achieving lost lasting peace. Instead he sees the post cold war world as a chaotic world where the conflict between ideologies and economic systems have been replaced by more vicious and dangerous conflicts between civilizations. According to Huntington, the West rather than rejoicing its victory over communism should start preparing itself for a more complicated world order where at least 7 superpowers based on different civilizations will exist and will continuously be conflicting with each other although not necessarily militarily.

My review of this book can found here.

7. The Purple Cow: Transform your business by being remarkable by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is a well-known entrepreneur, author and public speaker and a very respected figure in the field of marketing. In this  short and simple book, which in fact looks more like an essay stretched into a book, Godin presents one simple but remarkable idea; the old ways of marketing is dead. Overwhelming people with ads about your products or services through every conceivable medium doesn't produce results anymore. Why? 

Because there is too much competition, too much ads and products but no time/money/interest among consumers for your products or services. He says, "The sad truth is that whatever you make, most people cannot buy your product. Either they don't have the money, or they don't have the time, or they don't want it. The world has changed, there are far more choices and less and less time to sort them out."

Read my more elaborate review of the book here.

8. Mastery:The Keys to Success and Long-term fulfillment by George Leonard

Consider this situation. You are trying to learn a new skill. Let's say swimming. You have been practicing hard to learn the skill but to no avail. You practice more but you seem to be making no progress at all. What do you do? You might try for a while and then get bored and move on to try something else. If you are the persistent kind, you will probably practice even more albeit grudgingly until you are good at the skill. But if you are among those people who are on the path of mastery, you would practice without grudge even when your effort seems to be making no progress at all. You would enjoy the act of practicing itself. The book is about the path of mastery; what it is, why it matters and how having this approach towards learning makes all the difference.

After trying to challenge my comfort zone by trying out new skills for the last two years I have come to the painful realization that: when it comes to skills that are more physical oriented, I am a very slow learner. Although, I am good at learning skills of mental orientation, I am painfully slow at learning other activities. And it bothered me a lot until I read this book and related to my learning experiences. The author who is a master aikiado ( one of the most difficult variant of martial arts) describes in this book, how our mind and body acquire new skills and why we should learn to see the practice as an end in itself rather than a cost to pay for mastering a skill. He shows how the process of mastery can help us attain a higher level of excellence and a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in our daily lives.

As per him, mastery is:
  • The process where what was difficult becomes both easier and more pleasurable; 
  • Long-term dedication to the journey - not the bottom line; 
  • Gaining mental discipline to travel further on your journey; 
  • Being goalless; 
  • Realizing that the pleasure of practice is intensified; 
  • Creating deep roots; 
  • Knowing that you will never reach a final destination; 
  • Being diligent with the process of mastery; 
  • Your commitment to hone your skills; 
  • After you have reached the top of the mountain, climb  another one.
9. Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time by Keith Ferrazzi

Never Eat Alone is one of the best books I have ever read about networking and relationship building. In this book, Keith Ferrazzi, a master networker who owes much of his success to his superiors networking and relation building skills,  lays out the specific steps—and inner mindset—he uses to reach out to connect with the thousands of colleagues, friends, and associates on his Rolodex, people he has helped and who have helped him. I learned a lot from the book, although, I am yet to practice most of the skills practiced in the book, which I hope to do in 2012. The book is highly recommended to anyone looking to improve their personal and professional relationships.

10. The Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism by Kevin D. Williamson

If you want a very straight-forward book on what is real socialism (not what it pretends to be), its variants and how socialism destroys civilizations, this is the right book for you. As the title suggests, it is politically incorrect, which means the author goes beyond the usual niceties and diplomacy and gives you the real picture of socialism. The way the book offers deadly blows to socialist thought is very interesting. I would NOT recommend the book to a sympathizer of socialism let alone the ardent socialists, they might suffer a heart attack due to the rage generated by reading this book. However, to anyone who wants to know why socialism is evil (not just for producing 100 million plus dead bodies) but also the objective reasons behind it-mainly the inability of a centralized planning system to gather all the relevant informations and making timely decisions, it's a must read.

11. Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely

Why do our headaches persist after taking a one-cent aspirin but disappear when we take a 50-cent aspirin? Why does recalling the Ten Commandments reduce our tendency to lie, even when we couldn't possibly be caught? W h y do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save 25 cents on a can of soup? W h y do we go back for second helpings at the unlimited buffet, even when our stomachs are already full? And how did we ever start spending $4.15 on a cup of coffee when, just a few years ago, we used to pay less than a dollar? This intriguing, witty and utterly original book looks at why we all make illogical decisions in life and what can be done about it. If you liked "Freakonomics", you'll love it!

12. 7 Habits of the highly effective people by Stephen R. Covey

7 Habits of the highly effective people is one of the best (and the one that actually works) self-help books that I ever read. In this book, the author describes how the personal development industry has been too crowded by quick fix methods and personality centric approaches for personal growth and how that is not working. He offers instead seven habits that are character-centered for leading better and more fulfilled lives. He has categorized the habits into three categories: private victory which contains habits needed for a better you, public victory which contains habits needed for a better relationships with others and finally the renewal which suggests ways for keeping you in the track. Be proactive, Begin with the end in Mind,Put First Things First, Think Win-Win, Seek First to Understand then to be understood, Synergize and Sharpen the Saw are the seven habits. Halfway through the first chapter, I had the feeling that this was going to be one of the most important books I ever read in the self-help genre.

13. The Other Path: The economic answer to terrorism by Hernando De Soto

Hernando De Soto's seminal work that influenced the destiny of a nation had been in my reading list for a long time until I finally got time to complete the book. De Soto who hails from Peru which had been until a decade ago, stuggling with a violent communist uprising similar to that of Nepal. The Shining Path, a communist rebel group waged an armed struggle against the Peruvian government for more than 10 years and the conflict was responsible for the death of more than 80,000 people. The tactics and strategies of Shining Path are said to have influenced our ex-rebels as well.

De Soto wrote this book to show Peruvian that there is other path, alternative to Shining Path for achieving prosperity and equality and he was very successful at achieving his objective. Though, De Soto is said to be on the hit list of Shining Path and his organization has been attacked multiple times by the members of Shining Path already, Shining Path today has less than 2000 members and acts of terror are getting rarer. Peruvian economy is growing rapidly. So what exactly was stopping Peru's prosperity? De Soto explains how the cumbersome laws and bureaucracy was (and in many cases "is") preventing people from engaging in economic activities and thereby preventing them from getting prosperous and what can be done about it.

14. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a connected age by Clay Shirky

After reading Here Comes Everybody, I couldn't wait to read another book by Mr. Shirky. So, I read cognitive surplus as well. I find it difficult to answer which book is better. Both are equally amazing.  In this book, he explains how people are using the modern tools of communication to cooperate and collaborate together to produce new things and services. He shows how in a connected age, it is very easy for people to pool together their intellect and cognitive surplus to create things that were simply impossible to be created until the recently. He explains how wikipedia grew to be what it is today and why does it keep growing despite the fact that no ones makes money out of wikipedia and it solely relies on voluntary contributions. The book also covers how the interconnected world is making an expert out of everyone and minimizing the roles of middle persons in almost every field and also the ways people can tap into the cognitive surplus to make the world a better place.

So, what do you think? Have any recommendations for me? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Share your comments below!

Jan 2, 2012

Pour and puddles

When I am flying
In my castle of smoke
You pour on me
Avalanche of grace

When I am flowing
In my river of indulgence
You shower on me
Fragments of bliss

And yet you ask me
How I melted into puddles
and started dreaming mahogany dreams?

How I lost myself to the rubble
and started finding solitude in the spring?

-Surath Giri

Jan 1, 2012

केही लिबर्टेरियन भनाइइहरु - ८

यो नयाँ बर्षको सुरुवात केही स्वतन्त्रताप्रेमी भनाइइहरुबाटै गरौ होला ।

१) म माथि कुनै निर्णय चाहे कुनै तानाशाहले लादोस या त मेरो छिमेकीहरुको बहुमतले लादोस , के नै फरक पर्छ र ? मेरो स्वतन्त्र र शान्तिपुर्वक काम गर्न पाउने अधिकार त जे गरी पनि छिनियो नै । - Stephen H. Foerster

२) सरकारले जुत्ता कारखाना नचलाएकै भएर मान्छेहरु खाली खुट्टा हिंडेका चै होइनन है । -Anonymous

३) केही बर्षको अन्तरालमा मालिक छान्न पाउदैमा कुनै मान्छे काम दास हुन्छ भन्ने हुँदैन ।  -Lysandeer Spooner

४) मतदान गर्न पाउने अधिकार हुँदैमा मानिसहरु स्वतन्त्र रहन्छन भन्ने कुराको ग्यारेन्टी हुँदैन । कहिलेकही मानिसहरुले मतदान मार्फत आँफैलाई दाशत्वतर्फ डोर्याउने काम पनि गर्दछन ।  -Frank Chodorov

५)आँधी आउँदा गरिएका संकल्पहरु शान्तिको बेलामा बिर्सियिन्छन । -Old English Saying

६) राजनीति भनेको सिद्धान्तहरुको लडाईं रुपी खोल ओढेको स्वार्थहरुको झगडा बाहेक केही होइन ।  -Amrose Bierce

७) ऋन लिउ , खर्च गर , कर उठाउ ... अनी आस्वासन, आस्वासन अनी अझै आस्वासन देउ । यो नै लामो र सफल राजनीतिक करीयरको सुत्र हो । -Hal O'Boyle

८) स्वतन्त्र बजारमा हुने भन्दा विपरित राजनीतिक सरकारमा कुनै एउटा व्यक्तीले जित्नका लागि अर्को कुनै व्यक्तीले हार्न जरूरी हुन्छ । - Robert Klassen

९) लोकतन्त्रको एउटा बिशेषता भनेको बिशेष हित-समूहहरुको अन्तर्द्वन्द हो जहाँ प्रत्येक समूह आफुलाई बहुमतको समूह भएको दावी गर्छ र बाँकी समूहहरु माथि शोषन गर्न खोज्छ ।  - Robert Garmong

१०) निजी सम्पत्तिको प्राबधान स्वतन्त्रताको ग्यारेन्टी हो । यो धन हुनेहरुको लागि जती महत्वपूर्ण छ , धन नहुनेहरुको लागि पनि उत्तिकै महत्वपूर्ण छ ।  - F.A. Hayek

माथिका भनाइइहरु मन परेमा मज्जाले Share गर्नुहोला ।