Why are we a nation that is individually so smart and collectively so naïve? Why do we mistake talk for action? Why is our self-worth massaged only if we have the 'authority' to break rules? Why are we among the world's Why do we dump our garbage at he neighbour's doorstep
Can it be our climate, population density, poverty, colonial past or even genetic encoding?
In a rare attempt to understand the Indianness of Indians-perhaps the most intelligent people in the world, but also, to a dispassionate eye, among the most baffling-V. Raghunathan uses the props of game theory and behavioural economics to provide an insight into this most difficult question: why are we the way we are? Raghunathan tackles the question by putting under the scanner our attitudes towards rationality and irrationality egotism and selfishness, our penchant for antagonism and competition, and our aversion to collaboration and cooperation. Drawing examples from the way we behave in day-to-day situations-from our attitude towards a cheating vendor to our attitude in a joint venture; from our tearing off a page from a library book to the way we leave our public toilets-he shows how in the long run even the most self-serving of us-businessmen, politicians, bureaucrats, common people-stand to profit more if we were o adopt a little self-regulation, give fairness a little more credence and cooperate instead of cheat.
V. Raghunathan was an academic for nearly two decades, at IIM, Ahmedabad. In 2001 he joined the corporate world as president of ING Vysya Bank. At present he is a member of the top management in the GMR Group, an infrastructure major. Since 1990 he has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Bocconi, in Milan, where his teaching interest in recent years has been behavioural finance. Raghunathan has been behavioural finance. Raghunathan has written over 350 academic papers and popular articles, and five book in the field of finance and investments. He also writes a regular guest column for the Economic Times.
Raghunathan boasts of what is probably the largest private collection of ancient locks in the country. He has also been a cartoonist briefly with a national daily, played chess at the all-India level and sketched competitively in the years gone by. To relax, he fixed mechanical clocks.
Games Indians Play, Dr. Raghunathan's new book is timely, and is an absorbing, illuminating study of the life and behaviour of Indians in the public sphere. It presents an economist's view on what it means to be an Indian today. I consider it a pleasure and a privilege to write the foreword for this book.
India is, now, sixty years as a free country. Yet, today, many of the goals set during the time of India's independence have not been realized. Our country faces multiple, urgent challenges of poverty, corruption and emerging social crises in health, education and population growth. Twenty six per cent of Indians remain below the poverty line, and 39 per cent of the country is illiterate. Public infrastructure in India's population lacks access to the most basic resources. Over one-third of Indians lack access to clean water or proper sanitation facilities, and 30 per cent of the Indian population remains unconnected by a proper road. Corruption is pervasive in India's institutions-close to one per cent of the country's GDP today is lost to bribes alone.
In his book, Raghunathan takes a novel perspective on India's myriad economic and social challenges. He asserts that, while the resources to address India's problems are available, serious problems persist due to apathy and a 'lack of public conscience' among the Indian population. This, he notes, holds true for Indians across all walks of life-be it the political field, the bureaucracy, the business sector or the salaried and working class.
Raghunathan examines Indian social behaviour through game theory and behavioural economics, and he relies particularly on the work of game theorist such as John von Neumann, Oskar Morgenstern and John. For example, he uses the principle of prisoner's dilemma to analyse the benefit of selfish versus cooperative strategies among individuals and to discuss the lack of concern among Indians for public infrastructure and facilities. Raghunathan points our that Indians view their fellow citizens-including the authorities-as apathetic (or 'selfish') towards public infrastructure, and consequently see maximum benefit in being apathetic as well. The 'cooperative strategy' of maintaining infrastructure for good public use becomes increasingly unprofitable, as more and more people use becomes increasingly unprofitable, as more and more people are seen as selfish. In such an environment, all people eventually pursue 'selfish strategies', and pursue routes that maximize personal gain at the expense of public good. Such an attitude has led, in the long term, to the present situation of public apathy for law and order, the fractured sense of public good and corruption across all sections of Indian society.
Raghunathan gives us a strong appreciation of how and why Indians have cultivated behaviours that are so destructive to the fabric of the larger community. His book is filled with revealing insights on how our social attitudes impact our ability to address the economic and social challenges that face the country. Raghunathan's writing is humorous and filled with anecdotes that are both amusing and thought-provoking. For instance, he notes the irony of having to pay a bribe in order to pay land registration fees in India, essentially paying a bribe to give money to the government! However, this has become so commonplace that most Indians no longer think twice about making the payment.
India, thanks to its emerging economic and demographic advantages, has the opportunity to grow into a developed, prosperous economy over the next two decades. However, to enable growth that is both sustainable and equitable, Indians have to recognize the challenges we face as a society, and address them with courage and a commitment towards reform. A stronger understanding of ourselves and of our social structures is essential to enable this. Games Indians Play is an intelligent, insightful effort in this direction.
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