The structure of public policy and public discourse is stuck in a technocratic mentality. In the post-Covid world, new thinking is needed to make the whole framework, not just public policy, more participatory.

This year, as we emerge from an episode of Indian Assembly elections, the worst of the Covid-19 may finally be behind us. At this stage, it is important to take a long, rigorous approach to the rules embedded in our governance, and to do so as we transform into an uncertain and changing global order. In this section, I would like to focus on the nature of policy-making, especially in the context of an epidemic, and to exclude areas that need to be reconsidered.

Against the background of a particular event or period, intellectual commentary often comes down to debate about the net failure or net success of an overall administrative effort. It is basically a rhetorical, not analytical, feature of many commentaries in terms of exercise and epidemic. Although they spoke in a unique context, their views were conducted in the same analytical terrain. Yes, there are various variables between policy responses and their outcomes, especially due to the threat of a rapidly changing deadly virus. But the ‘policy’ being discussed here is a political division rooted in ideological speculation. Thus, the argument for reform in the system of governance is hollow. It keeps public discourse in the frame of the technocratic mind while the framework itself demands retelling.

For a new benefit, let’s look at the public health response in general through an unconventional economic lens. Economist Richard Wagner provides detailed insights on the subject. He underlined that in the face of a complex situation with multiple moving parts, policy decisions are not rational but based on the insights of some of the top people. This is referred to as the ‘knowledge problem’ – a problem that government-planning elites always deal with a severe lack of knowledge, as they cannot capture the ever-changing knowledge distributed in the minds of the people as ‘data’. . Because it is impossible to avoid this problem, economists like Wagner make it the starting point of their analysis. They make it a humble acknowledgment of the human condition, not a problem to solve.

A recent survey of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers found that almost half of India’s top bureaucrats, although most of them prefer participatory measures rather than fining strategies to enforce lockdowns, believed that consent had much more to do. People’s fear of the law more than anything else. The result is tension in an approach to ‘participatory’ governance and how far it can go from everyday life. The administration must move forward acknowledging the complexities of reality, not acting in abstraction. As much as it is, we are forced to get different tastes of the same thing, and ideological camps can compete endlessly. It is not surprising that there is often enough coercion with all camp proposed solutions.

Where is our land? Research on the subject highlights some obvious effects: (1) even in cases of infection, where personal behavior may have an external effect on the public, no one can assume that the government can solve it; (2) government experts themselves are stuck in a system in which they interfere; (3) the planning system reduces the reality to many simplified versions; (4) The previous three points towards the need to reconsider the baseline estimates in economic epidemiological models. To clarify these issues, let us consider the oxygen crisis that occurred in India at the most critical stage of Covid-19. I chose this example for three reasons: (a) it was a deeply turbulent period that left an imprint on our collective mindset, (b) it was supposed to be behind us (about a year passed), but there was a considerable amount of merit discussion in memory , And (c) it is an obviously complex phenomenon that cannot be reduced to a single case study or perspective.

At the peak of India’s second wave of infections (April-May 2021), our healthcare facilities faced severe shortages of medical oxygen, causing widespread suffering and anxiety among the public. The reasons were multiple and vague. Although the production, trade, storage and use of oxygen in India has been privatized, only a dozen major vendors in the country produce it. It is an essential but expensive drug. During times of scarcity, district-level hospitals, nursing homes, and small and medium-sized hospitals lack uninterrupted supply and adequate storage. Some pundits have blamed expensive private hospitals for failing to stockpile in advance to maximize their profits. Different aspects of supply have come under the jurisdiction of different organizations, each operating under the constraints of their institutional incentives. In March 2020, a bureaucratic empowered Group II (EGII) was restructured to oversee the allocation process for the states. But regulatory measures, instead of being altruistic, are shaped by competition between different lobbies. Thus, EGII failed to reach consensus among the states on adequate distribution. Towards the end of 2020, the Department of Pharmaceuticals and some state governments imposed restrictions on the price and collection of medical oxygen in response to increased demand.

Regulatory overload and demand pressures had distorted results for the market – stocks by private groups and blockades by states prioritizing domestic demand. Some states have increased regional jurisdiction over private producers. It was even reported that some had thwarted the Centre’s efforts for small-scale production with the aim of continuing external purchases. Apparently, even though enough oxygen was being produced internally, at the heart of the problem was a barrier supply chain. The states that have witnessed the highest caseloads are far from strong productivity. But it was quickly argued that demand could also be underestimated. To overcome the shortage of transport and storage infrastructure, the government has announced that it will import large quantities of medical oxygen. Production licenses were expedited, and private industrial manufacturers were asked to remove their flow for medical use. Yet avoidable obstacles and bureaucratic delays continued in various measures.

Research shows that there is no rationale for decision makers to prioritize specific needs and services over others. They cannot predict the changed situation until it is too late and often hinder the spontaneous process of adjustment in an economy. This is primarily because they constrict individual spatial ways of living in a single dimension where many fragmented economies conflict. The oxygen crisis paints a grim picture for us. It has given birth to crushed disasters with small, scattered pools of success. It has shown us more than anything else that principles only address animals that have created their own. Although at very different levels, we have seen similar patterns in other events such as lockdowns and vaccinations. A year later, there may be no magic wand. But we can use the burden of awareness to take our thinking in a new direction.

Studies in urban planning law and public governance have emphasized the pluralistic paradigm for the administrative system. This means that policies should avoid public divisions in order to be sensitive to differences While there is no ‘crisis’, urban life is always bound up with diverse places, relationships, plans and beliefs. If everyone is considered an entrepreneurial actor, it is understandable to have a system that has not one but multiple, different, competitive and collaborative centers. When this complexity is removed from the discussion of reform, policy, public welfare and planning, it not only fails to grasp the real world but also manipulates it to manage it. Contrary to what textbooks may tell you, economics is not family management.


Recognition: The author would like to thank the scholars of the FA Hayek program for the conceptual basis of this part and Devika Dinesh, Tejashree Murugan and Vaishnavi Chandrasekar for their valuable advice.

Related: Jayat Yoshi is a Don Lavoie Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and a Freedom Fellow with South Asia Students for Liberty.

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