12 December 2017

India Doesn't Have Enough Civil Servants

Lately, there has been renewed interest in India’s lack of state capacity. One hardly need explain the dysfunction arising from this problem to the average Indian citizen. It is as pervasive and embedded as any other social, cultural or economic facet of Indian life. Yet, we continue to chug along and sometimes even manage to surprise ourselves—conducting free and fair elections for hundreds of millions of voters, or providing unique biometric identification to close to a billion people. So, it is not a complete failure.

Lant Pritchett famously labelled India a flailing state—one where “the head, that is the elite institutions at the national (and in some states) level remain sound and functional but that this head is no longer reliably connected via nerves and sinews to its own limbs.” . . .  
Almost all of India’s governance problems can find links to the lack of manpower in state services. India has only 12-15 judges per million compared to the US’ 110 per million. The immediate goal is to reach the law commission’s 50-judges-per-million recommendation. Similarly, India has about 129 policemen per 100,000 citizens—only Uganda fares worse. In order to meet the UN recommended ratio, India is short of half-a-million policemen. The situation for judges and the police also holds true for firemen, traffic police, garbage collectors, inspectors, engineers, bureaucrats, and so on.
From here

The author points to over-criminalization of what should be civil violations and obsolete bureaucracies as potential short term solutions, but I'm skeptical that this will matter much. Many better functioning states also have over-criminalization and obsolete bureaucracies, but fixing these things tends to be a trailing indicator of overall improvement, rather that a first line solution.

The elites may be functional in some respects, but they clearly aren't raising funds for and expending enough money on state administration, and that is quintessentially a problem at the top, and not in the detail.

Measuring Gerrymandering

Over the last few years, there has been an unprecedented outpouring of scholarship on partisan gerrymandering. Much of this work has sought either to introduce new measures of gerrymandering or to analyze a metric — the efficiency gap — that we previously developed. In this Article, we reframe this debate by presenting a series of criteria that can be used to evaluate gerrymandering metrics: (1) consistency with the efficiency principle; (2) distinctness from other electoral values; (3) breadth of scope; and (4) correspondence with electoral history. We then apply these criteria to both the efficiency gap and other measures. The efficiency gap complies with the criteria under all circumstances. Other metrics, in contrast, often violate the efficiency principle and cannot be used in certain electoral settings.
Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee, "The Measure of a Metric: The Debate Over Quantifying Partisan Gerrymandering", Stanford Law Review, Forthcoming (November 30, 2017).

11 December 2017

H.R. 1 In A Nutshell

A 51 page summary from the Joint Committee On Taxation summarizes the most significant provisions of the House and Senate Amendment versions of H.R. 1 which a Conference Committee will begin to discuss on Wednesday in the hope of producing a final report by the end of this week and enactment into law before Christmas.

A 34 page paper by a team of 13 tax professions explains 32 major loopholes in H.R. 1. This suggests that its revenue costs will be far greater than anticipated by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Wall Street Journal rails against the restoration of the Alternative Minimum Tax in the Senate Amendment.

A tax professor writing an Op-Ed in the New York Times calls the tax breaks for passthrough tax entities the "Single Worst Proposal Every Made In The History Of The Income Tax."

The Senate Amendment creates marginal tax rates of 85% to more than 100% for some people.