“It’s the economy stupid!” was the catchphrase in Bill Clinton’s campaign for presidency. Later on this phrase (and it’s many variations) became a part of American political culture. And the reason I am throwing a decade old catchphrase at you? Read on.
Before a few days I had a chance to visit a function. Outside the hall some people were sitting with forms and pamphlets. They were volunteers of an non profit organization working to raise awareness about eye donation. While I admired their dedication to the cause and the compassion they felt towards who don’t have eyes, I could not help but think “Is this the best way to tackle this issue?”
These people are here because not enough people donate their eyes. Why don’t people donate their eyes? Because people are lazy. People don’t want to go out of their way unless they have to. You really can’t blame them, as everybody is fighting this hard battle called life.
But there are blind people who need eyes today. And lots of dead bodies are being burned with eyes that could have been used to give eyesight to blind people.
How about use people’s laziness to make sure they donate eyes?
When India became independent, we copied our policies and regulations mostly from Britain. Britain has this thing called “Opt In” policy, where if you wish to donate your organs, you need to sign papers saying you wish to do so.
While just a few hundred Kilometers away from Britain, there is Spain. Spain has what they called “Opt out” policy. So by default you are considered organ donor and your organs are harvested at your death. But if you do not want to donate organs, you have to sign papers saying that explicitly.
Result? Spain has a lot higher rate of organ donation.
If people spent their time lobbying to change regulation instead of raising awareness, they would solve the organ donation problem permanently. Thousands of people waiting for organs would have a chance of life. If these people walk out of hospitals, hospitals and doctors will be free to cater to the people with other life threatening ailments. All these healthy people will be transformed from liabilities to assets, which will be a tremendous social and economical boost.
We have our democracy. But role of our citizens is limited to casting a vote once in five years. That needs to be changed. The citizens need to consistently engage pro-actively in policy discussions and lobbying efforts to change policies that are unfavorable to the society. This will generate a lot stronger long term impact compared to the volunteer non profit work.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking bad about volunteers. Heck, I have shown far less commitment to welfare of society then they show.
But the volunteers can only make so much of a difference. If the long term, nationwide impact is desired, then there is no substitute to policy change.
The real event that unrestrained India from shackles of doomed socialist economy to a vibrant powerhouse of Asia was precisely this, a policy change. A decision to dismantle the license raj, brilliantly masterminded by our then financial minister, ManMohan Singh, is at the root of all this miracle.
There is another example of how policy change can literally transform the related industry. In India, FM radio frequencies were licensed solely to Government of India according to a regulation passed in 1897 that grouped the wireless radio waves in the same category as telegraph, filed under “communication using electric signals”. Thus there were only a handful FM radio stations in operation. But when these licenses were opened for businesses just a decade ago, the number of FM stations grew exponentially, generating a lot more jobs, advertising revenue, and supporting business.
Democracy is not something we suffer silently. Democracy is a great tool to make our lives better. It’s time to hammer the nail where it will make the biggest difference. It’s time to unlock the secret to the happy and prosperous nation.
The secret? It’s “the policy”, stupid !!