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Real objection....

Often while debating about controversial topics I have observed people deploying this strategy. They would raise various arguments against a policy or solution or law but their real objection would be something else. The reason that they could not state their real objection is that it is not defensible.
To explain, I will quote from an article written by Ramachandra Guha on 'Reforming the Hindus'. It explores the life of Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedhkar, and the relationship between them. The background is that Ambedhkar wanted to bring out a unified Hindu Personal Laws.
The main features of the law according to Mr Guha is,
“.... (1) For the first time, the widow and daughter were awarded the same share of property as the son;
(2) For the first time, women were allowed to divorce a cruel or negligent husband; (3) for the first time, the husband was prohibited from taking a second wife;
(4) For the first time, a man and woman of different castes could be married under Hindu law;
(5) For the first time, a Hindu couple could adopt a child of a different caste."
There was much opposition to the move and the ensuing delay made Ambedhkar impatient and he resigned from the cabinet. However, the government passed these laws in 1954/55.
The most pertinent quote is from Professor Derrett who said, "the offer of divorce to all oppressed spouses became the chief target of attack, and the cry that religion was in danger was raised by many whose real objection to the Bill was that daughters were to have equal shares with sons, a proposition that aroused (curiously) fiercer jealousy among certain commercial than among agricultural classes".
This is true even now when you look at public debate on affirmative action. For example on debate of reservations for disadvantaged sections of the society. I have found that there are two categories of people who oppose it. First, are the ones who don't want disadvantaged sections to come up and they can't state it openly. So, they come up with several arguments against such measure. Second, are the ones who genuinely feel that these disadvantaged sections need to come up but have objections to policy implemented to benefit the affected group.
I took affirmative action as an example to illustrate my point. I have found this to be true in many arguments on controversial topics.

Comments

Ramnath said…
I agree. It's important to see if people have an hidden agenda when they support or oppose a policy.

Often they have, and often they dont reveal that.

That's why it's important for a policymaker to follow Henry Hazlitt and look at 'not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy;' and to trace the consequences of that policy 'not merely for one group but for all groups.'

When policy makers follow this; and when civil society and hopefully all citizens demand this, there is some hope for decent policies.

You are probably right about people who oppose affirmative action. At the same time, I am sure you also see there are two categories of people who support affirmative action.

First, those who don't care a wee bit about the really disadvantaged, but come up with several arguments in support of affirmative action because they have some vested interest.

Second, those who genuinely feel that disadvantaged must come up, but (according to me, and I might be wrong) unwittingly support wrong policies, and end up helping the vested interests, and not those who really need help.

May I repeat? That's why it's important to consider the long term, not just short term effects; and the impact on all groups, not just one.
saumitra said…
Nice article John--insightful. I also liked what Mr. Ramnath had to say.

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