United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 15)

The Trends

Aswath Damodaran, comparing the events to the storming of the Bastille, wrote about the broader trends at play:

  1. A loss of faith in experts (economic, scientific, financial, government): During the 20th century, advances in education, and increasing specialization created expert classes in almost every aspect of human activity, from science to government to finance/economics. For the most part, we assumed that their superior knowledge and experience equipped them to take the right actions, and with our limited access to information, we often were kept in the dark, when they were wrong. That pact has been shattered by a combination of arrogance on the part of experts and catastrophic policy failures, with the 2008 banking crisis acting as a wake up call. In the years since, we have seen this loss of faith play out in economics, politics and even health, with expert opinion being cast aside, ignored or ridiculed.

  2. An unquestioning worship of crowd wisdom, combined with an empowering of crowds: In conjunction, we have also seen the rise of big data and the elevation of “crowd” judgments over expert opinions, and it shows up in our life choices. We pick the restaurants we eat at, based on Yelp reviews, the movies we watch on Rotten Tomatoes and the items we buy on customer reviews. Social media has made it easier to get crowd input (online), and precipitate crowd actions.

  3. A conversion of disagreements in every arena into the personal and the political: While we can continue to debate the reasons, it remains inarguable that public discourse has coarsened, with the almost every debate, no matter in what realm, becoming personal and political.

Some of the themes were echoed in an essay by Raghu SJ (Anticipating the Unintended) discussing “four trends now deeply embedded in our culture and politics seem to have marked their arrival in the markets with this story”:

  1. Radically Networked Societies (RNS) meet Capital Markets: Nitin Pai and Pranay define a radically networked society as a web of hyper-connected individuals, possessing an identity (imagined or real), and motivated by a common immediate cause. The emergence of RNS aided by cellphones, cheap data connectivity and social media platforms is a phenomenon for the hierarchical state to contend. The immediate cause that motivates an RNS could be irrational but before the state or the established institutions can even put their shoes on, the RNS might have gone around the world twice with their message

  2. Knocking the experts off their pedestal: The experts are all sold out. They have an agenda and they won’t tell you the truth. That’s the message that’s mainstream now in politics and culture. This is what drives the anti-vaxxers, climate science deniers, trade protectionists and other conspiracy theories going around. Now add the Wall Street experts to this list.

  3. The crowd is right: What are people like you buying, watching, eating or wearing? So many people can’t be wrong. If I can watch and enjoy something based on what others are watching, I can buy a stock the same way. Zero brokerage platforms like Robinhood and Public have built their business models around this. Gamify the stock markets. Make it addictive. The millennials seeking thrill sitting at home during the pandemic have a new destination.

  4. It is personal: Hyper-personalisation, the market of one, call it by any name. You are now invested deeply in your belief and your platform. It is your identity. The echo chamber you inhabit keeps reinforcing this belief.

Reading all this got me thinking: how can India’s forgotten and ignored masses swarm together, organise and co-ordinate their actions using a digital platform, and take on and bring down the political parties to make possible the political change that is needed for the economic transformation that will bring Lakshmi into the home of every Indian?

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.