This session was taught by Nitin Pai and focused on the importance of assessing the needs of people. How does one know what are the problems in a certain area and what needs to be done to solve this? How does one choose between two solutions, understanding which is more important and pragmatic? There are three things that are important for assessing needs and for understanding why an alternative is preferable to the other and in forming the basis for a choice:
First, Gathering techniques
Second, Public choice findings
Third, Analysis techniques
Gathering Techniques: How does one come to the answer of what is needed and what is not needed? If you don’t define a problem properly, will it benefit everybody? The class discussed gathering this data and delved into multiple broad based techniques such as anecdotes, surveys, measurements, estimates and expert opinions. The nuances of each of these techniques and their importance in understanding the needs of people was also elaborated.
Public choice findings: Some ideas with respect to public choice findings were discussed with detailed examples. These theories are important for any politician to understand and internalise, to understand how to approach problems once they have been gathered. First, often, special interest tends to prevail over public interests because beneficiaries are concentrated and losers are diffused. Second, how it is rational for people to be ignorant… making lobbyists/activists more influential and this leads to a decline in ‘experts’ or ‘expertise’ in a certain area. Third, how, at times, self interest groups engage in rent seeking behaviour. Fourth, How despite exceptions, many bureaucrats are interested in perpetuating and empowering themselves.
Analysis techniques: People want different things and one needs to assess the different things that are needed. When it comes to understanding what people want, it is important to realise that there are some things that people clearly don’t want and some that they do want. Juxtaposed against wants are the needs. There are thing’s that are needed and some that are not needed. Based on what people tell you and what you learn, how does one asses what is important? How does one determine what is necessary? When it comes to making a choice between the different wants and needs, it is importance to apply economic reasoning based on empirical evidence before making a choice.
What people want and what is really needed can be seen in four cases:
Case 1: What is not needed and people do not want it
Case 2: What is really needed but people do not want it
Case 3: People want what is not really needed
Case 4: People want what is really needed
Each case requires a different strategy and approach towards handling it. If a situation arises with case 1, where a politician has to make a decision with regard to something people need and want, then the best strategy is to keep this situation aside, because it is not needed or wanted and hence becomes irrelevant. In the second case, it is important to show awareness and why it is necessary. The third case, one needs to educate and show what is necessary and in the fourth case, it is to reinforce and consolidate public support.
Along with strategy, the class discussed the different leadership styles required to handle the different cases arising. For case 2: a good leader must “do and persuade” (courageous leadership). For Case 3, a good leader must “educate and persuade” (educative leadership), for case 4, a good leader must ‘do’. (executive leadership).