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Social Choice and Forthcoming Elections: Manipur Case

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Social Choice and Forthcoming Elections: Manipur Case

By- Amar Yumnam
Imphal, April 1:

Prof Kaushik Basu sent me a picture of him walking down in a street in New York on the Good Friday three days back; Prof Kaushik Basu was Chief Economist of the World Bank and Chief Economic Advisor of the Government of India and he had visited Manipur University for a Lecture. He is now at the Cornell University. The time his picture arriving me happens to be the time I was also thinking of the Age of Enlightenment.
The Age of Enlightenment in Europe is generally considered to extend from 1685 to 1815. More Generally it is considered to extend from the Glorious Revolution in 1688 to the French Revolution in 1789. This Age of Enlightenment is also known as the Age of Reason as during this period Reasoning took over Faith and Superstition was giving over to Science. While taking the walk Prof Basu was remembering the philosopher mathematician Condorcet but in a surprising time-simultaneity I was falling all over again for the country I have had a loveliest academic experience of staying and what not – France; France had the maximum influence in this European transformation.
It was during this period that Social Choice Theory took shape and Modern Democracy matured. This Age of Reason did play a wonderful role in replacing violence by reason, and the concepts of sharing through reasoning articulation and shared Social Welfare were born. Social cohesion did come out despite Divergences of opinion and Voting Paradoxes could not be a basis for social chaos.
I am recalling both the European Social Enlightenment period and personal academic engagements because the happenings, tendencies and logical endeavours in Manipur are so sentimentally painful, behaviourally very aggressive in non-irrational ways and group behaviours are so much against social cohesion. Unfortunately, the province does not have the pride of a Rational governance committed to evolve a collective Social Welfare. All these characteristics are naturally not for civilisation and enhanced social advancement.
Here it would be convenient for us to share something on the concepts of Social Choice and Social Welfare, the two concepts from which Manipur is increasingly distancing away in the opposite direction. We all want what Alexis de Tocquevill had uttered 180 years ago: “Among the novel objects that attracted my attention during my stay in the United States, nothing struck me more forcibly than the general equality of condition among the people. I readily discovered the prodigious influence that this primary fact exercises on the whole course of society; it gives a peculiar direction to public opinion and a peculiar tenor to the laws…It has no less effect on civil society… it creates opinions, gives birth to new sentiments, founds novel customs, and modifies whatever it does not produce.”
The voting process in an independent and non-enforced way is the most common exercise and emergence of social choice: “Social choice theory is an analysis of collective decision making. The theory of social choice starts out from the articulated opinions or values of the members of a given community or the citizens of a given society and attempts to derive a collective verdict or statement. Such a situation can be called direct democracy, where public actions are determined directly by the members of society. Another form of democratic government is also possible and, actually, more frequent in modern societies, viz. representative government where public actions lie in the hands of public officials who are elected by citizens.” Without getting into the technical aspects of these processes, the consequential result is considered “that the preferences of the individual members of a given society are ‘aggregated’ into a social preference that reflects the general opinion or will of this society.” As our Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen says the resultant outcome is rational in one of the possible ways: “I would like—to distinguish clearly between four possible cases all of which involve the same choice (e.g., the use and re-use of glass bottles) but the underlying preferences have different interpretations:1 The person simply prefers using glass bottles rather than steel cans from a purely self-regarding point of view, for example, because he likes glass, or (perhaps somewhat incredibly) he believes the impact on the environment of his using’ single-use steel cans (given the choices of others) will hurt him significantly.2 The person is worried about the welfare of others as well, and his own welfare function includes concern for other people’s welfare and he refuses glass bottles because he takes the hurt on others as hurt on himself.3 The person’s concern for other people’s welfare reflected in his notion of his own welfare would not be sufficient to prevent him from using single-use steel cans if he could do it on the sly, but he is afraid of the social stigma of being seen to do the ‘wrong’ thing, or afraid of others emulating him in doing the ‘wrong’ thing and thereby his getting hit indirectly.4 The person can do the ‘wrong’ thing on the sly without being noticed and he feels that if he did that he personally would be better off (even after taking note of whatever Weight he might wish to put on the welfare of the others), but he feels that he would be acting socially irresponsibly if he did proceed to do it, and therefore does not do so.”
I would like to conclude with an appeal that Manipur now is at a time to avoid violence as self care as both provincial and Union Governments do not find time to care for her. Accepting a peaceful electoral process would help us in initiating the emergence of a Robust Social Choice for Manipur.

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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