IASCC was nearly 3 years in making before we registered it as a not-for-profit public trust on April 1, 2017.
My conversations, in the classroom and with professional colleagues, have been the main inspiration behind our decision to set up IASCC as an institute for higher learning, with specific focus on personal, organisational and public policy choices.
Classroom Conversations…Curiosity, Being Aware, Ability to Change and Willingness to Invest in Knowledge Creation are essential to our being.
Post the global financial crisis, my classroom conversations centred around socio-economic issues more than anytime earlier. The following questions came up very frequently:
Are we likely to run out of food and energy at some stage, given the population and income growth?
No, we are not likely to run out of food and natural resources – not for a very long time!
On reflection, I realise that my response above is based on the premise that we, as a human race, have this unique ability to change our behaviour by choice and can creating new knowledge in form of science and technology, which will ensure that we will not run out of resources – probably ever. I do, however, recognise that many of us are not aware of the level of resource wastages in production, distribution or consumption processes. I, therefore, argue that a reduction in wastages and an investment in science and technology to create products, services and solutions which help improve the quality of life without an increase in intensity of resource consumption is key to improving the quality of life for all of us.
When is the global economy likely to start growing at the pace experienced during the early 2000s?
Not anytime soon!
My response to the question on growth was based on the premise that a series of policy and organisation choices, across the world, have resulted in a situation where many individuals and families have had their ability to invest in themselves curtailed. Specifically, I am referring to the fact that there has been a disproportionate increase in housing, education and healthcare cost in most nations.
We also know that the growth of household consumption and investment has been driven by growth in credit, without a proportionate increase in income and savings, particularly during the decade preceding the global financial crisis. That is, the household leverage has gone up significantly over the years.
My proposition that we will experience slower growth for a long-time was based premise that a disproportionate increase in the cost of basic services, i.e., education, housing and healthcare, adversely impacts the family’s ability as well as willingness to invest and thereby its ability to earn and consume. In addition, the process of unwinding the financial leverage reduces the level of credit-led growth in investment and consumption. Hence, we will have to contend with a growth-constrained for some more years.
Disconcerting Narratives – ‘Ideas sans Ideology’ not competing ideologies are key to making effective choices in a complex and uncertain context.
During these conversations, I noticed that some of the arguments were based on popular opinions rather than insights from analysis based on a theoretical or a conceptual framework. In some sense, I was seeing a situation where a ‘doomsday’ narrative had been sold and that too across the world. A critical evaluation of the arguments put forth by the opinion leaders of that time would have easily informed us that we were facing a tough situation, but not a doomsday scenario.
Having realised that the ‘negative’ narratives were being sold successfully, I started following the policy debates a little more closely than I did earlier. I discovered that the policy debates, sometimes even in the academic context, are guided by the ideology of individuals involved rather than the understanding of context in which the choices are to be made. For example, we often hear that private participation in production and delivery of social services is key to efficiency and thereby to social well-being, even when we have evidence that does not support this argument. Similarly, the policy choices based on “trickle-down” theory have not necessarily solved the problem of inequity of access to opportunity and resources, even when there has been a reduction in abject poverty. In many cases, the access to quality education and healthcare services continues to be limited for a very large number of people in most nations.
Back to books
Post these conversations, I went back to my books and started reading or rereading the work of scholars that I have always admired for depth and the breadth of their contribution. It is in their work that I found my answers.
Ludwig von Mises in Theory and History mentions “whenever a human being is in a situation in which various modes of behaviour, precluding one another, are open to him, he chooses. Thus, life implies an endless sequence of actions of choosing. Action is conduct directed by choices” (pp 12, Theory and History).
“we do not know how the external events – physical, chemical and physiological – affect human thoughts, ideas and judgments of value” (pp 1, Theory and History).
“It seems to me that this failure of the economists to guide policy more successfully is closely connected with their propensity to imitate as closely as possible the procedures of the brilliantly successful physical sciences – an attempt which in our field may lead to outright error. It is an approach which has come to be described as the “scientistic” attitude – an attitude which, as I defined it some thirty years ago, ” is decidedly unscientific in the true sense of the word, since it involves a mechanical and uncritical application of habits of thought to fields different from those in which they have been formed.” (pp1, The Pretence of Knowledge).
“This pretense has demanded theorising based on partialization of analysis, the exclusion of any role of human intentionality or choice, and the use of sharp assumptions and deductive reasoning (Bailey & Ford, 1996). Since morality, or ethics, is inseparable from human intentionality, a precondition for making business studies a science has been the denial of any moral or ethical considerations in our theories and, therefore, in our prescriptions for management practice.” (pp 77, Bad Management Theories…)
Ideas sans Ideology – Avoiding the “the collectivist dogma” through critical and reflective thinking
A collective (organisation, state, society, etc.) is an “aspect of human action. It does not live outside of the conduct of people (pp 251, Theory and History).”  A collective does not think or act, the collective exists out of actions of individuals.
A way to avoid ‘the collectivist dogma’ is let our critical and reflective thinking capability play a larger role in forming opinions and evaluating our choices. Choices that provide personal fulfilment and create opportunities for realising the shared purpose. Informed conversations help arrive at a shared understanding of the situation and agree on joint action. In the long-run, helping generate “social consciousness” or “general will”.
In other words, in an equitable and just society, choices are made through a process of consultation with wider participation and negotiation, without any fears and pressures by people who think they have a right to decide on behalf of others. In public policy context, the choices are made by people managing our political and governance institutions and they are expected to represent people (every citizen of a nation or the community) who have given them the responsibility to act on their behalf. All the individuals in these institutions are accountable to people they represent.
Since the democratic institutions are expected to create an equal-opportunity society, we don’t see ourselves arguing, on Durkheim’s lines, that social forces define social reality. It is individual choices that constitute reality. Consequently, our research methodology would draw from methodological individualism. We will use the analysis of aggregates, but only with an objective of drawing hypotheses and insights about how individuals choose and act.
Conversations with professional colleagues…IASCC exists to help individuals and families realise the purpose of their life by advancing the science and practice of making choices.
It took us nearly a year, starting sometimes in 2016, to articulate the reason for IASCC’s existence and how we would like to realise our purpose. We see ourselves as an institute for higher learning and our investment in research and education programmes is expected to help individuals learn and choose more effectively, given their natural and social context.
We would like to invite individuals and organisations join us in this journey of building an equitable and just society through shared ‘ideas sans ideology’.
Anil K Sood
On the behalf of,
IASCC Founders and the Board of Advisors
 We have a fair amount of evidence which suggests that the health outcomes in the US have not necessarily improved in line with the increase in expenditure.
 Ludwig von Mises, Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution, Literary Licensing, LLC.
 The Pretence of Knowledge, Nobel Lecture, 1989, accessed from the Official Website of the Nobel Prize, http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/economic-sciences/laureates/1974/hayek-lecture.html.
 Bad Management Theories are Destroying Good Management Practices, Academy of Management Learning and Education 2005, Volume 4, No. 1, 75-91.
 Further Ludwig von Mises in the chapter on The Challenge of Scientism argues the following:
“Individuals in thinking and acting constitute a complex of relations and facts that are called social relations and facts (pp 251).
“What can be observed is always actions of individuals. In interpreting the various aspects of the individual’s actions, the theorists develop the concept of society. There cannot be any question of understanding “the properties of parts from the property of wholes.” There are no properties of society that cannot be discovered in the conduct of its members (pp 253-254).
There are no social phenomena which would not originate from the activities of various individuals. What creates a group activity is a definite end sought by individuals and the belief of these individuals that cooperating in this group is a suitable means to attain the end sought (pp 258).”