“Post Truth” Punditry on Demonetization

A follow-up to yesterday’s blog post on “post truth” politics — happened to stumble upon a column that appeared in the Times of India on sunday by Amit Varma on demonetization. Normally I would not have bothered to dissect what is after all an opinion column. But it would be in order to point out a few things given the number of people who have plugged or hailed the column on how this is column makes for Exhibit A on “Post Truth Punditry”.

Mr. Varma makes his case against demonetization based on what he calls “4 reasons”. The funny thing is three of those four reasons are assertions not really backed up by facts, analysis, sources, names or anecdotes.

He first quotes “a recent study” on quantum of black money failing to mention which “recent study” is the basis for his estimate. Given the recent track record of polls and surveys it is anybody’s guess how credible or accurate this “study” is leave alone its “estimate of quantum of black money”.

Secondly he claims there is a “thriving black market for conversion” of old notes to new ones. Again no facts, not even anecdotes. A mere assertion that we must take as truth.

Thirdly he quotes “various economists” on what the current demonetization attacks. Again no names, forget their ideological persuasions or track records.

It is only in his fourth reason that we get somewhere on factual analysis.

Now Mr. Varma is well within his rights to argue strongly against demonetization even if it means drawing exaggerated parallels with Mao and advocating on behalf of a non-existent constituency of “hayekian libertarians” and “burkean conservatives”. But then three fourths of his reasoning seems to be “post-truth”.

While we may not yet fully know the scale and longevity of the impact of demonetization much of the punditry is at odds with popular sentiment.

Maybe “post truth” is the phrase of the year for 2016 for good reason !