The Problem with Amit Varma

Ok, at the outset I must admit that the title is misleading. There is no problem with Amit Varma. He is an excellent fellow, and great fun to hang out with. What I have been having a problem with is his blog, the ever-so-popular India Uncut. I’ve been reading it regularly for over two years, and now suddenly there seems to be something stale about it.

Amit’s method of writing is what I call  as “reinforcement writing”. Other proponents of this style include Ajay Shah and Percy Mistry, and several commies whose writing I don’t care to read. The thing with these people is that they have one basic idea. And 60%  (ok i made up that number) of all their essays talk about this one idea. The rest 40% (made up, once again) is used to present the same idea in a different context, or to paint it using a different colour. Maybe their hope is that when people read about the same idea several times, they will get convinced and buy the idea. The concept here is that every time people read about this idea, they would have forgotten that the last time they heard about this was from the same source, and their belief in this idea gets reinforced.

Amit’s chosen idea is one of liberty. Like classic libertarians define themselves – “free markets and free minds”. Go through all of Amit’s serious essays (basically discounting his essays on cows), and you will find this to be the unifying thread. Go back, and look at all the Thursday editions of Mint between Feb07 and Feb08. I haven’t kept count, but my sense is that at least 40 of those 50 odd columns had liberty as its underlying theme.

It may be the case that his mandate in that column was to write about liberty, but this concept has now become big in his normal blogging also, and maybe in all his thoughts. A few weeks ago, I wrote to a mailing list that Amit and I are both part of saying that I was planning to write an Economic Travelogue. And Amit’s quick suggestion was that I should write it from a liberty and freedom point of view.

The reason I’m writing this essay is that as a regualr and loyal reader of Amit’s blog, I feel cheated. I feel cheated that he isn’t adding much value by way of his posts. I’m not cribbing about the volume here, since I know that he is busy trying to get a novel published and doesn’t have much time to blog. I’m not cribbing about the quality of writing here – as always, it is excellent. What I am cribbing about is the content. That – for a regular reader – the marginal value of each of his posts is infinitesimal. And the danger is that the marginal value of looking at his posts might soon turn negative, which will result in my unsubscribing from his blog.

I know that Amit is really good about writing about liberty. He even won a Bastiat for that. However, he needs to realize that most of his audience is “repeat audience”. His essays might make a big impact for a new reader, but they do little to please existing ones. This is like a business that spends so much of its energy in acquiring new customers that it ends up pissing off the existing customers. Such a business model is never going to be sustainable.

15 thoughts on “The Problem with Amit Varma”

  1. good point. You’re right abt Ajay Shah. His obsession with flexible exchange rates and open capital account is quite tiresome. Cafe Hayek is another of those ‘libertarian’ blogs with an almost fanatic devotion to free markets.

    1. @ shrikanthk @ Ajay Shah….OOOO..IC…typical example of one of those cases, the so called ”nuts about nuts”…^ ^
      o o

    2. yes. i agree with you on that. on cafehayek. i usually ignore most posts over there. just scroll over for the sake of unbolding. does become tiresome when someone becomes so devoted to an idea.

      and the problem is that these guys don’t talk about any other stuff. it’s just their idea, and ideology, blah blah.

  2. thanks to the global financial meltdown, his preachings have become somewhat less frequent.

    You, aadisht, ravi kiran are all much smarter and more interesting to read than him.

    1. what kind of a crappy causality is that? about financial meltdown etc?

      and aadisht, ravi and i are more interesting to read because of our diversity of thought.

          1. Regarding my last comment, that was just a feeble effort to restore the financial meltdown. BTW, Ajay Shah is a phenomenal guy, I love his style of writing.

  3. “nothing crappy. preaching free market in the midst of mayhem caused by free markets is bit difficult.”

    err..there was a free market?.ron paul would throw up

  4. I know this thread is from last year, but since I just came across it…

    I agree with you on Amit Varma, and it sometimes amazes me that he cannot see it for himself. The funniest of it was when he wrote a mocking poem about P. Sainath, called Farmers are Dying in Vidarbha – At one time, it would have been possible to replace the refrain with Varma’s own agenda.

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