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In Service of the Republic: The Art and Science of Economic Policy
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In Service of the Republic: The Art and Science of Economic Policy

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  144 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Hardcover, 1, 448 pages
Published December 6th 2019 by Penguin Allen Lane
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Dec 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: economics
In their thought provoking and densely technical book titled “In Service of the Republic”, former Finance Secretary to the Government of India, Vijay Kelkar, and Professor at National Institute of Public Finance and Policy in New Delhi, Ajay Shah track the trajectory of the Indian economy, alluding in particular to the ‘reversals’, which the country has suffered since 2011, following an exemplary growth spurt following liberalization. The authors also offer prescriptive structural and institutio ...more
May 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Deeply disappointed.

Dr. Vijay Kelkar is one of those elders whom I was very keen on reading. But the book has left me disappointed because it is (a) Very theorising; (b) Quite superficial in the sense that it does not discuss any problem in depth - it rather skins over a variety of topics; and (c) Sporadic in writing. It seems to me that Dr. Kelkar was asked, after a very long time (his last book being in 2010) to write a book for a popular audience. And in my humble opinion, he has failed at co
Shivanshu Singh
Aug 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics
This book is written at the intersection of economics, law, and public administration. It provides an overview of an ideal interdisciplinary approach that we should follow in policymaking in India, given its capacity constraint and immature institutions. The principal theme of the book is that market failure in itself does not justify state intervention. Between it, we must examine the state capacity, the incentives of political actors, and checks and balances provided by the larger institutions ...more
Suman Srivastava
Mar 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: isdm
This is what all text books should be like. A text book on public policy, it makes the subject interesting and enjoyable. And it relates the concepts to current policies as well as the current problems of the country. Extremely important book to read.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is easily the finest book on Indian public policy that I have read in a very long time. Kelkar and Shah are 2 preeminent academics and policy makers in India today, and this book flows from their wisdom and experience of institution building.

People with the best of intentions typically think of nation building as a project requiring state interventions in multiple areas, the use of coercive power, and setting up a network of agencies and watchdogs. The first concept outlined (and hammered i
Apr 07, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: policy-research
This book is the latest addition to the handful of resources available to the general public in the context of the policy-making methodology and its application to the different market failures we observed in the Indian context.

The authors support the free-market as the innate solution to every policy failure which I find less agreeable to because in many cases they didn't provide any historical context and constraints in ways those policies proceed. Also, each small case was just an introductio
Syed Naser
Feb 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Repetitive rather academic type of book... Worth a read only if u r a student of public policy...the authors are highly knowledgeable for sure...but in an academic way
Rahul Rajamuthiah
Aug 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
An excellent take on public policy with a road map for action. Written in a lucid language with small chapters and a summary at the end of each makes this book very easy to absorb.
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a good book, albeit disappointing.

It is good because it is a no frills, accessible manual/how-to on economic policy, and has chunks of sound common sense. It is clear and concise, and a fairly easy read.

It is disappointing for some reasons - first, it starts and ends with market failures as the starting point for economic policy, setting aside inequality (or more broadly, injustice). That is problematic, especially when there is increasing critique of market ideas themselves. Sadly the
Abhilash Baranwal
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
In service of the republic is written by a former celebrated bureaucrat with strong reform credentials. This is also clearly reflected in the book where the author basically argues for “minimum government, maximum governance” in different words.
The book lies at the cross-junction of public administration and economics. The book is mostly prescriptive and procedural in content and aims at emphasizing the “when” and “how” of state interventions. Moreover, it also attempts to highlight the deficien
Shantanu Kishwar
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was ok
This is not a well-written book. There are some good ideas in here, but for the most part they are overshadowed by incomplete examples (one of many instances - where they refer to Kenneth Arrow's ideas on elections, they say Arrow had ideas about why elections are flawed, but don't actually tell us what those ideas are or map ideas against reality to test their veracity). There's a woeful lack of citation, which could lead to issues of academic integrity if it hasn't already. The authors are rep ...more
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A great book because of the coherent presentation of a diverse set of ideas on the role of the Indian state in economic policy making. The book makes a great attempt at answering the questions around "When", "Why", and "How" a state should intervene in a market economy. Some of the ideas seem too theoretical and abstract, without sufficiently grounding them in the realities of the modern world. For example, the authors rightly insist on public debate and discussion before settling on an interven ...more
Dec 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
I recently finished David Boaz's primer on Libertarianism and found his arguments on the centrality of Market Failure to be the basis to determine the need for State intervention, quite thought provocative.

Kelkar and Shah in my opinion have packaged this idea in the context of India. In this extremely well-argued book, they bring out some of the key drivers that should ideally guide policy makers in the country. All state interventions in India should be guided by a strong appreciation of need,
Jan 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book is an advanced course of insights by experts with life time experience in the middle of the state action. Beginning with the purpose of government (enforcement of desirable standards in as many aspects of life as possible by a state) and why they fail to achieve good governance (people expect political actors to be angels and in India the system has been created with such a romantic view of political animals) the book marches on to give required reforms and policies to bring in optimal ...more
Abraham Arslan
Feb 03, 2020 rated it it was ok
A good book for beginners on policymaking outlining the classical perspective.
I did not read it cover to cover.
There's a verbose repetition of ideas all over the book. The bar for this genre of books is low, given the overflood of Keynesians. But nowhere near low enough for the authors to be able to scamper over. But to my surprise they do – with nonsense like "Free market failure", "Asymmetric information" tossed all over the book – all failed and discarded as neo-con nonsense in modern econo
Ashwin Mb
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It would give a deeper understanding of why, how, and when a State should intervene (through public policy). One of the few books that marries the science of policymaking (the domain of the academics) and art of policymaking (the domain of the politicians) in a low-state capacity such as India.

This book is highly recommended for:
1. Policymaking students
2. Development practitioners
3. UPSC aspirants
4. Politicians!?
5. Any person who is interested in understanding the politics and economics of p
Arpit Mittal
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book underlines the basics of policymaking in very simple and easy to understand concepts. Most of the book is written in a textbook format.

Kelkar and Shah have poured a very frank and reasonable assessment of the policymaking situation in India. They have also enriched the book with real examples of policy changes and their impact. Highly recommended for people who are interested in policy design and how public choice theory applies to it.
Deepanshu Aggarwal
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Instead of scratching the surface, this book on public-policy lays bare the fundamental processes in play in our system, giving the reader a reason why India's growth story has taken a beating post 2011. The book, most importantly, provides a blueprint, albeit seemingly generic in nature while being exceptionally critical, to revive our growth story, necessitating India's full-fledged blossoming into a mature liberal democracy. A must read book, especially for policy-enthusiasts. ...more
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Extremely technical and is meant exclusively for policy makers. Would recommend it nonetheless to general readers who want to understand the challenge in coming up with long term reforms leading to sustainable growth of the Indian republic.
Would have desired more real word examples in explaining how a particular policy measure that authors suggest would play out in the real world.
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I had picked this book with the expectation of coming on the other end with a better understanding of economics. And it did exactly that. However, I must say that, the book is fun to read in the beginning, but as you go deeper, the succinct text of the book seems like a cop out. I'd have liked the book go deeper in some topics, but I not surprised, given its title. ...more
Aug 30, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: public-policy
I picked this up on a Marginal Revolution recommendation, and I didn't realize it was a textbook that requires some background knowledge about the Indian economy. But it moved quickly enough for me to stick with it. I liked the three-rupees idea, that, for every rupee you spend on a public program like a bank bailout, the benefit has to be three rupees to be worthwhile. ...more
Rituraj Bais
Aug 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
This a good book for someone who is just getting started with reading public policy.Having said that, this could have been easily summarized in about 100 pages rather than creating multiple chapters talking about the same thing over and again.
Sandesh Anand
Jan 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent, thought provoking book. Would be a useful exercise to apply the ideas presented in this book to every domain on Public Policy
Ishan Parlikar
Feb 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
I like the precise and concise points that this book makes. This book really focuses on policy-making aspects.
Highly recommended.
Gaurav Dewan
Jun 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Dummies guide for bureaucrats and politicians. Highly recommended for anyone who is even remotely interested in public policy.
Ananth Krishna
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A good assesment of the problems with policymaking in India.
Vidyapati Bajpai
Jan 29, 2021 rated it it was amazing
An insightful work about public economics and public administration.
Shreya Shree
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is probably one of the best books that tells how a liberal economist would/ should think and go about policymaking in the Indian context. Lucidly written and full of examples that clarify the preceding theoretical explanations. Although it uses a lot of technical jargons, don't let it stop you even if you're not an economist by training. Happy reading! ...more
Kushal Karwa
Aug 17, 2020 rated it it was ok

1) The book introduces certain good concepts pertaining to the building of state capacity and developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) of the public policy discourse
2) Some good examples are given on how lack of state capacity limits the things which the government can or should undertake. The authors have also tried to give various solutions on optimising public policy decisions given the lack of good quality data and state capacity in India.


1) The book reeks of indig
Ashok Rao
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great book - simple writing style

The book is a treat for public policy enthusiasts and a good read for the concerned citizen. The authors succinctly present what good policy looks like and what is wrong in the present policymaking scenario in India. The summary at the end of each chapter are the real stealers. For a detailed review you can look at my post at
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