Netflixing and Amazoning at the RBI

Manasi Phadke | Updated on July 10, 2020

What happens when post-Covid economists, who didn’t write exams, knock at RBI’s doors?

Graduation exams have been cancelled in many States. Young economists, on the cusp of graduation, never anyway having understood what a Hamiltonian or a Lagrangian function can possibly serve in life, have been busy maximising individual utility functions at home during lockdown, and how!

They are to be found on the Indifference Curve made up of the many shows offered by Netflix and Amazon Prime. And, lest you feel that this is an easy job, be warned. This highly... err... trained generation has been busy mulling over the optimal combination of Netflix and Amazon Prime time that will exactly satisfy the budget line (read: parents). Add to that the luxury of never having to write an exam on the many macroeconomic theories spoken at exasperating length by Dornbusch, Fischer and Startz.

The development debate as deliberated by Michael Todaro and Co. is firmly tucked up at the back of the cupboards. International trade lies in tatters beneath many China-made pillows, pun firmly intended. It is almost Kafkaesque to find the notes on the Indian economy on a downward slide under the study table.

Parents are often found hovering anxiously around the apparent graduates, asking them whether they know any economics at all. Such queries are normally received with extreme caution, incredulity and eye-rolling. The parent species is regarded as belonging to the generation which “like, you know, like, actually wrote exams?”

The RBI types

Now, the RBI, which is full of the “like, you know, like actually wrote exams and mostly topped them as well” type of people, strictly disapproves of such horrors as graduates who’ve never sweated it out over a Monetary Macroeconomics 101 exam. The grad syllabus of Monetary Macroeconomics 101 is clearly not for the faint-hearted. Students have been rumoured to have torn hair, of the Professor, after he attempted teaching them money supply definitions ranging from M1 all the way to M4. And then there are the other m’s too — the multipliers. The money multiplier, the credit multiplier, the deposit multiplier, all connected to each other through a horrifying series of equations, which create max probability of an attack on the rest of the top cover of the Prof. But believe you me, the RBI simply revels in this kind of multiplicative stuff.

So you can imagine how much the honchos at the place must have quailed, when informed that Monetary Macroeconomics is being taught to an entire generation of young’uns in India through content developed by Netflix. Enter El Professor of the Money Heist fame. The RBI, much to the horror of its current inhabitants, is now referred to fondly by our young economists as “La Casa de Papel” or the House of Paper.

As committed Netflix viewers know, the gang of eight robbers, headed by El Professor, literally turn the Royal Mint of Spain into a house of paper and print €2.4 billion. Ask any of the young Netflix graduates about how the government can create funding for the Covid health expenses and pat comes the answer, “Just print it”.

No complicated debates here on the government approaching the RBI for managing its borrowing costs sustainably. Most are further taken in greatly by the filmy idea of simply throwing billions off helicopters to get it across to the poor. Even Ben Bernanke, who had earned himself the title “Helicopter Ben” after having overdosed the US economy with liquidity in the wake of the sub-prime crisis, must have fallen off his seat when El Professor decided to get inspired by his moniker.

Two takes

A young economist who had applied for a job to the RBI, apparently appeared for an interview in a Dali mask, much to the despair of the RBI officials. He argued vehemently, “I can’t understand why you won’t use the choppers for those ₹18-lakh-crore given to you by the government. If you want to save on that expense, you can start flinging the money right out of the top floor of the RBI itself. Ahora! Why do you think the RBI building was made this tall?” It was all the committee could do not to drag the kid to the top floor himself.

The next candidate was a “grassroots” economist, claimed his resume. “Now that’s interesting” said the quivering bunch of RBI officials, deeply moved by the fact that this guy had never watched Netflix. “So, what did you do during lockdown? Surely, you didn’t – read?” asked an officer, his eyes nearly popping out of sockets with anticipation. “Of course not!” said the candidate, shaking with fright at the thought. “I watched Amazon Prime, Sir. They are more grassroot than Netflix. Just see their teachings — Paatal Lok. All roots go to Paatal only, Sir. Paatal Lok has taught us that books are inefficient. Waise to Shastron mein likha hain, par maine WhatsApp mein padha hain. WhatsApp is Pareto optimal, Sir!”

“Arrrrghh, what an inept, stupid bunch of candidates!” said an officer in complete despair after the interviews. “So folks, whom do you want to see at the RBI — El Professor or Haathi Ram? Should we Voot, I mean, vote?”

The writer is a Pune-based economist

Published on July 10, 2020

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