Journalist, blogger, and author Amit Varma was the first person to win the Bastiat Prize for Journalism twice (2007 and 2015). No wonder then that he named his podcast, The Seen and The Unseen, after ‘That which is seen and that which is unseen’, an essay by the 19th century French economist in whose name the prize is conferred.
“I’m a fan of Bastiat for the way he explained complex ideas in simple language, and this podcast is a natural extension of what I’m about,” Varma says. Varma’s podcast aims at dissecting the unseen effects of India’s public policies. It follows Bastiat’s own belief that to evaluate the consequences of any action, one must consider both, seen effects (the outcomes) and unseen effects (the unintended repercussions).
Take inaugural episode ‘Entry and Exit in Agriculture’, aired on January 17. Varma, with guests Pavan Srinath and Karthik Shashidhar from The Takshashila Institution, discussed the ripple effect of disallowing corporations in agriculture and barring farmers from selling land for non-agricultural purposes.
“A farmer in debt might be sitting on debt capital he can’t make use of. The ‘benevolent’ hand of the government is not always benevolent,” said Sridhar. Shashidhar elaborated: “If a farmer does not have to face as many risks [and becomes independent], he’ll stop asking the government for benevolence. [When that happens], he’s taking power away from the government. So it’s not in the interest of the government to reform [agricultural] law.”
The subject was discussed in under 20 minutes, making it perfect for office chai breaks.
“Episode 2 is about demonetization. The next installment focuses on GST. I’ve recorded 13 episodes so far, but plan to go beyond these subjects,” says Varma. He plans to cover topics like behavioural science and neuroscience. “There will be plenty of humour and lateral thinking.”
The Seen and The Unseen is a collaboration between Amit Varma and Indus Vox Media (IVM), which launched three other podcasts (Keepin’ It Queer; My Neighbour, Zuckerberg; and IVM Likes) this month. It has 100,000 active listeners across 14 shows.
IVM’s founder Amit Doshi says Varma has a singular voice. “It took time to get him on board as he was busy, but a few months ago, we were finally able to make this happen. We experimented with a couple of formats before we were happy with the one we settled on.”
Going by episode one, we are happy too.
What: The Seen and The Unseen, a weekly podcast on public and economic policies, neuroscience and behavioural science.
Where: www.seenunseen.in. Also available on iTunes, SoundCloud, YouTube, and apps like TuneIn, Stitcher, and Podcast Addict.