Skip to main content

Divine Economics

Hello, all. I know I've been AWOL again and I'm awfully sorry and all that sort of thing. My latest absence may be blamed on the board exams, those destroyers of lives and happiness. It is my considered opinion that the cities of the plains may have yet thrived if it had not been for the introduction of the board exams. While the exams are not yet over - they don't even start until the end of this month - I've been allowed to escape the tomes for the time it takes me to write this post.

Today's topic is, as the title would suggest, divine economics - or rather, the economics of temples. Temples, in my opinion, ought to be considered businesses, at least in the sense that they provide a service in return for a fee. Now, if a temple is treated as a business (something I propose to do for the rest of this post), it would be a very strange business indeed. It breaks several of the most fundamental laws of economics, among them:

1. The Law of Demand. The law of demand states that all other things being equal, the demand for a given product or service falls as its price rises. For those of you unversed in the jargon of economists, it's saying that if something costs more, you're probably not going to buy as much of it. Say, for the sake of argument, that we consider each ritual that a temple performs as a product. From my (admittedly limited) knowledge of these, the ones available to the public may cost anywhere from 25 to 350 rupees. Now here's the rub: There are probably nearly as many people buying the 350 rupee one as there are buying the 25 rupee one! What do you say to that, Mr. Adam Smith?

2. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility. This law states, in essence, that for each additional unit of a product you buy, the less you're going to enjoy using the product. Say, for instance, that you buy ten chocolates. You're probably going to enjoy the first couple immensely. By the time you get to the fourth or fifth, you'll be enjoying them slightly less, but will still consider your money well spent. By the time you get to the tenth one, though, you'll be  (if you aren't suffering from diabetes by this point) seriously mad. You'll be going to the store and yelling at the chaps behind the counter that what they're doing is daylight robbery, that they simply cannot charge that large an amount for chocolate. The Law of Diminishing Marginal Utility is basically the fancy name which economists have for this phenomenon. The way temples are exceptions to this rule is that people go to them year after year, paying for the same rituals, sometimes even more expensive rituals. The reason this works is because there is no real physical (i.e. non-circumstantial) evidence of the product ever having changed hands. There is no want which is satisfied, and unsatisfied wants are pretty much the driving force behind most of economics.

3. Inflation. In economics, there's nothing better for companies who charge for a service than inflation. Especially in the case of a temple, most of the tools you'll be using will have already been purchased. See what I'm getting at here? The amount of money you're getting is increasing at a tremendous rate, but the amount you're spending is not. The type of inflation that temples face is what is called, "Demand Pull Inflation". Basically, what this means is that although a producer is already working at full capacity, they are unable to satisfy the wants of all their consumers. In other words, their only choice to keep ahead of the demand is to raise the prices. Now, in temples, the consumers are willing to pay practically any price for the services they're receiving. Temples certainly have far more demand than they can cope with (as is borne out by the fact that some temples have rituals booked in 2026). So, naturally, they have demand pull inflation. What more can you want than rapidly rising incomes and slowly rising costs?

4. The Law of Diminishing Productivity. This law says that while increasing inputs up to a point will increase productivity, increasing it beyond that point will cause a decrease in productivity. Which is basically how economists say, "Too many cook spoil the broth." In most businesses, there would also be a fear of producing too much - reaching a point where the consumers are simply no longer able to buy your product. In the case of temples, though, there is really no such fear. Firstly, having more people performing the rituals and having more buildings to perform them in would definitely drive up the productivity in a temple, because the law only works if there is a certain saturation point at which people just don't want any more of whatever input you're increasing to be increased. Considering the amount of output that temples are producing and the amount that consumers could absorb - indeed, seem to be eagerly waiting to absorb - I doubt that this is really a problem.
I don't intend, here, to say that temples are bad. I, personally, don't believe in temples. However, as the man said, to each his own. I don't intend to say that temples are a bad investment, either. To be frank, I really don't know, and in all likelihood, nor does anyone else. Also, it's your money. I might have spent it differently, and doubtless I might have achieved poorer results as well. My intention in this post was just to point out that temples don't really fit in with the laws of economics. If you somehow find that offensive, then by all means, say so in the comments. If you don't find it offensive, say that in the comments as well. If you don't have an opinion on the matter, then once again, say so in the comments. Actually, just scroll down and write a comment. It doesn't take much time and it really helps to know that someone has read and enjoyed/not enjoyed my post. Thanks.


  1. Doing the same thing again and expecting a different result (Insanity) - and that's what drives people to the temples. Throwing good money after bad...

    - Saibal

  2. Ritvik, Wonderful Article. This is not just in temples, its across all places of worship. Its just that God and places of worship tend to be a placebo and placebo defies all logic, and no price is too great to pay for.. Great thoughts..

  3. Thank god you posted. I thought you were dead.

  4. coolcoolcool
    nice article
    Goodluck for boards



Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

No Good Place To Do Mutra Visarjan In This Country...

At least, that's what Chatur Ramalingam seems to think. However, many of our fellow Indians seem to disagree with him. According to them, there are nothing BUT places to do mutra visarjan (for all you poor, masochistic folks - ah, I mean, non-movie-going folks - out there, mutra visarjan means urine expulsion). In case you haven't guessed already, we're going to be talking about one of India's most widely criticized and even more widely practiced issues - public urination.

I'm not exactly saying that it's our people's fault - I mean, come on, we have so much urine-related cultural history! Just in the past 50 years, we've had people who've used their urine for everything from watering plants to drinking it (I believe that some people also flush it down their toilets. How wasteful of them). Besides all the historical precedents, however, we also have some more practical reasons for peeing wherever and whenever we feel like.

If you've ever seen a …

Exam Fever

As anyone currently in the twelfth will tell you, with varying levels of dismay, the final exams are right around the corner. Parents everywhere are seizing their children's phones and taking time off from work. Panicked screaming ensues at intervals.

I don't believe there's a person on the planet who genuinely enjoys exam season. Actually, I take that back - there's no one in India who enjoys exam season. Partially, I think this is our own fault. Exams are the most important things in an Indian student's life, so parents seem bent on bottling up all the worry and concern they have about their kid's education and allowing it to spew forth in a torrent of "No more video games!" and "Delete WhatsApp!" commands during the two months surrounding the exams. Small wonder, then, that at 17, I believe the purpose of exams is to seasonally blot the sunshine from otherwise happy lives.

This whole exam fever thing does have some upsides. Okay, one - it…

Riding Away

A couple of weeks ago, I undertook a gargantuan task: I decided to teach my mother to ride a bicycle. Somehow, during her more youthful years, she never found time to pick up that particular skill, and now she is to rectify this deficiency.

My own bicycle is sized for adult males and as such, it's a little big for Mom. In order to enable her to reach the pedals, I walked down to the nearest stand and brought her a smaller bicycle., for those of you who don't know, is a company run by Zoomcar which lets you rent bicycles for a couple of rupees an hour. It's great, because it spared me having to go around the neighbourhood in search of a bicycle that Mom could use.

Once I brought the bicycle home, the real tribulations began - for Mom, that is. I simply stood on the side of the road and took videos of her travails to contribute to the family albums. I don't know how many of you recall the experience of your first bicycle ride. I remember mine with real c…