“You don’t lead by telling people what to do; you lead by being helpful.” George Shultz, former US Secretary of State, in conversation at the Hoover Institution on Jan 25th, 2016. He’s 96 years old.
A personal note. One day sometime in the early 1990s I was on the Stanford University campus for some work. I recognized Mr Shultz near a parking lot and went up to him and said hello. We chatted for a minute or two. A very gentle man and a gentleman.
Greetings from Bangalore. I arrived this morning to visit with friends. The journey from the airport to the city was predictably hellish. It looks like Bangalore’s traffic woes are going to get worse before it starts improving.
All actions of a just society should be principles-based. One of the primary guiding principles of a just society is that coercion is kept at a minimum. That is, people should be free of coercion from others, including the government. Certainly, a case can be made for why there will have to be some coercion — but that has to be reserved for matters that are essential for the functioning of society. For these matters, government coercion is justified for raising revenues required for funding certain activities. Examples of such matters are policing (to maintain law and order) and the provisioning of collective goods such as public access roads or sanitation, etc. Aside from those limited exemptions, coercion is not justified. Continue Reading →
This is for the information of friends and family. I am traveling a bit. I am in Nasik until Tuesday 29th. I leave for Bangalore from Mumbai on Wed 30th morning, and get back to Mumbai 3rd morning. Between 7th and 10th, I am in Pune. Jan 11, 12 & 13 I am in Mumbai. I leave for N Delhi 13th evening and get back to Mumbai 17th. I leave for Brussels on Jan 23rd morning. Then off to the East coast on Jan 25th. In the East coast, I will be in NJ, NY, Washington DC and Boston. Ping me in case you wish to meet up.
In the previous parts (first and second) of this essay, I discussed some aspects of constitutions and governments. The discussion was general and was principles based. In this part, I examine the particular case of the Indian constitution and the governments that it gives rise to. And I conclude that the constitution needs to be replaced. Continue Reading →
I am a fierce Costco loyalist. I have been a card-carrying member of Costco for over 20 years, and have bought tens of thousands bucks worth of stuff from the store. It is somewhat comical this habit of mine: to my friends and acquaintances, I keep insisting that they get a Costco membership and buy stuff there. There’s something about Costco that warms the cockles of this economist’s heart. I end up going to Costco about twice a week at least. And since there’s one within a 12-minute walk — less than a mile — of where I live, I sometimes go there just for a slice of pizza. Did you know that Costco is the largest pizza retailer in the US? Continue Reading →
Enrico Fermi (1901 – 1954), the Italian-American physicist, Nobel laureate, etc etc, asked the famous question “Where are they?” That question became known as the Fermi paradox. The universe should be teeming with life. But the striking lack of any evidence of extraterrestrials is puzzling. Where are they? Continue Reading →
In part 1 of “Constitution, Government, Economy”, I had explored what a state is, what an economy is, the need for a constitution, the restrictions that must be imposed on a government, etc. This is a continuation of the same. In this, I go into some details on redistribution and why it must no be done by government. Continue Reading →
Isaac Asimov, (born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov in Russia in 1920, died in New York in 1992), was a towering intellect. He wrote or edited over 500 fiction and non-fiction books, mainly on science and technology related topics. I place him in the same very tiny class of thinkers as Arthur C Clarke, another science fiction author and furturist. People like him can see farther than average people like you and I. Here’s a quote about learning. It’s from an interview he gave to Bill Moyers in 1988. That was before the world wide web and its phenomenal storehouse of content. Continue Reading →
Hayek’s monumental work “Law, Legislation and Liberty” contains deep insights into what the proper functions of governments are, and how they should be understood and implemented. Every paragraph is worth quoting in full. But here are a few select bits extracted from the 3-volume work to give you a sense of Hayek’s ideas. Continue Reading →
In the extended social order we call society, individual persons are the basic interacting units who attempt to realize their individual objectives, individually and collectively. Some of these objectives or goals can be realized by organizing privately, and others only through collective actions. Organized private activity is called “the market” which meets the private needs of the people. For those goals which require collective action, collective decisions have to be made.
That is what “government” is. In James Buchanan’s view, government is “that complex of institutions through which individuals make collective decisions, and through which they carry out collective as opposed to private activities.” And “politics” according to him “is the activity of persons in the context of such institutions.” Continue Reading →
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK is generating a lot of enthusiastic support from many, as expected. I don’t waste time on following the hoopla. It’s all a sideshow that wastes real resources that India can ill afford but gets done because those who enjoy the pomp and circumstance don’t bear the costs. Indian taxpayers — which we must remember are not just those who pay income tax but it includes even the poorest of the poor — pay for the politicians, bureaucrats and their hangers-on to live it up. It is another symptom of the deep malady that inflicts India: Colonial rule. Continue Reading →
I will be in Los Angeles this weekend. There’s a “Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas” (regional non-resident Indian day) in LA. Details here.
I have never been to one. I am going to this one to basically check out what the tamasha is all about. Many years ago I had attended the mother of all tamashas — a PanIIT meeting.
“What’s PanIIT?” you say. It’s a meeting of a group of completely self-absorbed engineers from IITs with very inflated egos who congratulate themselves on how astonishingly amazing they are and how they are the almighty’s gift to humanity, if not the entire creation. Go read my report on the 2006 PanIIT meeting that was held in Mumbai. Also see my thoughts on the 2008 PanIIT where I talk about the funding of new IITs.
Friedrich Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty. Vol. 3 The Political Order of a Free People. 1979. Chapter 13, “The Division of Democratic Powers.” Pg 31-32.
A system which may place any small group in the position to hold a society to ransom if it happens to be the balance between opposing groups, and can extort special privileges for its support of a party, has little to do with democracy or ‘social justice’. But it is the unavoidable product of the unlimited power of a single elective assembly not precluded from discrimination by a restriction of its powers either to true legislation or to government under a law which it cannot alter.
Not only will such a system produce a government driven by blackmail and corruption, but it will also produce laws which are disapproved by the majority and in their long-run effects may lead to the decline of the society. . . .
A further peculiar sort of bias of government created by the necessity to gain votes by benefiting particular groups or activities operates indirectly through the need to gain the support of those second-hand dealers of ideas, mainly in what are now called the ‘media’ , who largely determine public opinion.
Here’s a quote from Friedrich Hayek’s Law, Legislation and Liberty. It appears in the 3rd volume, The Political Order of a Free People, in the chapter on MAJORITY OPINION AND CONTEMPORARY DEMOCRACY, page 4:
May it not be true, as has been well said, that ‘the belief in democracy presupposes belief in things higher than democracy’? And is there really no other way for people to maintain a democratic government than by handing over unlimited power to a group of elected representatives whose decisions must be guided by the exigencies of a bargaining process in which they bribe a sufficient number of voters to support an organized group of themselves numerous enough to outvote the rest?
What are things that are higher than democracy? A belief in the sovereignty of law, and obedience to the rules of just conduct.
To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subjecthood upon us,
But withheld citizenship.
To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge: “Civis Britannicus sum”
Because all that was good and living within us
Was made, shaped and quickened
By the same British rule.
Early in my study of economics in the 1990s, I came across Tibor Scitovsky’s 1976 book “The Joyless Economy: an inquiry into human satisfaction and consumer dissatisfaction.” Reading it, I realized that I was in the presence of a kindred spirit. I read that book with delight and an increasing understanding of what economics was all about. It was about humans and how they attempt to satisfy their innate drives, most of which derive from their biology and their evolutionary history as primates. Though I lived only a few miles from him (he lived in Stanford), I did not know it then and therefore never attempted to meet him. I later got to know that I also shared my birthday with him. Here’s how. Continue Reading →
Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature makes for interesting and informative reading. He answers the question, “Why violence has declined?”, which is the subtitle of the book. It does come as somewhat of a surprise that violence has historically declined in most of the world. The book provokes many “Aha!” moments. Read it for fun and profit, as they say. Here I post an extended excerpt. It’s a bit that will enlighten and delight the pseudo-secularists in India. (I am kidding. The p-secs would rather have red-hot nails hammered into their privates than admit the truth of what Pinker writes in this bit of his book.) Continue Reading →