Atanu Dey On India's Development

July 4, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Swami Vivekanand: To the 4th of July

My friend Kanchan Banerjee shared this poem by Swami Vivekanand. Kanchan wrote, “In 1898 Swami Vivekananda went to Kashmir, where he stayed on a houseboat on Dal Lake. While travelling in Kashmir with some American and English disciples, Swamiji wrote this poem on 4 July 1898, as a part of a celebration of the anniversary of the United States’ independence and asked it be read aloud during that day’s breakfast.”
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July 4, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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No True Islamic State

I listen to public radio quite regularly for some excellent programs such as Fresh Air, This American Life from WBEZ Chicago, the Commonwealth Club of California, and many many more. I love public radio but as I am not a news junkie, I avoid news programs. However, at the top of the hour, many programs throw in a 4-minute long news update from NPR (National Public Radio produced in Washington DC), or the BBC in some cases. What I have noticed in these news bits is the mealy-mouthed equivocation when it comes to referring to the Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIS, and ISIL. In the news, they never call it “the Islamic State” but qualify it as “the self-proclaimed Islamic state.” Why they indulge in this silly idiocy is revealing.
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July 3, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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PJ O’Rourke: Every government is a parliament of whores

From PJ O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores:

“Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history, mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadow about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

And a bonus quote:

“No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we’re looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn’t test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.”

I believe that most of those in government today — everywhere, not just in third world countries — would test positive for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power.

Happy 4th of July.

June 30, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Herbert Simon — Information consumes attention

Herbert Simon (1971) “Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World”

In an information-rich world, the wealth of information means a dearth of something else: a scarcity of whatever it is that information consumes. What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.

June 25, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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The Amazing Power of Technology

Pondering technology is one of my favorite pastimes. As an economist, I have a professional interest in it. Technology transforms and directly impacts the economy at all levels — from the individual to the global economy. As a user of technology, I am delighted that it gives me enhanced access to the world. I hope to convey some of the thrill I feel about technology in this piece.
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June 8, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Yoga has no Religion

My immediate response to the assertion that “Yoga has no religion” is a flat denial. Because I know Yoga, Yoga is a friend of mine and I can truthfully attest to the fact that Yoga does indeed have a religion. He’s a Hindu. Therefore anyone making the claim that Yoga has no religion is either ignorant or is a liar (maybe both) since it is categorically and emphatically false. Do I make myself clear?

Oh, they mean the practice of yoga, the set of physical and mental exercises that originated in India and is widely used across the world for improving physical and spiritual well-being? Well, well, then let me address that “Yoga has no religion” claim. Spoiler alert: it is a stupid, meaningless statement made by the congenitally ignorant demonstrating a mentally disabling but well-deserved inferiority complex.
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May 28, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Hayek on “The Mirage of Social Justice”

Such is the current state of public debate and understanding that anyone who is against or even questions the presumed desirability of what is known as “social justice” is axiomatically equated with being a monster lacking basic human morality and compassion. Friedrich Hayek (1899 – 1992), one may say, was one such monster. He began by trying to make as good a case in support of the ideal of ‘social justice’ as he could but realized that the concept was meaningless. “I have now become convinced, however, that the people who habitually employ the phrase simply do not know themselves what they mean by it and just use it as an assertion that a claim is justified without giving a reason for it.” That’s from his book The Mirage of Social Justice, the second volume of his magnum opus Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973). Here’s an extended quote from it.
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May 25, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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An Open Letter to PM Shri Modi

“Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
Justice Louis Brandeis in Olmstead vs United States 1928

May 26th, 2015

Dear Prime Minister Shri Modi:

I write this letter as a long-time supporter. I have had great expectations from you. Considering the importance of the matter I wish to address, this is very short; considering that you will probably not read anything longer than a powerpoint slide given your busy schedule, it is much too long. Therefore although addressed to you, it is meant for the ordinary citizen of India.

The opportunity for transformational change arises rarely. Rarer still are the times when these opportunities are actually seized and the nation transformed. We never get to know about those missed opportunities because history neither records nor evaluates failures positively. The potential for change exists rarely but actualizing that potential is even rarer still. So rarely do transformations occur that when they do happen, they are highlighted in the history of nations centuries after the events, often long after the entire population has been replaced many times.
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May 19, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Ministry of Power, Coal, and New and Renewable Energy

Government bureaucrats can hardly be accused of being the sharpest knives in the drawer. I have met many of them and have been uniformly underwhelmed by their understanding of the subject that they are charged with governing. Here’s an example. Most of us get by with using the words “power” and “energy” interchangeably in everyday speech. But I have met poorly educated engineers (around 80 percent of Indian engineers) who couldn’t precisely distinguish the two. They are anything but interchangeable. Although I cannot be sure, I am willing to bet that the bureaucrats and politicians in the ministry that deals with energy — one of the most critically important inputs in any economy — don’t know the distinction between energy and power.
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May 18, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Prefer a Functioning Economy

I would rather be the average person who lives in a functioning economy, than be the average person who lives in a “democracy” ruled by perhaps well-meaning but certainly intellectually challenged morons who make it impossible for people to adequately feed and educate their children.

From “Was Nehru a Dictator?

May 18, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Political Discrimination is Socially Harmful

Justice as Individual Fairness

Any conception of justice is about the relationship between the members of a society living in cooperative arrangements for the benefit of all members. For any society that is presumed to consist of free and equal persons, the necessary conditions for ensuring justice are equal personal and political liberties, and equal opportunities. Equality before the law is fair. That is, justice is about fairness, as the great political theorist John Rawls argued. He conceives of society “as a fair system of cooperation over time, from one generation to the next.”
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May 17, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Markets & Competition

Both personally and professionally I love markets. As an economist, I marvel at what the market can do. As a consumer, I am grateful for what it brings to life. It is one of the most significant inventions of humanity. Although it is an old idea, it makes the modern world possible. It is the great coordinating mechanism that creates order without orders, or “spontaneous order.” Markets enable cooperation between strangers, each of whom is motivated by self-interest (which is not the same as selfish interest) but is a necessary part of an emergent order that, in the words of Adam Ferguson, “is the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.” Markets enable cooperation as mentioned before but their power is a consequence of competition among market participants. Let me tell you a few simple stories.
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May 13, 2015
by Atanu Dey
6 Comments

Universal Literacy

It stands to reason that compared to the poor, rich people educate their children more. That’s because they have more wealth and can spend more on education. Rich countries therefore have a more educated population compared to the poor, which naturally implies that their populations are more literate. But since at some time in the past every currently rich and literate country was poor and illiterate, it’s interesting to ask which came first — the literacy or the wealth.
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May 5, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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What Comes Before

Don’t you like the new header images? In any case, there it is. Now that the blog has a new cap, it is time to write a new post. So I was thinking about development in general. After all that’s the idea, isn’t it? The idea I was turning over in my mind is this: what comes before development?
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May 4, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Buddha Purnima Greetings

It was Buddha Purnima yesterday. I was driving to get some dinner last evening around 8 PM and saw the beautiful full moon racing over the treeline. It didn’t realize it then that it was Buddha Jayanti. I realized it this morning but I am totally unprepared to write a new post. Here’s a recycled post from 2011.
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May 4, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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John Stuart Mill on the Liberty of Thought and Discussion

Free speech has always been under attack. Throughout history, there have always been people who claim to know the truth and to possess the right to silence others who hold contrary views. So also throughout history, there have been defenders of free speech. The great English political theorist and moral philosopher John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) was a formidable force in defending the freedom of speech. He devoted the second chapter of his book “On Liberty” (1859) on the topic of the freedom of thought and expression. Here’s a brief excerpt from it.
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April 28, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Reading Ronald Coase

ronaldcoase Are you a well-read economist?

You aren’t if you cannot appreciate the Coase Theorem. (That theorem is one of the most cited in all of academic literature. Note, not just econ literature but all academic literature.) In other words, understanding the Coase theorem is part of being a complete economist.

Here are a few references to Ronald Coase, winner of the Economics “Nobel” Prize 1991, and his work:

Ronald Coase (Dec 1910 – Sep 2013) wiki page.

The Nature of the Firm” (1937) wiki page.

The Problem of Social Cost” wiki page.

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April 27, 2015
by Atanu Dey
19 Comments

Ask me anything

It’s time to have a conversation. I intend to have google hangouts on a regular basis. I am taking suggestions on the day and time. But first, would you like to join? Would the weekends be a good time for you? And if so, what time? Of course, you can ask me anything by leaving a comment on this post. I hope to hear from you on this open thread.