Long time since we had an open thread. So say what you will. Today’s quote is by Walter Lippmann (1889 – 1974), the celebrated American writer, political commentator and journalist. I am currently reading his book The Good Society (1937). A brief quote below the fold. Continue Reading →
Oh what a circus, oh what a show. Silicon Valley NRIs have gone to town. Over the visit of the Indian PM Narendra Modi.
Thousands have gathered in the SAP Center in San Jose, CA, to hear the great man speak. A lot of self-congratulatory speeches will be made, and the successes of NRIs in the US recounted. There is only one truth that will not be mentioned: that all these NRIs are in the US because they voted with their feet. They voted with their feet and came to the US because of what India is. This fact should actually shame Indians and its leaders. But instead they are oblivious to its implications. And it will be a cold day in hell when Indian leaders will ask themselves, these questions: “Why is it that so many hundreds of thousands of Indians vote with their feet? Why do they create wealth for themselves and for those foreign lands instead of creating wealth in India? Could it be because in India the government of India has put massive barriers to the creation of wealth?”
Dear PM Modi, when the circus is over, when the performers have done their song and dance, when the photos have been taken, when the NRIs have all patted themselves on a great event they made possible, do ponder the simple question of why are there so many NRIs? Because there is another phrase that describes these NRIs — economic refugees and economic migrants. When will India be such a place that there will be very few NRIs to welcome Indian politicians in foreign countries?
I don’t mean to rain on the parade but those questions need some attention if not a response.
Governments of successful economies don’t create large corporations.
The economic prosperity of a country is usually the consequence of the economic freedom that its citizens have. Entrepreneurs create a large number of small enterprises. Some of these grow up to become giant globe-spanning multinationals not because of government largesse but because some of those small enterprises created value for its customers and grew organically as more people found its goods and services worth buying.
Google, Facebook, etc etc, were not conjured up by some politician, or a bureaucracy, or through government diktat, or any “Make in India” type marketing campaign. For large corporations to grow in India, what is needed is an environment that is conducive to the small enterprise. This will of course not happen because there’s little hoopla one can engage in by freeing the little guy. Continue Reading →
Four days ago, Tuesday, I was in NJ. It was the end of a very hectic East coast visit. I returned the rental car around 9 AM. I had put around 1,500 miles (about 2,500 kms) on it doing trips to Washington DC, Philadelphia, New York City, and Boston. The Hyundai Elantra was comfortable and spacious but it handled turns rather uncertainly. Could have been due to the tires but it could also be because I am used to a firmer suspension on my Saab 9-3. Anyhow, the rest of the day was spent in transit from Newark NJ to San Jose CA on Southwest Airlines. The layover was in Austin TX, a city famous for its music (Austin City Limits).
Upon arrival late evening, I got to know that Yogi Berra had passed away that day in Caldwell NJ. Although I have no interest in baseball, I had always loved “Yogi Berra-isms”. Indeed, I consider knowing them as part of a complete American education. In the final exams I set for econ courses I have taught, I always included one bonus question for extra points: “What is your favorite Yogi Berra-ism?” I kid you not. Continue Reading →
Prime Minister Modi is visiting the SF Bay area this weekend. Entreaties to “Make in India” will echo all around. Sadly, little attention has been given to why Indians themselves are unable to make in India, or even make it in India. Indians make it anywhere except in India. Particularly, Indians make it in the US. They are immensely successful as entrepreneurs and as top level managers in major corporations in the US. Why?
I wrote this in February earlier this year. Here it is, for the record. Continue Reading →
My little visit to the East coast — which started very early in the morning of Thursday Sept 10th — ended when I arrived at San Jose on Tuesday 22nd night around 9 PM. I had an exciting visit which included a great deal of going places, meeting people, giving talks and generally having a good time. My colleague, Rajesh Jain from Mumbai, and I met lots of new people and discussed the work that we propose to do. I am sure that I will be writing about that in future blog posts. Right now, I am going to generally ramble on, a stream of consciousness kind of reporting. Continue Reading →
I am going to be in the East coast — NYC, Edison NJ, Boston, Washington DC, and Philadelphia — over the next two weeks. I am making a couple of presentations at the Global Dharma Conference in Edison NJ. My presentations are on Sunday 13th Sept. Aside from that, my colleague Rajesh Jain and I will be traveling to meet people, visit institutions and universities such as George Mason University, Johns Hopkins, Columbia, MIT etc. I may even go visit the Brookhaven National Labs in Long Island for a bit.
Blogging, which is any case very slim, will get even sparser. Be well, go good work and keep in touch.
From Prager University: Was the Constitution written in a way that was designed to protect freedom and limit the government’s size? Has it been effective in doing that? And what’s the Supreme Court’s record when it comes to protecting our rights? Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, answers these questions and more.
Sure, Indians are better known for being high-powered CEOs in foreign corporations than Pakistanis. Pakistanis tend to specialize more in the “peaceful” pursuits of high-powered terrorism, which is consistent with the fact that Pakistan is built on the peaceful foundation of the Religion of Peace. So naturally Pakistanis spread peace around the world.
As the population of the Religion of Peace grows in any place, it becomes more peaceful. In time, peace finally reigns. Syria is getting more peaceful by the day, to the point that people cannot take any more peace and are fleeing Syria. Heartbreaking stories of people drowning is merely the froth on a deep ocean of peace.
Enough of the Religion of Peace.
Time to once again ponder the question. Indians are obviously not incapable or stupid. So why are so many forced to migrate out of India to become successful? What’s it about India that Indians find it hard to be successful in India?
I have been poking around in The Federalist Papers recently. Written between October 1787 and August 1788, they are “a collection of 85 articles and essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay promoting the ratification of the United States Constitution.” Fascinating stuff. (The complete collection is here at the Library of Congress.) Here’s a bit from James Madison, Federalist, no. 39, on the matter of what a republic is:
. . . we may define a republic to be, or at least may bestow that name on, a government which derives all its powers directly or indirectly from the great body of the people; and is administered by persons holding their offices during pleasure, for a limited period, or during good behaviour. It is essential to such a government, that it be derived from the great body of the society, not from an inconsiderable proportion, or a favored class of it; otherwise a handful of tyrannical nobles, exercising their oppressions by a delegation of their powers, might aspire to the rank of republicans, and claim for their government the honorable title of republic.
Let’s remember that this was written around 1788. That over 225 years ago!
Indian politicians talk a very loudly talk about India being a democracy, meaning Indians have some say in what happens in India. But when it comes to reality, they are understandably reluctant to put their money where their mouth is. Indian democracy should not be limited to Indians merely having the vote for choosing who is going to be their mai-baap, to dictate to them. To be meaningful, democracy should be extended to the relatively unimportant matter of people deciding who are worthy of being honored by having major roads, schemes and institutions named after them.
So far, most of the major roads, institutions and public schemes have been named after members of the Nehru-Gandhi clan. It’s high time to change that high-handed, dictatorial method and go with a more “democratic” process. The means exist. A significant proportion of the population has the means to vote for all proposed name changes — and there’s a crying need to change all those names. Here’s my proposal. Continue Reading →
The proposed renaming of “Aurangzeb Road” into “Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Road” is doubtless an improvement. It marks a welcome transition from honoring an ancient terrible tyrant to honoring a contemporaneous much-admired administrator who passed away very recently. It could be better but one should be grateful for small mercies in an otherwise merciless world.
I briefly noted in my previous post (“Renaming Aurangzeb Road: The Tyrant“) the tyranny of Aurangzeb. Here I will consider why I believe that we could do better than renaming the road after Mr Kalam. I don’t harbor any illusions that my views will be taken seriously by anybody, least of all the hordes of “Dr” Kalam fans whose first knee-jerk reaction to my characterization of Mr Kalam is name-calling. A thick skin is the first requirement for being a contrarian. I wouldn’t get in the business of calling bullshit if I couldn’t tolerate the reaction from the purveyors of bullshit. Continue Reading →
Though not unique in that respect, India does appear to suffer from a severely debilitating case of personality cult disorder. It is not a minor affliction because, as I will argue later in a separate post, it leads to serious social, economic, and political dysfunction. The condition is chronic but thankfully it is not incorrigible. A little bit of critical thinking among the public at large can eradicate the disease and with it the harmful consequences. Among the many symptoms of this disorder, particularly evident ones are the naming of roads and a variety of institutions after rulers and politicians (which amounts to the same thing.) It can escape no one’s attention that names of the Nehru-Gandhi clan adorn thousands of roads, institutions, and public schemes in India. I conjecture that a list of institutions and schemes not bearing one of those clan member names would be shorter than a list with their names. Continue Reading →
One of my favorites, Beethoven’s 9th symphony is his final complete symphony. Composed between 1822 and 1824, it is considered to be his finest and some even think that it is the greatest composition in the Western classical music canon. In the final movement of the choral symphony, the chorus sings the words to Friedrich Schiller’s poem “An die Freude” (composed 1785). Beethoven conducted the symphony when it premiered. He was totally deaf by that time and so he had to see the ovation that followed, rather than hear it. Continue Reading →
Some years ago, a very wise gentleman told me of a saying that succinctly describes the decline and fall of family fortunes, which happens to cycle in approximately four generations. “Khattu, Nikhattu, Udharichand, Baychumal”.
It begins with the generation that works hard (Khattu) and builds up the family fortune. It is followed by a generation that is lazy (Nikhattu) and lives off the wealth. The third generation becomes more lazy and lives off borrowings (Udharichand) against the remaining assets. Finally, the fourth generation ends up selling the assets and ends up poor.
A version of this cycle must apply at larger scales too, that of societies and nations. It could be a global phenomenon and if so, other societies must have recognized the phenomenon and therefore also have similar sayings. And indeed they do. Here are a few from around the world. I got them off the web. Continue Reading →
If people were self-sacrificing, self-effacing, other-directed, rational, visionary, benevolent beings — “yogis” — then it would not matter very much what kind of institutional arrangements they lived under: the resulting social welfare of their collective actions would be fairly even regardless of whether they lived in a market-oriented capitalist order or a collectivist socialist order. But unfortunately for all of us, people are self-interested, myopic, irrational, imperfect beings — “grihastis”. Given the reality of living in this material world, the institutional arrangement does matter. Continue Reading →
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.”
– Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945), Vol. 1, Notes to the Chapters: Ch. 7, Note 4.
“I have insisted that we must be tolerant. But I also believe that this tolerance has its limits. We must not trust those anti-humanitarian religions which not only preach destruction but act accordingly. For if we tolerate them, then we become ourselves responsible for their deeds.”