My friend Veer shared this advertisement from 1947.
After 68 years, Indians are still fighting a war on poverty and it is still an “Uphill Task Ahead.” Very little has changed since 1947 in the economic environment, and what little change there has been regressive. Certainly relative to 1947, Indians have progressed but relative to others, India has slipped further behind. Continue Reading →
It is very satisfying when research corroborates naive intuition. We expect water to flow downhill and when research after much painstaking data analysis concludes that indeed water flows downhill, it is a valuable addition to human knowledge and understanding. Switching off sarcasm mode now. I entered that mode when I read “Rich People Are Great at Spending Money to Make Their Kids Rich, Too” in The Atlantic. (Hat tip: Rajan.) An accompanying graphic shows “Share of Spending on Certain Categories, by Income Group” —
Many people — including some economists — often confuse money with wealth. This frequently leads to avoidable errors and bad policies. It is best to take money out of most discussions and focus on wealth, unless of course one is specifically discussing money. Continue Reading →
The politician I admire the most is Lee Kuan Yew. Why? Because he is intelligent, learned, wise and gets things done. He is authoritarian — but without authority, you cannot get things done. All great leaders are authoritarian since they have to lead. The problem is not authority; the problem is authoritarian leaders who are stupid. Countries end up in the bottom of heap because of stupid authoritarian leaders. Two notable authoritarian leaders in India’s history are Nehru and MK Gandhi. How wise they were is clear from the evidence: India is a desperately poor country. China too had its fair share of stupid authoritarian leaders. And like India, it was awfully poor. But its fortunes changed. How? Because of one man. Continue Reading →
The year’s in the Spring. And the clocks spring forward an hour. It’s daylight saving time from today to Nov 1st. The persistence of generalized collective idiocy can be explained by some kind of social inertia. Daylight saving time is a prime example. It was meant to reduce energy use. A little bit of thought should be enough for one to realize that there cannot be — in this present day and age — any energy savings by futzing around with clocks. Continue Reading →
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826), one of the Founding Fathers of the US and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence is believed to have written that “an informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy.” Bulwark — a defensive wall — is against something or someone. I don’t know the context in which Jefferson wrote that (or even if he did write it at all) but I’d like to think what he meant was that an informed citizenry protects democracy from the possible tyranny of the government. Continue Reading →
There are problems. That implies solutions. Whether or not you can find a solution to any specific problem cannot be granted. It cannot be also be granted that you know the solution or are even capable of finding a solution. The solution may exist but you aren’t given the capacity or the means to solve it. Then it is not a problem that you should concern yourself with. Live with it.
Quite often a situation is defined as a problem. It may not be. It may be that that’s just the way things are. Being able to distinguish between situations that you can do something about or not is important. It’s not a problem if no one can do anything about it. Get used to it. Continue Reading →
After I wrote that post on “People I Admire“, I began thinking that I should start listing my heroes. So let’s make this a series. Here’s part 2 of the series. I will mention two people. One of them used to be my neighbor at the Convent. Did you know that I spent one year at the Convent? Yes I did, although it was naturally not a functioning convent when I lived there. The other person is someone I haven’t met but I would dearly like to meet. He works (and I guess, lives) in the SF Bay area, and therefore I can claim that he’s a distant neighbor. They share one thing in common: they are both black — or to use the more politically correct term, they are African-American. Continue Reading →
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” That according to Nelson Mandela.
I object to the characterization of education as a weapon. Weapons are used as tools of destruction, not construction. Remember the distinction between tools and weapons: all weapons are tools (instruments; means to an end) but not all tools are weapons (“any device used in order to inflict damage or harm to living beings, structures, or systems.”)
Changing the world is a fine objective. Most people want some changes in the world around them and most people (though not all) want some change in themselves too. Continue Reading →
A little while ago, I saw this tweet — which I append below. It relates to the mainstream media’s response to Shri Mohan Bhagwat’s comment that “Mother” Teresa was motivated by her desire to convert people to Christianity. That seems really odd to me. I would have surmised that the fact that Teresa was basically in the business of proselytizing and converting would be as unremarkable as the fact that the Pope is a Catholic. Whatever she did — and she was remarkably candid about it — she maintained was because she was serving her lord and savior Jesus Christ. Christ wanted everyone to be saved through him. So what’s so bloody remarkable about noting that she was primarily motivated by what she admitted to: saving souls?
The god of the Old Testament is the same god that Christians adopted in their New Testament. Following the Jews and the Christians, Islam proclaimed the same monotheistic god. Who is this god? Richard Dawkins, a non-believer, characterized that god in his book The God Delusion thusly:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Every word in that description is justified — within the so-called “holy” books. Chapter and verse can be quoted to show why that god is “the most unpleasant character in all fiction.”
I admire a few public figures intensely. Among those who are still around, the physicist Murray Gell-Mann makes that short list. Among the dear departed physicists are Albert Einstein and Richard Feynman. Politicians mostly make it to my list of “Most Intensely Disliked” list but there is one exception: Lee Kuan Yew makes it to “Most Intensely Admired” list. My list “Economists I Admire the Most” has the usual suspects like Adam Smith, Friedrich August von Hayek, Ronald Coase, Milton Friedman — and James M Buchanan,Jr. Continue Reading →