Atanu Dey On India's Development

February 21, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Lee Kuan Yew is under Intensive Care

Lee Kuan Yew is in intensive care in a hospital in Singapore (Yahoo news.) I am afraid that he will not be around for long but I hope my fears are unfounded. I wish that India had had a leader of his intellect and dedication at the time of India’s political independence from British rule. Unfortunately for hundreds of millions of Indians, India got saddled with Gandhi and following him, Nehru. Both will be judged harshly by the generations to come but that is scant consolation for those who suffered in the past and for those who continue to suffer due to the idiotic policies of incompetent and idiotic leaders of India.

I hold most contemporary politicians in contempt and would rejoice to see the back of them. But I will deeply mourn Lee Kuan Yew’s passing for certain. I hope that day is still far away.

February 15, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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On Monkeys, Cats & the Generality Principle

This one is hauled from the archive. Why? Because these two articles are nice. Even if I myself say so. Also, I am very busy reading and so don’t have the time to write fresh stuff. Or perhaps I am just plain lazy. In any case, do check out the following.

1. Profiting from Conflict. The Monkey and the Cats.

Wars are generally very costly for most people but are always very profitable for some. It is also not too difficult to start a conflict. Envy, greed and covetousness lie just beneath the surface and can be summoned almost at will. Arms manufacturers and arms dealers have the greatest incentive for provoking, fuelling and maintaining conflict. Follow the money if you want to know why some parts of the world suffer chronic conflict.

2.On Constitutions and the Generality Principle.

Societies which have potential fracture lines can still avoid catastrophic breakdown provided the basic set of rules — the constitution — that constrain behaviour were such that it did not stress those divisions. The real danger arises when the constitution makes those fault lines explicit and laws are enacted in accordance with those rules which then discriminate for or against identifiable groups.

Questions, comments?

February 13, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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The Great Indian Bamboozle has to Stop

[Edit note: This piece was written & published elsewhere in Oct 2013. The Indian political scene has changed somewhat since then, thankfully under the leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi but evidently not enough. True that Rahul Gandhi is no longer relevant but clearly sleazy politicians like Kejriwal and his minions are successful in bamboozling the public in Delhi. This piece is, unfortunately, still relevant.]

If the people of the village, in the best traditions of their hallowed democratic processes, elect the village idiot as the King and Supreme Ruler of the village, it is hard for me to bring myself to find fault with the village idiot. It’s not the idiot’s fault that nature dealt him a lousy hand in the random genetic draw of life. He’s a congenital idiot and made no demands on being recognized as a paragon of wisdom and virtue. Based on that principle, I indicted American voters for electing some of their recent presidents, a few more than once. I can see no reason for not applying that principle to India.
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February 7, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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2400 hours of electricity for Delhi — every year?

Kiran Bedi is funny. Unintentionally of course. Here’s why. (Click on the image below to get to the tweet.)

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So 2400 hours, instead of just 24 hours? Is that the total number of hours that Delhi will have electricity? And if so, total for how many years?

That reminds me of one of Steven Wrights jokes.

I went down the street to the 24-hour grocery. When I got there, the guy was locking the front door. I said, ‘Hey, the sign says you’re open 24 hours.’ He said, ‘Yes, but not in a row.’

I like his humor. He points out the obvious. For example, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” Or, “It doesn’t matter what temperature the room is, it’s always room temperature.” More of his insanity here.

February 3, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Make India first to “Make in India”

Let me tell you a story. It is about a friend who is building a school in India. Motivated by idealism to do something for India, some years ago he decided that he would build an excellent K-12 school. An expatriate for a few years in a developed nation, he thought it was time for him to “give back” something to his native land. Knowing of my interest in education, he asked me to advise him and I did as a friend without any pecuniary interest in the venture. I kept in touch. Just the other day he called me from India to tell me how things were going. Here’s what I heard. It is both instructive and depressing.
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January 25, 2015
by Atanu Dey
6 Comments

Republic Day Thoughts on Reading the Constitution

January 26th, 2015 is the 66th “Republic Day” of India: the Constitution of India came into force on this day in 1950 as the supreme law of the land, replacing the Government of India Act of 1935. I doubt that very many Indians actually know what the Republic Day has to do with the constitution. If you doubt that, ask a few Indians what’s celebrated.

To most, it is just a holiday with parades, patriotic songs and the same old politicians pontificating on television. Constitution? Well, we don’t worry about that. But we need to because the constitution matters. In a very strict sense, it is the most important institution that determines the fortunes of the state. It does so by constraining what laws politicians can enact, and therefore constrains public policies. Public policies matter in determining strongly national prosperity. A bad constitution guarantees a dysfunctional state. It’s time for people to read the constitution, understand it, and ponder whether it has lived up to its frequently advertised greatness.
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January 23, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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A Day of Shame and National Mourning for India

India will teach us the tolerance and gentleness of mature mind, understanding spirit and a unifying, pacifying love for all human beings.
– Will Durant. 1885-1981. American writer, historian, philosopher.

The first bit of news I got today through twitter was that Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister of the Islamic State of Pakistan had declared a day of national mourning and ordered the Pakistani flag to be flown at half mast because the king of Saudi Arabia died. Typical, I said to myself. A beggar state like Pakistan has to acknowledge the debt it owes to its benefactor state. Pakistan gets life-support from the Saudis. And support for its death-dealing terrorism that it routinely directs at India. It has to kowtow, beg, grovel, bow and scrape before its masters. And as one would expect, now it has to ostentatiously beat its breast and loudly weep like a penniless widow. Self-respect is a luxury that beggars cannot afford. Too many Pakistanis are wannabe Arabs. I felt sorry for Pakistan and I admit that I gloated a little bit. It would never happen in India, I told myself.
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January 22, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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The most dangerous man to any government

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost invariably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And if he is not romantic personally, he is apt to spread discontent among those who are. ― HL Mencken

And usually these troublemakers are the ones who need to be muzzled through suppression of speech and expression.

January 21, 2015
by Atanu Dey
2 Comments

Socialism Works its Wonders in Venezuela — also in West Bengal

I was talking today to a friend in Boston who was recently in India for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Non-resident Indian Day) in Gandhinagar. He reported that it was the worst managed PBD he’d seen in his 15 years of attending the event. Among his other observations, he noted that some of the states are trying their best to attract investment from within and outside India. But, he said, he was distressed to see how poorly his ancestral state of West Bengal was doing. Nothing at all is happening there and it appears to be in terminal decline. I said that that’s too bad but I could have told you that decades ago. Have you been following the news about Venezuela, I asked. No, he replied. I pointed him to a Jan 13th Forbes article: The Impending Collapse Of Venezuela.
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January 12, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Why the terrorists killed the satirists of Charlie Hebdo

The article title in Businessweek is “Why People Kill People Over Satire.” But the URL reads “Why the terrorists killed the satirists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris.” Curious, isn’t it? The article title generalizes too much, watering down the particular. Sure, Islamic terrorists are terrorists, and certainly terrorists are people. So one can substitute use the general “people” instead of the particular “Islamic terrorists.” The title of the article is overly general, the URL is somewhere along the middle, and the particularized question that needs answering is “Why do only Islamic terrorists kill people over satire these days?”
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January 9, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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Islam Poses an Existential Threat

The phrase “Islamic terrorism” is actually one word too long since almost all modern-day terrorism is Islamic and the adjective is entirely superfluous. Why Islam specializes in this form of warfare is not hard to understand — because violence and aggression is ultimately the only weapon left to those who don’t have any other means of engaging with others. This engagement has become so tiresomely commonplace that we have come to accept it as a normal feature of modern life. It is hard to imagine but there was a time when you didn’t have to surrender your bottle of water or take off your shoes before boarding a flight. Now you have to surrender not just liquids but also your dignity under the intrusion of full-body scanners as we go about such mundane and innocuous activities as taking a flight.
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January 6, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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The Wisdom of the Crowd

I have always been suspicious of what has become almost conventional wisdom that there is something called the “wisdom of the crowd.” It is generally interpreted to mean that the collective somehow knows what is not knowable by any individual. That notion is one of the motivating factors that recommends democracy to some. I disagree: I think the crowd collectively does not “know” since the act of knowing applies to individuals and not to abstract collectives. (Actually, it is superfluous to write “abstract collectives” since there are no other kinds of collectives; all collectives are abstractions.) Each individual knows something but those particularized “knowings” cannot be meaningfully aggregated to something that can be called the “knowledge of the crowds” or some such.
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January 4, 2015
by Atanu Dey
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On Knowing Enough to Know that You Don’t Know

It takes a long time and sustained effort to learn a subject, to understand the basics, to appreciate its complexity. At some time in this often arduous journey one usually arrives at the point where one begins to understand the immensity of the subject and how ignorant one is about it. Expertise is accompanied with an acceptance that one is now in full view of one’s ignorance. No one is as acutely aware of his own ignorance as the expert.
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January 2, 2015
by Atanu Dey
1 Comment

NITI — New Initiatives for Transforming India

book-mirrorSo the new game in town is called “NITI Ayog” — National Institution for Transforming India — and the news is that Prof Arvind Panagariya will be appointed as the vice-chairman of the institution, as the Hindustan Times reports. That “Niti” bit may sound familiar to some who have been following this blog. If you recall, my book of 2011 is titled “Transforming India” and in 2012, my colleague and I decided that “New Initiatives for Transforming India” or NITI would be a good word to use for all our initiatives related to . . . wait for it . . . transforming India. Why? Because in Sanskrit (and so in Hindi and Bengali), Niti (or नीति in Devanagri) means variously “morality, policy, ethics, the right path” etc. Our goal was to figure out how to bring about — and help in — the transformation of India. We wanted India’s transformation and continue to do so. “NITI Central” was one of those initiatives.

So I am quite tickled to note that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has relabeled the old Planning Commission as the “National Institution for Transforming India”. It is the old planning commission with a new name. Of course, you all know how I feel about central planning and how wonderful it is for human welfare. Anyway, here’s wishing NITI Ayog the best and hoping that it lives up to its meaning.

Correction: I had mistakenly believed that NITI Ayog was “New Institution for Transforming India” but I was corrected (hat tip Anup) that it was actually “National Institution for Transforming India.” I regret the error (as they say in the MSM.)

January 1, 2015
by Atanu Dey
1 Comment

Will India Recover?

A few days ago, the following tweet was retweeted approvingly by many Indians, no doubt out of a sense pride and patriotism. “Look, look,” they seemed to say, “Look, how great India was. In 1870, India’s GDP was higher than UK, US, Russia, Germany, France and Italy. In fact, India’s GDP was over four times that of Italy.”


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December 31, 2014
by Atanu Dey
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End of 2014

Well here we are, the end of 2014 CE. It has been an interesting year, all things considered. Nothing of any great important happened to me on the personal front. On a scale stretching between happiness and unhappiness, I was somewhere marked “contented.” I learned a great many things of value and forgot a good deal of what needed to be let go.
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December 25, 2014
by Atanu Dey
4 Comments

The Unbearable Stupidity of Controlling Prices

imgres An astonishing fact about Amazon, the giant retailer which aims to sell everything to everybody, is that it adjusts its prices over 2.5 million times daily. Let that sink in: two thousand five hundred thousand times a day. Around 100,000 price changes an hour. Granted Amazon has over 250 million SKUs (stock keeping units) on its catalog in the US. (See the data on US and other countries here, as of Aug 2014.) Still, that fact bears witness to what technology can do and what market competition can achieve in terms of economic efficiency.
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December 24, 2014
by Atanu Dey
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Winter Solstice Greetings

The (northern) Winter Solstice was on Sunday. On that day, the sun appears to stand still for a moment in the sky as it reverses it direction across the sky. This happens on the shortest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere.) For details, check out the wiki.

November 14, 2014
by Atanu Dey
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Nov 14th as the “Day of Shame and Lamentations for India.”

Why Indians celebrate Children’s Day on Nov 14th is a bit of a mystery to me. Of course I know that Jawaharlal Nehru, the father of the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty was born on Nov 14th. Why would anyone consider him to be significant for Indian children is the mysterious part. If the facts be considered, Indians should observe Children’s Day on some other day than a day that is somehow related to Nehru. For two very pertinent reasons. First, contrary to the government brainwashing, Nehru wasn’t particularly fond of children. He was, according to some reliable sources, very short-tempered with them and had them removed from his presence immediately after the de rigueur photo ops. Sure, he liked roses and the ladies but I find all claims that he somehow adored children rather incredible.
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