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