Friday, October 29, 2010

Das on Cities:

  • Because of the harsh, ugly reality of urban squalor, we try to escape in pastoral dreams of the countryside. Mahatma Gandhi, a man of the city, had such a romantic view before B.R. Ambedkar, corrected him: 'What is the village but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?'

Thursday, October 28, 2010

President Ombaba!!

That is how my previous landlord said to me when Obama won the election in 2008. Before his visit, yes a landmark visit to India, there are lot of words burned for and against in between India and America both in terms of economic cooperation and international security to mention only two. The below three articles throws different views points on his visit and the useful of it:

  1. India should not expect too much from Obama's visit by Aiyar
  2. Obama's landmark visit to India by Tarun Das
  3. Take the long view by Rajiv Kumar

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bardhan Band!

Prof Bardhan writes with some setbacks from both 2008 Olympics of China and 2010 CWG of India. As for as India’s state of the political and games economy is concerned the following are must read.

  • ……. For this elite, it is not quite a matter of national humiliation that India continues to be the world’s largest country of illiterates and school dropouts, of child and maternal mortality, of stunted and underweight children. In broad health and education indicators, India today is where China was 40 years back, long before economic reform and high growth started there. Even in India’s economically most-advanced state, Gujarat, the proportion of malnourished children is much larger than in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • But the scathing commentary in the Indian media around the Commonwealth Games also reminds one about the sharp contrast with a major suppressed scandal in China around the time of the Olympics. A few weeks before the 2008 Olympics, there was what came to be called later the tainted milk scandal in China. Journalists were officially encouraged to suppress this bad news in view of the imminent Olympics, which was being stage-managed as China’s moment of international glory. Journalists who were fully aware of the large dimensions of the scandal avoided writing about it (though they duly warned their close friends and relatives about the milk) “in order to be harmonious”, as one editor said in justification later to a foreign reporter. Meanwhile nearly three hundred thousand children fell sick and dozens died. Somehow most of the Chinese elite, which is basking in superpower glory, did not consider this a matter of national humiliation.
  • Chinese official agencies have now declared the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the jailed human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, as an affront against Chinese national dignity and a malicious attempt to impose Western values on Chinese society. (One indignant Chinese ‘netizen’ announced that from now on he’d avoid Norwegian salmon, another vowed that next time he goes to Macao for gambling, he’ll boycott Norwegian prostitutes). The officials, of course, blithely ignore that China is a signatory to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, and freedom of expression and protest is ornamentally a part of Article 35 of the Chinese Constitution. These ‘Western’ values of non-violent dissent are vociferously practised in several non-Western countries, including India where some have even traced these values to ancient Indian political philosophy and practice.
  • What is worrying is that this is not just Chinese official over-reaction and propaganda. Last year a prominent Beijing intellectual told me that dissidents like Liu Xiaobo have marginalised themselves in the Chinese intellectual community by aligning their cause too much to the West. This kind of attitude even among intellectuals makes it easy for the Chinese leadership to portray any external criticism of the regime as a slur on Chinese self-respect and any dissent as sedition. In both China and India particularly among the middle classes a kind of preening nationalism is raging. Of course, Indian political culture has been somewhat more tolerant of dissent and diversity, and electoral arithmetic often makes compromise and cooptation of dissenting groups necessary. Yet much of the rest of the country looks away – or regards it as the necessary price for keeping the nation state intact — as gross abuse of human rights and violence by the Indian Army and paramilitary regularly take place in Kashmir, Manipur and Bastar (Chhattisgarh) often reciprocated by the rebels. In different parts of India, the Hindu nationalist forces raise their ugly head, politically and socially, and win elections from time to time.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The nation is healing now!

Mr.Guha’s article published in the Yesterday HT is produced fully below for again record!

That family feeling by Ramachandra Guha, Hindustan Times, October 24, 2010

When, in the year 1974, Indira Gandhi and Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) became bitter political opponents, there was a peculiar poignancy to their rivalry. For JP and Jawaharlal Nehru had been close friends. So, independently, were JP’s wife Prabhavati and Nehru’s wife Kamala. In fact, before starting an all-India movement against the policies of the PM, JP went to see Mrs Gandhi to gift her the letters that her mother had written to his recently deceased wife.

Fortunately, JP did not return the (many fewer) letters Nehru had written to Prabhavati. One hangs on the wall of the home in the Patna locality of Kadam Kuan where Narayan and his spouse both spent their last years. When I visited that house recently, it was to pay tribute to the memory of JP and his self-effacing Gandhian wife. That I found a letter by Nehru that still speaks to us today was an unexpected bonus.

The letter was written in 1958, by which time Kamala Nehru had been dead for more than 20 years and her husband had been PM for more than ten. It was handwritten, which was a surprise, since Nehru had a battery of stenographers and typists at his command. And it was written in Hindustani, which was also worthy of comment, since by this time Nehru did not really write very much in his mother tongue.

I was not carrying a notebook or pen, so am here summarising the letter’s contents from memory. Apparently, Prabhavati had wished to start a school for girls and name it for Kamala Nehru. She had written to Jawaharlal asking whether he would inaugurate it. Nehru, in reply, said that he was delighted that this school was being planned, for he had long been an advocate of education for girls. But, he added, he had taken a vow that in the case of any school, project, or programme started in memory of his father (Motilal Nehru) or his wife, he would not participate in its inauguration. He asked Prabhavati to go ahead and start the school, with another chief guest if required. He added by way of consolation that when the place was up and running, he would come visit it anyway.

It is reasonable to speculate that Nehru adopted this policy as a way of discouraging flatterers and intriguers. To be sure, Prabhavati’s admiration for Kamala was utterly sincere, and the cause of women’s education utterly noble. But if Nehru had come and opened her school, how would he say no to others who sought to attach the name of his father or wife to schemes whose chief intention was to ingratiate the proposer to the most famous man in India?

Did Indira Gandhi, I wonder, adopt the same policy when it came to her time as PM? I somehow think not. She certainly encouraged the naming of the capital’s best-funded university after her father, and was quite happy to permit other sarkari schemes to adopt his name as well. Rajiv Gandhi, in turn, was an enthusiastic supporter, when he was PM, of programmes funded by the State that took the name of his mother. We know, for example, that he took a keen personal interest in the naming, founding, and inauguration of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in New Delhi.

In this respect, the present president of the Congress has followed the example of Indira and Rajiv rather than Nehru. Thus, she was the chief guest at the inauguration of the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad in March 2008 — as well as the chief guest at the inauguration of the Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link in Mumbai in June 2009. Would Sonia Gandhi have acted differently had she known Jawaharlal Nehru’s views in this regard? One does not know. What we can say, with some certainty, is that she is unaware of the existence of Nehru’s letter to Prabhavati where his views on the matter were so clearly and firmly stated. For, while the Congress president has visited Patna several times, each time she would have stayed well clear of the home of a man she knew only as her mother-in-law’s most dogged political opponent.

At last count, some 400 government initiatives, institutions, projects and programmes were named after either Nehru, Indira or Rajiv. This is a consequence of a symbiotic relationship between the flatterer and the flattered. For Cabinet ministers, chief ministers and heads of public sector undertakings all know that by attaching one or other of these names to a project, they can ensure both that it is well funded and that they, personally, can rise in the esteem of the most powerful family in India.

Jawaharlal Nehru would surely have been appalled by this use (or misuse) of public money for furthering ancestor worship. His rectitude and propriety stands in striking contrast to the behaviour of later members of his family. But it stands in contrast to the attitude of most other Indians too. For instance, one of India’s best-known scientists actually attended the inauguration of a circle named after himself in Bangalore.

The later Nehru-Gandhis may think that the ubiquitous naming of programmes and places after members of their family is not much more than their due. But that distinguished men of science fall prey to such vanity is a sign of how far we have moved from the time of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Ramachandra Guha is the author of India After Gandhi: The History of the World’s Largest Democracy The views expressed by the author are personal.

Promote migration

Apoorva from the American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC. Writes:

  • Kerala has the fourth highest level of private health expenditures in the country - more than 86 per cent of total per capita healthcare spending in Kerala is conducted in private institutions. Consider also the massive impact of migration on the state. Yes, Kerala has outpaced Gujarat in economic growth over the last several years, but this has been driven completely by remittances, which made up more than 20 per cent of the state's income in 2007. Indeed, Keralites simply voted with their feet, travelling abroad for the economic opportunity they lacked at home.

Remind the liberals

Jonathan Alter has an interesting but reminding article on The State of Liberalism.

Some excerpts:

  • Liberals are also at a disadvantage because politics, at its essence, is about self-interest, an idea that at first glance seems more closely aligned with conservatism. To make their more complex case, liberals must convince a nation of individualists that enlightened self-interest requires mutual interest, and that the liberal project is better constructed for the demands of an increasingly interdependent world.
  • That challenge is made even harder because of a tactical split within liberalism itself. Think of it as a distinction between “action liberals” and “movement liberals.” Action liberals are policy-oriented pragmatists who use their heads to get something important done, even if their arid deal-making and Big Money connections often turn off the base. Movement liberals can sometimes specialize in logical arguments (e.g., Garry Wills), but they are more often dreamy idealists whose hearts and moral imagination can power the deepest social change (notably the women’s movement and the civil rights movement). They frequently over indulge in fine whines, appear naïve about political realities and prefer emotionally satisfying gestures to incremental but significant change. Many Democrats are an uneasy combination of realpolitik and “gesture politics,” which makes for a complicated approach toward governing.
  • Action liberalism has its modern roots in empiricism and the scientific method. Adam Smith was the original liberal. While “The Wealth of Nations” (1776) has long been the bible of laissez-faire conservatism, Smith’s first book, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” (1759), pioneered liberal ideas of social and moral inter dependence. By today’s standards,Abraham Lincoln’s support for large-scale government spending on infrastructure and appeals to “the better angels of our nature” would qualify him as a liberal. In the 20th century, progressives cleaned up and expanded government, trust-busted on behalf of what came to be known as “the public interest,” and experimented with different practical and heavily compromised ways of addressing the Great Depression.
  • The quintessential example of the pragmatic core of liberalism came in 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced that “Dr. New Deal” had become “Dr. Win the War.” Roosevelt believed that the ends of liberalism — advancing democracy, expanding participation, protecting the environment and consumers (first promoted by a progressive Republican, Theodore Roosevelt), securing the vulnerable — were fixed, but that the timing and means of achieving them were highly negotiable, a distinction that often eludes modern liberals.

India lives without Original Indian Thinkers!

Finally I somehow managed to attend the Fourth Penguin India lecture on "The Indian Political Tradition - And Those Who Made It" by Mr.Ramachandra Guha yesterday.

The lecture hall was houseful like Rajinikanth’s Robot! But fortunately they had arranged a very good Big Screen outside the lecture room in the lane of IHC. After 10-15 minutes we arrived Dr. Parth Shah also came.

After I reached there first I noticed was the Two Full Glass of water which was FULL! So by seeing that I concluded that the lecture had just begun!

What I am going to do here is instead of presenting from my note which I have taken I am going to gather the messages that Mr.Guha has communicated to the public. It also appears that there is good amount of press coverage. So will take the views reported in the media.

From the ET:

  • "India may be unique in having a long tradition of original political and reflective thinking that has been both continuous and continuously of high quality and touched every aspect of the human condition,"

  • "The big idea of India owes itself to a remarkable set of men and women who founded and nurtured the Indian political tradition”.
  • Guha began with reformer Rajarammohun Roy, describing him as one of India's first liberal and modernist who was a "precocious pioneer, swimming against the current, both a thinker and an actor, a scholar and social reformer who confronted an orthodox hierarchical and ossified society by Western thought.
  • Giving examples of Mahatma Gandhi, Tagore, Jawaharlal Nehru, Jaiprakash Narayan, M S Golwalker and Ram Manohar Lohia, Guha said, "No politician or social reformer in India's political society thinks like them anymore...What should worry us is not that we don't have thinker politicians but the leaders of today are so ignorant of the lineages they claim to represent.

  • He asked whether Congress MP Rahul Gandhi had ever read letters written by Jawaharlal Nehru to chief ministers, whether the BSP leader Mayawati had read Ambedkar's speeches or whether Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav could name a single book written by Lohia.

  • Guha concluded that the Indian political tradition was not merely an obscurely, or antiquarian or of archival interest but one where the multiple legacy of its thinker activist makers was still available to fulfil and redeem the unhonoured and unfulfilled ideals of a "remarkable political experiment in history."

It is worth reading this brief reporting from his lecture.

From Yahoo! India:

  • He said India is the world's most 'unnatural nation and least likely democracy'. 'The political miracle owes itself to a remarkable set of men and women who, I call, Indian political tradition,' he said.

  • He said that university education after 1857 proved crucibles of modernity and helped shape the thought of a generation of Indians.
  • Referring to the exchange of letters between Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranth Tagore and the letters Jawaharlal Nehru wrote to chief ministers, he said that such exchange of thought not only provides intellectual stimulation but clears position on fundamental issues. Terming Gandhi as 'mother of all battles concerning social reforms', Guha said his views were challenged by men of various ideologies and he put forth his cogent arguments.
  • Guha said there were no reformers, writers or thinkers in the country's politics today and wondered if Congress scion Rahul Gandhi had read Nehru's letters to chief ministers, if Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati had read the works of Ambedkar and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had read a book on Lohia.

  • Guha's book divided into five parts - the opening of Indian mind, reformers and radicals, nurturing a nation, debating a democracy and tradition reaffirmed - profiles 19 Indians whose ideas had a defining impact on formation and evolution of the Republic.
  • The lecture was followed by a question and answer session with NDTV group editor, English News, Barkha Dutt.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Neo-liberal economists find new battlefront

There is war of debate is going on about the stimulus packages with respect to many issues like unemployment etc. It’s quite interesting to read and ponder how the "so called experts reacts".

I am posting the full debate below for record (dont' forget to read the Prof Lal's comments):

Neo-liberal economists find new battlefront

Michael Janda reported this story on Thursday, October 21, 2010 12:44:02

ELEANOR HALL: While many have criticised the scale of Britain's spending cuts one of the world's most powerful economic groups has praised the move to slash public debt, urging other nations to follow the UK's lead.

The Mont Pelerin Society held its biennial global meeting in Sydney and launched a stinging attack on the stimulus policies used to fight the global financial crisis.

The society's president professor Deepak Lal spoke to business reporter Michael Janda.

MICHAEL JANDA: Unbeknownst to most Australians one of the world's most powerful economic groups has recently visited our shores.

The Mont Pelerin Society was started just after World War II by Nobel Prize winner Friedrich von Hayek in an effort to fight back against communism, socialism and the Keynesian welfare state.

DEEPAK LAL: The society is literally there to promote the ideals of liberty - economic and political. The society has had, I can't remember - eight, nine Nobel Prize winners.

MICHAEL JANDA: That's the society's president professor Deepak Lal, a development economist from the University of California in Los Angeles.

And while its fight against communism largely ended in the early 1990s the society sees new battlefronts. One is the looming competition for economic supremacy between a free-market India and a state-controlled China.

DEEPAK LAL: China for 1500 years has been a tightly controlled bureaucratic authoritarian state. India for 2,000 years has been a completely anarchic society. Governments have never succeeded in doing anything.

And so as a result in India you've got civil society which actually manages to do all the things governments can't do. And that's its great strength.

In China if something happens to the state there will be another big band because the legitimacy that Chinese Communist Party which is the current dynasty, if that is eroded you could have chaos.

MICHAEL JANDA: Professor Lal says Australia should be careful not to over-commit to China.

DEEPAK LAL: If you're taking bets on the long-run, 20, 30 years, then clearly India is a better bet in my view, yeah.

MICHAEL JANDA: Another is the fight to quickly roll back the stimulus that most developed nations pumped into their economies during the financial crisis. And Professor Lal says the society is having some success.

DEEPAK LAL: The trouble is many other Western countries over the years have built up huge entitlement economies - welfare states in which you know they create politically determined income streams for all sorts of people.

And these then lead to a debt crisis. And this means that just trying to use the old Keynesian method, spending more, in fact makes this problem worse. And Britain for instance has bitten the bullet. It now decides, it's decided quite rightly the only way to deal with this is to reduce public debt levels.

MICHAEL JANDA: The society has a history of success, influencing the economic policies of conservative leaders such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

A look at the guests at last week's conference shows the influence it has in Australia with former prime minister John Howard one of the key note speakers.

A key function of the society is attacking government intervention in financial markets and the economists who advocate it such as Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz.

DEEPAK LAL: Joe Stiglitz is a very smart theorist but he's got no sense as far as public policy is concerned. They've had all this stimulus and what has happened? Unemployment is still very high, no sign of it coming down. So they're going to try this next thing, print money.

MICHAEL JANDA: Professor Frank Stilwell who teaches political economy at Sydney University says the power of the Mont Pelerin Society to influence government policy shouldn't be underestimated.

FRANK STILWELL: Kevin Rudd at the time of the global financial crisis announced here the end of neoliberalism. But frankly a couple of years on it doesn't look like that. The neoliberals are resurgent.

And the meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society is I think part of that process whereby the right wing economists get themselves reorganised for a new assault on this Keynesian response to the crisis.

MICHAEL JANDA: And he's banded together with some other left-wing Australian economists to mount an irreverent challenge to free market economics through the Monty Pelican Society.

FRANK STILWELL: The name is of course ironic. But it's a serious attempt to provide a counter to these neoliberal views, stressing the need for governments to take responsibility for a more secure and a more equitable society.

MICHAEL JANDA: I'm guessing it's not quite as well funded and doesn't hold its meetings at the Hilton Hotel?

FRANK STILWELL: (Laughs) Absolutely no funding at all. And the small meetings are held periodically in a public place.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Sydney University professor Frank Stilwell ending that report by Michael Janda.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

My Old Friend Liu Xiaobo

That is the title of article published in the WSJ today by Liu's close friend MR.Bei Ling. It is a great one and if any one got to read the full article would know the price of his Nobel Prize awarded this year. Indeed, the reader would also know the price of Liu's courages fight for "liberty" and "freedom".

Ling writes:

  • When I first met Liu Xiaobo in the early 1980s, we were both just out of university and he was living around the corner in Beijing. We became close friends and drinking buddies; at night we used to open bottles of beer and discuss the exciting changes taking place in our society.

  • Beijing at that time was a heady place for young intellectuals. After the death of Chairman Mao Zedong and the fall of the Gang of Four, it felt like a dark cloud had lifted and all sorts of ideas could be discussed freely for the first time in ...

For full article you need subscription.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

First Blog post on Makers of Modern India by Ramachandra Guha


There is a news which says:

  • Having sex with the boss is the fastest way to get to the top, according to an increasing number of Americans.
  • The Adecco Group, a human-resources consulting firm, conducted a “Best Boss” survey, which revealed that 17% of US workers think having an affair with the boss can lead to a better position. And 7% of those surveyed confessed that they have actually done it.
  • The poll also found that one-third of workers is convinced he or she is smarter than the boss, the New York Post reported. Nearly 40% named Oprah Winfrey as their idea of a perfect boss, while 35% selected President Barack Obama and 28% said Donald Trump.

At last D** Bites!!

By and large, economists have a justifiably well-earned reputation for being dull dogs. But some of them can be interesting as well. For example, Kaushik Basu, who is now the chief economic advisor, is an accomplished painter and playwright. Sugata Marjit is a superb Hindustani classical singer. Subir Gokarn, the RBI deputy governor, is a terrific cook. And Bibek Debroy is a Sanskrit scholar.

Bharat, not India, needs FDI

Sharad Joshi, the veteran of sound public policy has an article in today's BL where he describes how the FDI in retail would help transform the retail sector in rural.

Some excerpts:

  • India has only 35 towns with a population of over one million. The total population of these towns totals just 108 million. A policy to allow FDI in the retail sector in just 35-odd townships amounts to closing the doors of 91 per cent of the Indian economy to greenfield FDI.
  • FDI has provided the main boost to industrial growth, now entering the double-digit spectrum. On the contrary, the countryside and, in particular, agriculture is starved of investments, credit, technology, efficient marketing networks and also managerial acumen.
  • It would be more logical if FDI in the retail sector were to be primarily channelled into the rural regions.
  • On the other hand, the FDI in rural small towns and even villages will be predominantly of a greenfield character. It will open up new production lines, leading to an improvement in cultivation practices, better varieties of produce and creation of new retail networks.
  • FDI can replace the existing APMC (Agriculture Produce Market Committee) network, with its long chain of commission agents that deprive the farmer of remunerative prices and the consumer of a fair price, assured quality, choice and transparent accounting.
  • FDI is known to boost credit, finances, technology levels and efficiency in marketing. These are required in all sectors of the economy, but the need is most dire in the rural sector, and predominantly agriculture. Keeping such investment flows away from Bharat can only be an act of sheer animus towards the farm sector, on a par with the imposition of deliberate negative subsidies

Bush is 1 and Obama is zero

Swaminathan S A Aiyar writes (with huge speculations!):

  • During his visit to India, Obama will doubtless say several encouraging things. He will hail India as a coming superpower, and say that it is a good idea for India to become a member of the UN Security Council. He will declare that Islamic terrorism must end in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He will hail India’s democratic values.
  • He will talk of easing some US export controls on dual-use technology and equipment. He will talk of increased cooperation in fields like energy, education agriculture and so on. This is fine as far as it goes, but cannot obscure the diminution of India on the US radar screen. It is not that Obama has abandoned the long-term strategic interest in India that Bush initiated. Rather, Obama is focusing on urgent short-term issues and not on the strategic long-term.
  • This will not impact the booming Indo-US economic partnership. This has boomed for four decades thanks to corporate decisions, not government decisions. Besides, individual Indians have flocked to the US for studies and citizenship in huge numbers. They have won several Nobel Prizes, helped create Silicon Valley, and are now prominent in every political and economic field.
  • Being driven by individuals and corporations, this aspect of the relationship will strengthen regardless of Obama’s current concerns. It will stand both countries in good stead when, in due course, the relationship truly assumes strategic importance.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Poor Charity at HOME

Prof Mehta asks:

What else explains why CII was so keen to donate to the Clinton Foundation, when its discharging of its own commitments in India has been, at best, very reluctant? So, some of this giving will be an inevitable corollary of the character of Indian capital. But there is still something discomfiting about what the shape of Indian philanthropy is revealing.

Man and economics

Two thousand four hundred years ago, one man tried to discover the meaning of life. His search was so radical, charismatic and counterintuitive that he become famous throughout the Mediterranean. Men — particularly young men — flocked to hear him speak. Some were inspired to imitate his ascetic habits. They wore their hair long, their feet bare, their cloaks torn. He charmed a city; soldiers, prostitutes, merchants, aristocrats — all would come to listen. As Cicero eloquently put it, “He brought philosophy down from the skies.” For close on half a century this man was allowed to philosophise unhindered on the streets of his hometown. But then things started to turn ugly. His glittering city—state suffered horribly in foreign and civil wars. The economy crashed; year in, year out, men came home dead; the population starved; the political landscape was turned upside down. And suddenly the philosopher's bright ideas, his eternal questions, his eccentric ways, started to jar. And so, on a spring morning in 399BC, the first democratic court in the story of mankind summoned the 70-year-old philosopher to the dock on two charges: disrespecting the city's traditional gods and corrupting the young. The accused was found guilty. His punishment: state-sponsored suicide, courtesy of a measure of hemlock poison in his prison cell.

(From Socrates — a man for our times by Bettany Hughes)

“We can make fun of economics, and I’ve made a professional habit of it,” said Professor Ariely. “But there’s a good reason that human irrationality isn’t part of the standard economic models, and this gets to the dilemma of economics. If you have a simple problem, you can offer a simple solution. But the economy is a hugely complex problem. So we either simplify the problem and offer a solution, or embrace the complexity and do nothing.”

(From The X Factor of Economics: People by David)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

Jailed for Words: Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo

Mont Pelerin Society (MPS) Asia Regional Meeting 2011

There is a another GREAT good news. Yes next year MPS meeting will be in India and the focus is on "

India as Global Power: Practicing Liberal Values at Home and Abroad"

Who made Modern India?

I have participated in the CCS’s Colloquium on the Indian Liberal Tradition on 13 - 15 June 2010. Mr.Ramachandra Guha gave a brief opening remarks on 13th evening about the liberalism in India and its path ahead. In his remarks he had mentioned that he has been editing a new book named “Makers of Modern India”. First, I was thrilled to heard that good news! I am still thrilled to see who are those “makers”? Whether they are socialist or free market pundits or communist, etc?

There are 18 such makers in the book.

As he mentioned, the book will be out in this October. It is now scheduled for release on 25th. The following are the excerpts from the book published in the ToI India. I am posting the full excerpts for the record.

Remaking India, October 17, 2010, 01.31am IST

  • In a book on the democratic traditions of his country, Ronald Dworkin remarks that "Americans of goodwill, intelligence, and ambition have given the world, over the last two centuries, much of what it best in it now". He continues: "We gave the world the idea of a constitution protecting the right of minorities, including religious dissenters and atheists, a constitution that has been the envy of other nations and is now increasingly, at least indirectly, an inspiration for them.

  • We gave the world a lesson in national generosity after the Second World War, and we gave it leadership then in its new enthusiasm for international organization and international law. We gave it the idea, striking in mid-twentieth century Europe, that social justice is not the preserve of socialism; we gave it the idea of an egalitarian capitalism and, in the New Deal, a serious if limited step towards their achievement."

  • The United States has given the world some noble social and political ideals. So perhaps has India. In Dworkin-esque mode I could thus write that "India can give the world the idea of a state and constitution that protects far greater religious and linguistic diversity than is found in any other nation. We have shown other young nations how to nurture multi-party democracy based on universal adult franchise, mass poverty and illiteracy notwithstanding. But even older nations may learn from our model of nationalism, which is inclusive within and outside its borders, and open to ideas and influences from even the powers than once colonized it. We have demonstrated that nationalism can be made consistent with internationalism; without ever having waged war on another nation, we have contributed to peace-keeping efforts in other countries and continents, and lent moral and material support to such causes as the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Finally, despite our own past history of hierarchy and inegalitarianism, we have designed and implemented the most far-reaching programmes of affirmative action on behalf of the discriminated and underprivileged".

  • To make the Indian experience more central to global debates is one aim of this book. Another, and perhaps greater aim, is to make Indians more aware of the richness and relevance of their modern political tradition. Unfortunately, the works presented in these pages remain far less known than we might suppose. One reason is the bias within the literature towards economic, political, and social history. Thus many scholars have written insightfully and at great length about the impact of colonial rule on the indigenous economy; about the various competing strands of Indian nationalism and how they jockeyed for position during the last phase of British rule; and about the culture and social life of peasants, tribals, women, and other subaltern groupings. However, the history of ideas remains a poorly tilled field.

  • A second impediment to a deeper understanding of the Indian political tradition is sectarianism and partisanship. Rabindranath Tagore, for example, is treated as a Bengali poet; B R Ambedkar as a Dalit icon alone; Jawaharlal Nehru as the property of the Congress party. This capturing of individuals by the sect to which they originally belonged has obscured their wider relevance to intellectual and political life in India as a whole.

  • This (to my mind) lamentable tendency is manifest most obviously in the sharp opposition of Ambedkar to Gandhi by their latter-day admirers. They ask that we follow one man completely, while rejecting the other man in toto. To a lesser degree, this competitive partisanship vitiates the understanding and appreciation of other remarkable Indians as well.

  • Thus, in current debates on the economy, free-market advocates uphold Rajagopalachari and vilify Nehru, whereas those in favour of more state intervention tend to do exactly the reverse. These rhetorical invocations are often based on a casual and superficial understanding of the thinkers themselves.

  • They make it hard, if not impossible, for anyone to follow a catholic approach to study and appreciate both Gandhi and Ambedkar, or both Nehru and Rajagopalachari, on the basis that these legacies may be equally relevant or significant, albeit in different and arguably complementary ways.

  • The third reason why even well educated Indians remain unacquainted with these thinkers is the widespread nostalgia for the very distant past. There is one kind of Indian who thinks that it was when the Hindu scriptures were composed that his civilization was the most advanced in the world. This orients them towards the study of the sages and rulers of ancient times, in the belief that it may help the Hindus once more rule, or at least dominate, the world.

  • In my opinion, there was little in the history and politics of the remote past that could have aided Indians in interpreting and confronting the profound changes that came in the wake of colonial rule. The necessity of a free press, the equality of women, the abolition of Untouchability, the rights of equal citizenship, the ending of mass poverty — these ideals and aspirations were beyond the experience and imagination of ancient or medieval scholars and rulers. Rather, they were the product of the national and democratic revolutions that took place in the 19th and 20th centuries, and of the urban, industrial, and social revolutions that accompanied them.

  • As I write, the national unity of India is being challenged by secessionist movements in Kashmir and the north-east. The borderlands are disturbed; and so too are the countries in our neighbourhood. The plural, multi-party political system of India is being challenged by the rise of an Maoist insurgency that extends over a wide swathe of the country. This insurgency, which aims to construct a single-party state on the Chinese model, has its roots in the deprivation and dispossession of tribal people. The workings of Indian democracy are also undermined by the growing inefficiency and corruption of the political class, the civil service, the police, and the judiciary.

  • To understand these (and other) problems, we may turn to those Indians who have seriously thought through these issues in the (comparatively recent) past. Thus, for example, one might turn to Ambedkar, Lohia, Phule, Gokhale, and Gandhi to continue the struggle against caste discrimination; to Syed Ahmad Khan and Hamid Dalwai to modernize Indian Islam; to Tarabai, Kamaladevi, Rammohan Roy, Nehru and E V Ramaswami to further the emancipation of women; to Gokhale, Gandhi, and Nehru to sustain good relations between Hindus and India's religious minorities; to Jayaprakash Narayan to promote understanding and goodwill between the Indian State and its still disturbed borderlands; to Phule to bring dignity and a secure livelihood to the farmer; to Gandhi and Narayan to promote the decentralization of political authority; to Verrier Elwin to protect the tribals from discrimination; to Rajagopalachari to reform the electoral system and to curb the excesses of a potentially overbearing State; to Tagore to cultivate a productive and open-minded engagement with the other nations of the world. In this sense, the 'makers' of the book's title is appropriate in more than the past tense. These Indians undoubtedly made India the nation it now is, but their legacies may yet help make India a nation that more fully lives up to its (so far imperfectly realized) ideals.

'Makers of Modern India', edited and introduced by Ramachandra Guha, is published nationwide by Penguin India on October 25

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lessons from democracy

India leapt from colony to democracy in 1947 but since 1966 has drifted into quasi-feudocracy. Both Feroze and Nehru would have been dismayed at the fawning culture of servitude that wafts around not only in today's Congress but most Indian political parties. Both men took pride in the independence of individual Congressmen: from that independence flowed the strength of Indian democracy. Today, democracy stands compromised by the nepotic internal structure of the Congress and its regional clones like the DMK, TDP, SP, JD(S) and NCP. If you look hard enough, it is this nepotism and feudocracy that underpin chronic political misgovernance of which Karnataka is only a particularly virulent symptom.

My visit to Jakarata

Here is a group photo of AYC.

I had a great opportunity to visit Jakarta last week (from 4th October to 9th October, 2010). I was invited to participate first in the Asia Youth Conference organized by Atlas Economic Research Foundation based in USA and then had chance to participate in The Economic Freedom Network Asia 2010 Annual Conference organized by The Economic Freedom Network Asia along with host many like minded institutions from Indonesia.

There were people from ten Asian countries in the Asia Youth Conference. It was amazing one, in terms of contends, the place they have organized, the speakers, etc. Particularly the opening session by Dr. Tom was great one. It was full of enthusiasms, fun but was informative. Moreover, his talk was more of realistic then the usual type of mainstream economists talk. His examples are like pullets with pin point.

There were also speakers from the following institutions:

  1. The Atlas Economic Research Foundation, US
  2. Cato Institute, US
  3. Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation, Nepal
  4. Central Asian Free Market Institute, Kyrgyzstan
  5. Centre For Civil Society, India
  6. Liberal Youth Fourm, India
  7. The Transition Institute, China

There were also few documentaries on livelihood freedom issues in Asia.

The EFN Asia Conference was equally important and I have enjoyed a lot. Since this year theme was Migration and the Wealth of Nations. You can see the programme scheduled here. During this conference i had great opportunity to meet the author of The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible: A Free Market Odyssey i.e. Ken Schoolland. I really had good time to talk to him.

The other highlight of the conference was the World Economic Freedom Index. Here is an article in which Bibek has written about the status of India's Economic Freedom. Bibek was also speaker in the conference on the issue of migration. His talk was no less than as I expected. He briefed nicely his own and his family migration in a four turning points.

In sum, the trip was awesome!!

Friday, October 15, 2010

All eyes are on LiuXiaobo

  1. Liu Xiaobo: Prisoner of Consciousness?
  2. After peace prize, China targets winner's friends
  3. Reading between the red lines

All eyes are on LiuXiaobo

Liu Xiaobo: Prisoner of Consciousness?

After peace prize, China targets winner's friends

Reading between the red lines

Freedom from within House

Yesterday I have read the book Untouchables by Dr.Narendra Jadhav, such a inspiring book. It’s a full of stories about struggles and freedom of his parents in pre-independent India.

A bit from the book review:

  • “At the end of the book is an addendum written by Jadhav's daughter, Apoorva. It's a little alarming that she sounds exactly like the sorority girl that she is. An undergrad at Johns Hopkins, a pre-med, she uses sentences like "the beauty of my ancestors' efforts is that they were not in vain." But it's true: Damu and Sonu toiled to get their children the chance to succeed—and they have.

From The Telegraph review:

  • No one is more painfully aware of this debilitating socialstatus quo than Jadhav himself. Which is why the ever-conscious Mahar is constantly wracked by references to his low caste — from his teacher, from the upper-caste south Indian to whom he gave a lift and his colleagues. Jadhav, a noted economist, banker, former official at the IMF and now head of economic research of the Reserve Bank of India, asks, “Why can’t they accept me for what I am? …Why did they always have to judge me on the basis of my origins?”

From the Outlook:

  • The memoir thus bears testimony to the change of mindset in a Dalit family in the course of a single generation. A similar change has been under way in millions of other Dalit homes, not in full measure, not wholly reassuringly, but a change under way all the same. It is young Apoorva, Jadhav's young daughter, who reveals in the epilogue what emancipation truly means: it does not matter one whit to her that she is a Dalit for, in a resurgent India, she has no reason to flaunt that tag or to suppress it. She has become what her forebears had always aspired to be: just normal people who are neither aggressive nor apologetic about their identity.

Money, money….

In the Newsweek Peter Tasker writes that the:

  • History agrees. The last time deflation spread around the world, in the 1930s, the countries that came off the gold standard the soonest—equivalent to devaluing your currency, in today’s terms—recovered the quickest. Those that stuck the longest to the high ground of economic orthodoxy, France and the United States, plunged into depression. That’s why even the sober Swiss are trying to depreciate their currency. True to form, the U.K. and the U.S. prefer methods that are less blatant. Bank of England governor Mervyn King crafted a quantitative-easing (QE) program that created new money equivalent to 15 percent of U.K. GDP. The subsequent decline in the pound he termed “helpful.” President Obama’s target of doubling U.S. exports in a feeble global economy could hardly be accomplished with a strong dollar.


  • The problem is that currency depreciation is a zero-sum game. China says that a big revaluation of the yuan would do serious damage to its economy, which is probably true. China’s critics say the undervalued yuan destabilizes the rest of the world. That’s true, too.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Recent Socialist Thought in India

That is the title of Chapter Three in the Book Essays in India Politics and Foreign Policy by A Appadorai, published in 1971 y Vikas Publications.

In this Chapter introduction he wrote:

  • “All over the world socialism has the reputation of being like a hat that loses its shape when worn by several people. But the bewildering variety of meanings given to the concept in Indian writings makes one wonder if serious thinking has been given to it or if any consensus on socialism as a way of life can ever be reached. The great political leader Lajpat Rai wrote in his Call to Young India (1920), “We do not understand socialism. We have never studied it. We do not go by dogmas and doctrines.” Nehru thought that “a vague, confused socialism was already part of the atmosphere of India when I returned from Europe in December 1927…Mostly they thought along utopian lines.” (p.27).

Blinking links

Sir Isaac Newton, the alchemist

The human brain is always democratic

Bites on Nobel Prize in Economics 2010

Bibek writes on Noblesse does not always oblige:

  • Certainly, Peter Nobel, a human rights lawyer and Alfred Nobel’s great-grand-nephew argues against such a prize in Economics. Even more significant is the case of the two 1974 awardees—Gunnar Myrdal and Friedrich Hayek. Myrdal thought such a Prize was a bad idea because it was given to a reactionary like Hayek, a view reinforced by a later award to Friedman. Hayek’s reservation was more profound and deserves to be quoted. “The Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess ... This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence. But the influence of the economist that mainly matters is an influence over laymen: politicians, journalists, civil servants and the public generally.”

  • Splice that with the Keynes’ observation that practical men are usually slaves of some defunct economist. Economics isn’t an exact science. It is more like a bag of tools or an approach. While economists are aware of this, they don’t usually project themselves to the rest of the world in that fashion. The run-of-the-mill economist may compete with lawyers as the butt of several jokes. But once invested with the nobility of the Nobel Prize, they become founts of all wisdom and venture into terrain where they don’t necessarily possess expertise. That doesn’t occur in physical sciences, or even in Literature. A Nobel Prize to Peace isn’t that dangerous either.
  • Alfred Nobel contemplated awards to those who were young, so that prize money could be used to pursue research. It hasn’t worked that way. Thus, benefits of such a Prize are questionable. However, costs can be significant. Think of the now-forgotten hedge fund known as Long-Term Capital Management. Now that giants have been recognised, it is a good idea to abolish the Prize in Economics.

Vanitha Srinivasan on ‘For the Nobel, we focus only on the discovery'

  • It was just two hours to go on Monday, October 4, before the winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was to be announced. And there I was at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, which was entrusted, by no less than Alfred Nobel himself, with the responsibility of awarding the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The person I was interviewing, Ms Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, 54, the first woman President of Karolinska Institutet, was privy to the name of the winner but her lips were sealed till the official announcement.

From BS Editorial:

  • Search theory had its origins in the 1960s motivated by the need to provide an explanation for discrepancies between neoclassical theory with its emphasis on markets with perfect information and zero search costs, with empirical findings emerging from studies of the labour and housing markets in the United States. Buyers and sellers of goods and services do not immediately find what they are looking for and even when they do, are likely to reject the outcome as sub-optimal. Consequently, the processes of searching and finding inherently involve “friction”, which raises costs for both buyers and sellers.

From ToI Editorial:

  • Plus, most Indians depend on rural livelihoods but it's non-rural jobs that mostly demand better human capital. Nor does higher education prioritise quality as much as quantity. While our firms hiring again is good news, India needs to think long-term. The labour market's search frictions can be managed only if action's taken on various fronts chiefly labour reform and education starting now.

Add no value, that is the law of The State

Niranjan writes:

In India, ridiculous labour laws make it unattractive for companies to hire new hands because laying them off is so impossibly difficult; companies hence prefer machines to men. Job creation is hampered. Labour market reforms need to be pulled out of the cold storage if we are to see employment-led inclusive growth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Many-sided polymath

80 years later, Russia recalls tryst with Tagore

The Nobel Peace Prize 2010

Let me say few words on The Nobel Peace Prize 2010 was awarded to Liu Xiaobo "for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China".

There are people who completely disagree with the award and there are people who actually expected this year peace prize to Liu. The reason I agree and feel for awarding this year peace prize to Liu is the following:

  • Protection of Private Property. We should establish and protect the right to private property and promote an economic system of free and fair markets. We should do away with government monopolies in commerce and industry and guarantee the freedom to start new enterprises. We should establish a Committee on State-Owned Property, reporting to the national legislature, that will monitor the transfer of state-owned enterprises to private ownership in a fair, competitive, and orderly manner. We should institute a land reform that promotes private ownership of land, guarantees the right to buy and sell land, and allows the true value of private property to be adequately reflected in the market.

From China’s Charter 08 JANUARY 15, 2009 translated from the Chinese by Perry Link.

One has to read the full document and ponder it how worthy is the prize for Liu and his struggle for political and social freedom in China.

PS: Last week, I was in Jakarta for Asia Youth Conference organised by Atlas. Fellow participant from China told us an inspiring events which i may share later in my post on my experience in the conference and all that.