Friday, April 29, 2011

How free are you in this age of corrupt kingdom of media in India?

Prof.Sen says
  • Not only is access to the Internet and world opinion uncensored and unrestricted in India, a multitude of media present widely different points of view, often very critical of the government in office. India has a larger circulation of newspapers each day than any other country in the world. And the newspapers reflect contrasting political perspectives. Economic growth has helped—and this has certainly been a substantial gain—to expand the availability of radios and televisions across the country, including in rural areas, which very often are shared among many users. There are at least 360 independent television stations (and many are being established right now, judging from the licenses already issued) and their broadcasts reflect a remarkable variety of points of view. More than two hundred of these TV stations concentrate substantially or mainly on news, many of them around the clock. There is a sharp contrast here with the monolithic system of newscasting permitted by the state in China, with little variation of political perspectives on different channels. 

See Prof Ajay Shah post! here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Do disinterest works for you?

Prof. Minogue writes:

"The defect of this whole way of thinking is that it fails to take seriously the fact that a great deal of what humans get up to is neither self-interested nor altruistic. It is disinterested, activities that people enter into just because they happen to want to be thus engaged—with no thought of personal advantage or the world's benefit. Many pursuits, from playing a musical instrument to making academic inquiry (the "disinterested pursuit of truth," as it is sometimes described), fit into this vital category. It is a place where many of Western civilization's great achievements originated. But disinterestedness finds no place in Mr. Corning's claims or in the tradition to which he belongs."

PS: I met Prof.Minogue early this year during the MPS Asia Regional Meeting.

A blank slate no more-but still on page ONE!

Amit Verma has a excellent piece on the Maga man Anna and his fight against-un-calculated- corruptions in the modern India. The folly of middle class is well known but actually little we know about it. What I liked from his piece is the following:

  • I believe it is because we are lazy. It is true that we are disgusted by corruption. We are sick of reading about the telecom scandal, the Radia tapes, the Commeonwealth games. More than that, corruption has become a virus that plagues our everyday lives, and we're appalled by it. But we're too damn lazy to go out and vote and actually participate in our democracy. We're apathetic, and believe, perhaps correctly, that our feeble middle-class vote won't make a difference. And yet, we want to express our disgust at the way things are, take the moral high ground, and feel like we really are doing something, because hey, that helps our self esteem. Then along comes this venerable activist who wears khadi, lives a spartan life, speaks out against corruption in high places, and goes on a hunger strike to influence the implentation of a bill that aims to tackle corruption. Naturally, we make him the repository of our hopes and our values, speak out in his defence at parties and cafes while hanging out with friends, and even light candles in his support. And there, our job as citizens is done.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Symptomatic of a common disease in the economics

Professor Jean Drèze whistle with professor Basu’s new working paper (PDF) released in the Finance Ministry. Both of them seems to be missing a very relevant fact that any attempt to address the corruption is required strengthening of institutional mechanisms like police, enforcement system etc. Beside, there should be strong security system established to protect the persons who report after bribing. Otherwise, given the present conditions, we do not know what will happen to the bribe givers and reporter!!
I wonder what would he meant when he uses the words like “common sense”, “morality” etc since he and his alike minded persons are largely away from the meaning of that words!! 

Here are Prof.Jean's argument on morality and commonsense.
  • Basu’s argument is all the more puzzling as the paper ends with a plea for acknowledging the role of values and ethics in eradicating corruption: “if we want to really get at corruption, what we need to build up are values of honesty and integrity in society”. Well said. But how is the legalisation of bribe-giving supposed to help in building up such values?
  • In fact, once moral considerations are introduced, the initial argument breaks down once again. Is the legalisation of bribe-giving supposed to make it less immoral? If so, that would tend to encourage, not discourage, bribing. If not, why would anyone blow the whistle after paying a bribe? That would be like drawing attention to one’s own immorality. Possibly to deal with this, Basu suggests that bribes might be “reimbursed” to bribe-givers if they blow the whistle. That would indeed give them an incentive to blow the whistle — but this suggestion takes us further and further away from anything like the real world.
  • It may be argued that paying a harassment bribe is not morally reprehensible in the first place, because the bribe-giver is a victim and the bribe is an act of self-defence. I am not persuaded. When you pay a harassment bribe, you abdicate your duty to use other means to resist the harassment, not only for yourself but also on behalf of others who might face the same situation. You also secure an advantage for yourself, vis-à-vis others who may not be able or willing to bribe. This does not sound particularly ethical.
  • If you find all this heavy-going, just think about it from a common-sense point of view: does it make sense to fight corruption by making it easier for people to blow the whistle on their own acts of bribe-giving, so that bribe-takers are deterred from asking for a bribe in the first place? Ethical issues aside, this is quite a fanciful idea, even if it is certainly possible to think of situations where it might work.

“Zen and the Art of Being Powerless”

Friday, April 22, 2011

Government of Civil Society

Anuradha Dutt writes:

India, as per an official study, has the largest number of NGOs, about 3.3 million till 2009. The number must have swelled since then, with the real figure far exceeding the official estimate, which only counted bodies registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 and some state acts. The study avers that Maharashtra leads with 4.8 lakh NGOs. Other States with a high NGO presence are Andhra Pradesh (4.6 lakh), Uttar Pradesh (4.3 lakh), Kerala (3.3 lakh), Karnataka (1.9 lakh), Gujarat (1.7 lakh), West Bengal (1.7 lakh), Tamil Nadu (1.4 lakh), Odisha (1.3 lakh) and Rajasthan (1 lakh). These 10 apparently account for over 80 per cent of registrations. The Government is the biggest donor, with `18,000 crore being allotted for the social sector in the XI Five Year Plan. Foreign contributions come second, with an estimated `9,700 crore being raised in 2007-08. But NGO sources reveal that annual funding varies between `40,000 crore and `80,000 crore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

People are close to reality than Central Banker and The State

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha writes:
  • The inflation problem continues to fox economists and unsettle ordinary Indians. However, the metaphorical man on the street seems to have had a better sense about the soaring arc of prices than the men and women with econometric models.
  • A year ago, the overwhelming consensus among Indian policymakers and private sector economists was that inflation would begin to decline to more reasonable levels in the quarters ahead. For example, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had said in April 2010 that inflation would be at 5.5% by the end of the fiscal year. Meanwhile, the 4,000 urban households that the central bank surveys each quarter to assess their inflation expectations were more pessimistic. They had indicated in December 2009 that inflation would be in double digits in the first three months of 2011.
  • The latest inflation numbers for February show that the man on the street was closer to the correct estimate than the economists. Prices continue to surge. Inflation hovers around double digits. The revised inflation number for January is 9.4% and the first estimate for February is 8.98%.
  • One explanation why households have got a better handle on the trajectory of inflation than the experts is that information distributed in a complex system such as an economy is better captured by a large group of people than a single model: the wisdom of the crowds. A less Hayekian explanation is that the man on the street was just plain lucky, a factor that has a greater role to play in the prediction game than most participants would accept. 
Read the ET editorial here and interview of Chief Economic Adviser to Finance Ministry.

SC on Right to private property

Monday, April 18, 2011

Liberals-missing middle ground!!!!

Ramchandra Guha interview with IE has some very interesting insights about his works and life. The following are some excerpts which is something interesting to me.

What does the word spirituality mean to you ?
Nothing at all.
What if someone had never heard that word ?
I am a sociologist telling a story. I deal with specifics. I am not a philosopher so I can understand religion or faith, but spirituality I cannot understand and it means nothing to me. It is a meaningless term.
In India everybody uses this word all the time …
Not me, not this Indian ! And I have never used it in anything I have ever written. I can make sense of religion, of forms of worship, of prayer, of ideas about the supernatural. But spirituality is one of those utterly meaningless, pointless words. It should be abolished from the English language.
When looking at one’s life and how it unfolds …
I don’t look at my life in that way. My life is irrelevant. I am a minor figure. I am not obsessed with my life or my spiritual journey. I am curious about the society I live in. But my life is inconsequential. It doesn’t matter. 
Is this curiosity for the society you live in what led you to become a sociologist and historian?
Anthropology is a much more human discipline than economics, with its interest in people’s culture, conflicts etc. So I moved in that direction. I stumbled upon it, whereas my childhood dream like many boys in India had been to become a famous cricket player.
It never made you think that certain things may be predestined in life ?
Luck and chance play a huge role. Why should I say that things are meant to be? Life may be absurd, there is such a possibility. Or there may be a larger meaning to it all, but maybe I have too mundane and humdrum of a mind to go there and think about it all.
What is your idea of happiness ?
I don’t think of this. These are not things I think of because they are not in my control. These questions never strike me. I don’t know what happiness means. I do my work and I slog away – I don’t know if it is happiness or a way to kill time.

NGO Mania and Money

Tavleen Singh writes:
  • So a lot of very corrupt people have made lucrative careers out of becoming NGOs. 
  • As someone who has observed NGO activities for a while now, may I add here that nearly all the NGOs who set out to save India’s environment are frauds with almost no understanding of what the real issues are.
  • So rewarding is the NGO industry that senior police officers and bureaucrats often become NGOs as soon as they leave government service.
  • ….can we please admit that when it comes to corruption, our NGOs are pretty much in the same boat as politicians and high officials.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

My speech at Mises Institute (March 12th, 2011)

The following is the speech prepared for my paper presentation but I could not present in this order but certainly the whole presentation is based on these aspects.

Let me begin by thanking Mises Institute for giving me this great opportunity to present my paper in the Austrian Scholars Conference 2011.

I would also like to thank people who have not only constantly encouraged me along and but also helped in getting financial support for my trip.

I would like to name at least three of them:

Mr. Nitin Pai, who is a Founder of the Takshashila Institution and Editor of Pragati—The Indian National Interest Review. A emerging independent free market think tank in India

Dr.Atanu Dey who is a libertarian economist and he blog at

Last but not lest, Dr.Parth J Shah who is a Founder, President of Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi, India

I would also like to mention that the only economist who writes about the Austrian Economics in India in the letter and spirit of Mises is Sauvik Chakraverti!!!

In August of 2005 Dr.Parth Shah had organized an Austrian Economics Seminar in New Delhi, India

I was thrilled to know what is all about Austrian Economics and what is interesting to me in it and who were the Austrian economists in India?

Before that I knew very little about Austrian Economics from the F A Hayek’s Book The Road to Serfdom. Essentially it was a quote in a Statistics Textbook by a Bengali author from this book.

It was during this time I was also doing my Master of Philosophy degree in social sciences in the Institution named after Ambedkar at Mhow in Western India.

Also in my whole class of 30 students none of them had interest in studying the Ambedkar’s works in economics. So I ended up doing something on Special Economic Zones.

So who is Ambedkar?

He was 14th child to his parents. He father was in army in the East India Company.

Ambedkar came to America almost close to 100 years (99) before me to study for his Masters and PhD in Economics from Columbia University.

Ambedkar was fortunate to get a scholarship to study in America. After that he went to England to receive D.Sc in Economics from LSE and a Law Degree from London University.

He later become the First Minister of Law after Independence in the Nehru’ Cabinet. Though he did ask for Ministry of Planning!! But he was denied!!

So what he is known for now and not so known for?

Ambedkar is now widely known for

-As a Father of Indian Constitution
-As a icon of certain community (dalit)
-As a First Law Minister in the Independent Indian Government  
-His hard argument with M.K Gandhi
-His conversion to Buddhism

Misunderstood views of Ambedkar on

-Centralized planning
-Against too much bureaucracy
-on establishment of Reserve Bank of India (RBI)

Ambedkar’s neglected thoughts

-Free banking
-Gold standard
-Individual liberty and freedom
-His argument against Keynes views on gold exchange standard
-His understanding of Carl Menger’s works
-Knowledge problem/Decentralized planning

Ambedkar, the forgotten free-market economis

Finally, my article has been out now, let’s clear all the myths about Ambedkar being portraying as against free market economics and soul believer of socialism etc.

Please find my article on Ambedkar A champion of the free market in the April 2011 Issue of Pragati The Indian National Interest Review.

I request all of you should see the PDF version of the full issue of Pragati (PDF).

I take this opportunity to thank all my friends and supporters for making my full paper presentation at the Austrian Scholars Conference 2011 organised by the Mises Institute, Auburn, USA

Particularly, I would like to thank Mr.Nitin Pai, Dr.Atanu Dey (Please do see 12, and 3), and Dr.Parth J Shah. 

Monday, April 11, 2011

Profitable Education

Mr.Manish Sabarwal of Teamlease Services writes: 
  • Rabindranath Tagore has a wonderful story called Kartar Bhooth where the perceived static wishes of a dead leader make life difficult and kill innovation. The ghost of non-profit in education has similar consequences: 90% of education capacity created since 1991 has been for-profit but in the guise of non-profit because of legislation. This regulatory cholesterol reduces the ability of professionals like teachers to attract third-party capital for entrepreneurship. 
  • More dangerously, it rewards regulatory arbitrage abilities and, consequently, most education entrepreneurs today are land mafia, criminals or politicians. This low-quality private sector capacity creation becomes a self-reinforcing argument against legitimising a professionally-managed, well-regulated and quality-minded for-profit private sector. But the most expensive school is no school and the primary case for private sector is not quality but capacity and cost. We should not care whether a school is government, not-for-profit, not-for-loss, for-less profit or for-profit. All that matters is a good school or a bad school. Let biodiversity explode. 

Prices and costs cuts by that polity lines

Agricultural scientist M S Swaminathan told in his interview with BS soon after the budget and the appointment of new chairman if CACP:

The new chairman of Commission for Agriculture Costs and Prices Ashok Gulati is a non-bureaucrat too. But his views contradict yours. He favours markets driving farmers’ incomes, while you say farmers should be given a 50 per cent profit and cost of production as a minimum support price.

Gulati’s appointment is as grave an error of judgement on the part of the government as the appointment of the CVC. It does not bode well for agriculture and, more so, for farmers. The pro-US interests have the upper hand in the government and the pity is that they don’t understand the human aspect of agriculture.

Faith in capitalism

Which countries are most in favour of the free market?

FAITH in the free market is at a low in the world's biggest free-market economy. In 2010, 59% of Americans asked by GlobeScan, a polling firm, agreed "strongly" or "somewhat" that the free market was the best system for the world's future. This has fallen sharply from 80% when the question was first asked in 2002. And among poorer Americans under $20,000, faith in capitalism fell from 76% to 44% in just one year. Of the 25 countries polled, support for the free market is now greatest in Germany, just ahead of Brazil and communist China, both of which have seen strong growth in recent years. Indians are less enthusiastic despite recent gains in growth. Italy shows a surprising fondness for markets for a place that is uncompetitive in many sectors. In France under a third of people believe that the free market is the best option, down from 42% in 2002. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The State makes sure, that order uncut

In this mid’s of agitation and crisis of reality check in Indian politics Prof Mehta writes:

  • No agitation focuses on sensible, manageable reform of representative institutions; all agitative energies are premised on bypassing them. 
  • To many of us, this proposal seems like the way we approached educational reform: if BA is not good quality, introduce MA; since MA does not work, have MPhil; since we can’t trust our PhDs, have a further NET exam, endlessly deferring to new institutions at the top of the food chain without attending to basics.  
More interestingly he says: 
  • The demand that a Jan Lokpal Bill be drafted jointly by the government and a self-appointed committee of public virtue is absurd. Most of us sharply disagree with elected government on matters even more important than corruption. But no matter how cogent our arguments, it does not give us the right to say that our virtue entitles us to dictate policy to a representative process.
In fact, the Indian Express editorial says:
  • “The only tiny hope that Hazare and other supporters of the Jan Lokpal draft hold out against this overwhelmingly likely possibility is that the individual at the head will be selected by a committee that will be partly non-governmental in organisation. For example, it will include all Indian Nobel Laureates, and the two most recent winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards — hardly a substitute for real electoral accountability. This sort of thinking among the privileged members of civil society, a belief that they alone can speak for “the people” and elected representatives cannot, is dangerous.” 

Hayek Street in Italy

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Back to M.K.G(andhi)

I would never call M.K Gandhi as a Mahatma for my own reasons!!

One more new book on Gandhi has been out now in America. And it is not surprise when States in India bans the book before its release! and that is too where Gandhi was born.

The below are the review or comments one should read on the new book on Gandhi. 
  1. A Different Gandhi by Anita Desai
  2. Don't ban book: Bapu grandson by Rajmohan Gandhi,
  3. New Book Raises Question: Was Gandhi Gay by Tripti Lahiri
  4. Among the Hagiographers by Andrew Roberts
  5. What They Said: Gandhi Book Ban by Krishna Pokharel

Letter to common good

“Teachers must be free to be spontaneous, and to deal with each student as a unique individual.

The human element has been crushed by decades of bureaucratic reform — by required protocols, by endless forms, by dread of legal proceedings for daily discipline and by rigid metrics forcing teachers to “teach to the test.”

Reformers have tried to compel competence by cramming bureaucracy down teachers’ throats, when the only hope of inspiring students is to let teachers be themselves, and form personal bonds.”

See here for more. 

No “Vande Mataram” please, but “Chak de”

India’ property rights index

Parth Shah of CCS discuses the improvement of property rights index in the new report:  
  • One may argue as to how could political stability in India might have declined, as the government at the Centre as well as ruling regimes in states are comparatively more stable than earlier years. It is because the index does not measure only stay of the governments in office, but all sorts of disruptive movements like naxal and Telangana, explained Dr Parth J Shah, president of the Centre for Civil Society, partner of Property Rights Alliance in India for this index.
  • He said there are incidents of human rights violation in J&K and north eastern parts of the country. Besides, special and arbitrary powers are given to army through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • As expected, the report says that judicial independence is slightly on the rise in India. Without naming court's interventions in alleged scams in spectrum allocation for 2G and commonwealth games, Shah said there are instances of the judiciary challenging the executive in recent times in India.
  • In physical property rights, India scored 6.6 points in 2011 index, same as in 2010. However, Indian system of keeping records relating to physical property are too archaic. Even the last major land survey was conducted during British times.
  • “So far as property rights are concerned, the poor continue to fight the battle against forceful acquisition of their land by either the government or private parties. This remains a point of serious concern for India even as we achieve high rates of growth every year” Shah said.