The James Webb Space Telescope

Two facts about our modern world: one, human-created technology reveals to us a universe that is beyond human imagining and comprehension; two, nearly all of us are either totally unaware of what we as a collective are discovering or, even if we catch fleeting glimpses of what is being discovered, we are so blasé about it that it does not move most of us.

That attitude of being uninterested in the modern marvels is understandable because we really don’t have the time. We have stuff to get done. However, though getting mundane things done matters, it is also important to take a bit of time to pause and wonder at the the vision of the universe that lies beyond, and which technologies like the James Webb Space Telescope enable us to see. What are are capable of seeing today has not been seen by anyone ever. Of the countless trillions of living things that have ever lived on earth, we — the present around 8 billion humans — are the only ones who have that opportunity. Continue reading “JWST”

US Population Distribution

I am always amazed at how unequally populations are distributed across various regions of the world. India, as one would expect, is immensely densely populated. The US relative to India, averaged across the whole country, is very sparsely populated.

On average, the population numbers per square kilometer in India and the US are 428 and 35 respectively. India is of course very densely populated but Bangladesh takes the cake among 100+ million population countries at a staggering 1,141 people per square kilometer. The US is an order of magnitude less dense than India, and Bangladesh is about three times denser than India. Continue reading “US Population Distribution”

Economists’ Quotes

About quotations, the German-born American actress Marlene Dietrich said, “I love them, because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognizedly wiser than oneself.”

I agree with her. I love quotations and collect them assiduously. They are valuable because they encapsulate ideas and thoughts that I have had but expressed better than I ever can.

Since being an economist is my vocation as well as my avocation, I like to keep bits of writings of real economists. Here are a few that I hope you would like. If you find any of them puzzling, or if they lead you to questions, I’d be happy to expand on them. Feel free to ask me anything. Continue reading “Economists’ Quotes”

AMC – Swiss Music

So the last post was about the Swiss. It seems appropriate then to put out this “All Music Considered” post. I think yodeling is particularly Swiss.

For many Indians (which includes me), their introduction to yodeling was through a few Kishor Kumar songs in which he yodeled. We, of course, didn’t know at that time that it was not original to him but was a borrowed tradition. I learned soon enough that he was imitating the Swiss. I don’t say that imitation is bad but only that it is good to know that something is not original.

But whatever. Here are a couple of yodeling songs I like.  Let’s start with a Franzl Lang’s song, shall we? Continue reading “AMC – Swiss Music”

The Swiss and their Trains

“A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transportation.”

If you love trains (I most definitely do), then you’ll love this video from the Not Just Bikes channel. It’s truly delightful that places like Switzerland exist on the planet. It demonstrates that it is possible for people to organize a society that is truly civilized. It is an outstanding illustration that humans are capable of arranging their societies to be materially prosperous and peaceful.

I have had the good fortune of visiting Switzerland several times in the early ’90s when I spent a few years traveling around the world. Just getting to Geneva was exciting — on a TGV from Paris. It takes a little of 3 hours to cover the distance of 409 kms, and if you book in advance, you can get a ticket for as little as $10. But enough of that. Here’s the video. I bet you dollars to donuts that you will like it. Continue reading “The Swiss and their Trains”

Restitution of Stolen Property

Does a person have a right to property that was not justly acquired even if the consequences of holding that property promote the general welfare?

Robert Nozick didn’t think so. He wrote, “The justice of a given individual’s possession of and discretionary control over certain economic goods cannot be a function of that possession and control contributing to the general welfare or to any other overall social end-state or pattern. All such consequentialist assessments of holdings are ruled out of court. So, if there is any acceptable account of the justice of individual holdings, it must be a backward-looking account. The justification must depend upon how the holdings in question have arisen.” Continue reading “Restitution of Stolen Property”

Guru Purnima

Full moon rising over the Griffith Observatory, Los Angeles. Aug 2021.

Guru Purnima is observed on the day of the full moon this month. The full moon today will be at 2:38 PM Eastern Daylight Time. Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists observe this day primarily to recognize the role of the guru in the process of enlightenment.

The Bhagavad Gita is a prime example of teaching. Arjuna is taught by Krishna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Here are a few verses from the Gita: Continue reading “Guru Purnima”

The First Step to Real Wealth

Once upon a time, a monk arrived at the outskirts of a village and settled down under a tree to rest for the night. Early the next morning he was woken up by a man. The man was from the village.

He said to the monk, “Give me the stone.” The man had been told by the village deity in a dream that he would find a monk outside the village who had a stone that would make him extremely wealthy.

“I want that stone,” said the man to the monk. The monk took out a stone from his little bundle of possessions. It was a diamond as big as a fist. “I found it in the forest yesterday. Here, take it. It’s yours,” said the monk. The man was overjoyed as he grabbed the diamond and ran back to his village. Continue reading “The First Step to Real Wealth”

Happy 4th of July

My favorite American holiday is 4th of July, also known as Independence Day. It dates back to 1776 with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Aside from the fact that this date was symbolically the birth of the greatest nation on earth, and what it means for the philosophical and political ideas that provided its foundation, there’s the fun, food and drinks with friends and of course the public fireworks. Continue reading “Happy 4th of July”

A preference for boys over girls

No observer of India can avoid noting that India lives simultaneously in several centuries: the modern and the ancient jostle for space, the highly technically qualified mix with the illiterate, the filthy rich live cheek by jowl with the abjectly poor. It is all chaotic and thoroughly confusing. Like in many other countries, contradictions run wide and deep in India. Indians worship powerful goddesses but the status of women is generally deplorable and girl children are frequently neglected and even severely abused. Continue reading “A preference for boys over girls”

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