Secularism

Last month, in a momentary lapse of reason, I decided to post a simple poll on twitter. I had been pondering the matter of secularism and thought it would be fun to know what others thought about it. I posted the question “Is a secular state justified in discriminating amoung citizens on the basis of religion?”

It was a stupid question. The answer is implied in the question; it’s a trivial question. It’s akin to asking, “What material is a steel tumbler made of?” and giving four choices: steel, glass, ceramic, plastic. Nothing can be gained from it other than the knowledge of how many people are too retarded and have trouble comprehending a simple sentence. Continue reading “Secularism”

Also Sprach Zarathustra

Pure joy is the sound of music. I agree with Nietzsche that “without music, life would be a mistake.” Among my favorites in the Western classical tradition is Richard Strauss’s masterpiece Also Sprach Zarathustra. It was featured in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Here it is:

That bit is as short as it is powerful. It’s hard to improve on it. But Deodato jammed to it — and how. Listen. Continue reading “Also Sprach Zarathustra”

This I Have Learned

Asato ma sadgamaya

Over a life mostly devoted to learning stuff and not much else except goofing off, I have learned quite a few interesting things. Interesting not in some absolute, objective or universal sense but only particular to me given my preferences, my talents and the opportunities I had.

From quite an early age, I recognized that the yoga consistent with my nature was gyan yoga, the way of knowledge and understanding. That was my dharma. Karma yoga is not my path since I don’t get things done. Left to do as I please, I’d do nothing. Neither is bhakti yoga since I am into any spiritual discipline. Continue reading “This I Have Learned”

The End of the Pandemic

For the last couple of weeks, I have been making the claim to my friends that the Chinese SARS-CoV-19 virus pandemic will be over by June 2021. I predict that by the end of 2020, there will be at least one safe and effective vaccine available in sufficient quantities to drive down the infection rate to the point that the virus is essentially eliminated.

Predictions are easy to make. Like calling spirits from the vasty deeps, anyone can do it, as Hotspur pointed out to Glendower. Continue reading “The End of the Pandemic”

Don’t Ask me About the Economy

When people get to know that I am an economist, for instance on a flight, I often get asked about the economy or even the stock market. I just make up some stuff if the mood strikes me but sometimes I tell them that I don’t know. You tell me, I say.

As it happens, I am not interested in the economy per se. I am a serious student of economics but am only marginally interested in the economies of countries. What’s reported in the media regarding macroeconomic variables such as inflation, unemployment, GDP growth rates , etc., are to me mostly noise that can be profitably ignored. News is mostly noise anyway. It’s literally noise in the case of TV news but also figuratively speaking news is noise because the signal is hard to discern in the meaningless drivel that gets shoveled around. Continue reading “Don’t Ask me About the Economy”

What I Believe

My normative ethical position has a simple side-constraint[1] which is that it is immoral to enslave people or to impose costs on them. Enslaving people entails using them for one’s own ends, and it is a violation of rights of others. Each individual has a right to his body, labor and talents. Using a person in service of one’s own ends is impermissible. Here nothing is said about what ends one may pursue. The only imperative — a categorical imperative and not a contingent imperative — is that enslaving others is a violation of their rights to self-ownership.

I subscribe to deontological ethics.[2] That means, one is morally obligated to do one’s duty, whatever that may be. This is distinct from consequentialist ethics which hold that the right thing to do is whatever has good consequences. One variety of consequentialist ethics is utilitarianism which views moral actions to be those that result in the greatest good for the greatest number. Continue reading “What I Believe”

Open Thread — Ask me Anything

* Molly’s kitchen garden flowers

Been a few days since the last entry on the blog. To jump start this stalled system here’s an open thread. What’s on your mind?

The purple flowers on the left are from a friend’s kitchen garden in Westmont, IL. Click on the image to embiggen in a new tab. Below, just for fun, I’d like to present two quite unrelated videos. I imply nothing by the conjunction. I hope you get a laugh out of them. Continue reading “Open Thread — Ask me Anything”

Was the British Empire Good for the World

The world today is quite different from the world of 1945, when the last world war ended. The map above broadly identifies colonies of the Western/European powers. (Click on the map to embiggen.)

Great Britian, an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe, is around 210,000 sq kms. In 1945, in just the Indian subcontinent, Britian colonized an area 22 times larger than its home territory, or around 4.5 million sq kms (India – 3.3m, Pakistan 0.9m, Bangladesh 0.13m sq kms.)

Practically all parts of the world at some time in the not too distant past have been under the control of the European powers — Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, The Netherlands and Belgium. Britain has been the most successful. The list of countries that were at some point controlled by the British is really long. Here’s a list (from this wiki page.) Continue reading “Was the British Empire Good for the World”

Ennio Morricone. RIP.

I am sad to  learn that Ennio Morricone passed away today in Rome. He was 91 years old. During his career as a music composer, he scored the music for an unbelievable over 400 movies.

I’ve been a fan of his music for over 40 years and had the pleasure of introducing many of my friends to his music. People familiar with the tunes of “sphagetti westerns” such as “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” generally don’t know the name of the composer. Of all the music he wrote, my favorite is the score for the 1986 film “The Mission.” The basic musical theme is outlined in the song “Gabriel’s Oboe.” Listen. Continue reading “Ennio Morricone. RIP.”

Fourth of July Fireworks

Some people in Los Angeles, CA appear to have decided to ignore the license-permit raj regarding fireworks and celebrated the birth of the United States of America with real fireworks. One twitter user posted a video with the message:

IN THY FACE AUHORITARIAN SWINE! SO HAPPY AND PROUD! GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Continue reading “Fourth of July Fireworks”