Radio Economics

Dr James Reese, an economics professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate, is the producer of Radio Economics: An Economics Podcast – Telephone Interviews with Economists Worldwide. Here you will be able to listen to podcasts of some excellent interviews. There are so many doctors interviewed there that you would think that you were in a hospital. Seriously though, you should go there and as a side benefit you will learn all about podcasting and next thing you know you would have your own podcast ready to go.

Groucho Marx claimed that he would never be a member of a club that would have him for a member. I could take a similar perverse stance and say that I would never agree to be interviewed by anyone whose standards are so low as to interview me. But I am not Groucho and Dr Reese has interviewed honest to goodness great economists. So with a great deal of trepidation, I point you to an interview of yours truly on Radio Economics.

Chalo Dilli

Not that you would notice, of course, given my sporadic blogging in general, but I thought that I should let you know that I will most likely not be posting stuff for a few days. So if you land here and find nothing new, I suggest you don’t go away without checking some of the archives.

Where, you may ask, am I going? I am off to London to see the Queen. Just kidding. I am off to New Delhi to attend the “Annual Conference of the HUDCO Chair Institutes” Sept 8-9th. The topic is “Cities: Engines of Rural Development.”

You may know of my abiding interest in rural development. I have written a concept paper on RISC–Rural Infrastructure & Services Commons. It is rather long — about 40 pages. So I would not recommend it as casual reading.

Of late there has been some action on RISC. Vinod Khosla guest-edited a recent issue of The Economic Times and he mentioned RISC in it. Then I got to hear that he spoke about RISC to the Planning Commission. And now I am going to be talking to a bunch of academics (those are the Chairs of HUDCO institutes) and some government bureaucrats (I guess from rural development departments and such.)

It has been a while since I was in Delhi. Last time in mid-February, I spent a few days meeting with people in connection with my interest in education. That is my day job–think about enabling education. My idea is to use the power tools of information and communications technologies (ICT) to make education more effective and efficient. Technology, as any economist will tell you, is labor substituting. Whenever a factor of production is expensive (labor for instance), you substitute it with a less expensive factor (capital for instance.) Since teaching labor is very expensive in India, use technology which is cheap these days.

Crazy, I hear the cry go out. How in the name of god almighty is teaching labor expensive in India? The fact is that good quality teachers are extremely–let me repeat that–extremely scarce. Scarcity implies high price. Therefore the cost of high quality teachers is prohibitive. We cannot afford high quality teachers because they are a luxury. Not just that, even if we had all the money, there is an acute shortage of teachers required. We need millions of teachers. We simply don’t have them. Hence my insistence that we have to find a substitute for good teachers and that happens to be the tools that ICT provides very inexpensively.

That’s it for now.

Blogs as Conversations

Physically, the Internet is a network of networks, a network of physical connections with computers as the nodes. In a logical sense, at a higher level of conceptualization, it is a network of relationships that is established through conversations between humans. The Internet is new but it is merely a modern technological manifestation which addresses the much older higher-level need for humans to connect. We connect in our daily lives through conversations with people in our neighborhood. The Internet expands the concept of the neighborhood to global proportions through the World Wide Web.

Conversations on the Internet are not a new phenomenon. Before the World Wide Web, the Internet was home to Usenet, a very diverse set of virtual communities (called news groups) with interests that ranged from metaphysics to culture to science and everything in between. In the mid-80s and 90s, I conversed furiously on the various Usenet groups (such as soc.culture.Indian) writing thousands of posts on matters that mattered to me as an Indian living in the US, and connecting with others with similar interests—India, economic development, Buddhism, etc. That habit of conversing with others quite easily transferred to writing a blog centered on my obsession with India’s economic growth and development.

Einstein had noted that humans, limited by time and space, suffer from what he called an “optical delusion of consciousness” which makes one experience oneself as something separate from others. The goal then, he said, was to “free ourselves by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

At its best, blogs enable that widening of compassion by connecting with others in conversations that continue to draw people with differing points of view. My blog helps me connect and learn from those who converse with me on my blog. By writing I often reveal to myself what I know implicitly but don’t know explicitly. It is process of discovery. Then there is the wider learning that comes from visiting other blogs and overhearing the conversations going on there.

Of course, one may not find all conversations interesting or meaningful. Coming across tales told by idiots full of sound and fury signifying nothing, one just moves on. There are many tellers of tales and many stories being told that deserve to be heard. Our neighborhood now has a virtually (sic) unlimited number of interesting people for us to hear stories from.

Let the blogs roll on.

To learn something

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”

— T.H. White, The Once and Future King

Ending Two Years

I love you too much
To ever start liking you
So don’t expect me
To be your friend.

Time flies like an arrow (but fruit flies like a banana.) Especially when you are having fun. I had great fun writing this blog since Sept 2003. Can’t say that I did not piss off a bunch of people. This blog has been the expression of a personal viewpoint. It could have been worse. It could have been an account of what I had for lunch or reporting on the details of the fad de jour or some such trivial pursuit. It was, instead, a contrarian viewpoint. I picked on holy cows such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahatma Gandhi, the incompetent Indian governments, Mother “the Merciless” Teresa, and others. Being an equal opportunity offender, I even dared to poke fun at Thomas “Flat-head” Friedman. Finger-pointing at idols is not taken very kindly by idol-worshippers.

I do not write about pretty things. And some of the ugliness I write about is connected with India, but not all. Me write pretty some day but not yet. The population problem received quite a bit of play on this blog. So also the problem of inadequate infrastructure.

My motivation for asking why is India poor is simple. I don’t want India to be poor. I love India too much to ever like what I see around me in India.

Only by seeking to comprehend why India is poor can we figure out how to not be poor. I admire those who have transformed their nations and societies profoundly instead of merely making pretty speeches. That is why I admire leaders like Lee Kuan Yew. I think democracy in India is a rather pathetic joke. That viewpoint is, as Dale Carnegie would have pointed out, doesn’t make friends and influence people who talk loudly about democracy without recognizing that it is an institution that does not exist in a vacuum.

I have suggested some solutions along the way. For instance, Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons. I hope some day it will be implemented. Recently I hear Vinod Khosla, my co-author in the RISC concept paper, spoke to the Planning Commission about RISC. Or my recommendations about how to make India literate in three years, or the integrated rail transportation system (IRTS), etc.

Well, that is all for now. I speak my mind and I am sure that my readers (all five of them) will not hesitate to speak their minds and tell me where I am right and more importantly where I am wrong.

Goodnight, goodbye and may your god go with you.

%d bloggers like this: