The Celestial Teapot

If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.

That’s Bertrand Russell holding forth on the idiocy of revealed religions. I am quoting him here because I feel it is time I paid more attention to what is going on with the mad monotheists (I know, redundant) are doing to wreck the world.

Poverty and Freedom

“If poverty were simply an economic problem, we would be closer to a solution by now. But underdevelopment is a web of economic, political, institutional, ethnic, and class-related connections with persistent historical roots.” That’s Bob Solow, eminent neo-classical economists, winner of the Bank of Sweden’s Economic Sciences Prize in the Memory of Alfred Nobel (1987). Clearly, he understands the distinction between economic growth and economic development as he is the celebrated author of what is called the Solow-Swan economic growth model. That model, developed in the 1950s, was supplanted by endogenous growth models in the 1980s. The latter models have microeconomic foundations and one of their implications is that you can affect the long-run growth rate through suitable policy interventions that change incentives and which in turn affect the rate of innovation.
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Pranab Bardhan on the Indian Economy

One of my gurus at UC Berkeley was Pranab Bardhan, professor of economics. “He has done theoretical and field studies research on rural institutions in poor countries, on political economy of development policies, and on international trade. A part of his work is in the interdisciplinary area of economics, political science, and social anthropology. He was Chief Editor of the Journal of Development Economics for 1985-2003. He was the co-chair of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Network on the Effects of Inequality on Economic Performance. for 1996-2007.”

Everything I know about international trade, I learnt from his lectures. He is matchless in his ability in making difficult concept accessible. It is always a pleasure to listen to him and learn. I spent some time in conversation with him last month in Berkeley. The transcript of the entire conversation I will post later. For now, here is a brief write up.
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Really productive ideas, like internal combustion and the assembly line, are hard to find… But the techno-hype that surrounds us has some real costs. It causes businesses to waste money; it causes politicians to seek high-tech fixes (give every child a laptop!) when they should be getting back to the basics (teach every child to read). The slightly depressing truth is that technology has been letting us down lately. Let’s face up to that truth, and get on with our lives.

That is Paul Krugman writing in Dec 1996.

Job Discrimination

There is no easy way for me to go about discussing a subject that I think requires some degree of hard thinking. It is always so when what one is dealing with matters that lie at the foundation of one’s entire mental edifice. Replacing the entire foundation, or even parts of it, is not a task which can be undertaken over the course of an afternoon. In most cases, I don’t think foundations can be reworked; it is best to tear down the whole structure and build upon a new foundation. Keeping that caution in mind, what I want to consider here is one of my foundational principles which is that coercion is wrong.
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