Open Thread: Speak up

To minimize spam, comments are closed after 21 days of posting. That’s a pity as sometimes people like to comment on archived posts. The occasional open thread should help in this regard.

I have been pondering where I want to go with this blog. One idea is to increase the range by posting all sorts of things that I find interesting. One way is to post links with very very brief commentary, and every now and then post an original article. I have some requests that I should post very brief “basic principles of economics” sort of thing. Let me see what I can do to overcome my laziness.

So stop lurking. Introduce yourself to other readers, tell us where you are from, and be critical.

NOTE: If you wish to not bother with registering before commenting, here’s a generic username and password which you could use. Username: lurker Password: lurking

POSTSCRIPT: If you do use the generic “lurker” login, please do sign off with your actual name or even a persistent pseudonym so that the comment can be referred to. Thanks.

37 thoughts on “Open Thread: Speak up

  1. rahuldeodhar Thursday March 13, 2008 / 9:35 am

    I read this blog (through reader) to get to know your views – and it is rewarding – so brief commentary is better.

    Development is a big question for us Indians- and lot of us are searching for alternatives to make it happen while keeping our day jobs – I am one of them.



  2. lurker Thursday March 13, 2008 / 10:18 am

    I’m a recent subscriber, so not sure if you’ve already posted on this issue. Any thoughts on getting kids familiar with economics.

    chica (


  3. SaratKumar Thursday March 13, 2008 / 10:24 am

    I am a regular reader here but I hardly leave any comment. I often feel like writing in but your writings are so complete that I don’t feel like my comments would add much value to it. It would end up being a simple ‘well-done’ comment, which is too obvious to say.
    Seeing the quality, volume and frequency of your posts, it makes me wonder how you manage to get so much time to write these. These don’t look carelessly written and, so, would have taken considerable time.
    Regarding, how I would like the blog to go, I think you should write about whatever you find interesting and not limit yourself to specific issues. The way the blog’s going right now is fine.
    It’s always a great delight reading reading your writings.


  4. abhijatm Thursday March 13, 2008 / 11:08 am

    Hi Atanu,

    Was reading a book on moral philosophy and something that i read there (and on your blog) struck me forcefully. You say that “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”. i.e. Monkeys saving fish from water analogy.

    From a philosophical perspective, ‘what is a moral action?’ can be divided into two schools :
    1. Consequentialist school – If it leads to favourable outcomes, it is moral. This is a subset of the ‘utilitirianism’ school . (the greatest good for the greatest number view)
    2. Deonotogical view : If the ‘intention’ behind what was being done was right, the action is moral regardless of the outcome.

    It is simple when we talk about simple moral situations. Should we tell a white lie if it saves an innocent’s life ? Both the outcome school and the intention school will agree. But in more ambiguous moral situations, we hit a roadblock.

    So lets consider your statement “the path to hell is paved with good intentions”. Your position is that of the consequentialist school’s. Outcome-based. The fish died and hence the act was immoral. And broadly i agree.

    My doubt is what to do when the outcomes are not clear ab-initio ? And we have only motives to judge people. Now look at the monkey. The monkey does not know that the fish will die. Should we then chastise the monkey and call him immoral ?

    The sudden introduction of democarcy in India is often vilified without India being ‘prepared’ for it. (vast majority ignorant etc.) But will i judge the people who instituted this system harshly ? I mean should i judge Chachaji and Co very harshly because he insisted on it then ? In retrospect we may be wise and say that the outcome was bad and hence it was an immoral choice (dead fish) but did anybody at that time KNOW that universal sufferage is a bad thing ?

    In all fairness, i cannot bring myself to believe that people were so machiavellian back then that they calculated that universal suffeage will lead to serving their own (political class’) narrow ends. So if their motives were pure, was it not a moral act ?

    So the philosophical problem in your consequentialist view is – that may not be possible to predict the consequence of something very complex with confidence. So judging an action in retrospect is a post-mortem. It does not tell us very much what to do at THAT point in time.

    One may play around with words and replace ‘immorality’ with ‘stupidity’. But sometimes we cannot predict that what we are doing with the best intentions is stupid or not ?

    Whew…Long comment. Let me know what you think.



  5. lurker Thursday March 13, 2008 / 11:24 am

    I have been a regular reader (lurker) of this blog for quite some time and i find your views and articles interesting and thought provoking.

    I would like to see more of your views of things you find worth commenting on and original articles than a brief commentary and a link to some other stories.

    Gopal V


  6. abhijatm Thursday March 13, 2008 / 11:35 am

    And hey – I dont think short posts with links to other places should find space on your blog. There are enough blogs & article-aggregators out there from to

    I look forward to your blog as it is a unique opportunity to know YOUR views. Your articles and your points of view in your style. Dont dilute it.



  7. KO Thursday March 13, 2008 / 12:38 pm

    Reading for more than a year now, but this is my first (perhaps second) comment here!

    I vote for this: One way is to post links with brief commentary, and every now and then post an original article.

    The frequency of posting is already pretty high, IMHO. There must be a book’s worth of stuff here already…


  8. thequark Thursday March 13, 2008 / 12:42 pm

    I am an infrequent visitor. So far avoided the pains to create an account to comment but came to age now.

    Can you use captchas? They can surely beat any form of automation done by spammers.

    If some one wants to target specifically you he can very well automate creating user accounts and spamming.


  9. harsha Thursday March 13, 2008 / 1:39 pm

    Hi Atanu

    I wanted to make some comment on AOL, and i couldn’t find another place to make my comments. I know u must be sick of this topic probably, but plz read on. I think i have something important to say. I must admit that i once used to be the so called ‘cult follower’ of ssrs for various reasons. I have had anxiety problems and in search for an answer i went to AOL and what i found out with this organisation is clearly evident from the posts on ssrs here.

    Buddha found out the cause of misery and discovered a way out of it. His main aim was to get rid of the conditioned mind. A mind which can think clearly without any influence.

    I discovered AOL in no way makes a man overcome this. All it does is give energy through yoga and concentration through an age old technique of meditation in India. I am of the opinion that one should not comment on anything without experiencing it himself. I don’t know what ssrs is or whether AOL does service to humanity but it sure doesn’t change the conditioned thinking of man. No wonder people who reacted to your comments have blind faiths . No wonder they react when someone says something which they don’t like. I’m like that too, but it helps that i know i react.



  10. Dr. Bhargava Thursday March 13, 2008 / 1:42 pm

    I am a long time reader of this blog.

    I am interested to know about the school transformation thing that you were had written many months ago

    I am all for increasing the frequency and range of posting.

    You have steered me towards many wonderful sites/ideas. TED Videos, Free to Choose video series, Point of Inquiry podcast and many more.

    Please keep posting frequently.


  11. bhopale Thursday March 13, 2008 / 1:55 pm

    1) post all sorts of things that I find interesting with very very brief commentary
    2) very brief basic principles of economics sort of thing
    3) every now and then post an original article
    I think it should be “all the above”, but if that is not an option then it has to be “original article”


  12. lurker Thursday March 13, 2008 / 2:58 pm

    Aadis ( here.

    1) Good economics. I’ve been drifting into economics for pretty much the same reasons you did (your earlier post…). A very big push was the Baroque Cycle by Stephenson.

    2) Like your no holds barred style (though sometimes it gets too much: “yes, yes, I got your point!”. ref: patwa post)

    Stuff I want 😀

    I’d rather have longish articles than links. There’s too much info and not enough analysis. So I find articles better. Do post about other interesting things!

    cheerio, and keep blogging.


  13. BytePro Thursday March 13, 2008 / 3:04 pm


    It’s your blog :). Go whatever way you feel it right. As a reader I get to see … errr … read … you as a human being. Going any other way than what you feel would be contrary to the very spirit of this blog: individuality, originality and freedom.

    I agree with Abhijat (BTW, that’s another “Abhijat” apart from me) that your views have a consequentialist flavour. But I ignore that aspect in favour of the larger problem of Education issues that you’ve been trying for a long time (err … I know it to be so for at least a couple of years).
    Different folks different strokes, and different readers have different views. That’s what keeps me bringing back here :). Not too casual, nor too dense (as typical academic stuff goes) but still precise enough!

    Keep writing. All the best.

    – Abhijat (an other one! 😉 )


  14. atlantis Thursday March 13, 2008 / 3:56 pm

    hi atanu,
    i am a very recent reader of your blog and am very much delighted to know that there are persons who think so logically and write so pragmatically.

    its very difficult to be critical of you as you write so comprehensively. even your worst critic will have to admire your way with words especially when you retaliate..(i read that scathing piece of mind given to some sadhya).

    as far as increasing the range of the blog, pls maintain your originality with few but very thought provoking articles rather than diluting it with links and numerous posts.

    i assume that people who visit your blog want your views rather than links.

    keep writing….its really a pleasure.

    To acquire the habit of READING (atanu dey’s blog) is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all MISERIES OF LIFE!!!
    W. Somerset Maugham.


  15. lurker Thursday March 13, 2008 / 8:08 pm

    Dear Atanu, very frankly I’m not sure this blog is the best utilization of your time. Even a relatively-illiterate person like that Varma chap (Bachelor in English with minor in Economics) can produce material comparable to this blog. And we both know there are hundred million Varmas out there with some sort of minor comprehension of economics, suave, turn of phrase, pulse on populace & so on. They are called journalists and they are paid a pittance because that is precisely what they deserve.
    Somebody with a economics PhD from Berkeley better go into much more depth and not be bothered by sideshows like ssrs or nehru. But once you do that, you will lose your audience which simply doesn’t have that kind of brainpower. So you stick to what comes easy – bashing the gandhis, aol, the liberal blogger/MSM journalist on topics they know and care very little about. If journalist writes about REGS or OLPC or whatever it is not because they are uber-passionate about these topics. They have a job & the newspaper pays their bills and if the editor says write article praising REGS they spend half hour cut-pasting from wikipedia, another half hour rewriting it so it doesn’t look like plagiarism, then hit the pub for a peg or two. Tomorrow if the editor says dismiss the REGS, they will repeat the same process. They don’t care either way. But you do. So when a knowledgeable sincere person like you wastes his time battling paper tigers I feel it is a futile waste of effort. Given your opportunity cost, you can maximize your payoff by teaching ECON 433 to graduate students at Berkeley, publishing academic papers for the tenure track, debating other economics faculty who are at the same intellectual wavelength as you.


  16. avadhoot Thursday March 13, 2008 / 8:19 pm

    Hi atanu,

    My over all very happy with the way you blog. You often have thought out the entire topic before blogging, so most of the times I agree with what you say.

    Now, for future direction of the blog, I like it the way it is. But I would appreciate if you focussed more on the economic aspect of India’s development. Like the things where India’s policy is right or wrong. That is upper most in my mind, because if and when I get an opportunity to do something good in India, it will help me.


  17. lurker Thursday March 13, 2008 / 9:03 pm

    I am a regular reader of your blog but rarely post my comments. I do not think that posting on all sort of things that interest you is a good idea. There are too many blogs out there covering too many things. Doing the same here will dilute the unique personality of the blog. Moreover an occasional visitor to the site might get confused between economics related postings, where you are speaking as an expert and other postings where you are simply expressing your personal views at one-to-one level with your reader.

    In my opinion this blog should focus primarily on economic issues. In any case, it will be better to separate the blog in two groups – Atanu Dey as economist and personal musings of Atanu Dey.


  18. Ike Thursday March 13, 2008 / 9:33 pm

    I come to catch other perspectives – and this is a great place to do it.

    Atanu – write what you want. When you start worrying about “an audience,” you self-censor. There are lessons and nuggets of helpful wisdom in many many areas. Sometimes, it’s the intersection of two thoughts that provides an insight in something unrelated.

    Write what you want… let US decide what your theme is!


  19. baransam Thursday March 13, 2008 / 10:12 pm

    Beware of the fact that India still does not appreciate/want/understand freedom-of-expression. Some of your posts on religion/faith can actually land you in jail. Look what we have done to Tasleema Nasreen. Or for that matter the Ahmedabad art college student. The lynch-mob does not have the capability to reason. The mob will not hesitate to take your comments out of context and use that against you.
    I do not know what your plan of action is. If you want to change the system from within, make sure that you have some good and influential lawyer friend in real world. We, your blog fans, will be pretty useless/helpless to get you out of any real mess.


  20. chenchu0987 Thursday March 13, 2008 / 10:13 pm

    This blog presents correct and balanced viewpoints, especially on economics and education. Not only that, it has presented good insights and ideas on a variety of matters.

    For us lay people, could you give us an introduction to economic concepts? A series of posts on economic theory and its relevance vis-a-vis India?


  21. amar Thursday March 13, 2008 / 10:36 pm

    Dear Atanu,

    I am a long time reader of this blog and am a great admirer of your writing. The wisdom I get from your blog is really priceless.

    As some others said, there are lots of “popular blogs” which are at no more than data/information level. I read your blog primarily for what I see as the wisdom in it and never has this blog disappointed me. (Yes, the occasional links to TED etc. do help, as they are pointers to someone else’s wisdom.)

    So, please continue the good work and write on what you want and the items you are passionate about. I think there are lots of people out there — just like me — who need material for their grey cells in the broadly defined topic of “India’s development”. You are helping me by writing here and I believe you are helping others too.



  22. rathipankajj Thursday March 13, 2008 / 11:24 pm

    Hey Atanu,

    I am an engineer with lot of interest in economics. Also, I used to be a resident of Pune and visit frequently and would like to meet with you some time.

    As per your blog: I think being a long time reader, I have come to think that you become repetitious sometimes. You promise to write on some stuff and then sometimes it goes in oblivion (excuse me for not pointing out any specific post). When I read you are going to follow-up; expectations build up as there will be a detailed perspective in the future.

    Sometimes your posts are very long (ranting is your right as its you r blog).

    Lastly, I have written to you about this in email communications, your blog sometimes takes very long to load (I access it from Akron, OH in the US).

    Thank you for listening.


  23. lurker Friday March 14, 2008 / 12:56 am

    ive been reading up regularly ,
    but ur login is rather irritating to figure out and the pass u have provided doesn’t work

    posting stuff u like, or links with very very brief commentary is a good idea if content is very interesting and will save peoples time , but it shouldn’t be too repetitive or too well known as readers will loose interest
    keep up the good workl


  24. lurker Friday March 14, 2008 / 3:59 am

    Atanu, can you write sometime about what alternative long term relief measures could have been provided to farmers in Rs. 60000 cr? Would a government subsidized crop insurance scheme have been more sustainable?



  25. amar Friday March 14, 2008 / 5:59 am

    I agree with some of the above posters.

    Your blog takes a long time to load and it does not come up in bloglines.

    Please check.


  26. dp.chalasani Friday March 14, 2008 / 6:44 am

    Hi Atanu,

    I have been reading your blog for a long time now…perhaps two years, if I remember correctly.
    I surely hope you won’t resort to posting links with brief commentary. The originality of your writing keeps me coming back to your blog…I’ll also admit that I agree with several of your views and thats another reason I regularly read your blog.

    You might consider having guest bloggers write here. That could bring more frequent posts and more readers to enlightenment about your ideas and opinions. Something like Tyler Cowans’ blog. It will also ensure that the voice of reason is still heard over the always loud cacophony of stupidity all around.


  27. lurker Friday March 14, 2008 / 12:24 pm

    Hi Atanu,

    Have been quite a regular reader of your blog. Never bothered to leave comments because of the registration. Now, am going to use this login to post all comments [:)]

    In my opinion, you can post brief commentary of the things you find interesting and provide the readers with the links. But I really look forward to your original articles on economics or articles like the Mother Teresa series. Really opened my eyes to a completely new facet of the saint.



  28. Sukesh Friday March 14, 2008 / 4:40 pm

    You have made a quite good “audience” for this blog. So I will say as an obligation to your readers you should keep the existing blogs as it is which is blogging more or less on economic, reasoning stuff.
    But an author must not restrict himself as well, so you can make a separate thread of your blog for that purpose which will not hinder existing blog.

    like say “”


  29. lurker Saturday March 15, 2008 / 11:00 am

    I have been a regular lurker here.

    I found it very strange when i found very little or almost no posts from you about the latest Budge. I came looking for your views on Rs 60,000 Crore Agri Subsidy – but did not find much in the way of posts from you on the subject.

    Why Not.
    Why not speak for the (honest) farmer who repaid the loan! This subsidy is a direct invitation to become immoral and dishonest – 100% loans will not be repaid in future, and finally loan availabilty willd dry up too.


  30. lurker Sunday March 16, 2008 / 9:20 am

    [Comment edited out.]


  31. lurker Sunday March 16, 2008 / 10:17 am

    Do write about “RELIGION”/”DIN” vs other social arrangement.
    Take Dennets proposal on TED

    and then go see responses from “RELIGIOUS”
    vs other social arrangements(dharmic, pagan, animist)
    More or less chinese, japanese, non islamic indian and all pagan animist worldview would be ok(and has been OK with dennetts proposal historically) and look at the other view point.


  32. Atanu Dey Sunday March 16, 2008 / 11:19 am

    Thanks all for commenting on this open thread. Here are my responses where warranted.

    (The numbers within parenthesis refer to the comment number above.)

    (1) What can you do to help with development while keeping your day job? I suppose the first step would be to learn what is development and what are the barriers. Then vote (with your wallet or at the ballot box) for policies and people with whom you agree.

    (2) How to get kids familiar with economics? I think that teaching kids logic is important. Economics — at least at the level at which the lay person has to understand it — is basically logical thinking about the causes and consequences of human action. See my post on “Reasoning economically” for a bit more.

    (3) (5) (14) (20) (21) Thanks to all who have expressed kind words about my posts. I find writing hard work. It does not come easily to me. I like the thinking part in most things and the doing is difficult. What keeps me writing is the encouragement of friends and colleagues.

    (4) (13) “the philosophical problem in your consequentialist view” … that is a long separate post.

    (6) (12) OK, will mostly write original posts and not dilute the blog with links.

    (7) (11) Yes, there is a book contained within all the archived stuff here. OK, will post links with brief commentary. 🙂

    (8) Captchas? OK.

    (9) AOL and SSRS. Oh dear!

    (10) Where is my education venture going? It is going, slowly but surely. I am confident that it will work. It is a big problem and I am patient enough.

    (15) Is this blog a waste of my time? No, it is not. Primarily this blog is meant for me to understand what I know and what I need to learn. As a side-effect, it helps some others as well. Should I not teach grad level economics? Even if I could, I am not interested. I would rather teach introductory courses in economics to a very large number of students rather than teach esoteric stuff to a few. It is a matter of individual preference.

    I respectfully disagree with the idea that one can as competently write about economic matters without a decent foundation in economics.

    (16) I will try to do the best I can.

    (17) Thanks. Will consider separating the personal posts from the others.

    (18) I never worry about my audience. I am certainly not worried about winning a popularity contest. Which is why I never have to be “politically correct.” I just try to be correct to myself. Some will of course find it unpalatable. But that is why it takes all sorts to make a world. 🙂

    (19) Yes, there is always the danger of being persecuted for one’s expressed views in India. India is a not a free country. If your views offend some people, they can resort to violence. That threat of violence can prompt the government to declare you as the party responsible for the violence and put you away. The way to change this state of affairs is to challenge it by speaking your mind. Slinking away is not going to help.

    (continued below)


  33. Atanu Dey Sunday March 16, 2008 / 11:52 am

    (continued from the previous comment.)

    (22) I live in Pune. I welcome visitors.

    Repetition is a flaw unless one is trying to learn something. As I previously said (here once again I repeat myself), writing for me is a learning exercise.

    About not completing some series of posts: I have some form of attention deficit disorder. Seriously though, I have to make sure that I bite off only what I can chew.

    (23) The login is lurker and the password is lurking.

    (24, 29) I am writing about the problems of Indian farmers in the recent series.

    (26) Guest blogging was considered and rejected right from the beginning of this blog. The idea was this blog expresses my personal views and mine alone. I do write for group blogs from time to time, however.

    (27, 28) Thanks for the suggestions.

    (30, 31) I will delete these two comments.


  34. ashish Monday March 17, 2008 / 3:31 pm

    i would vote for some concise articles on basic economics, if you choose a theme wr.t. education, i would be more delighted.

    anything else is your choice, but just links with some brief write up sounds waste of your time. perhaps you could do that once in a while, only to relieve you of your boredom or hard work (of writing original article).

    i liked your theme of farmers’ suicides and basic economics. to keep some basic doubts (like what about subsidies even in the US, or “captive markets”), plz do drop links or hints to such possible confusion and their resolution (mere hints, let that not be a great distraction).



  35. jayant-manik Tuesday March 18, 2008 / 2:34 am

    I join the already rather long queue of well-wishers, who like myself, are regular readers of your blog and enjoy your insights into micro/macro economic systems as well as your sporadic rants against all things “great and small”.
    Economics is not just about market power, resources or lack thereof, game theory and the list seems endless…rather it is about CHOICE – my ability to choose. Profit and consumerism by themselves are not sustainable.
    In closing – I am sure that your blog has touched a lot of young people in a positive way, rubbed a few the wrong way and possibly even pissed the odd “ignoranus” off.

    Keep it going! All the best!

    Jayant N.


  36. lurker Wednesday March 19, 2008 / 11:21 am

    Dear Sir,

    As an intellectual and a human being, please devote some time to highlight the decades of misery the Chinese dictators have heaped on the Tibetan culture and people. The West have conveniently clammed up, tacitly supporting the Chinese suppression in Tibet. Their economies are too delicate to withstand any expressed displeasure from the immoral Chinese. The Indian government has once again forsaken its most sensitive guests. Buddhists even if from outside India are Gautama’s children. Oh why does India have to suppress simple marches by the refugee monks within Indian territory?

    You have rightly slammed the virulence of monotheistic fundamentalism on this forum. Chinese rulers share this infamy. I request influential minds and inspiring writers such as you to fill the blogosphere with articles highlighting the cultural genocide. Can even one righteous country summon the courage to boycott their blood-stained Olympics?

    The Buddhist lurker.


  37. vasudevan Wednesday March 19, 2008 / 2:21 pm

    Dear Lurker
    As long as there are shadow warriors such as you the game would be one hell of a shadow play too. So why lament about the stricken ship?
    India is no country to stand against the might of the mighties. Neither within nor without. Tasleema is an apt example and now she wants to quit India. Suppressed are also the people of Kashmir. So who cries for them except some opportunistic crocodile tears from Pakistan? India would never tangle with China…not anymore. It just doesn’t have it within itself.


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