Begging for a World Class University

Consider this scenario. Someone you know imprisons his grown up children and does not allow them to go out and do jobs that they are fully capable of doing. He also locks up his productive assets and prevents his children from using them. Then he goes around begging his neighbors for help with feeding his family as he does not have any income. The words that spring to mind upon considering this man’s behavior are words like contemptible, immoral, stupid, pathetic, pitiable, and sad.
Continue reading “Begging for a World Class University”

Google for Missing Details

Sunita Narain’s article “Missing Details” in the Feb 26th edition of Business Standard talks about the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). (Hat tip: A Sarda.)

Creating productive assets such as forests and reservoirs is good for the economy, and should be done in any case. The goal of providing some income to people in financial distress in rural areas can have the valuable side-effect of the creation of productive assets. But when even that side-effect is forgotten and only employment is the goal, then there is a problem. It really becomes a total unmitigated waste when even that substandard goal of employment is subverted by corruption and theft of the financial resources.

Narain says that the details of the implementation of the scheme is missing and laments the failure of what she says was founded on a good idea. I think that NREGS is itself not a good idea to begin with because it puts the cart before the horse. I will go into the details later.

You may ask, why “Google for Missing Details” is the title of this post. The link to Narain’s article will take you to the BS article but only to a truncated version. The rest is behind a subscription wall. Here’s how you get the article if you aren’t a subscriber: google “sunita narain missing details” and you click on the version that is cached by Google.

I am clever like that 🙂

Celebrating Four Years of the UPA

Saakshi toasts the achievements of the UPA government [via The Acorn.]

Let’s also raise a toast to the Indian voter for having chosen so wisely. The UPA and what it has achieved cannot be evaluated without reference to the wisdom of a sizable portion of the Indian voters who voted them to power. If it is a bitter harvest, the seeds were deliberately and voluntarily planted.

It’s all karma, neh?

Gary Becker on Human Capital

From the Chicago Graduate School of Business magazine a brief talk with Gary Becker, “one of the first economists to study topics traditionally considered the purview of sociologists including racial discrimination, crime, family organization, and drug addiction. His work on those subjects earned him the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 1992.”

Becker is big on human capital. He talks about the importance of human capital in organizations. Economists consider human capital to be critical to development of economies. Education is therefore directly implicated in development. Here are a few quotes from Becker. (The Becker-Posner blog is worth reading.) Continue reading “Gary Becker on Human Capital”

The Numbers in Pictures

Even after living more than half my adult life in the US, I am constantly amazed by the profligacy in consumption of people in the US. What is even more remarkable is how the ultra-consumption is not limited to native born Americans; many fresh off the boat immigrants quickly take up the habit of mindless waste.

I have arrived at a generalization: Americans are extremely efficient in production and (perhaps as a consequence) are extremely inefficient in consumption. They can afford to be wasteful because they are rich. Conversely, I believe that people that are inefficient in production (in other words, poor) are forced to be efficient in consumption.
Continue reading “The Numbers in Pictures”

Advice to BSNL and MTNL

My friend, Arun Mehta, has some advice for the public sector telecom providers. They are losing customers. Arun believes that their approach is wrong and that they should see the opportunity in using their last mile access for affordable internet connectivity. I reproduce (with his permission) his recent contribution to the india-gii mailing list.
Continue reading “Advice to BSNL and MTNL”

Much Improved

Go. Profit from exile. To see, listen, walk, pause beside wisemen; question savages and madmen; and listen to stories. It is always pleasant and, sometimes, improves you.

I have neglected the blog for most of the last few weeks because I have been busy. I have listened, walked, and paused beside the wise. Though I did not question savages and madmen, I did have an experience which I can only term as transformational. I had glimpses of instant satori. Putting that in words is obviously impossible. So I will not even try to do so here. Perhaps some other time. Now it is time to get back into the fray.
Continue reading “Much Improved”

Food prices

“When you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.” That’s what George W Bush said in a press conference on May 2nd. The NY Times reports:

In response to the president’s remarks, a ranking official in the commerce ministry, Jairam Ramesh, told the Press Trust of India, “George Bush has never been known for his knowledge of economics,” and the remarks proved again how “comprehensively wrong” he is.

Continue reading “Food prices”

Boston in the Spring Time

Whenever I come to Boston, I recall the song by Dave Loggins (I like the Joan Baez version best)

Please come to Boston for the springtime
I’m stayin’ here with some friends and they’ve got lots of room
You can sell your paintings on the sidewalk
By a cafĂ© where I hope to be workin’ soon

The weather is rainy and cloudy. I am staying with friends in Acton, MA.

What else? Read the commencement address by PJ O’Rourke, “Fairness, idealism and other atrocities: Commencement advice you’re unlikely to hear elsewhere” from the LA Times of May 4th. (Hat tip: Sushant.)

PJ makes four excellent points. Of course I think they are excellent because I believe in them precisely. The short version:

1. Go out and make a bunch of money
2. Don’t be an idealist
3. Get politically uninvolved
4. Forget about fairness

The other two points I only partially agree with.

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