Hello from Mexico City

A quick update to say I arrived am in Mexico City. I just checked into the hotel — Hotel Maria Barbara. The flight was fine (~4 hours) but the rest of it was bad. At SFO, the lines at the United check-in took about an hour and a half. Then security took another half hour. Upon arrival at Mexico, the immigration took another half hour. But anyhow, I am looking forward to a wonderful week here. More later.

Kanchan Gupta: Dynasty above Democracy

Democracy, like the other great invention of mankind, is a great organizing principle underlying modern societies. But both have quite strict preconditions to be met before they deliver the goods. Economists understand that markets fail under specific circumstances and have figured out mechanisms to guard against those. Similarly, I believe that the implementation of the abstract idea of democracy depends on the specifics of the situation. In India’s case, the outcome is what I call a cargo cult democracy (see my post “Cargo Cult Democracy” May 2004). Kanchan Gupta’s article, “Dynasty above Democracy“, illustrates one particularly ugly feature of Indian democracy — the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty and its baleful effect on India. Experts below, for the record.
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Online course on game theory at Stanford University

Besides being very useful, game theory is fun. A broad liberal education should include at least the basics of game theory, just as it should include the fundamentals of microeconomics. Indeed, game theory is one of the most important tools in the study of microeconomics and political science.
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Debate on Huffington Post: Is Yoga a Hindu Practice?

Yoga is a friend of mine whose full name is Yoganand. He’s a Hindu and I have yet to meet a non-Hindu named Yoganand, or even Yoga or Anand. Not conclusive proof that Yoga is a Hindu practice but it does lend some support to the claim that yoga is a Hindu (and the religions related to it, Buddhism and Jainism) practice. Yoga is a Sanskrit word which shares the same root as the English verb “yoke” — to join. Yoga aims to join a consciousness with the Consciousness. Anyway, go check out the debate on Huffington Post. You will first have to vote on what you position is on the question, then read the debate and cast your vote again. They want to see how many minds are changed as a result of the debate. (Note that the “before” and “after” numbers don’t really tell you how many people actually changed their minds. See below.)
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Sam Harris: Islam and the Future of Liberalism

The word “liberalism” denotes two almost opposite set of ideas. To distinguish between the two, it has become necessary to qualify the term. “Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets.” In contrast to that, “social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding civil rights. Under social liberalism, the good of the community is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual.” It is social liberalism that Sam refers to in a piece on his blog. Excerpts below the fold, for the record.
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