Fast Food Enlightenment

Markets work. That’s the “First Law” of the Extended Order of Social Interactions. I just made up that EOoSI bit but the ‘markets work’ bit is a genuine law in the sense that it expresses an observed regularity in human societies.

What does it mean? Among other things, it means that when the need (the demand) for something arises, the market spontaneously figures out a solution (the supply) without the need for some controlling authority passing orders to get that need met. Those who address the needs of people are sometimes referred to as entrepreneurs. These are the people who look around for unmet needs and figure out some way of meeting those needs.
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Cult of Personality

People all across the world follow personalities. There’s something in the human psyche that makes this particular failing so prevalent. Perhaps it confers some selective survival advantage to groups that follow personalities instead of principles. Maybe principles-based thinking is hard for people and there are gains from “outsourcing” the thinking to some chosen person who is believed to be wiser. It shows up everywhere, from messiahs (Jesus is the prototypical example), to gurus (the Pope and other charlatans come to mind), to politicians (Mohandas Gandhi, Hitler, Stalin, etc are exemplars of this breed).
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Shubho Bijoya Greetings

On Wednesday, it was Mahanabami of Durgotsav or pujo as we Bengalis refer to it in short. I went to check out some puja in the neighborhood with a friend Sudipta and his wife Suvagata. We first went to the Bay Area Durga Utsav Santa Clara, and then to the Paschimi Durga Puja at the Santa Clara Fairgrounds. Both were done quite nicely. The crowds were reasonably large, all dressed up and excited to be there. Pujo is always fun.
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Fast Trains

I find fast trains fascinating. Hence this little item caught my attention.

A Japanese magnetic levitation train has broken its own world speed record, hitting 603km/h (374mph) in a test run near Mount Fuji. The train beat the 590km/h speed it had set last week in another test.

Maglev trains use electrically charged magnets to lift and move carriages above the rail tracks.
Central Japan Railway (JR Central), which owns the trains, wants to introduce the service between Tokyo and the central city of Nagoya by 2027. The 280km journey would take only about 40 minutes, less than half the current time. [BBC. April 2015.]

fast trains

japan maglev

I find it interesting that the BBC did not explicitly mention the French TGV in the list of fast trains. The “Eurostar” category subsumes the TGV trains. Anyway, the TGV are the only fast trains I have had the pleasure of traveling in. Here are a few facts about the TGV:

  • The LGV opened to the public between Paris and Lyon on 27 September 1981.
  • The TGV holds the world speed record for conventional trains. On 3 April 2007 a modified TGV POS train reached 574.8 km/h (357.2 mph) under test conditions on the LGV Est between Paris and Strasbourg.
  • The TGV has carried over 1.6 billion passengers.
  • In almost three decades of high-speed operation, the TGV has not recorded a single fatality due to accident while running at high speed.

“The Next Billion” – Quartz Event in New Delhi

A few days ago on Oct 14th, Rajesh Jain was at “The Next Billion” event of Quartz India in New Delhi. Rajesh spoke with Bobby Ghosh, editor in chief of Quartz Events. Rajesh spoke about the need for a new constitution for India — the point that Rajesh and I had made in an article in Quartz earlier.

Rating Achievements Through “Rate of Growth”

“. . . how absurd it is to judge relative performance by rate of growth, which is as often as not evidence of past neglect rather than of present achievement. In many respects it is easier and not more difficult for an undeveloped country to grow rapidly once an appropriate framework has been secured.”

Source: F. A Hayek. The Political Order of a Free People. 1979. Page 190. Volume 3 of Law, Legislation and Liberty.

Snowden’s German TV Interview

This video is from 26th January, 2014. has the details: The Edward Snowden Interview the U.S. Media Didn’t Want You to Watch. Excerpts from it below the video.

“Every time you pick up a phone, dial a number, write an email, make a purchase, travel on the bus carrying a cell phone, swipe a card somewhere, you leave a trace, and the government has decided that it’s a good idea to collect it all, everything, even if you’ve never been suspected of a crime.”

That revelation is actually from a second interview given by former Central Intelligence Agency and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, this time to German broadcast giant ARD.
And even though ARD is the second largest public broadcaster in the world (after the British Broadcasting Company), and Snowden’s message easily unearths the largest violations of the Constitution by the US to date, our dinosaur media does not believe this is mainstream enough to cover.

To be clear, you cannot find the 30-minute interview – released via the international video-sharing site LiveLeak on Jan. 27 – on one single American news outlet.”

The Proper Role of a Government

People should be free to do whatever they can and wish to do. But that does not give license to people to do such things that cause harm to others. Since it would be too inefficient for each of us to individually protect himself or herself from harm by others, it is prudent to collectively create a mechanism that provides “policing services” that prevent anyone from causing harm to others, and in case harm is caused, to provide a means for the redressal of the harm and the punishment of the culprit. This fundamental function of providing policing services is the government’s proper role. Thus the proper role of the government must be limited to restraining people from harming others but not to forcing people into doing particular things.

In other words, the government’s job is solely to protect the negative right of every person, namely the right to be unharmed by others. Of course, there has to be a mechanism for determining what actions are harmful to others. The design of the mechanism that determine the rules — the rules of just conduct — has to be specified by a set of meta-rules. These meta-rules we call the constitution.

Who won the Nobel Prize?

Actually nobody “won” any Nobel prize in anything ever. Nobody wins a Nobel prize in anything simply because “to win” implies a contest that participants engage in. Nobel prizes — and other prizes of that nature such as the Indian “Bharat Ratna” — are awarded to certain people or institutions based on the judgement of a select group of people. This process of selecting an awardee is more subjective than say the process by which we decide who won the 100-meter dash in the Olympics in 2004 because in the latter uninvolved bystanders can agree whether or not Charlie crossed the finish line ahead of the other sprinters. In the case of Nobel prizes, people outside the selection committee can — and do — disagree with the judgement of the committee.
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