Ask Me Anything — The Boston Edition

Greetings from Boston, MA. I arrived last evening from San Jose, CA to visit my friend Kanchan Banerjee and his family. The weather here was a shock — hot and humid — after the pleasant cool and dry of the SF Bay area. That wonderful weather spoils you something silly. Anyway, lots of stuff going on. What’s on your mind?

Author: Atanu Dey


8 thoughts on “Ask Me Anything — The Boston Edition”

    1. Shiv Kumar:

      The gap between hope and delivery is hard to objectively assess because both are to some extent subjective, with delivery less subjective than hope. Individuals hope. Whether or what was delivered is a matter that can be collectively evaluated.

      It is possible that for some there is no gap. For someone who expects government to be the commanding deity granting favors to all, the hope and delivery is seamless. For someone (like me) who is against big government, the hope was that Modi would undo the harm that Congress had done. That hope has been totally destroyed. Like I said, it is a subjective matter. I have spoken to many who appear to be quite happy with what Modi is doing.

      Speaking for myself, I think that Modi had no intentions of reducing the scope, power and size of the government. He has never met a problem that the government cannot solve. He has not ever seen any case for reducing government interference in any matter, public or private. Education, health, housing, transportation, entertainment, news, research, industry, defense, equity investment, debt investment, banking, project financing, art, scientific research, morality, &c, &c . . . . ad nauseum. — the answer to every concern is more government and more taxes.

      The country is in poor shape.


      1. I agree, Atanu. There is a great need to reduce govt power over people’s lives. I don’t see that happening. Thanks for your response.


  1. Indians can distinguish a Jnani from a self-deluded fraud. They will find out ultimately.

    “Your own Self-realization is the greatest service you can render the world”.


    1. Speaking for myself, Europe is a good place to visit but the US is a better place to live. In the US, there are no language barriers for English speakers. The cost of living is lower in the US. It is also more dynamic. Finally, the US is a land of immigrants. It is easier to feel at home here than in Europe. Hope this addresses your question.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Atanu,

    What is the best way to contribute to nation building? This is a question that am sure bothers several readers of your blog. A lot of us are frustrated by the state of things but cannot do much more than making token donations to NGOs and leaving comments on blogs.

    A case in point – several government departments have website interfaces that will not pass muster for even a well-run small business in the private world. Forget about being able to do something about it, there is no easy way to even communicate this! Changing them for the better would truly impact thousands of people.

    +1 to your comment on Modi not meeting a problem that he thinks the government cannot solve. In another context, I asked someone with experience in administration if there is any scope for parallel entry into government or related services in India and that person categorically stated, “Not in Modi’s rule.”


    1. Raghuveer,

      Pardon the delay in replying.

      You ask, “What’s the best way to contribute to nation building?” An interesting question. Many would glibly answer, “By selfless, by sacrificing your own narrow self-interest and doing good for others.” Great saints recommend that constantly. And it does not work because we are not selfless, other-regarding saints. Any plan that requires saints for its fulfillment is bound to fail because saints are in short supply (except in the case of the Roman Catholic Church which creates saints upon demand.)

      To get there, we have to start here and with what is available here. What we have here is ordinary people, with ordinary concerns, with ordinary abilities, with ordinary ambitions. Each one of us has only a limited understanding of what “the good” is. We are not given unbounded knowledge and understanding of what needs to be done. That’s the bad news.

      The good news is that we don’t need to do great, noble, earth-shattering things. All we need to do is do whatever we are good at, take care of our limited wants with whatever limited means we have. A nation is a collection of individuals, with each individual doing what is good for himself as he understands “the good” to be. Out of this self-motivated individual work emerges the social good — something that no individual has the capacity to imagine, leave alone direct or bring into being.

      Be good, rather than try to do good. What does “being good” mean? Simply that you don’t coerce others into doing anything against their will. Mind your own business. If we all minded our own business, the world would be a much better place.

      The greatest enemy of the basic principle of minding your own business is the government. Every government minds other people’s business. That is the primary source of all our troubles. Not just in this or that part of the world–this problem is universal.

      So far I have claimed that we should just do what is good for us (where “good” is defined subjectively and would differ from person to person). Is there some social (as opposed to individual) good that is worth aiming for? Yes. That’s the creation of institutions that help people do whatever they personally aim to do. Institutional building is that social task that needs collective action — because no individual is capable of doing this alone. Institutions are what we can call “collective goods” (as opposed to private goods.)

      This is a very partial answer to your question. A fuller investigation of the question will have to wait.

      Also, I have some thoughts on the poorly designed websites. It’s just an instance of what happens when people are given a task that is not their business. Later.



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