Sardar Patel, Power, Persuasion and Statue

The Sardar Patel statue, also called “The Statue of Unity” which is to be unveiled tomorrow Oct 31st, is the biggest statue in the world at 182 meters tall. Built at the cost of Rs 3000 crores, it must be impressive to behold because of its sheer size. It is supposed to represent unity of the nation and to be a tribute to a great man who united India.

Maybe that’s so. But to me, it represents the power that those in government use to force people to do their bidding. Certainly, it’s not the worst form of naked tyranny like marching people off to the gulags to be worked until they die but it is something that reasonable leaders of a free people should never do. It is a shameful display of a gigantic ego and the misuse of power. Continue reading

Corruption Perceptions Index, and Jesus and Mo

The 2017 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) of Transparency International ranked Pakistan at 117 out of 180 countries. India was ranked 81, worse than China at 77. The top spots are (in order)  New Zealand, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland, Singapore. US comes in at 16, Japan at 20, Bhutan at 26.

The correlation between poverty and corruption is evident, and it is easy to argue the direction of causation to be from corruption to poverty, and then back to corruption.

For the entire list, click thisContinue reading

Free Speech and Hate Speech

You know why free speech? Because we humans are not infinitely wise. That’s all. If we, or some of us, were infinitely wise, we would be able to tell which speech was OK and which not-OK. Then the wise could sort out which speech to allow. But none of us is infinitely wise.

The way out is to allow all speech, and let us be free to decide whether to accept whatever proposition makes sense to us, and let the nonsense just be. Let whoever wants to say anything have a go at it and allow us the listeners the freedom to choose what to believe and what to reject.

OK, so we allow all speech. But what good does it do us? It helps us advance our civilization. I am making an utilitarian argument here. It is good for civilization to allow all speech, and to let them compete in the marketplace of ideas, and those that withstand scrutiny survive and advance our understanding. Continue reading

Sabarimala

It may seem odd to begin a piece regarding the on-going struggle surrounding the centuries-old Sabarimala temple in Kerala with the first lines of a book, published relatively recently in 1974 by an American, which deals primarily with the rights of people and what the state can do. But it is actually quite relevant.

The preface in Robert Nozick’s book Anarchy, State and Utopia begins with the simple declaration that —

“Individuals have rights and there are things no person or group may do to them (without violating their rights). So strong and far-reaching are these rights that they raise the question of what, if anything, the state and its officials may do. How much room do individual rights leave for the state?

Continue reading

Webinar on “The Path to Prosperity” Today

Today, Saturday 20th October, Rajesh Jain and I will be hosting a webinar titled “How to Walk the Path to Prosperity”. It starts at 8:30 PM India time (8 AM Pacific, 11 AM Eastern.)

Register here for the event. To join the webinar, click on this zoom link at 8:30 PM India time (8 AM Pacific, 11 AM Eastern.)

Here are the details.  Continue reading

Modi Needs You to Transform India

Here we go again. Now that India’s 2019 general elections are just a few months away, Mr Modi wants you to help him “transform India.”

Here’s an opportunity for India’s best brains to work for PM Modi’s campaign in 2019. 

Take a sabbatical from your current job and work with Nation with NaMo till May 2019.

Dedicate your 8 months to transform India in the next 5 years.

“… work with Nation with NaMo …”  Seriously? Couldn’t find a decent copy editor even?

It’s déjà vu all over again, as the great sage Yogi Berra said.  Continue reading

Curing a disease by intensifying its causes

“War is a judgement that overtakes societies when they have been living upon ideas that conflict too violently with the laws governing the universe … Never think that wars are irrational catastrophes: they happen when wrong ways of thinking and living bring about intolerable situations.”
— Dorothy L Sayers.[1]

That quote is from E. F. Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful [2] where he meditated upon the causes of the bind that humanity finds itself in and indeed is responsible for. He posited that it was lack of wisdom that impels people to ‘cure a disease by intensifying its causes.’ Here’s what he wrote:  Continue reading

What Should the Government Do?

In a comment baransam1 asks, “Should the government fund primary education, fund higher education, fund research in basic sciences?” The answer is “No, no, and no.” Emphatic no’s.

No for the same reason that the government should not be in the business of income and wealth redistribution. It should not be in the business of charity. It should not be in the business of taking care of the indigent, the sick and the victims of accident and natural disasters. The government should not be in the business of religious indoctrination, or indeed indoctrination of any kind. The government should not engage in commercial activities like transportation and communications. It should not run hospitals and hotels, clubs and cafes, factories and farms. It should not run banks and non-banking financial institutions.

The list of prohibitions — the “blacklist”– is too long. It is best to have a “whitelist” of what the government is allowed and required to do, and nothing beyond that.  Why? The answer is one word: violence.  Continue reading