Public Choice Theory and Behavioral Symmetry

One major premise of public choice theory is “behavioral symmetry”.

People act in their self-interest. They do what they believe will get them the most bang for the buck for themselves and their loved ones. This they do in the private sphere, such as in the supermarket.

Behavioral symmetry posits that when people act in the public sphere — as voters, politicians, bureaucrats — they also act in their self-interest. They don’t get transformed into other-directed, selfless beings capable of discovering what is true, beautiful and act solely in the interest of the “common good.” Continue reading “Public Choice Theory and Behavioral Symmetry”

With love, to my Leftist, “Secular” Friends

It’s deja vu all over again, as Yogi Berra observed. We’ve seen this play before. Not once but all throughout human history.

The pendulum swings. Instead of introspection and looking into the mirror, the breast-beating, hand-wringing crowd of ignoramuses can’t — or worse won’t — read the writing on the wall. But that’s par for the course for the leftists and “secularists”, the people that this piece is addressed to.

Five years ago, in May 2014, I had tweeted, “Will @narendramodi be PM for the next 5 years? Absolutely not. He will be PM for the next 15 years. Get used to it.” It was a bold expression of hope that Modi will bring about structural changes in the economy and the governance of India, and that will ensure his continued leadership. Continue reading “With love, to my Leftist, “Secular” Friends”

Top 10 Countries GDP Ranking

Nicely done video showing how the top 10 countries with the highest GDP 1960-2017. It’s fascinating to watch the transition of China from being fairly irrelevant to being a world economic power. Note that India (thanks to Nehruvian socialism) is still struggling to be relevant. Do watch the video full-screen mode.

It’s nice to see the transitions as a movie. However I recommend pausing the video at each year and noting the size of each economy. We should note that the data is regarding the GDP, not per capita GDP. So when China’s GDP is smaller than France’s, for example, we have to appreciate that China’s population was 10 times that of France. The gap between par capita GDP in the world is immense.

Was Truman a Monster? No.

No, because monster “is too forgiving a word for his depravity.”

Lord Acton’s claim that “great men are almost always bad men”[1] holds broadly for the great leaders (men and women) of the world. I think the larger the nation or country, that tendency to badness in leaders tends to get exaggerated. The US produces some of the worst excesses of the abuse of power since the US is such a powerful nation. One example of a terrible person is Harry S Truman, who became the president of the US upon the death of President Franklin D Roosevelt in April 1945.

Here’s an article by  David S. D’Amato, “Everything Wrong with the Truman Administration“, which asks, “Was Harry Truman one of the worst terrorists of all time?” and answers, “If words mean anything anymore—then absolutely, yes.” Continue reading “Was Truman a Monster? No.”

Reading: Waypoints in the Sky

It’s delightful to read well-written prose. In the following, the author Mark Vanhoenacker, a professional pilot, writes like a poet. I love everything related to aviation. Hence I recommend this to you.

A Pilot Explains Waypoints, the Hidden Geography of the Sky

An airplane navigates through the sky along a route composed of beacons and waypoints. Waypoints are defined by geographic coordinates or their bearing and distance from a beacon, and by a name, which typically takes the form of a five-letter capitalized word—EVUKI, JETSA, SABER. The idea is that they will be pronounceable and distinct to controllers and pilots regardless of their first language. The pilot’s map of the world, and the flight computers’ too, is atomized into these waypoints. They are the smallest nuggets of aerial geography, and in some sense the only such unit that matters once you leave the runway. They are the sky’s audible currency of place. … Continue reading “Reading: Waypoints in the Sky”

Ask Me Anything — The Bodhidharma Edition

Porcelain statuette of Bodhidharma from the late Ming dynasty, 17th century

I am partial to Zen stories and koans. Zen is a Japanese tradition but I delight in the fact that its roots are Indian. That great tradition actually started in India as dhyana — which in English roughly translates into meditation. From India, the practice was taken to China. There is a famous Zen koan which says, “Why did Bodhidharma come from the West?” Meaning, why did Bodhidharma go from India to China.

The all knowing wiki quotes some esoteric source:

The Dharma Master was a South Indian of the Western Region. He was the third son of a great Indian king. His ambition lay in the Mahayana path, and so he put aside his white layman’s robe for the black robe of a monk […] Lamenting the decline of the true teaching in the outlands, he subsequently crossed distant mountains and seas, traveling about propagating the teaching in Han and Wei. Continue reading “Ask Me Anything — The Bodhidharma Edition”

Wealth and Poverty — Past, Present and Future

That’s the Ford Model T. The fanciest car that you, as a fairly well-off American, could have bought in 1925 — the year it went on the market. Pretty neat, eh? Well, not as neat as a present day BMW or Jaguar, or Benz, or even any average sedan or SUV. No billionaire of 1925 could have bought a Honda CRV even.

Just a 100 years ago, even billionaires could not afford any of the gazillion things we average folks can order from the comfort of our bedrooms and have it delivered the next day. We are immensely richer than even the richest emperors. The Palace of Versailles, the principal royal residence of France from 1682, under Louis XIV, did not have air conditioning or refrigerators. No telephones. No surround sound, no 4K UHD video system. Not even ice cream in summer. I am richer than Louis XIV. [See note 1.] Continue reading “Wealth and Poverty — Past, Present and Future”

Happy 120th Birthday, Prof Friedrich Hayek

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Herr Professor Doktor Friedrich August von Hayek.

Since Hayek was an Austrian, the birthday greetings in German is appropriate, wouldn’t you say? He was born May 8th, 1899, and died 23rd March at the age of 92 in 1992.

Hayek was the greatest philosopher of liberty and freedom of the 20th century CE. He was an economist but like Adam Smith, he was a master of moral philosophy. In celebration, here are a few quotes that I like you to read. Continue reading “Happy 120th Birthday, Prof Friedrich Hayek”

Economic Theory is a Theory of Collective Choice

Any theory of collective choice must attempt to explain or to describe the means through which conflicting interests are reconciled. In a genuine sense, economic theory is also a theory of collective choice, and, as such, provides us with an explanation of how separate individual interests are reconciled through the mechanism of trade or exchange. Indeed, when individual interests are assumed to be identical, the main body of economic theory vanishes. If all men were equal in interest and in endowment, natural or artificial, there would be no organized economic activity to explain. Each man would be a Crusoe. Economic theory thus explains why men co-operate through trade: They do so because they are different.

The above is a quote from the book The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, published in 1962 (available for free at the Online Library of Liberty.) Continue reading “Economic Theory is a Theory of Collective Choice”

A Bunch of Fun Facts

  • We individually consume practically nothing of what we produce
  • No one knows how to make a smartphone or a commercial jetliner
  • Planning mostly does not work
  • Some dictatorships work
  • Poverty will be over across the world by 2035
  • The so-called “natural resources” are all man-made
  • We will never run out of natural resources — we will keep making more natural resources
  • Ideas matter more than stuff
  • The poor of today are richer than the richest of yesterday — and the richest of today will be poorer than the poor of tomorrow
  • Climate change is not a problem, just like the population problem before it
  • DEMOCRACY has little to do with FREEDOM


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