Ask Me Anything — Is Economics Hard?

There’s a funny story in Robert Heilbroner’s 1953 book The Worldly Philosophers (which has been republished dozens of times):

One evening Keynes was having dinner with Max Planck, the physicist who was responsible for the development of quantum mechanics. Planck turned to Keynes and told him that he had once considered going into economics himself. But he decided against it – it was too hard. Keynes repeated this story with relish to a friend back at Cambridge. “Why, that’s odd,” said the friend. “Bertrand Russell was telling me just the other day that he’d also thought about going into economics. But he decided it was too easy.” Continue reading “Ask Me Anything — Is Economics Hard?”

Train driver’s view

Probably because I associate trains with holidays when we were growing up I love trains. One time many years ago I even got to ride a diesel-electric locomotive hauling a passenger train in India — a rare treat. Thanks to YouTube, these days you can get a virtual ride in a locomotive. My favorite train-driver’s view channel is one that goes by the handle HinduCowGirl.

The driver is a Norwegian lady, who I believe is also a sky-diving instructor. She has heaps of videos of the trains she drives. I confess that I spend an inordinate amount of time watching them. All of them are pre-recorded since they don’t have the internet connectivity to live-stream the videos but many are streamed with live chat. It’s fun to hang out with others who share the love of trains. OK, so here’s one of those videos.
Continue reading “Train driver’s view”

Happy Dhanteras and Diwali

Dhanteras and Diwali Greetings to all.

First order of business. Have lots of fun eating sweets, bursting crackers, lighting lots of diyas and sparklers.

Diwali, or Deepavali, is the Hindu festival of lights. It is also the festival of wealth. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is worshiped on Diwali. Among Bengalis, Ma Kali is worshiped during Diwali. The tradition is attributed to a number of occasions.

The first day of Diwali: Dhanteras

The first day of Diwali is called Dhanteras — the thirteenth lunar day of the month of Kartik. On this day, Lord Dhanwantari came out of the ocean with amrut — the nectar of immortality — for the Devas. This day marks the beginning of Diwali celebrations. Continue reading “Happy Dhanteras and Diwali”

Dr Bronowski at Auschwitz

Dr Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 1974) the wiki informs us, was

“a British mathematician and historian. He is best known for developing a humanistic approach to science, and as the presenter and writer of the thirteen part 1973 BBC television documentary series, and accompanying book, The Ascent of Man, which led to his regard as “one of the world’s most celebrated intellectuals”.”

This is the ending sequence of episode 11 of the series recorded at the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz in German occupied Poland. Around one million people were killed there between 1940 and 1945. Continue reading “Dr Bronowski at Auschwitz”

Scott Adams on Goals

I like Scott Adams. He’s down to earth, quite clever, knows how to make it. His book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life outlines his system. He says — and I agree 100% — that goals are for losers. Winners don’t set goals; they create a system, and then work as hard as they can. If you have a good system, you will make it. The focus is on the process, not the outcome.[1]

Another point he makes is that passion is overrated. Many successful people would ascribe their success to their passion and advise people to follow their passion, but there are many more failures who also followed their passion. Continue reading “Scott Adams on Goals”

What is the Government?

We take the existence of governments for granted. This is understandable since we have been under some form of government all our lives, and we also believe that some form of government must have existed for as long as recorded history. Government appears to be something as natural as the air we breathe, and therefore we are easily persuaded that it must be as necessary as air. Not just necessary but also that it is a net positive. This does not stand scrutiny, however.

Just as people don’t ordinarily ask “what precisely is air; why do we need it?” so too people don’t ask questions such as “what precisely is government; can society exist without government; what form of government is good; etc?” It takes special effort to pose and answer questions such as those. That is left to students of political philosophy and political science.[1] Continue reading “What is the Government?”

What’s Capitalism – Part Two

In the previous post, What’s Capitalism, I had noted that capitalism is a combination of (1) private property, (2) free markets, (3) voluntary trade, & (4) institutions which legally enforce contracts. I briefly touched upon the first three already; here I discuss the matter of “institutions which legally enforce contracts.”

Contracts

“A contract is a legally binding agreement which recognizes and governs the rights and duties of the parties to the agreement. … An agreement typically involves the exchange of goods, services, money, or promises of any of those.” The wiki’s definition serves our purpose. The two parties agree to do, or refrain from doing, some specific act. An example: the agreement that homeowner Alex reaches with Bob for remodeling the kitchen. Continue reading “What’s Capitalism – Part Two”

Climate Change

Climate change hysteria is the big three-ring circus in town, and as can be expected, children are clamoring to not just watch the circus but to join it as well, as children with over-active imagination are wont to do.

It’s fair to say that those running the circus are in it for the money, and are not motivated by altruism and universal benevolence. They want to grab your attention so that they can grab your wallet. There’s a sucker born every minute.[1] Continue reading “Climate Change”

The “Nobel” prize in Economics

Economists understandably get worked up about the “Nobel” prize in economics (Nobel in quotes because it was instituted in 1968 by the Bank of Sweden “in the memory of Alfred Nobel,” unlike the Nobel prizes in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace.)

In any event, you cannot evade the fact that it confers enormous prestige, and most regrettably it buys unjustified influence among politicians and policymakers, especially in developing nations. Continue reading “The “Nobel” prize in Economics”