Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata

I agree with the great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 -1900) that “without music, life would be a mistake.” Music — together with literature and poetry — helps me keep my balance, beside being a source of pure joy. I love to share what I enjoy.

Here I present to you a perennial favorite, the “Moonlight Sonata” by another German genius, Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 – 1827.) HeĀ  completed writing it in 1801.

Thus it has been around for nearly 220 years and is one of the crowning pieces of the Western musical canon, and will last as long as that tradition endures, which is likely to be at least a couple of centuries. It’s an example of those rare successful attempts by humans to achieve the sublime. Continue reading “Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata”

Billionaires are Different — Part 2

I concluded the previous part of this piece with the claim that “it is not possible to create wealth without also creating inequality. Inequality in a modern free society is a healthy sign, just as inequality in an un-free society signals disease.”

There are different ways of amassing wealth. In the past, most of what was produced was consumed. That’s because nearly everyone was almost uniformly poor in the past. There wasn’t much left over, and therefore there was not much accumulated wealth.

Still over hundreds of years, wealth in the form of precious metals and gems accumulated in certain parts of the world, which tempted barbarian invaders to do their killing and plundering. That’s the old way to acquire wealth: don’t bother producing any wealth, just take it from others by force.

Then around 250 years ago, some people figured out how to use energy sources (fossil fuels like coal) effectively and wealth production took off. That’s the first Industrial Revolution. That made it possible to produce a lot more wealth and gradually people started climbing out of extreme poverty. Continue reading “Billionaires are Different — Part 2”

South Korea is Weird

South Korea is weird. Meaning, it is “Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic.”

The last bit was not always true. It was a military dictatorship or autocracy until 1997 when it became a modern democracy with the election of Kim Dae-jung. Here’s some interesting facts about South Korea from the wiki: Continue reading “South Korea is Weird”

Billionaires are Different

Billionaires are Better

Let me tell you about the billionaires. They are different from you and me. They create and possess immense wealth, and they benefit society immeasurably. They are different from you and me. They are better. [1]

The rest of this piece is a justification of the previous bit. To get started, it’s important to properly understand what we mean by rich people. They have more wealth compared to the non-rich. What’s wealth? It is whatever we as a collective commonly value.

Wealth is always reported in monetary terms (Bill Gates is worth $113 billion, for example) but money is not wealth: it’s only convenient to do so. This distinction is very important. Those who are unable to make that distinction end up writing nonsense, as did one opinion writer of the New York Times [2] recently. More about that later. Continue reading “Billionaires are Different”

The Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Case

The big news in town is the verdict by the Supreme Court of India on the matter of the Ram Janmabhoomi site. It appears that the land has been “awarded” to those who want to have a temple dedicated to the birthplace of Bhagwan Ram. There’s much jubilation among Hindus. But why?

Fact is that that site was a temple in the first place. Islamic invaders destroyed that temple as is their religious duty, and they built a mosque at that site to demonstrate their supremacy. In a polity that rejects Islamic supremacy, it’s easy to conclude that building mosques on temple property is immoral, unethical, uncivilized and just plain wrong. Why did it take decades for the Supreme Court to decide this case? Is the court merely incompetent or just lazy or stupid or what?
Continue reading “The Ram Janmabhoomi Temple Case”

Why we misapprehend the world

We all have an intuitive understanding of our world. We make sense of the world by looking at it through “common sense” lenses. These are almost instinctive, or hard-wired as they say in computerese. And the surprising truth is that nearly all of these intuitions are wrong. They are incompatible with the world we live in today.

Anatomically modern humans have existed for at least 200,000 years (or maybe even 300,000 years). For nearly all of that extended time, humans lived in small bands of around 150 individuals and survived as hunter-gatherers. Continue reading “Why we misapprehend the world”

From the archives: Bhagwati on Markets and Democracy

Jagdish Bhagwati

This one is hauled from the archives from Aug 2013. Bhagwati on Democracy and Markets. In that post I quote Bhagwati’s three broad lessons that arise from his typology of countries into a democracy-market space. Continue reading “From the archives: Bhagwati on Markets and Democracy”