George Orwell on Rudyard Kipling

I have to admit that If by Rudyard Kipling is one of my favorite English language poems, the last two verses of which appear on the left. The full poem appears at the end of this post.

The reason for this post? Because Kipling was born on this day, Dec 30th, in 1865 in Mumbai, and died in London in 1936.

Of course, when I read If in school, I had no idea of who Kipling was. I liked the poem, and that was it. Later I learned that Khushwant Singh had said that the poem was essentially a condensation of some of the messages of the Bhagavad Gita. Perhaps that’s why I had that intuitive liking for it.

Much later I realized that Kipling was not a nice man. He was, in the words of George Orwell, a “jingoist imperialist.” Here’s an excerpt from an essay Orwell wrote (I believe in 1945) on Kipling: Continue reading

The Summing Up

January is around the corner, the month named after the Roman god Janus who had two faces — one looking forward to the future and the other backward to the past. He is the god of “beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings” says the wiki.

It was the Roman emperor Julius Caesar (100 BCE – 44 BCE) who decided that the first day of January will mark the start of a new year in 45 BCE. Thus was born the Julian calendar that is almost universally used today (with notable exceptions like in Ethiopia.) How’s that for power and influence?

Time to look back. Continue reading

Economic Freedom and Well-being

Hong Kong is at the top of the class in economic freedom and among the most prosperous in the world. Just note the change between 1980 and 2017: 255 percent increase in GDP per capita on PPP basis. Singapore, thanks to Lee Kuan Yew, did even better: #2 in economic freedom ranking, its GDP pc increased over 3x. Here’s a graphic illustration of the correlation between economic freedom and prosperity. The causal link is from freedom to prosperity.

Venezuela, much beloved of socialists like Bernie Sanders, went from moderately well-off to desperate poverty in the same period thanks to socialism. I note in passing that India was declared a socialist country by Indira Gandhi, and it shows. Continue reading

Ask me anything — ISO 8601 edition

Some standards in the US are really absurdly eccentric and irrational. It’s the only advanced industrialized country that uses the British system of weights and measures. It uses foot, pound, gallon, degrees Fahrenheit instead of meter, kilo, liter, degrees Celsius. (Please stop with the centigrade thing already.)

The other two countries — Liberia and Myanmar –which have the same insanity are not exactly technologically advanced. Even the UK follows the metric system (with a few exceptions such as it is illegal for metric road signs and illegal to sell draught beer in metric.) Continue reading

Reed’s Response to Time Magazine’s Cover Story on Capitalism

[Editor’s note: The following is Lawrence Reed’s response to the cover story, “How the Elites Lost Their Grip,” by Anand Giridharadas in the December 2-9, 2019 issue of Time magazine.]

My Response to Time Magazine’s Cover Story on Capitalism

The case for true capitalism is a moral one that’s rooted in human nature and human rights.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The inventor of the now-famous “Overton Window,” the late Joseph P. Overton, was my best friend and a senior colleague at the Michigan organization I headed for nearly 21 years (1987-2008), the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The Window postulates that at any given time, public policy options are framed by public opinion. Politicians who operate within it can get elected or re-elected, while those who offer proposals outside of it run the risk of public rejection. Move the Window by changing public opinion, and what was previously a losing proposition can then become politically possible. Continue reading

Vigilante Justice in India

One of the markers of an uncivilized society is that mobs resort to vigilantism which are acts of summary justice without legal authority or due process. When the police engage in vigilantism, it signals a failed society. That’s what happened last week in Hyderabad in India.

Four people were killed murdered by the police (led by one Mr Sajjanar) in what is referred to as an “encounter.” The four were accused of a singularly horrific crime — the gang rape and murder of a young woman –and were in police custody. Note the word accused. Continue reading

Cheers

Like many an evening, today I raise a glass to the end of a disastrous social policy in the United States on this day in 1933. The wiki informs us thusly:

The Twenty-first Amendment (Amendment XXI) to the United States Constitution repealed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which had mandated nationwide Prohibition on alcohol. The Twenty-first Amendment was proposed by Congress on February 20, 1933, and was ratified by the requisite number of states on December 5, 1933. It is unique among the 27 amendments of the U.S. Constitution for being the only one to repeal a prior amendment, as well as being the only amendment to have been ratified by state ratifying conventions.

The lesson is simply this: human nature is not perfectible. People are people. Retards will retard. And impose suffering on others because they’re convinced that their will overrides individual freedom.

Here’s a piece on 6 Things We Learned from Prohibition — except that the policy makers  did not really learn that prohibition does not actually work. The baptists and bootleggers win, and everyone loses.

Modi wins and India loses. I raise a glass of alcohol in opposition to Gandhi and Modi today. Cheers.