The Nietzschean Ladder

Asking the question “compared to what?” helps in putting things into perspective. The year 2020 was bad. Yes, but compared to what? It looks bad only when compared to what one would have expected from the relatively peaceful and prosperous past few years. Humanity has endured a lot more pain and suffering in many wars and pandemics. It’s far from being the worst year ever in human history. I am afraid that the worst effects of the Covid-19 pandemic are yet to come, and when they do, 2020 will not look as bad.

Friedrich Nietzsche’s aphorism “Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich stärker” (What does not kill me, makes me stronger) is obviously true of infectious diseases. If an infection does not kill, the organism develops immunity and becomes better at fighting infections. In an analogous way, if a collective is able to survive a shock by developing an appropriate solution, it becomes better than what it was before the shock. Continue reading

Happy Winter Solstice

I missed marking the Winter Solstice of 2020 which was at 10:03 UT yesterday, December 21st. The wiki notes that “the winter solstice is the day with the shortest period of daylight and longest night of the year, when the Sun is at its lowest daily maximum elevation in the sky.” This day onward, the period of daylight will continually increase in the Northern hemisphere until the Summer Solstice (which will be at 3:32 UT on 21st June, 2021) when the process will reverse.

It’s curious that although the night of Dec 21st is the longest night, Dec 21st is not the day with the latest sunrise. Sunrise time depends on the latitude of a place — the more distant from the equator, the later the sunrise and the earlier the sunset (making appropriate adjustments for the differences in the two hemispheres.) Where I live, sunrise was around 7:19 AM on Dec 21st; the latest sunrise will be on January 5th, 2021 at 7:23 AM. After Jan 5th, the sun will rise earlier on each subsequent days. Continue reading

Hauled from the archives: Wikileaks is good for you

From Dec 2010, here’s the post “Wikileaks is good for you.” Go take a look. If Trump has any sense, he would pardon Assange, Snowden, and Manning while he has the authority and redeem himself a tiny bit. But I have a sneaky suspicion that he wouldn’t do that. He’s too stupid and ignorant.

Please note that I didn’t say that Trump is evil. Trump is a megalomaniac and most certainly a shyster. But I don’t believe he is evil. The guy who won stole the US presidential elections and his running mate Harris are evil. (Just BTW, Biden’s basement is just a few miles from where I live.)

I don’t believe that Biden will serve out his term. I suspect the Democrats have a plan for him. Harris will get the Oval office before half the term is over. They will “retire” him. I don’t know what precise mechanism they’ll use but all I say is that they will do it as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow. This is for the record, and when the time comes, I will say, “I told you so.”

So you may ask, “what’s with that Costco mission picture in this post?” Here’s why. I think the politicians should learn the bit that’s at the top: “Obey the law.” As matters stand now, it appears they don’t give a rat’s ass about the law.

Lockdowns Kill Tens of Millions

The Wuhan ‘flu aka Covid-19 has killed a heap of people but the lockdowns imposed by governments have turned a bad situation into a catastrophe that will eventually kill more innocents than the two world wars combined did in the past century. I am not a fan of government on days that end in a y but the idiocy of shutting down nearly all activities is, to use the proper technical term, batshit crazy even by the extremely retarded standards of governments.

At some time I hope there would be the equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials and the leaders of these countries tried for “Crimes against Humanity.”[2] Those crimes were motivated by the sole purpose of grabbing more power and wealth from the public, regardless of the cost. Mass murderers of the last century — Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, King Leopold, Yahya Khan, et al — cannot hold a candle to those in power today. Look at the numbers —

Internationally, the lockdowns have placed 130 million people on the brink of starvation, 80 million children at risk for diphtheria, measles and polio, and 1.8 million patients at risk of death from tuberculosis. The lockdowns in developed countries have devastated the poor in poor countries. The World Economic Forum estimates that the lockdowns will cause an additional 150 million people to fall into extreme poverty, 125 times as many people as have died from COVID.[1] Continue reading

The Bases for a Free Society

“Precepts for living together are not going to be handed down from on high. Men must use their own intelligence in imposing order on chaos, intelligence not in scientific problem-solving but in the more difficult sense of finding and maintaining agreement among themselves. Anarchy is ideal for ideal men; passionate men must be reasonable. Like so many men have done before me, I examine the bases for a society of men and women who want to be free but who recognize the inherent limits that social interdependence places on them.”[1]

Buchanan’s point is that there is no authority other than us humans and that there’s a tradeoff. Social interdependence cannot be avoided because we necessarily have to cooperate with other humans if we wish to enjoy the gains from trade and the division of labor that it entails. For that we have to arrive at some set of rules that we all agree to abide by through some process of negotiation. These rules will limit our own freedom of action but in exchange for that we will gain greater scope to exercise the freedoms and rights that we do retain. Continue reading

This Policy, Alone – Part 8

NOBEL PRIZE-WINNING economist Douglass North observed that “economic history is overwhelmingly a story of economies that failed to produce a set of economic rules of the game (with enforcement) that induce sustained economic growth.”

A sound education system is the foundation of sustained growth. Yet, nowhere is the failure to produce a set of economic rules more evident than in the Indian education system. India’s literacy rate of around 60 percent places it in the company of countries such as Uganda, Rwanda, Malawi, Sudan, Burundi and Ghana. Broadly speaking, India accounts for 50 percent of the world’s illiterates even though India has only 17 percent of the world’s population. The failure of India’s primary education is predictably reflected at the higher education level: gross enrolment ratio is a mere six percent. Furthermore, the quality of Indian college graduates is poor to the extent that only about a quarter of them are employable.

Education in India is heavily controlled by the government both at the state and federal levels. Government agencies and regulations dictate every aspect of education, sometimes to the smallest details: who can run educational systems (generally only non-for-profit trusts can), who teaches, what is taught, who learns, what the fees and salaries should be, and so on. Most unfortunately, the entry barriers that the government imposes on the sector lead to such effects as high costs, low quality, and rampant corruption. Continue reading

Amazon is Amazing

Nothing warms the cockles of this economist’s heart like seeing a market do its bit beautifully. As we say in the trade (pun intended), markets work and incentives matter. That sums up very neatly two of the fundamental insights of economics.

Consider this fact (from a Dec 2013 Quartz article): “Amazon changes its prices more than 2.5 million times a day. By comparison, Walmart and Best Buy changed their prices roughly 50,000 times each in the entire month of November.”

Those numbers for Amazon must have gone up since then. Perhaps Amazon changes its prices 4 million times a day now. Continue reading

Ask me anything — the quotes edition

I love quotes. I have a very large collection of quotes, some of which I have even published in The Big Page of Quotations on this blog. It’s a work in progress and I update that page intermittently. Here I present to you a few quotes that I had tweeted.

I think the popular belief is that governments are like doctors with respect to economies; doctors heal the sick but are not responsible for the disease, and governments can fix the economy but are not responsible for the economic problems. But governments are not like doctors at all; they cause the economic diseases nations suffer, and their interventions actually make things worse.

It’s like the practise of blood-letting by doctors before the advent of modern medical practices — all it did was only to make the patient sicker. Buddha’s injunction was “First do no harm.” That applies to us all, and especially so when it comes to those in government. The recent indiscriminate Covid-19 lockdowns by governments is the 21st century equivalent of blood-letting. Continue reading

Walter E Williams, RIP.

Walter E. Williams insisted that the E in his name stood for excellent. He was excellent. He suffered no fools. He passed away today. About him, the wiki says:

Walter Edward Williams (March 31, 1936 – December 2, 2020) was an American economist, commentator, and academic. He was the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University, as well as a syndicated columnist and author known for his classical liberal and libertarian views.

 

A few quotes: Continue reading