Oh! Calcutta!

Billboard on Broadway in 1981

Here I am not referring to the off-Broadway theatrical review Oh! Calcutta! which debuted in 1970 and “ran in London for over 3,900 performances, and in New York … including a Broadway revival that ran for 5,959 performances, making the show the longest-running revue in Broadway history at the time,” (according to the Wikipedia.)

I am referring to a speech ostensibly made by one Adit Jain of IMA in June 2021. No doubt Jain in the title to his talk is cleverly referencing that play but that’s not material here. The fact is that Bengal has descended into disaster because … Wait, let me not get ahead of the story. Continue reading


Isn't she a beauty?
Airbus A380. Click to embiggen in a new tab.

I love IRS. Not the “Internal Revenue Service” but “increasing returns to scale”.

Understanding the economic concept of “returns to scale” is useful for understanding the tremendous increase in the production of wealth in our modern world.

A bit of vocabulary first. The stuff that goes into production are called “factors of production.” The vocabulary is the same as in basic arithmetic where the product is derived from factors — for instance, the factors 2 and 3 when multiplied yield the product 6.

When you increase the factors, the product increases. That is, the “scale” or the size of the operation increases and therefore the product increases. If the increase in production is proportionate to the increase in the factors, then we have “constant returns to scale.” Continue reading


Percussion player from South India, Pirashanna Thevarajah plays ghatam and mridangam exceptionally well. Here he introduces another percussion instrument used in Carnatic classical music — the morsing.[1]


[1] It’s the same as jew’s harp. The wiki entry says:

There are many theories for the origin of the name jew’s harp. The apparent reference to Jews or to the Jewish people, which only exists in the English language word for the instrument, is especially misleading since it “has nothing to do with the Jewish people; neither does it look like a harp in its structure and appearance”

CORE – The Economy

CORE – Curriculum Open-Access Resources in Economics

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of public understanding of the fundamental principles of economics and some of the many uncontested facts (facts that are generally accepted by acknowledged peers of experts) of economic history. The lack of public understanding — worse still a misunderstanding — invariably leads to awful misery that could have been avoided by teaching the public a few essential details of the nature of our social world and how it works.

We have to be taught and we have to learn how to think about our world, just like we have to be taught how to read, write, reason logically and do arithmetic. Unlike comprehending and speaking natural languages, we cannot instinctively read, write, reason or do arithmetic; we have to learn. Reading, writing and doing arithmetic is “unnatural.”

Let’s recognize that the basic principles of economics are unnatural and therefore run counter to our intuition. Our natural instincts lead us to think and believe in ways that are almost always at odds with the facts and the true nature of our economic (therefore social) world. Briefly stated, this is so because our instincts evolved over evolutionary time-scales of tens of millions of years when humans lived in small groups of a few dozen people, hunting, gathering and foraging to survive. Only in the very recent past of around 200 years — the blink of an eye compared to hundreds of thousands of years — the world changed so dramatically that nearly everything that made sense in the long past was rendered totally irrelevant and wrong. Continue reading


Isaac Asimov (1920 -1992) is arguably one of the greatest writers in the English language of the 20th century CE. He was prolific: “so prolific and diverse in his writing that his books span all major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification except for category 100, philosophy and psychology,” says the wiki.[1]

He lived to write and admitted that “if my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” In his 1990 memoires, he wrote, “I have had a good life and I have accomplished all I wanted to, and more than I had a right to expect I would.” Few people are as lucky as he was in that he got to do what he loved most to do, and did it exceedingly well. The graph below shows that in 1989, he published around 44 books — that’s nearly one book a week. Continue reading

The Boeing 720 in Nagpur

United Airlines B-720

Today I learned about a Boeing 720 (not the one pictured on the left) which was parked at the airport at Nagpur (my old home town where I was born) for 24 years. This is the first time I came across Nagpur mentioned in a tweet on my twitter feed.

It’s an interestingly crazy story. Here’s the introduction to a twitter thread that tells the backstory.

Kenneth Copeland ditched a B-720 he owned at the Brown Field Municipal airport around 1988. A couple of years later, Mick Croy, a mechanic at the airport, noticed a guy hanging out near the abandoned plane. It was Sam Veder Verma, an Indian tire magnate. Sam asked Mick if he could fix the 29-year old plane. Mick said yes and got on the job. Continue reading

Economists as Camp-following Whores

“The inverse relationship between quantity demanded and price is the core proposition in economic science, which embodies the presupposition that human choice behavior is sufficiently relational to allow predictions to be made. Just as no physicist would claim that “water runs uphill,” no self-respecting economist would claim that increases in the minimum wage increase employment. Such a claim, if seriously advanced, becomes equivalent to a denial that there is even minimal scientific content in economics, and that, in consequence, economists can do nothing but write as advocates for ideological interests. Fortunately, only a handful of economists are willing to throw over the teachings of two centuries; we have not yet become a bevy of campfollowing whores. “

That’s a favorite quote from James M. Buchanan. He wrote that in the 1990s in response to a Wall Street Journal interview in which the disemployment effect of minimum wage legislation was questioned.

The theoretical case that minimum wage laws adversely affect low-skilled workers is as sound as anything else in economics. The empirical evidence is also as sound as the empirical evidence for “dog bites man.” What makes the news is when “man bites dog.” That exception does not invalidate the general case that dogs bite men. Continue reading


(The following is an excerpt from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, a 1980 TV series. This excerpt is form episode 10, “The Edge of Forever.”)
If the general picture, however, of a Big Bang followed by an expanding universe is correct – what happened before that? Was the universe devoid of all matter and then the matter suddenly somehow created? How did that happen?
In many cultures, a customary answer is that a “God” or “Gods” created the universe out of nothing, but if we wish to pursue this question courageously we must, of course, ask the next question – where did God come from? If we decide that this is an unanswerable question, why not save a step and conclude that the origin of the universe is an unanswerable question? Or if we say that God always existed, why not save a step and conclude that the universe always existed?
There’s no need for a creation, it was always here. These are not easy questions. Cosmology brings us face to face with the deepest mysteries, with questions that were once treated only in religion and myth.
“Who knows for certain? Who shall here declare it? Whence was it born? Whence came creation? The Gods are later than this world’s formation. Who then can know the origins of the world? None knows whence creation arose or whether he has or has not made it – he who surveys it from the highest regions. Only he knows, or perhaps he knows not.”

Continue reading


“Don’t aim at success. The more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run—in the long-run, I say!—success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it”

Viktor E. Frankl, (1905 – 1997), Man’s Search for Meaning

In 1991, Man’s Search for Meaning was listed as one of the ten most influential books in the U.S. by respondents in a survey conducted for the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club.