In his 2016 annual letter (pdf, 28 pp) to the shareholders of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett makes this observation about America’s economic dynamism.
“One word sums up our country’s achievements: miraculous. From a standing start 240 years ago – a span of time less than triple my days on earth – Americans have combined human ingenuity, a market system, a tide of talented and ambitious immigrants, and the rule of law to deliver abundance beyond any dreams of our forefathers.
“You need not be an economist to understand how well our system has worked. Just look around you. See the 75 million owner-occupied homes, the bountiful farmland, the 260 million vehicles, the hyper-productive factories, the great medical centers, the talent-filled universities, you name it – they all represent a net gain for Americans from the barren lands, primitive structures and meager output of 1776. Starting from scratch, America has amassed wealth totaling $90 trillion.”
Buffett is right about the factors that create wealth — ideas (or human ingenuity), ambition, the free market system, and the rule of law. Let’s explore some of these in more details. Continue reading →
Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) was no saint. The English should thank god for that. He was a patriot.
He served in the British army and was a writer before he entered politics and eventually became the prime minister of Britain in 1940. He was instrumental in the victory of the Allied Powers (UK, US and USSR) over the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy and Japan) in World War II. He suffered electoral defeat in 1945 but was re-elected prime minister in 1951.
All in all, a remarkable man. He hated Indians, particularly Hindus, with a white-hot passion. Not an uncommon affliction among the colonial rulers of India, past and present. He despised MK Gandhi and called him a “half-naked fakir” — in my opinion, a description that is more accurate than Churchill intended or realized. I suspect stooges however useful cannot possibly earn the respect of those they serve. Continue reading →
We humans instinctively categorize, especially people. We are amateur primitive set-theoreticians. There are infinite ways to categorize people since humans have a humongous number of characteristics.
Consider the categories of people who award prize and people who win prizes. In my view, people who institute prizes belong to the most prestigious set. I order the sets as:
People who institute prizes.
People who win prizes.
People who don’t win prizes.
People who award themselves prizes.
For example, Alfred Nobel belongs to the first set; Einstein to the second set; ordinary grunts like us, who never come within shouting distance of any prestigious award make up the majority of humanity, belong to the third set. We are mostly harmless and generally unimpressive. Continue reading →
A comp sci joke claims that there are 10 kinds of people: those who understand binary numerals and those who don’t. Being a former computer science student myself, I find it tickles my funny bone. Continue reading →
Charging home owners’ association dues based on the size of the property is common practice in many places across the world. Is that economically efficient and is it equitable? The short answer to the question raised by reader Mr Baransam1 is yes. The longer answer needs to start with distinguishing different categories of goods that are produced, traded and consumed.
The most common category are called “private goods.” These are formally defined by being “rival” and “excludable.” The rivalrous characteristic arises from the fact that one’s consumption of the good precludes any other person from consuming it. If you eat an apple, that apple is not available for consumption by others. Excludability means that one can be prevented from consuming the good. You can lock up the apple and exclude others from consuming it. Continue reading →
Keshav Bedi asked my opinion on “the topic which is very fashionable these days here at Varsities in India, ‘Feminism’.”
I’m not familiar with what’s fashionable in Indian universities, unfortunately. I assume they’re leftist pinko swamps. I will not go there, even metaphorically. But let’s discuss femimism.
I’d like to use the Wiki description of feminism: “a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.”
I would not want to live in a society where there is a need for a feminist movement because it implies that the society (and thus the state) discriminates against a female person based on a biological characteristic that is irrelevant in the context of some particular activity, and which characteristic the person has no control over. Continue reading →