The Tragedy of Collectivism

F A Hayek“The tragedy of collectivist thought is that while it starts out to make reason supreme, it ends by destroying reason because it misconceives the process on which the growth of reason depends. It may indeed be said that it is the paradox of all collectivist doctrine and its demand for the “conscious” control or “conscious” planning that they necessarily lead to the demand that the mind of some individual should rule supreme — while only the individualist approach to social phenomena makes us recognise the super-individual forces which guide the growth of reason. Individualism is thus an attitude of humility before this social process and of tolerance to other opinions, and is the exact opposite of that intellectual hubris which is at the root of the demand for comprehensive direction of the social process.”

The Road to Serfdom. Friedrich August von Hayek. He was born on this day in 1899. Happy birthday, dear Prof Hayek.

Lee Kuan Yew – The Sage of Singapore

“Try and get a government on the cheap and you end up with a cheap government. … First job of a government is to equalize opportunities, right? You equalize results, you’re done for.”

It’s heartbreaking that hundreds of millions of Indians have to needlessly endure extreme poverty because of the insanely retarded policies of Gandhi, Nehru and the rest of the worthless bunch. If only, lord if only, India had the good fortune to get a leader like Lee Kuan Yew. Continue reading

Elementary, my dear

On top of being one of the greatest physicists of the 20th century CE, Feynman was a brilliant teacher. He presented complex ideas in elementary terms. Of course, one needed bring intelligence to the table. Best if one had an infinite amount of intelligence when it came to understanding the most elementary ideas.

“I am going to give what I will call an elementary demonstration. But elementary does not mean easy to understand. Elementary means that very little is required to know ahead of time in order to understand it, except to have an infinite amount of intelligence.”

Dr Jacob Bronowski

There are a great many people I admire immensely. Some for their erudition, some for their immense contribution to the human condition, some for their enormous contribution to our understanding of the human condition, and some for their extraordinary ability to explain the great ideas of this world we live in. Thanks to the wonders of modern technologies, we are fortunate to be able to make their acquaintance even though some of them are no longer with us.

Dr Jacob Bronowski (1908 – 1974) was a great soul, a mahatma in the true meaning of the word. Here’s Michael Parkinson of the BBC interviewing Dr Bronowski in 1972. Watch, or listen, to this and you’ll know why I admire him. Continue reading

Netaji Subhas Bose’s 125th Birth Anniversary

Sri Subhas Chandra Bose, popularly known as “Netaji”, was born 124 years ago in Cuttack, Orrisa on Jan 23rd in 1897[1]. Netaji is considered by a significant portion of Indians to have been instrumental — more than M. K. Gandhi MHRH — in getting the British to give up India. Be that as it may, it is undeniable that he was one of the greatest leaders of India in the last century.

His biography is quite well researched and generally known. There’s also an unfinished autobiography which covers the period from his birth to 1921 which Bose titled “An Indian Pilgrim.”[2]

But his disappearance and death is shrouded in mystery, conspiracy and intrigue. There’s a veritable cottage industry that thrives on the idea that he did not really die in a plane crash in Taiwan in 1945 but that he lived in India for decades as a recluse ascetic. Continue reading

Einstein’s Ph.D. Thesis

Einstein submitted his PhD thesis in 1905, the “miracle year” (Annus Mirabilis) in which he also published four papers on various matters:

        • Photoelectric effect
        • Brownian motion
        • Special relativity
        • Mass–energy equivalence

It was for his discovery of the photoelectric effect that Einstein was awarded the 1921 Nobel prize in physics, and not for his more famous work on special relativity or for the work which has the world’s most popularly celebrated equation E=mc2.

Albert Einstein was born on March 14, 1879 in Ulm, in the Kingdom of Württemberg in the German Empire. His citizenship is interesting. First he was a subject of the Kingdom of Württemberg during the German Empire (1879–1896). After that he was stateless (1896–1901), then a Swiss citizen (1901–1955), Austrian subject of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1911–1912), Subject of the Kingdom of Prussia during the German Empire (1914–1918), German citizen of the Free State of Prussia (Weimar Republic, 1918–1933). He became a naturalized American citizen in 1940. He died on April 18, 1955 in Princeton, NJ (which is about an hour’s drive north of where I am now.)

Thus many countries could claim him — the US, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Einstein himself, though, recognized that he could be rejected by many as well. He wrote, “If my theory of relativity is proven successful, Germany will claim me as a German and France will declare me a citizen of the world. Should my theory prove untrue, France will say that I am a German, and Germany will declare that I am a Jew.”

Continue reading

Goodbye, Prof Freeman Dyson

I was saddened, though not surprised, to learn that Prof Freeman Dyson passed away on Friday in Princeton NJ at the age of 96. I admired him immensely for his intellectual might, bravery and honesty. Thanks to the internet, I have had the great pleasure of gaining from his intelligence, his humanity, his wide-ranging interests, his unconventional ideas.

I agree with all his viewpoints that I came to know about, particularly about climate change. Like him, I believe that the problem is neither urgent nor the most important. Humanity faces many problems, has the capacity to do something about some of them, and some of them are worth allocating resources to now. But climate change isn’t in that set. Continue reading

An 1980 interview with Hayek

This is a Friedrich Hayek interview by Bernard Levin at the University of Freiburg which was broadcast in May 1980. Hayek was, in my professional opinion, one of the greatest economists of all times. We are wonderfully privileged to be able to watch videos of his brilliant exposition on the web. I am also impressed by Mr Levin; he does his job as the interviewer magnificently. Continue reading

Margaret Thatcher’s Tribute to Friedrich von Hayek

To mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Friedrich Hayek‘s The Road to Serfdom, several of Hayek’s personal items were auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on March 19th.

Hayek, together with Gunnar Myrdal (the economist from the opposing camp), was awarded the “Nobel Memorial Prize” (not really a Nobel prize) in 1974. At Sotheby’s auction, Hayek’s award citation and gold medal went for over $1.5 million.[1]

Although the Nobel prize[2] gave renewed vigor to the then 75-year old Hayek, he was absolutely clear that economists should not be honored with prestigious prizes. “Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess,” he said. Continue reading

Whoever Fights Monsters …

I was one of Narendra Modi’s biggest fans.

I supported his candidature as the prime minister of India years before he became the phenomenon during the 2014 general elections in India. I can honestly claim that to the extent that I could I even worked indirectly for the Modi campaign.

Sadly, I am no longer a supporter. My support was based on the promises that Modi had made about the policy changes he would make if he were to become the PM. Professionally as a development economist — right from the very inception of the discipline of economics my tribe seeks to understand the nature and causes of the wealth of nations — I am interested in India’s economic development. Not just professionally, personally I am moved by the pity I feel for the poor and impoverished of the world and naturally India, my native land. My support for Modi was contingent and instrumental. I believed Modi would do what was needed to transform India into a developed nation. I wrote a damn book on “Transforming India” in 2011.

The fact is that Modi had made many promises, most of which were pleasing to classical liberals like me. We believed those promises because they were consistent with our beliefs and ideologies — limited government, prohibiting the  government from running commercial enterprises, non-discrimination, secularism, etc. Continue reading