Which Countries Win the International Mathematical Olympiads

IMOI was asked on twitter how students of Indian origin do in the maths equivalent of the US spelling bee contests. (I had written a blog post on how students of Indian origin appear to have cornered the market on US spelling bee contests.)

I guess they do well in math too. I did a bit of searching on the web and here’s what I found.  Continue reading “Which Countries Win the International Mathematical Olympiads”

India: A Case of Bad Governance

In today’s Business Standard, Pranab Bardhan in his article “India — A case of bad governance“, makes a number of very important points.
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Solution to India’s Greatest Failure

In a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “India’ Greatest Failure,” Paul Beckett writes about T.S.R. Subramanian who retired as India’s most senior civil servant in 1998. Beckett quotes from TSR’s book, “GovernMint in India” — “Since no part of the Establishment has an interest in punishing corruption, trying for a more sweeping solution quickly leads into the realm of blind hope.”
Continue reading “Solution to India’s Greatest Failure”

Lee Kuan Yew on PURA

In an article in the Business Line titled “Kalam’s PURA will not work,” Lee Kuan Yew makes the case for urbanization of the population for India to develop.
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Abolish the Haj Subsidy

A few days ago the Supreme Court of India admitted a petition challenging the subsidy for haj. (Link). The Rs 280 crore (~ US$ 60 million) a year subsidy for Muslims to visit Saudi Arabia, the petitioners claim, is not just unconstitutional but discriminatory.
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Of Freedom, Markets, and the Future of India

Markets Work, Incentives Matter

The two broadest generalizations one arrives at from a study of economics are that markets work and that incentives matter. People respond to incentives because that is at the core of what it means to be rational. To the extent that humans are rational, their behavior is predictably in the direction that existing incentives point to. Trade between humans is rational because both parties in any voluntary trade benefit. The abstract mechanism which enables trade is called the market. Markets work in the sense that they maximize the gains from trade among an arbitrary number of entities. There are other methods of enforcing trade among people, such as the command and control mechanism often employed by communist governments. But they are at a distinct disadvantage relative to the market because the latter is based on the premise that rational actors respond to incentives.
Continue reading “Of Freedom, Markets, and the Future of India”

Happy Independence Day

Happy 60th Independence Day!

My analysis is one of hope, potential and possibilities. Although political freedom was achieved 60 years ago, economic freedom is still a distant dream for the majority of the population. It is understandable why political freedom is easier to achieve relative to economic freedom. The entire population of the nation has an interest in political freedom — with very rare exceptions. But there are factions within the country that oppose economic freedom because they have a vested interest in the perpetuation of a command and control economy. Yet without economic freedom, the nation is unlikely to achieve its potential.
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The Age of Profound Ignorance

We find ourselves in the midst of a transition, from the industrial-value-added analog world to the information-value-added digital world of the future. The relatively static world of the past is giving way to a dynamic world that defies comprehension and easy descriptions. The institutions that worked in the past are losing their relevance in an accelerating and rapidly changing world economy – one that is getting more interdependent and interrelated. This change is more radical than that which accompanied the transition from a primarily agricultural to an industrial economy.
Continue reading “The Age of Profound Ignorance”

Enlightened Reformation

The depth of the Indic civilization is awe inspiring when you consider that it has been around for many thousands of years. The Vedas were composed long before the start of the Common Era. The people of India can claim direct lineage to those who composed the Vedas and the Upanishads. The Rig Veda epitomizes in one of its invocations what I am concerned about: adoption of ideas.

Let noble thoughts come to us from all universe.

The puzzle therefore is why has modern day India been so insular and close-minded? (By modern day I mean the last few centuries, and not the period variously called ‘internet era’ or ‘post-industrial era’.) Other countries appear to have become enlightened in that regard.

(Talking of enlightenment, the most well-known enlightenment appears to have happened in India about 2500 years ago. The fall-out of that event radiated from India to other lands but vanished from ground zero almost without a trace. Fortunately, the echoes from far-off lands can now be heard in India. Given enough time, once again that enlightenment will be back home in India.)

Consider, for instance, the Meiji Restoration:

The Tokugawa bakufu came to an official end on November 9th, 1867 with the resignation of the 15th Tokugawa Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu and the “restoration” (Taisei Houkan) of imperial rule. The 15-year-old Mutsuhito succeeded his father, Emperor Komei, and the following year took the reign name Meiji (明治) or “enlightened rule,” and signed the Five Charter Oath.

What was the Five Charter Oath?

The Five charter oath (Gokajyo no Goseimon) was an outline of the main aims and the course of action to be followed by the new Meiji era government of Japan after the fall of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867 during the Meiji Restoration. The oath set a new path in Japanese history with an emphasis on modernization and the establishment of a new social structure.

I draw your attention to the fifth oath which read:

“Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of Imperial Rule.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what transformed Japan and made it strong enough to dream of world domination and to ultimately grow so economically powerful that the US was forced for the first time after the Second World War to do some very urgent soul-searching.

The successes of the Meiji Reformation can be traced ultimately to their thirst for knowledge and understanding from around the world. They used ‘noble thoughts’ from all universe to learn and then out-do what others had done. They adopted and adapted to the modern world — a world that they indeed helped create at least in part.

It is time for India to have a reformation of its own. It has to have enlightened rule if it is to survive. There is no other way.

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