Prospects for Indian Development Models – Prelude


The title of this post is borrowed from a YouTube video. Shri Rajiv Malhotra interviewed Shri S. Gurumurthy recently and the first two of a three-part series have been published on YouTube here and hereI confess to great trepidation in addressing myself to the matters that the two discussed, not because I am not confident of my own position but rather because of who they are.

I have deep respect for Shri Malhotra whom I have had the distinct privilege of spending time with. He is inspired and inspiring. He is one of those rare successful American NRIs who employ their fame, fortune, talents and energy in the service of not just the mother country but all humanity. The members of that tribe you can count on the fingers of one hand. Continue reading

Guess who said this

OK, here’s something interesting. Who said the following:

It’s a rare person who can achieve a major goal in life and not almost immediately start feeling sad, empty, and a little lost. If you look at the record – which in this case means newspapers, magazines, and TV news — you’ll see that an awful lot of people who achieve success, from Elvis Presley to Ivan Boesky, lose their direction or their ethics.

Actually, I don’t have to look at anyone else’s life to know that’s true. I’m as susceptible to that pitfall as anyone else . . .  Continue reading

What’s a good health-care system?

There’s little doubt that the US health care system is not good. The US health care costs are around 20 percent of GDP, or $10,000 per capita per year. That’s unreasonably high compared to other developed nations. There are many reasons for this but the primary reason, as I see it, is the tacit collusion between the health insurance business, the hospital business, the pharmaceutical business, medical professional bodies, and governmental regulatory agencies.

Insurance has an important role to play in any large, modern society. Random events can be insured against in a population. Insurance distributes losses arising from random events across the insured population. Suppose in a population of 100 people, it is statistically certain that within a year one person at random would incur a loss of $200, then to cover that loss, if everyone paid an insurance premium of $2, then the loss can be spread over the entire population instead of just that unlucky person bearing the entire loss. In effect, everyone in the insured population bears a small definite loss so that no one bears a huge loss. When we buy insurance, we trade a guaranteed small loss against an uncertain big loss. Continue reading

What is Socialism?

Robert Heilbroner (1919 – 2005) defined socialism as “a centrally planned economy in which the government controls all means of production.”

Why is Heilbroner worth quoting on this matter? Because he knew what he was talking about. He was a committed socialist all his life. He was a best-selling author. His book The Worldly Philosophers: The Lives, Times and Ideas of the Great Economic Thinkers (1953) sold over 4 million copies. Clearly he was not stupid. And when he could not deny the evidence, late in his life he came to recognize that socialism had failed and was honest enough to admit that he had been wrong. Continue reading

The Human Freedom Index 2017

The human freedom index — A Global Measurement of Personal, Civil and Economic Freedom — of 2017 is out. There’s India near the bottom of the list. Indians are not free — but that’s not news, is it? For a couple of centuries at least, Indians have not been free. This fact goes a long way in explaining why Indians are not prosperous.

Click on the image to get the details. Here’s a short video below the fold that’s of interest. Continue reading

Quote of the Day: Tocqueville on Self-interest

In the list of historical figures I’d have loved to meet, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805 – 1859) figures near the top.

Together with a close friend, he visited the United States at the age of 25 for only nine months. He went back to France and wrote a book. His book Democracy in America (in two volumes, De La Démocratie en Amérique, published 1835 and 1840) is a political science classic and essential reading for understanding America.

Here’s a bit from the wiki entry on Democracy in America:

In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont were sent by the French government to study the American prison system. In his later letters Tocqueville indicates that he and Beaumont used their official business as a pretext to study American society instead. They arrived in New York City in May of that year and spent nine months traveling the United States, studying the prisons, and collecting information on American society, including its religious, political, and economic character.

Continue reading

The Wednesday Lunch Club

There are things we can accomplish as individuals and there are things that we can more effectively and efficiently achieve collectively. For the latter, we create what are called institutions to serve as instruments for getting things done. The lunch club introduced previously is a simple example of an institution.


The club, like all institutions, is an abstract entity. It does not have a physical existence other than the existence of the individual entities that constitute it. The members of the club exist physically but the club is only a set of rules that members of the club agree to abide by. The club exists in some Platonic realm though the benefits it provides to its members are tangible.

The benefits of the lunch club include companionship, the opportunity for discussions, etc. But there are costs too. For example, when the club chooses a particular cuisine on some occasion that is not to your liking, you incur a cost. When you join the lunch club, you weigh all the costs and benefits of joining. You join the club because you figure that the benefits exceed the costs.

The existence of any institution, thus, depends on whether the benefits exceed the costs as subjectively and objectively evaluated by the members. The lunch club continues to operate only as long as there are people who receive net benefits from membership. Being a member means abiding by the club rules. So now we come to the rules. Continue reading