Ask me Anything — the Hayek Edition

Gandhi First IgnoreHere’s the last bit from Hayek’s Dec 11 1974 Nobel Prize lecture:

If man is not to do more harm than good in his efforts to improve the social order, he will have to learn that in this, as in all other fields where essential complexity of an organized kind prevails, he cannot acquire the full knowledge which would make mastery of the events possible. He will therefore have to use what knowledge he can achieve, not to shape the results as the craftsman shapes his handiwork, but rather to cultivate a growth by providing the appropriate environment, in the manner in which the gardener does this for his plants. There is danger in the exuberant feeling of ever growing power which the advance of the physical sciences has engendered and which tempts man to try, “dizzy with success”, to use a characteristic phrase of early communism, to subject not only our natural but also our human environment to the control of a human will. The recognition of the insuperable limits to his knowledge ought indeed to teach the student of society a lesson of humility which should guard him against becoming an accomplice in men’s fatal striving to control society – a striving which makes him not only a tyrant over his fellows, but which may well make him the destroyer of a civilization which no brain has designed but which has grown from the free efforts of millions of individuals.

One of the recurring themes of Hayek’s was the idea that social engineering is quite distinct from engineering of the natural world. With the appropriate technology and scientific knowledge it is possible to engineer machines and use them to control the world of objects, perhaps for the better, but human beings are not objects without volition. Humans have a will of their own and they pursue ends that are dictated by their desires and preferences which are neither fixed nor can be known by others. Social engineering always fails and makes a bad situation worse. Continue reading “Ask me Anything — the Hayek Edition”

“An Eye for an Eye” is Deterrence Against Violence

The concept of deterrence is the credible commitment to retaliation by one party to convince another party to not initiate force. If one party can convincingly persuade another party that any act of unprovoked violence will be met with equal or greater violence, that would constitute effective deterrence. The assumption is that both parties are rational. Here rational is defined as apprehending a situation accurately and acting in one’s own self-interest. Gandhi did not understand this simple idea, being blinded by his admiration of the Christian bilge about “turning the other cheek”.

Gayatri Jayaraman (‏@Gayatri__J) wrote this on twitter:

“an eye for an eye will leave the world blind” – Mahatma Gandhi. Why ahimsa is the only force that can win us our wars

Continue reading ““An Eye for an Eye” is Deterrence Against Violence”

All That is Good and Living in Us

Nirad C Chaudhuri (1897 – 1999) dedicated his book, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian (1951), to the British Empire.

To the memory of the British Empire in India,
Which conferred subjecthood upon us,
But withheld citizenship.
To which yet every one of us threw out the challenge:
“Civis Britannicus sum”
Because all that was good and living within us
Was made, shaped and quickened
By the same British rule.

Continue reading “All That is Good and Living in Us”

Jinnah, the Realist v. Gandhi, the Delusional Megalomaniac

When a fist fight breaks out between two people, the first step is to immediately separate the two combatants. Bystanders quickly pull the fighters apart and effectively stop the escalation of violence. This action is prompted by intuition and basic common sense. If two people can’t ever get along, it makes no sense in forcing them to be in each other’s faces. This idea that people who cannot get along should be separate is not exactly quantum mechanics. But somehow it seems that the great celebrated Mr Mohandas Gandhi could not — or would not — understand it. His one-time friend and fellow Congress leader, and later the leader of the All India Muslim League, Mr Mohammed Ali Jinnah, understood that idea very well. Clearly Jinnah was intellectually superior to Gandhi (which, I hasten to add, does not elevate Jinnah’s intelligence very much) and certainly more rational.

Below is an excerpt from a speech that Jinnah: Presidential address by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to the Muslim League, Lahore, 1940.
Continue reading “Jinnah, the Realist v. Gandhi, the Delusional Megalomaniac”

Thoughts on the Passing of Shri Balasaheb Thackeray

Balasaheb Thackeray
Balasaheb Thackeray

Shri Balasaheb Thackeray passed away today (Saturday afternoon India time) in Mumbai. Much of what I know about current events, I learn from the handful of people I follow on twitter. So I got to know of Balasaheb’s death through twitter. I noticed quite a few “RIP” messages. That prompted me to write a few tweets myself.
Continue reading “Thoughts on the Passing of Shri Balasaheb Thackeray”

%d bloggers like this: