While I agree with DataNazi arguments in general and his aversion for crony capitalism in particular, I have to disagree with him on IPL fiasco . While I agree with him that election must take precedence over IPL, I don't think it was impossible to hold both simultaneously. In fact, the only objection was from Congress ruled governments, which makes me with Swapan Dasgupta and Ashok Malik that this was a fallout of Congress arm twisting IPL to kowtow to its whims and fancies. This is not to say that BCCI is not guilty of profiteering at expense of government, just that blame should fall on P Chidambram.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
This is going to be bit complicated, so please bear with me.
First, one can not help but be aghast at Justice Katju's observation. To say that growing beards by observant Muslims is somehow equivalent to Talibanization is nothing but absurd*. As far as religious practices go, beard as a symbol can not be more than aggressive than applying Tilak on forehead, or wearing cross.
This is not to say that I disagree with verdict, but the reasons are different. In principle, The private institution in the case has the right to set its own rules, as long as it is not compelling anyone to enroll. The aggrieved student has full right to find admission in a different school.
Now I believe this is standard libertarian argument, and perhaps this is a correct. However I am yet to come around to this, mainly owing to a feeling of discomfort with libertarian arguments. Unfortunately I am not well versed enough to articulate my discomfort into some concrete principle, but I will try to give it a shot.
For me more important than question of property is the broader social outlook. Libertarians limit social outlook to strict observance to property rights, implicitly assuming that this is necessary and sufficient condition for utilitarian purposes**. I am not sure this is true. Human society is a complicated system, and I really doubt that it can be captured with a single rule.
Pertinent to this case is what norms of propriety should society at large evolve towards the case where property rights operate under significant public interaction. In way that was the essence of my position in these Harvard posts by Ravikiran. Now I don't know whether propriety can be captured in a set of rules. To illustrate my point, there would not be much objection by Hindus or even educated Muslims over the school prohibiting some Muslim from growing a beard. However if instead it was a Sikh concerned the protests will be so vehement that there is no chance that this will ever pass.
Now strictly on religious principle this makes no sense. However it starts to make sense if we take history into context. Now this may be called Hindutva Fascist, and since I am one I have no compunction in saying that, but I think many Hindus are discomfited by bearded Muslims which indicate a more earnest adherence to faith, this is not the case with Sikhs. Of course despite secularists denial the contentious history between the two faiths can not be simply erased. For Hindus Islamic beard is a reminder of Ghaznis and Ghooris, a Sikh beard, on the other hand, is a reminder of Guru Tegh Bahadur and Guru Arjun Dev.
* Justice Katju defends the observation calling himself secularists. Now other secularists will claim that it is not "true" secularism but a perversion of the principle. They may or may not be correct but the problem is more serious. By elevating, what was in effect a matter of pragmatic compromise between competing factions of monarchy, church and emergent middle class, to high principle the secularists themselves are guilty of opening loophole for perversion.
** Of course How to define utility function is a difficult question in itself.
Friday, March 27, 2009
I think it is now impossible for me to hold back enlightenment from prols any longer. Any how, for those who came late, long time back DataNazi wrote a couple of posts about electoral dynamics in India. To summarize he modeled the dynamics in terms of economics, to be more specific as rival goods vs non rival goods .
I though a little bit about and came to the conclusion that the dynamics can be better understood in terms of externalities. This is a follow up post.
Now for our understanding it will be helpful to explicate some attributes of politics. First is the aim, proper aim of politics is promoting common good. This is a worthy goal. Problem arises owing to means, which is exercising monopoly of violence vested with state. Hence politics in practice is various groups chasing power of state. Now this is problematic because power as wielded by state is ultimately a very scarce resource, hence we have politics degenerating into a power struggle.
Here it should be pointed out that power is actually wielded out by leaders and not groups collectively. Hence for leaders to retain power they must convince the group that their wielding the power is in group interest.
To achieve leaders take recourse to what I like to call appeal to scarcity, by representing wealth as a zero-sum game and promising wealth distribution favorable to group. The reason it works is that this appeal triggers our deep rooted instinct which have evolved owing to a fundamental ecological principle i.e. competition for scarce resources in order to survive.
Thus demagogues having secured power by promising what is in effect "robbing Peter to pay Paul", public policy is reduced to devising ways and means to effectively "loot" one group to other.
Of course in general civilized man is repelled by the notion of "looting", hence to justify the "looting", the group which is being robbed is condemned as "exploiters" and the robbers themselves become "victims". Hence arises curious morality which Ayn Rand famously termed as sanction of the victim.
This, by the way, is not a bug but feature as far as democracy goes. Anyway it has pernicious but entirely predictable result, one is the fragmentation of society into more and more competing groups of victims for enriching themselves by impoverishing others, soon the inter group dynamics fairly confused so that must decide the share of spoils going the groups, this mechanism for redistribution promotes rent seeking by political class, thus putting the parasites in charge of society .
Second is that this kind of polity actively discourages wealth creation as any wealth created is bound to be transferred,this ultimately destroys the entrepreneurial spirit, further such culture is solely preoccupied with the all consuming matter of distributing the spoil and as such has no place for any discussion for common good.
Thus the society is condemned to impoverishment and misery.
This is what I was referring as the vicious cycle (or as Data Nazi aptly put it, spiral).
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
All right, I was thinking of writing another illuminating post to lift the ignorant toiling masses, but that can wait for a brief comment on this post which commits the error of conflating Nietzsche with nihilism. This is a common error, yet one which arises not due to confusion regarding Nietzsche's works but due to deliberate mis-characterization by a generation of philosophers of diverse schools antagonistic to his idea.
The fundamental problem is that Nietzsche was not a Nihilist, rather he warned against the collapse of society in an orgy of Nihilism.
Nietzsche is popularly known for his critique of Christianity, however while he wrote devastating polemics against Christianity, most notably The Antichrist, his main preoccupations were attacking prevailing in post Enlightenment Europe which can be broadly characterized as secular and rational, and
His argument essentially was that any philosophical system having discarded belief in existence of a God (or to be more specific Christian God), can not continue to assume a moral framework, which is founded upon the premise of existence of such God. This argument is best captured in his famous proclamation, "God is dead" .
His concern, as he wrote in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, went further than the logical flaw in secular philosophy of Kant or Hegel . He worried, correctly in my view, that, having removed "veil of God", civilized man may end up annihilating himself out of despair of the futility of existence*. Thus his admonitions about gazing into abyss and fighting the monsters .
He realized that post-Christianity Europe robbed of its purpose in form of Christian Eschatology , must be supplied with a new purpose, a new teleology so as to speak. Nietzsche accomplished this by appropriating Schopenhauer 's "will to live" (which was influenced by Vedanta and Buddhism , as was the norm for German Romanticists looking for world-view alternative to Christianity). In this he employed "theory of natural selection" , which since its introduction had revolutionized the philosophical landscape and held promise as alternative to traditional religion. Nietzsche fused the two to propose will to power. Explored in The Gay Science , Beyond Good and Evil , and Ecce Homo, his philosophy found full expression in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. There he introduced the concept of Ubermensch, which was the final goal of civilized man.
At the time he wrote the book, it didn't get many followers but by the turn of 20th century this idea gained wide currency owing to translations and reprints. This idea distorted through antisemitic literature appealed to Adolf Hitler combined this with pseudo scientific race theory to conceive of Aryan race which was to rule the world. Rest is a rather unfortunate history. One effect of this was Nietzsche became persona non Grata as far as philosophy was concerned.
Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to dismiss his concept of "becoming" . However his critique of secular and rational world view remains as relevant. This incidentally was my purpose for baiting earlier. Too bad it ended in non sequitur .
* This was not something unique to Nietzsche. This concern for nihilism is reflected in works of Fyodor Dostoevsky such as The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment
Sunday, March 22, 2009
To summarize Rohit's argument , existence of policy think tanks promotes a robust democratic culture,"Au contraire", DataNazi says , "As long as democracy is healthy policy tanks will be established sooner or later".
I think both are correct, and this highlights the dilemma of democracy. Democracy as a process has significant feedback. With the positive feedback, and by positive I refer to public policy outlook, it is possible to sustain a system which works for the common good. In contrast is the Indian system which works for common misery and impoverishment. Let's us call later 'the vicious cycle' and former 'the virtuous cycle'. Hence it is my opinion that our efforts as far as political debate goes must be to explore the inflection point at which it is possible to transition from vicious cycle to that of virtuous one.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Here are my revised predictions.
BJP has no chance of coming to power. In most likely scenario, it will continue to seek promised land in wilderness. At worst there is a real chance that this election may mark unraveling of BJP phenomenon.
Congress has very remote chances of returning to power. There is no groundswell in its favor, which means that despite having English Media in its pocket, it can at best hope to retain the seats. Unlike last time however there will be no polarization on Anti-BJP lines, which could have benefited Congress as it in 2004.
Now for the important part. I believe that Mayawati is more or less guaranteed to become next PM. This is less to do with governance (although she has managed to not piss off voters), but stability of the caste coalition that she put in place. With main opposition Samajwadi Party in disarray, I think she will manage to win 50 seats in UP*. At this point her path is more or less clear. Only obstacle that I see is Jayalalitha who is herself ambitious and kind of miffed with Mayawati, however I don't really see her really able to thwart Mayawati, unless she is ready to support Congress. Far fetched but possible. This also means that Sharad Pawar has no chance of becoming PM.
* In fact she can maximize her seats by striking alliances with Congress or BJP in her area of influence.
is an idiot, if he really said what reports say (I have not seen the video yet). However whether BJP drops him or not is moot . The state of BJP in Uttar Pradesh is best described as a long suffering cur. Varun Gandhi's rabble rousing is nothing but yelping of a party without a clue. Fortunately, BJP will be soon put out of misery.
Sunday, March 08, 2009
Thursday, March 05, 2009
There are not "true" atheists.
Update: Rephrasing,the topic is
"There are no atheists even outside trenches"
Update 2: Let's extend it, "If true atheists are to be found out anywhere it is inside the trenches and foxholes, not outside"
Sunday, March 01, 2009
I have frequently ridiculed libertarians for cult like behavior.However I have realized my folly. Libertarianism serves a useful purpose in society. To be specific it is an excellent strategy for cleaning gene pool. Self destructive behavior does have social utility.
Rohit laments the massacre of Hindi at the hands of hirsute Punjabis. Colour me unpersuaded. Now I understand why people (including Rohit, and even I) get irked by ungrammatical usage.
Humans are evolutionary hardwired to have preference for rules, this is owing to the fact the a phenomenon governed by rules is predictable thus eliminating any unknown (and potentially risky) behavior.
Having said that ultimately function of grammar is language is to facilitate communication, and as long as speech is comprehensible we should allow for some leeway, esp in case of people who for whom Hindi is second language.
In fact, one of my biggest gripes is some in my friend circle whose first language is Hindi who will tease other friends for Hindi is second or even third language. Now I am not one who objects to mocking among friends, but clearly it is no good when people start getting irritated. In fact I am always biased in favor of Ashudhh Hindi because it helps in reminding that manak (standard) Hindi is not the complete range of language and it is a language with broad variations, with even in Hindi speaking states existence of so many dialects ranging from Haryanavi to Magahi. Ultimately language is a dynamic medium, and variation across regions just make language richer, and this included Bambayya Hindi, or "Madrasi"* Hindi.
* No offense is intended, just used to refer to typical south Indian variation.