Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Binary opposition is shite and deconstructing binary shite doubly so

Binary opposition in a structural analysis has tremendous pedagogic force. Not just the teacher, the writer (or talkative Cafe flaneur) too is learning that he himself already knows all sorts of things- and marveling greatly at his own perspicacity- as he or she plows along this facile furrow.
We may compare teaching, thinking aloud, reasoning things out for oneself, as well as writing theory or analyzing stuff, as all, in a sense, being comparable to 'catch up' growth for the less developed country.
In theory, binary opposition should yield a rapidly burgeoning pragmatics quickly able to compete with whatever it is that currently yields advances in the subject.
It is for this reason that Sassure (pronounced Soo-soo) dwelt upon it. This method allows linguists- who already possessed sophisticated grammatical and philological tools- to rapidly acquire expert status and make critical judgments across a range of languages. However, they also then got to talk a lot of stupid ultracrepidarian shite which, of course, is why people become linguists in the first place.
Rather like Development.
Politicians are pro development coz it exponentially increases their opportunities to talk shite and fuck things up by bringing the future too under their sceptre.
Yet for a time, this was tolerated. Why?
This follows on the analogy of the l.d.c being able to 'leap frog' over the obstacles the developed countries had to struggle with by adopting the latest technology and tapping more efficient financial markets for capital and so on.
But, ceteris paribus, this would mean the country to develop last would automatically become first because it would have the newest capital, technology, management theory, capital cost etc.
Similarly, structural analysis of a binary sort should be able to leap frog all the piecemeal hueristics that went before and simply appropriate the state of the art generalization and reverse engineer things so that it, itself, should appears its ideal vehicle.
In this Polyanna story- both l.d.c politicians and Structuralist dogmatics will actually have something to contribute to human achievement rather than remain the poor in ideas we will always have with us.
But there's a problem. Structuralist analysis fails, binary opposition is useless because systems aint binary in construction but evolve heuristically on a stochastic fitness landscape. Systems develop by hiding away the basis of their emergence, the machine code upon which they run, so as to remain robust to exogenous shocks or the tampering of a self-appointed Administrator.
Thus 'unbalanced growth' (Hirshchman) succeeds under the rubric of 'National Will' while Nehruvian structuralist planning ends in the toilet.
Similarly, neither Structuralism nor fucking deconstruction are capable of actually making literature, let alone appreciating it. However, it is suitable for teaching people stupid enough to take Arts degrees. As the late great Edward Said pointed out, way back in the Sixties, the days were long gone when a Prof. of Comp Lit actually knew a lot of languages or, indeed, anything qualitiatively worthwhile about his own mother tongue. Students, too, were (already!) thick beyond belief. Said explains that Jonathan Swift was not actually advocating that people start eating shit in the fourth book of Gulliver's travels. So please do not stir turds into your coco pops. Or if you do, don't tell Mummy and Daddy it was coz. your Prof. told you to. Or if he didn't then it was like in this book he forced us to read.
This is very important coz otherwise the parents will sue the University and the Prof. might get sacked.
Now pedagogy and politics is about saying stuff like 'Don't be nasty to poor people. Stop calling women 'ladies'- the cunts don't like it. When you see a bunch of niggers or kikes or limeys do not immediately start rounding them up to work on your plantation, or feed them to your gas chamber, or make fun of their National Health System . Instead, why not take a cold shower or something> Go for a walk. Play touch football."

Nothing wrong, however, with structuralism in Maths or formal logic or Computing and so on- i.e stuff that was deliberately and consciously built up on a binary basis.
Or is there?
Surely a heuristic or a lemma or other instrument, is just a special case of some deeper mathematical structure and that a unification on the basis of greater generality- what Grothendieck calls a 'Yoga'- is called for?
Don't know. No one does.
What is certain is Maths only respects actual breakthroughs. Actually proving theorems. Not proposals for what it ought to look like.
Still, it looks to me, that this question can spur creative minds whereas Structuralism (or worse, Deconstruction, the vulture that picks at its bones) in any other field is the worst sort of pedagogic shite. A costly signal acquiring which demonstrates so prodromally rabid a mind as to necessitate isolation from the general population in some fucking College Dept.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Asad Q Ahmed & Sheldon Pollock's Bollocks

Asar Q Ahmed is a young Professor of Arabic at Berkeley. Though his first degree was from Yale, the bastard speaks Urdu with a correct accent. I find this very shocking and totally unacceptable. What is the point of sending our young people to elite institutions abroad if they can't even mispronounce their own names- let alone weird Dravidian cognomens like 'Raghunathananananaan'?
Okay, maybe the fellow was born in the States. Still, he should show some basic respect for Indian culture innit?
On the other hand, his views are as stupid as any of our own JNU jholawallah types as is evidenced by this article in which, apropos of the decline of Islamic Science, he says-

 In my own work, I have discovered that a number of factors played a role in bringing about a collapse of disciplines like philosophy, astronomy, and medicine.  I mention only a few of them here; the more complete picture must await further research. 
For example, the religious scholars, who were trained in a curriculum with a high dose of rationalism, faced an entirely transformed and impoverished system of princely patronage, staring at them in the middle of the nineteenth century.  Many of the rationalist scholars belonged to the establishment; they not only sat as judges in the courts or passed fatwas, but they also served as court poets, tax collectors, diplomats, personal physicians, and cartographers.  With the rise of the British Raj and the collapse of the institutions that sustained them, many of these scholars became disenfranchised and the vacuum was increasingly filled by a class of popular preachers, trained in a very different curriculum and connected with an emergent trans-regional reformist network of scholars. 
Then at least in the context of South Asia, another factor for the decline in the rationalist disciplines was the growth of Urdu as the primary literary language among Muslims.  Prior to this period, practically every single text in the rationalist sciences was written in Arabic (and sometimes in Persian).  These two languages contained within them an advanced technical vocabulary that had developed over the longue duree of rationalist disciplines.  With the loss of languages and the lack of systematic investment in translations into Urdu, the rigor of the rationalist disciplines was also compromised, since the technical baggage of the disciplines was lost with the language that carried it. 
Finally, one may mention that, though counterintuitive, the introduction and growth of print technology had a negative impact on rationalism as well. Prior to the growth of this technology, Muslim scholars regularly wrote commentaries and glosses on various texts of the rationalist disciplines by hand and in the margins of manuscripts.  This produced a diachronic and synchronic tradition of an internal dialectic with texts that was directly responsible for progress within a discipline.  The introduction of print technology fundamentally changed the way one did scholarship in the context of the madrasa.  There were no manuscripts and margins, no reproduction and living engagement with a tradition of argumentation.
Ahmed is making 3 mistakes
1) The British Raj expanded opportunities for Arabic and Persian scholars. The collapse of the Mughal Empire and successive invasions and periods of anarchy did adversely affect Islamic scholarship but the British Raj was a stabilizing factor. The Mutiny, no doubt, was a catastrophe but the British continued to patronize Islamic scholarship. In any case, Hyderabad was able to absorb many refugees from Delhi.

The real cause of the relative decline in Islamic Rationalism was that Religion was not divorced from Law. The autonomy of Secular lawyers in the West set the pattern for autonomous Science scholarship. The fact that the learned man in Islam combined various different functions- writing poetry, casting horoscopes, giving medical advice, acting as judge/tax collector- is what weakened Islamic rational scholarship. Specialization is the key to the pursuit of excellence in any empirico-rational discipline. One may say this militates against 'Wisdom' as opposed to 'Knowledge' or that it inculcates 'Materialism' but it is the only path to progress. We may admire Goethe's (or Schopenhauer's) Scientific interests but we must also admit they were shite. Strindberg, who learnt Chinese and Sanskrit, also believed in his own alchemical theories. Great dramatist, shite scientist.
The reason traditional Qazis and Muftis and Unani doctors fell behind was not because the curriculum at the Madrasas changed but because everybody had come to realize that they were shite. Smart kids didn't want to study that shite. BECAUSE IT WAS SHITE. Nothing to do with 'Orientalism' or some fucking false binary. Unani medicine, like Ayurvedic medicine, made you ill. The fatwas of the Qazis and Muftis contradicted each other and themselves. Everybody resorted to declaring their opponent an apostate more especially because the idiocy of Muhammadiya ideology created status competition between scholarly families- like that of Khwaja Mir Dard.  Everyone wanted to prove that they were descended from a purer and holier lineage and thus themselves represented the best chance for Islam to heal itself and regain its lost glory.
Maulana Azad had a traditional education. He was a massive fuckwit. Kasturba Gandhi ended up cooking mutton chops for him. In his last years he was drunk off his head.
2) The development of Urdu- as with any other mother tongue language- was good for raising Educational standards and spreading empirico-critical thinking. It began before the British came and it continued after they left. The British insisted that students also study a Classical language. They invested a lot in translating Classical works into the mother tongue- thus enriching the vocabulary. Muslims, in any case, would learn Arabic to read the Quran Sharif. There is no evidence that they stopped doing so and started reciting prayers in Urdu. Even Hindu lawyers and administrators learnt Arabic so as to apply Muslim law.
Consider the case of Iqbal. He studied in British Schools and Colleges. He wrote in Persian even though he did not have an idiomatic command of it.
Prof. Ahmed must be completely mad to say that mother tongue literacy and instruction could adversely impact Science amongst Muslims. If traditional medicine and astronomy and so on declined it was because the Western product was greatly superior. Nothing to do with 'Orientalism' or evil White people or deluded darkies at all.
3) Ahmed says printing books was bad for Islamic Science. This is batshit crazy. Printed books are much cheaper than hand-written books. Still, they were expensive. Teachers gave lectures and students took notes. In the process, all the comments and comments on comments and comments on comments on comments got recorded.
Why is Ahmed saying such stupid things? The answer is that he's done a bit of research during the course of which he noticed that some old scholar wrote something in the margin of the manuscript of another old scholar. Aha! says Ahmed. How interesting! This doesn't happen on my Amazon Kindle! It's like the scholars could email each other across the centuries! Cool!
But it isn't really cool at all, but a common practice. When I was young, the books at the library had the sort of comments and comments on comments that Ahmed is talking about. The reason was that books were expensive. Indian libraries couldn't afford to get the latest editions of foreign texts. So people updated these precious volumes by hand. Printing made it easier to do this sort of thing because printed books had wider margins (at least in those days) and bigger typefaces. Kids like me weren't allowed to write on a book- but learned people were encouraged to do so.

Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy is an actual scientist who lives in Pakistan. He was a friend of the late Nobel laureate Abdus Salam. Hoodbhoy mocks Ghazalli's 'Tahafut' and says that the Occassionalist ideology it promotes discourages Scientific inquiry. Hoodbhoy is right.  Leibnizian occassionalist casuistry added nothing to Scientific Research and Voltaire laughed it out of the Academy. Nobody laughed Ghazalli's Tahafut out of Islam. Poor old Averroes wasn't smart enough and, crucially, his weapon wasn't laughter. Ahmed says, 'look, Ghazalli's Occassionalism can be neutral w.r.t Science. But, it wasn't. That's a historical fact. Ahmed is supposed to be a historian. Let us look at his justification for rejecting 'the false binary of a Golden Age in Islamic Science'.
'The world that came after al-Ghazali, this same attitude towards reason continued to flourish - authors such as Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1274), Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi (d. 1311), Adud al-Din al-Iji (d. 1355) , al-Sayyid al-Sharif al-Jurjani (d. 1413), and Muhibballah al-Bihari(d. 1707) are a few among an innumerable host that come to mind.  In fields ranging from astronomy to metaphysics and well into the early twentieth century, Muslim scholars generally took the attitude that reason provided scientific models for understanding the universe and that these models were conceptually and mathematically real, though one could not necessarily prove the validity of one over another.  In other words, they adopted precisely the kind of attitude toward the scientific enterprise that has been embraced and consistently modified in the western tradition since David Hume (d. 1776), who, incidentally, also raised important questions about the metaphysical commitments in one’s assumption of causality and in one’s adherence to methods of induction.  A rather large number of works from the period after al-Ghazali explicitly state that scientific investigations do no harm to one’s creed.'

Why does Ahmed mention al Bihari? He did no original scientific work but was just  a jurist. What about al Jurjani? He wanted to do original work but couldn't because the teachers were too old or too far away. Why? Well the real reason for the end of 'Islam's golden age' was that the Mongols and Turks had taken power. Some Muslim cities never recovered. Tusi, famous now not as a Scientist but for his work on Ethics, is also infamous for his role in the the Mongol debacle. Al-Ijji is still quoted for his attacks on the 'hashish eating' Ibn Arabi. What was his great scientific accomplishment? Al Nafisi might be more to the point but he was a bigoted defender of the doctrine of bodily resurrection, so Ahmed doesn't mention him. Tusi and Shirazi could have worked with the Mongols to create an autonomous Scientific tradition totally separated from Religion. They chose not to do so. Shirazi, like many others, took the disorders of his age as evidence that Truth was to be found in devotional piety of the sort espoused by Rumi. There is no shame in that. What is bizarre is for a Western historian to quote Tusi and Shirazi and Jurjani as continuing a Scientific tradition when the truth is they and their followers retreated from it. Yes they conserved what was already seen as the fruits of a vanished golden age. But this was not some Orientalist fable of Nineteenth Century invention- it was their own empirical finding, or existential choice. The same thing happened in other traditions.which lost confidence by reason of invasion and foreign domination.
In Medicine, Islam currently allows the dissection of cadavers for Scientific research. However, not one single one of the people Ahmed mentions, despite being jurists, ever licensed this by their own fatwas. They conserved the work of their saintly forbears as a religious duty. They wouldn't chance their own salvation by procuring corpses to cut up to further their researches.Why? They didn't feel Science was truly autonomous in the way that Military technology was accepted to be. It's a bad thing for Science if stupid priests learn a little medieval Astronomy or Medicine in their seminaries. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Drink deep or quit the Pierian spring.

Ahmed isn't a bad guy. He speaks up for the Ahmadiyas at a time when it is dangerous to do so- even in India. Why is he writing shit? The answer, of course, is that he's been reading Sheldon Pollock's bollocks.

'Let me end this essay with a statement about why the Golden Age vs. Dark Age narrative came to exist in the first place, without the analysis of the vast body of literature from the so-called Dark Ages; and let me also supply a statement about why the narrative still persists and will likely survive in the future, despite what we academics share with the world. 
Here my own words cannot match the eloquence and directness of Sheldon Pollock, the Arvindh Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at Columbia University.  In an essay on Indian intellectual history, “Forms of Knowledge in Early Modern South Asia,” he writes:
“With respect to science and scholarship, however, especially during this critical early modern period, in-depth research in most disciplines is virtually non-existent…  whole libraries of manuscripts… remain unread today.  The factors contributing to this indifference would be worth weighing with care.  One is certainly the diminished capacity of scholars today to actually read these materials, one of the most disturbing, if little-remarked legacies of colonialism and modernization.  But there are other factors.  These include the old Orientalist-Romantic credo that the importance of any Indian artifact or text or form of thought is directly proportional to its antiquity…  Equally important is the colonial-era narrative of Indian decline and fall before 1800, so central to the ideology of British imperialism and its civilizing, modernizing mission… one salient example… is the disdain with which the remarkable achievements of Hindi literature and literary science…  were dismissed by colonized Indian intellectuals no less than by their colonial masters” (emphasis mine).
The narrative began as colonial Orientalist lore and has taken hold as a kind of neo-Orientalism among individuals who have lost access to their past.  Given this, I am afraid that Muslims really have one of two choices:  they may continue to perpetuate a hackneyed and essentialist Orientalist narrative, misdiagnose the problem, and even enable all kinds of extremists with the power of a fanciful story. 
Or they may rediscover their lost languages, produce historians who would penetrate the sources, and cultivate philosophers who would go beyond simple binaries and take control of the discourse in a sincere and sophisticated manner.  Then perhaps they may be able to revise their received histories and find some real solutions to a complex situation.
Either Islam is the same as Hinduism or it is different. If it is different, how can it suffer from the same malady as Hinduism? Colonialism? But, under the Brits, the Hindus shook off their (far worse) inherited stupidity and embraced Science. Amazingly, even the stupidest and most worthless amongst them- I refer of course to people of my own Brahmin caste- overtook the Muslims in education and the professions. Being terrible hypocrites, no doubt they pretend that their ancestors were all Scientists or Math or Computing mavens but that's only because they don't drink enough whiskey to get properly beaten up by their wives or girl friends. Interestingly, Hindu Schools- like the D.A.V or Ramakrishna Mission Schools- at one time could have gone down an anti-Science route. However, parents wanted Science subjects to gain prominence and Sanskrit type shite to be confined to Middle School. Pollock thinks this a bad thing. He is wrong. Sanskrit is easy. Middle aged people are going to rediscover it anyway. The problem Pollock mentions- viz. untranslated manuscripts- only exists because Indian Liberal Arts professors are a bunch of illiterate hoodlums who are bound to try to eat or smoke or wipe their arses on sacred palm leaf manuscripts. Everyone else can read that shite but has the good sense to see that it's mainly shite.
 Ahmed quotes Pollock though he is a crypto-Hindutva nutjob for whom Hinduism's 'dark ages' coincide with Turkish rule. But Turks turned Muslim. They were smart. They were powerful- so what happened? Well, Timur Kuran, a Turkish economist, gives us part of the answer but Ahmed isn't interested in Kuran because the academic availability cascade from which he can personally most profit is of the Pollock Bollocks type.
Gandhi was a nut-job. He wanted to believe in Ayurveda- which prescribes Arsenic and Mercury but bans milk- and so he tried Ayurveda till it made him very very sick. Then he stopped. That's also the story about Islamic science and Hindu science and Japanese science and Taoist science and Mayan science and Voodoo Science and so on. People switch from stuff which is worthless to stuff which is slightly less worthless. They may talk shite- and shite is always talked- but it's just 'preference falsification' and munafiqat is all it is.
Ahmed is worried about 'narratives'. Why? We all know that people tell stupid stories. We also know that Science is about laboratories and maths and complicated stuff of that sort. A conquered or deeply corrupt country isn't going to have a lot of laboratories or Professors who can actually do Math or understand complicated stuff. It is going to have people like Ahmed whose vaunted scholarship has only had the effect of robbing him of his common sense and turning him into a whining little gobshite who thinks some Dead White Males, a hundred and fifty years ago, told a story which by some strange magic continues to keep his people stupid and backward even now.
What's next Ahmed? Will you be the Vishva Adluri of Islam?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Mugging Clark Kent

Clark Kent is actually Superman- who is invulnerable to blades and bullets. Yet Clark Kent hands over his wallet to a Mugger. Was he coerced or was it a voluntary exchange?
Presumably, Kent paid off the Mugger so as to protect his secret- viz. that he is an alien from the Planet Krypton and thus has no 'Human Rights'. If the Mugger knew Kent was Superman, his crime- if it is a crime- is that of blackmail, not of demanding money with menaces. If he didn't know this, then he may still not be guilty of anything by reason of impossible attempt.
Suppose Superman's secret identity was that of a Sikh shopkeeper rather than a mild mannered reporter. Then, in order to remain in character, he would have to get shot or knifed by the mugger and then chase the ruffian down, while bleeding profusely, before capturing him and handing him over to the police. To do any less, would raise eyebrows at the local Gurudwara and incur a hukumnama against the practice of wearing kaccha over, rather than under, one's trousers.
Sikh Superman proudly wearing kaccha over his trousers

This gedanken suggests that with unrestricted domain, coercion isn't something which can have a purely transactional definition. It arises in a cultural context. The attempt to distinguish a concept of coercion, abstracting away from cultural facticity, is doomed.
Take this example, from Japa Pallikkathayil- 

Essentially, for this analysis not to be empty, there have to be pre-existing cultural norms and practices such that the crime of Mugging isn't inchoate. However, it is of the essence of cultural norms that they surpass the bilateral, or otherwise transactional, and, indeed, constrain even transcendence.
Like Superman's kaccha constraining his testicles.

Sikh Superman still wearing kacha over his trousers but starting to feel a bit of prat.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Kharabat Khana

Mother, thy Gethsemane began at a Marriage at Cana
Memory has its Sabbath tho' but mimesis is manna
Must I make Silence my Saqi so Wine itself sing?
Courage to cowards, chrism to thy King

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Amia Srinivasan's 4 questions for Free Marketeers

1. Is any exchange between two people in the absence of direct physical compulsion by one party against the other (or the threat thereof) necessarily free?
No. Free Market theory says people will be better off if they can freely exchange goods and services under the following conditions; there is perfect information & perfect competition, with independent preferences, no non-convexities or externalities or uncertainty. .
If you say yes, then you think that people can never be coerced into action by circumstances that do not involve the direct physical compulsion of another person. Suppose a woman and her children are starving, and the only way she can feed her family, apart from theft, is to prostitute herself or to sell her organs. Since she undertakes these acts of exchange not because of direct physical coercion by another, but only because she is compelled by hunger and a lack of alternatives, they are free.
Question. Can this woman and her children, at some future point, earn enough to repay a loan taken out today? If yes, then they can borrow if there is a free market in credit. If no, then they can either ask for charitable assistance or an arbitrage opportunity for a moral entrepreneur is created. Provided there are some people with means who would prefer to see them fed rather than starving, then their needs will be met in that way. Suppose, the majority of people in the area don't like looking at starving children. They can create a fund to maintain the indigent under a Tiebout model. Furthermore, if people feel prostitution or organ sales are morally repugnant, they can take collective action by making such activities illegal. Alternatively, by stipulating that all organ sale contracts be 'balanced' (i.e. equitably divide gains from trade) and such as would prevent the development of a 'repugnancy market' then that may be a superior alternative.

In any case, the woman in the hypothetical is never really free even if the choices facing her are of the following kind- either buy Chanel and send the kids to Eton while flying round the world as a super model OR teach Eco-Feminist philosophy at Oxford while sending the kids to the local Comp.-quite simply because we might still suspect her of being the prisoner of gender roles or some such shite.

The point about the market is that it increases the number of options from- (starve or get fucked) to (starve or get fucked or get a low paid job)  to (starve or get fucked or get a dead end low paid job or get a low paid job which leads to something) etc, etc.

2. Is any free (not physically compelled) exchange morally permissible?
No. Fraud is not permissible. Actions in restraint of trade are not permissible. Provision of goods or services which change the preferences of the consumer too may be either praiseworthy or punishable- it depends.
If you say yes, then you think that any free exchange can’t be exploitative and thus immoral. Suppose that I inherited from my rich parents a large plot of vacant land, and that you are my poor, landless neighbor. I offer you the following deal. You can work the land, doing all the hard labor of tilling, sowing, irrigating and harvesting. I’ll pay you $1 a day for a year. After that, I’ll sell the crop for $50,000. You decide this is your best available option, and so take the deal. Since you consent to this exchange, there’s nothing morally problematic about it.
You are a local monopsonist- that's restraint of trade plain and simple. Your laborer should hire a lawyer and get a penal settlement out of you. Alternatively, if the legal code in your country is not in line with current Free Market thinking, an arbitrage opportunity for a Social Entrepreneur exists such that the system decreasingly oscillates around the 'repeated game' optimum. 
3. Do people deserve all they are able, and only what they are able, to get through free exchange?
No. What we think people deserve has nothing to do with what they have or what they are able to get. 
If you say yes, you think that what people deserve is largely a matter of luck. Why? First, because only a tiny minority of the population is lucky enough to inherit wealth from their parents. (A fact lost on Mitt Romney, who famously advised America’s youth to “take a shot, go for it, take a risk … borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.”) Since giving money to your kids is just another example of free exchange, there’s nothing wrong with the accumulation of wealth and privilege in the hands of the few. Second, people’s capacities to produce goods and services in demand on the market is largely a function of the lottery of their birth: their genetic predispositions, their parents’ education, the amount of race- and sex-based discrimination to which they’re subjected, their access to health care and good education.

It’s also a function of what the market happens to value at a particular time. Van Gogh, William Blake, Edgar Allan Poe, Vermeer, Melville and Schubert all died broke. If you’re a good Nozickian, you think that’s what they deserved.
Either you have a theory of what people deserve or you don't. I suppose a person who believes in an Occassionalist God, or a believer in Karma, might say 'whatever people get is what they deserve' but this is independent of the sort of economic system obtaining at the time. Srinivasan may not have a full fledged theory of what people deserve but she does think that some people get more and others less than what they ought to do. She is welcome to do a bit of 'Mechanism Design' such that the outcome she desires arises out of the operation of the market. To persuade us to adopt this Mechanism she might, thanks to her brilliance, throw in some new piece of technology she has invented to sweeten the pot.
4. Are people under no obligation to do anything they don’t freely want to do or freely commit themselves to doing?
Yes! MORAL obligation arise solely by one's free choice and commitment- anything else is Kantian heteronomy.
If you say yes, then you think the only moral requirements are the ones we freely bring on ourselves — say, by making promises or contracts. Suppose I’m walking to the library and see a man drowning in the river. I decide that the pleasure I would get from saving his life wouldn’t exceed the cost of getting wet and the delay. So I walk on by. Since I made no contract with the man, I am under no obligation to save him.
Clearly, you felt no moral obligation to save him because you didn't save him. I might say 'you should have felt a moral obligation' but that judgment is an expression of the Moral code to which I have chosen to subscribe. I might go further. I might say 'I'm going to cut pieces out of your brain till your bad moral code is removed. Then I will insert pieces into your brain till you voluntarily choose a moral code similar to mine'. However, most people would feel that my moral code is just as bad, if not worse, than yours.  The Market Solution is not lobotomies or lectures but Mechanism Design so that Incentives and Penalties line up with the sort of outcomes we value.

Mario Rizzo Says:
  1. There is a long tradition in the common law that refuses to recognize a legal duty to help strangers in emergency situations: the so-called Good Samaritan duty. It is not because the common law judges were heartless and did not recognize moral duties. It is because they recognized that state compulsion or legal liability should be used sparingly. They also recognized a whole host of practical problems in enforcing Good Samaritan duties.
    Not to recognize a distinction between the moral obligations of individuals and the role of the state is an error of profound consequences.
    The liberal wants a society in which people who do not share the same moral values can live together and prosper.
  2. Vivek Iyer Says:

    Quite right. India has an activist Supreme Court which is stretching constructive due process in precisely this very dangerous manner such that innocent third parties can be jailed simply because they were ignorant of something which the Court decides it was their duty to know about.
    In ancient times, entire communities were held jointly accountable for any thing bad that happened in their locality. Far from preventing crime and destitution and so on, this merely gave rise to a corrupt form of tyranny.
    The philosophical argument Srinivasan presents hinges on an assumption of agent homogeniety.
    Actually, a Positive Duties argument, obeying the rules of what we would recognize to be a deontic logic, which stipulates that there is at least one general duty of benificence binding upon all possible agents is also an argument that either nullifies or forbids its own use.
    This is because a possible agent may interpret the general duty as entailing the making of this very argument. Either this is a legitimate or else an illegitimate entailment. If it is legitimate, then the argument has neither intentional nor intensional content because it is uttered only because it is a binding duty. On the other hand, If it is an illegitimate entailment then deontic logic forbids its use.
    In ordinary life, we recognize that agents are diverse. We expect more from some than others. Positive Duties are enjoined on people we deem ‘respectable’ or ‘virtuous’ or ‘capable’. We expect less of a person of impaired judgment, reputation or character.
    Economic theory explains how and why heterogeneous agents get canalised, some towards ‘repugnancy markets’ others towards ‘merit goods’. The benefit of offering contracts which are ‘balanced’ rather than exploitative- in the sense of equitably sharing the gains from trade- is reputational and dynamic. Some agents gain more by taking this ‘high road’ while others, by reason of entitlement defect or pathological preferences, remain confined to the ghetto of ‘repugnancy markets.’
    Thus, the sort of deontic logic that matches with a sophisticated ‘Whig’ type of theory (like that of Ken Binmore) is not going to suffer the defect of the argument put forward by this lady.
Srinivas's argument boils down to this- 'You, the reader, believe a Positive Moral Duty exists which conflicts with the Negative Rights of the Free Market.' Thus either you are immoral, in ignoring your own moral intuition, or stupid.'
It's basically a 'gotcha' argument of a puerile sort so the proper way to combat it is to accuse her of advocating the use of tax payer dollars to subsidize the environmentally unsustainable sodomisation of ethnic minority fetuses which is what Obamacare ineluctably entails- at least on her premises. This is because everybody has the Positive right to terminate the genetically cloned fetus with high sodomization preference and ethnic minority status, which the State had to provide for them, as part of their Positive right to happiness, and the fetus has the Positive right to be kept alive and regularly sodomized as per its genetically programmed wishes, all at the State's expense. This is clearly environmentally unsustainable because everything is.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Steve Landsburg's stupidest post?

This has to be a joke, even Landsburg can't be this stupid, but not all his followers seem to be in on it.

Briefly, in Economics, a situation where someone receives a benefit or a cost, other than through the operation of the market, is called an externality and when this happens we know the market fails to produce the best possible outcome.
Landsburg argument is that when I hire x instead of y, then y loses out. Similarly, if I urinate copiously on y, then y loses out. Why is it that I will be fined or jailed for urinating on y whereas I get off scot-free for not hiring him?
The answer is that hiring x rather than y is a market decision. Y's loss or gain is mediated by the market. There is no externality. Urinating on a guy, or committing some other nuisance, is not mediated through the market, unless he paid me to do it, or I compensated him for it.

Landsburg says 'the social value created by Gruen ( an author he likes) is determined by the value that you get from reading Gruen as opposed to reading someone else.' 
This is mad. Suppose I chose to hire you to work for ten hours cleaning my house. I could have hired someone else to work for nine and a half hours. Is the social value of your ten hours of labor actually just half an hour of labor because that is the difference between my benefit from hiring you and my benefit from hiring someone else? If so, why stop there? The social value of everything is zero because the alternative to that thing is 99.9999999 recurring percentage of that same thing. Landsburg just destroyed the economy.
But Steve's just getting warmed up.
His post continues 'That social value is, most of the time, far less than your willingness to pay. But the reason markets work so well is that — most of the time — willingness to pay is an accurate gauge of social value. In this case it’s not, so there’s no reason to trust the market.' 
So, according to Landsburg, when people buy a book by Gruen for ten dollars, the social value created by Gruen is less than ten dollars because people could have read Faulkner for free on their Kindle. Suppose Gruen is a believer in Landsburg's nutty Economics. She increases the social value of her product, at least for Landsburg, by offering him the following contract- either buy my book or I cause ten million dollars worth of damage to your body.  Now Landsburg's social value from buying her book is just ten bucks short of ten million. Wow! Landsburg hasn't just destroyed the economy, he's resurrected it as an evil zombie.
But why stop with the Economy when one can also destroy Civilization? That's Landsburg's next step.
Question: How do you justify taxing carbon emissions without also taxing novelists?
Let me head off the obvious (but I think faulty) rejoinder that the carbon emitter is intruding on his neighbors’ property rights while Sara Gruen is not. Here’s why I don’t buy that: When we talk about setting policy, we’re implicitly talking about how property rights should be allocated in the first place. When we tax the polluter, we’re declaring that his neighbors have a property right to carbon-free air. If we tax Sara Gruen, we’re declaring that the Faulkner estate has a property right to the attention of potential readers. Neither of those property rights exists ab initio. Instead, they’re created by policies. So a claim that there’s a relevant property right in one case (but not the other) is not an answer to the question; it’s only a rephrasing of the question, viz: “Why is there so much clamor to create and enforce one property right but not the other?”
Suppose no rights exist ab initio. In that case, talk about setting policy can't implicitly be about rights at all. Either such talk explicitly creates rights or it does not. Nothing that goes on during the process of talking can have an implicit reference to rights because we have already stipulated for their non-existence.
What happens if some rights exist ab initio? Then implicit reference can be made to those rights and, while talking about setting policy, the scope of those rights may indeed be broadened such that new property rights become vested.
Landsburg asks- It is possible, perhaps, to understand why self-interested parties have found it worth their while to fight for carbon taxes but not for authorial taxes. My question is whether there’s a principled reason to tax polluters but not novelists. Anyone?
The answer, of course, is- the principles of Economics give a reason to tax externalities such that Social Costs and Benefits come into line with Private Incentives and penalties. If authors compete in the market, no externality requiring a tax arises though there are winners and losers. Carbon taxes, however, are one proposed solution to the Externalities associated with the use of fossil fuel.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Mehrotra's Kabir

For votaries of mystic religion, Kabir's poetry still has an immediacy and a relevance which even being sodomized by Michelle Obama on Fox News somehow lacks.

This at any rate is my conclusion after leafing through Prof. Amul Dairy Mehrotra's 'Songs of Kabir'

In other words

All your Religions are shite
But my God is all right
Say his name bitch
Or  go die in a ditch.
What is the fucking point of this sort of translation? Rama aint an English name. It looks odd. How do you pronounce it? Rammer? Saying 'Rammer' is the only thing that can save me from death? Why? How come? Is it a Gay thing? Will the Grim Reaper turn his back and run from me if I grin evilly and shout 'Rammer!' and charge at him with an erect cock? 
It seems this Kabir dude was a weaver. I don't suppose that's a real high I.Q. type job. Them weavers bent over their looms probably did have to watch out for 'Rammers'. Not unnaturally, they get to talking and comparing notes and moaning about the bad pay and conditions and how like India is totally a shithole and then one of them pipes up and says- 'talking of shitholes, my last Rammer did a real number on mine'- and then everybody starts riffing on this theme till Kabir- the idiot of the group- jabbers out this so-oooooo excellent poem.

Punditry is a joke word. Penance might mean something profound- like repentance- but because it is paired here with punditry the reader is already in a Monty Python sketch with a four armed god and some stoned hippy running around saying 'Keep cool. Everything is going to be fine and dandy. Just wipe that shit-eating smile off your face, it aint fooling nobody, and don't do no coveting while praying to that stone idol coz that will spoil its mojo. Okay, all set? Make your wish and blow.'
Why is this stoned hippy saying this shit? Oh. It's that idiot Kabir. He thinks we want to get to his Rammer quicker coz we must be into rough trade otherwise why else would we be slumming it down his neck of the woods? 
But Mehrotra isn't finished with Kabir- 
Deer aint naked. They wear deer-skin. Some dudes wear deer-skin which, I guess, is a possession and giving up possessions can be thought of as a kind of liberation from the bondage of materialism.
Ewes don't have shaven heads. Steers don't hold back semen. Who is writing this shite? Oh. It's that fuckwit  Kabir babbling brokenly about his Rammer. Some one must have told him to apply a salve or a lotion after his last reaming and perhaps that's how he hit upon the word salvation. Actually, this last is  kinda sad.
Maybe that's Mehrotra's point. Apparently, he's a Eng Lit Prof at a Uni in the cow belt and probably has to teach a whole bunch of Backward Caste types like Kabir.

Fuck me. Mehrotra, though shitting on Kabir, shitting on the Hindi, yet is a greater writer than Pankaj Mishra or Amitav Kumar or even V.S. Naipaul because, in the space of a few stanzas he PROVES North India is, was and always will be a complete and utter shit-hole without any Literature or Culture or capacity for connected thought.

I need hardly mention that Wendy O'Doniger wrote the introduction to this masterpiece.
Why are these people Professors?
How stupid are the people they teach?

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Ghalib- ghazal 75

ruḳh-e nigār se hai soz-e jāvidānī-e shamʿa
huʾī hai ātish-e gul āb-e zindagānī-e shamʿa

zabān-e ahl-e zabāñ meñ hai marg ḳhāmoshī
yih bāt bazm meñ raushan huʾī zabānī-e shamʿa

kare hai ṣirf bah ʿīmā-e shuʿlah qiṣṣah tamām
bah t̤arz-e ahl-e fanā hai fasānah-ḳhvānī-e shamʿa

ġham us ko ḥasrat-e parvānah kā hai ay shuʿle
tire larazne se z̤āhir hai nā-tavānī-e shamʿa

nashāt̤-e dāġh-e ġham-e ʿishq kī bahār nah pūchh
shiguftagī hai shahīd-e gul-e ḳhizānī-e shamʿa

That it licks her eucharistic blush for aye burns the candle
The Rose's auto da fe to elixir turns the candle.

 When Poet's converse, Silence is such a Scandal
Death caps our verse in the tongue of the candle

Completing the campfire tale only the Caravan's Khizr can handle
Already Nirvana is the wick of the flickering of the candle

Grief thy lone lap the moth's posterity to dandle
 Only the weak tremble at wrath's austerity, O candle

Weep, wounded poppy, for Love is so vernal a Vandal
A bloom martyred bud is the autumn of the candle

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Kaushik Basu's latest idiocy

Kaushik Basu is not content, as most Bengali Economists usually are, with uttering policy prescriptions based on logical fallacies; he goes the extra mile by imputing the logical fallacy in his own argument to imaginary economists who existed in the past so as to expatiate on their stupidity.
'... suppose that in 1930 an economist conducted an empirical study of what cured infectious diseases, and, analyzing masses of data from previous years, concluded that 98% of all treatable illnesses were cured by non-antibiotic medicines – “tradicines,” which include all traditional medicines of various schools. This conclusion would most likely be valid, because the use of antibiotics before 1930 – just two years after Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and years before it was fully workable as a cure – was rare and mostly inadvertent.'

Basu actually wrote the shit quoted above. How is an economist in 1930 supposed to know about antibiotics? Few Doctors did. An Economist might say 'Science based medicine is responsible for curing most illness. Let's invest more in Scientific pharma and tell Mahatma Gandhi to go fuck himself.' What he can't say is 'tradicines are better than penicillin.' Penicillin didn't exist.

Basu's years with the Govt. of India have rotted his brain.

He writes'.. suppose that the economist goes on to argue that, therefore, it would be silly to give patients penicillin, because we know that 98% of all treatable diseases were cured by tradicines, and penicillin is not a tradicine. That is a wrong deduction, based on evidence that does not exist. What the economist’s study in 1930 showed is that tradicines accounted for 98% of the cases that were successfully treated. It does not show that penicillin does not work.'
Actually, the economist would have no concept of the 'tradicine'/antibiotic dichotomy and in any case the notion of 'treatable disease' is a movable feast. A new method of treatment changes the data set. Contra, Basu, no Economist in 1930 would have thought 'this conclusion is most likely valid' because back then even Bengali Economists weren't utter fuckwits because Tamils, like Kumarappa, held that monopoly.
Basu continues-
'This is a common mistake. We often hear assertions like, “We must rely on the private sector to create jobs, because studies show that 90% of past jobs were created by the private sector.” If we accepted this reasoning, we would have to accept a Soviet researcher’s assertion in the late 1980’s that we must rely on the state to create jobs, because 90% of past jobs were created by the state.'

So, according to Basu, up till now some dangerously high percentage of arguments in Economics have had the form 'Till now x has happened. Therefore x will happen.' But, this is just induction pure and simple. It assumes the ceteris paribus condition- viz. that nothing else changes. In the case of a Soviet researcher who assumes that Communism is going to continue to rule the land, it is reasonable to say 'since 90 per cent of jobs have been created by the State since the Bolshevik Revolution, we must rely on the State to create jobs because, experience tells us, if the private sector tries to do it, they'll get shot.'
'On job creation, there is both theory and evidence to support the conclusion that the private sector is the main driver of sustainable expansion (which is not to deny that there may be scope for tweaking public policies to make the private sector more employment-friendly). But on poverty eradication, theory and evidence show that policy interventions, when skillfully designed, can play a significant role. Some of these policies already exist; some have to be crafted – the antibiotics of our time.'
Basu is wrong. There is no theory and no evidence that could possibly show that anything is sustainable except ceteris paribus. But ceteris paribus means 'with the current information set'. When Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, ceteris stopped being paribus. The information set changed. The category 'treatable diseases' stopped being (if it ever was) well defined. To make it well defined, experiments had to be carried out- i.e. new evidence was needed. Theorists needed to make a paradigm shift in their thinking, to evolve wholly new models before they could start to make useful predictions as to what was treatable with the new methods.
Similarly, if the Govt. makes an experiment- or by happenstance the thing occurs by default- and gains new information, then it is possible that 'tweaking public policy will make the private-sector more employment friendly'. But, it is also possible that the new type of information makes Govt. employment more productive and a better driver for growth. Suppose, the Govt. finds a method of breaking Information asymmetry such that things like Adverse Selection and Agent/Principal hazard cease to arise. At the margin, this can 'tweak' Manpower policy- e.g. more efficient Labor Exchanges giving a boost to the Private Sector. But, assuming the Govt. has a permanent advantage in this respect, the corollary is that the Govt. should become the main employer because it has better information or mechanism design. Suppose I will work harder and more conscientiously if I know my employment will save the country from the invaders. I don't know if private sector employers are patriots or traitors so I either refuse employment or work sub-optimally in the private sector. Here, the Govt. Labor exchange can 'tweak' things by assuring me that such and such employer is a good guy and that's an efficiency gain. However, if everybody was like me, then what would be even more efficient is if the Govt. takes control of industry.
The same holds true of anti-poverty measures. Whoever has lower information cost relative to an efficiency gain (i.e. Hicks Kaldor type improvement for the Poor) by reason of a new discovery should be given the resources to get on with the job. 'Skillfully designed policy intervention' is the same thing as Penicillin. It's a new discovery. It's a change in the information set. If there's an associated asymmetry such that a particular set of agents have lower cost for acquiring this information, then it should be they who are put in charge. Having chicken soup is good for some illnesses. Everyone knows Mums are better at making chicken soup than doctors- so Mums should make chicken soup. However Doctors are better at prescribing antibiotics because they have lower cost of acquiring the relevant information to make a prescription. So Doctors should be in charge of deciding how to allocate that type of medicine.
Basu seems to believe that Govts. already possess an information advantage because they already have 'cures'. But, why haven't they implemented them already? Are they too stupid or lazy or callous to do so? If so, sack the fuckers. If it is a question of Incentive Compatibility then fix it. Tell these fuckers they will be fucking sacked if they don't get their act together and then start sacking them with vim and vigor pour encourager les autres.
Basu, who hasn't been sacked, more's the pity, continues-
'In India, the government has tried for decades to get cheap food to the poor. Cost-benefit analysis has led many to declare it a failed policy. But the fault lies with the program’s method, which is to rely on the state both to collect the food from farmers and to deliver it to the poor. Around 45% of food grain leaks out and disappears in this process. This means that the program’s leaks need to be repaired, not that the entire scheme should be abandoned. A carefully designed public-private partnership – in which the state gives a subsidy directly to the poor, who then buy food from private farmers and traders – would benefit all.'
No, you worthless fuckwit, the fault lies with not sacking worthless fuckwits like you when they are proven to be worthless fuckwits. What is the point of giving money to 'the poor' if that money isn't given to the poor at all because worthless fuckwits like you won't sack corrupt cunts? Yes, I know you were hired by corrupt cunts precisely because you are a worthless fuckwit but couldn't you stretch your venal fuckwittery to getting yourself infected with AIDS and then fucking all them guys in the ass till they all get sick and just fucking die?
No. You won't do that. Instead, you'll write this-
'Obviously, when the poor have more (and healthier) food, their nutrition improves; when better-nourished people go to school, they become more productive; the same is true of health services. Overall economic growth is important, but the poor should not have to wait until its benefits trickle down to them; with the right anti-poverty policies, governments can encourage trickle-up growth as well.'
The malnourished have low leisure preference. They are willing to trade labor for grub. Labor means more goods and services- that's growth. Call it trickle up growth if some of the fruits of that labor ends up enriching the already rich but what's undeniable is that growth is growth.
Why not remove legal and other barriers to this type of growth?
Cui bono?
Oh! Only the poor, not the anti-poverty industry.
Fuck it. Let's not.

Basu says if kids are better fed they'll do well in School. This assumes that Schools will teach properly. Why should they do so? Basu and Co. are giving State Schools a monopoly by making most private schools illegal because they don't have playing fields and pay low salaries. Amartya Sen wants to ban private tuition altogether. Govt. teachers count the votes in elections. They are overpaid and over protected. What's their incentive to actually teach? As for the Politicians, the shite they want taught is fucking hagiographies of their Party's founder or ruling dynasty.
Basu speaks of Cash transfers as if it were not the case that the manufacture of bogus identities were not a major industry vital to the functioning of Political parties.
How is it that a stint working with the Indian Govt. has left him more, not less, deluded as to the reality on the ground?
Is the same going to happen to Raghuram Rajan?

Returning to Basu, what got him talking about penicillin was not anything he'd contracted while working on contract for the Indian Govt, but this ' new paper, by David Dollar, Tatjana Kleineberg, and Aart Kraay analyzing empirically the relationship between growth and poverty. Their comprehensive study draws on high-quality survey data from 118 countries and reaches a clear conclusion: the bulk of poverty eradication that took place in recent decades was driven by economies’ overall income growth. More specifically, 77% of the cross-country variation in the income growth of the poorest 40% of the population reflects differences in average income growth.
Findings like these lead many people to conclude that eradicating poverty requires us to rely on overall growth, and that direct government policy interventions have little merit. But this is a wrong conclusion, which illustrates a lapse of logic.
So there you have it. Kaushik Basu's lapse in logic arose from his anxiety to correct a FUCKING TAUTOLOGY.
Sir Partha Das Gupta has critiqued existing N.I accounts for not accurately reflecting depreciation of Environmental and other intangible types of Assets. Suppose this were to be done- i.e. suppose Growth really meant the rise in Income with Wealth (including what Tauger calls Environmental Production Entitlements and non-Sen-tentious Capabilities) also rising sufficiently to make that Income level sustainable- then it would be indeed be true that Growth alone could lift countries out of poverty , though Income distribution might have to change in an adverse way so as to get resources out of the hands of the stupid.
But this isn't what Basu is saying.
He is praising a crazy Speenhamland type system which gives food to below subsistence farmers so that they can't even migrate but must stay in place to vote like sheep for whichever Party has the most appealing or appalling gangsters.
The ability to migrate is itself an Entitlement. It is itself a type of Wealth. This now depreciates because of 'Anti Poverty' policies whose true aim is to freeze up the Social Geography so as to perpetuate vote banks. What is the point of keeping below subsistence farmers in agriculture? How does this release land for Manufacturing? If land is not released for manufacturing, what is going to power demographic change?
Basu assumes that the resources exist to stop leakages from Govt. programs. Suppose we could import an infinite quantity of incorruptible Swedish bureaucrats, protected by indefatigable American Secret Service agents, then, sure, we can ensure that Govt. programs work the way they are supposed to. But India can't do that. Officers may now be quite well paid but they don't want to be transferred every couple of months, if not simply butchered in broad daylight. What incentive do they have to stop leakages?
The Indian Criminal Justice System works in a perverse way. Gangsters bring false charges against honest people to get them to part with their property. To do the reverse is actually illegal because of a presumption that the owner of the property is a nasty Capitalist while the squatter is an innocent Proletarian.
Basu's analogy with 'tradicines' in the 1930 is simply mad. Growth, properly defined, is technology independent. It is a different matter that N.I statistics are hopelessly flawed.
In any case, what will really determine how many poor people there are is whether poor people can and want to have more poor babies in situ.
The World Bank may be silly- it's got the word World in its title, so it's bound to be foolish- but that's no excuse for screwing up India's Economy, Professor Basu.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


No Sun, no Wind, just clouds tipsy on tints of purple hyacinth
& Holst's planets treading Hammersmith's red labyrinth
Music is hideous. Fulham's cozier streets disguise
Theseus, thy Minatour, bellowing for its prize.

Friday, 11 October 2013

I too felled the Ashwattha tree.

Because I too felled the Ashwattha tree, not its fountain of sap
Krishna plays, everywhere I see, in but Yashoda's lap
Ashwatthaama, thy jewel, Ahasuerus thy pomp
I'd barter to be a puppy & join in their romp

Note- Aswattha means 'under which horses stand' and hence is a name for the sacred banyan fig tree. In the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjun to cut down, with the axe of non-attachment, the 'hymn leaved banyan whose roots are in Heaven and branches down below'.
Ashwatthaama means 'endowed with the strength of a horse'.
In the Mahabharata, Ashwatthaama forfeits his crest-jewel because he chopped down the family tree of the Pandavas, However, Lord Krishna revived the son of his nephew, who was also Arjuna's grandson, and thus the Pandavas were able to continue their royal lineage after all.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Guha on Gandhi

Ramachandra Guha's new book, 'Gandhi before India', is not entirely innocent of historical scholarship yet joyously jejune in its hagiographic claims- things like, 'Gandhi was born and raised a Hindu, and he avowed that denominational label all his life. Yet no Hindu before or since had such a close, intense engagement with the great Abrahamic religions. '
Is Guha right?
 Raja Ram Mohan Roy had a close and intense engagement with all three Abrahamic Religions- not just Arabic, he even learnt Hebrew- and went on to found a monotheistic sect which strictly forbade idolatry. Nor was Roy unique. Many North Indian Hindu lawyers had a profound knowledge of  Islamic law and Religion; in addition to Persian, some attained proficiency in Arabic; and, from about 1830 onward they had a lot of exposure to Christianity. 
As for the South Indian littoral, Judaism had always maintained a presence. Indeed, in Kerala, Hindus have lived side by side with Jews, Christians and Muslims for over a thousand years. Is it plausible that not one single Malyalee Hindu- more particularly given the genius for theological speculation displayed by the people of that region- failed to engage equally intensely with 'the great Abrahamic Religions'? One way to engage intensely with a Religion is to convert to it. We know some Hindus converted to Judaism and Christianity and Islam- how can we have a priori knowledge that their engagement was less intense than Gandhis?
Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya was an associate of Vivekananda in the Ramakrishna Mission. He later became a Catholic Sanyasi of a type which has officially existed since 1831 and whose contribution to Christology is the doctrine of the retention and transmutation into the elixir of stupidity of the Logos Spermaticos

Perhaps, Guha thinks Hindus who convert no longer count as human. But there are people who engage with Abrahamic Religions without demitting their ancestral faith. Consider the case of some young Hindu alive in the world today. How do we know his engagement with Abrahamic religion is less intense than Gandhis?

It may be argued that Guha's absurd claim is nothing but harmless hyperbole.

Yet, when we read what he goes on to write in justification of it, we find that this absurdity lies at the heart of Guha's historiography.

He is saying that only in South Africa, at that particular time, could Hindus and Jews and Christians and Muslims intermingle in a manner such that Gandhi, despite being intellectually unexceptional and deeply provincial to boot, could suddenly turn, by some miracle of elective affinity, into the highest attainable point, at least for a Hindu, of engagement with the Abrahamic Religions.
Thus, Guha tells us that Gandhi 'understood Judaism through a highly personal lens, through his friendships with (Henry) Polak, (Hermann) Kallenbach and Sonja Schlesin especially. His interest in Christianity was both personal and theological—he liked (Joseph) Doke and loved (Charles Freer or C.F.) Andrews, but whereas he was not really influenced by Jewish thought he was profoundly shaped by heterodox Christian texts, above all Tolstoy’s The Kingdom of God is Within You. His relations with Islam were partly personal, but largely pragmatic and political. He had read the Quran (probably more than once), but was never really moved by it in the same way as he was moved by the Bhagavad Gita or even the Sermon on the Mount. He had some Muslim friends, but what concerned him more—much more—was the forging of a compact between Hindus and Muslims, the major communities in the Indian diaspora in South Africa, as they were in India itself.'
Gandhi  had some Jewish friends- but they weren't orthodox- and he had some Muslim friends- but he wasn't a 'shagird' of a Sufi master or anything of that sort- and he had some friends who were ordained Christian ministers- but they didn't discuss Christian theology with him since their own Irenicism was of an eclectic type.
Under these circumstances, how did Gandhi manage to achieve a closer engagement with the great Abrahamic religions than any Hindu before or since? Virtually every Hindu with a modicum of personal charm, who studied in Europe at that time, would have had some Christian and Jewish and Muslim friends. No lawyer conducting a successful practice in Bombay or Madras or Calcutta- or even Kipling's Lahore- would not have had a friendly acquaintance with some Jews and Christians and so on. Some Hindus were good at learning languages. Some Hindus did and do learn Arabic to read the Quran, Hebrew to read the Torah, Greek to read the New Testament, Latin to read the Vulgate and so on. Furthermore, some of the same Hindus studied or study Philosophy and Theology. Many joined or join progressive organizations of various types- Beasant's Theosophical Society, Kipling's Freemasons, or even just the local lending Library. How does Guha know that Gandhi achieved a closer engagement with the great Abrahamic religions than any such Hindu? Guha assumes what he needs to prove- viz. there was something special about Gandhi. But Guha also maintains that there was nothing special about Gandhi. Had he remained in Porbandar, he would have been a nonentity. Yet it was Porbandar, more particularly his elder brother's influence there, which opened the door to a job with a Muslim firm inSouth Africa for Gandhi. It seems, Porbandar wasn't such an out of the way place after all. The threads that connected it to the wealthiest Muslim businessmen in South Africa were spun of not gossamer but steel.
What Guha fails to see is that Gandhi's world was already so interconnected as to be relatively hysteresis free. Such opportunities or acquaintances as came his way were not not unique or providential but largely interchangeable and arising out of his own autonomous life-project. Had Gandhi remained in London, working for an Indian firm, he would have blossomed from being a vegetarian activist into a broader role which would have brought him, sooner or later, within the same coterie in which he played so signal a part. Had he remained in Bombay- perhaps teaching part time while building up a clientele amongst his caste fellows- he would have slowly climbed the ladder of municipal politics while finding like minded associates in the Theosophical and Servants of India Societies. Sooner or later, Gokhale or Phirozeshah Mehta or Bownargee would have asked him to volunteer his services as the Congress Party's representative to either Fiji or Zanzibar or South Africa or Trinidad or something of that sort. Gandhi had an adventurous spirit. He was brave. He had compassion. He would have risen to the occasion.
Perhaps Guha's thesis- viz. that living outside India turned Gandhi into a totally different man (even though the means to live outside India arose entirely from his Indian connection)- is really about South Africa and the curious course of events which made it the center of World attention in the opening years of the last Century. However, the truth is Gandhi's role there was as a supporting actor, nothing more, in a drama whose real star was not Lord Milner but Jan Smuts.

Ultimately, Guha's failure in this book arises from his distaste for, or ignorance of, Religion.
Take the case of Dr. Pranjivan Mehta who who was Gandhi's first mentor in London and, till his own death, his most loyal  supporter and financier. Guha calls Pranjivan the Engels to Gandhi's Marx and mentions the influence of Raichandbhai Mehta (who was related to Pranjivan by marriage) on Gandhi but does not pause to consider why a Jain might consider Gandhi a 'Mahatma'.
The answer has to do with a crisis within Jain meta-ethics, most strikingly articulated by Acharya Bhikshu, whereby good deeds, save that of feeding monks, by reason of the exigent circumstance represented by India's cumulative impoverishment, had lost soteriological efficacy because such deeds, that too, in ever increasing volume, were now so vital for the simple survival of the species that they could not be seen as merely instrumental in creating a karmic tropism towards the diksha- i.e. renunciation- of the ascetic than which no higher temporal goal can exist for the laity. In this context, Gandhi- a Hindu- could be seen to be creating a new type of vyavahara, or customary morality, for the masses such that premature Cosmic dissolution could be averted. By an imaginative interpretation of Yasovijaya, an interesting possibility arises in this context- viz that some intermediate 'dharma' (duty) is abrogated during the period of activity of a vyavahara stabilizing Mahatma such that a layman, like Raichandbhai, could indeed have achieved kevalya (Gnosis) even though he died before he could take diksha and, in any case, no Tirthankara existed during his life time. In other words, Pranjivan had a specific soteriological stake in wishing to see Gandhi as a Mahatma and, because he himself was not 'a mediocre student' or a provincial boor, his efforts to build up Gandhi (for example by arguing with Gokhale regarding the latter's more objective assessment of Gandhi's ability) played a much bigger role in both Gandhi's self-image and the respect accorded to him than the fact that he was pals with a couple of Jews or Christians or Muslims.
Guha was not trained as a historian. He doesn't know much about Indian literature and philosophy. He isn't into Religion. That's why his comments about Gandhi are stupid.
One other point. Guha is not a novelist or a playwright. He doesn't watch crap TV soaps and old weepie melodramas. Thus he fails to understand the dynamics of what he describes. 
Take the case of Jeki Mehta- the scarlet woman of Satyagraha- Gandhi had asked his second son Manilal to nurse this daughter of Pranjivan's, who was supposedly unwell, so as to instill in the young man an immunity to the temptations of her flesh. No doubt, this ploy would have worked had the lady in question, recently married but perhaps unhappily so, not been in rather better health than Gandhiji supposed. Manilal was not a pervert. Tending to a sick person does not stimulate erotic thoughts in either patient or nurse. But, if both are healthy and young, then the situation could not be more highly erotically charged..
Gandhi has been accused of having reacted in an extreme manner to what then happened. But what was he supposed to do? The girl was the daughter of his mentor and financial supporter. She was married to a lawyer whom Gandhi had recruited and sent to Fiji. She was living under his roof. His own son was implicated. A lesser man would have hanged himself or hushed it up or shifted the blame on to someone else.

The one unquestionable contribution that Gandhi made to Indian politics was in getting women out of the prison of purdah and into proper Jail cells. How would that work if the sluts expected nookie as a reward? It really doesn't bear thinking about which is why I want you to stop thinking about it otherwise I'll just stop typing this and then you'll be all like trawling porn sites for Savita bhabi does Satyagraha or Debbie does the Dandi March or... FUCK ME the video I just thought of actually exists! Won't post the link though. That will teach you to only think pure thoughts in future..

Friday, 4 October 2013

There is no Western concept of Religion.

There is currently a copious academic availability cascade whose premise is that countries like Japan had no concept of what we understand by the term Religion prior to contact with the West.

By contrast, a far more plausible claim is that the West did not and doesn't have a concept of Religion because it forgot or abandoned, as false or delusive, anything indigenous or spontaneously occurring that might come under that rubric, preferring to, by an act of faith, not reason, assert that it had come into possession of something non-Western which, even if it really were only a concept, nevertheless could not be possessed as such, because the thing was constituted by its claim to be something the very opposite of conceptual and only 'multiply realizable' by a Divine Act of Grace. In other words there is no possible interpretation of the word 'concept' such that the West (as the term is commonly used) could claim to have, or have had, a self certifiable concept of Religion.

Let us suppose that you have a concept of something iff you have a 'mental representation' of it and this mental representation enables you to do certain things- e.g. draw valid inferences, make meaningful distinctions, and participate in a discourse to which Public Justification theory or Evidentiary Decision theory is relevant.
Then, clearly, the West does not have a concept of Religion because of its own mental representation of 'concept' as something not constituted by a leap of faith.
A Jew or a Brahmin or a Sayyad may posit a genealogical episteme, based on likelihood of descent from a Prophet or Rishi into his or her imperative concept of Religion so as to permit an evidentiary decision theory type justification of his or her own chosen degree of orthopraxy or orthodoxy, but a 'Westerner' has no similar recourse save by telling what are now known to be blatant and stupid  lies.

What happens if we think of concepts as not 'mental representations' but platonic objects? Surely there is a way- Hegel's- to say that the West does have, indeed has in a superlative degree, a concept of Religion? But this just cashes out as telling very very stupid, very very obvious and blatant lies while pretending to care deeply about Humanity and Culture and Art and Philosophy while vomiting and shitting all over everything. Ultimately, in addition to blind faith, you now need to be a thorough going Racist and Sexist and hater of Working Class people.

Fuck. Just described myself. You all know the story of how my parents were racist towards me and my ex-wife sexually abused me, but what, you may wonder, has turned me against the working class?
The answer is those fuckers make too much noise going about their work when I'm trying to nurse a hangover.

I guess, though there is no Western concept of Religion, yet there is me. I'm the Western concept of Religion- fat, ugly, stupid but also impotent to do much Evil. And  hung fucking over. So don't slam the door as you hurriedly exit this website.
Mind it kindly

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Is there a 'Finance curse' similar to the 'Resource curse'?

Yes, according to this well produced booklet which, however, signally fails to address the elephant in the room- in this context, the fact that things like petrol are nothing like financial services because
1) optimal depletion theory has no relevance to services. You can't 'just leave it in the ground'. Either you develop it or you condemn yourself to importing it or doing without it- in which case the rest of the economy suffers.
2) Commodities are not like services. The former but not the latter are inelastic in supply and demand, subject to random shocks,  and arise from natural as opposed to acquired or comparative advantage. They can't be geographically relocated. A British manufacturer can shift operations to China, Nigerian oil can only be got from Nigeria. Price volatility is going to be greater in Commodities because of random supply shocks including technological ones e.g. fracking. Demand, too, may collapse because of a change in technology.
Finance is much more plastic and sees profit volatility arising from cyclical processes which are not random- thus there should be and has been till recently 'a great moderation' in this respect- i.e. by its nature Financial volatility can be tamed whereas commodities are always going to be risky.
3) Physical control of a resource rich piece of ground permits the capture of the economic rent. True, unless the infrastructure is maintained, that economic rent diminishes, still it potentially exists and so the cost of rent contestation is going to be high. In practice this means a higher recurring cost of securing possession. In the case of Finance, the ability to implement Capital controls is crucial in order to capture Economic rent. That can't be done just by 'boots on the ground' or 'occupy Wall street'. Indeed, the rent to Finance disappears if one adopts the sort of  dirigiste regime in which Capital Controls become optimal. India and Pakistan went in for Bank nationalization. Did they capture any rents? No. The rents disappeared along with dynamism in the economy. The Seventies were a wasted decade Economically for both countries. 
The authors fail to show that the Resource Curse is a good analogy for what is wrong with Finance through no fault of their own. The thing can't be done.
Their arguments about Finance also misfire because of their reliance on arguments from crowding out and rent seeking theory.
Crowding out arguments fail because
1) Jobs in finance aren't a perfect substitute for other vocations. I want to teach kids. I can't do that in Finance. Yes, some 'rocket scientists' get jobs in Finance. They were second rate to start with. An Einstein or Von Neumann doesn't go into Finance. He may do a spot of consultancy, but that's the end of it. Finance is as boring as shit. Everybody knows this. Better a second-rater goes into Banking than the local Bureaucracy.
2) Financial services may MISALLOCATE resources, e.g. investing too little in domestic manufacturing and too much in colonial plantations- but that isn't crowding out. Competition within the Financial sector ought to redress the misallocation, if it doesn't that's MARKET FAILURE not Crowding out.
3) Financial Services have a preference for high density geographical concentration- they don't physically crowd out more productive activities e.g. manufacturing or mining or agriculture. It is ridiculous to suggest it. Wealth generated by Financial Services may lead to higher house prices, fancy restaurants etc and that can feel like crowding out, but any type of Wealth is going to do the same thing. It is isn't a Finance specific problem.

Now for the author's arguments from rent-seeking. They themselves admit that Finance prefers countries with good Law and Order and a fiscally responsible Govt. If we are likely to elect a Chavez like nut-job determined to squeeze Finance, nothing will be there for him to squeeze except his own cronies' rent.
The problem with the author's thesis is that we already have
1) an independent Judiciary perfectly willing to send not just financial criminals but also corrupt politicians to jail. 
2) a parliamentary democracy whereby we can kick out corrupt or stupid politicians
3) a regulatory mechanism which could, and in my view should, ensure that, absent quality innovation, oligopolistic Finance takes a declining share of National Income.

In conclusion, though this is a well-written booklet and my sympathies are entirely on the side of the authors, still the arguments presented are silly. As for their policy recommendations- they are a catastrophe waiting to happen- stupid stuff like Govt. intervention to equalize factor returns across industries.