Friday, 30 May 2014

Ghalib ghazal 76

bīm-e raqīb se nahīñ karte vidāʿ-e hosh

majbūr yāñ talak huʾe ay iḳhtiyār ḥaif

jaltā hai dil kih kyūñ nah ham ik bār jal gaʾe

ay nā-tamāmī-e nafas-e shuʿlah-bār ḥaif

We quit not Consciousness for fear of the Rival- Alas!
Love constrains Love for its very Survival- Alas!
Oh arsonist heart, why spared you my factory?
A bankrupt so burnt, yet Love is refractory- Alas!

Nehru's Economic Policy

This is a link to an erudite article on Nehru's Economic Policy which is misleading precisely because it is erudite; erudition being, as our folk wisdom has it, the thing that most makes one stupid and blind.

Mathematical Growth theory and Capital theory are inherently silly. Let that Silliness feed into how National Income is calculated and you have permanently increased the noise to signal ratio for Everybody in the Economy- i.e. a bunch of eggheads, who should have stayed in Cambridge buggering with each other's brains to get into Wittgenstein's good books, manage to permanently harm the Economy by at least a couple of percentage points of GDP.

It's simply crazy to let a Physicist like Mahanalobis, or a Cambridge graduate of any description, near Econ policy. Vishveshvarayya was an old fashioned engineer turned Diwan. His thinking was simple. Govt. picks a smart guy- like Kurien for Amul- who has an engineering or similar qualification and puts him in charge of a project- be it irrigation or Milk production or whatever. The technocrat gets a pragmatic grass-roots type political backer who can broker deals with stakeholders. Finance Ministry commits money. Those guys who do well get more money. Other who talk who a good game but can't deliver are quietly shunted off to Academia.
I suppose you can call this 'Industrial Policy'. Why bother? Just let it happen and don't give it any fancy name because ordinary blokes understand it immediately. It's Nation building is what it is.

Like the pre-war U.S. Dept of Agriculture which did a truly spectacular job just by keeping a low profile and acting locally; under this informal rubric, you have a lot of local initiatives and innovations being supported by a decentralised Govt. bodies- so this is a type of Public Sector entrepreneurship whose gains remain in private hands- and thus which entails no bureaucratic rent contestation. The wider co-ordination and Capital allocation problems can increasingly be left to the market with the Govt reserving a signalling functioning to itself and only stepping in if there is Market failure.
Vishveshvarayya wanted 10 per cent growth. That was back in the the mid Thirties. He saw there was no bottleneck in terms of educated youth or Social Mores of the sort that had existed when he himself was a young man. Furthermore it wasn't really the case that India had stagnated. Parts had sunk down, other had shot up- everything depended on Governance- but, perhaps foolishly, Vishveshvarayya and others of his generation thought that Independence would mean that the supposedly public spirited lawyers- Jinnah, Nehru, Patel etc- would fix the Criminal Justice system, fix lacunae in the Law relating to Property and Inheritance, impose equitable Taxes and thus improve Governance.
They didn't. 
The industrialists behind the Bombay Plan, which wasn't really a Plan at all, scaled down the target to 7.5 percent so as not to attract the wrath of the Socialist/Gandhian nutjobs but still got a bad scare from Liaqat's alliance with the Left- which Indira Gandhi was to repeat so as to cut her opponents down to size.
The author mentions the charismatic charlatan, Alexander Gerschenkron, and calls him Russian.  True, he was Russian born. So were a lot of other smart Americans, like Nabakov, who moved on from Germany or Austria after the rise of Hitler.  Like Polanyi who, being a foreigner, didn't understand England and so got the Speenhamland system wrong, Gerschenkron wasn't German and got German industrialisation wrong.  Investment Banks didn't just emerge out of nothingness. There was a long history of Princes working with Bankers, including Jewish Bankers, to develop their demesnes employing Technocrats like Count Rumford and Actuaries like Novalis to get the job down. Finanzkapital is Commie bullshit- actually Wikipedia says Gerschenkron might have joined the Austrian Commie party at some point- but, thank's be to God,  a charismatic charlatan he remained.
Nothing wrong with that.  Bruno Betthelheim was a charlatan. But, because Medicine is Scientific and has advanced for that reason, no great harm is currently done by his foolish theory of Autism. Indeed, it was just a restatement of the then popular thesis that 'Momism' was destroying America. If Mummy kisses you- you turn homo. If she doesn't- you go Autistic.
Betthelheim escaped from the Nazis by pretending his PhD in Aesthetics (which he'd only got so as to marry his sweet-heart who found him too ugly and rich to marry without this High Culture Credential) was actually a Medical Degree in Psychoanalysis. He stumbled on 'Autism'- actually he didn't treat any really Autistic kids; he just set up a Concentration Camp for 'difficult' Trustafarians- i.e. Rich people sent their kids to his School as a form of Punishment- and his own Charisma and Capriciousness, at least in some cases, turned out to be a good thing.
Similarly Gerschenkron discovered 'Backwardness' and used it as a means to turn his favourite corn fed Mid Westerners  barbarians into Mitteleuropean, Karl Kraus type, assholes. BUT, HE DIDN'T OPPOSE DROPPING ECON HISTORY AND KNOWLEDGE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES AS A REQUIREMENT FOR AN ECON PhD from Harvard- i.e. he wasn't genuinely shit. Just lonely.

So Gerschenkron never had anything to do with Economics or 'Development' or whatever.  While he was in Academia, the guys who did have power w.r.t Econ and Development hadn't heard of him, and the same thing was true after he faded into obscurity. He may feature in some worthless Academic 'Availability Cascade'. But he had no influence. Everybody knows this. Yet the author of this piece on Nehru pretends otherwise.
This is what he writes-
' ...the government was to take the lead in industrialisation. This was very much part of the development consensus of those years. The early success of the Soviet experiment had, unfortunately, enchanted many intellectuals. But there was a deeper historical learning (sic) as well. The Russian economic historian Alexander Gerschenkron had argued in his theory of economic backwardness that countries that had not yet industrialised did not have to wait for the right conditions to appear. Gerschenkron had studied the development experience of Europe in great detail. He said that institutional innovation was the way forward for those who were late into the game: Germany had used investment banks to push its initial industrialisation, while Russia had used the state (he was referring to imperial Russia before the communists took over).
The Nehruvian plans had a similar logic of using the state as an entrepreneur as well as providing capital to private industry through special development banks in the absence of deep financial markets. This is the famous quest of controlling the commanding heights of the economy. A more technically correct explanation would be that Nehru wanted the state to dominate the production of capital goods and intermediate goods so that the Indian economy has enough strategic depth to withstand any future attacks on its political autonomy.
Why is this fucked?
1) Gerschenkron's Economic Backwardness shite appeared in 1962. Too late to affect Nehruvian policy.
2) India has had Econ Professors since the 1880s. Ranade, Gokhale and the Servants of India represent one strand of thought, Shyamji Krishna Varma (& Ambedkar) represents another. But the mainstream was solidly Marshallian- well, early Marshallian, when the guy was still reading Lasalle and Marx and tramping around England lecturing to Women and Working Class people and looking into the faces of real poor people seeking to divine the secret causes of poverty.
3) India had a large and growing class of 'technocrats' who were also Socially Aware, Patriotic, Philanthropists- people like Baroness Flather's grand daddy- Sir Ganga Ram. Incidentally, the bad guys in this story aint the Left. My grand daddy (and grand mummy, come to that) was a Leftist Trade Union leader. But, like Anuerin Bevan, back in Blighty, the Indian Left- at that time, not later- knew from what we now call the 'theory of externalities'. Even if they didn't, it is a FACT that ordinary Mill workers were able to see that genuine Technocratic Capitalists were Heroes of the Nation- not evil bastards. Amazingly, this included not striking against WHITE factory owners for no reason. The reason given to my grandfather- this is recorded my grandmother's memoir published in Tamil- was that the elderly Scottish Mill owner had come to India without a penny and worked damned hard. Tamils are Black- they aint stupid. The Mill Owner- maybe because he was some sort of Low Church Scot- had banned drink shops because they are the enemy of the Working Class. Obviously, due to he was a fucking working class WHITE MLECCHA, he had to back down because the High Castes could only tolerate Mill Workers making a decent wage provided they were all forced to drink and then prostitute their own wives so as to pay their bar-tab. My grandfather- who had gone to live in a worker's 'bustee'- despite his education, was able to see sense. He even sacrificed the chance to go to Jail- a la Kejriwal- and worked with the Mill Owner and the Workers- and, later, during the War, even the WHITE Superintendent of Police, to raise up the Mill Workers. They wanted Schools instead of grog shops. Self Respect Weddings. Fuck off with your theories of Backwardness. It is the 'Backward' people of India or Africa or England who want the Rule of Law and the chance to come up through Decency, Abstinence, Education and so on. Whether your name is Aggarwal or Iyer, you are fucking Backward. Doesn't stop you Building the Nation provided you don't go to College or- like my Grandfather- you are too fucking stupid to retain whatever shite you were taught there.
4) Nehruvian plans weren't Nehruvian at all. This is a guy whom the 'Mody-Lees pact' made uncomfortable. True, he couldn't join his fellow Harrovian, Winston Churchill, in denouncing it- but he definitely didn't like it. The truth is, Nehru wasn't very bright but, instead of this being a good thing, it caused him to fuck up because he genuinely didn't know (as Gandhi did) that bright people fuck up big time. The difference between Nehru and Gandhi was that Gandhi genuinely wanted Indians to be weak, poor and utterly shite. Nehru didn't. That's why people loved him. Yes, he was a stupid as shit. That's why Gandhi appointed him his heir. He thought 'this kid is as stupid as shit. In power, he will fail big time- i.e. the country will be reduced to even more shitty conditions than under the Brits. Then, Nehru will come round to my way of thinking and act accordingly'.  Gandhi wasn't entirely wrong.  Rahul's Election pitch to the Indian Public proves that a seed had indeed been sown. But some fucking Shudra of a Ghanchi- called Modi- has upset the applecart for now. Never mind. Have faith in Manu Smriti.  Sooner or later, some Pankaj Mishra type will don a diaper and return home to lead us all back to a Holier than Thou Holocaust.
Returning to the erudite Livemint article under discussion- I may mention that re-reading Bhagwati's 1969 survey article, mentioned by the author, gives us a flavour of the stupidity, ignorance and downright craziness of the  Econ Availability Cascades of the 50's and 60's. The expensive academic training received by young Indian men proved to be the blinkers of stupid Bureaucratic cart-horses. Sen escaped by waxing philosophical. Bhagwati grew a pair after leaving and concentrating on mathematical Trade theory. But what is astonishing is that these bright young guys couldn't see the obvious stupidity of their profession when it most mattered. Everybody else did.
It is completely fucked that India lost its place in the top ten manufacturing nations after Independence just because Growth theory which ignores International Trade is easier to do. It is even more crazy that Indian people- natives, guys who could speak Indian languages- didn't get that 'disguised unemployment' in Agriculture doesn't mean there's workers there who can be costlessly transferred to Industry. People still need to eat and migrants will change their dietary preference to things like rice and wheat rather than the subaltern rustic alternative. Of course, Sen's theory that they will eat five times more than they did before is stupid. Still, the kind of stupid simplyfing assumiptions you make in the class room- and Sen, to his credit, never left the class room- simply oughtn't to be made when you're playing with people's lives.

If there's one lesson from the Nehru-Gandhi years, hopefully now behind us, it is that you must first shoot all the Economists. If you want to fix Agriculture, hire agronomists and Agricultural Scientists- like Borlaug. Shoot Amartya Sen. If you want sound Money- shoot Raghuram Rajan and put in some fat bloke called Jain or Shah who has a lot of diamond rings on his fingers.
Smriti Irani for HRD, however, is fine. Nejma Heptullah has a PhD from America so keep her in Minorities even though she is now threatening to make the Parsi community embrace their bahu, Smriti, so as to boost their numbers. Don't forget, Indira was also a Parsi bahu. Give Rahul minority status. He is an educational institution in himself showing the stupidity of studying Development Economics at Cambridge.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Prof Debraj Ray, Capitalism and the inevitability of increased Inequality.

Apropos of Piketty's book on Inequality, this is Prof. Debraj Ray's- Fundamental Law of Capitalism. Uneven growth or not, there is invariably a long run tendency for technical progress to displace labor

There is a simple argument why this law must hold. It is this: capital can be indefinitely accumulated, while the growth of labor is fundamentally limited by the growth of population. Therefore there is always a tendency for capital to become progressively cheaper relative to labor, and so all technical progress must be fundamentally redirected away from labor. But there is a subtlety here: that redirection must of necessity be slow. If it is too fast, then the demand for labor must fall dramatically, resulting in labor being too cheap. But if labor is too cheap, the impetus for labor-displacing technical progress vanishes. So, this change must be slow. But it will be implacable. To avoid the ever widening capital-labor inequality as we lurch towards an automated world, all its inhabitants must ultimately own shares of physical capital. Whether this can successfully happen or not is an open question. I am pessimistic, but the deepest of all long-run policy implications lies in pondering this question. 

Can Capital be indefinitely accumulated? Let us take
1) Physical Capital. Urm, either it occupies space or it provides an input to something which takes up space. Space isn't infinite. So Physical Capital can't be infinitely accumulated. It can be periodically junked and sometimes even replaced.
2) Financial Capital. Can it indefinitely accumulate? Perhaps in nominal terms but not in terms of a claim on present day goods and services. However, only a small subset of what is in circulation comes under this rubric for all sorts of reasons- Legal, Customary, Government Policy etc. Furthermore, Financial Assets are less like pots of gold and more like a software program. They are the product of engineering and can go obsolete or get buggy or just do a Madoff. Assuming the Stationary Bandit of the State is on the prowl, what we can say about Financial Assets (and the sort of Inequality Piketty highlights) is that, insofar as they keep their value, under Red Queen type pressure (i.e. exhibit co-evolved complexity) they show typical Predator Prey cyclicity. Sure, from a peak, looking back, this may not appear because we no longer recognize genotypal variants which went extinct as belonging to the same species. 
3) Human Capital. Are you shitting me? Rahul Gandhi has an MPhil from Cambridge. Smriti Irani is a Tenth standard drop-out. Whom would you rather see in charge of the HRD Ministry? Nuff said.

What about the 'growth of labor'? It certainly isn't limited by the growth of population. First World War- women started to work- the labour supply increased. In a sense, Technological advances, embodied in fresh Capital goods, determine the potential increment in the Labour supply at any given time. A guy who would have had to retire at 70 may be able to earn a wage at 90 thanks to new technology. A kid of 8 might create an app and sell it for more than a Computer Studies graduate circa 1980.

I can't make sense of the rest of the Professor's remark. He's a real smart guy and knows from multiple equilibria and complementarity and re-switching and so on. His story about indefinitely accumulating Capital ignores rats- Madoff type rats (Principal Agent hazard) and Red Queen type Stationary Bandit, Bureaucratic rats, not to mention good old fashioned Depreciation.
Of course, he may be right. Maybe them smartypants on Wall Street really do know what the future fitness landscape will look like AND what's more incentive compatibility obtains such that no Principal-Agent hazard exists and what's more all the Politicians have been bought off a la Arundhati Roy or Arvind Kejriwal.

If so, History really has ended. However, this still doesn't tell us anything about Inequality. Why? Well, if History has ended then there is no driver for 'canalisation'- human beings will separate out into different species. 
I personally hope to be a pedigree breed of pussy-cat prized by bosomy women who will cook me plenty of treats and let me sharpen my claws on Amartya Sen.
OMG, if only Rahul had taken the same course, he'd now be PM! Seriously, scratching Amartya Sen's face and saying miaow and then jumping into Smriti Irani's cleavage is the only way to defeat Hindutva.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Steve Landsburg destroys Technological Capitalism

The theory of Externalities tells us that the Market either produces too much or too little of something which gives rise to a benefit or a cost received outside the market- i.e. the Market isn't using some relevant information and thus is making the wrong decision.
However, if a competitor takes away your business, though you incur a loss, there is no Externality because it is part of your business, since you are in that market, to have taken account of that possibility.
Let's say I'm running in the park holding a ball and you come and tackle me and throw me down on the ground and run away with the ball. Has a crime occurred? Not if we're playing rugby because the whole point about being a rugby player is that you are meant to be taking evasive action so as not to get tackled. If you go crying to Mommy saying 'that rude girl tackled me and took away my nice ball', Mom will smack you and send you to bed without your crack whore.
Similarly, a businessman who loses out because his competitor is better than him is not subject to any 'External cost' because the whole point about being a businessman is that you need to be constantly thinking about how to be competitive.
Sure, things like 'Asymmetry of information' can give rise to market failure but that's a different kettle of fish and has nothing to do with Social Costs and Benefits and the Theory of Externality.

Steve Landsburg, surely the stupidest Econ Prof of all time, disagrees. The following is his argument, which if accepted by Policy Makers, would destroy Technological Capitalism by shifting the focus to 'sunk costs' of existing firms. By saying X loses 10,000 when what has actually happened is X failed to make a profit of 10,000- you create sympathy for X. Public policy gets distorted. Govts. feel they have to take action to defend inefficient monopolies because they are pictured as poor and vulnerable widows and orphans losing their only source of income. Thus, Govt. gets a chance to intervene- perhaps offsetting its protection of the Corporate fat-cat by feather-bedding the Trade Union Luddite.
BTW, Landsburg is not a Commie nutjob nor a Keynesian bleeding-heart but, ludicrously, advertises himself as quite the reverse.
 This is  his example from the IT industry, 'where it’s clear that profit-maximization can easily lead to too much innovation. I’ll do the accounting both ways to make it clear that both ways are right.
First, the assumptions:
Alice has developed a word processor, which she sells online. It costs her $5000 a year to maintain a server, where you can download a copy for $1000. She sells 100 copies a year, and therefore collects $100,000 in revenue. Most of the consuemrs who buy those copies value them at more than their price. In fact, the total value of those 100 copies to the consumers is $200,000.
Bob has an idea for a word processor that’s a little better than Alice’s, so that each consumer would be willing to pay $10 more for Bob’s than for Alice’s.
If Bob develops his word processor, how much can Alice charge for hers? Because her word processor is inferior to Bob’s, she’s got to undercut his price by $10 in order to maintain any customers at all. So if Bob charges $600, Alice charges $590. But then Bob can steal all of Alice’s customers by lowering his price to $599.99, whereupon Alice must lower her price to $589.99, whereupon Bob steals all her customers by lowering his price another penny….and the race to the bottom is on. But Alice’s price cannot fall below $50, because then she wouldn’t earn enough to cover her server costs. So Alice, who is smart enough to foresee all this, gives up and cedes the market to Bob.
Once Bob has the market to himself, he doesn’t have to worry about re-entry by Alice, because they both know perfectly well that the instant she renews her server contract, the race to the bottom will be back on and she’ll have spent $5000 for nothing.
Now if Bob sells his word processor for $1000, it’s he instead of Alice who earns $100,000 a year in revenue and therefore (after subtracting the server cost) $95,000 in profit. He weighs this against the $80,000 cost of developing his word processor and takes the plunge.
I claim that Bob’s decision is privately wise (i.e. wise from Bob’s point of view) and socially foolish (i.e. it reduces social welfare, defined as the total dollar value of all the gains to consumers and producers). We can calculate the costs and benefits of Bob’s decision in either of two equally legitimate ways. Because they are equally legitimate, they lead to the same bottom line: Bob’s private benefit exceeds his private cost by $15,000 (which is why he plunges ahead), while the social cost exceeds the social benefit by $79,000 (which is why we wish he wouldn’t).
Method I:
Private Cost: $80,000 (Bob’s cost of developing the software)
Social Cost: The same $80,000.
Private Benefit: $95,000 (Bob’s profit from developing the software)
Social Benefit: $1000 [The gain to 100 consumers, each of whom now has a word processor worth $10 more]
Method II:
Private Cost: $80,000 (Bob’s cost of developing the software)
Social Cost: $175,000 (Bob’s development cost plus Alice’s loss of $95,000 in profit)
Private Benefit: $95,000 (Bob’s profit)
Social Benefit: $96,000 (Bob’s profit plus the $1000 gain to consumers)
Bottom Line:
By either accounting method, the external cost (i.e. social cost minus private cost) exceeds the external benefit (i.e. the social benefit minus the private benefit) by $94,000. Therefore Bob makes the socially wasteful decision to develop his software.
Either way, Alice’s loss of $95,000 in profit is offset by Bob’s gain of $95,000 in profit. In Method I, we ignore this transfer since it washes out anyway. In Method II, we count it in the social caclulations, both as a loss to Alice and a gain to Bob. Again, both ways are correct.
Important Addition:
In this example, Bob faces a yes/no choice about whether to develop his software. In many examples, Bob makes a continuous choice about how much of an activity to engage in. In those cases, we expect that Bob engages in the activity until at the margin his private benefit is equal to his private cost. That considerably simplifies the calculation, by allowing us to ignore the private costs and benefits completely and focus entirely on the external costs and benefits (where “external” means “social minus private”).
One More Thing:
Bob’s innovation might well have social benefits we haven’t accounted for, primarily the inspiration it gives to other innovators who might face different numbers and whose innovations might be socially valuable. Those benefits aren’t accounted for here. Therefore, in IT, there might either be too much innovation or too little — but it would require an extraordinary coincidence for there to be just the right amount.'
Why is this fucked?
Well, Landsburg tells us that consumers currently receive 20000 dollars of benefit for Alice's product.  100,ooo of that is 'consumer surplus', 95,000 is Alice's producer surplus (profit) and 5000 is factor income for the guys running the Server. 
Bob's idea for a program is better. If he develops it and everyone switches to Bob's product, then the new Total Social Benefit is 201,ooo. But, it will cost Bob 80,000 to develop his system. Landsburg thinks he shouldn't- it would be a waste of resources from the Social point of view because the rate of return is too low. That's an empirical matter.
Suppose Bob is a good businessman. As such, he will know that Alice can reduce her price to 50 dollars without incurring a loss. So the maximum he can charge is 60. There are only 100 customers. He gets 6000 revenue. If he too has to hire a server at the same price as Alice, then his profit is 10oo per year. It will take him 80 years to recover his investment. So he doesn't invest. The Market guided him correctly. No extraordinary coincidence was required for investment in innovation to be 'just the right amount'. On the contrary, it is absolutely routine and of the essence of a non-failing Market to ensure that this is what happens at the aggregate level.
Suppose Bob is a megalomaniac, not a businessman. Then he just goes ahead regardless. Social Benefit is still has a lower bound of 201,ooo. However, 'consumer surplus' has increased by 195,000 while 'profits'- i.e. producer surplus- has decreased by the same amount. That may be a good thing allocatively or it may be a bad thing dynamically. However, what it isn't is a case of market failure by reason of Externality. It's just a story about a guy who chose to spend 80,000 to gratify his ego. He could just as easily have bought a sports car or paid for a penis enlargement. Positive Economics has nothing to say about this.  We don't know in advance if it is a good or bad thing  that Alice's erstwhile profits have now turned into Consumer Surplus. Maybe Alice was a poor widow and the purchasers of her product were Evil Corporations. Maybe the reverse is true. Still, all the relevant information was available to the Market and so no Externality arose. Okay, there was Market failure because Bob acted irrationally and also you had a Monopoly, but those are  separate kettles of fish.
There is one instance where Bob makes a sound decision by investing his 80,ooo. Suppose our economic future is bleak. A hundred years from now the only product that still commands a market is Bob's product. In that case, what we have here is 'rent contestation'. But, once again, that's a different kettle of fish for Econ theory- it has nothing to do with with the Theory of Externalities, under which rubric  Social Costs and Benefits are subsumed.
Landsburg has previously made utterly fallacious arguments which have the effect of destroying the Economic argument for freedom to consume and invest. Now he disables Capitalism's engine for what Schumpeter called 'Creative Destruction'- i.e. Technological progress.
Why is this man teaching Economics?

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Steve Landsburg kills Capitalism once again.

Suppose I think it's going to be really sunny this Bank Holiday Monday. I fill a cooler with orange popsicles and head out to the Park to sell them for a profit.  Unfortunately, it rains cats and dogs. My popsicles melt. I just lost my investment.
Does the story above pose any huge problem for conventional Economics?
Investment is about making a guess about what the future will look like and then taking a punt.  Some investments don't pay out. Some entrepreneurs go bust. But some investments do pay out and so some people experience Asset appreciation. Capitalism is about winners and losers- those who took bets which paid out vs. those who got screwed.
There is no problem for Social accounting in the above story. Okay, if you get a guy who consistently makes bad decisions we might say he isn't 'investing' but 'consuming'- i.e. this aint a business, it's a hobby.
Landsburg disagrees. He reckons that the Govt. should force people to buy my popsicles even though it's raining. Why? Coz otherwise those popsicles go to waste.
What if people only have enough money to either buy an umbrella or a popsicle? Because it's raining, people want the umbrella and don't want the popsicle.  However, Landsburg would still insist that people get popsicles rather than umbrellas provided I bought the popsicles before anyone else laid in a stock of umbrellas.
Landsburg is a Maths guy who teaches Econ. He's not a Communist. Indeed, he's supposed to be Right Wing. Why does he want the Govt. to force us to eat popsicles rather than buy umbrellas when it's bucketing down?
The answer is that he thinks umbrellas and popsicles are 'gross substitutes' because everything is (at least in Math Econ 101 world). But, an umbrella could save me from pneumonia while, under the same circumstances, having to suck on a ice popsicle could have the opposite effect.

Okay, umbrellas and popsicles aren't really like each other.
What about 2 capital goods (i.e. stuff I only buy for a business purpose) that are almost exactly alike? Surely, they are 'gross substitutes'?
Let's suppose I'm a stock broker. I need to be signed up to the fastest optical cable network. Being signed up to the second fastest isn't a gross substitute- it's a fucking recipe for bankruptcy.
Still, suppose the existing system is a monopoly and a new system comes along which is faster. Surely, by banning the new system, the Govt. can save the investors in the old network? Nobody gets hurt, right? Not right. Business moves offshore, or goes underground, to where brokers have access to the fastest network or else you have a disintermediation event.
What if the Govt. can prevent the whole Globalized finance sector from accessing the fastest network? Surely that would work? Yes, and the Govt can also build a huge dome over the City and invest in huge artificial Sun lamps so that I don't lose money on my popsicles. However, everyone is now much worse off. As for Capitalism- Landsburg just killed it- again.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Yojo vs Dhvani

How does the Japanese theory of Yojo- suggestiveness, charm, surplus in meaning, mysterious resonances (especially when linked to Yujen) - relate to the Indian concept of 'Dhvani'?
Take this poem of Basho's-
Chrysanthemum's are associated with the Double Ninth Festival whose ritual seeks to ward off the danger of excessive Yang.  If Yojo is similar to Dhvani, than the poem's system of echoes is predetermined by a particular 'rasa' (flavor) associated with the specific medication or elixir guarding against the accumulated 'dosha' associated with Summer's interminability- when the very excess of Bright Light and Heat seeks out victims like an angry Dragon or implacable Plague.
Causality, or karma, is like that Dragon or unbearable Brightness or scorching Search light. The chrysanthemum flower, even if its petals are floated in wine, is not an escape from that Dragon but part of the same system of dependent origination. Indra is always killing Vritra, but by the same token Vritra never dies.

This haiku  reminds us of Basho remarking a worn out sandal abandoned in Yamaguchi Sodoo's famous Chrysanthemum gardens. The connoisseur, the idle son of an industrious merchant, has arrived at the Samurai aesthetic of asperity in the same manner that the stone-mason has surpassed  Utility on his toilsome path to the same sort of heritable wealth. The Chrysanthemums remain Chrysanthemums whether cultivated in a parterre or not grudged their blooming in a stone-mason's yard. The worn out sandal of the connoisseur has become itself that Chrysanthemum whose petals never wither and the same is true of the gaps the stone mason leaves in his yard so the flower can blossom anew. The idle aesthete of a son is now his industrious father just as much as the father is already his own son. No punitive Messiah is needed to turn their hearts to each other. Whether you wield the Blue Dragon Sword or simply float flower petals in your Wine cup, Heroism is saved. Rejoicing is unconfined; Everything is connected to Everything; Indra's net of pearls glows with Autumnal splendor and that memory withstands Winter, or rather it provides a topos for its salutary purging and shiver of loneliness.

Of course, the above only holds true if Yojo is Dhvani. 
O Lawdy Lawd, say it aint so!

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Honey, everything is Honkadori

To see Everything
is just an allusion to

Your saying
Or not saying, entre nous,



Coz, Honey, Everything already is

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Can you solve this Verification dilemma?

A couple of years ago Akhilesh Yadav announced that any Muslim girl who passes her Class 10 exams would get a cheque for Rs 30,000 to pay for her dowry or further education.
Since, to please my parents, I had just managed to pass those same exams on my 51st attempt, I went along to claim my cheque.
The Bureaucrats, true to form, tried to put obstacles in my way. Indeed, one of them hinted that I sounded more like an elderly Tamil man rather than a delicate Muslim damsel.
'You are trying to destroy my Religion by tempting me, with an offer of filthy lucre, to lift my veil and disclose my moon like face' I shrieked angrily.
They assured me that they had no desire at all to see my face and explained that a lady official would take me to a separate room where I could unveil myself without fear of breaking the rules of my Religion.
'Don't be foolish!' I shouted, 'Unveiled women don't understand modesty. Even if this lady officer of yours isn't a shameless lesbian, still what is to prevent her blurting out to all and sundry the secret of my beauty? Veil is there so modesty is preserved. Purpose is defeated if the populace comes to know that the face behind this veil is such as causes Dawn to bite its rosy fingers in envious dismay and the Nightingale to abandon the Rose.'
'But,' one half blind little clerk said, 'How will people know that it is you beneath burkha?'
'Arre ulloo ke patte,' I shrieked, 'You people yourself said they had never seen a six foot tall, 90 kg, lady in burkha! Of course, everybody will know it is me! Even suppose there were 2 Muslim girls of my description. Still, 50 percent of the time the Religious purpose of the veil is defeated. Since strict observance of burkha is ordained so as to cover against even a fraction of a percentage risk, clearly, more especially in a State where burkha wearing Muslim women are a minority, even if I was of normal size, still Religion militates against what you suggest.'
'All right, all right,'  the Bureaucrats said, 'Our director, Begum Tabatabai, wears burkha and is from the most scholarly and pious lineage. Even you can't suspect that a lady of her stature would garrulously recount the tale of your supposed beauty. Thus you may kindly unveil before her. '
'Agreed!' I said, 'Now give me my cheque.'
'First, you have to see Begum Tabatabai.'
'To verify you are indeed a female.'
'But how do I know she is female? You said she wears burkha like me'
'She will lift her veil first.'
'But how can I participate in a conspiracy to destroy the Religion of my Muslim elder sister? You are only asking her to unveil before me because you suspect I am a man.  Even if I have prior knowledge that your conspiracy will fail- i.e. I know it is a case of 'impossible attempt'- still I would be guilty of aiding and abetting your dastardly plot against Religion. Modesty can never plot against Modesty. To attempt to recruit it for so fell a purpose is to directly attack Islam. Is this really what Akhilesh Bhaiyya wants?'

What expedient did the bureaucrats hit upon such that I neither got my cheque nor could claim that Muslim Religion was being destroyed?

Arvind Kejriwal- first post poll interview.

Interviewer- Arvind Kejriwal, you are the acknowledged master of the wild accusation. Yet you did poorly in the recent election. Why was that?
Interviewer- That's right. You can't say anything because you aren't really here are you? The fact is Arvind Kejriwal is actually a 17 year old Chinese boy living in Beijing. His mother shouts at him 'Stop with this Aam Admi Party nonsense! Crack a textbook for Mao's sake. Examinations are round the corner.' He replies 'No! All I care about is Lok Pal!'  Mother replies 'You are agitating your Lok Pal (it's a Chinese word, look it up) three times before Breakfast! That's why you are always in the bathroom! Give your Lok Pal a rest and do your homework already.'
Interviewer- oh fuck, he's agitating his Lok Pal again. Everybody, take cover.

Faith based approach to Sex Education

Is Sex Education in Schools necessarily incompatible, as Shri Dinanath Batra has argued, with the proper inculcation of Hindutva values? More generally, what should be the focus of Faith based approaches to Sex Education?
It is facile to answer that Abstinence is the key virtue we need to promote. I don't deny that Abstinence is part of Sacrifice which is the essence of Hinduism. However, we can't ignore the fact that, in a Democracy, Demographics matters.
Can we afford to let our Community be reduced to a minority by the incessant baby birthing of them Godless whores wot shamelessly flaunt themselves in their pornographic Middle School uniforms?
Thus, in my opinion, it is Fidelity, not Abstinence, which Faith Based Sex Education should inculcate. Nowadays Sexual Pleasure has become completely disassociated with Fidelity and Commitment. In my day, even if a person had a string of girl friends and two or three failed marriages, still we remained faithful to our teen-age porn stash. Nowadays, people switch porn site mid stroke. Which, at my age, is a good way of getting a stroke. I mean, I said 'Sunny Leone video' but Google Voice Recognition gave me  'funny Lion video'. Hence Govt. should support Sri Dinanath Batra's initiative to give proper Sex Education not just for Cabinet but Aam Aaadmi also.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Why Modi is the new Hitler

Far from being semi-literate Naipaulian 'mimic men', Indian Public intellectuals have an abiding interest in, and deep understanding of, European Philosophy and Social Science.

Furthermore, great Indian scholars, like Guha, Chakroborty, Bannerjee, Chatterjee, Bananaji, Mangoji etc, have made very significant and subtle contributions to the Marxist Theory of History.

Thus, the Indian elite's equation of Narendra Modi with Adolf Hitler is not, as many in the West consider it to be, merely a rhetorical trope. Rather it is based on the following unassailable facts- to wit
1) Hitler wasn't German. He was Austrian.
2) Austria and Italy were often at war.
3) Austrians are of two types- those who yodel, like the Von Trapp family, and those who don't yodel- actually there was only ever one Austrian who didn't yodel- viz. Adolf Hitler- who made long bombastic speeches instead.

Now consider the following equally incontrovertible facts-
1) Soniaji is Italian. Hence some Austrian or other is bound to come and pick a fight with her. Narendra Modi did in fact come and pick a fight with her. Hence he is proven to be Austrian.

2) Modi is an Austrian who doesn't yodel, thus he must be Adolf Hitler and, what's more, isn't even trying to hide the fact because he too gives long speeches! I mean, just look at the shameless of the man! At least he should try to yodel once in a while to try to throw us off the scent! Why not hire a playback singer or just mime to the Julie Andrews' song in the Sound of Music? Would that be too much to ask?

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Muslims under Modi Raj

Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, who first rose to prominence on the wings of Khilafat (he falsely accused Jinnah of betraying the cause), became the Private Secretary of first Motilal and then Jawaharlal Nehru in the Twenties. But he was no sycophant or loyal family retainer. His position in the U.P politics owed everything to his own skills and his band of devoted 'Rafians'. But for his loyalty to Nehru and his own love of intrigue at the Center, Kidwai could have emerged as the driving force of the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Party and become the Political Godfather of Charan Singh and, later on, Mulayam Singh and so forth. Imagine an India where the popularly elected C.M of U.P in the Fifties and Sixties is a Muslim- a patriotic Muslim, who avenged Shayama Prasad Mukherjee  by getting Sheikh Abdullah arrested thus rendering Kashmir's special status a dead letter- who is indifferent to the Byzantine goings on at the Center. Lower castes and weaker sections trust him because, as a Muslim, his own community is vulnerable. Yet, equally, because of the Aristocratic ethos of that erstwhile ruling class, the Muslim C.M has the social and diplomatic skills to flatter and win over the High Castes.
Suppose strong Muslim Regional C.Ms had emerged after Independence- this would only have happened if the Siren Song of Intrigue at the Center had been resisted- then, the Indian Muslim would never have gone through a period of doubt and insecurity. Why? Strong Regional leaders, who deal with bread and butter issues and who remain indifferent to the attractions of Palace intrigue, are the only people who can deliver Security with Development to Vulnerable sections and Minorities. Having a Muslim President or Chief Justice doesn't cut it. What could Zail Singh do for the Sikhs of Delhi in 1984?
Previously, some analysts suggested that Muslims needed to find a protector from the majority community. But, what could Akhilesh do for the poor Muslims of Muzaffarnagar? In any case, if a Dalit woman, like Mayawati, can take power and do a fairly good job of providing security, then the question arises, why not a Muslim C.M taking support from Dalits? Why should the Muslim be the subaltern in a KHAM type caste equation?  Come to that, why can't there be Muslim leadership for AJGAR castes? There is a saying 'Ayaz should remember his origin' but when were the Indian Muslims conquered by some Hindu version of Mahmud of Ghazni? Look back at the story of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai. Was he really just a 'chamcha' of Nehru? Ignorant people might think so. The Muslim political class of U.P is scarcely ignorant.
What about this Modi wave? It seems to have united Hindus and rendered the caste-equations of the vaunted protectors of Muslims a fantasy. Does this mean Muslims now must be the humble Ayaz of the new Mahmud who comes from Somnath? Anyone who suggests this is a traitor to India. History shows that if a community bends its neck then its doom is sealed. Furthermore, the real meaning of the Modi wave is that India expects every person coming into the political arena to do so with a will to win, a determination to excel, and the drive and ambition to wish for elevation from M.LA to Minister to C.M to Central Cabinet to the Prime Minister's chair.
We don't want a guy on our Cricket Team just because he is a nice guy or friends with the Captain. We want a guy who says 'I want to be Captain in a couple of years time. I want to beat Australia.'
Modi says 'I'm the first Prime Minister to be born after Independence'. Muslim leaders must recognize that they were born as citizens of independent India. They have to compete on the basis of ability and charisma and that spirit of competition must be unbridled. 'Chai-wallah to P.M' is a message of reassurance to vulnerable sections of Society. In future, let every Muslim entering the Political arena declare that he or she has his sights set on nothing less than the Prime Ministership. Unless Muslims can internalize and articulate this sense of unbridled ambition, people will suspect that they will compromise and sell their birth-right for a mess of pottage. 'After all,' we suspect of them saying to themselves, 'as a Muslim how high can I climb? Better I just take this nice sinecure or that fat bribe and go and sit quietly in my Z security bungalow while the country goes up in flames.'
If fear of Modi leads Muslims to think big and put themselves forward for the highest offices, then, paradoxically, Modi Sarkar will prove the turning point in the fortunes of a community which is in danger of falling behind.

Friday, 16 May 2014

Pankaj Mishra on Narendra Modi.

Pankaj Mishra is an angry man. Rightly so. His people back home have let him down big time. They went and voted for Narendra Modi even though he told them not to.
Fortunately, the Guardian newspaper has given him space to vent his spleen.
Some of his more egregious points are-
India's 16th general election this month... tainted by the nastiest campaign yet, announces a new turbulent phase for the country – arguably, the most sinister since its independence from British rule in 1947.
Is Mishra right? Surely the most turbulent phase for the country was in the Nineteen Seventies? By comparison, the recent poll was a tea-party- actually, it was a tea-party held after Rahul gave Modi a walk-over. What were the worst accusations made during this election? Did anyone say that Rahul was sleeping with his own mother? They certainly  said that about Sanjay but all Rahul got was the tag of 'Amul Baby'.
As for Modi- from being a 'Merchant of Death' he was downgraded, by 'Snoopgate' to just some elderly Uncle perving on a pretty young architect.
Mishra says-' Back then, *in 1951) it would have been inconceivable that a figure such as Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist chief minister of Gujarat accused, along with his closest aides, of complicity in crimes ranging from an anti-Muslim pogrom in his state in 2002to extrajudicial killings, and barred from entering the US, may occupy India's highest political office.
Is Mishra right? Take Shaheed Shurawardy who presided over Direct Action Day in which thousands of people lost their lives. Was it 'unthinkable' for him to aspire to the Prime Ministership of Bengal? If so, how come, Sharat Chandra Bose was still talking to him?
Was it inconceivable that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whose Muslim League presided over ethnic cleaning on an enormous scale, become Governor General of a successor state to the Raj?
Reality check- according to Wikipedia, that's actually what happened.
Perhaps Mishra means that it is inconceivable that a Hindu, not a Muslim, become Head of State in a Hindu majority area because...urm... Hindus are just different from Muslims, okay? 

Mishra writes- Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organisation inspired by the fascist movements of Europe, whose founder's belief that Nazi Germany had manifested "race pride at its highest" by purging the Jews is by no means unexceptional among the votaries of Hindutva, or "Hinduness".
Mishra is wrong about the RSS. Its origins pre-date the Nazi party. It wasn't anti-semitic. There was an actual Indian Nazi Party run by the husband of Savitri Devi but this had nothing to do with the RSS. Now, it is quite true that the 'Two nation theory' wasn't confined to the Muslim League. Savarkar wanted India to be known as Hindustan and so did Jinnah. However, whereas the Muslim League was very successful in carrying out Ethnic Cleansing (as were various Sikh groups) the RSS, by itself, has no similar track-record. 
Mishra continues- ; In 1948, a former member of the RSS murdered Gandhi for being too soft on Muslims. The outfit, traditionally dominated by upper-caste Hindus, has led many vicious assaults on minorities. A notorious executioner of dozens of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 crowedthat he had slashed open with his sword the womb of a heavily pregnant woman and extracted her foetus. Modi himself described the relief camps housing tens of thousands of displaced Muslims as "child-breeding centres".
Such rhetoric has helped Modi sweep one election after another in Gujarat. A senior American diplomat described him, in cables disclosed by WikiLeaks, as an "insular, distrustful person" who "reigns by fear and intimidation"; his neo-Hindu devotees on Facebook and Twitter continue to render the air mephitic with hate and malice, populating the paranoid world of both have-nots and haves with fresh enemies – "terrorists", "jihadis", "Pakistani agents", "pseudo-secularists", "sickulars", "socialists" and "commies". Modi's own electoral strategy as prime ministerial candidate, however, has been more polished, despite his appeals, both dog-whistled and overt, to Hindu solidarity against menacing aliens and outsiders, such as the Italian-born leader of the Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, Bangladeshi "infiltrators" and those who eat the holy cow.
Okay, suppose all of the above is true. Then, why doesn't every politician use the same method to win elections? After all, there's a lot of money to be made in politics. All one needs to do is to recruit a bunch of psychopaths and get them to start stabbing pregnant women. One needn't even pay them very much money to do it. Indeed, the whole thing can be just a one-off expense. After having established your credibility by killing a few innocents, you can rely simply on rhetoric to keep getting re-elected. Why? Indian people are evil bastards. They hear you once killed some pregnant women and immediately think to themselves- 'gotta vote for this dude. He's too cool for school! What's that? His twitter followers are all paranoid hate-mongers? Well, that seals the deal! I mean, obviously, guys who spend their time stabbing pregnant women are gonna do a great job representing us in Parliament because...urm...well, it's something to do with like Capitalism and Globalization and stuff.
 long after India's first full-scale pogrom in 2002, leading corporate bosses, ranging from the suave Ratan Tata to Mukesh Ambani, the owner of a 27-storey residence, began to pave Modi's ascent to respectability and power. The stars of Bollywood fell (literally) at the feet of Modi. In recent months, liberal-minded columnists and journalists have joined their logrolling rightwing compatriots in certifying Modi as a "moderate" developmentalist. The Columbia University economist Jagdish Bhagwati, who insists that he intellectually fathered India's economic reforms in 1991, and Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound, have volunteered passionate exonerations of the man they consider India's saviour.
Bhagwati, once a fervent supporter of outgoing prime minister Manmohan Singh, has even publicly applied for anadvisory position with Modi's government. It may be because the nearly double-digit economic growth of recent years that Ivy League economists like him – India's own version of Chile's Chicago Boys and Russia's Harvard Boys– instigated and championed turns out to have been based primarily on extraction of natural resources, cheap labour and foreign capital inflows rather than high productivity and innovation, or indeed the brick-and-mortar ventures that fuelled China's rise as a manufacturing powerhouse. "The bulk of India's aggregate growth," the World Bank's chief economist Kaushik Basu warns, "is occurring through a disproportionate rise in the incomes at the upper end of the income ladder." Thus, it has left largely undisturbed the country's shameful ratios – 43% of all Indian children below the age of five are undernourished, and 48% stunted; nearly half of Indian women of childbearing age are anaemic, and more than half of all Indians still defecate in the open.
Absurdly uneven and jobless economic growth has led to what Amartya Sen and Jean Dreze call "islands of California in a sea of sub-Saharan Africa". The failure to generate stable employment – 1m new jobs are required every month – for an increasingly urban and atomised population, or to allay the severe inequalities of opportunity as well as income, created, well before the recent economic setbacks, a large simmering reservoir of rage and frustration. Many Indians, neglected by the state, which spends less proportionately on health and education than Malawi, and spurned by private industry, which prefers cheap contract labour, invest their hopes in notions of free enterprise and individual initiative. However, old and new hierarchies of class, caste and education restrict most of them to the ranks of the unwashed. As the Wall Street Journal admitted, India is not "overflowing with Horatio Alger stories". Balram Halwai, the entrepreneur from rural India in Aravind Adiga's Man Booker-winning novel The White Tiger, who finds in murder and theft the quickest route to business success and self-confidence in the metropolis, and Mumbai's social-Darwinist slum-dwellers in Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers point to an intensified dialectic in India today: cruel exclusion and even more brutal self-empowerment.
So there you have it. A guy who gets people to stab pregnant ladies is the man to vote for because then them Evil Capitalists will all come crawling to him and open factories in his Province and deliver Electricity and generate Tax Revenues for redistribution because...urm...dunno, there's just something about stabbing pregnant ladies which just naturally attracts Right Wing Capitalists and Technocrats and such like. The only reason Manmohan Singh failed was because he neglected to have his goons go out and stab some pregnant ladies in the belly. I'm not saying 1984 didn't happen- just that the stabbing pregnant ladies bit should have got more air-time so that UPA 2 could attract enough Investment to enable us to muddle through a little longer.
Such extensive moral squalor may bewilder those who expected India to conform, however gradually and imperfectly, to a western ideal of liberal democracy and capitalism.
What's this Mishra Sahib? Are you denying that one billion Muslims have been killed by Western powers sine 2001? What about the London riots a couple of years ago? Are you denying that fourteen trillion pregnant women were beaten to death by drunken Merchant Bankers while David Cameron, wearing a top hat, looked on smiling benignly? Mishra Sahib, how you can be so naive? Every High School boy in your old Mohalla knows these things. You must return to your native land to find out the truth of what all is going on in so called 'liberal' democracies of the West.
 But those scandalised by the lure of an indigenised fascism in the country billed as the "world's largest democracy" should know: this was not the work of a day, or of a few "extremists". It has been in the making for years. "Democracy in India," BR Ambedkar, the main framer of India's constitution, warned in the 1950s, "is only a top dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic." Ambedkar saw democracy in India as a promise of justice and dignity to the country's despised and impoverished millions, which could only be realised through intense political struggle. For more than two decades that possibility has faced a pincer movement: a form of global capitalism that can only enrich a small minority and a xenophobic nationalism that handily identifies fresh scapegoats for large-scale socio-economic failure and frustration.
So, Mishra says Democracy can't work in India because it is alien to the soil. Okay maybe 'intense political struggle' can enable it to survive some 'pincer movement' involving powerful international and national forces. However, the moment some guy gets some other guys to go stab pregnant women that 'intense political struggle' is powerless. So why bother with it? Now you may reply- 'well, if we have the Rule of Law, then a guy who gets other guys to stab pregnant women is hanged and that's an end to the matter.' But, in that case, it is 'the Rule of Law' and not 'intense political struggle' which can rescue Democracy. Of course, if the pregnant women being stabbed are imaginary, then the 'Rule of Law' can do nothing. But, neither can 'intense Political Struggle'. According to Mishra, people are voting for Modi not because they have seen him egging on people to stab pregnant women with their own eyes but because they have heard allegations of that nature. Modi denies it. He says he is a 'Rule of Law' man, but- Mishra believes- the voter is not so easily hoodwinked. They have voted for Modi because he's the guy who gets pregnant women stabbed and that's a good thing because Capital and Enterprise just naturally gravitate to locations where pregnant women have been stabbed. Nothing to do with Good Governance at all. Why would you think it?
In many ways, Modi and his rabble – tycoons, neo-Hindu techies, and outright fanatics – are perfect mascots for the changes that have transformed India since the early 1990s: why does a 'change' need a 'mascot'? Are structural socio-economic 'changes' actually like Sports Teams? Do they have a Team Captain and a Marketing Manager and a Mascot? 
 the liberalisation of the country's economy, and the destruction by Modi's compatriots Mishra was Modi's compatriot at the time of the 16th-century Babri mosque in Ayodhya. Long before the killings in Gujarat, Indian security forces enjoyed what amounted to a licence to kill, torture and rape in the border regions of Kashmir and the north-east; a similar infrastructure of repression was installed in central India after forest-dwelling tribal peoples revolted against the nexus of mining corporations and the state. The government's plan to spy on internet and phone connections makes the NSA's surveillance look highly responsible. Muslims have been imprisoned for years without trial on the flimsiest suspicion of "terrorism"; one of them, a Kashmiri, who had only circumstantial evidence against him, was rushed to the gallows last year, denied even the customary last meeting with his kin, in order to satisfy, as the supreme court put it, "the collective conscience of the people".
So, Mishra is now telling us that the Indian State was very evil and genocidal and constantly stabbing pregnant ladies long before Modi. Indeed, the foetus torn out at sword-point meme has been with us since the Moplah uprising.
What he doesn't explain is why the Indian Economy didn't boom even despite all this blood-shed? What makes Modi different? 
The answer, for Mishra, is that India is hurtling over a cliff-face- like the Austrian Empire in 1914.
"People who were not born then," Robert Musil wrote in The Man Without Qualities of the period before another apparently abrupt collapse of liberal values, "will find it difficult to believe, but the fact is that even then time was moving faster than a cavalry camel … But in those days, no one knew what it was moving towards. Nor could anyone quite distinguish between what was above and what was below, between what was moving forward and what backward." One symptom of this widespread confusion in Musil's novel is the Viennese elite's weird ambivalence about the crimes of a brutal murderer called Moosbrugger.'
Why is Mishra mentioning Musil? Is India a member of a military alliance which it will soon drag into a World War it is bound to lose? No. Is the Indian Parliament really a hopelessly divided Bear-garden like the Viennese Parliament? Not under Modi- he's got a convincing majority. So what deep point is Mishra making? The answer I think has to do with his stabbing-pregnant-women theory of Indian politics. 'At night we all dream Moosbrugger'- i.e. one fine day everyone in India will wake up and go out and start stabbing pregnant women so as to rise up the way Modi has done because that's the only explanation of Modi's success, isn't it?
 Certainly, figuring out what was above and what was below is harder for the parachuting foreign journalists who alighted upon a new idea of India as an economic "powerhouse" and the many "rising" Indians in a generation born after economic liberalisation in 1991,surely Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh get the credit for that? who are seduced by Modi's promise of the utopia of consumerism – one in which skyscrapers, expressways, bullet trains and shopping malls proliferate (and from which such eyesores as the poor are excluded).who were born before 1991, and did not know what time was moving towards, might be forgiven for feeling nostalgia for the simpler days of postcolonial idealism and hopefulness – those that Seth evokes in A Suitable Boy which neither Seth nor Mishra has personal experience of. Set in the 1950s, the novel brims with optimism about the world's most audacious experiment in democracy, endorsing the Nehruvian "idea of India" that seems flexible enough to accommodate formerly untouchable Hindus (Dalits) and Muslims as well as the middle-class intelligentsia. Rubbish! In Seth's book the 'secular' liberal Hindu Minister loses out because his son goes and stabs his former lover, a Muslim, because he thinks his old boy-friend is trying to sleep with his mistress, whereas in fact the fellow was trying to get it on with the daughter of the mistress who was actually his own half sister because his father, the Nawab, had raped the courtesan in question when she was just a little girl. The novel's affable anglophone characters radiate the assumption that the sectarian passions that blighted India during its partition in 1947 will be defused, secular progress through science and reason will eventually manifest itself, and an enlightened leadership will usher a near-destitute people into active citizenship and economic prosperity. This is pure hogwash. The one ray of hope for India is the young Bata executive who can make a shoe with his own hands and thus win the respect of the workers.  But, this young executive is more at home in Hindi than English and only represents progress because he incarnates American style 'know-how'.
 By contrast, the 'box wallah' is a sham- we know he will 'lock out' labour in the Sixties, like a character in a Satyajit Ray film- while his IAS officer brother is a drunken buffoon with a chip on his shoulder which, under license permit Raj, he will have ample opportunity to indulge. There is also an ineffectual poet but least said about him the better. As for the old landed elites, it is clear that their horizon is one of communal politics punctuated by Grace and Favour appointments abroad or at the Center.
India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, appears in the novel as an effective one-man buffer against Hindu chauvinism. Actually, the novel highlights the role of Rafi Ahmed Kidwai."The thought of India as a Hindu state, with its minorities treated as second-class citizens, sickened him." In Nehru's own vision, grand projects such as big dams and factories would bring India's superstitious masses out of their benighted rural habitats and propel them into first-world affluence and rationality. The Harrow- and Cambridge-educated Indian leader had inherited from British colonials at least part of their civilising mission, turning it into a national project to catch up with the industrialised west. "I was eager and anxious," Nehru wrote of India, "to change her outlook and appearance and give her the garb of modernity." Even the "uninteresting" peasant, whose "limited outlook" induced in him a "feeling of overwhelming pity and a sense of ever-impending tragedy" was to be present at what he called India's "tryst with destiny". 
Okay, we get it. Nehru was a fuckwit who wrote worthless tripe. So what? That's what politicians do. The truth of the matter is that Resource Constraints in the early years of Independence were such that Nehru himself wore a frayed jacket- he couldn't dress himself let alone the country in the livery of modernity.
That long attempt by India's ruling class to give the country the "garb of modernity" has produced, in its sixth decade, effects entirely unanticipated by Nehru or anyone else: intense politicisation and fierce contests for power together with violence, fragmentation and chaos, and a concomitant longing for authoritarian control.
Is Mishra mad? We have just witnessed an election where only one man said 'I want the job of P.M'. He won a landslide because India really does want a PM who actually wants the job and feels he'll be good at it and can this to the voters. Yes, there has been violence- in Congress controlled Assam where a coalition partner unleashed an anti-Muslim pogrom to signal displeasure at Police activism- but that had nothing to do with 'fierce contests for power'. Similarly, Trinamool violence against Left Front candidates was simply a matter of pay-back and demonstrating ascendancy. The truth is Narendra Modi had a walk-over. Everyone seems to believe that only he can get the Economy back on track and so the patriotic thing is to do a Rahul and give Modi the majority he needs.
 Modi's image as an exponent of discipline and order is built on both the successes and failures of the ancien regime. He offers top-down modernisation, but without modernity: bullet trains without the culture of criticism, managerial efficiency without the guarantee of equal rights. The problem with Mishra's fine phrases is that Hindi speakers can simply go on YouTube and listen to Modi and decide for themselves.  As a matter of fact, that is what Indian voters have done. Modi says 'I don't do any work. I organised the Teams and Delegated. Yes, if anyone has a problem they can ring me and we will sort it out quickly.'
Perhaps, Mishra means by the word 'Modernity' some super-rational Weberian construction. If so, nobody wants it. What people want is a guy you can call when things go wrong and have him call you back in a couple of days explaining how he's fixed things or offering you a refund or something of that sort. We call this 'customer service'. It existed in ancient times, it exists now and we want it to be ubiquitous. How does it benefit anybody to replace a feudal, Thymotic, type of regime with some pseudo-Marxist ideology of 'intense political struggle'? In the old days, if I get robbed and the Police say 'sorry, the other guy is an Aristo, you are just a pleb- so we can do nothing'- fair enough, I have to pocket the insult- but what great benefit is it to me if, instead, the Police say to me- 'Due to the dialectics of Political Struggle, though subjectively you feel you have been robbed, still, from the point of view of Transcendental Objectivity, what really happened was you raped the other guy and then stabbed his belly and dragged a fetus out of his womb at the point of a sword while simultaneously sowing BT cotton and making disparaging remarks about Gramsci.'
Mishra, like Rahul, seems to have bought into the 'Rights based approach'. Nothing wrong with that- so long as Customer Service then becomes the Govt's raison d'etre. However, like Rahul, Mishra doesn't think Governments need to deliver on Customer Service. Why? It's because he has a paranoid fantasy about evil Indians who are all very rich and who look down on ordinary people and who want to ethnically cleanse India to turn it into Singapore.
And this streamlined design for a new India immediately entices those well-off Indians who have long regarded democracy as a nuisance, recoiled from the destitute masses, and idolised technocratic, if despotic, "doers" like the first prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew. 
But then the Nehruvian assumption that economic growth plotted and supervised by a wise technocracy (sic!) would also bring about social change was also profoundly undemocratic and self-serving. Seth's novel, along with much anglophone literature, seems, in retrospect, to have uncritically reproduced the establishment ideology of English-speaking and overwhelmingly upper-caste Hindus who gained most from state-planned economic growth: the Indian middle class employed in the public sector, civil servants, scientists and monopolist industrialists. This ruling class's rhetoric of socialism disguised its nearly complete monopoly of power. As DR Nagaraj, one of postcolonial India's finest minds, pointed out, "the institutions of capitalism, science and technology were taken over by the upper castes". Even today, businessmen, bureaucrats, scientists, writers in English, academics, thinktankers, newspaper editors, columnists and TV anchors are disproportionately drawn from among the Hindu upper-castes. And, as Sen has often lamented, their "breathtakingly conservative" outlook is to be blamed for the meagre investment in health and education – essential requirements for an equitable society as well as sustained economic growth – that put India behind even disaster-prone China in human development indexes, and now makes it trail Bangladesh.
Needless to say, Pankaj Mishra is a High Caste English speaking Hindu. Modi is a backward caste Gujerati speaker. Amartya Sen himself knows the answer to the question 'Why is investment in Education meager?'' The answer is Govt. School teachers play truant.  Voters don't want more money being handed over to truant teachers- they want teachers held to account first. But since teachers count votes at Elections so the political will to do a deal with them is lacking. Sen's own suggestion- ban private tuition- needless to say, would kill off Education once and for all as a potential avenue of advancement for the least well off.
Dynastic politics froze the Congress party into a network of patronage, delaying the empowerment of the underprivileged Indians who routinely gave it landslide victories. Congress, like other parties, was a Patronage machine in the Nineteen thirties. Nothing to do with dynasties. Nehru may have thought of political power as a function of moral responsibility. Or he may not. He said contrary things. But his insecure daughter, Indira Gandhi, consumed by Nixon-calibre paranoia, turned politics into a game of self-aggrandisement, arresting opposition leaders and suspending fundamental rights in 1975 during a nationwide "state of emergency". She supported Sikh fundamentalists in Punjab (who eventually turned against her) and rigged elections in Muslim-majority Kashmir. In the 1980s, the Congress party, facing a fragmenting voter base, cynically resorted to stoking Hindu nationalism. After Indira Gandhi's assassination by her bodyguards in 1984, Congress politicians led lynch mobs against Sikhs, killing more than 3,000 civilians. Three months later, her son Rajiv Gandhi won elections with a landslide. Then, in another eerie prefiguring of Modi's methods, Gandhi, a former pilot obsessed with computers, tried to combine technocratic rule with soft Hindutva.
Urm...I don't get it Mishra Sahib. I thought you said Modi becoming P.M was like some wholly unprecedented disaster. Now you are saying Rajiv and indira where his forerunners. Of course they killed a lot more people. Still, why stop there? Why not blame Nehru for the killing of Rezakars and the suppression of the Telengana insurgency and so on? Actually, you probably have blamed Nehru for these things in the course of your article. Still, this begs the question, what's so special about Modi? What urgent message are you sending us?
Breaking news- Nothing has changed in India for sixty years- the Prime Minister is a blood soaked tyrant and this will always be the case. Why? It's because Indians are very evil and wicked. Instead of 'intense political struggle' they want to buy stuff- like a cup of tea, or a chocolate biscuit, or a mobile phone- which may sound innocent and harmless but is actually CONSUMERISM and that's totally evil coz it plays into the hands of Globalized Capital and that's very bad coz the big Capitalist countries tend to be Liberal Democracies and India isn't really a Liberal Democracy because Modi doesn't speak posh English and kills babies and so it's like miscegenation- I mean a pure blooded Liberal Democracy shouldn't share a meal with a low caste Illiberal Democracy because ... I mean, what if they have a baby together? How are we to classify the baby? Is it a half Liberal Democracy or a half Illiberal Democracy? Anyway, why risk? Better we just keep separate, I say. That's why Visa ban on Modi should stay in place. What if he gets jiggy with David Cameron? What would Queen, God bless her, say? Anyway, I hope all you illiterate desis have taken my words to heart. Kindly go and do prayaschitam and purify yourself with cow dung for the 'maha-paap' of voting for some Ghanchi fellow what is not even knowing English good. Mind it kindly.