Sunday 26 December 2010

Coase's 100th birthday- hip, hip

This is a link to a lecture by Coase filmed in 2003. Riveting stuff and very funny especially the bits about Abba Lerner (he tried to convince Trotsky of the virtue of marginal cost pricing- as opposed to machine gunning peasants).

Like Coase, but with a time lag of  plus or minus 50 years, I too attended a Grammar School in North London before moving on to the L.S.E and, like him, I too did not follow any of the Econ courses taught there- in his case, this was because that wasn't his subject, in mine it was because I was drunk- but since then our paths in life have much diverged.
Coase fell under the influence of Sir Arnold Plant- born, entre nous, in the Borough of Hoxton- and, hoping perhaps to mitigate the ignominy of so declasse a connection, rather than despairing of slaying the dragon represented by Lord Reith- Coase ultimately emigrated to the Colonies- not the good ones, but those flagrantly and contumaciously defiant of the authority of our Gracious Queen.
An honorable impulse we might think, but it was in vain that Coase crossed the Atlantic's black and bitter waters, the impertinent attentions of the Nobel Prize Committee chivvied him out of his wigmam and broadcast his shame- thus bringing him to my notice.

In the video linked to above- Coase, remarks on Chicago's difficulty in understanding the traditional Wicksteed & L.S.E concept of opportunity cost- it appears they thought the cost of something one possessed was lower than something one paid for, not grasping that anything owned might be sold (absent transaction costs) at the same price as that at which it was bought.
Wicksteed hammered home the London School's insight regarding opportunity cost by making the housewife the paradigm of the economist. The Edwardian household, more happily than my own, was founded upon the essential fungibility and gross substitutability of the housewife's various functions whereas perhaps the patriarchal meat-packers of Chicago could stomach no similarly chilling a reflection on their own place in the scheme of things.
Borrowing one or two of the hackneyed hueristics of socio-biology, one might argue that this is a weakness of Coase's 'theorem'. Men think more about stuff they own and less about stuff they don't. This changes not some Platonic opportunity cost, but the sort of opportunity cost profiles actually accessible to living human beings.
A different point relates to mimesis as a motive for action and a method of control, but that is to introduce a de Maistrean, a Girardian, note, in what is otherwise Wicksteed's Unitarian Kingdom where Guelph and Ghibelline are reconciled.
If anyone deserves to enter that Kingdom, it is Coase- if for nothing else then for his splendidly cavalier dismissal of the theorem that disgraces his name.

To see why- this is a link to Steven Landsburg saying Coase's theorem means Econ theory can't say in advance whether BP should pay for the recent oil spill. Alternatively, here is Walter Block ranting on about how Coase is worse than Communism because he abolishes property rights- Judges should let O.J kill his wife coz he can pay more for the transgression than she (Block sniggers and says she had low self-esteem) would have paid not to be killed.
This is nonsense. Coase said, and says, no such thing. Following Sir Arnold Plant, Coase saw the dangers in endless Govt. regulations, that's all. For British law, the corollary is that it is a good idea to vest rights to potential economic income streams from goods and services in the existing title holder. It's just that the potential income stream of some other title holder may conflict at which point there is a bargaining problem which lawyers and and arbitrators and. for test cases, judges can facillitate with a view to minimizing transaction costs.
Clearly, transactions costs rise if
a) there is uncertainty as to who owns what or where the burden for compensation rests.
b) the threat of a nuisance, or strategic usage of nuisances, becomes a factor.
This is common sense. However, in neither case does Govt. intervention not worsen things because
1) under (a) the Govt may have a perverse incentive to increase rather than mitigate Economy wide uncertainty (though reducing it in the specific case where it gives a ruling)- for example, by retrospectively legalizing illegal structures or the reverse- simply so as to extort bribes or garner political support.
2) If preferences are too diverse there may be no common-sense meaning to 'nuisance'. I may claim that my loud rock music is to me as the Muezzin's call to prayer and, in consequence, to mitigate the nuisance I cause my neighbors is to imperil my hope of Satanic salvation. My neighbors may consider stabbing me regularly to be an essential complement to the ceremony. To call in the Govt. to resolve the issue however- far from allowing a relative harmonization of preferences- may lead to nuisances burgeoning into cults and ideologies. (Surely the correct explanation for their origin).

A common sense view, and Coase is a common sense guy,  is that nuisances and catastrophic consequences are the responsibility of the producer- assuming he has agency and capacity to curtail them (lack of either can be compensated for- as with children, lunatics, Belgians, etc- and generally is done so in some bilateral or multilateral manner. The fundamental premise here is that Society always wants less of bad things and more of good things- so there is a certain amount of give and take, a certain notion of civility and the common good underlies everything..
Libertarians invoke the homely metaphor of 'homesteading' quite abstract property rights, though that notion never extended to things the homesteader could not develop just as well as anybody else. Courts have tended to quash 'cybersquatters' who buy domain names only of real use to some other party. The notion that 'a Coasian Judge' is doing this for some Benthamite reason is nonsense. Leo Strauss's discussion of property rights absent scarcity makes this clear. Coase is a common-sense, solid values, empirically driven kind of guy and that's why he is revered in the 'Law and Economics' field.

Coase points out that the proper function of lawyers is reducing transaction costs not padding their bills. Well, that's worth a Nobel Prize in my book.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Gandhi and Masturbation-

Gandhi recognized Masturbation as one of the major causes of India's weakness- though, unlike Katherine Mayo, he did not consider it the sole or even predominating factor.

Thus it comes as something of a surprise to me that the late Prof. Ragavan Iyer did scant justice to the one truly novel aspect of the Mahatma's multi-dimensional approach to tackling the root cause of this detestable vice.

The fact that masturbation- as Shrilal Shukla has pointed out- enfeebles the very faculty it seeks to exercise led Gandhi to the insight that only by masturbating masturbation itself- and this includes relentlessly tugging the todger of that very imaginative power whereby the desired image is perceived, or, indeed, uremittingly pulling the pudding of all thought and deed- thus alone, could the demon of masturbation be defeated, that too non-violently, for having bashed its own bishop to Beckett like death- and it was to this praiseworthy end that, from that day to this, the entire panoply of Gandhism's platitudinous puerility endlessly wanks weiners West or East..

Martha Nussbaum- magnifying India's problems.

This is a hilarious interview with Prof. Nussbaum which ends like this-
JOANNE MYERS: Thank you so much for magnifying all the problems of India.

Says it all really.

Friday 24 December 2010

India's imminent break-up- the dead-man's switch.

I read somewhere that high-speed trains have a 'dead-man's switch' such that if the driver suffers a heart-attack while reading this blog or loses consciousness by reason of the extreme paroxysms of auto-erotic self-strangulation to which the task of imagining my dewy dhoti clad form must inevitably drive him to, then the engine cuts out automatically causing the train to come to a halt.
In a sense, the union of India is like that train- we might imagine that it has some sort of auto-pilot or inbuilt stabilizer (indeed, in theory, the sedition law should operate in this manner) such that the train continues to speed on while the driver keels over from sheer onanistic exhaustion- but the reverse is the case, India has a dead man switch and, it appears, that switch has now been triggered.

Last year, an obscure Chinese political Scientist suggested that China should try to break up India into a collection of 20 or 30 smaller states. At the time, the very notion seemed risible- but, today, watching Swami Agnivesh explain why his friend Dr. Binayak Sen has been given a life-sentence for Sedition (the bastard worked for the poor! He spoke out against the Sab pe Zulum cut-throats! Worse, he was friends with a Hindu Swami! Hanging is too good for him!) while, over on Al Jazeera, there's a segment on a poor woman sleeping on the pavement in New Delhi because some Minister bilked the Exchequer of 40 billion dollars- what can one say? The dead-man's switch is in operation. There is no such thing as an Indian Nation State. The project of synoecism has run out of steam. There is merely theft and a Parliamentary 'chor bazaar'- a thieves' market place- operating at the heart of things.

From the point of Economic theory, it appears to me that there is now too much diversity, not just at the level of outcome but also preferences, for a National Politics to make sense. In a sense, politically imposed poverty could make it appear that there was this huge constituency for more of the same but that is simply not true any more. Kerala has already gone through demographic transition. A malnourished woman in Kerala may look like a malnourished woman from somewhere else, but she doesn't want the same things. Kerala could get a windfall 20% gain by going its own way right now (provided it tackles its own craziness) and do a Chinese style 5 year income doubling thing- this generates pay-offs for local satraps at the level of Capital Gains so vast as to give them an incentive to fix the system.
The same can be said to one degree or another of other progressive states. True, appalling poverty statistics mean that better implementation of Poverty Relief programs may appear a money-spinner but those sorts of programs have inbuilt efficiency costs and superior mechanism design can help local power-brokers to switch from rent-seeking to capitalizing dynamic gains.
Another constraint on the Center's capacity to hold things together is the bogey raised by the doctrine of command responsibility such that when these kleptocrats go abroad to visit their money, they may be unceremoniously chucked in jail for Human Rights abuse and War Crimes and so on. Who needs that headache?
A Congress Minister, that too a Hindu, is now calling for Azadi for Kashmir- the thing makes sense. Why paint a target on your back for the vociferous Kashmiri constituency in the West? What actually is lost, from your Swill Bank account, if Kashmir is lost? Your portfolio is already diversified. Thanks to Manmohan Singh, any asset in India has already been borrowed against and the money transferred outside via false invoicing or bogus transactions- i.e the capital gain has already been realized in hard currency and hedging what remains isn't particularly expensive.
Blue sky Globalized capitalism already has its weather system of cyclones sustained by the very volatility they create such, where it matters, a sort of  Cloud computed 'dominance without hegemony'' can operate and dividends accrue- yet, civil society needs hegemony to cohere- but, it appears to me, that will be supplied under the rubric of Separatism not Synoecism because, for India,  the moral equivalent of the dead man's switch has already been triggered.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

The education of Henry Adams- WTF?

This is a story of a guy who just couldn't get no edumication no matter how hard he tried but who still somehow started to begin to see that education had ceased to be possible save as a branch of Mathematics- Pareto's, if I were to hazard a guess.
Unfortunately, coz he didn't know any Math and was as thick as shite, he wrote this crap book which Americans are forced to read coz they have no Medieval History, but since this fuckwit taught it at Harvard for a few years, well, this book is all that falls to their lot of that branch of the tree of Knowledge best fit for mereticious, for ultimately Manchesterist, skoptsi self-flagellation.

What does education actually mean? Well, its stuff you can study and pursue such that after a given point the actions of other equally 'educated' people around you become predictable such that stable Nash equilibria emerge and so on and so forth.
So - a kind of ars dictaminis facilitating Civilization rather than the blind engine of Civil faction.
Adams discovers that no such education existed. His bunch of assholes fucked up the country big time for no good reason- or rather, for no reason good to themselves. It was all just pretence and pi-jaw- that's all.
Nobody had any problem with the Southerners sticking it to the 'Negro' till their dicks were slicker than shit so long as they didn't come to Boston to recapture their slaves- coz. like once the Niggers cross the Mason-Dixie they're ours to stick it to.
The British Cabinet- where Pam turns out to be the good guy and Earl Russel a demon of mendacity and fucking Gladstone the ultimate shit-head- teaches Adams that education don't exist.

His second big education comes with the Banking Crisis in 1893, but of course the asshole doesn't get that his own pro-Silver silliness was part of what made that inevitable.  So Adams turns Anti-Semite, the precious little flower, does diddums hate dem nasty Jews? What? Diddums does? What an aristocratic litttle diddums it is! Bless my soul and fuck me sideways if I tell a lie.

The odd thing about Harvard is that, despite Game Theory having been on the Menu for over 50 years them 'educated' clunkheads aint got a lot further down the road- 'cept they keep a lid on the cussing out of niggers and kikes & shite.

But, like that's gonna help Obama. Yeah, right!

One last point- America does have a Virgin, America has a Madonna- her name was Marilyn Monroe and she too had her education and we are all her children.

Sunday 19 December 2010

the Kerala model- why it wont work elsewhere.

Kerala is different. Why? It's actually quite a nice place to live. Kidnapping isn't a heavy industry. Movies and novels and magazines aint utter shit. That means some Doctors are going to want to live even in backwater villages- especially if they've inherited land there.
Furthermore, its radically  fucked economy means you have cheap nurses part of whose reproductive cycle occurs in the province.
But what happens if Kerala's economy gets a little less fucked coz like the Cubans are backtracking and. anyway, the other alternative of cutting off the hands of lecturers is soooo last decade?
Well, then the statistics go into reverse- like what happened in China when the barefoot doctors got shoes and ran the fuck out of the rural backwaters and didn't stop running till they'd started to do well for themselves.

Still, the Kerala Model DOES offer a beacon of hope, not alas! for Kerala but for ...urm... dunno...Cambridge?
Some place with a lot of caste complexity. Oh yes, and land reform.
So not Cambridge then. 

But don't tell Amartya Sen- there's a dear.

In any case he turns up his nose at poor old England's N.H.S, preferring the other Cambridge for medical help.

This I think is his lasting contribution to the Capital reswitching debate and the War between the two Cambridges. Joan Robinson would have been so proud!

Saturday 18 December 2010

From Vivian Grey to Dorian Grey- what changed?

Beating kids is important. It's what Civilization is about. But, for some strange reason, a lot of kids don't like being beaten. Worse, their Moms and Dads- especially the horny handed blue collar sort- show a regrettable tendency to thrash the school-master unmercifully if he lays hands on their little dears.
It's no good complaining to the Village police-man or the Curate or whatever. Teachers are considered a good punching bag for the rising generation of farm hands.
For this reason, school masters throughout history have wanted to educate the children of the elite, or- even better- become Professors of some sort.
This is because, traditionally, it is okay to beat the kids of the elite and talk poisonous hateful shite at the University level.
I recall my young friend Disraeli writing what I thought quite a promising little roman a clef- Vivian Grey was its name- in which the hero pulls a pistol so as to inflict revenge upon the usher who'd given him a flogging in the School Room. But, by taking umbrage at a mere usher and treating a puerile punishment as a personal affront- Disraeli gave the lie to the notion that he was indeed 'a man of fashion'.
Only children of the lower orders resent a flogging.
Wilde's Dorian Grey is a horrible example of what happens to a blue blooded gentleman (his aristocratic maternal grand-father had gotten his father killed in a duel) who hasn't had the stuffing beaten out of him at Public School. But, by then, it was already too late. Schoolmasters had become a sentimental bunch- Wittgenstein, the last of of the Cambridge sadists, plied his cane only  in Austria, till that is, his old School-fellow, Hitler purified Aryan pedagogy of its last trace of a grand Civilizing mission- and Saki, bewailing England's inevitable collapse in 'When William Came' puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the lower orders whose Moms wouldn't let them be flogged. 'Our Alf- he never done it!' they'd squawk, the slatterns and their 'Our Alf, he never!"' became the dirge of Old England's winding sheet.
More generally, I maintain, the West ceased to exist the moment kids refused to take a beating. Indeed, with the mass production of cheap flick knives and bicycle chains, a fundamental plank of Western Thought, Western Culture, simply ceased to exist.
It is in this context that Post Colonial Theory has a contribution to make. It mourns the violence it invokes as constituting its episteme in precisely the same way as any other random thing you can think of, only don't forget to add in something about the far deeper violence, nay genocide!, involved in Globalization and how like isn't it ironic that something or the other happened on Twitter and anyway I will now write a book about- not Gramsci, I did that last week- urm, Gandhi and passive revolution or something.

Prynne and translating 'difficult' poetry

This is a link to a talk by the great British poet, J.H. Prynne on the difficulties involved in translating 'difficult' poetry- including his own.
Before proceeding to mangle his arguments, may I advance my own little nugget of wisdom? I may not? Fuck you.

The first thing that struck me was that Prynne reckons Shakespear's Sonnets are a case of difficulty of language being part and parcel of difficult thought. Difficult mark you, not costive, not crapulous, but  difficult.
Are there any difficulties of thought in the Sonnets?Well, perhaps, if one wishes to get away from allegory and seeks some psychological or historical information from them. But, isn't that Nineteenth Century historicism gone mad?
Still, let Shakespear's sonnets stand as difficult poetry in the sense that a smart guy like Prynne can get a lot more out of them than a dumb Curry & Chips Cockney.
Not that I didn't like the Sonnets. I read them  when I was 19 and thought 'this shit dun be okay'- except I didn't think this thought to myself but to Jack the Ripper as played by Jerry Lewis in that daydream I had when listening to a lecture about the reswitching debate during the War between the 2 Cambridges.

But pace my own difficult thoughts or difficulties in thinking, Prynne brings enormous sensitivity to the entire semantic field and stresses 'choice'- choice of word, choice of image, choice of allusion- as that which defines difficulty. We are far off from the notion of the poet as 'sweet Nature's child, warbling his wood notes wild'- or of poetry as 'sphota', an explosion of meaning, like a boil full of pus which bursts to general merriment and applause.
Equally, the schizophrenic's word-salad and Paranoid, Poundian, pseudo Profundity are not the object of Prynne's meditation- difficulty is neither a mental illness nor a linguistic imposture- on the contrary, Prynne's method makes room for actual Philological scholarship, for attentiveness to genuine advances in the Physical and Social Sciences rather than the schwarmerei of  fashionable charlatans,- and as such appears perfectly legitimate and praise-worthy (even if his poems are above our heads).

Prynne's focus on word choice appears, in denying Bhratrhari's sphota theory, to be enamoured of a strong version of Chomskian i-language such that words are more important than their shaping, poets present us with a Cornell box and politely fade away into the aether- rather than getting drunk and trying to have sex with the vacuum cleaner.

 However, I feel Prynne still hasn't gone far enough. I think poets should be dissected, turned into cat food, and then be forced to clean that stain under the sofa which you thought I wouldn't notice, you bastard- I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE!

Sunday 12 December 2010

Hailing Heroes of Hindutva- Rajini Narayan

Rajini Narayan set fire to her husband's penis after he called a fat, dumb, bitch. Strangely, the Australians prosecuted her for murder. She explained that she was only trying to purify his penis with fire- an ancient Hindu custom.
The Ozzies have convicted her of Man-slaughter- a clear example of anti-Hindutva paranoia- she would have been acquitted quickly enough if she'd explained all she was just throwing a little shrimp on the Barbie...

Friday 10 December 2010

But for you, these lands were rich

But for you, these lands were rich.
Rabid Dogs is God your bitch?
 You bark in the Manger
Is Religion in danger?
Go die in a ditch.

God is Music's Middle Class.

Pluck taut strings, you strangle tyrants
Modulate your timbre, or kill giants
For God is Music's middle class
Shadows too have exams to pass.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

My verdict on Ayodhya

Which would I prefer- to see a Temple commemorating Lord Rama or a Mosque commemorating Emperor Babur? Well, I like Babur- he was a great writer, a conossieur of wine, and the story of his circling the bed of his son Humayun 'praying God lift/ His Evil from his best Gift/ and take back the taker, not the Gift' is truly touching.

But, Babur is a secular figure not a fountainhead of Spirituality.

It is tragic figures, tragic that is from the point of view of the Secular World- figures like Lord Christ, Hazrat Ali, Hazrat Hussain, but also Lord Rama- who represent the true glory of Spirituality which has the power to redeem even the most selfish and stupid glutton and drunkard.

What if, instead of Emperor Babur, the disputed structure commemorated Hazrat Ali or Hazrat Hussain or another such impeccable Spiritual personality? What then indeed! There would never have been a dispute in the first place. No doubt some nut-job suicide bomber would have it down on his hit list- but any damage he may cause would swiftly be repaired and people would be more closely knit together.

(Watch Ram tera ghorak dandha video - here)
The Marxists have their own view of things. It is unfortunate that, for purely tactical purposes, they have sought to divide the Faith Community along Hindu/Muslim lines. If the disputed structure had commemorated the accursed Yazid, the Maoists would still be demanding its reconstruction. Why?
In the same way that Charile Manson wanted to spark a Race War in the U.S.A, they want to spark a Sectarian War in India. They believe they can pick up the pieces and inherit everything when the storm blows over. They are wrong. What they are doing is marginalizing themselves- rendering not just themselves irrelevant save as puppets- but also marginalizing the cause of Social Justice- which doesn't actually mean anything more sinister than letting a young girl go to School so can become more productive in employment, which in turn means a bigger dividend for my Pension fund and more money for me in retirement..

Oh. Right. I see. Okay, so maybe the Marxists have a point.

Malyalee influences on Immanuel Kant.

Much has been made of Kant's Scottish ancestry but his debt to Kerala has scarcely been acknowledged. Recently, Shashi Tharoor's daring 'de-Kanting' (as Prof. Binmore puts it) and re-formulation of Ethics has re-opened the whole question of Malyalee- in particular Shree P. Menon's- influence on Kant.

Menon Sahib, whom Kant addressed as Prolego (Prahalad? Palghat?), had a great influence on Kant' views though, with typical European condescension the sage of Konisberg wrote a letter of introduction for Prolego Menon to all future Metaphysics. This gives us the clue that Shri P. Menon may have been a student or, more likely,  a waiter at a South Indian Restaurant and had requested this favor from the German philosopher.

Monday 6 December 2010

Narendra Modi- cleared by S.I.T? So what?

It appears that the Special Investigation Team has exonerated Narendra Modi from complicity in the post-Godhra riots.
So what?

The situation in Feb 2002 was as follows
1) Modi had been C.M for only a few months. He wasn't firmly in the saddle. His following within his own party was small. He belonged to a numerically unimportant community and wasn't playing the O.B.C card- indeed, few people would have known he was a 'low' caste Ghanchi.
2) After the Pak sponsored attack on the Indian Parliament in December, tensions between India and Pakistan were at an all time high. Gujerat is a border state. Thus, neither George Fernandes, as Minister of Defense at the Center, nor Modi as C.M (the usual fall-guy for communal violence, especially as he was a political light-weight in the State) could allow the riots to get out of hand.
3) Suppressing the riots meant Hindus- activists of his own party- might get shot. But, it had to be done. This was the only way to break the cycle of violence that began in 1969.  I suppose it was convenient for everybody to leave Modi in place till elections were called. Nobody expected him to win by such a margin. Partly this had to some earlier initiatives which were bearing fruit, but- in the main- it is because suppressing riots with a hand of iron is part of Good Governance- like clamping down on kidnapping as a heavy industry. It's the sort of thing which voters want.

I don't know whether Modi handled the post-Godhra situation in the best possible way, but the fact that the cycle of violence ended that same year (Modi stepped in to prevent the Akshardam terrorist atrocity from sparking communal strife by simply putting all the blame on the Pakistani ISI) is a tribute to his toughness and understanding of the real issues which voters worry about.
Modi isn't good at communal politics. He is ham-handed. He denies tickets to Hindu party men and gives them to Muslims in a corporation election with the result that his party loses on their own home ground. If some Muslims are now voting for him it is on economic or other grounds not because they are Muslims. Modi's brand of politics is fine if the only thing voters worry about is Development, Governance and Poverty Relief.
At one time we believed he could appeal to Hindus on Religious grounds. But to do that is to be sensitive to minute differences in caste, creed and symbology. Some people can do that instinctively. If you go to a Vaishnava temple in the morning then take a darshan from a Saivite sage in the afternoon.
I think it is this quality that the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has. The Congress Gang of 4 consists of a Sikh, a Catholic (Sonia Ji), a Muslim (Ahmed Patel from Gujarat), and a Bengali Hindu (Pranab). There is no suggestion that Kashmiri Dhars are running things behind the scenes (as happened in Indira's early years) or that it is Dosco old boys (the impression in Rajiv's first year or two)- which, I suppose, begs the question of who is running things.
Personally, I suspect it might be Billi the Cat because such was its lust for power, it escaped from my lap in 1974 and despite plaintive calls of 'puss! puss!' and offers of milk in exchange for doing my Sanskrit homework, ran swiftly down Curzon Road in the general direction of the Seats of Power.
Good luck to you, Billi, is what I say. Illegetimi non carborundum!

Russel Crowe in 'The next 3 days.'

Russel Crowe's latest film- 'The next 3 days' is a so-so remake of a French thriller which worked very well for the English audience because the stars were unknows for us.
Ugly middle aged guys like me were happy a not-ugly exactly but pretty ordinary French guy- that too a teacher- turns into a lean mean action hero. His wife- a fragile blonde- too was very affecting.
The re-make couldn't really hit the same high notes- at least for those of us who'd seen the French film- or work quite as well in reversing expectations.
Still, Russel Crowe has lost none of his old magic- indeed, that's the problem- surely the guy would just need to turn on the twinkly eyed cherubic charms and all those prison guards and police men would have just given him what he wanted?
Again, the idea that muggers might ever conceive of dishing out a kicking to Russel Crowe- don't they know he just has to suck in his gut to turn into Gladiator?- seems bizarre. Okay, Crowe has the acting ability to pull it off- indeed he makes it credible. But the fact remains, his is a larger than life presence- perhaps what this film needed was an Edward Norton who can do the Caspar Milquetoast to Incredible Hulk transition in a manner that tells us things we need to know about violence in our society.
Brian Denehy has a great cameo as the monosyllabic Father. And the kid is adorable. The female lead, however, I've already forgotten, though I saw the movie just 2 days ago. Let me look up her name. Elizabeth Banks. Hey, I like her! Zack & Miri make a porno... whole lot of other stuff... how come I don't remember her face from 2 days ago when I can still recall the face of the French actress who played the original role?
Was she mis-cast? More like wasted, if you ask me. She's a great talent. It would have been great if she and Crowe could have sparked off each other more, perhaps getting a bit more humor in- there's a scene where she tries to jump out of the car when she thinks she won't see her son again- the psychological foundation for this wasn't adequately laid and an opportunity missed for Banks to really own that scene.

Still, it's a perfectly okay film if you haven't seen the French version.

Tron Legacy- an okay 3 D film missing a dimension.

I don't go to the Cinema often- in fact, just twice this year. My first visit was to see the 3D Avatar which totally blew me away- though I admit I did cry a lot and get very frightened and my girl-friend had to threaten to take away my bottle unless I stopped jumping out of my seat to throw popcorn at the bad guys.

I saw Tron Legacy on Saturday and was considerably underwhelmed. Why?

Was it simply because the Tron Universe is constrained to be digital and monochrome- well, not monochrome, what's the word for a 2 color palette with glossy Kouros black and shiny neon white? Naff-Stringfellows-type-Nightclub-chic-from-the-benighted-Eighties? Okay that's not exactly a word, but it would be in German- only they'd manage to add in a lot of bleak theological stuff and finish it off, phonetically, with a fine brutalist stamp.
This palette is seriously underwhelming in 3D. Avatar's vivid tropical forest colors and xeno-biological hyper-organicism, on the other hand, made it the ideal movie for 3 D treatment.
Tron, back in 1982, was a breakthrough movie in that it went the other way- it took us from a 3 D world to a 2D world, like Edwin Abbot's Flatland.
Recall, that it was only during the second half of the 70's that people began to see that the future was digital not analog- Martin Cruz Smith's 1972 novel about a super-computer manipulating people was entitled 'the Analog bullet'- and that, in some sense, there was going to be a flattening of networks with the focus shifting to operating systems- an economist might say mechanism design- rather than the emergents on the Social sphere that demand our loyalty and seek to prescribe life's proper meaning.
Tron Legacy- dominated by Jeff Bridges, except this is a guy at his best if there is a ironic counter-current to his surfer dude machismo as in 'the Big Libowski'- in taking 'the grid' 3 D and introducing a theological element- God the Father creates a Lucifer in his image to take care of the boring bits involved in formulating Perfection, but Lucifer turns against the autonomous life forms which spontaneously arise because they are necessarily  imperfect- this sequel does not actually add a dimension to its topos but, rather, subtracts from its mythos by foreclosing its possibilities.
The result is that a huge talent like Michael Sheen is wasted as analogue to the Matrix's Merovingian- and comes across as a silly poofter rather than a sinister cyber Machiavelli.
One thing that puzzled me was the chicken wire effect in the flashback scenes. Is this to suggest the older l.c.d projectors from ten or fifteen years ago? Dunno. But it looked ugly.
On the other hand, a lot of Daft Punk fans are going to be watching this movie and, for all I know, maybe the whole mise en scene works for them.
 What stamped itself on my mind, however, was not the cinematic mise en scene but  Tron Legacy's scenes a faire script- I mean who cares about freeing up Operating Systems in the age of Cloud Computing and hand held wi-fi toasters and so on?
This film is like legacy software- no doubt a legend in its day-  which just don't play well with what we're now using.

Monday 29 November 2010

Ta ta to Tata's clean image.

The question that always puzzled me was why Indians maintained that the Tatas were above corruption. This begged the question of how anyone could operate in India- let alone on the mammoth scale of the Conglomerate- and remain clean. Indeed, if they weren't paying bribes it would be evidence that they possessed an insider advantage denied their competitors, not to speak of the aam aadmi who had to pay bribes for every little thing.
 In other words not paying bribes, in a corrupt country, is only evidence of saintliness if your are actually starving- clearly not the case with the Tatas.
Ratan Tata told a story of how he missed out on launching an internal airline, in a tie-up with Singapore Airlines, back in the 90's because he wouldn't pay a 15 crore bribe. But, on examination, what he actually said was that a fellow industrialist told him 15 crore was the price and Tata mumbled something in reply about wanting to sleep at night with a good conscience. No Minister had actually dared ask for money from Tata.

Interestingly, it was through the Singapore Airline thing that Tata met Nira Radia. whom he helped get to the position that she is in today. Radia was close to the BJP Civil Aviation Minister, Ananth Kumar, and- though her father had converted to Islam- also had ties to a Hindu godman. Perhaps, Ratan Tata thought of her (she speaks to him in a girlish English Public School accent) as an acceptable liaison with the Hindutva regime that appeared to be going from strength to strength.
Even if Tata never used Radia to influence policy- the fact remains that her stratospheric corporate rise owed much to her connection with Tata.
What Tata seems to be saying is 'We're Tatas. We're entitled. We don't have to pay bribes like other Johnny-come-latelies. We wouldn't even know how to go about doing it. That's why we hired Nira Radia. She keeps track of that sort of thing for us. From time to time, I go on TV or whatever to say 'We're Tatas we don't pay bribes because India owes us. We're entitled. Just hand over the resources in question and shut the fuck up.'
Shut the fuck up or else what? Might the Tatas say ta ta to India? Fat chance! India has to pay for their follies overseas- like their Jaguar Land Rover acquisition.
So it's ta ta to Tata's clean image- and a good thing to. Ratan Tata's successor will be able to get down and dirty, same as the other robber barons, and perhaps then there would be less need not just for the Nira Radias of this world but also this pretense of journalistic integrity and N.G.O probity and P.I.L purity that has so poisoned public discourse.
On a more positive note- one of Nira's sons appears to have been kidnapped by her business partner back in 2001 and held for ransom. The plucky lad got free and escaped to tell the tale. Strangely, the kidnapper- despite being the grandson of a C.M- even saw a little jail time. What I thought funny was that the business partner had lured Nira's son on the pretext of showing him a revolutionary new phone tapping device- the family's fated nemesis it appears- except of course the lad got free as, no doubt, will Nira Radia.

As for the Tatas- the truth is, their 'clean image' knocked points off their share rating- so what Ratanbhai has been doing is signaling that he has a jajmani hold- a high caste prerogative- over the Night Soil carriers of Indian political life. So he is 'touchable'- because the media bhangis are in his debt, and can be hung out to dry at his say so- and therefore his brand should continue to command a premium. After all the dastoors from whom he is descended count as equal to Brahmins.
Unlike the Hindu Brahmins, the Iranian Magi refused to permit middle castes to learn to read and write. There is a story of a great merchant who offered the Shah the gold he needed to defeat the foreign invader in return for permission for his sons to learn Pahlavi. The offer was turned down. In India, there was never a monopoly on literacy. To begin, most Pandeys and Pujaris were illiterate- they had a monopoly of chanting some stuff- not on the language or on scription.
The Tata's relationship with the Media is now under the microscope. What really stands out is the staggering sense of entitlement and hereditary privilege the Tatas glory in. Suddenly Rahul Baba looks pretty small potatoes. Mayatwatiji is quite wrong to say Rahul takes bath after visiting Dalit home. Rahul is a political bhangi. People of Mayawati's caste take bath after meeting bhangis of his sort.
I, of course, am not a bhangi. I never clean my toilet or wipe my own arse- to leave a protruding turd is all the rage in literary circles here in London- and it is to appeal to High Caste Hindutva sentiments that I pen these lines.

The fact is- Rahul's paternal grandfather's father was probably a Hindu and in any case his paternal grandmother's family weren't quite quite- if you know what I mean.
So, it's perfectly all right if the Tatas use him as a bhangi. In any case there is a convenient Dalit- a man of the highest education, intelligence, loyalty and personal integrity- one moreover a dark-skinned 'Madrasi' like myself- to take the fall.
It's all Varnashrama Dharma don't you know.
Nobody can escape the consequences of their lowly birth.
Equally, Tatas- merely by birth- escape all contagion of dirty corruption.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Homework assignment in Indglish Ars dictaminis- the case of the buggered goat

In 1922, a trooper of the Bengal lancers sodomized a goat in Waziristan.  To avoid a vendetta, the Colonel of the regiment authorized a sizable cash payment to the clan whose pet had suffered the indignity and then indented for reimbursement from the Dept. of Military Accounts in Calcutta under the rubric of 'livestock- sundries'.

Clearly this was very wrong of him. It was more a case of 'livestock- sundaris" as Assistant Head Clerk Harish Babu joked. 'Do not joke,'  Head Clerk Mukherjee admonished him, 'the goat was of masculine gender- not a beautiful sundari as you maintain- in any case the point at issue here is just a goat- at most it can be treated as sheep and reimbursed at that rate- however, what is happening here is that the sum demanded is more than that for a camel! There is an important precedent involved.'
'But what can we do?" Harish Babu asked, 'Colonel Sahib has already spent the money. God knows, those Afridis on the Frontier are quick to anger.  It's a cheap price to pay for peace. The Director is sure to pass the file if we attach a note.'

'Oho? We are just to pass all the indents of these military Johnnies are we?' Mukherjee was a slight man, but he had fighting spirit, 'We are simply eunuchs sitting here, are we? Tell you what, call Niradh Babu- M.A (fail) Calcutta University- he will know how to deal with the Colonel."

Director of Military Accounts, Cedric Cubbon ordered a pink gin but the bearer continued to hover at his elbow. 'Pink Gin- fut a fut!' Cedric said starting to get annoyed. 'Huzoor, I iz bringing just now only- but, one thing to present for attention?'
'Sahib, one Colonel Sahib is here. Drinking all day. Shouting your name. Saying 'buggered goat, buggered goat, I'll give that damn competition wallah buggered goat!' Sahib, better you should know.'

Cedric stiffened. He was a small man and wore thick glasses. He'd gotten into Military Accounts after failing to make the cut for H.M Customs & Excise. He had spent ten years in Aden- a punishment posting- before finally getting this promotion. Though he looked unimpressive, he was a brave man. Had it not been for a large family back home in Liverpool, who depended on his remittances, he'd have volunteered for the Irish Guard in 1914.

Still, it wouldn't do to confront the drunken Colonel right now. Cedric returned to his office, called for the relevant file and prepared to send a note over to the Colonel- perhaps with an invitation to luncheon at Flury's, or something of that sort.

But, any notion of offering hospitality to the Colonel was swiftly banished from his mind once he started reading the file.

The new Babu on his staff- what was his name?- Aradh? Niradh?- weedy little chap- had written a very cogent memo. The rules, for Military Accounts, governing compensation for sodomized animals were pretty clear. Precedents stretched back to Agincourt.
As Niradh pointed out- buggered goats are classed as 'deodand' everywhere east of Adelaide-  they are considered as having caused death or mortal sin and thus are confiscated to the Crown. No question of compensation arises.

The Colonel's response, if one filtered out the flippancy and ill tempered sarcasm, amounted to the bald unsubstantiated assertion that the goat had wandered over the Durand line and thus the law of deodand did not not apply to it because, in Islamic Emirates, a buggered animal might be eaten by anyone other than its violator.

There were two grave objections to the Colonel's memorandum. First, it amounted to a topographically conservative interpretation of the Durand line which undermined Imperial security. Secondly, it conceded the very point it sought to dispute- viz. that compensation could only be paid on the per pound weight mutton scale- not the much larger sum actually indented for.

Your homework assignment for today is
1) Write a note from Niradh Babu, observing all the conventions of Indglish ars dictaminis, addressed to the goat (assume it is a British subject for the purposes of this exercise).
2) Write an open letter from the goat (in the style of Zaid Hamid) to Niradh Chaudhri for publication in the Dawn newspaper.

For higher marks you may also
3) Write a poem, in the style of J.H. Prynne, capturing Cedric Cubbon's stream of consciousness as he resolves to fight the Colonel himself rather than permit him to sodomize the equestrian statute of Sir Mark Cubbon as an act of vengeance upon his namesake.
For lower marks
4) rewrite 'the Critique of Post-Colonial reason' using only such vocables as might issue from the throat of a buggered goat.


Thursday 25 November 2010

Our Thanksgiving's Turkey and Naipaul's pull-out.

I have long accepted the inevitability of the American festival of Thanksgiving spreading to these shores like 'trick or treating' on Halloween or sodomizing postmen on Boxing day.
This article here suggests a that a world=historical event has occurred which is truly worthy of commemoration as part of a new pan European Thanksgiving festival which Brussels can standardize and enforce.
The important point to focus on, in this context, is not the Gauginesque mental image of an engorged and purple Naipaul asthamatically pulling out of the Ingresian iridescence of a feathered and odalisque Turkey- but that this is the only truly incontrovertible moral argument for the expansion of the European Community into Asia Minor.

Personally, I blame David Cameron. That boy aint right.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

Hitler's sole poem- an Indglish translation

'In July 1917 we set foot for the second time on what we regarded as
sacred soil. Were not our best comrades at rest here?- some of them
little more than boys--the soldiers who had rushed into death for their
country's sake, their eyes glowing with enthusiastic love.'

Wagner's Valkyrie wing brushes
The country-boy who rushes
 Jewmerica's machine gun nest
For his Courage, Love fuels
His eyes blaze like jewels
A German heart to attest

Tho' his death throes are cruel
Eyes scorched by eyes' jewel
A weeping Valkyrie flies alone
Let his Mutti take him home.

Hitler and Hindutva

The word Hitler sounds like the Hindustani 'hutti' (obstinate). In ordinary parlance to say so and so is a Hitler means that person is strict and unyielding on questions of principle. Many years ago, I was translating a Jain book and was astonished to find a Sadhavi (nun) described as a Hitler. She was nothing of the sort, as I can personally testify. She radiated gentleness and, in addition to all her other tasks and duties, was a fine artist. Yet the scholarly young Nun to whom I explained my objection to letting the epithet stand in the English translation was reluctant to sanction the change I requested. I tried to explain that the name Hitler, in the English language, is synonymous with Evil incarnate. My appeal fell on deaf ears. No doubt, Hitler had done bad things but that was just politics. After all, Ashoka paid a bounty of a gold coin for the head of every Jain monk- thousands were slaughtered- until, one day, the head of a Buddhist monk, whom he personally reverenced, was brought to him. At that point Ashoka called off the massacre.
The important point was that he was an Emperor and, for some inscrutable reason, the Govt. of India had selected him as one of the Great and the Good.
Incidentally, what had kindled his ire against the Jains was the report that some members of their creed described Lord Buddha as belonging to their own Nigrantha tradition- scarcely a sufficient provocation for Ashoka's pogrom- but, well, that's politics.
I should mention, the Sadhavi in question was not alone in thinking 'Hitler' a term of praise. President Zail Singh astonished the world when he said something of that sort. Since Mrs. Gandhi was routinely described as a Hitler in the '70's her supporters naturally thought Hitler was worthy of praise. In any case, during the Second World War, Zail Singh was being tortured in the dungeons of the Maharaja of Patiala because of his stalwart role in the Freedom Struggle. As Niradh Choudhri points out, at that time, almost all the Nationalists wanted Hitler to win the War.  Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, though a Socialist at heart, did not scruple to travel to Germany to solicit help from the Fuehrer himself.
Nehru and Indira, however, were never seduced by Hitler's personality cult. Indira expressed her horror and revulsion at the events of the Kristallnacht (attacks on Jewish temples and places of business triggered by the assassination of a Nazi in Paris). Both adopted a double standard towards Stalin and the Soviet Union but that fitted well enough with India's geopolitical needs and, in any case, the West was at that time still deeply Racist. America was merciless towards its own 'colored' population and perfectly happy to Nuke gooks in far away places if they failed to bend the knee to what Wall Street thought best.

The question now arises as to whether the Hindutva parties gain a competitive advantage by appropriating the 'Hitler' epithet? While Mrs. Gandhi's legend still lived in the minds of the voters, this was simply a non starter. Now things have changed.Sonia and Rahul emphasize their empathy for the poor and steer clear of anything that smacks of 'India Shining'.
Perhaps, at present, Narendra Modi can get away with laying claim to that mantle- but only because he was successful in ending the cycle of riots that began in 1969. But, it increasingly appears, his charisma is not exportable to the Hindi belt. This is a good thing as Gujerat might easily slip back to its bad old ways without him.

More generally, the question arises- could Hindutva bring forth a Hitler? But who was Hitler? An Austrian. The Hapsburg's had only allied with the Germans because it kept their own fractious German minority on side while the dynasty explored ways of conciliating other nationalities. This, at any rate, was Hitler's view. He himself, like the Hapsburgs, involved Germany in a second and more ruinous war simply so as to shore up the position of Germans like himself who resented the rise of other nationalities in territories on its borders.

Perhaps, with demographic changes in the East, a new type of Hindutva might arise amongst Hindus expelled from their homes which, however, lie within India's borders. From amongst them a Hitler might emerge who, being excluded from local and State level Politics, has no option but to spearhead a Pan-National movement.
It seems inevitable that India will face its own financial melt-down a few years down the line and, coupled with loss of territory in the North after a humiliating military defeat arising out of corruption and a collapse in morale amongst the armed forces, perhaps then and not sooner we might expect to see a Hindutva Hitler.

The provision of Gas chambers and so on, however, in view of fiscal constraints, will continue to be the responsibility of the Private Sector and though Union Carbide can no longer be inveigled into a second Bhopal, globalized Private Equity will certainly step forward to supply the deficiency, always provided of course that the present Administration honors its commitment to cap liability at acceptable levels.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Evelyn Waugh and Naipaul's final scoop.

William Boyd has an excellent article on Naipaul's latest here.
Boyd draws a parallel between Waugh and Naipaul which admirers of the former might find puzzling. Waugh was funny, he wrote like an angel, his irony so perfect it verges on theodicy.
Naipaul's books simply aren't in the same category. I suppose the argument could be made that Naipaul- considered as a colored man, paid for jeering at colored people- can without impropriety be called a colored Waugh on the principle that you can call a nig-nog anything.
But this is an argument that tends not to be made in my presence- the fact is, though my cheeks display tints of peaches and cream, this is only because I'm a messy eater. Long years in London have not altered my complexion. Furthermore, just to be clear, I'm not setting myself up to be Naipaul's successor and so, absent a sufficient monetary inducement, I can't put forward this argument myself  because, it seems to me, Waugh saw himself as part of one great indivisible Civilizing force at the center of things.
There can't be a colored Waugh any more than there can be a Black Catholicism as opposed to a White Catholicism. 
Yet, to my mind, there is a connection- less a case of artistic genealogy than its proctologically inartistic inverse- between Waugh and Naipaul. What that is, I will reveal at the end of this blog post.

First, let me come clean and admit that the only reason I consider Naipaul to be important is because I am a Hindu. Why does Naipaul's religion- unlike Ved Mehta's or Niradh Chaudhri's- matter to me?
Well, Naipaul came to writing- it seems to me- out of a sense of filial piety. His father, Shivprasad, had gained a little education and his writing talent had gotten him a job as a reporter. Hoping to benefit people of his own background- i.e. Hindu agriculturists in the backwaters- Shivprasad allied himself with Indian Reformist movements so as to combat social evils amongst his erstwhile peers and hoping to put them on the same path to progress as the brown converts to Presbyterianism and the urban Afro-Caribbeans.
Perhaps the young man adopted too shrill a tone, or perhaps people felt he was getting too big for his boots- the upshot was that his life was threatened. He had to make an ignominious recantation- my memory is a goat was sacrificed to Kali or something of that sort- and suffered a nervous breakdown in consequence- one morning he looked in the mirror and could no longer see his own face.
I mention this because it was under somewhat similar circumstances that my grand-father (who was fond of quoting the patriotic writings of Swami Vivekananda in a hilarious Bengali accent) was forced to sodomize the equestrian statute of Sir Mark Cubbon as part of a Hindu College hazing ritual- one which, like the practice of Suttee amongst Supremos of the Congress party, the benighted partisans of 'Hindutva' and the so called 'Sangh Parivar' secretly encourage  to this day- a fact seldom mentioned by the supposedly 'Liberal' media.
Like Naipaul, I too have written books about India. Indeed, my last novel 'Samlee's daughter' stands shoulder to shoulder with Naipaul's books on the vexed question of the proper attitude to the fair sex- we both agree that Hindus must abandon chivalry for artillery- though I must admit I haven't yet worked myself up to actually dealing out blows to the little dears, considering it prudent to confine myself to chucking my teddy bear in their general direction before bursting into hysterical tears..
Like Naipaul, I too revere Mahatma Gandhi- a strenuous wife-beater of the best type-  and identify with him- though my literary output is less voluminous- precisely because he too returned to India with fresh eyes and could see things which had become invisible to the natives. Simple things. Don't shit all over the place. Carry a spade with you and cover up your feces. As for this business of swinging from tree to tree eating bananas and hanging by your tails- that's got to stop. Granted the tourists like it- but I'm more than just a tourist- my ancestors came from India- so just fucking stop your monkey tricks already. You guys are making me look bad.

Returning to Shivprasad, it is comforting to think of him- like Mr.Biswas, in Naipaul's best novel-  finding consolation in Marcus Aurelius and Samuel Simles. The rigor and majesty of the Latin Stoic- albeit in translation- and the homely message of the Victorian writer, may have given this very talented young man the courage to persevere rather than simply drown himself in rum or slink off to Venezuela.
Shivprasad's own English style was lively and adventurous and suffused with excellent observational humor and shrewd journalistic touches. But it wasn't the chastened prose of a University Graduate. It is tempting to envision Shivprasad, with Roman piety, passing on the torch to the young Naipaul- the torch in question being the notion that writing should serve a social purpose while simultaneously acting as a Stoic askesis, a spiritual and character building praxis, such that the writer doesn't end up simply battering his brains out against Civic walls but, Antaeus like, gains a renewed strength by judiciously alternating the target of his head-butts with the rocky breast of mother earth or some other such abstraction.
This, it seems to me, is not an ignoble project. It has special relevance to the middle aged blogger or small time columnist of low intelligence and narrow interests, who needs to beat his or her toy drum from time to time simply to find an outlet for the sort of nursery scoldings which, before the kids flew the coop, appeased one's paternal or maternal instincts.
After all, one could do worse- join some bunch of hate-mongering hooligans or write poetry or something.

Naipaul won a scholarship to Oxford at a very young age. He did not lack in filial piety. He wasn't a shy and withdrawn fellow but a witty and enterprising young man. His success seemed assured.
Naipaul's sister got a scholarship to Benares Hindu University. If the 'backwardness' of the Trinidad Hindoo was because they had been cut off from contact with the mother continent, then Naipaul's sister had that base covered.
Except of course, as that enterprising young woman swiftly realized, Benares had nothing to teach and everything to learn- except, that is, for intelligent people who might bother with Sanskrit and Prakrit and difficult stuff like that.

But Oxford too posed a problem. It seemed, the 'mother country-' whether India or England- could not provide what the Naipauls needed to keep their father's torch gloriously ablaze.
Why? Well, the truth was there nothing greatly the matter with the Hindu cane-cutters of Trinidad. They did well by themselves, just as the Naipauls did well by themselves. No great 'social reform' was necessary. So what if some village lads got into a lathi fight once in a while? But, they are going to Muslim Pir's shrine for blessing on lathi! Is that not a betrayal of Religion? No. It's nonsense is what it is.

The Trinidad Hindus evolved a good communal religious life which Indian scholars have since commended and commented upon. They did well economically and educationally. If some Hindu guy wants to get drunk and chase tail- that's his choice, he is not 'bringing shame on his community'. If some other guy goes to Harvard and becomes a Brain Surgeon- good for him, it doesn't mean he is some sort of magical oracle or exemplar whom we must revere and follow unquestioningly.

The Naipaul's tragedy arises from a deeply materialistic and spiritually stagnant Society's indifference to the notion that literature can fulfill a great social purpose by telling people to like pick up your litter already and don't roll your eyes when I'm talking to you and for fuck's sake do you have to be so dark? Have you tried bleach?  Fucking proles! They want to take my tax dollars to educate you thickies? This is Political Correctness gone mad! Rivers of blood, I say, rivers of blood will flow especially now that French Cambodian lady-boy David Cameron's got into Number 10.

V.S Naipaul did not do particularly well at Uni. One can scarcely blame him. Academic subjects like English or History or drunkenly getting gay with each other were no longer what they had been at the beginning of the 20's when Waugh went up. Indeed, the Second World War had changed the nature and function of literature, of literary culture, in a drastic fashion. Individuals no longer mattered. People might be permitted to hold opinions, even express them in some socially sanctioned way, but Truth was something churned out by giant machines in which the salaried, State-trained, intellectual was an interchangeable cog. History no longer had a human scale. Well, perhaps with the aid of Gandalf the Grey, the hobbits of the shire could prevail over the blazing eye of Sauron, but as Naipaul, Tolkein's student, would surely have known, the Elvish rune for the Silmarillionic tuirgen was also (as Keshave Chandra Das Gupta has hinted in his magisterial study of Orcish) a homophone for the watery sigil of the voiceless Loerelei whose sodomizing of pygmies to gain supernatural powers (prompting, perhaps, Naipaul's remark that he found pygmies scarcely human) is the key to Pres. Obama's current Afpak strategy  (vide Gayatri Spivak Chakravorty's  Prolegomenon to all future Post Colonial Studies) .

Naipaul faced with the equally arid alternatives of mindless philology or I.A Richards being anally raped by analytical philosophy had nothing to learn at University and, with commendable industry, he applied himself to the task of learning nothing, observing nothing- a habit which has served him well throughout his long and illustrious literary prostitution.
Not that he couldn't write elegantly or do a bit of actual research- 'the loss of El Dorado' aint utter crap- it's just History wasn't a mirror in which he could see his own face and so it had to go. So too did Economics and Politics and Science and... everything that has made the last fifty years such an exciting time to be alive.

Waugh, on the other hand, had a great sense for history, an instinctive understanding of economics- like others of his generation, he was confronted with the failure of Political Liberalism at a time when ideological positions were still very much in flux, dialogue- 'chatter' if you like- was as natural as getting drunk in the nearest dive; the febrile wit, the world weariness, the senile, sententious, Edwardian Socialism of Saki's salons had given place to something new. A great climacteric had been passed. Pieces could be picked up, but more than pieces there were new things, new ideas, new methods of analysis, a new understanding of the human mind born out of the terrible attrition of trench warfare, a new world view was there for whosoever cared to solder it together . Ideas mattered, literary excellence mattered- personality was a cult for the dandy not the dictator- much was recoverable, more was possible- with the innocence of children, Waugh's generation entered a Brave New World.
Not so, Naipaul's cohort entering Oxford under the chilling conditions of Post War Austerity- this would be a year or two after Orwell's 1984 came out- Britain had never had it so bad. Popular novelists of the period speak of amalgamation into the U.S.A or mass emigration to Australia as the only solution to Britain's seemingly insurmountable problems. Naipaul himself later applied for a job with the Indian High Commission!
People like Waugh might still provide literary banquets- and authors a few years his elder still engaged with ideas- but the new market was for processed food- T.V dinners for the suburbs and corned beef for the inner cities. Few, even in the 1970's, could have predicted Britain's phoenix like resurrection as a gastronomic super-power. Modesty forbids mention of my own achievements in this field- though I did once prepare a simple poached egg dish following a French recipe I found on the Internet- and I have it on good authority that my Salmonella is to die for.
Virtually nobody back in the 50's, except perhaps some mathematical economists or displaced Austrians, give us any inkling in their work of the importance our generation would later attach to  things like property rights, mechanism design, markets, diversity as a driver of trade and development and so on all of which revive the role of the individual in his freely contracted social arrangements, the better understanding of which makes the novel, literary fiction, once again central to Civil Society and the Liberal Political Project.
Waugh understood these things. But, over the course of his life- his arduous treks in the wilderness seeking his own soul- he saw and learned something more. Civilization is all center and no periphery.
So is God.
Naipaul isn't God but he has made himself the center of the World he writes about. The Scandinavians- invoking, with Viking wit, its  'suppressed histories'- have given him a Prize for it. But what is that world? It is a world of darkness briefly illumined by his father's stories-
But the habits of mind engendered by this shut-in and shutting-out life lingered for quite a while. If it were not for the short stories my father wrote I would have known almost nothing about the general life of our Indian community. Those stories gave me more than knowledge. They gave me a kind of solidity. They gave me something to stand on in the world. I cannot imagine what my mental picture would have been without those stories.
This, then is the key to Naipaul's dessicating art- his mummifying religion- his vast African spiritual safari which- like Proust's pilgrimage to Ruskin's Venice- occurred not in the sort of time counted off by the clock-face but that other type of time, Bergsonian duration, the Time which really counts- except it doesn't at all, Bergson was fucked in the head; what he says of Time can be said of anything- the door is opened to a Panalethism of a particularly silly sort- Iqbal's version of Islam, Naipaul's notion of everything including Islam- and the ungainsayable historical fact that the former cashed out as the latter.
Naipaul ends his Nobel lecture thus-
I will end as I began, with one of the marvellous little essays of Proust in Against Sainte-Beuve. "The beautiful things we shall write if we have talent," Proust says, "are inside us, indistinct, like the memory of a melody which delights us though we are unable to recapture its outline. Those who are obsessed by this blurred memory of truths they have never known are the men who are gifted... Talent is like a sort of memory which will enable them finally to bring this indistinct music closer to them, to hear it clearly, to note it down ..."
Talent, Proust says. I would say luck, and much labour.

So it seems, Waugh's nightmare vision of a man being forced to read Dickens to his illiterate jailer in the middle of the rain forest was no mere nightmare after all- it was a prophesy concerning the art-form he had advanced. Substitute Naipaul for Dickens and you begin to see how that might work.
Perhaps, as Borges was fond of saying, all books are by the same author. Or rather- what Dickens and his ilk started, Naipaul and his ilk finished. Read Dickens as if Naipaul were writing him.Read Dickens aloud as if Naipaul were writing him and Waugh is standing there listening dumb-struck and appalled, having just stepped into this clearing in the jungle.
Except there is no jungle. Waugh already knew that Naipaul would write Dickens. After all, Waugh had a dad who worked for Chapman &  Hall who published Dickens. And Naipaul had a dad who once tried to help his community by publishing some stories and articles. It's not Jungles or Geographies that matters. This kind of winding down is built into literature's 'duration'.

Suddenly becoming a Hare Krishna, or a Wicca Wizard or Sarah Palin or whatever don't look so bad. Except, of course, it's the same mumbo-jumbo as Literature. And African spirituality, African poetry, African Music- all of which wove together everything which makes social life meaningful and worthwhile- are now sufficiently invoked, sufficiently explored, by a sneering reference to muti magic- for to such muti magic must all Literature, all High Finance, inevitably devolve.

Only thus, and not otherwise, now Patrick French has done for Naipaul what he so signally failed to do for himself, can, at age of 78, Naipaul- not a good man, but our man, in Africa- finally telegraph us his scoop.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Ther real cause of the present financial crisis- an Indglish novel

The real cause of the present financial crisis looked up at the bronze sky. The monsoon was late. She went up the rickety stairs to the barsati to dry her hair.
Three storey's below, she could hear Chachee saying to Nani, as they shelled peas together-  'the girl should be married by now. What for all this Creative Writing Programs in U.S and other Godless places?"
Nani said nothing. She had been struck dumb ever since she witnessed the terrible scenes of carnage during the Godhra riots.
Suddenly there was a cry of alarm from one of the neighboring houses.  Chachee got to her feet. "What has happened? Who is there?"
The lugubrious  voice of Kista, the untouchable Merchant Banker, answered. "Arre, see what is happening on your own roof! A girl is being forced to commit suttee by evil Brahmins in cohoots with Narendra Modi!!"
'Nonsense,' Chachee shouted back, 'there is no girl here except my younger brother's daughter- the real cause of the present financial crisis-  but she is not married and hence can not be committing suttee due to only widows have that honor!"

However, the real cause of the financial crisis was wedded from birth to Indglish Literature. Hence she was quite properly committing suttee.
'This will teach them', our heroine said to herself as she burned up in frightful agony, 'Now they'll all be arrested and thrown in jail for abetting a suttee. Serves them right, the cunts. I am elven years old and studying in Class V. Please select my novel for Booker Prize. Compared to me, Arundhati Roy is an ugly old hag. I would like to meet President Osama and fly in a spaceship.'

Saturday 13 November 2010

Jennifer Aniston as the limit case of the class of beautiful fat Australian men

I think it was the late Professor Gayatri Spivak Chakroborty who pointed out that Jennifer Aniston is the limit case of the class of beautiful fat Australian men. I don't recall what the distinguished Professor was late for and, as always, when I use the phrase 'I think', I use the expression loosely. However, the question remains, what truth value can be assigned the notion that Jennifer Aniston is the limit case of the class of beautiful fat Australian men?
I asked Professor Steven Landsburg to do the Math and find out.
"It's true," he grudgingly admitted. "By the logical principle known as ex falso quodlibet it follows directly from my proof that a tax on unearned income is a double tax. Furthermore, we can show, intuitively, that it must be true. First assume strict monotonicity in the class of beautiful fat Australian men. Then think of Mel Gibson without his truss. Then think of Jennifer Aniston waxing her mustache. Then draw a graph with Mel Gibson on one axis and Jennifer Aniston on the other axis. Draw indifference curves through every combination of Jennifer Aniston and Mel Gibson, such that revulsion is held constant. Obviously very small amounts of either cause revulsion to asymptotically approach zero and very large amounts to rapidly converge on infinity. However, in a sense, they balance each other out. Revulsion is least when there is at least one Mel Gibson to drunk dial each Jennifer Aniston and shower her with verbal abuse and at least one Aniston to remind Mel he aint no Brad Pitt. Hence, the indifference curves will be well behaved and follow strict monotonicity. Now draw a budget constraint whose slope is equal to the price you'd pay in the market to see the two mud wrestle. Impose a tax upon viewing Mel Gibson. The budget constraint shifts inwards with a sharper slope. Call the new consumer equilibrium point P. Now draw another budget constraint that passes through P but which is parallel to the old budget constraint. You can clearly see that a higher Indifference curve is tangential to the new budget constraint. This proves that with, tax revenue kept equal, all agents prefer an equal tax on both Mel Gibson and Jennifer Aniston. Since Mel Gibson would actually be a lot less gross if he weren't on diet pills it follows that Jennifer Aniston and a fat Mel Gibson are gross substitutes or become so as the set of beautiful fat Australian men increases with the addition of Mel Gibson. Since Aniston is of at least partly Greek origin, it follows that she'd tend to develop a mustache. Anyway, if all taxes on inherited wealth were abolished, with the burden being shifted to earned income, neither would have an incentive to actually earn any more money and so they'd soon come to resemble each other- well, except Aniston would be a bit more butch.
'This isn't nonsense at all. Crack a textbook why don't you?'

Thursday 11 November 2010

Steve Landsburg's fallacy re. Estate taxes (Death duties)

Landsburg just won't quit with his double-tax fallacy.
This is from his blog of a couple of days ago.
Dick Thaler, writing in the New York Times, says so many wrong things about the estate tax that I don’t know where to begin. But let’s begin here:
First, it is incorrect to say the estate tax amounts to double taxation. The wealth in many large estates has never been taxed because it is largely in the form of unrealized — therefore untaxed — capital gains.
This is just not true. Virtually all of the wealth in every large estate has already been taxed at least once. Namely, it was taxed when it was earned. You do not understand this issue unless you understand the following simple example: Scrooge McDuck earns a dollar, makes some fortunate investments, and leaves a hundred million dollars in unrealized capital gains to his ne’er-do-well nephews. If Scrooge has to pay 50 cents income tax on that dollar, then he invests half as much, earns half as much, and leaves his nephews half as much. Scrooge’s fifty cent tax bill has already cost his nephews fifty million dollars.

In fact, there’s a good chance Scrooge (or his ancestors) earned a lot of that money back in the bad old pre-Kennedy days when marginal tax rates hovered around 93%. If so, 93% of the estate is already lost to taxes. That’s pretty far from nothing.
A more accurate statement might be this:
First, it is incorrect to say the estate tax amounts to triple taxation. The wealth in many large estates has been taxed only once because it is largely in the form of unrealized capital gains. Therefore the estate tax amounts to double taxation, not triple.
Of course, when you say it the more accurate way, it stops looking like an argument for estate taxation.

Why is this silly? Well, in an economy with no market failures (situations where markets screw things up) one might want all economic activities to be taxed at the same marginal rate.  In the old days people said- ah money earned by the sweat of one's brow should be taxed less than money from rents or savings. The problem is if you penalize savings or rental incomes then an important type of economic activity will be under-provided and in the long run everybody suffers.

Landsburg, of course, is on the side of the rich and wants money earned from rent, interest or profits not to be taxed at all- because this is 'double taxation.'
Let us take an extreme case to support his view. Granny Sweetums is a widow who earned $1 by scrubbing the floor of  Tax Inspector  Nasty. He promptly taxed her income at 50% leaving her with 50 cents. Granny Sweetums did not spend the 50 cents because she planned to buy her grand-daughter Goldilocks a nice new pair of titties for her 21st birthday. However, instead of giving the money to Goldilocks or pre-paying the plastic surgeon, Granny Sweetums hid the 50 cents in her panties (where not even Tax Inspector Nasty would look for it). Goldilocks would often say to Granny Sweetums, 'Kindly hand over the cash you dumb broad. Don't you know that Death Duty is levied at 50%?"
Granny Sweetums replied 'I would if I could be sure I'd be dead by the time you are 21 and thus legally entitled to work as a porn star. What if I live beyond that time whereas you are run over by a bus? That's why I'm hanging on to the 50 cents.'

Sadly just before Goldilocks 21st birthday, Granny Sweetums keeled over and died. The undertaker found the 50 cents in her panties and Tax Inspector Nasty immediately took 25 cents in inheritance tax leaving Goldilocks with money for only one boob enlargement- thus confining her to the unprofitable early Victorian silhouette end of the Porn industry where she met Steve Landsburg. Being a chivalrous sort of fellow he challenged Tax Inspector Nasty to an internet debate.
"You are guilty of double taxation!" he thundered angrily.
"Not so." said Nasty, "I am taxing an economic good or service which did not previously exist, Granny Sweetum's death created a hedge against the uncertainty and need to maintain a precautionary balance which her previously unknown date of death was responsible for. In other words, something- namely a hedge- has been created for the Estate and it is that which is being taxed. Had Granny bought a hedge in the market that would have been taxed. It is the implicit hedge which has fructified which I now lay claim to. The situation is the same as that of a unrealized and previously un-monetized capital gain on an asset which becomes so when it comes under probate. The moment something enters the market, or is exchanged, an economic activity occurs. The canon of neutrality requires it be taxed at the same rate as any other economic activity. This is different from a simple transfer. Had Granny Sweetums pre-paid the plastic surgeon for the boob-job no tax would have arisen other than the one she paid as Income Tax. By keeping the 50 cents in her knickers Granny was using the money to buy something for herself- viz. a hedge against the uncertainty arising from her unknown date of death. Her death relieved her Estate of that cost which we are taxing as though it had been paid through the market because under the law of probate this money now comes to Goldilocks not as a voluntary gift or transfer but as something on which she has a legal and enforceable claim upon.
'Goldilocks could not have sued Granny for the 50 cents since she had no legal claim to it. However, under the law of probate, Goldi does now have a claim to the residue of the Estate after tax. This  is an exchange, not a transfer, and since it is an economic exchange based on a new state of the world- viz. the reduction in uncertainty concerning Granny's date of death- a good or service has been produced, is measurable, and can be easily taxed-ergo it should be taxed."

But Steve Landsburg wasn't listening. He just repeated the argument all over again on his blog a couple of weeks later.
Goldilocks is doing well as a shadow puppet in Thailand.
Tax Inspector Nasty was fired for racially abusing a typist of Indian origin and sexually harassing a Japanese photocopier. He now writes children's books under the pseudonym Arianna Huffington Bear.

Monday 8 November 2010

Is the Mahabharata about uncontrolled lust?

Satya Caitanya has a series of blogs at Boloji- in one recent post he says -

The Mahabharata is a tale of uncontrolled lusts – lust for land, lust for wealth, lust for power, lust for honour, lust for fame, lust for acceptance, lust for vengeance, lust for pleasure, and, above all, plain sexual lust. It is the story of lust in every imaginable form and the terrible consequences that uncontrolled lust leads to.

I think this is nonsense. True, in the First Book there are cases of Kings suddenly falling in love with a woman and agreeing to make her son his heir- but that's called sexual selection, not uncontrolled lust. Furthermore, these providential loves, far from bringing ruin to the State, provide Kings with sons with more than mortal powers. This is not just the opposite of xxx rated hard core lust, it's the province of fairy tales.

A King is warned that if he has sex, he will die- but he loves his wife so much he goes ahead and does it anyway... not lust, this is a romantic fairy tale.

There is not a single one of the important characters in the Mahabharata who is truly preyed upon by lust in the same sense as that of a Tiberius or a Caligula. Yet, in classical Indian drama, we do find examples of utterly debauched Princes who rape anyone can they lay hands on.

Nobody Shri Caitanya lists here is in the grip of uncontrollable lust. On the contrary, the number of their sexual partners is lower rather than higher than the median for high status men in the Iron Age. Furthermore, it is by no means clear that mid Victorian prudery was the established moral code of the day. On the contrary, except with respect to the semi-magical practice of Tapas (austerities)- there was no prohibition on any sort of intercourse from which progeny might result and, what is more, descent of this sort was rather a matter of pride than shame.
Why is Shri Caitanya misusing the English word 'lust' in this fashion? Is he 'sexing up' his article? But why should he want to? He is a scholarly and (I believe) spiritually oriented man.
Notice, he goes on to misuse this word LUST by applying it to other things like the desire for wealth, for renown, for vengance BUT ALSO FOR ACCEPTANCE! Why stop there, Maharaj? Why not add- lust for Knowledge, lust for Wisdom, lust for a nice cuppa tea with maybe a chocolate hob-nob, lust for updating my status on Facebook, lust for reading something sensible for a change about the Mahabharata?

The truth is the Mahabharata is not about lust, uncontrolled or otherwise. It's not about kama (Eros) but KARMA.
But Karma is linked up with something else- Dharma (Morality, Justice, Duty). And Dharma is difficult to understand.
So that's why Sri Caitanya pretends that actually this great book is about some debauched, vainglorious, tyrants who misbehaved themselves a long time ago.

In his article, Shri Caitanya has this to say about the conception of Sage Vyasa's mother.

'Let’s now move on to the day that most concerns us, the day on which he begets Sage Vyasa’s mother in an act that the Mahabharata describes as dhoomra – a word the dictionary explains as vice, wickedness, sin.
BUT DHOOMRA-as most Indic people know- MEANS SMOKEY OR CLOUDY- like the MIRKY AND MYSTERIOUS way Karma operates- there are other highly specific words for sins and SEXcrimes which can be cross-referenced to Law Books like that of Manu or Yajnavalkya or whatever from which the fine or punishment can be found.


'Everything about the remaining part of Uparichara Vasu’s story is strange and mysterious. Perhaps because the things mentioned are so unacceptable, it is possible that the original story has altogether disappeared and we have to infer it from the hazy and puzzling details that are now available to us in the Sanskrit epic.

'The first thing we are told is that a mountain once raped a river and two human children are born to the river. The name of the mountain is Kolahala and the name of the river is Shuktimati. We are also told that the mountain blocked the river and Uparichara Vasu kicked it with his foot, splitting the mountain and releasing the river.'

So a mountain raped a river? How does Van Buitenen translate this, let me see...does the European PROFESSOR use the word rape? No he says AN INTELLIGENT MOUNTAIN FELL IN LOVE WITH A RIVER. Yes the river conceives by the mountain but the European man does not use the word RAPE.  Vasu honours both children of the River. One is made a general the other becomes (Buitenen's translation) Vasu's BELOVED WIFE.
So what do we have here? Shri Caitanya talking of rape- that too of one from whom Hindus are descended- and the White man who was a top Professor in America using the word 'fell in love' and 'beloved'.
If Shri Caitanya really wants to insult religious people by showing their venerated ancestors to be lustful rapists than let him have the courage to make similar claims about Prophet Abraham or King David. Unfortunately, he was born in the Hindu Religion and so I have to accept it as my fate that my Sacred Book is a chronicle of flithy lust and nothing more.

Let me once again reitierate, the Mahabharata is about KARMA. The episode that has provoked this prurient raving from Sri Caitanya (a Godly man by the looks of things) is not about lust or rape or self-abuse. It is about the strange manner in which our intentions are both frustrated and fulfilled in an unexpected way.
Now we all know that the man's semen must enter the wife's womb for a child to be conceived. In this story, Vasu has to fulfill the duty to his beloved wife while also doing something else commanded by the ancestors. So he sends the seed by a carrier-pigeon to his wife. However, fate intervenes. Man proposes, God disposes. The lesson is that not only the child born to our wife is our son but, through karma, in fact VASUDEVAM KUTAMBAKAM- WE ARE ALL CONNECTED AND ARE ONE FAMILY.
Where is the LUST in such a simple and TRUE revelation of Supreme Deity?
What for such filth? Why such mindless denigration?
Please tell me what is my crime that just because I was born in Hindu family- not some other religion- why MY RELIGION ALONE SHOULD BE HELD UP FOR RIDICULE, CONTEMPT AND INFAMY!?
Answer- sex sells. Let us pretend Scriptures contain Porn. Then, perhaps, young people will be interestedl

Milford Bateman on Microfinance

I will first state the case against Microfinance and refute it with incontrovertible arguments drawn from mathematical economics. (My arguments are supplied in bold italics)

First a must read link to Milford Bateman- scourge of Microfinance and David to Grameen Bank's Goliath, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus- all but explicitly labeling the activities of the Vikram Akulas (That's DrAkula to you, remember he has a Phd from Chicago) of the World as an example of 'control fraud'- like what happened to the S&Ls back in the Eighties.
It is blistering stuff- and a wake up call. Or it would be, if you hadn't me on hand to prove 1) Bateman has a penis 2) Bateman has a White penis. This proves he is wrong.
Bateman had earlier focused on denouncing the way Microfinance had been touted as a remedy in the post-war Yugoslavia or other places where the retreat of the State had left a vacuum in which neo-Liberal ideology could run amok. Crucially, Bateman focuses on the manner in which Microfinance crowds out productive investment in the small to medium sector.
Bateman isn't scared of going up against the big boys- not even Yunus is immune to his scathing attack. This is a link to another blog, by Rajan Alexander, which doesn't so much take a hatchet to Yunus and Akula and Vijay Mahajan as feed them into the wood chipper.

Here is a quote from an article by the Committee to abolish Third World debt-  (Prof.Patrick Bond)
Consider this outlandish claim, made by Yunus as he got started in the late 1970s: "Poverty will be eradicated in a generation. Our children will have to go to a `poverty museum’ to see what all the fuss was about."
According to Milford Bateman, a senior research fellow at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London, who is one of the world’s experts on Grameen and microcredit, the reason this rhetoric resonated with international donors during the era of neoliberal globalisation, was that "they love the non-state, self-help, fiscally responsible and individual entrepreneurship angles".

Grameen’s origins are sourced to a discussion Yunus had with Sufiya Begum, a young mother who, he recalled, "was making a stool made of bamboo. She gets five taka from a business person to buy the bamboo and sells to him for five and a half taka, earning half a taka as her income for the day. She will never own five taka herself and her life will always be steeped into poverty. How about giving her a credit for five taka that she uses to buy the bamboo, sell her product in free market, earn a better profit and slowly pay back the loan?" Describing Begum and the first 42 borrowers in Jobra village in Bangladesh, Yunus waxed eloquent: "Even those who seemingly have no conceptual thought, no ability to think of yesterday or tomorrow, are in fact quite intelligent and expert at the art of survival. Credit is the key that unlocks their humanity."
But what is the current situation in Jobra? Says Bateman, "It’s still trapped in deep poverty, and now debt. And what is the response from Grameen Bank? All research in the village is now banned!" As for Begum, says Bateman, "she actually died in abject poverty in 1998 after all her many tiny income-generating projects came to nothing". The reason, Bateman argues, is simple: "It turns out that as more and more ‘poverty-push’ micro-enterprises were crowded into the same local economic space, the returns on each micro-enterprise began to fall dramatically. Starting a new trading business or a basket-making operation or driving a rickshaw required few skills and only a tiny amount of capital, but such a project generated very little income indeed because everyone else was pretty much already doing exactly the same things in order to survive."
Contrary to the carefully cultivated media image, Yunus is not contributing to peace or social justice. In fact, he is an extreme neoliberal ideologue. To quote his philosophy, as expressed in his 1998 autobiography, Banker to the Poor, "I believe that `government’, as we know it today, should pull out of most things except for law enforcement and justice, national defense and foreign policy, and let the private sector, a `Grameenized private sector’, a social-consciousness-driven private sector, take over their other functions." At the time as he wrote those words, governments across the world, especially in the United States, were pulling back from regulating financial markets. In 1999, for example, Larry Summers (then US Treasury secretary and now President Barack Obama’s overall economics tsar) set the stage for the crash of financial-market instruments known as derivatives, by refusing to regulate them as he had been advised.
The resulting financial crisis, peaking in 2008, should have changed Yunus’s tune. After all, the catalysing event in 2007 was the rising default rate on a rash of "subprime mortgage" loans given to low-income US borrowers. These are the equivalent of Grameen’s loans to very poor Bangladeshis, except that Yunus did not go so far as the US lenders in allowing them to be securitised with overvalued real estate.
Yunus has long argued that "credit is a fundamental human right", not just a privilege for those with access to bank accounts and formal employment. But reflect on this matter and you quickly realise how inappropriate it is to compare bank debt – a liability that can be crushing to so many who do not survive the rigours of neoliberal markets – with crucial political and civil liberties, health care, water, nutrition, education, environment, housing and the other rights guaranteed in the constitutions of countries around the world.

Impressive stuff you say? What if I were to prove to you that Patrick Bond has 1) a penis and 2) a White Man's penis? Clearly he's wrong.

My own vision for Microfinance is based on an integration of micro-credit targeted at very poor women with traditional wife-beating activities which should be properly monetized and brought into the market (Coase's theorem) under the rubric of loan uptake and recovery costs, thus enabling domestic violence to count towards the G.N.P. This can not only rapidly lift poor countries out of poverty, but the securitized globally traded assets thus created could be used to fund the bail-out. DrAkula's ex-wife already has her own Domestic Violence N.G.O. It should merge with her husbands operation so as to blaze a trail not just for Third World Countries but also the brave new Post-Obama U.S.A.ruled by Momma Grizzlies escaping the effects of Global Warming on Alaska.

Is Social Choice Theory a waste of time?

Social Choice is something that happens all the time. We can't stop it from happening. But does having a theory of Social Choice
a) improve decision making?
b) not quickly lead to nonsense?
On the evidence- no.
I guess in the old days Social Choice was mainly done by criminals, lunatics and sociopaths- the Robber Baron in his Castle did Fiscal policy (i.e. levying protection money) and Institutional infrastructure (organizing markets and chopping of hands and heads) ; the lunatics (i.e. religious nutjobs) did Capital formation (i.e. Temples and Monasteries and so on) and Division of Labor (enforcing a Caste system and Gender dimorphism and regulating Innovation and Technology Transfer) and the sociopaths (lawyers and merchants and whores) did the rest.

Have things really changed?
Sure. The sociopaths are now in charge. So a Theory is needed coz just cutting of hands and heads and burning heretics isn't cool anymore BECAUSE sociopaths are cowardly little shites.
So we need a Theory of Social Choice.
But why have a mathematical theory of Social Choice? After all, the U.S was dismantling its system of administered pricing just at the time Arrow was working his mojo. I suppose, one argument for Social Choice ties up with stuff related to Market failure- it made sense to show why, Mathematically, that was bound to happen just as it also made sense to show there were bound to be Government failures to balance out the picture.
Arrow showed that there was no benign way of aggregating preferences by means of a voting rule that did not yield perverse results. You're always bound to have some sort of Preference Revelation problem or you're going to be losing important information' or screwing up dynamically or something. Gibbard Satterthwaite & Myerson-Satterthwaite are like a reverse Coase's theorem showing why mechanism design can fuck up.
What if you combine mechanism design in a bargaining game such that 'the gains from trade' are being divided up between parties? Perhaps here the maths would become intractable as an element of impredicativity arises.
In any case, in ordinary life all sorts of people who can hardly count do a pretty good job of doing back of the envelope calculations of things like Shapley index of power for a single-issue voting group. People intuitively understand when preference diversity is too great for a voting type solution. So why should this stuff not just be left to the back-room boys? Why is Social Choice Theory intellectually sexy in a manner that Cost Accountancy or Actuarial Science isn't?

Why not just go back to good old fashioned Cardinal Utility and ad hoc comparisons of different people's Utility- coz that's what it's all gonna cash out as anyway? Either that, or just let different vested interest groups battle it out in the courts and in the media and through the political system? I mean that's the way the world has always worked and Social Choice is a fact of our day to day life BECAUSE ours is a swinish existence. I'm not saying we're all not swine in the ultimate reckoning but just that we don't like our nose rubbed in it.
Where's the harm in tarting up Social Choice with a bit of Math like maybe it wasn't just swinishness but something elegant and beautiful like theoretical physics?
Pigs might fly and mathematical swine soar skyward upon Platonic wings.
In addition to Social Choice Theory, the Dr.Stangeloves of the RAND Corp. had prepared for us a beautiful Armageddon of Nuclear missiles raining down on our heads like so many air-borne pigs.

Still better than being crapped on by angels? Ah, but angels don't exist.