Saturday 19 August 2017

Sundar Pichai, epistemic ethics & Coase's Antidosis

Epistemic ethics is the notion that people who do a particular type of rigorous research should find common 'action guiding' principles on the basis of what they study. So a Geneticist who knows that there is no difference, at the DNA level, between an Iyer and an Iyengar should not behave as though Iyengars are superior to Iyers. Also she should let me take her out on a date. Who knows? Maybe I really am a handsome 24 year old who has been nominated for Fields Medal. Why not take a chance?

Speaking of Iyengars, I notice that Google is now headed by one such youngster. Since Google does research, it follows that Pichai may be bound by the epistemic ethics relevant to the sort of research his company is involved in. Just recently, some guy wrote a memo about how women and minorities are getting special treatment in that Company and boo hoo it isn't fair.

Now, all right thinking people acknowledge that when you run a big company what you should do is to listen to each and every employee and gently lactate the milk of human kindness as you do so.  Pichai, of course, is not denying that he listened very carefully and lactated very profusely but the fact is he also fired the dude who was causing him a headache.

Did Pichai violate epistemic ethics?
Scott Aaronson, at Shtetl optimised, has lactated profusely and cogitated profoundly on this question.
He says-
'if James Damore deserves to be fired from Google, for treating evolutionary psychology as potentially relevant to social issues, then Steven Pinker deserves to be fired from Harvard for the same offense.
Yes, I realize that an employee of a private company is different from a tenured professor. But I don’t see why it’s relevant here. For if someone really believes that mooting the hypothesis of an evolutionary reason for average differences in cognitive styles between men and women, is enough by itself to create a hostile environment for women—well then, why should tenure be a bar to firing, any more than it is in cases of sexual harassment?
Was James Damore employed for the specific purpose of investigating evolutionary psychology? Is he an eminent man in that field? Would a janitor at Harvard, who made similar points to Damore, perhaps not as cogently, and not by means of an email memo, been sacked? I think so. The janitor is employed to mop the floors. Airing his views on evolutionary psychology might constitute a nuisance and it might alarm some students and faculty.

Scott might reply 'But, Pichai & Damore are both Science Nerds'
'They share an epistemic ethics.'
Why should Pichai get to fire Damore?

Ronald Coase developed a Theory of the Firm based on the notion that where transaction costs are high or markets are missing, it makes sense to aggregate certain sorts of activities under a distinct corporate personality rather than to just contract on the open market for specific goods and services as required.

According to this theory, Corporate decision making has a different information set and pay-off matrix from that of any individual. Further, the Chief Executive may be aware of particular cost schedules and other strategic considerations which are not 'common knowledge'. In this case, though all employees may have the same duty to the Corporation, they do not necessarily have the same duties to each other by virtue of their ex officio capacity. As a janitor I have a duty to the Company. However it is not a duty I can properly discharge by barging into the Board Room and explaining my theory of option pricing. There are exceptions to this rule. If I genuinely have important information then a Court may find that I had a duty to share that information even if that was not the specific purpose for which I was hired.

In this particular case, the CEO is empowered to say what is or is not the Company's interpretation of a specific course of conduct in relation to a possible breach of existing policy regarding safety in the workplace. Pichai was legally entitled to sack someone whom he thought had infringed that policy because he had the right to interpret his own Company's rule in this respect. The employee concerned had no such right. Because the law is clear on this point, Damore will face an uphill legal battle if he sues for damages.

However, even he had no legal right to do so, there may have been good commercial reasons for Pichai to sack the fellow pour encourager les autres. His Board would probably have approved. However, in that case Damore may be entitled to damages.

Of course, we all understand that a thing can be permitted by the law and advisable on commercial grounds and yet be unethical. In particular, it may be legal and profitable for a Scientist to endorse some pseudo-scientific rubbish so as to make money, but we would still feel this this to be a violation of epistemic ethics. We would say- 'This man may be doing good Science but he is a bad Scientist because he is undermining Scientific method and the hard won reputation for integrity of other toilers in this field.'

Perhaps, there is some genuine philosophical puzzle or aporia here?

Scott now presents a bizarre argument which staves off this possibility-

But the reductio needn’t stop there. It seems to me that, if Damore deserves to be fired, then so do the 56% of Googlers who said in a poll that they opposed his firing. For isn’t that 56% just as responsible for maintaining a hostile environment as Damore himself was? (And how would Google find out which employees opposed the firing? Well, if there’s any company on earth that could…) Furthermore, after those 56% of Googlers are fired, any of the remaining 44% who think the 56% shouldn’t have been fired should be fired as well! And so on iteratively, until only an ideologically reliable core remains, which might or might not be the empty set.
Under perfect information, no missing markets, no convexities etc; it would be true that people who oppose Damore's firing might be judged to have the same opprobrious quality. But in that case, there would be no Google because the Coasian conditions for the firm to exist would not be met.

It is rational for a person who does not want to be fired- perhaps because his transfer earnings are low- to not want anyone to be fired. Of course, in a perfect information world, nobody earns any economic rent and so it is not rational to object to being fired oneself or care about anyone else being fired.
Obviously, a perfect Arrow Debreu world with perfect forward markets for everything would also be one where there would be no Epistemics or Ethics or Epistemic Ethics. All knowledge would be available everywhere. No Choice would bear an externality or be other than regret minimizing ( which fulfills virtue ethics.)

Scott's foray into epistemic ethics turns out to be utterly worthless.
This raises the question-
Can Epistemic ethics exist in an imperfect Coasian world?

Think of a epistemic duty as being like a liturgical requirement in ancient Athens.
Scott thinks Pichai had an epistemic duty to retain Damore.
By Antidosis, Pichai can say 'I'll swap places with a CEO ready to retain Damore provided I get a company equal to Google to manage.' Scott can put together such a Company and do the deal. 

Actually, Financial Markets allow something like Athenian Antidosis already. It may be that Damore has the right business model. Some VCs get together and make a hostile bid. Or maybe there is a Board Room coup. Or a Management buy out.

It seems the Coasian firm already has a way to do epistemic ethics.
Scott doesn't, but he has lactated very profusely on his blog.
That's something nobody can take away from him.

Scott Aaronson's Naked Emperor Equilibrium

Scott Aaronson has a post at Shtetl Optimized on Kolmogorov's epistemic ethics.Scott writes
 If it means anything to be a lover of truth, it means that anytime society finds itself stuck in one of these naked-emperor equilibriums—i.e., an equilibrium with certain facts known to nearly everyone, but severe punishments for anyone who tries to make those facts common knowledge—you hope that eventually society climbs its way out. But crucially, you can hope this while also realising that, if you tried singlehandedly to change the equilibrium, it wouldn’t achieve anything good for the cause of truth.
This is stupid. Clearly, in a situation where people are too frightened to say 'The Emperor is naked' the very last thing you'd want is for this to become explicit 'common knowledge' because then the task of the Secret Police just gets very much easier. Essentially they'd just need to get an independent truth telling savant to say 'All subversives will be put to a very painful death along with their near and dear on the morrow of the xth night subsequent to this announcement- where x stands for the percentage of potential subversives we have targeted- unless, of course, these potential subversives have the good sense to top themselves first.'

 Imagine an economy with homogeneous labour input (or else assume hatred of the regime is randomly distributed across occupations). A one off technological shock which raises productivity by ten percent might mean that the ten percent of the population who by a Pareto Law, represent most of the Subversion potential can be got rid off.

In this case the alethic Savant who makes it explicitly common knowledge that the regime is murderously efficient only in propagating a stupid lie- e.g that the Emperor aint naked- would also be the best, the most economical, instrument of the Secret Police.  His announcement that such and such is the dastardly plan of those sociopaths would cause around ten percent of the population to commit suicide on the tenth night.

Actually, that isn't quite true. All rational agents with this 'common knowledge' would be committing to 'Newcombe' or 'Kavka' type mechanisms to guard against being 'potentially subversive' on the xth night. Thus any random decimation on the morrow of night x would be sufficient to not just fatally deplete the class of potential subversives but would set off an endogenous 'arms race' of increasingly costly signals of commitment to the 'naked Emperor equilibrium'. Indeed, to adapt the language of St. Paul, we would have a particularly robust, for 'mysterious', moral Economy.

In this context, can there be an action guiding epistemic ethics? In other words, is there something about studying a subject properly which also tells you what to concentrate on within that subject and how to deal with colleagues who may have different views or be more vulnerable to official displeasure?

Scott, believes in
‘the Kolmogorov option. This is where you build up fortresses of truth in places the ideological authorities don’t particularly understand or care about,’
However this wouldn’t work in either Stalin’s or Mao’s Utopia because doing stuff the authorities don’t care about, more especially if it requires brain power, would be considered ‘bourgeois idealism' punishable by a spell in a Labour Camp.

People like Kolmogorov & Hua Luogeng showed the State that Mathematicians were willing to roll up their sleeves and do applied work so as to over-fulfill the 5 year plan or whatever. Luogeng was even able to save the lives of one or two 'bourgeois idealist' Pure Mathematicians.

Scott mentions Lysenko’s idiocy but doesn't get that it was useful to both Stalin and Mao. It gave them an excuse to starve the peasantry thus bolstering the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

In the West we are fortunate to have autonomous universities competing with each other, more especially in ‘games against nature’. Does this circumstance permit the deduction of a categorical imperative for Scientists of the sort given in Scott's post?

Certainly, under a specific type of Dialetheia which features ‘scientific truth’ discoverable in one way and ‘deontic truth’ discoverable in another way. However, this is inelegant and not robust.

If we forbid Dialethia we either have some sort of evidentiary decision theory- which is equally fraught with problems; we might end up ‘managing the news’ or else get caught up in backward causation type paradoxes.

Alternatively we could embrace Gibbard type ‘semantic normativism’ but this too has problems.
Finally, we could think of ‘Truth’ as the solution of a coordination game. However, if Knightian uncertainty obtains, we ought to be hedging through ‘discoordination games’ so similar problems arise.

Kolmogorov himself gives us a demarcation criteria for ‘alethic’ research programs separating them from ‘Preference falsification’ based ‘availability cascades’. Clearly, only a ‘bandwagon’ would instrumentalise complexity classes far beyond our computational capability for prescriptive purposes.
Sadly, this approach doesn’t take us very far either because it fails for co-evolved process

What is the Economic theory of ‘naked-emperor equilibriums—i.e., an equilibrium with certain facts known to nearly everyone, but severe punishments for anyone who tries to make those facts common knowledge’?

This sounds like a ‘pooling equilibrium’ on the basis of ‘cheap talk’. ‘A costly signal’ (e.g. something heavily punished) gives rise to a separating equilibrium- which means there is an arbitrate opportunity between coordination and discoordination games.

However General Equilibrium theory predicts that the moment this is exploited the whole becomes, at worst, ‘anything goes’, or at best ironic in a Hegelian manner. The ‘martyr’ becomes the bedrock of the everlasting Ecclesia founded upon the lie he exposed.

I think this question and its ironic outcome lies at the very origin of Western Philosophy in the duel between Isocrates and Aristotle. The former wrote a letter to the boy Alexander urging him to get shot of his tutor who was having him grapple with difficult and abstract subjects like Pure Mathematics. It is better, Isocrates says, to concentrate on perfecting rhetorical style and the arete proper to pre-eminence.

Isocrates is referred to in the Phaedrus where Socrates comes to the conclusion that the palinode (i.e. being able to change your mind) is paradigmatic of philosophy as something which gives birth to the new. Ironically, Socrates- a descendant of Daedalus- finds an Ariadne’s thread which leads him to become a pharmakos- a scapegoat- for his beloved Polis.

Isocrates’ ‘Antidosis’ (a Coasian mechanism design quirk in Athenian law whereby, if you were selected to discharge a public function then you could challenge some richer guy to do it or else swap estates) is the opposite of Socrates’ own defense against the charge of misleading the youth.

Essentially, in Scott’s terms, this ‘good heretic’ is saying he’d be better at the job of clothing the Naked Emperor in a seamless robe of diaphonous opulence.

This is an idea which the Russians were familiar with from Doestoevsky. If you want to get a job with the Secret Police, you pretend to be a dissident till they pick you up for interrogation at which point you turn the tables on them and explain how you are an even better agent provocateur than those they set upon you. Of course, the thing works the other way as well. A true dissident who really wants to change the system will have disguised himself as a secret policeman straight off the bat.

Perhaps this was the game everyone was playing. People like Luzin, by reason of their mystical leanings, were actually safer if denounced by their own. Those in real danger were the Old Bolsheviks.

The Soviets and the Americans develop O.R to a high standard at around the same time. Two very different systems begin to mirror each other in one respect- their Political Paideia can have a purely mathematical description. The Soviets had Nobel prize worthy mathematical economists just as the Americans did, but it was the latter which developed systematic schools attracting adherents across the globe. Ultimately, in the ’90’s we had the ultimate ‘antidosis’ competition. The Harvard Econ Dept was hired to give Russia an American type economy. We all know how that turned out.

Perhaps we became complacent at some point in the Eighties. It is sad that shrill complaints re. ‘trait based’ discrimination have vitiated proper statistical research into the genuine article as illumined by Sowell, Loury, Fryer & c. There are a lot of bright and good people doing Junk Social Science in order to show they are ‘engaged’.

Misology, too, is a type of ‘costly signal’. If a smart and erudite guy makes it a point to utter ignorant non sequiturs it must be the case that he really really cares, right? Either that or he’s just lazy and likes publicity. But, that’s the nature of our current ‘naked Emperor equilibrium’.

Sunday 6 August 2017

Corrupt Indians prefer Government jobs, Stupid Academics prefer Junk Social Science

Hanna & Wang, of Harvard & Wharton respectively, have a paper claiming that propensity to corruption is linked to a preference for Public Sector employment in Karnataka, India.
Students in India who cheat on a simple laboratory task are more likely to prefer public sector jobs. This paper shows that cheating on this task predicts corrupt behavior by civil servants, implying that it is a meaningful predictor of future corruption. Students who demonstrate pro-social preferences are less likely to prefer government jobs, while outcomes on an explicit game and attitudinal measures of corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. A screening process that chooses high ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption. The findings imply that differential selection into government may partially contribute to corruption. 
Hanna & Wang didn't survey Arts students- claiming people who study Politics or History or Literature don't end up as Public Sector workers even though, historically, Arts subjects are considered a gateway to Babudom. Instead, their sample is about 80 percent Commerce and 20 percent Sciences. Students of the former receive some instruction in basic concepts of Game Theory and Mechanism Design and this is reinforced by popular articles. It is likely that such students would show different behaviour in a 'lab test' even if they share the same normative values with students who don't understand the importance of the concept of Mechanism Design in modern Social Science. In other words, this methodology is ab ovo flawed.

Do Hanna & Wang have 'a screening process' for high ability applicants? No. Their sample was of students, not applicants for UPSC jobs. If the cost of application for Public Sector jobs is zero, which is what they assume, then, okay, there is likely to be a correlation. However, the actual cost of attempting the UPSC exam in a credible fashion is at least 700 dollars in coaching fees and other expenses plus an enormous opportunity cost in terms of time and effort. It is unlikely that the 80 percent Commerce stream, 60 per cent female, 40 per cent minorities, sample they have used is in any way representative of actual applicants, let alone successful ones.

This is not to say that a survey of actual applicants for UPSC jobs might not yield a similar result. However, our two researchers have not in fact made any such survey. Yet, by a piece of verbal sleight of hand, they substitute 'applicant' for 'student' on the basis of a farcically wrong assumption. Their work does not 'predict' anything- save perhaps that their next paper will be garbage.

Hanna & Wang's methodology was as follows-
 'we asked each student in our sample to roll a standard die 42 times and to report the number of each roll in order to receive a payment that was increasing in the number reported. Thus, while we do not know with certainty if an individual lied, we can observe how far each individual’s distribution of reports is from the uniform distribution. Note that this measure is appealing in that it does not prime the subject on corruption or dishonesty explicitly and allows them to feel comfortable in knowing that no one can say with certainty that they are cheating.                   

' key contribution of our paper is that we then conducted a validation exercise of this measure using a real measure of corruption. Specifically, we conducted the dice task with 165 government nurses who were part of an experiment conducted by Dhaliwal and Hanna (2013), in which they collected detailed measures of absenteeism through the use of random checks over two years. Thus, we can test whether the dice task outcome predicts fraudulent absenteeism. '

So students aiming to crack the IAS are being compared to poorly educated female nurses in the districts who have much lower cognitive ability and who are being paid for their participation in the 'lab test' with candy, not money.

Why? It is because the main job of an IAS officer ( 75 % of whom are likely to be male) is emptying bed pans. Moreover, a young Bureaucrat who is good at his job can easily get a visa to Europe or the Gulf and earn much more money for doing the same work.

What about 'fraudulent absenteeism'? Is that a good measure of propensity for corruption? No. A corrupt staff nurse will show up for work every day and extort bribes from patients by threatening to withdraw vital nursing services. Moreover, absenteeism is high where the posting is undesirable- some rural shithole- but the posting is undesirable only because the nurse doesn't have the money or the connections necessary to pay a bribe for a good posting. Such absenteeism has to be tolerated because of poor working conditions and the fallibility and expense of monitoring.

There is literally no similarity or connection between the two sample populations Hanna & Wang have chosen. The nurses are poor and stupid and what's more they know that aint going to change any time soon. Their fate is sealed. The students are not as poor or as stupid and their life is still before them. They can dream dreams. With hindsight, it will be obvious that a lot of them hadn't a hope of cracking the UPSC exam. Some may end up with MPhils or PhDs but still applying for peon's jobs.

Why are Hanna & Wang pretending that there is some hard-wired trait corresponding to a stable, exogenously given, propensity for corruption? Is there any evidence that the thing exists? If it does, why not study how it can be detected and cured? But, why stop there? Why not subscribe to a wholesale Manichaeism? Why not say that this survey predicts that the evil Demiurge is recruiting Satanically inclined minions to staff the Public Sector in a manner that passes Human Understanding?

For the moment, Hanna & Wang are being modest. Probably, they suspect they aren't 'high ability' and so will be screened out if they start babbling about Gnostic Demiurges or Lizard People from the Planet X. Thus they observe-
 students who had above median dice points (i.e. higher probability of cheating) were 6.2 percent more likely to want a government job. We find no significant difference in the predictive value of the dice task for high-ability students than for low ability students in terms of job preferences. This implies that screening on ability would neither exacerbate nor mitigate the selection problem among government workers in this context. Importantly, we find that nurses with above median dice points were 10.7 percent more likely to be fraudulently absent than those below it. Furthermore, as in the student sample, we do not find any significant heterogeneity in the predictive power of the dice task for nurse absenteeism by ability. This simple fact that the dice task also predicts the corrupt behaviour of the government nurses helps validate the interpretation of the student sample. 
Liars tell more lies than non liars which is why it is meaningful to speak of liars as opposed to non liars. We expect Public Sector workers who lie about one thing to be more likely to lie about another thing. Does this prove that liars are more likely to want to be Public Sector workers? No.

Perhaps it 'validates an interpretation' of a study which shows liars prefer Public Sector jobs? No. Substitute the phrase 'Cat lover' for 'Public Sector'. The fact that Cat loving liars tell more lies than Cat loving non liars does not 'validate an interpretation' of a small sample test where it was found that Cat lovers were 6.2 % more likely to tell lies. On the contrary, it invalidates any interpretation of the academic paper in question as other than Junk Social Science.

Civil servants need to be civil. They slot into a hierarchy. It may well be that telling lies is correlated with a type of 'Social intelligence' which is based on what the Greek Church calls oikonomia as opposed to Akribeia- i.e. flexibility rather than rigid exactitude. Lord Armstrong, a leading Thatcher era British Civil Servant, is credited with popularising the expression ' to be economical with the truth'. There is no suggestion that Armstrong was corrupt. Why not? Well, Armstrong was subject to strong checks and balances. These could only be subverted by a powerful nexus created and sustained by the elected politicians he answered to. Even then, he'd have been caught unless the British Courts had as big a backlog of cases, or were as accommodating in granting extensions, as Indian Courts.

In India- Karnataka specifically- preference for Govt. employment is tied to housing situation and family obligations. Those who are well housed in a good area are also likely to have better educational opportunities and choose high paid private sector employment. The Public Sector is only sought by either dunces or those who are part of a powerful clan- i.e. they are, in effect, being recruited by an existing syndicate. One reason for this is that the first years of Government service are financially strenuous. One needs to pay a lot in bribes to get a good posting, nice housing, a non crazy rapist of a boss etc. At this time, it is the extended family which supports you. Sometimes, it is the in-laws who stipulate that you stay in such and such Govt. job so as to be useful to them when you get promoted on the basis of seniority (the bribes only affect posting, not status).

Hanna & Wang chose to remain blissfully oblivious to any and all considerations of the sort listed here. Why? The answer is that Stupid Academics like telling Stupid Lies. Other Stupid Academics, like the good folk at Marginal Revolution, are happy to quote these Stupid Lies because that's how availability cascade based Junk Social Science operates.

Saturday 5 August 2017

South Asian writers reflecting on Partition

For Pankaj Mishra-
To think about partition on its 70th anniversary is to think, unavoidably, about the extraordinary crisis in India today.
Ethnic cleansing killed or displaced tens of millions during Partition. There is no ethnic cleansing- even of Hindus in the Kashmir valley- today. Yet it is unavoidable for Mishra to link the two together. Why? Because he is stupid and has nothing new to say.

Salman Rushdie, expresses pessimism about India's future because
In the land of the sacred cow, people are being lynched for the “crime” of allegedly possessing or eating beef.
It doesn't occur to him that it would only be in a country where the cow is sacred that a beef eater would be in danger of lynching. I might well be lynched if I am suspected of having stolen and eaten a baby in any country where a baby's life is considered sacred. In order to safely chow down on little children, I would need to move to a country where the national dish is fricasseed toddler.

Kamila Shamsie, a Pakistani, writes
There was never a reckoning for the violence of partition; that would have got in the way of the narrative of a glorious independence. Instead it became easier to blame the other side for all the violence, and pretend that at the moment of inception both India and Pakistan didn’t wrap mass murder in a flag and hope no one would notice the blood stains.
The Indian National Congress opposed Partition. Its leadership did not instigate or condone ethnic cleansing. The Muslim League did instigate and condone ethnic cleansing to gain power. They never held elections to legitimise what they had done. All the blame goes to Pakistan which has wrapped mass murder in an Islamic flag. None attaches to India.

Mohsin Hamid, also Pakistani, writes-
 India is descending into an intolerant Hindu nationalism, apparently intent on imitating the religious chauvinism and suppression of dissent that have served Pakistan so poorly. In Pakistan, a moment where it seemed that the press might finally become free and elected civilian rulers might regularly complete their terms has passed.
 Does he really believe anyone can have the intention of imitating Pakistan? It didn't institute legislative checks and balances at inception and its judiciary was initially inclined to endorse a 'doctrine of necessity'. That does seem to have changed- the Pakistani Supreme Court showed extraordinary courage in confronting a Military Dictator. However, the Pakistani Press enjoys little protection from the ISI and its minions. Hamid, as a Muslim, is perfectly within his rights to detest Hindu nationalism. However, he must know he is deluding himself if he thinks anyone wants to emulate Pakistan.

Kiran Desai, too, has something to say. Unfortunately, this is the deeply self aggrandising way in which she commences her piece-
Every Saturday I suffer from a depression I call my Saturday depression. The main symptom of this is that when I look in the mirror I don’t see myself, I see a ghost. The sight of this ghost fills me with fear. I know this spectre is merely the cumulative result of one more week in one more year of many years of self-imposed isolation for the sake of a book I have been working on a long while.
I read no further.

In less precious vein, Siddharta Deb writes

How difficult was it, I thought when hearing my family talk about leaving Baniachang, for them to choose one kind of identity over another, in this case religion over language and culture?
Did his family really give up their Bangla language and culture in Shillong? Are they now fluent in Khasi? Have they converted to Christianity- the majority Religion in that city? No.

Deb tells us his family had a choice. They did- stay and get slaughtered or run away. They chose the wiser course.

Why did Deb's family have to run away from Sylhet? This is his answer-
The British and Indian elites making their new nations – men exemplified by the British viceroy, Louis Mountbatten, the future Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and his hardline Hindu nationalist deputy, Vallabhbhai Patel, the Indian industrialist and Gandhi patron GD Birla – were all in a hurry to force the process through.
Wow! Land hungry Muslim peasants did not kill Hindus. What happened was Birla bribed Patel and Mountbatten whose wife kept raping Nehru till he said 'enough already! Just Partition everything and leave me alone!'

There was no such thing as Suhrawardy's 'Direct Action Day' which happened before Mountbatten arrived. There was no Pirzada in Naokhali orchestrating ethnic cleaning. It was all the fault of some Hindu billionaire and some Hindu politicians and, of course, Queen Mountbatten.

Is Deb mad? He writes-
Seventy years after Partition, Toba Tek Singh’s defiant madness evokes freedom better than anything achieved by the supposedly rational nations that came out of that bloody process.
Judging by their pensées on Partition, collected by the Guardian here, South Asian writers in English are genuinely committed to outdoing Toba Tek Singh's Gramscian deconstruction of the nomological contradictions of neoliberal hegemonic practice under conditions of Capitalist catachresis.
To wit- 'Opad di gud gud di moong di dal di laltain'. Can South Asian writers- at least those who write in English- ever utter anything as sensible? No. Not if they want to get published or get quoted by the Guardian. Still, they continue to try. How else end the tyranny of Modi's genocidal regime?

Friday 4 August 2017

A panegyric on Arvind Panagariya

That not Sen-tentious Chronos but Thy Bhagwati's Kairos govern Ind's Oikonomia
The former, a but Navya-Nyaya Availability Cascade of spurious Akribeia
The latter, Aayog's new Niti as univocal, incentive compatible, Riti
Let Vivek praise thy vivek of kshana sampatti Panagariya!

Prince! Chrematistics is heartless, its instance, as Wealth, so fraught a delusion
Work as Force times not Distance is the lonely Heart's only solution.

Christophe Jaffrelot on UK Caste discrimination Law

Christophe Jaffrelot is a Visiting Professor at the King's College India Centre in London. Does he actually know anything about India? Let us find out. Below is an article he published recently in an Indian newspaper. My remarks are in bold.

'Recently, the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT) and the Hindu Council UK criticised the British government’s call for a public consultation on caste. UK’s citizens have till September 18 to reflect if caste should be banned by law or not.'

Untrue. Britain is not deciding whether or not to 'ban caste' by law. It is deciding whether it should adopt caste discrimination laws similar to India. Since conditions in Britain are wholly dissimilar to conditions in India, the British Hindu community naturally thinks this is a stupid thing to do. It is like Scotland introducing a 'Food Security Bill' on the Indian model even though Scotland is rich and most of India is very poor. The Scots are pretending that evil Tories are starving wee Scottish bairns. Similarly, in England, we have already seen a suit brought by a Pakistani cook belonging to the Arain caste against his employer who also belonged to the same Muslim Arain caste. The Tribunal decided that the whole case was nonsensical. The cook was fired because customers didn't like his food, not because he was low caste.

 'In a report released by Subramanian Swamy in London, the NCHT ascribed this initiative to a “colonial conspiracy”.' 
Really? Does Swamy believe England still rules India? Nope. He may have a PhD in Econ from Harvard, but even he isn't that stupid. Swamy says some Christian missionaries supported Colonialism and sought to inflame hatred between Hindu communities so as to gain converts whom they themselves discriminated against.  Swamy seeks to tar some elderly Bishop or such like with the same brush. The joke is that it is Pakistani chefs who will be suing their employer under this silly legislation. Hindus, by contrast, are doing well because they are well educated and forward looking.

'This report is in tune with the views of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who has declared, “Castes play the same role in Hindu society that furrows play in farms, and help in keeping it organised and orderly”.

Really? Is a Rajput politician really preaching Casteism? Are the OBC and SC voters in U.P really so stupid that they voted for a guy who thinks his people are superior to their people? Wow! What an amazing discovery! This Jafflerot dude must be real bright! Let's look at the evidence-

Fast forward to 1.25 on the video.
Yes, the English translation is as Jafflerot says. But listen to the Hindi. The Yogi uses the word maiD- this is not a furrow but a raised portion of earth demarcating a parcel of land owned by a particular individual. He isn't saying 'caste is like a furrow'- that would be meaningless. He clarifies that he means boundary markers and not anything to do with the practice of agriculture. He goes on to say 'jati' (i.e. endogamous groups notionally linked to a particular occupation as imitatio dei) may be okay but discrimination on the basis of jati or its instrumentalisation for a political purpose is wrong.

Economists believe that endogamous groups devise ways of spreading risk and thus have utility. Obviously, once there is a basic Social safety net and a well developed Insurance market, this utility declines and we are more likely to see assortative mating without endogamy.

 The Yogi hasn't mentioned 'Varna' (i.e. the four fold division of Society into priests, warriors, merchants and labourers) at all. He himself is head of a Sect which can have a leader from any jati. That's why OBC and SC voters plumped for him even though he is a Rajput.

'There is a long tradition behind this argument. Deendayal Upadhyaya, the Sangh Parivar’s influential ideologue, wrote in Integral Humanism (1965), “society is self-born’’ and forms an “organic unity” inherited from a caste-based antiquarian arrangement that should not be disturbed: “In our concept of four castes, they are thought of as an analogous to the different limbs of Virat-Purusha. These limbs are not only complementary to one another, but even further, there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interest, identity of belonging”. Here he refers to the varna system as a social model and regrets that it has lost its fluidity with the multiplication of jatis.

Is this really true? Was Upadhyaya utterly stupid? Did he really think that something which is 'self-born' can also inherit something? How? 

I've just checked. Jafflerot is telling porkies. Upadhyaya, being well versed in Hindu Scripture, knew very well that something which is 'Svayambhu' can't have samskars. Otherwise, Advaita is nonsense. Thus the words Jafflerot has interjected prove only his ignorance of Hinduism. They do not indict the Sangh Parivar. 

Upadhyaya is saying that when we all work together harmoniously to promote Social Welfare, we don't care about our status or the type of work we do. The R.S.S gained in prestige because people said - 'the wealthy Seth takes his turn doing manual work. His superior may be a cobbler, but he takes orders from him. Not only do these people cook and eat together, they actually go as volunteers to do relief work when there is a flood or an earthquake.'

 Gandhi's Ashramites also went to do relief work- for example, during the Bihar famine. But, in the opinion of Kumarappa, a Chartered Accountant, they were useless. Kumarappa refused to pay them from the Relief Fund. Gandhi protested but had to tap some other fund for their benefit. 
I have read no similar story about the RSS volunteers being useless.

The Hindu reformers do want to do away with the notion of hereditary occupations monopolised by endogamous 'jatis'. The cobbler and the priest both want their sons and daughters to have a chance to become Doctors, or IAS officers, or Software engineers. They don't want the traditional Doctor caste, or the traditional administrative caste to monopolise those occupations.

However, Hindu reformers aren't advocating laws which prevent people marrying within their 'jati' if they choose to do so. Nor are the British. Jafflerot was lying when he said the Brits were thinking of banning caste. 

I personally would be delighted if they do. Every time some beautiful Hindu girl gets married within her jati, I could bring a court case saying I'd been discriminated against solely on the grounds of my 'out-caste' Brahminbandhu status. English judges are very polite and would hesitate to throw out the case on the grounds that that I am very old and  ugly and fat and stupid and no woman in her right mind would touch me with a barge-pole. Thus, wealthy families will just pay me a small amount of money to drop my suit so as to avoid a nuisance.

'Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, was the first Hindu reformer who endeavoured to rehabilitate the Vedic caste system by endowing this varnavyavastha with meritocratic dimensions. 

The first? My Arya Samaji friends make no such claim but rather refer reverentially to local precursors like the Parmansa Mandali in Mumbai or the Manav Dharma Sabha in Surat. However, there is an unbroken initiation from Sages behind the Arya Samaj which knits it together with other great traditions across the length and breadth of India. That is why the 'Sangh Parivar' ('family of Congregations') has an ecumenical appeal. We can see that a great Saint of our region is connected by deeksha to the lineage of the great Saint of another region. A South Indian, like myself, can overcome my suspicion of the (numerically preponderant) North Indian when these connections become clear. Nowadays, many of us have learnt some basic Hindi and can see for ourselves that people like Modi or Yogi Adityanath are not promoting 'Aryan' superiority against us Dravidians.

'He maintained that hereditary jatis did not exist in the Vedic times but children were placed in different varnas according to their qualities. Through such reasoning, he legitimised a hierarchy imbued with anti-individualistic values — once in a varna, a man and a woman remained in it.

Was Swami Dayanand Sarasvati ignorant of Sanskrit? Had he not even heard a recitation of the Ramayana or Mahabharata? Did he not know that Visvamitra, one of the greatest Vedic Rishis, changed his Varna? 

What about the Punjabis who became devout followers of the Arya Samaj? The cultivator and the small shop-keeper were delighted to see their sons getting an education and becoming Doctors, Engineers etc. That is why the D.A.V schools started emphasising useful subjects rather than purely Religious studies. Not just men, women were able to rise thanks to the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission and many other similar Sanghas.

I may point out that non-Brahmins took the leading role though in some cases the impetus may have come from Brahmans. 

'Unsurprisingly, the Arya Samajis joined the Sanatanists to form the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915, in spite of the latter’s social conservatism. One of them, M.M. Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 2014-15, aspired to restore the antiquarian system founded on heredity. “Functions assigned to each class as its jati-dharma, were specialised by different families as their kuladharma and were faithfully and efficiently performed for the well-being of the whole society, which was thus served by the classes and families composing it, as an organism is served by its constituent organs,” he argued.

Malaviya was from a traditional priestly Brahman family and it is true that he felt obliged to argue that young Brahmans should keep up their Vedic studies in addition to more useful and remunerative types of education. This was because traditional Brahmins like himself were needed to keep the Religion alive and free from superstitious practices or unscrupulous charlatans. Orthodox Jews similarly encourage their children to attend Hebrew School. This does not mean (except in the case of the Haredis) that they neglect Scientific studies.

However, non-Brahmins did not believe that Malviya really wanted the children of other occupational groups to stick with their ancestral profession. That's why non-Brahmins felt comfortable in financing the Benares Hindu University and sending their own progeny there.

'This discourse reflects an organicist worldview which has informed the Hindutva social project — but it was not confined to the Sangh Parivar and the Hindu Mahasabha (an organisation that was a part of the Congress till the late 1930s). Mahatma Gandhi’s views on caste were very similar in the 1920s. In 1920, he wrote in Young India, “Caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from excrescences. I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. The sooner there is fusion the better… Interdrinking, interdining, intermarrying, I hold, are not essential for the promotion of the spirit of democracy”.

Jafflerot first says that there was a 'Hindutva Social Project' and that it had 'an organicist world view'. He mentions the 'Sangh Parivar' as though it were coeval with the Hindu Mahasabha. Clearly, this brilliant Professor has gone far beyond Einstein and has discovered that things which happened later actually happened sooner. Wonderful! What a prodigy we have here! Time may indeed be like a Moebius strip. But, as far as the Social Sciences are concerned, Time still has to be linear. If you say there was a Hindutva Social Project and World View and it was the same as the Gandhian Social Project and World View, you are either saying they were the same or else admitting that you have been talking nonsense. You have made a distinction without a difference for no good reason.

'Gandhi’s subsequent views on caste varied, but his initial take on the subject gave conservative Congressmen room to manoeuvre at the expense of progressive minds. In the 1920s, in Gujarat, Vallabhbhai Patel countered Indulal Yagnik when the latter asked Congressmen to work for Dalits. 

Oh! So Patel was Hindutva! Okay. Makes sense. Why mention Yagnik? He was a Nagar Brahman. M.C Rajah, by contrast, was an actual Dalit. He made a pact with B.S Moonje who was Hindu Mahasabha. During the course of the Thirties, even Ambedkar came to appreciate that the RSS was sincere not just in 'inter-dining' but doing socially useful work.

'Another Congress conservative, K.M. Munshi, eulogised the varna system through his Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. In 1950, he declared, “We, who are blinded by an admiration of the social apparatus of the West, fail to realise that chaturvarnya was a marvellous social synthesis on a countrywide scale when the rest of the world [was] weltering in a tribal state”.

So, Congress- not the RSS- was casteist. That explains why Dalits suffered under the yoke of the (Brahman) Nehru dynasty. 

'Soon after, C. Rajagopalachari claimed that jati (not varna) was “the most important element in the organisation of our society” and argued that professional mobility would destabilise the complementarity of social functions at the village-level, making economic development more difficult Another contradiction in the legitimation of caste pertains to the untouchability question: It makes the fight against this social curse more difficult. At the Nagpur session of the Congress in December 1920, during which Gandhi seized power over the party, a resolution condemning “the sin of untouchability” was passed for the first time because of the Mahatma’s determination. But no action could be taken because of resistance within the party. The conservative Congressmen did not support Swami Shraddhanand’s ambitious initiative on that front in the 1920s and in 1929, the party gave Malaviya the charge of reflecting upon the issue of untouchability. Three years later, Gandhi had to return to it in reaction to Ambedkar’s growing influence.

Rajaji was originally supposed to be Gandhi's successor. Thus Jafflerot is showing that it was Gandhi and Congress which believed in 'varna'. Swami Shraddhananand was an Arya Samaji. Why is Jafflerot mentioning him in a creditable light here?

'The Mahatma rejected one of the provisions of the 1932 Communal Award that Ambedkar had obtained from the British — a separate electorate for the Dalits. For Gandhi, such a scheme would break the unity of the Hindu society: “[The Harijans] are part of an indivisible family… There is a subtle something, quite indefinable in Hinduism which keeps them in it even in spite of themselves. And this fact makes it imperative for a man like me, with a living experience of it, to resist this contemplated separation, even though this effort should cost life itself,” he said. Gandhi did not ignore that the social integration of the Dalits in the caste system was taking place “in spite of themselves” and was hierarchical, but he saw these dimensions of society as late perversions of an ancient order that could be restored to purity by social reform.

So Gandhi was a casteist. 

'The fact that even Gandhi was not prepared to support Ambedkar’s fight against untouchability is a reflection of his deep attachment to a form of social organicism.

Not just a Casteist with respect to Hindu Society; Gandhi, as a votary of 'social organicism', wanted to spread untouchability all over the earth. He refused to 'support Ambedkar's fight against untouchability'. Nehru was even less interested in the issue. Thus, according to Jaffrelot, the INC isn't just Casteist, it actively promotes untouchability even where that institution does not exist. Thus Iqbal was right to demand Pakistan. Indeed, every State or Union Territory of India should immediately secede if this Casteist party which promotes untouchability ever comes to office again at the Centre.

 'But the poor record of the Congress’s fight against untouchability after the Poona Pact had also much to do with the resistance of the declared conservatives. In 1933, Malaviya fought against a bill on the opening of temples to the so-called untouchables. 

But Malaviya was President of the Congress, not the Mahasabha, when he did this. By this time, the RSS had been formed and was going in a different, more positive, direction in terms of battling hereditary occupational discrimination.

'The text of a bill on temple entry, also submitted in 1933, was never put to vote. Similarly, when Dalit members of the Madras Legislative Council introduced a Temple Entry Bill in 1938, Rajagopalachari, the Congress chief minister, asked them to withdraw it.

Yet Rajaji was appointed Governor General when Mountbatten left. Who appointed him? Was it Congress or the Mahasabha?

'Sixty years later, in spite of the Constitution, democracy and reservations, the hierarchical view of society finds expression in the defence of caste and reassertion of categories like pure and impure. Yogi Adityanath ordered shuddhikaran (purification) of the CM’s office in Lucknow before entering it and Musahar Dalit families of Kushinagar received soap and shampoo to clean themselves before attending one of his meetings. 

The CM's office was a den of corruption. Yes, it was purified. But that has nothing to do with caste. 
The Yogi did not ask Dalit families to 'clean themselves' before attending his meeting. Some government officials did so. But those officials were following a practice established before the BJP took office. How is it the Yogi's fault if a humiliating practice instituted by other parties was kept up after he took office? 

'And 6,000 km away, in London, the Hindu Council UK partly attributed the initiative of the British government mentioned above to the Indian Christian Dalit lobby in the country.'

Quite true. The credit for this initiative does, quite genuinely, go to the Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination and the Voice of Dalit International, UK. Nothing wrong in that. They are raising their profile and showing their effectiveness. The fact is Dalit Christians in India, despite being the majority, are discriminated against by the High Caste Christians who control the Churches and Colleges. Christians of Dalit origin in the UK- some of the smartest, most educated, most entrepreneurial people here- are using this issue to help redress the balance of power for their own people back in India. I don't see why any Hindu should object. Well, actually, that isn't true. There are some gangster types here in the UK and they will find any excuse to harass people- more particularly in the case of 'inter-caste' marriage. Shockingly, even some educated young men act like this. By all means, punish hate crimes based on caste because then the Police can take action more easily. Thus, if my neighbour calls me a 'Paki' and punches me, the Police treat the case very seriously because there is a racial motive.
Similarly, if my son marries a Jat or a Yadav or whatever and the girl's brothers decide to beat him up, then a Police complaint will be acted on immediately. 

Tuesday 1 August 2017

Pindaric Palinode & Ashbery's Misology

A poem is as much a place, as much a time, as it is a feeling
Of distaste mounting to the Summer of Haight-Ashbury
Skias onar anthropos ; our Ariadne's unreeling
 Ivory gated misology or thy john's Ashbery?

 Prince! Paideia palled & the Pindaric palinode failed to thrill 
Phaedrus, entailed an American Dream life by the G.I Bill