Tuesday, 28 June 2022

A.G Holdier & Sen's Nyaya

A.G. Holdier is a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Arkansas interested in social and political epistemology, public policy, and the intersection of ethics with philosophy of language. Sadly, he made the mistake of reading Amartya Sen. Thus he has written the nonsense given below- 

On November 19th, roughly two-and-a-half weeks after his trial began, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all charges levied against him for killing two people; after twenty-seven hours of deliberation across four days, the jury decided that Rittenhouse’s claims to self-defense were justified and thereby legally absolved him of his responsibility for the deaths. While some might have been surprised by the verdict, legal experts generally were not; as The Prindle Post’s own Benjamin Rossi explains, the facts of the case — when set apart from the many, many partisan performances flashing around this trial — led to a relatively plain judgment, given the relevant laws in question: “…certainly in a procedural sense, and at least partially in a substantive sense, the verdict itself was not a miscarriage of justice.”

The kid was attacked. The attackers were stooooopid because the kid was carrying a great big gun. The attackers got shot. Stupidity kills. Defund stupidity now.  


But, if I can briefly evoke Socrates before Thrasymachus here, what is ‘justice,’ anyway?

Who gives a fuck? We know what the Law is. You can shoot a guy who is attacking you if you fear for your life. One reason you may fear for your life is coz you are carrying a great big gun. Guys who want to take away your gun may want to shoot you with it. So you shoot them because they are clearly too fucking stupid to understand verbal warnings. 

To listen to much of the commentary following the wake of the Rittenhouse verdict, ‘justice’ is a matter of careful adherence to the regulations of the justice system, with the understanding that said institution has been carefully crafted in a way that produces just results.

Some may have said, stupid cunts who get shot coz they attack a guy with a great big gun get their 'just deserts'. But others may not. What we agree on is that it would not have been lawful to punish the kid.  

This is, I take it, what we mean when we refer to justice in a “procedural sense” —

Nope. We are speaking of what is lawful, not what is just. The Law may provide a civil remedy but, self defense, in this context, granted a legal immunity of a Hohfeldian type.  

it indicates that the processes and procedures undertaken to render the verdict were proper, so we can therefore be confident that the defendant’s rights and interests were protected throughout the trial.

We don't know that but it is a justiciable matter iff some party has locus standi and objects to the outcome.  

Insofar as those defendant-protecting processes constitute the “due process” owed and doled out fairly to all accused people in the system, then, this view of justice focuses on the arrangement of the institution and the technical application of its mechanisms to determine whether or not justice has been done.

There is 'due process of law'. There is no 'due process of Justice'. The law aims at Just outcomes and has its own maxims or theories of what these would look like. There may be a 'check-list' or algorithm to determine if due processes of law have been observed. But no such thing obtains with respect to Justice. We don't know what its 'due processes' are. Some jurisdictions would distinguish between equitable and common law remedies in this context for this very reason. Judges may be able to vary a decision on equitable or public interest considerations depending on what is customary in that jurisdiction. 


This is markedly different, though, from the broader, perhaps more philosophical (or at least less-technical), sense of ‘justice’ as the realization of a just society or world filled with people who behave and are treated well, all things considered.

D'uh! No judging is needed in a just society. But a just society may lack certain mechanisms which make it more vulnerable to invasion or internal subversion. That may be why none can now be found.  

To be concerned about ‘justice’ as a matter of promoting a flourishing community filled with well-respected individuals is 

stooooopid. Why not be concerned about everybody being able to fly by flapping their arms? Come to think of it, the Maharishi made billions by claiming to teach people how to levitate. Sen's little fraud is small potatoes by comparison.  

far more complicated than merely maintaining a focus on the operations of particular social institutions (like the legal system), but it is, arguably, what we actually care about at the end of the day.

I really do care about living for ever and being able to fly around the place like Superman. But, at the end of the day, I'm going to die like everybody else. I may care about bequeathing a little wealth to my next of kin or I may hope my nation may preserve its liberties or that my religion will continue to flourish after I'm gone- but once I'm dead, even those concerns will disappear.  


This distinction between an “arrangement-focused” and a “realization-focused” view of justice plays a key role in the work of philosopher, economist, and Nobel-prize winner Amartya Sen; calling the former niti and the latter nyaya,

Sen was and is a cretin. Niti means policy. A Neta is a leader who implements policy. This is the Executive function. Nyaya means Justice. A Nyayaadesh is a Judge. A Nyayalaya means a Court. Never in the entire history of Sanskrit or any other Indian language has Niti meant Justice. It has always meant policy which may be implemented by Princes or 'Mantris' (Ministers). Justice has always been wholly independent of Policy. The same is true of the Anglo-Saxon world. The Judicial function is separate and independent of the Executive function which may or may not be separated from the Legislative function.  

Sen points out that both of these are key concepts for socio-political theorists to consider, but that the latter should hold a priority.

This is crazy shit. The vast majority should be deciding or implementing policy within their own area of competence or authority. Very few contentious matters should be brought before a judge. Even then, what is most important is that the judgment be as predictable as possible and as speedy and transparent as possible. Also judgments- unlike philosophical debates- need to be 'buck stopped'- i.e. there is a final authority which decides one way or another and thus prevents a 'tie' or 'deadlock' or an infinite regress of argumentation. 

Both niti and nyaya are classical Sanskrit terms for ‘justice,’

This is a stupid lie. Sanskrit has a 'pragmatic' hermeneutic. The word for meaning is 'artha' which is also the word for 'economics'. Tamil Brahmins like me use the word 'vaarthe' for 'word'. Varta is the word for commerce. In other words, the meaning of a word is its 'cash value'. Sen is ignorant of all this. He does not know Sanskrit. He has zero knowledge of Brahminical literature. But he is also ignorant of notions like 'yukti' which arise in his own ancestral Ayurvedic profession. 

Sen may as well have told his Indian readers 'In America, the term 'wigwam' means procedural incest. 'Tomahawk' means transcendentally getting fucked in the ass by your retarded Uncle.  

but niti focuses primarily on technical applications of “organizational propriety”

India actually has a Niti Aayog which replaced the Planning Commission. It advises on Economic policy. India also has a Uchattama Nyayalaya- a Supreme Court. The latter may be concerned with 'organizational propriety' just as an American Court may decide whether a particular organization in its jurisdiction has acted properly.  

while nyaya is the more comprehensive concept upon which a “just society” can be recognized;

Sheer nonsense! I may have a concept of an angel who appears like a human being. This does not give me any means of recognizing an angel. Having a concept of a g.f who will love you and not fuck your retarded Uncle, does not mean you can recognize any such lady. You learn this the hard way once every girl you ever bring home ends up humping Uncle under the dinner table while Mum and Dad try to distract you by asking how your career in Accountancy is going.  I'm not saying this is what happened to me. Indeed, it's the sort of thing which has probably happened to everyone at least two or three times. 

so, in The Idea of Justice, Sen argues that “the roles of institutions, rules and organization, important as they are, have to be assessed in the broader and more inclusive perspective of nyaya, which is inescapably linked with the world that actually emerges, not just the institutions or rules we happen to have.”

Nobody has to assess shit. There is little point doing so. Only a cretin would say- 'Britain has a pretty good National Health System, but the fact is, Brits die same as Americans. Thus the NHS is a failure.' 

The fact is the world which actually emerges depends on the world that existed in the previous time period. Even if all the institutions changed meanwhile, there is likely to be little difference. The other problem is that it will only be with considerable hindsight that we can judge whether an institutional change made things better on the whole, or a lot fucking worse.  There was a time when some Economists though Chavez was turning Venezuela into a paradise. 


Consider, for example, another imaginary case of Brian the 17-year-old who has been forced to regularly steal from his local grocery store to provide food for himself and his younger sister after his parents were hospitalized in a car accident. Knowing that thievery is illegal,

But it has ceased to be so in some parts of America. The kid won't be arrested if he steals because the value of the theft would be too low.

we might simply conclude that Brian is a criminal and charge him accordingly;

the police will only do so if that is police policy or what the D.A has stipulated. But police policy can be altered.  

the hunger felt by Brian and his sister is regrettable, but it is well outside the scope of what niti is designed to care about.

No. It lies within the scope of niti- i.e. police policy. In Italy, a homeless guy was arrested for stealing a bit of cheese and sausage. The case wound up in the Supreme Court which ruled the guy was innocent. This was a case where police policy was stoooooopid. Society had lost tens of thousands of Euros prosecuting a case with a value of less than 5 Euros. 

If you would hesitate to charge Brian with a crime, or even harbor a desire to see that the court system treat him with leniency, given the mitigating circumstances, then this likely stems from your desire to see nyaya (rather than just niti) upheld:

No. It is not good policy to do stooooooopid shit. Which fucking judge is going to convict on a 5 Euro theft? True, if there was some other circumstance- e.g. the conviction was needed so as to deport the war-criminal with the Swastika tattoos- then 'Nyaya' would incline us to convict the cunt and send him somewhere he can get his head kicked in for 30 days before being sent back to a jail cell in his homeland. 

we moral agents can recognize the difference between malicious or self-centered embezzlement (of the sort that anti-theft laws are typically designed to prevent) and Brian’s desperate attempt to care for his sister, even though Brian’s actions still violate the letter of the law.

There is an equitable exception here of an obvious sort. In any case,  de minimis non curat lex- the law does not concern itself with trifles. 

In a similar fashion, Sen illustrates the niti-nyaya distinction with a reference to the Holy Roman emperor Ferdinand I who (in)famously declared “Let justice be done, though the world perish”; says Sen,

A similar phrase was a legal maxim in the English Common Law at precisely this period. One meaning is that Justice should be speedy even if this is not convenient to the Monarch or the Law Lords. However, this is a statement of policy. A Pizza parlor has the policy of serving pizza even when the employees don't feel like serving pizzas. They want to give customers golden showers instead. But store policy is that only pizzas are served even if Trump and his pal Putin walk in and everybody really needs to pee.

“if indeed the world does perish, there would be nothing much to celebrate in that accomplishment,” no matter how much niti might have been respected along the way.

Suppose the world is due to end tomorrow. Then Judges will close the courts and go home. There is no point handing down a judgment which will never be enforced or serve as a precedent. 


What, then, of the Rittenhouse verdict?

It seems clear that, in terms of niti, justice might well have been upheld regarding the specific question of the killings for which Rittenhouse was charged.

No. Niti means policy. The authorities could have refused to frame charges. That was a policy decision. The legal defense mounted could have been challenged. Prosecutors could have done more to paint Rittenhouse as acting with malice aforethought. The kid himself could have gone crazy and started Heil Hitlering everyone.  

The morality of killing in self-defense is a wrought notion, but the legal precedents regarding its allowability are well-established and, by most accounts, the actual proceedings of the Rittenhouse trial centered almost entirely on these concerns.

But it is not at all clear that the Rittenhouse verdict protects justice in the sense of nyaya — indeed, the problem for many is that it can’t.

This is only the case if you think the kid should be in jail. But few do. Also he killed a pedo scumbag. Most peeps wanna buy him a drink. Not me due to I iz bleck and he might still have a gun.  


According to Rittenhouse, he drove to Kenosha, Wisconsin (from his home about 20 minutes away in Illinois) to serve as a “medic” for people trying to “protect businesses” from protestors after police officer Rusten Sheskey repeatedly shot Jacob Blake in the back a few days earlier. Although misrepresentations of the details have abounded, as Rossi points out, those details matter: although Rittenhouse did cross state lines to get to Kenosha, his rifle was already in Wisconsin waiting for him. Although the relevant regulations are complicated, if the gun was purchased illegally (as it apparently was), the blame falls on the purchaser, not on Rittenhouse; moreover (despite the intention of the law in question probably pertaining to hunting contexts) Rittenhouse was, technically, apparently acting legally by wielding it in public as he did.

The problem here is that 'the facts of the case' are strategic. If the laws had been different, it is likely that the facts established by the Defense would have been different. Given the youth of the accused, there was plenty of wriggle-room for his lawyer even if the lad had made a clean breast of things.  

Or rather, those details matter for procedural reasons.

No. They matter for legal reasons. Laws are not procedures. They represent a 'deontic logic' or 'sequent calculi' of a particular sort. If they are 'ergodic', procedures don't matter- i.e. it does not matter what sequence of steps are taken, the outcome is the same. However, if 'path dependence' or 'hysteresis' arises then procedural eventualities alter the outcome and thus may themselves give grounds for appeal.  

Although questions of the gun’s legality might not pertain directly to the charges Rittenhouse faced regarding the deaths he caused, we might still wonder why he chose to arm himself heavily and insert himself into the situation in Kenosha in the first place.

We might answer 'he hoped to rescue a fair maiden from evil rapists. Then she would fall in lurve with him or, at the very least, give him a b.j.' Back when I was 17, hopes of that sort tended to dominate my thinking.  

We could, for example, doubt that the protestors in Kenosha ever posed an actual threat to businesses or anything else (indeed, with the exception of Rittenhouse’s shootings, the Kenosha protests — like most protests — were quite peaceful);

But there could have been a fair maiden who took a fancy to the lad with the real big gun. Indeed, since protests are so peaceful, they represent a great place to show off your gun collection- right? Fair maidens too are likely to be scantily dressed in such safe spaces.  

it’s not clear why anyone on the streets of Kenosha would have actually needed either rifles or medics in August 2020.

Which is an excellent reason to stand out from the crowd by bringing your big gun so as to impress fair maidens. If everybody has a big gun, then don't bother. Fair maiden will prefer someone with a bit of hair on his chest.  

That is to say, it seems perfectly reasonable to think that Rittenhouse was breaking no laws by being in Kenosha on August 25th, 2020, and yet he still had no good reason to be in Kenosha.

This is foolish. 17 year old boys have one sort of 'good reason' which everybody knows about. You have access to a big gun or a muscle car or a really cool leather jacket. Whatchagonna do? Go somewhere fair maidens- or slutty ho-bags- might get to gaze in awe upon your scrawny form.  


And, of course, if he hadn’t chosen to go to Kenosha, then Rittenhouse wouldn’t have been in the situation where he feared for his life and was forced to act, according to the jury, in justifiable self-defense.

Why not simply say, if the kid had been neutered at birth, then he'd probably never have left his parent's basement to go anywhere? 

But this focus extends far beyond the niti-based concerns of the legal system

The Legal system can indeed provide 'judicial review' for Government or other types of policy. What is beyond that 'focus'? I don't know. Does the author? No.  

to broader questions about how we want society to operate,

which is within the scope of social policy 

how we hope people will freely behave,

which is within the scope of 'mechanism design' and other types of economic policy 

and how we desire for virtuous individuals to flourish

which is within the scope of 'cultural and religious' policy 

and help those around them to flourish likewise.

which is the aim of Government and other Social policy.  

On its own, “traveling to Kenosha” seems morally neutral,

It seems natural when you consider that what 17 year old boys are biologically programmed to do is to get to where fair 17 year old maidens might exist. True, boys are often wrong about where this might happen. Take it from me, parties thrown by students of engineering aint exactly pussy forests.  

but “traveling to Kenosha because I should protect it — possibly even with violence — from the rioters threatening it” is a perspective loaded with serious moral assumptions and judgments that are not clearly virtuous.

Coz 17 year olds don't tend to say 'I wanna get real close to a vagina. Not Mum's vagina. Anybody else's. Also, carrying a big big gun might get a vagina real moist. That's important coz Granny told me women have teeth down there.' 

To criticize Rittenhouse’s actions in this broader sense (beyond simply asking “was he legally allowed to pull the trigger at the moment he chose to do so”) depends on one’s much richer perspective about what constitutes nyaya, or justice fully realized, altogether.

Bullshit! I have a very rich perspective about what constitutes nyaya because I have studied what my Brahmin ancestors have had to say on the topic. The plain fact is, 'don't do stupid shit or you might die' is a Nyaya maxim. No one else is to blame, if you do stupid shit and then get killed. 

 The guys who got shot did so because they did stupid shit. When I see a kid with a big big gun I run away. I don't try to take it from him. If I were a policeman, I might be obliged to do otherwise. But the guys who got shot weren't policemen. Their own stupidity caused them to endanger their lives. It was reasonable for a kid with a valuable gun to think that some rando trying to take his gun might shoot him with it so as to the more easily get away with the theft. Anyway, what sort of nutter tries to take guns of people? Probably the sort who will fuck them in the ass before blowing their heads off.  

Consider this from a different perspective: the marches over the shooting of Jacob Blake were not protesting niti-related procedural infelicities that merely treated Blake inappropriately:

Fuck off! Them guys were protesting the crazy-stupid-bad policies- i.e. niti- of the Police, the Public Prosecutor, the Judges etc, etc.  They weren't saying 'God is unjust. Death should not happen. Like Capitalism, it should be abolished. People should ascend to Heaven in their own body using a nice escalator. Also they should be provided popcorn and other snacks for the journey'. 

they were outcries about the nyaya-based injustice of yet another black man (Blake) being attacked by a white police officer (Sheskey) and, in this case, left paralyzed (Sheskey faced no charges for shooting Blake).

This was not 'nyaya-based injustice'. Saying ' Multi Racial Capitalism should be replaced Racially segregated- Socialism' might be a nyaya-based argument'.  Some of the protestors may have had ideologies of that sort. But the fact is, the Blake shooting, like others, showed that Police policy was stooooooopid. It is very very fucking wasteful to shoot and paralyze a dude who has plenty of working hours left in him. On the other hand, from the Utilitarian p.o.v, shooting me won't cause much loss to Society. Sad. 

As many have pointed out, if Rittenhouse himself were not white, his trial — to say nothing of his arrest — would likely not have proceeded exactly as it did (nevermind the multiple literal job offers Rittenhouse has received since).

Also, if America wasn't majority white, there may not have been anything we would recognize as a trial. There's a reason people were Racist. It wasn't a nice reason. It wasn't an indefeasible reason. But it was a reason. 

More generally, does the fact that 'uncorrelated asymmetries' (e.g. being White, not Black) are correlated with judicial outcomes impugn the process? This is a question within the scope of economics, not moral philosophy. Why? Because such asymmetries are not informational simply but radically evolutionary- i.e. the answer depends on the fitness landscape.  

So, although the niti-based details of the Rittenhouse trial might not have substantively included race,

This is crazy shit! Plenty of first rate African American economists and sociologists and jurists are using cutting edge statistical and SCM based research to determine if Niti- that is policy- is unconstitutional in this respect.  

the nyaya-based context of the broader conversation certainly does: Rittenhouse’s experience is just one more example of the deference shown institutionally to specifically white bodies: a clear violation of nyaya, no matter how much it comports with niti.

If white defendants get to wear suits and are addressed as 'Mister' while black defendants appear in chains and are called 'Boy'- then, sure, no question, Niti (policy) is discriminatory. Sadly, this does not mean it is a violation of 'nyaya' since nyaya is not univocal. It would be perfectly in accordance with Emerson's understanding of Manu's nyaya for this to happen. Indeed, I believe such indeed was the practice back then.  

In short, it seems clear and uncontroversial that people can commit injustices without technically breaking laws (consider how folks might escape just punishment on some “legal technicality” or other).

But then there may be an action in tort. Furthermore, the law does not prevent us from pursuing many wholly extra-legal avenues of redress. Indeed, this is one argument that Courts can entertain to remove a previous restriction in this respect. Thus, as a matter of historical fact, laws re. combinations in restraint of trade have been given specific exemptions with a view to making bargaining fairer and thus reducing the incidence of unconscionable contracts. 

The author should throw away his Sen are study 'Law & Econ'. Justice is simply a service industry like Education or Religion. One needs to understand what externalities bind them together and how they can be substitutes and complements to each other. Old fashioned stuff, I know, but not as useless as Sen-tentious shite. 

Sen’s distinction between niti and nyaya can help us to speak

turgid, vacuous, nonsense. By contrast, Sanskrit's bright line distinction between Policy (Niti) and Justice (Nyaya) keeps us on the self same road of common sense as the Anglo Saxon tradition.  

more clearly about the dissatisfaction we feel at those times, even if technical procedures are perfectly honored. The problem might well lie in the broader, unjust context altogether.

The author is young. He is attracted to vague terms which express an adolescent sehnsucht. Nirvana or Nyaya, Namaste or Niti, Satori or Social Justice- exotic foreign shite appears attractive when we are a certain age. But so does roaming around with a great big gun in the hope of saving a fair maiden from evil rapists. 


Kenneth Roth, monetizing mendacity.

 Kenneth Roth runs Human Rights Watch which spends some 70 or 80 million dollars a year. HRW is now demanding that Indian Courts grant immunity to 'activists' and crooked cops who perjure themselves and fabricate evidence so as to send innocent people to prison. The Human Rights cottage industry is a naked swindle which has monetized mendacity in the service of what Michael Polanyi called 'moral inversion'- i.e. pretending you are so angelic that you find good people are actually crypto-Nazi while evil terrorists are actually freedom fighters. 

HRW acknowledges that 'Setalvad is accused of forgery, filing false charges, criminal conspiracy, and fabricating false evidence with intent to cause a person to be convicted of a capital offense. Sreekumar was also arrested after the complaint. Bhatt, previously convicted of murder in 2019 in a case dating back 30 years that appeared to be politically motivated, faces new allegations. Setalvad and Sreekumar have been detained in police custody until July 2.'

Bhatt and Sreekumar are former police officers of senior rank. Their fabricated evidence caused innocent people to be thrown in jail. HRW is now demanding that Indian police officers be granted immunity for egregious human rights offences! Why will Kenneth Roth not demand the same thing for American police officers? How would he like it it any cop who doesn't like the look of him could fabricate evidence against him, throw him in jail, and lie about it in court without fearing any legal sanction? How would he like to be deprived of his liberty?

The plain fact is that Human Rights activism is now a wholly Fascist enterprise. If you yourself claim to be one such 'activist' you should be allowed to get anybody you don't like thrown in jail on the basis of your perjured testimony. The Court must not disbelieve you. It must not sanction you if your fraud is detected. But, anybody you don't like should be sent to jail immediately! Is it any wonder that British voters, including many former 'Red Wall' Labor supporters, supported the party which said it would make it a top priority to ditch the Human Rights Charter?

Mary Lawlor's Racism, Sagarika Ghose's Slavishness

Those who invaded Capitol Hill broke the law. If Judges find them guilty of crimes and send them to jail no human rights violation has occurred. Even Mary Lawlor has to accept this. But America is White. India is Brown. What is true of America must not be true of India. White Judges can sentence people who break the law. Brown judges must not do so. This is Mary Lawlor and Amnesty International's position. My position is that they are a bunch of racist cunts. 

But this has already been established by an independent inquiry. 

According to 'Civil Society News'- Amnesty International UK “exhibits institutional racism” and previously “failed to properly embed equality, inclusion and anti-racism” throughout the organisation, an independent inquiry has said.

Mary Lawlor and Amnesty and other institutionally racist bodies are not barred from telling lies. All sorts of virtue signalling swindlers tell lies all the time. But it they go to court and tell lies in court then they may find their 'human rights' won't prevent them being sent to jail or being obliged to pay a hefty fine. This is true even if Judges are Brown not White.

Why do Judges dislike those who lie in Court? Why is fabricating evidence in a criminal trial- whether it is done by a senior police-man or an 'activist'- not praised and rewarded by the Bench? The answer, sadly, is that 'Authority' of any type- Judicial, Executive, Legislative- must punish those who deliberately seek to mislead and manipulate it to mischievous ends. 

It appears that Teetsa Setalvad- also accused of stealing from the victims for whom she claimed to be raising funds- and the crackpot retired police-man, Sreekumar, have been arrested. Predictably, the UN Special Rapporteur who came up through Amnesty and who founded 'Front line defenders', has come out for Teetsa as have Amnesty and Front line Defenders. This is an echo chamber of an incestuous sort. Mary Lawlor is 70 years old. She is doubling down on an error her people made 20 years ago. Her job involved making accusations without evidence. The Indian Supreme Court took cognizance of those accusations and ordered a Special Investigation Team to investigate the matter. Considerable latitude was allowed to the prosecution and some people were sent to jail on fabricated evidence and perjured testimony. Those convictions were unsafe. Modi himself got a clean chit. He hadn't, as was alleged, been so crazy as to sabotage his own first term in office. The man was ambitious. He wanted to rise. He didn't want to create havoc and make himself unelectable. Teetsa and Shreekumar, by contrast, were incapable of rising. They had already peaked as liars and fantasists. They gained by, as the Bench has damningly said, 'keeping the pot boiling' by trying to re-litigate their stupid lies. In the short run this allowed them to profit and to pose as champions of some cause or the other. But their strategy was short-sighted. Sooner or later, the Bench would be angered by their brazen behaviour. But, they had already passed their sell-by date. They weren't really political animals. They were simply animals. Those animals will now be penned up- unless, of course, the prosecutor is useless, which can easily happen.

Meanwhile Sagarika Ghose, in an op-ed for NDTV, writes-  

The timing was eerie. On June 25, 1975, Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency.

Because she and her minions had lied to the Court. They denied that Indira and her goons had done anything improper during her election campaign. But Indira and Haksar and so on did not acquit themselves well in the witness box. The verdict went against her. She declared Emergency and jailed her opponents and rewrote the Constitution. Then she realised her son's cronies might bump her off. So, being a political animal, she held elections and showed contrition and though she initially lost, she prevailed within three years. Then she got shot. Being a political animal may keep you out of prison. But assassination tempers autocracy something fierce. 

On that very day, over four decades later, on June 25, 2022, civil rights activist Teesta Setalvad was dragged out of her Mumbai home by the Gujarat police which barged into her house and marched her out into a waiting police jeep.

Because the Supreme Court said she was part of a conspiracy to pervert the course of Justice. In other words, the highest court in the land had declared her to be guilty of a very serious crime. The public prosecutor had a clear and indefeasible duty to frame charges and arrest, interrogate, and prosecute her. In her position, others may have sought anticipatory bail. The lady has certainly had plenty of time to prepare a defence. Now she must pin her hope on the prosecutor being shit. But, there's another way to play this. By doing a bit of time, she could turn into a politician rather than just a person paid for smearing politicians. Consider the case of Sadhvi Prayag. She was jailed on false charges. Now she is a Member of Parliament. Nobody cares that Teesta told lies. Stealing from victims wasn't cool but that sort of thing does happen. The problem with Teesta is that she made Modi stronger by attacking him. Sreekumar, even more stupidly, got elections delayed in Gujarat thus enabling Modi to score his first big victory at the polls. Modi has never looked back. Sreekumar destroyed his own career, credibility and now has compromised his freedom. There may be sympathy for Teetsa. There will be none for a crazy cop who went around framing innocent people like the ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan.  

On the same day, former Gujarat police officer RB Sreekumar was arrested in Ahmedabad. As India recalled the 1975 June day when Indira Gandhi's police hauled dozens of Opposition politicians and journalists to jail, in a stark reminder, on the same day, India again saw state power bearing down on an individual citizen.

Indira defied the Courts. Teetsa and Sreekumar lied to the Bench and thus showed defiance to the Rule of Law. They will have to answer for their crimes. 

There is a big difference between the Police following the direction of the Supreme Court and the police arresting people on the say so of a politician whom the Courts had found ineligible to hold office by reason of electoral offences. 

Sagarika, no doubt, would be greatly incensed that 'Proud Boys' or other such people who invaded Capital Hill are victims of illegal Government persecution.  


The chronology of events is chilling. On Friday, June 24, the Supreme Court passed an order upholding the findings of an SIT (Special Investigation Team) that absolved Prime Minister Narendra Modi (then Gujarat Chief Minister) of any criminal conspiracy during the Gujarat communal riots of 2022 "Court gives clean chit to Modi," ran the headlines. In the 453-page judgement, while the court said collusion and 'criminal conspiracy' of authorities could not be proven, it also made references to the law and order failures and incompetence of the Gujarat state administration.

We know that evidence was fabricated and forged. Perjured testimony was offered. There was a conspiracy. The attempt to re-litigate failed because no new evidence was presented. The Court's time was wasted. It, quite properly, took umbrage. Prosecutors would have been derelict in their duty if they hadn't framed charges. Will the prosecution build  coherent case? I don't know. But they have a duty to do so.  


The day after the Supreme Court judgement, a police inspector, quoting copiously from the Supreme Court order, filed an FIR against RB Sreekumar who was and is an outspoken critic of the Modi government during the Gujarat riots;

He lied and fabricated evidence. He is not any different than the publicity hungry goons who persecuted Aryan Khan. Police men must not be allowed to frame anybody they like. 

Teesta Setalvad, who backed Zakia Jafri's petition; and former Gujarat cop Sanjiv Bhatt, already in jail in another case.

For custodial murder. What a sweetheart! 

Around the same time that day, Home Minister Amit Shah gave an interview to news agency ANI which was carried by all news channels. In the interview, Shah named Teesta Setalvad's as one of the activist NGOs which "levelled allegations against BJP workers across Gujarat." Hours after the interview aired, the Gujarat police - the Anti-Terror Squad, no less - swooped down on Setalvad's residence. The Supreme Court judgement, registration of FIR, the Home Minister's interview and the Gujarat police action on Setalvad unfolded like a strategic chain of events.

What is even more sinister is that this happened hours after I farted. Who knew my fart had such power? It is obvious that when the Bench comments on egregious perjury and evidence fabrication, politicians will speak about it while, quite separately, prosecutors will get charges framed and arrest and interrogate those named by the Bench.  

The judgement delivered rather superfluous and disturbing obiter dicta or opinionated comments,

in the opinion of a shitty little reporter who does not know the law 

beyond the remit of an evidence-based ruling.

The ratio turned on perjured testimony and forged evidence. There was a conspiracy to defeat the ends of justice. Only the ratio matters.  

The court referred to activists like Setalvad as people "sitting in a comfortable environment in their air conditioned offices." On the petitioners, including Zakia Jafri, widow of Ehsan Jafri who has fought this case for 16 years, the judgement had harsh words: "The present proceedings have been pursued for 16 years...including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary...to keep the pot boiling obviously for ulterior design." The court also said "All those involved in such abuse of process need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law."

This is a clear order from the Bench which prosecutors must follow.  

The phrase "audacity to question" government functionaries is intriguing when the same court, in its Right to Privacy judgement in August 2017, held "those who are governed are entitled to question those who govern about the discharge of their constitutional duties."

To question specified functionaries on the basis of prima facie evidence is one thing. It is audacious to suggest that there is a massive conspiracy such that everybody and anybody who does not agree with you is corrupt or has been suborned. Vexatious litigation deserves no constitutional protection.  

Last week's judgement seems to suggest that questioning government functionaries by victims of horrific communal violence is not an act of citizenship but of 'audacity'.

It is audacious to keep the pot boiling for 20 years on the basis of evidence which was disproved ten years ago.  


To stifle, through force, if necessary, any questioning of the state or government reveals an "Emergency mindset." In fact, in Indira Gandhi's time, at least there was the pretence of trying to clothe state power in law and procedure, today, it appears that cloak has been shaken off.

Indira defied a Court order. Teetsa's prosecutors are obeying the Bench.  

In 1976, at least one stout-hearted judge, HR Khanna, gave a strongly dissenting order in the infamous ADM Jabalpur judgement which suspended civil rights.

Indira settled his hash quickly enough.  He resigned after being superseded. Charan Singh have him a Ministerial position. But Indira soon pulled the rug from under him.

Modi indulges in no such shenanigans. Some political animals evolve upwards as they improve administration and governance. Modi is a politician of that stripe.  

Today, social media online armies build such an overwhelmingly powerful media narrative and create such an overwrought witch-hunting atmosphere that anyone questioning or critiquing the authorities is seen as an enemy of the state, an "anti-national" or an "urban Naxal."

The reverse is also true. Teetsa & Co had the upper hand at one time. But it was Modi who prevailed.  

In 2015, environmental activist Priya Pillai of Greenpeace was barred from travelling to London. Aakar Patel, head of Amnesty International in India, has also been banned from travelling overseas while Amnesty, a globally-recognised organisation is being investigated by the enforcement agencies. Tribal rights activist Sudha Bhardwaj was jailed for three years in a case that has several loopholes and only now is out on bail. The peace campaigner Harsh Mandar was placed under investigation, other rights campaigners like Gautam Navlakha remain behind bars ,while the octogenarian Father Stan Swamy died in jail while charged under specious UAPA provisions.

And Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and Maya Kodnani were jailed on false charges. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. What the country needs is to jail policemen and 'activists' who fabricate evidence and frame innocent people. But that's not what Sagarika wants. If Lawlor is Racist, Sagarika is Slavish. But the money for their line of work is running out. Sad. 



Monday, 27 June 2022

Sen-tentious quotes

Is everything Amartya Sen ever said foolish or false, or both foolish and false? Consider the following quotes from 'goodreads.com' 

“the identity of an individual is essentially a function of her choices, rather than the discovery of an immutable attribute”
Identity depends on having a corporeal body which endures in Time and Space. The choices made by this body don't affect her identity. They modify the predicates applied to that identity. A predicate is not itself an identity. I may identify as a cat. But I am not a cat. I am a sad, elderly, Tamil man who chooses for some bizarre reason to go around saying 'miaow'. 

“A society can be Pareto optimal and still perfectly disgusting.
― Amartya Sen

No Society can be Pareto optimal. Why? Information is costly and transactions use up resources. Just at this moment, there is a guy somewhere in the world who has a couple of samosas and who would trade one for a can of cold beer. I have two cans of cold beer and would trade one for a samosa. But, this 'Pareto improvement' can't occur because I don't know the location of the guy with two samosas and also teleportation hasn't yet been invented. 

No Society can be perfectly nice or disgusting or anything else. Think of any disgusting society and you will soon see it could be worse. 

“The increasing tendency towards seeing people in terms of one dominant ‘identity’ (‘this is your duty as an American’, ‘you must commit these acts as a Muslim’, or ‘as a Chinese you should give priority to this national engagement’) is not only an imposition of an external and arbitrary priority, but also the denial of an important liberty of a person who can decide on their respective loyalties to different groups (to all of which he or she belongs).”

There is no 'increasing tendency'. It has always been the case that the dominant identity you have relates to your body and your oikeiosis (family and other ties of belonging). There is nothing arbitrary about a Religion or a Nationality you belong to, insisting that you do certain things and stop doing other things. Why? These are 'separating equilibria' based on a more or less costly to disguise 'signals'. Game theory predicts that there will be 'bourgeois strategies' based on uncorrelated asymmetries- e.g. your being born into a Muslim or Chinese family rather than a Hindu or British family. By contrast 'cheap talk' 'pooling equilibria' tend to be worthless. A guy who says all men are brothers aint going to offer you his kidney. 

It is wholly arbitrary to say some Sent-tentious tosser gets to define what is or isn't loyalty. On the other hand, if the guy really offers his kidney to you, that is loyalty. The guy genuinely is a brother. Loyalty isn't cheap talk. It is a costly signal. 

“While I am interested both in economics and in philosophy, the union of my interests in the two fields far exceeds their intersection”
― Amartya Sen

In which case Sen is not interested in either economics or philosophy. He is interested in something else entirely- viz. talking bollocks. True, to get paid, he has to pretend to be working at the intersection of the two fields. But it is merely pretense. 

“A defeated argument that refuses to be obliterated can remain very alive.”
― Amartya Sen

Anything which is defeated but alive remains alive. Arguments aren't defeated. They are sent to bed without any supper. People grow out of arguments unless they are immured on a campus and thus remain eternally adolescent. 

“While we cannot live without history, we need not live within it either.”
― Amartya Sen,

This is only true if we can live somewhere outside of this universe. Sadly, our identity is tied to our body which has a 'world-line' or history in this Universe. I suppose, you could say 'Sen means that we don't have to be the puppets of our history'. The problem is that we don't know what actions aren't historically determined. Where does hysteresis end and ergodicity begin? None can tell. 

“It is important to reclaim for humanity the ground that has been taken from it by various arbitrarily narrow formulations of the demands of rationality

Why? We ignore stupid pedants and only stupid pendants gas on about the 'demands of rationality' as opposed to the 'demands of our Mummy or our Wifey that we stop watching TV and just go to school or work already.'

“Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all men have hearts, and each heart has its own leanings. Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong.”

Very true. Sen should not resent my claim that he eats only dog turds. But I should resent his oeuvre because it has been a potent source of mischief for India. Fuck 'leanings of the heart'. Stupid, mischievous, lies should be resented. 

“The notion of human right builds on our shared humanity. These rights are not derived from the citizenship of any country, or the membership of any nation, but are presumed to be claims or entitlements of every human being. They differ, therefore, from constitutionally created rights guaranteed for specific people.”

 No. Every notion of 'rights' builds on the notion of 'obligations' under a bond of law. Human rights have remedies provided by Governments which in turn are supported by the citizens of specific countries. Thus citizens of specific countries, in the final analysis, supply remedies for Human rights violations. The plain fact is, such remedies are rationed in a manner those citizens decide. Thus, Obama- a Law Professor- could have Osama shot and dumped in the Sea because Osama wasn't an American citizen. To kill Awlaki, the permission of the National Security Council had to be sought. 

“Resenting the obtuseness of others is not good ground for shooting oneself in the foot.”

Very true. You should shoot yourself in the foot only when experiencing delight at the acuteness of others. 

“Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so, 

a flippant effort is bound to fail- right? The truth is quite different. A serious attempt will fail if you don't have the resources. A flippant attempt will succeed if you are as rich as fuck, even if you are only doing the thing on a whim. 

and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms from opposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but make such an effort.

Unless it is a Muslim League Government in Bengal or Bangladesh. 
 Not surprisingly, while India continued to have famines under British rule right up to independence

India stopped having famines, till control over food was handed over to elected Bengalis. The Bangladesh famine happened after Democracy had been established. Mujib was moving to one party rule when he was assassinated.

 … they disappeared suddenly with the establishment of a multiparty democracy and a free press.

except in Bengal during Sen's lifetime 

… a free press and an active political opposition constitute the best early-warning system a country threaten by famines can have”

But B.R Sen and other ICS officers saw the 'early-warning signs' in 1942, long before Ian Stephenson of the Statesman. 

“Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so reality is shown in all it's many forms. Dwell peacefully as change itself liberates all suffering sentient beings and brings them great joy.”

This sounds Buddhist. Did Sen really say this? Still, it is stupid, so maybe he did say it. Limited change permits the existence of life. So far as we know, the gravitational constant hasn't changed by even 0.00001 percent in the last ten billion years. Dwelling peacefully isn't an option because things change and you will have to fight to keep what you have. Death may 'liberate' suffering sentient beings. Sen's death may bring great joy. But then again, it may not. There are people stupider yet who will take over his role. 

“Hindutava's nationalism ignores the rationalist traditions of India, 

Nonsense! Those guys are always making out that ancient Indians were super sciencey. 

a country in which some of the earliest steps in algebra, geometry, and astronomy were taken, where the decimal system emerged, where early philosophy — secular as well as religious — achieved exceptional sophistication, where people invented games like chess, pioneered sex education, and began the first systematic study of political economy. 

Yes, yes. India invented zero. But what is this shit about sex education? Are you telling me Indians didn't know putting pee pee in chee chee place is how you get babies? How fucking stupid were the ancient Indians?

The Hindu militant chooses instead to present India — explicitly or implicitly — as a country of unquestioning idolaters, delirious fanatics, belligerent devotees, and religious murderers”

How come Sen's family ran away from their homes in Dacca, East Bengal? Why aren't Bengalis running away from Modi's Gujarat? Why aren't they returning to Bangladesh? Is it because 'religious murderers' are not Hindus? We hear of people of different Islamic sects killing each other. We don't hear of Hindus doing any such thing for religious reasons. Sen himself is a delirious fanatic. But he is not afraid that Hindutva zealots will kill him. On the other hand, if he criticizes Mamta, his head will be kicked in.  

“If a theory of justice is to guide reasoned choice of policies, strategies or institutions, then the identification of fully just social arrangements is neither necessary nor sufficient.”

A theory of Justice should not guide policy. It should guide Legal Judgments. On the other hand, it is sufficient to fully identify just social arrangements to specify a theory of Justice. There is a 'concrete model' which Judges can aim at. To give an example, the Soviet's had a theory of Justice which took into account the social class of the offender. If he was a genuine 'prole' you re-educate him and help him rise even if he engaged in theft or hooliganism. If he is a 'class enemy' you send him to the Gulag. The 'concrete model' here maximizes the power and hegemony of the proletariat while continually decimating the ranks of those of bourgeois origin. 

“The World Bank has not invariably been my favorite organization. The power to do good goes almost always with the possibility to do the opposite, and as a professional economist, I have had occasions in the past to wonder whther the Bank could not have done very much better.”

The World Bank helped China rise up in the Eighties. Edwin Lim moved from Beijing to Delhi in the early Nineties. He expected to do even better in India because Montek and Manmohan and so forth were on the same page as him. Then he discovered that Sen-tetntious NGO type activists get more money and power preventing development rather than enabling it to happen. That's what prevented India rising up. 

“Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency. The removal of substantial unfreedoms, it is argued here, is constitutive of development.”

Development happens when people give up leisure and freedom in return for the chance to build up capital and expertise. Slavery can increase Development. Freedom can't unless people choose 'unfreedom'. On the other hand, freer markets and lower compliance costs arising from Government regulations, can lead to rapid Development. But Sen doesn't see red-tape as an 'unfreedom'. 

“It is hard to understand how a compassionate world order can include so many people afflicted by acute misery, persistent hunger and deprived and desperate lives, and why millions of innocent children have to die each year from lack of food or medical attention or social care.

It is easy to understand that man is a product of evolution on a harsh and uncertain fitness landscape. If very poor people didn't have lots of kids who were bound to have miserable lives, then Mankind would not have survived. On the other hand, the danger now is that Human impact on the Environment will make the planet uninhabitable. Pro-natalism is no longer a good strategy for the species. 

This issue, of course, is not new, and it has been a subject of some discussion among theologians. The argument that God has reasons to want us to deal with these matters ourselves has had considerable intellectual support. 

Sen's family had to run away from East Bengal because the Muslims there thought God had reasons to want them to deal with the problem of kaffirs by themselves. But it is not Islam he objects to. It is Hinduism. 

As a nonreligious person, I am not in a position to assess the theological merits of this argument. 

A nonreligious person assesses and rejects theological arguments as wholly lacking in merit. Indeed, it is the responsibility of a thinking, reflective, being to assess arguments and arrive at a reasoned position of their own. 

But I can appreciate the force of the claim that people themselves must have responsibility for the development and change of the world in which they live. 

So, blaming Hindus for Muslims chasing your family out of East Bengal is a responsibility which lies heavily on your shoulders. 

One does not have to be either devout or non devout to accept this basic connection. As people who live-in a broad sense-together, we cannot escape the thought that the terrible occurrences that we see around us are quintessentially our problems.

Unless we aint poor and aint having lots and lots of babies who are bound to be poor. 

 They are our responsibility-whether or not they are also anyone else's.

Only in the sense that all women are our wives, whether or not they are also someone else's. Sen, of course, ran away from India with his best friend's wife. I hope his pal complimented Sen on his taking over the responsibility for porking the lady in question. 

As competent human beings, we cannot shirk the task of judging how things are and what needs to be done. 

Very true. More peeps should judge that their pal is not porking his wife sufficiently. They should then run off with the good lady and discharge that heavy responsibility with their dicks. 

As reflective creatures, we have the ability to contemplate the lives of others.

Especially if our pal's wife be smokin'. Then we contemplate the fuck out of her. Hopefully, we too, like Sen, will get to run off with her and discharge the onerous responsibility of giving her a good porking. 

 Our sense of behavior may have caused (though that can be very important as well), but can also relate more generally to the miseries that we see around us and that lie within our power to help remedy.

Your pal's wife is miserable due to sub-standard porking. Get in there, son!

 That responsibility is not, of course, the only consideration that can claim our attention, but to deny the relevance of that general claim would be to miss something central about our social existence. 

which depends on our biological existence- which depends on porking. 

It is not so much a matter of having the exact rules about how precisely we ought to behave, as of recognizing the relevance of our shared humanity in making the choices we face.”
― Amartya Sen,
Very true. There is a precise rule which says 'don't run off with your best friend's wife'. We should ignore it coz our shared humanity involves porking her. 

A good statement of an inherently imprecise concern – and most important concerns in the world are imprecise – must capture that imprecision, and not replace it by a precise statement about something else. You should learn to speak in an articulate way about ideas that are inescapably imprecise (as a man called Aristotle explained more than two millennia ago). 

No. Aristotle warned of 'akreibia'- greater precision than the subject matter warrants. 'Economia' is the way to go. However, some sub-field of the subject can be investigated in a rigorous and precise manner. Akreibia is only a fault in rhetoric if you jump from 'minute particulars' to 'the general good' without qualifying what you are saying. Thus you may say 'there is evidence that freer markets are associated with more rapid Development'. You should not say 'Freedom means Development'. This is because Freedom encompasses much much more than just free markets. What freedom did East Bengal get in 1947. It got the freedom to chase away people of Sen's religion. This did not boost Development very much. However, Bangladesh has risen over Pakistan and West Bengal because it followed sensible policies. It ignored Sen-tentious shite. 

And that is one of the reasons why the humanities are important. A novel can point to a truth without pretending to capture it exactly in some imagined numbers and formulae.”
― Amartya Sen, A Wish a Day for a Week

But a novel can point to a lie with equal facility. What matters is whether it is entertaining. 

“Ashoka supplemented this general moral and political principle by 

Slaughtering vast numbers of people- including Jain monks. He only began to prate about non-violence once everybody was utterly terrified of him. 

a dialectical argument based on enlightened self-interest: ‘For he who does reverence to his own sect while disparaging the sects of others wholly from attachment to his own sect, in reality inflicts, by such conduct, the severest injury on his own sect.”

Sen has harmed his own 'sect' by his foolish attacks on Hindutva.

“The purely rational economic man is, indeed, close to being a social moron.”

― Amartya Sen

Even a social moron doesn't abandon his own wife to run off with the wife of his best friend. On the other hand, Sen gained by doing so. His pal had married someone related to both Gramsci and Sraffa. By contrast, his Indian wife had no such illustrious connections. Sen's current wife is a Rothschild. 

To conclude this discussion, assessment of justice demands

actually studying the judicial system in various countries and at various times. 

 engagement with the 'eyes of mankind', first,

Though this impossible. Men have eyes. Mankind doesn't. To assess a judicial system you need to see it through the eyes of petitioners and practicing lawyers, and offenders and Judges and so forth.

because we may variously identify with the others elsewhere and not just with our local community;

or we may not identify with foreigners at all. The thing is irrelevant. 

second, because our choices and actions may affect the lives of others far as well as near;

this would very seldom be the case. Of course, it is possible that if I shit on the pavement, then the guy who was on the point of discovering the cure for COVID slips and breaks his neck and thus I become responsible for millions of deaths. The moral of this story is that if shit on the pavement you should hang around to have a good laugh at those who slip on your turds. 

and third, because what they see from their respective perspective of history and geography may help us to overcome our own parochialism.”
Or it may make us bigoted racists. The fact of the matter is that to 'assess Justice' you need to know a lot about the Law and how the Legal system functions. It does not help to know that the Eskimos give valuable presents to those who run off with their wives, whereas the Afghans slit their throats. I need hardly say that Sen's best friend was Bengali. The good thing about a proper Islamic Republic is that a guy who runs off with your wife would go to jail or, better still, get bits chopped off his lying, cheating, body. I'm not saying any such thing happened to me. It was this bloke I know. I can't tell you his name because we were in the S.A.S together. Anyway, I'm a cat. Cats are above this sort of thing. 

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Bruno Macaes on Civilizational States

Portugal once had an enormous Empire. There certainly was a Lusitanian civilization which enabled a Goan, a Macauan, to feel a connection with a Brazilian or an Angolan. In recent years Portuguese people are doing very well in the booming Angolan economy and I believe there was some migration to Brazil during the economic crisis. Portugal also belongs to European civilization within which it is a beautiful and distinctive culture. But it is itself civilizational in a non-European context. 

Bruno Maçães, who was Portugal’s secretary of state for European affairs from 2013 to 2015, wrote an article published  in Noema two years ago complaining that 'A world society seemed to be advancing. But then the civilization-state struck back. In particular the Chinese and the Indians were saying that they were civilizational states. They did not accept the Wilsonian model or whatever shite it was that the West was supposed to be peddling. In any case, Portugal only cottoned on to that model in the Seventies. Intellectually speaking, it was more backward than India. It got rid of its monarchy in 1910, but its Liberals were the shittiest in the world. Salazar, a boring economist, kept that rotting corpse together but the Portuguese working class paid a terrible price. Since then, the place has come up very rapidly as you would expect from such a hardworking and enterprising people. 

Macaes says that a few years back Chinese officials started saying to him that China was a civilization, not a nation. I suppose they meant that it was an Imperial civilization which would have tributary states and deal with the trade requests of suitably humble, barbarians in a centralized manner. This makes sense. Xi and Li had made it clear they didn't need the West any longer. 

Macaes goes on to quote a senior BJP spokesman- i.e. somebody who doesn't count at all- to suggest something similar is happening in India. But Indian civilization was not Imperial. India doesn't want to annex Nepal or Sri Lanka. Once Modi is out of power, the BJP will be a 'States' Rights' Party just as Congress, in opposition, became. 

The myth that China is destined to be assimilated to a Western model of political society is over. From now on, the Chinese would be treading their own “Sonderweg” — special path. Progress with Chinese characteristics.

The Communist Party controls China. What Chinese officials were saying was 'we may tolerate a different system in Taiwan but it is ours. Also, don't interfere in our relations with Korea, Vietnam, Burma etc. 


As a civilization-state, China is organized around culture rather than politics.

Its civilization was Imperial and centralized. Politics was part and parcel of literary culture.  

Linked to a civilization, the state has the paramount task of protecting a specific cultural tradition. Its reach encompasses all the regions where that culture is dominant.

Communist China scarcely fits that bill. The fact is Empires want strategically significant, economically or culturally valuable territories or trade routes. This does mean that there is a 'Great Game' over 'Zomias'- shatter zones for Empires- vast wildernesses whose tribes were perhaps constituted by those fleeing earlier Imperial overlords. 

India is a different story. Civilization was decentralized and based on the coexistence of 'Margi' (high road 'Sanskrit' i.e. cultivated) civilization with a Desi (Regional & Prakrit 'natural') culture which was welcome to be as widely different as possible.  


The importance of this concept became more obvious to me in India during a conversation with Ram Madhav, the general secretary of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. After a conference in Delhi, he explained: “From now on, Asia will rule the world, and that changes everything because in Asia, we have civilizations rather than nations.”

In other words, India would continue its policy of non-alignment. It didn't sign up on either side during either the Cold War or the War on Terror which succeeded it. 

The shift now taking place is arguably deeper and more radical. By accusing Western political ideas of being a sham,

They were. It was already obvious that the War on Terror was revanchist. The West had no interest in buildlng Democracy and supporting Human Rights and so forth in Afghanistan or Iraq or anywhere else.

When the 'War on Terror' failed it became obvious that the West had a Huntingtonian model of the world. They wanted to impose their values so that they could get richer and more powerful. Their Islamophobia was naked. Hindu India got the message. It started fighting back against anti-Hindu propaganda. The Chinese went the extra mile. Putin, on the other hand, appears to have fucked up. Still, the West finally gets what everybody has been saying to it for the last 200 hundred years- viz. it is a hypocritical cunt. 

of masking their origin under the veneer of supposedly neutral principles, the defenders of the civilization-state are saying that the search for universal values is over, that all of us must accept that we speak only for ourselves and our societies.

Trump did that. Davos Man tried to pretend Xi could take his place. But that game was well and truly played out.  

The world of the civilization-state is the natural political world. Think of how states are built and how they expand. If a state has developed a successful formula to organize social relations and collective power, it will tend to absorb its neighbors.

No. There can be decentralized coordination. For stochastic and game theoretic reasons this can be superior to centralization.  After all, Europe did defeat Napoleon. 

As it expands and concentrates new forms of wealth, social life will become increasingly complex. Myths will be created, the arts and sciences will prosper. Within its dominion, some possibilities will be opened while others are irredeemably closed. A way of life — a way to see the world and interpret the human condition — will develop. Outside the realm, other states will offer alternatives, but because these alternatives are in turn different ways to think and to live, states are coextensive with civilizations and subordinate to the civilizational form.

This is baloney. States have had and will have different types of social organization within their borders. The urban elite will live one way. The proles in a different way. In the forests and highlands, older ways of life will survive while the fertile areas may see great changes as a result of new technology and infrastructure. 

Civilizations always maintained emporia cities which were multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. There will be a global knowledge elite of a commercial as well as a Jesuitical or diplomatic or military type.  

The modern West broke with this mold.

Portugal didn't. It had a big Empire and a bit of cosmopolitan culture in a couple of cities, but its hinterland was stuck in medieval poverty. Salazar did eliminate rural illiteracy but conditions in the countryside were pretty dire. Hard work and freer markets enabled the Portuguese to rise quickly though the country remains too bureaucratic. What of its future? Will the EU hold together? Will migrants replace the Natives?

From the perspective of what had come before, Western political societies had oddly misplaced scientific ambitions. They wanted their political values to be accepted universally, much like a scientific theory enjoys universal validity.

No. The West accepted that economically backward regions might have to wait many decades before transitioning from monarchy to representative democracy. On the other hand, 'human rights' became a shibboleth.  

In order to achieve this — we shall have occasion to doubt whether it was ever achieved — a monumental effort of abstraction and simplification was needed.

No. Some NGOs and bureaucrats of various sorts talked virtue signalling bollocks about human rights and democracy and the rights of women to fist themselves vigorously in the streets.  

Western civilization was to be a civilization like no other. Properly speaking, it was not to be a civilization at all but something closer to an operating system. It would not embody a rich tapestry of traditions and customs or pursue a religious doctrine or vision. Its principles were meant to be broad and formal, no more than an abstract framework within which different cultural possibilities could be explored. By being rooted in tolerance and democracy, Western values were not to stand for one particular way of life against another. Tolerance and democracy do not tell you how to live — they establish procedures, according to which those big questions may later be decided.

I suppose this may be one way of describing what was happening in Brussels. But to Africans and Asians, Western Civilization was a fortress which spent a lot of money keeping out darker people more particularly if they were of a different Faith.  

The author gasses on in this vein for several more paragraphs. Meanwhile, it appears that Europe is going to become not just 'Civilizational' but racially so. Like China, it will be expansionist at its borders and will seek to retain or impose unequal trade and other relationships. It may be that it is the people of Ukraine who will decide the fate of the 'Civilizational state'. If they win, perhaps the Chinese will leave Taiwan alone. They may rethink their 'Belt and Road' as potentially a means of ingress of Islamic and other immigrants. They may double down on overtaking the West in Science and Technology and, in the process, become identical to those parts of the West where Scientific progress is concentrated.

If the Ukrainians lose, Civilization of any sort will be fucked. 



Sen micturating on Merit.

 Judges have to decide whether a legal argument has merit. If it does not, they should reject it. However, one argument may have more merit than another because it better meets the protocols underlying the juristic process. 

Amartya Sen, obviously, doesn't get this. He wrote a paper titled Merit & Justice to show he understood neither concept. 

He begins portentously enough

Justitia and Justitium

Sen says rules based Justice is the latter and his own consequentialist Justice is the former. But, in Latin, the first word is Justice personified and the second word is an interregnum when no one holds sovereign power, or else a time of National Emergency when the usual laws are suspended. The origin of the word lay in the period when the Court was not in session.

However, the Law still operates when the Judges are on holiday. When they get back to work they will punish infractions. On the other hand, during an 'interregunum' or 'Justitium', the Laws may be suspended. Consider Ukraine. Nobody will be punished for seizing a gun and shooting the invaders or trespassing on private property so as to attack the enemy. The usual laws don't apply. But, once the Ukrainians have prevailed, the country will probably punish wrong-doing more effectively than ever before. 

Sen's fundamental mistake is to think that when people speak of 'Social Justice', they are referring to something which would be implemented by Judges rather than Politicians.  But, Justice is not Policy. Executive policy is what leads to actions which in turn have consequences. Judges may prevent some actions or enjoin others on the basis of the Law- i.e. pre-existing rules. If Judges take over the running of the country then and only then could Judgments be 'consequentialist'. But, here the Judiciary has usurped the Executive function. In all but name, the Judges are dictators. 

I have been asked to write on “Justice in Meritocratic Environments.” The idea of meritocracy may have many virtues, but clarity is not one of them.

Nonsense! Meritocracy means the most meritorious run things.  This depends only on what we mean by merit but, it is obvious that the thing can't be inherited. It is some skill, talent, or trait which one possesses to an exceptional degree.

The lack of clarity may relate to the fact, as I shall presently argue, that the concept of “merit” is deeply contingent on our views of a good society.

No.  Merit does not mean the same thing as good. Good people may lack merit. We could certainly choose people we think are good- granny, Santa Claus, the brain damaged guy who is always cheerful and sweet- to run things. Alternatively, we could get in guys with high I.Q and a track record of probity and excellent decision making. But they may not be as good and sweet as the retarded guy. For example, they may be doing sex. Sex is nasty. Good people don't do it. 

Indeed, the notion of merit is fundamentally derivative, and thus cannot but be qualified and contingent.

No. Merit is observable. Nothing observable is more or less contingent than anything else. What is important is that merit is independent of being good or anything else the cretin, Sen, might mention. He should know this. College's publish a 'merit list'. The kids on the merit list may not be the cutest or the most popular or the best connected. Merit is an' independent variable' and has some objective or observable aspect.

There is some elementary tension between (1) the inclination to see merit in fixed and absolute terms, and (2) the ultimately instrumental character of merit—its dependence on the concept of “the good” in the relevant society.

There is no inclination to see merit in fixed or absolute terms. It is not the case that kids are put on the 'merit list' because of a 'merit measurement' similar to a measurement of height. I.Q may matter, application may matter, other genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors may matter. But then again they may not.

Long term, our notion of what merit is might change and thus we might say the notion is 'instrumental'. But so is everything else. Short term, merit is an independent variable. Depending on prevailing circumstances, we might ignore it or emphasize it. Thus, if I want to do business in a corrupt country, I choose a local partner who is a close relative of the Dictator. I don't choose a meritorious dissident. However, in a highly competitive 'open market', I may need to buddy up with the smartest people. 

A society may pretend to have a concept of the good, but none do in practice. There are different conceptions of the good. Young peeps think it is good to have sex. Old peeps think its good to go to Church. 

This basic contrast is made more intense by the tendency, in practice, to characterize “merit” in inflexible forms reflecting values and priorities of the past, often in sharp conflict with conceptions that would be needed for seeing merit in the context of contemporary objectives and concerns.

This isn't really a big problem. For any given purpose we can screen out useful from useless 'merit'. Anyway, it is only some senile pedagogues who talk of merit and justice.  

Some of the major difficulties with “meritocracy” arise, I would argue, from this internal conflict within the concept of “merit” itself.

No. What is repugnant is the notion that some should rule over others by reason of some quality they possess to a greater degree. Aristocracy is repugnant because being related to the King or the Duke is what matters. Oligarchy is repugnant because the rich are treated as a superior class. Meritocracy is repugnant because we end up being ruled by a bunch of pointy headed scholarship winners. What isn't repugnant is people choosing their own leaders and abiding by their sensible decisions. 

When I received the invitation to write on justice in meritocracies, I was reminded of an amusing letter I had received a couple of years earlier from W. V. O. Quine (addressed jointly to John Rawls and me, dated December 17, 1992):
I got thinking about the word justice, alongside solstice. Clearly, the latter, solstitium, is sol ` a reduced stit from stat-, thus “solar standstill”; so I wondered about justitium: originally a legal standstill? I checked in Meillet, and he bore me out. Odd! It meant a court vacation.

Originally, sure. But, by metonymy it came mean an interregnum when no sovereign power existed. or a National Emergency when the rule of law was suspended. Poor old Quine didn't have access to Google search. Also, being a philosopher, he was as stupid as shit.  

Checking further, I found that justitia is unrelated to justitium.

It is totes related. Justititia means Justice as doled out by Courts of Law. Sometimes Courts close for vacation. But the Law continues to operate. That's it. There is nothing very profound going on here.  

Justitia is just(um) ` -itia, thus “just-ness,”

Nope. It is Justice personified just like the English word 'Justice'. Fuck does Quine or Sen think just-ness mean?  

quite as it should be, whereas justitium is jus ` stitium.

Why does Sen bring up this stupid shit? The answer is that he is just name-dropping.  True, no new decisions are made while the Court is not sitting, but the Law still operates. The notion Sen is groping towards is 'epoche' where everything else is 'bracketed' for a phenomenological purpose. But phenomenology turned out to be a waste of time. 

I shall argue that meritocracy, and more generally the practice of rewarding merit, is essentially underdefined,

It is well enough defined for any pragmatic purpose. We say a Government of noblemen is an aristocracy. An administration formed by people who stood first in their specialization is a meritocracy. The Defense Minister is the most successful General, the Commerce Minister is the most successful Businessman, the Justice Minister is the most brilliant lawyer and so on and so forth. 

We can easily say 'this Cabinet is more aristocratic than the last which was principally composed of people who had risen by their own ability rather than by virtue of birth and breeding. '

Of course, we can stipulate that we won't commit to a notion of merit till somebody give us a b.j. But then anybody can stipulate any old shit. 

and we cannot be sure about its content—and thus about the claims regarding its “justice”—until some further specifications are made (concerning, in particular, the objectives to be pursued, in terms of which merit is to be, ultimately, judged).

There are no further objectives. Either x is more meritorious than y, or not. One may as well say that before we can decide who is taller we must first be told what the objective of that comparison is.  If the tallest guy gets a million dollars, I will decide I'm tallest. If the tallest gets shot, I'm shortest. 

The merit of actions—and (derivatively) that of persons performing actions—cannot be judged independent of the way we understand the nature of a good (or an acceptable) society.

Yes it can. What Sen is saying is that judging how good an action is has exactly the same effect as judging how meritorious it its or how worthy of appreciation or approbation it is. These are just different names for the same thing.  

There is, thus, something of justitium or “standstill” in our understanding of merit,

No there isn't. There could be a justititum if we fall asleep or go to take a shit. Then judgment will be suspended till we wake up or finish shitting and rejoin the bench. Obviously, if the enemy invades we will stop doing this type of judgment and go get our guns and go to the battlefield. Well, we would if we were Ukrainian. Them guys kick ass.  

which involves at least a temporary “stay” (if not quite a “court vacation”). Indeed, examining the nature of this “standstill,” which is ethically and politically illuminating, may be a better way of understanding the place of meritocracy in modern society than seeing it as a part of some categorical justitia that demands our compliance. 

This is crazy shit. We understand merit immediately in the same way that we understand words like 'smart' and 'stupid'. True, if we are paid to grade people on merit, then we may refuse to do so while on vacation. But there is no 'standstill' here. 

Sen is pretending that there is a concurrency or other such stasis or deadlock because before we can decide what is meritorious we first have to decide what is good and before we can decide that we have to decide what is true and before we can decide that we have to decide what is knowledge and before we can decide that we have to decide what is sapience and before we can decide that we have to decide what it means to make a decision and before we can decide that we have to decide what it means to decide what it means to decide and so forth.

This is childish shite. It simply isn't true that we don't have an intuition of merit independent of what we consider good or true or justified. The thing is a 'Tarskian primitive'.  No doubt, there are some subjects where we can't judge merit but somebody with expertise in that field could do so. 

The general idea of merit must be conditional on what we consider good activities (or to see it in more deontological terms, right actions).

No. We may not consider Music to be a good thing. We may consider it irreligious. Yet we can agree that A.R Rahman is a meritorious musician though he will go to Hell because Music is from Satan.

The promotion of goodness, or compliance with rightness, would have much to commend it, and in this basic sense the encouragement of merit would have a clear rationale. But given the contingent nature of what we take to be good or right, there would inevitably be alternative views regarding (1) the precise content of merit,

This is context dependent. Merit in Music is not the same thing as merit in mathematics. This has nothing to do with conceptions of the Good or the Right or the True or the Beautiful.  

and (2) its exact force vis-`a-vis other normative concerns in terms of which the success of a society may be judged.

This is wholly irrelevant. This guy is more meritorious in Mathematics irrespective of anything else that is going on in society. Sen may think that whether I am taller than him or he is more meritorious than me as an economist is a matter which depends on other 'normative concerns' like whether Putin's cat is happy. But Sen is a cretin.  

This problem would be present even without the difficulties raised by rigid and inflexible conceptions of what is to be seen as “merit”

Nonsense! If we define 'merit' in an inflexible manner as being able to run a mile in 2 minutes while proving the Reimann hypothesis, no problem would arise. We would see much merit in a College which recruited kids and got them closer and closer to this ideal. 

(an issue to which I shall turn later on). This is not to deny that any particular comprehensive theory of justice will contain within its specifications the relevant parameters in terms of which the content and force of merit-based rewards can be judged.

No. A theory can't contain stipulations or specifications unless it is context dependent. But, in that case, it isn't comprehensive at all. Thus, if there is a 'gravitational constant' in your theory of Physics, it is incomplete, not comprehensive. 

For example, John Rawls’s (1958; 1971) classic theory of “justice as fairness,” which has been overwhelmingly the most influential proposal in contemporary political philosophy, does provide enough structure and specification to allow us immediately to judge the demands of merits and meritocracy.

But Rawls says that there is a 'plug in' of Econ and Poli Sci and other such knowledge behind the veil of ignorance. That is exactly the same thing as 'stipulation' in a court of law- i.e. things to be taken as facts for the purpose of the trial. A comprehensive theory of Justice would itself generate its own Economic theory and Political theory and Sociological theory and theory of History and so forth. A Karmic theory of justice- featuring ingress of karma binding particles- is an example.  

Yet the Rawlsian substantive theory of justice involves a particular compromise between conflicting concerns: formalized in his “two principles of justice,” including the priority of liberty and the significance of efficiency and equity in the achievement and distribution of individual advantages.

No. Rawls predicts that, under certain conditions, a particular reflective equilibrium will be reached. But an equilibrium is not a compromise because there is no 'transferable utility'. What Sen means is that the two principles contradict each other. Rawls lexically preferences one over the other. That's not compromise. That's one being placed higher than the other by arbitrary stipulation. 

Many who have been much influenced by Rawls (including this author) are more at peace with the importance of these general concerns than they are with the specific compromise arrived at in Rawlsian theory. There are, in particular, (1) different ways of recognizing the prior importance of liberty,

& different ways of recognizing that recognizing could mean shitting yourself incessantly 

(2) distinct “spaces” in which efficiency and equity can be judged, and

distinct 'graces', 'maces', and 'laces' in regard to which efficiency and equity can be judged by shitting yourself incessantly.  

(3) dissimilar ways of balancing the two types of concerns.

and dissimilar gays of valancing the two types of concerns by shitting yourself incessantly.  

2 It is indeed hard to expect a reasoned unanimity on the exact lines of any particular compromise between these concerns, given the depth of these demands.

Or to expect to be hard when shitting yourself incessantly.  

Further, it is not obvious that even in an imagined “original position” (with primordial equality) a consensus of reasoning would emerge to settle this issue adequately.

Why not? The consensus would be that Professors have shit for brains. Tell them  to fuck off if they start gassing on about a Theory or Idea of Justice or Equality or anything else. Behind the veil of ignorance, people can still see that Knightian uncertainty exists. In other words, we don't know all possible future states of the world or what probability distribution is associated with them. Thus, 'regret minimization' not 'maximin' is the right decision rule. This involves telling Professors to fuck off now rather than later on. In practice, this is what happens anyway. Otherwise pedagogues would be running things.  

The absence of a general agreement on a precise resolution (or on an exact formula) that balances the forces of the discordant concerns against each other does not, however, make it useless to analyze the role of meritocracy or to examine the nature of its conflict with the demands of other aspects of justice.

If so, why mention the matter? It is obvious that we can recognize merit or beauty but we don't have a formula for measuring either.  

Since I have argued in favor of “incomplete” theories of justice elsewhere (particularly in Sen 1970 and 1992),

An incomplete theory is not a theory. It may be a description. Equally, it may just be hot air.  

I am less uneasy with a “standstill” than a more determined or a more resourceful theorist of justice (or of welfare economics) would be.

There is no 'standstill' during a Court vacation. The laws continue to apply. Sen may be thinking of 'epoche' but that is purely philosophical or phenomenological.  

Merits, Actions, and Incentives The term meritocracy seems to have been invented by Michael Young in his influential book The Rise of Meritocracy, 1870–2033 (Young 1958).

The concept was much older.  'Careers open to talent' would have been the older formulation. 

Young himself was deeply critical of the development he identified, and meritocracy as a formalized arrangement has not, in general, received good press.

Merit may be wrongly conceived so that only upper class men are seen to possess it.  

The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (1988, p. 521) presents the following uncharming definition: A word coined by Michael Young (The Rise of Meritocracy, 1958) for government by those regarded as possessing merit; merit is equated with intelligence-plus effort, its possessors are identified at an early age and selected for an appropriate intensive education, and there is an obsession with quantification, test-scoring, and qualifications.

We believed that a guy with 'skin in the game' will show more diligence than some 'meritorious' fellow who didn't create any asset and thus should not get to decide how to dispose of it.  

Egalitarians often apply the word to any elitist system of education or government, without necessarily attributing to it the particularly grisly features or ultimately self-destroying character of Young’s apocalyptic vision. 2 I have discussed possible variations from the Rawlsian system in Sen (1970, 1980, and 1992). Other proposals can be seen in Arneson (1989), Cohen (1989), Dworkin (1981), Roemer (1985 and 1994), Van Parijs (1995), and Walzer (1983), among other contributions. 3 The lack of complete decidability in the Rawlsian “original position” was one of the two main theses presented in a paper that I jointly authored with Gary Runciman, “Games, Justice and the General Will” (Runciman and Sen 1965).

But showing that decidability is not algorithmic is not the same thing as showing that decidability is lacking. The thing could be non-deterministic. What matters is whether Juristic decisions are 'buck stopped'- i.e. there is a forum beyond which there is no further appeal. Defeasibility is not a scandal, rather it is a characteristic of the Law. 

The other thesis of that essay concerned the usefulness of game theory in clarifying Rousseau’s concepts of “social contract” and “general will,” and Rawls’s ideas of the “original position” and “justice as fairness.” 

This is foolish. Game theory treats the pay-off matrix as fixed. Incomplete contracts don't have fixed pay-off matrices because they accept Knightian uncertainty- i.e. some future states of the world are not known. This means that there will be renegotiation during the life of the contract. Some stipulation may be made as to how this renegotiation can occur and the Law- which is a service industry au fond- may seek to make itself useful in that regard. 

I tend to share some of the suspicion of meritocratic systems to which such descriptions relate (more on this later), but when characterized in these frightening terms, it hardly seems possible that any reasonable society today would encourage or tolerate “the rise of meritocracy,” and yet that is exactly what Michael Young claims has occurred.

It is obvious that soldiers will want the smartest soldier to lead them- otherwise they will suffer excess mortality. In peace time, it may not matter if the C-in-C is a titled nitwit. In war, merit must rise to the top. The same can be said of other 'Public' or 'Club' goods. If allocation is done by nitwits, we all suffer.  

Meritocracy may rightly deserve condemnation, but to define it in such thoroughly revolting terms makes it hard to understand how it can appeal to anyone and why it may have an expanding role in modern society.

We don't want fools with Harvard degrees deciding things. As Prime Minister Modi says 'hard work is better than a Harvard education'. A bad definition of 'merit' will lead to a bad consequences. 

We have to do more groundwork first to understand what it is that gives meritocracy its appeal within its own rationale, and only after that can we examine whether that appeal can survive scrutiny. In fact, meritocracy is just an extension of a general system of rewarding merit, and elements of such a system clearly have been present in one form or another throughout human history. There are, it can be argued, at least two different ways of seeing merit and systems of rewarding it.

Sen's specialty is seeing differences where non exists.  

. Incentives: Actions may be rewarded for the good they do, and a system of remunerating the activities that generate good consequences would, it is presumed, tend to produce a better society.

Incentives may include 'not getting shot' or 'not being held up to public ridicule and contumely' 

The rationale of incentive structures may be more complex than this simple statement suggests, but the idea of merits in this instrumental perspective relates to the motivation of producing better results. In this view, actions are meritorious in a derivative and contingent way, depending on the good they do, and more particularly the good that can be brought about by rewarding them. 

Incentives and penalties apply to inappropriate actions- e.g getting naked at the Office party and peeing in the punch bowl.  There is generally some effective sanction for such behavior.

Action propriety: Actions may be judged by their propriety—not by their results—

but only because 'propriety' is concerned with promoting good results. Nobody cares if you get naked at home and drink your own piss. There is no difference between 'incentives' and 'propriety'. Rather, incentives are attached to proper actions and penalties are attached to improper ones. Why? Because proper actions promote good results. Improper actions promote bad results. It does not matter whether or not some other action or eventuality prevents the bad result or promotes the good result though this may lessen the severity of the punishment. Why? Because punishment is costly. 

and they may be rewarded according to the quality of such actions, judged in a result-independent way. Much use has been made of this approach to merit, and parts of deontological ethics separate out right conduct—for praise and emulation—independent of the goodness of the consequences generated. In one form or another both these approaches have been invoked in past discussions of merit, but it is fair to say that the incentives approach is the dominant one now in economics, at least in theory (even though the language used in practice often betrays interest in the other categories—more on which presently). Although the praiseworthiness of “proper” actions is not denied in economic reasoning, the economic justification of rewarding merit tends to be grounded in consequences.

Because life is grounded in consequences. If we do stupid shit, we may die. We will certainly lose  something valuable- e.g. the cool stuff we'd have had if we'd done the sensible thing.  

Adam Smith (1776 and 1790) made this distinction forcefully and proceeded to provide one of the first systematic analyses of the use of incentive systems as they operate naturally in societies and how they can be further sharpened.

Smith was writing about sentiments- feelings. This has nothing to do with economics. We may feel an action is improper but then, learning the facts of the case, we may revise our opinion. Economics is about rational choice under scarcity. It isn't about actions motivated by irrational sentiments.  

The distinction between the propriety and merit of an action is described by Smith in the following way: 
There is another set of qualities ascribed to the actions and conduct of mankind, distinct from their propriety and impropriety, their decency or ungracefulness, and which are the objects of a distinct species of approbation. These are Merit and Demerit, the qualities of deserving reward, and of deserving punishment.... [u]pon the beneficial or hurtful effects which the affection proposes and tends to produce, depends the merit or demerit, the good or ill desert of the action to which it gives occasion.

This is why, in Econ, we have a notion of 'merit goods' and 'demerit goods'. If you provide the former, your activity is virtuous. If you provide the latter, it is repugnant. 'Repugnancy markets' may be outlawed.  

I shall concentrate in this chapter on the view of merit in terms of results and incentives. It is, in fact, virtually the only grounded and defended theory that can be found in the contemporary economic literature (shared by welfare economics, social choice theory, game theory, and implementation theory).

Because 'merit' and 'demerit' goods have been analyzed in terms of externalities and empirical work has been done on this. However, sometimes we discover that 'merit' goods are mischievous. Thus Gandhian 'khaddar' was not a merit good. It kept weavers poor and added negative value to raw cotton. Similarly, the fact that some women go out to work was not repugnant. It was good in itself. Gandhi, crackpot that he was, thought that if a woman walks down the street, she must be a street-walker. But then he also described Parliament as a Brothel because every so often its members give themselves to a new Prime Minister who, no doubt, sodomizes them with his 'Black Rod'.  

Indeed, the practice of rewarding good (or right) deeds for their incentive effects cannot but be an integral part of any well-functioning society.

Or a badly-functioning society. Gandhi was rewarded. He should have been ignored.  

No matter what we think of the demands of “meritocracy” as it is usually defined, we can scarcely dispense with incentive systems altogether.

But we needn't bother designing them. Let the market do so.  

The art of developing an incentive system lies in delineating the content of merit in such a way that it helps to generate valued consequences

Sadly, the thing seldom works. India gave incentives to mathematical economists. They turned out to be utterly useless or mischievous. Sen, thankfully, ran away to England taking with him his best-friend's wife.  

. Merit Rewarding as a System The derivative character of merit

It has no such character. Merit self subsists. Whether it is employed usefully is a separate question.  

leads us to the central question as to what the “valued consequences” are and how the success and failure of a society are to be judged. Once an instrumental view of merit is accepted, there is no escape from the contingent nature of its content, related to the characterization of a good—or an acceptable—society and the criteria in terms of which assessments are to be made.

Nobody has an instrumental view of merit. We recognize that Ramanujan had great merit as a mathematician. We also recognize that if he had been left to rot in some clerical position, or as a charity case, in India, he would not have been able to contribute much to Mathematics. By contrast, there were plenty of England returned 'Senior Wranglers' who made zero contribution. Kosambi worked under one such in Pune.  

If, for example, the conceptualization of a good society includes the absence of serious economic inequalities, then in the characterization of instrumental goodness, including the assessment of what counts as merit, note would have to be taken of the propensity of putative merit to lessen—or generate—economic inequality.

Very true. India would have had less economic inequality if mathematicians were employed as cow dung collectors and cow dung collector were employed as Professors of Mathematics. But this is not a conceptualization of a good society. Why not simply say that no woman should get preggers till a man has got preggers?  

In this case, the rewarding of merit cannot be done independent of its distributive consequences.

No rewarding of anything can be done if you don't got no cash.  

In India shortly after independence, a system of preference for lower-caste candidates in the civil service was introduced in the newly formulated constitution of the Republic of India, reserving a certain proportion of places for them minimally, although recruitment in general was governed by examination. The argument defending this preference system was partly based on some notion of fairness to the candidates (given the educational and social handicap typically experienced by lower-caste candidates), but, more important, it was argued that the reduction of inequality in the society at large depended on breaking the effective monopoly of upper-caste civil servants.

This is foolish. India had 'untouchability'. Clearly one way to break that type of bigotry was showing that Dalit Ambassadors and Governors and Ministers and Judges and Generals are just as good as those of other castes. Indeed, speaking generally, SC & ST candidates are better, not worse, than High Caste nitwits. 

The other point has to do with the smart and thorough manner in which the Scheduled Castes organized themselves and put forward their demands.  

The upper-caste bias in the distribution of justice and in the allocation of governmental help could be changed only by having civil servants from less privileged backgrounds.11 This latter argument is an “efficiency reason”— efficiency in pursuit of a distribution-inclusive social goal.

Not in the Indian case. It was obvious that the number of Government jobs was very small relative to the population. Thus the purpose was not 'efficiency' but 'demonstration'. When people saw that Dalit Ministers were better at Governance, they changed their views regarding what Dalits were capable of. Gandhi said 'Harijans have less sense than cows'. But, by the Nineteen Seventies, people wanted Jagjivan Ram to become PM. Why? He had done well no matter which portfolio he held. The guy was smart. Desai, by comparison, was a cretin loathed by his colleagues. Sadly, Charan Singh prevented Ram from becoming PM. This was shortsighted. Charan and his very smart son could have built themselves up in UP while Ram did sensible things at the Center to pull up the economy. Later Ajit Singh could have led India into free-market reform. He was a very brilliant man- who had done very well in America.  

Even though the typical “objective functions” that are implicitly invoked in most countries to define and assess what is to count as merit tend to be indifferent to (or negligent of) distributive aspects of outcomes, there is no necessity to accept that ad hoc characterization.

Voters from the early Seventies onward showed they didn't care about distribution. They were only concerned with the absolute level of material welfare. They wanted the smartest scientists to do science and the most beautiful actresses to star in movies. They were pleased if a guy who used to drive a taxi ended up living in a mansion because his handsome face and histrionic gifts made him the 'King of Bollywood'.  

This is not a matter of a “natural order” of “merit” that is independent of our value system.

Yet, that 'natural order' does indeed prevail. That's one reason why I have not been crowned Miss Teen Tamil Nadu.  

The dependent nature of merit and its reward has to be more fully understood to see the nature and reach of merit-based systems.

We must understand that cats are actually dogs. If we don't understand this we won't be able to properly run a dog show properly. Clearly, the most beautiful doggie says miaow.  

This dependence is the main reason behind the “standstill” that has to be overcome.

There is no standstill. There may be a Husserlian 'epoche' but phenomenology turned out to be stupid shite.  

There are also, however, other tensions that arise within the general approach of merit-based rewards. There is, in particular, a tension of moral psychology within the incentive-based rationale of rewarding merits, arising from its instrumental nature. Actions are rewarded for what they help to bring about, but the rewarding is not valued in itself.

Why isn't there a prize for being the bestest Judge at a Beauty contest? Why not a prize for the bestest prize? How come I don't get fame and fortune for deciding that Beyonce is prettier than Amartya Sen?  

Insofar as the rewards handed out could have been used for some purpose that is valued in itself, it would obviously have made sense—given other things—to use them for that purpose.

One drawback of being a teacher is having to mark test papers. I suppose, sooner of later, there will be an 'app' to do that for them. Then, more people would be willing to be teachers. As things are, good teachers are quitting in droves because they have to spend more and more time on admin rather than teaching.  

But equally obviously this very thought denies the productive role of the incentives, and thus the “side use” is not entertainable in practice.

It may be, as technology advances.  We can imagine receiving a reward for giving Amazon reviews or something of that sort. 

The psychological tension that it creates arises from the necessity of accepting some assignments that are not themselves valued (and may, in fact, be revoltingly unequal and unattractive), which are contingently justified by the actions of the recipients and the effects that these actions have on the rest of the society (for example, on aggregate outputs and incomes).

Again, this is a matter where the underlying disutility or waste of resources can be corrected by using new technology and having better 'mechanism design'.  

At one time, the 'gate-keepers' of publishing represented a waste of resources. Now, thanks to Amazon self-publishing, fans of a particular genre can fulfill that gate-keeping function for free. 

There is some tension also in the feature that the extent of inequality that an incentive-based system has to tolerate would depend crucially on what motivates people to act in one way rather than another.

But all democracies had ceased to tolerate nutters who gassed on about equality. The thing was stupid shit. What the working class wanted was more nice shiny things. They were delighted if their favorite soccer player or film star lived more opulently than any Duke.  

Various proposals for the development of cooperative values have been considered in this context.

By cretins. Nobody else gave a toss about this issue. 

The instrumental nature of incentive systems makes the justification for payments turn pervasively on the actual effects of different payments on behavior and choices.

Very true. We stop paying for stuff we don't receive.  

To consider a rather unattractive example of an incentive argument, in deciding how much to pay a blackmailer,

That's an illegal transaction.  

the payment that would be justified would depend on what would induce him or her to give up those compromising documents. It would be in the blackmailer’s interest to pretend that nothing short of a very vast sum would be acceptable, and it would be for the payer to judge whether he or she is bluffing.

This is foolish. The blackmailer has to know the victim's ability to pay. Pretending he wants a billion dollars from a beggar will cause that beggar to go to the police or just get together with some thngs to beat and torture and kill the blackmailer.  

In the normal working of an economy, of course, we do not encounter cases on this level of directness, and also competition—when present— limits what an individual operator can demand and expect to get. But there is often an element of unclarity in deciding on the incentive effects of changes in reward systems, for example in deciding on the likely effects of reducing remarkably high payments to top executives that have now become standard and are typically defended on incentive grounds.

Such unclarity is ubiquitous because of Knightian Uncertainty. But good economists can greatly reduce the unclarity by applying the proper Structural Causal Model.  The plain fact of the matter is that you can always pay a professor a little money to defend anything under the sun. Having money to buy what you want is important. Arguments defending this or attacking that are a dime a dozen. 

There are also interesting incentive questions to be sorted out in predicting the likely results of raising the regulational minimum wage for employees (potentially influencing the profitability and employment decisions of firms). Debates on these subjects have tended to be quite intense in recent years.

Again these are empirical matters for 'positive economics' not Sen-tentious shite.  

Some radical critiques of a functioning capitalist economy, with its manifest inequalities, relate to this tension; it provides grounds for powerful egalitarian rhetoric and condemnation of inequality even when the economic reasoning remains incomplete.

Some nutters get paid for writing that shite. It is a market phenomenon. 

Arguments of this kind have to be distinguished from other radical critiques that see the real incentive effects as quite different from what is claimed on their behalf by the beneficiaries—or “apologists”—of the system. 

Very true. QAnon has a radical critique which focuses on the role played by the Post Office in promoting pedophilia.  

When Marx (1875), following a line of socialist thinking, considered the case for “from each according to his ability to each according to his need,” he noted the unfeasibility of this option, because of incentive problems, even when socialism would be established. He settled, thus, for an incentive system of payment according to the value of work “at the early stages of socialism,” but also expressed his hope for an evolution of human motivation in the long run such that need-based distribution could become practicable without being, then, derailed by incentive problems. 

Marx also thought it would be impossible to prevent child labor. He agreed with Smith on this. Gandhi, by contrast, believed that everybody should go around slaughtering puppy dogs.  

For an important critical scrutiny of the issues related to high payments to executives and professionals in contemporary America, see Bok (1993). 15 For example, the unorthodox findings of Card and Krueger (1995) on the predicted consequences of minimum wage variations have been subjected to remarkably intense attacks in some business publications. This is not surprising since incentive arguments of different kinds provide the intellectual backing for many prevailing practices as well as proposals for change.

But 'intellectual backing' is worthless or, at any rate, can be got quite cheaply. What we have seen is vested interest groups achieving great success in rewriting tax and other codes so as to benefit themselves. This has been well studied by empirical political scientists. Normative economics has achieved nothing in this context.  

These arguments draw a good deal of their immediate significance from the tension under discussion.

What tension? It is a fact that the guys who run Fast Food and big Retail and so forth, have massive political clout because of their ability to influence elections through PACs. Biden may hope to restore the 'countervailing' power of Unions. However, citizen action at the local level can create more diverse 'Tiebout models'.  

Since rewards to merit in the form of incentive requirements are not valued in themselves, there is a tenacious rationale for discussing the possibility of reducing their demands in favor of social objectives that may be valued in themselves (including reduction of economic inequality, insofar as it is generally favored in the society in question), so long as this can be done without greater harm through the actual— as opposed to imagined—effects on incentives.

The Chinese may be able to introduce a 'Social Credit system', but it is difficult to see how a Liberal Democracy could do so. Moreover, as the recent reversal of Roe v Wade shows, there are deep divisions regarding what is a merit good or a demerit good. Progressives are faced with the unenviable task of clamoring for the right to kill innocent fetuses.  

The lack of intrinsic status of merit-rewards in an incentive system makes that complex instrumental connection central to economic debates on policies and strategies.

I am not aware of any such 'economic debates' in any democracy over the last three decades which have impacted 'policies and strategies'. On the other hand, ' promoting family values' or 'protecting the middle class' has helped successful politicians.  

Meritocracy and Additional Features So far I have been discussing the nature and implications of rewarding merit, particularly given the dependence of merit on social criteria of success.

We are not concerned with 'rewarding merit'. We are concerned with 'careers open to talent' so that merit can rise by itself. During COVID some elite institutions had a poor track-record of prediction while some people, lacking elite credentials, were publishing better predictions on Twitter. Their merit was rewarded because policy makers paid attention to them. I imagine that some were able to get into lucrative career paths as a result of their success.  

The approach of what may be called meritocracy, however, tends to take a less “parametric” view of the determinants of merit

Sen does not understand that 'merit' is a Tarskian primitive. We can distinguish merit or beauty without being able to specify a formula or a Structural Causal Model for it. We don't know the 'determinants' of Merit though we do know how an average person may become more meritorious in some particular field, through proper training and work experience.  

and frequently sees it as given characteristics that deserve rewards. The definition of meritocracy, quoted earlier from The Fontana Dictionary of Modern Thought (1988), somewhat exaggerated the “extremism” of the chosen views of merit and its reward, but it drew attention to the fact that the idea of “meritocracy” must be seen as something quite a bit more demanding than the rewarding of merit according to some agreed criteria of social success.

The problem here is that there is a 'spontaneous order' by which merit and beauty and talent are rewarded. There is no need for 'agreed criteria' though no doubt there are Magsaysay or Noble or other prizes which, however, sometimes reward cretins.  

There would seem to be at least three substantial departures from the kind of general system of rewarding meritorious actions that I have been considering in the preceding discussion. 1. Personification and genetics:

If people are free to mate with whom they like, there isn't much you can do about this.  

In the incentive approach to merit, it is characteristic of actions, not of people as such.

But people perform actions. It is a characteristic of people.  

But conventional notions of “meritocracy” often attach the label of merit to people rather than actions.

Because certain people are predicted to perform meritorious actions. Thus if you hire Beyonce to star in a musical show, you are likely to get a performance with considerable merit. If you hire me, the audience will run away.  

A person with standardly recognized “talents” (even something as nebulous as “intelligence”) can, then, be seen as a meritorious person even if he or she were not to use the “talents” to perform acts with good consequences or laudable propriety.

No. If we say that person is 'talented but always drunk off his head' we understand that no good acts will be performed.  

This “personal quality” of merits sometimes gets invoked even in a largely incentive-oriented system of economic reasoning, with which the “personal quality” view is basically in conflict.

This is termed 'pre-market skills'. It is something we have to screen out before getting to evidence of statistical discrimination.  

Some people are seen as being just more meritorious than others, and may indeed have been born more talented. In some versions of personification, the inborn talents are seen not only as being variable between one person and another (for which there may be considerable evidence), but also as distributed according to some other readily distinguishable characteristic, such as skin color or the size of the nose (for which the evidence seems very problematic, to say the least).

There is statistical evidence but no valid 'Structural Causal Model'. It isn't the case that I'd get smarter if I used ointment to make myself fairer.  

When used in this form, personification can encourage meritocratic acceptance of—rather than resistance to—inequalities of achievement (often along racial and ethnic groupings), which are present in many contemporary societies.

It is obvious that if you have the wrong conception of merit then you will reward stupid shit. But the same is true if you have the wrong conception of beauty. That's the only reason I'm not now Miss Teen Tamil Nadu.  

2. Deserts and entitlement:

Have nothing to do with merit. They pre-exist. This soldier should continue to get his pension and to receive honors though he is now too old to fight or perform acts of valor. However, a coward and poltroon may have an equal entitlement to a pension because he was cleared of all charges by a Military Tribunal.  

An incentive argument is entirely “instrumental” and does not lead to any notion of intrinsic “desert.”

No. It may have a notion of intrinsic 'desert' and state that a particular mechanism would be a better instrument to secure 'just deserts'. Thus, Zelenskyy, once he has won his war, may say 'some of our people showed exceptional valor and self-sacrifice. I will appoint a commission to gather information about this. We will use some of the 'reparations' we are owed to reward those people, or their families'.' In this case it is obvious that 'desert' is intrinsic. An instrument has been created to find and reward it.  

If paying a person more induces him or her to produce more desirable results, then an incentive argument may exist for that person’s pay being greater

Only in the sense that an incentive argument exists for kidnapping the guy's dog and threatening to kill it if he doesn't work harder.  

. This is an instrumental and contingent justification (related to results)—it does not assert that the person intrinsically “deserves” to get more.

It may do. It may not.  

To return to an illustration used earlier, an incentive argument may well exist even for paying a blackmailer some money to induce him or her to hand over some compromising material, but that incentive argument is not the same as accepting that the blackmailer “deserves” to get that money because of the blackmailer’s intrinsic virtue.

This is foolish. The incentive argument works the other way. If you pay once, next time the guy will demand more. Blackmail is a crime. The incentive not to be a blackmailer is not being sodomized in a prison cell.  

In a meritocratic system, however, this distinction gets blurred, and the established and fixed nature of the system of rewards may generate the implicit—sometimes even explicit—belief that the rewards are “owed” by the society to the meritorious persons.

This is nonsense. By all current Ukrainian laws, Ukrainian Society is not obliged to pay a lot of money, and grant all sorts of honors, to those of its citizens who are showing great valor in its defense. Yet Zelinskyy and his people have a very strong sense of what is owed to those heroes. Indeed, so do we. I bet plenty of people across the globe will contribute to a fund set up to reward those patriots.  

As Michael Walzer (1983, p. 136) points out, Desert implies a very strict sort of entitlement,

This is not the case. Desert may exist without any corresponding obligation holder under a bond of law.  People cheated by Madoff may deserve compensation. They won't get it because nobody is legally obliged to provide it. 

such that the title precedes and determines the selection, while qualification is a much looser idea.

Unless it isn't. Walzer was stooooopid. He thought things had a 'social meaning'. They do in the sense that everybody in a given Society can give umpteen social meanings to any and every thing. His idea were as loose as shit. The fact is 'qualification' can be tightly defined- indeed, it is, in many protocol bound contexts.  

A prize, for example, can be deserved because it already belongs to the person who has given the best performance; it only remains to identify that person.

But it doesn't really 'already belong' to them- does it? Why pretend otherwise? Why not say 'you deserve to be repaid the loan you very kindly gave me. Therefore, I have already repaid it to you. Also I fucked your Mummy. She told me she hates you because you smell bad.'? 

Prize committees are like juries in that they look backward and aim at an objective decision. When this idea of desert is combined with rewarding “talents” as such— indeed, even the possession of talents (rather than the production of desirable results with them)—the connection with the incentive rationale of meritocracies is fairly comprehensively severed.

No. Identifying talent has to do with predicting the future. Identifying desert has to do with understanding the past. As our 'Structural Causal Model' of the Past improves we may change our mind about who was or wasn't deserving. Consider the Austro-Hungarian Commander in Chief, Conrad von Hotzedorf. Initially, he was highly thought off by military historians. Now we know much more about what actually happened in the past, we consider him the architect of his Empire's destruction. There are many other such examples. At one time, Indians thought Sen deserved the Noble prize. Now we think the fellow is a cretin.  

3. Distribution independence: A system of rewarding of merits may well generate inequalities of well-being and of other advantages. But, as was argued earlier, much would depend on the nature of the consequences that are sought, on the basis of which merits are to be characterized. If the results desired have a strong distributive component,

Then merit is irrelevant. In the nature of things, merit is possessed by very few. Rewarding it won't effect Income distribution though it may raise GNP over time.  

Nevertheless, there would then be something within that consequential system of evaluation that would work, to a varying extent, against generating more inequality.

No. If some actions are judged meritorious there will be a Tardean mimetic effect. This will raise inequality because ability to mimic is unequal.  

In most versions of modern meritocracy, however, the selected objectives tend to be almost exclusively oriented toward aggregate achievements (without any preference against inequality), and sometimes the objectives chosen are even biased (often implicitly) toward the interests of more fortunate groups (favoring the outcomes that are more preferred by “talented” and “successful” sections of the population).

Nothing wrong with that. We want Society to become better, not worse. Everybody competing to become an incontinent beggar passed out in a pool of his own vomit is not a good outcome.  

This can reinforce and augment the tendency toward inequality that might be present even with an objective function that, inter alia, attaches some weight to lower inequality levels.

Provided that inequality is of a 'horizontal' type- i.e. compares like with like. Babies and the very old ought not to be compared to people in the prime of life.  

None of these three additional features of meritocracy is necessary for a general system of rewarding merits on incentive grounds.

Indeed, nothing is necessary for it to happen. The thing arises spontaneously. There will be good football players and good musicians and good scientists even if no salary attaches to these activities. However, a 'spontaneous order' will emerge such that some football players and musicians and scientists give up their day job and specialize in what they are best at. But this will happen even if no great merit (or absolute advantage) is involved. Comparative advantage (i.e. having a lower opportunity cost) will achieve the same thing. 

What are often taken to be “meritocratic” demands have moved, in many ways, so far away from their incentive-based justification that they can scarcely be defended on the classic incentive grounds.

But 'demands' made by shitheads are now wholly ignored. These guys can make a bit of money by 'virtue signalling' and publishing shite books, but this doesn't really affect anything though, no doubt, 'virulent wokeness' can damage the Left or 'bleeding heart' Liberals.  

These ad hoc additions call for close scrutiny, especially given the hold they have on popular discussions—and sometimes even professional deliberations—on this subject.

No. The public decided this stuff was just virtue signalling shite indulged in by useless tossers teaching shite subjects.  

Concluding Remarks Although I shall not try to summarize this chapter, I shall comment on a few of the issues that have emerged in the preceding analysis.

Nothing has emerged. Merit is like Beauty- we can recognize it but can't explain it fully. Very few have Merit or Beauty and thus there are no 'distributional' consequences at the Macro level. On the other hand, comparative advantage matters. Are high paid executives receiving 'economic rent' (i.e. is their remuneration much higher than their 'transfer earnings' or 'opportunity cost')?If so we can tax away the rent without creating allocative inefficiency or a 'dead weight' loss. On the other hand, high remuneration may be an 'efficiency wage'- i.e. an incentive to push back against certain pressures. In that case, there would be a deadweight loss. The CEO plays possum while the Private Equity guys make out like gangbusters.  

First, the rewarding of merit and the very concept of merit itself depend on the way we see a good society and the criteria we invoke to assess the successes and failures of societies.

This is not the case. People who disagree about everything can still agree that such and such person has merit or has beauty. Later, they may discover their error. Sen was once thought meritorious.  

The “incentive view” of merit competes with the view of merit based on “action propriety,”

Nonsense! We reward only proper actions regardless of merit. An improper action by otherwise meritorious person must be punished otherwise a bad precedent is created.  

but it is the incentive approach that tends, with good reason, to receive attention in contemporary justificatory discussions.

Because 'action propriety' is like 'not pissing in the punch bowl'. It isn't something you have to stipulate. Everybody understands that actions must be fit and proper. Also, don't piss in the punch bowl. Reserve your urine for golden showers for Putin and Lavrov.  

Second, the incentive view of merit is underdefined, since it is dependent on the preferred view of a good society.

This is not the case. Rewarding merit s dependent only on one thing- viz encouraging a particular type of Tardean mimetics. The 'merit scholar' is the one the other kids should be emulating. At the very least, they should know that hard work and intelligence used to some worthwhile purpose should be respected not denigrated.  

The theory of merit, thus, needs to draw on other normative theories.

No. It can be wholly positive and defined on the fitness landscape.  

The rewarding of merit is, to adapt a Kantian distinction, a “hypothetical imperative” that is dependent on the way we judge the success of a society; it does not involve a “categorical imperative” on what should in any case be done.

This is not the case. 'Recognize and reward Merit' is categorical. Thus the final act of a Leader whose country is being over-run, might be to issue decorations to courageous soldiers and other meritorious people. That country may cease to exist but with its last act it rewarded its great heroes. 

It is a different matter that a 'hypothetical imperative' may also exist. Thus 'tell the truth' is both deontological as well as pragmatic or consequentialist. Indeed, Kant provides both sorts of argument for this.  

Third, the contingent nature of merit also indicates that its relationship with economic inequality would depend very much on whether an aversion to economic inequality is included in the objective function of the society.

This is false. Merit, by definition, belongs to too few people for its being rewarded to have any distributional effect. It really does not matter if one or two sports, or entertainment, stars live like billionaires. This does not improve income distribution for the great mass of their fans. The thing is like winning the lottery.  

If it is included, then merit for reward would have to be judged in an inequality-sensitive way.

Only if it was 'material' in the Accountancy sense- i.e. it affected the macro picture.  

Despite the inclusion of inequality aversion among the criteria for judging a society, however, merit-based rewards may, in fact, generate considerable inequality, since there are other criteria as well (or other aspects of the combined objective function).

Not if by 'merit' we mean something exceptional. Then the thing is not 'material'. It doesn't matter in the slightest. Some people may win the lottery. Some others may show exceptional merit and may be given a prize, but this alters nothing in the macro picture.  

The presence of inequality and other drawbacks can lead to some psychological tension, especially since the rewarding of merit is not directly valued under the incentive approach.

More prizes should be given for giving prizes. The Iyer Prize was recently jointly awarded to the Noble Prize and the Iyer Iyer Prize for being the most meritorious Prize ever. Why will nobody else award the Iyer Prize or the Iyer Prize Prize a nice Prize attached to a bag full of money and a chance to dine with Queen Bey?  

Fourth, even though the incentive-based argument for rewarding merit tends to be, in principle, accepted as the main justification for such a reward system,

This is not the case. When there is a Talent Competition or a Beauty competition or a Spelling Bee or something of that sort, the aim is to stimulate a Tardean mimetic effect. But mimetic effects operate independently of incentives. Thus kids may dress like their favorite pop star not because they gain anything material by it but simply coz they think the thing is cool. 

There was a brief moment, when I was in Collidge, when I tried to pass for a 'nerd'. Then my exam results came out. I then decided to pass for a thug. This was actually much more satisfying. 

some of the particular interpretations that go with the championing of merit-rewards are unnecessary and, in some cases, inconsistent with the incentive approach. The common additional features include: (1) confounding merit of actions with that of persons (and possibly of groups of people),

Very true. Actions are performed by fairies. People don't perform actions. We should reward fairies not valorous soldiers or great scientists who figure out a way to defeat COVID.  

(2) overlooking the instrumental nature of the incentive argument and seeing the rewards of merit as intrinsic entitlements or deserts, and

We don't see merit as 'intrinsic entitlement'. Why? We know plenty of people who are really really pretty or really really witty but who aint making big bucks in Hollywood. We also know that some big movie stars- e.g. Harrison Ford- went through a slump before hitting the big time. Apparently Ford made his living as a carpenter during his dry spell. Good for him.  

(3) ad hoc exclusion of distributional concerns from the objective function in terms of which merit is characterized.

If there is an objective function for merit then we have a Structural Causal Model and can mass produce that type of merit. 

As for 'distributional concerns'- nobody has given a flying fuck about them for the last 50 years. Academics may not know this but then Academics are as stupid as shit.  

Each of these departures makes meritocracies more prone to generate economic inequality,

What generates economic inequality is comparative, not absolute, advantage. Sen simply doesn't know any Economics.  

but they are in no sense part of the basic incentive approach to rewarding merit.

There is no such approach. The fact is, if you provide goods and services which people want, then- in an open market- you get rewarded. This has nothing to do with merit. It has everything to do with providing stuff other people like. The Academy or the Bureaucracy may recruit people on the basis of perceived merit or talent, but their brains soon turn to shit.  

Perhaps the most fundamental problem with the conventional understanding of “meritocracy” is the distance that has grown between “meritocracy” (thus conceived) and the foundational idea of rewarding merit.

There is no such distance. Meritocracy just means 'careers open to talent'. Some paranoid nutters may rave about how some bureaucracy is recruiting geniuses to some fell purpose. Back in the Fifties, there was plenty of pulp fiction about Fu Manchu or Blofeld or some other evil genius kidnapping the top Scientists and getting them to make a Doomsday machine. But Bond or some other such hero would turn up to blow up their underground laboratory. 

Recognizing merit has a mimetic, not an incentive, effect. We know we can never be a great sports star- but we can go for a jog once in a while. We can't become Queen Bey- but we can have fun waggling our buttocks at the Christmas party. Sadly, stupidity can sometimes be mistaken for merit. Plenty of Indians imitated Sen and ended up being utterly useless. 

Ultimately, it is the fitness landscape which must decide what is merit and what are demerit goods. Being a Gandhian shithead once appeared meritorious in India. Then, slowly it dawned on us that not being able to feed or defend yourself means you aren't really Independent at all. You are simply a pathetic beggar. 

It turned out that cars and fridges and TVs were 'merit goods'. Gandhian shite was a 'demerit' good. Armies are necessary and salutary. So are nukes. If Ukraine hadn't given up its nuclear arsenal it would not be in the jam it is in now. Still, the people of Ukraine have shown their mettle. Let us pray they prevail.