Friday 30 September 2022

Debangana Chatterjee's hijab of paranoia

India has a liberal constitution and judiciary. Thus liberals in India have a duty to support stupid shit so as to make the Indian constitution and judiciary even shittier than it actually is. An example of this type of stupidity is supporting the demand that girls, in a girl's school, should be allowed to wear the hijab inside the classroom though this violates Islamic rules (females must be able to verify that no men have entered a female space and thus are not allowed to cover their face or hair) as well as an essential aspect of classroom functioning- viz. the teacher being able to see whether students are comprehending the lesson. 

By contrast, liberals have zero influence in Iran which has an Islamic constitution. Supporting or not supporting hijab protests there has no effect whatsoever. 

Debangana Chatterjee, a Professor of useless shite, takes a different view. She writes in Scroll- 

Understanding context:

Academics can't understand shit. 

Why liberals support hijab in India but oppose it in Iran

It's coz they are stupid and useless.  

Specific historical and socio-political contexts are important when trying to understand the demonstrations about the veil in each country.

Sadly this academic does not know either the Indian or Iranian context. In Karnataka, PFI type nutters were trying to create mischief. In Iran, there was a genuine grievance.  

For just under two weeks, protests against the hijab have spilled over onto the streets of Tehran, with women burning their hijabs and chopping off their hair. The protests, which have reportedly claimed at least 76 lives across Iran, have been directed against Iran’s infamous morality police and the country’s theocratic regime.

The flashpoint was the death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman named Mahsa Amini on September 16 after she was allegedly assaulted in custody for wearing her hijab “inappropriately”.

There has been a recent crack-down on wearing the head-scarf in a fashionable rather than puritanical manner. If the protests aren't suppressed wholly and quickly, it will embolden the opponents of the regime.  

The word “inappropriate” is already detested for its unruly impositions on women’s lives.

This crazy broad thinks that the main complaint young Iranian women have involves how they cover or don't cover their hair! No doubt, she thinks the Jewish women have a poor opinion of Hitler because he thought Yellow Stars would look chic on all sorts of female attire. Forget the Gestapo, it was the Nazi fashion police who persecuted Anne Frank.  

That apart, it is essential to recognise that the hijab – despite being a bone of contention in several parts of the world – has different implications in different settings.

Not to Muslims. Their faith has the same meaning in every setting.  

For instance, it does not have the same meaning in Muslim-majority Islamic Republic of Iran as it does in Muslim-minority India.

It does if you are a Muslim.  True Muslims scholars or others may differ on theological or juristic matters but these differences are context independent save regarding narrow matters of jurisdiction. Thus for an Indian or Iranian Shiah, the question of hijab is resolved by the mujtahid though, no doubt, 'hukum' may differ according to jurisdiction. Any contradiction is easily resolved by an act of expiation or 'tawbah'. 

Specific historical and socio-political contexts are important when trying to understand the demonstrations by women in Iran who are demanding the removal of the law making the garment compulsory and the agitations in Karnataka where college students protested to be allowed into class wearing the veil.

No. Muslim women who say the hijab is not obligatory and the mujtahid has no right to issue 'hukum' under the plea of Velayet-e-faqih are taking a theological position- one endorsed by some conservative clerics of various mazhabs. The girls in Karnataka are just being silly or trying to make mischief on orders of the PFI or some such outfit. 

Liberals don't understand their own historical and socio-political context. They exist as a subsidized class so as to prove that liberalism is shit and to ensure 'liberal' institutions fuck up completely. Demanding women should dance naked in Churches while having abortions has been a gift to Trumps and Putins and Bolsanoros and so forth.   

Of course, the hijab may simply be considered an article of clothing and a sartorial choice.

Only in the sense that it may also be considered a type of cat.  

Yet, due to its association with Islam, it has long been in the eye of a political storm. While the Arabic word “hijab” indicates segregation, the garment is mainly associated with an idea of modesty. It also communicates a statement on identity.

This silly lady does not know Islam. Nor do I. But I have enough general knowledge to know that some Islamic jurists consider hijab to be cultural, not religious. The 'ijma' on this differs. We are not greatly concerned with it, if we are not Muslims. 

Though the hijab offers bodily coverage and concealment, it also enacts a political spectacle relating to the visible of Muslim women.

No it does not. This is a stupid line of argument. It is the other side of the coin to nutters who say that if women wear trousers then they will develop penises and beards will grow on their soft cheeks. On the other hand, it is certainly true that men who wear skinny jeans turn into cunts.  

In Iran, the genesis of the political storm over the hijab can be traced back to 1936 when an edict was issued banning all veiling practices.

Nonsense! The modern feminist abandonment of the veil dates to the mid nineteenth century when a leading Babi poetess appeared unveiled. She was executed in 1852. Another lady, Safiya Yazdi, the wife of a leading Islamic clergyman, discarded the veil and opened a Girl's School in 1910. 

The Western-influenced Kashf-e hijab decree – which means “unveiling” – issued by Reza Shah Pahlavi’s regime forced women to abandon the hijab or else keep away from public view.

His son permitted the veil.  

Many women gave up the traditional Iranian chador, or cloak but instead began to wear the manteau (a long jacket) with a rusari (headscarf), which provided a functional sense of modesty.

How strange! One would have thought they would have put on boiler-suits and Doc Martens.  

In no time, though, the veil became a symbol of resistance against the oppressive Shah regime. Even women who otherwise would not have worn the garment came out on the streets with their heads covered in solidarity with those who had chosen to be veiled.

Yup. Some women can sure do stupid shit. Like the girls who ran away to join ISIS, they soon regretted their 'resistance'. Come to think of it, there were some 'liberals' who thought Khomeini might turn out to be Santa Claus for the LGBTQ community.  Also he'd convert at least half of all Iranian mosques into discotheques. 

After the Pahlavi regime was unseated by the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the clerics who took over soon imposed compulsory veiling for Iran’s women, citing “moral cleansing”. As a retort to the Shah’s regime, constructing a code relating to women’s modesty became necessary. Modesty was redefined in the name of Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

Liberals were expecting Modesty to be redefined in the name of Honeytits Cumbucket, a leading Porn Star of the period. They remain puzzled, to this day, why this did not happen. The majority opinion is that it has something to do with Ronald Reagan and the Washington Consensus.  

The measures of repression remained unchanged for both regimes, with the moral police of the Islamic rules taking the place of the Shah’s secret police.

The quantum of repression increased. Measures of repression changed greatly.  

No matter how Westernised or Islamic the regime under which they live, Iranian women have been stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Because wimmin be shit. I hate you Mummy! If only Mummies killed all their sons, wimmin wouldn't have got stuck with a rock up their hard place or whatever it is the kids are into these days.  

In India, the debate around the hijab has been raging since January after educational institutions in Karnataka began barring students from wearing the headscarf. On September 22, the Indian Supreme Court reserved its verdict on a petition challenging a Karnataka High Court order that upheld the state government’s ban on hijabs in educational institutions.

There was no government ban. There was a uniform code by specific educational institutions. Does a Girl's College have the right to prescribe a common uniform? The High Court said yes. It further banned all religious attire on school premises. 

The idea of the hijab in India has been merged with the image of the Muslim “other” – a dreaded figure located in the country’s communal history and minority politics.

But some Muslims have condemned these silly girls and the stupid and crazy policies of the PFI. The plain fact is many Hindu women observed purdah. Forget about hijab, they never ventured out of the four walls of the 'andaroon'. Rajendra Prasad's Bihari Kayastha family was one such.  

The perceived threat posed by Muslims is embodied in material form in the hijab.

No.  It is embodied in the suicide bomber who might wear a hijab or some other garment to disguise the 'material form' of the fucking explosives in his or her vest. 

Frustrations and hostility against Muslims can easily be channelised against the garment.

In which case, Al Qaida should encourage it. Instead of attacking their training camps, their enemies would be wasting their time snatching hijabs of elderly ladies.  

This is the context in which the controversy over the hijab in India should be understood.

Only if you are as stupid as shit. But that's what Indian libtards are. Say to them 'shove your head up your arse because that is the only way to prevent Nazism' and they will do so- provided both they and you are Bengali and have relevant PhDs. 

I suppose, it was the Commies who invented this trick. When I was a kid, people would say 'subjectively, Khomeini is more right wing than Banisadr but objectively Khomeini's triumph will pave the way to the proletarian revolution so you should stick your head up your arse and just put on a hijab already.'  

In the Karnataka hijab debate, religiosity became the point of focus rather than women’s right to education.

No. The point of focus was the ludicrous notion that Muslims girls, in a girls school, should wear full hijab while sitting in the classroom. It is not enough for Liberalism to be stupid and useless. The PFI or the Commies or whoever is pulling their strings need to ensure that everybody understands that liberals and stupid and useless- which is why Liberal Democracy and Constitutional morality are doomed.  

Advocates of the ban have expressed the desire for uniformity in the classroom. But little has been said about the sudden imposition of a dress code, a code the protesting Muslim students did not sign up for while seeking admission to these colleges.

This is utterly false. The code existed before the protests. The girls were saying they could defy the code because of a superior right they possessed. The High Court said they did not have a superior right. The College did. Let us see what the Supreme Court decides. 

How fair is it to breach an existing contract? It is a breach that refuses Muslim women their right to study.

But it would also breach the Hindu woman's right to study. Moreover, the thing would apply to men as well.  

Be it Iran or India, the question is not whether one is for or against the hijab. It is how state regimes – irrespective of ideology – attempt to control women’s bodies and try to dictate how they should live their lives.

Iran does dictate how women (but also men) live their lives. India, very largely, does not. This stupid woman looks at 'historical contexts' to come to the conclusion that India is just like Iran which is just like France which is just like China which is just like Nigeria. Women everywhere are constantly being raped. Their bodies and minds are controlled. No matter what they wear or they don't wear, they are objectified or reified or rendered an alterity.

This type of Feminism is always worse than even the most misogynistic type of Religious Fundamentalism. Why? It is sometimes the case that almost all women are in a substantially worse position than most men. It is never the case that a paranoid victimology can improve matters. Faith in God, however, can permit Right to prevail- if that is the Will of God.  

Thursday 29 September 2022

Sen's 'Why Socialism?'- Sixty three years later

This is what Sen believed in 1959- 

ECONOMIC planning is a little like a chameleon; it can have different colours.

This is false. Economic planning is economic- i.e. concerned with scarce resources. Either those resources actually exist or there is no planning- merely a foolish or fraudulent scheme or speculative bubble of some sort.  

While the Soviet government plans the activities of the socialist economy of the USSR, the Nazi party also used to plan the economic operations of a fascist Germany.

And America and the UK and France and everybody else planned their re-armament and rationing and so forth. 

Before advocating planning for the Indian economy, we should pause to inquire what is it that we are trying to recommend.

Sen didn't know that if a country has a budget, then it has an economic plan. It is committing itself to the provision of a set of goods and services as well as the acquisition or maintenance of a set of assets. 

The issue, it seems to me, is not planning (that is only a by-product), but socialism.

One can have socialism without any government and thus no national budget and thus no economic plan. 

Do we wish to have an economy with socialised means of production and an absence of property income?

Our wishes are irrelevant. Do we have the power to prevent people from exercising control over property? For India, the answer was no. The soldiers were the sons of agriculturists and other land owners. They would slaughter anyone who tried to take away their family land or cattle or other assets.  

If we want socialism in this sense, then there must be state planning to replace the role the capitalist plays in a free enterprise economy.

That won't change anything. You can have a plan and then you can abandon the plan- declare a 'plan holiday'- because you ran out of money and nothing would change. Only if you can actually take property away from its owners can you get rid of 'capitalism' or 'feudalism' or whatever it is you are against.  

Planning thus becomes a necessary condition for socialism,

Nonsense! Killing all property owners or intimidating them till they run away or claim to own nothing is the necessary condition for socialism. Planning has no effect whatsoever.  

though socialism is not a necessary condition for planning.

Control over resources is a necessary condition for genuine planning- as opposed to building castles in Spain.  

When we discuss here Why Planning, we shall really be discussing Why Socialism (and, hence, Why Socialist Planning).

What is the point of discussing anything so stupid? Sen and his pals had no power over resources. They might be roped in to help with some clerical work connected to making a Plan or a Budget but they had couldn't establish shit. Sen's own people had been chased away from their ancestral homes not too long ago.  If they tried to grab land from peasants they would be killed. 

In answering this question we must be careful to avoid two mistakes. Firstly, we should not (following the traditional presentation of political theory) assume that the question Why Socialism is synonymous with the query Why Not Capitalism.

There would be no harm in doing so. If X obtains and we want Y to replace it, a good place to start is to explain why X is shitty.  

In India, while the choice is between socialistic and capitalistic modes of production in the industrial sector, that in agriculture is between socialistic production (of various degrees of socialisation from cooperative farms to state owned farms)

Sen thought there would be 'state owned farms' in India! There could be producer co-operatives for sugar or milk etc. and these co-operatives could be captured by the better off farmer but no Indian peasant was going to hand over his land without a fight. 

and production modes that are, so to say, pre-capitalistic, namely peasant farming of various types.

Perhaps he means share-cropping. But share-croppers kick up a stink if you want them off your land. Sen hadn't noticed that he lived in a country where there was immense land hunger which is why family members so often ended up killing each other.  

Thus the issue is not a simple one of capitalism versus socialism.

How is that a 'simple issue'?  In 1959, the question was whether Socialism could attain affluence in the same manner that Post-War Capitalism had done. In particular, could the Soviet Union do 'creative destruction' and something better than 'catch up growth'? That is still an open question. China may be able to pull it off. Alternatively, the smartest young Chinese people may prefer to get jobs in the bureaucracy rather than risk trying to be the next Jack Ma. 

Secondly, the criticism of the capitalistic mode of production should, to be valid in this context, be based on those aspects of it that are considered to be inevitable parts of the system and not those aspects that can be changed with a little reform of capitalism.

There is no such 'inevitable part'. Everything can be reformed. In particular, how capital was owned could change greatly. By 1959, you had the rise of the Institutional Investor. Your Pension fund and Insurance Company owned an increasing percentage of your Employer.  Sen really knew nothing about either neo-classical or Marxist economics or what was happening in the world around him. 

For example, it will be quite inappropriate to base the case for socialism on the much-discussed ground of the dishonesty of businessmen, or the corruption of the capitalists.

Why not? A businessman who does not pay his taxes gets sent to jail. His assets are taken over and sold so as to recover what he owes. It is perfectly proper for a Government to take over a cartel or natural monopoly being run by a crook who is disobeying the law.  

If capitalists, as a class, are dishonest and have extra-territorial loyalties, it is conceivable that state control will improve things. Obviously, there may be a problem of corruption and incompetence but if the state is ruthless with its own minions, the outcome may be better. 

While it is perfectly fair and very useful to criticise the economic system existing in India today for producing, say, adulterated products or financial swindling, the case for socialism cannot be based on these.

Yes it can. These are instances of 'market failure'. One remedy is to directly take over the market. Another is licensing. The industry may be subject to a levy to pay for its proper policing. Why did Sen not know this?  

A fully developed bourgeois society operates, by and large, within its rules of business honesty, which are as yet not very developed in India.

But 'mechanism design'- i.e. penalties for bad actors and the reputational advantage of certification- can fix the underlying problem.  

British owners of flour mills do not put soap flakes in flour, American druggists do not substitute dirty water for penicillin and French sellers of food do not use slow poisons cheaper than the food materials they resemble.

Because those countries have regulated industries and strong tort and other law. An industry benefits when this sort of market failure is tackled directly by the authorities.  It ceases to be a repugnancy market. It gets better as a coordinating mechanism because there is higher trust. 

If the criticism of Indian capitalism consisted only of these, that would not amount to an argument for socialism in any sense.

Yes it would. If Indians are utterly shit, then beat them and imprison them. Let the State take over all essential industries and keep beating the Indians who run them if they show any sign of poisoning their customers. Slavery and the whip are the only way to deal with an utterly bestial people. But once it is 'common knowledge' that dishonesty will be severely punished, a new cohort will show exemplary honesty. Then you can privatize industries so 'control rights' align with market incentives. 

If anything, it is a stronger argument for the right-wing dictatorship of the type that exists now in Pakistan.

Why did Sen not know that businessmen who swindle or poison their clients go to jail even in liberal countries?  Also, why mention Pakistan? Did Sen really think it was a paradise of honest toilers and puritanical entrepreneurs? It was obviously an American client using American funds to create a bubble of prosperity in some urban areas. 

This point, though fairly obvious when one thinks about it, is worth making, since a number of defenders of socialist planning in India seem to think that this is the right way of proving their case.

If public servants are all virtuous and businessmen are all rogues, then only public provision will work. Otherwise the market will fail. Nobody will buy anything for fear of being cheated and even honest producers will go to the wall.  

What then are the valid reasons for preferring socialist planning in India? One is tempted to say ‘industrialisation’.

Sen thought that by praying to Socialism, factories would start popping up all over the place. That's what Stalin did- right?  

But is that the right way of putting the problem? After all, the UK and the USA developed industrially without socialistic planning, and even Marx recognised the creative role of capitalism in bringing modern technology to the fields of production.

But the British are nice. They are not poisoning and swindling everybody. Us Indians- being utterly shitty- must pray to Socialism to get a nice factory to swaddle in red tape.

It is sometimes maintained that the main factors responsible for the capitalistic economic development in the West ‘do not obtain at all in under-developed countries or obtain only partially.’

Because the people are shit.  

This is not quite correct. Even in India the capitalist class produced a flourishing cotton textile industry, plenty of jute manufacturing and a sizeable steel industry. In Japan there has been a remarkable capitalistic development of modern industries.

Sen had heard of Japan's industrialization. Good for him.  

To argue for Socialism on grounds that it is the only method of industrialisation is,

utterly mad. All industrialized countries were Capitalist except the Soviet Union which, under Stalin, exported primary products to by capital goods from America.  

thus, not quite valid. One need not doubt that, given enough time,

enough money. Time was irrelevant. You can always hire foreign managers till you can train your own people. 

the Indian bourgeoisie will be able to produce a modern industrialised economy in India and that will be quite in accordance with what socialists (at least of the Marxian school) should expect.

The crucial phrase, however, is ‘given enough time.’

Indian businessmen were better at running businesses than Indian bureaucrats. Capitalist development would have been faster than Socialist development. But the country would have gone for 'wage goods' and exploiting economies of scope and scale and export led growth on the basis of comparative advantage. All this is High School Economics.  

Even if Indian industrial growth takes place at the same rate as that of Great Britain, it will take India more than a hundred years before it can call itself an industrialised economy in any significant sense.

Why should it grow at the same rate as Britain? It could do 'catch up growth' by picking 'low hanging fruit'. Just imitate what smart peeps are doing. Don't reinvent the wheel.  

Are we content to go at this pace? This economic history of the modern world shows that in the planned socialist economies, growth is much faster than in the capitalistic countries,

provided the Government actually controls resources. Stalin and Mao could keep exporting food to get hard currency to pay for capital goods even when millions of their people were dying of starvation.  

and this is what we should expect also from a comparison of the nature of a capitalistic economy and that of a socialistic one.

Capitalists can accumulate resources by selling stuff for money. Stalin and Mao could just grab stuff from the people and shoot them if they objected. India could do neither. It didn't have the resources to industrialize. Instead it just expanded the bureaucracy.  

First, in a capitalistic economy, the results of the economic system are by-products of profit maximisation. The allocation of investment, the determination of prices, the choice of imports, all fit, by and large, into this basic pattern. Economic growth may (and, in fact, does) result in a capitalistic economy, but that too is a by-product.

If capitalists feel secure- sure. There could be growth. But if nutters keep talking about Socialism, Capitalists will prefer to bankrupt their enterprises so as to get their money out of the country in some illegal way.  

Now whether the rate of growth will be high or not will depend upon the extent to which entrepreneurial interests coincide with the requirements of economic growth.

No. Economic growth will be high only where there is business confidence which is linked to ease of doing business, political stability, functioning courts, infrastructure etc.  

Every time an entrepreneur chooses a more profitable machine, he may favourably affect economic growth; but every time he uses scarce economic resources to produce luxury goods, he affects economic growth adversely.

Quite false! Luxury goods are high value to weight. They are more profitable. Concentrating on luxuries means more rapid economic growth. There is a limit to the number of potatoes you can eat or the number of matchsticks people will buy.  

In a socialistic economy, however, economic growth will not be a by-product but the object of the exercise and the whole economic machine can be, if necessary, geared to this.

But if you produce useless shite there will be negative growth.  

Secondly, even if the capitalists ignore profits and try to maximise the rate of growth, they will find it difficult to achieve as much as a coordinating national planning organisation will.

Nonsense! Capitalists may want to maximize growth so as to gain economies of scope and scale and thus become a 'natural monopoly'. They can do this better than some bureaucratic machine staffed by nitwits. 

Each entrepreneur lacks some knowledge of what the others are doing.

While bureaucrats don't know their arse from their elbow. Entrepreneurs have an incentive to get relevant information. Those who are bad at doing so go extinct.  

Economic decisions are interrelated, and, for maximum economic efficiency, decisions in one field must be linked with those in others.

That's what the price mechanism is for.  

An organised national planning authority, thus, has certain direct advantages over a collection of decision-taking entrepreneurs from the point of view of this objective.

Nope. The guy should have read a little Hayek.  

The state can of course help even in a capitalistic economy by guarding (through taxation, subsidisation, licensing, etc.) the allocation of resources by private entrepreneurs. But this is possible only within strict limits.

Japan's MITI showed there were no fucking limits to this.  

If interference is too great, incentives may be affected, as the bourgeois in India has often pointed out (correctly, in terms of the capitalistic mode of production and the bourgeois philosophy of action). So ‘guided capitalism’ may not in fact be as simple as one expects it to be.

Businessmen have no objection to being given soft loans, tax breaks, help with Export Credits and Marketing and so on.  

The problem is reinforced by the fact that the relatively less far-sighted right-wingers will tend to produce new conservative parties or organisations whenever they feel that the government is interfering too much.

Help would be welcomed. Interference isn't help.  

It is not difficult to quote examples of this from the recent political history of our country.

In view of all this it is not at all surprising that planned socialistic countries in the world have, on the whole, much faster rates of growth than capitalistic economies.

It is true that 'reconstruction' was rapid in places like Poland. But after that growth stalled.  

Therefore, if economic growth and rapid industrialisation are our objectives, the choice is not difficult to make.

Unless you were Indian and you knew that the Second Plan had run out of money two years previously.  

When Britain was industrialising herself, socialism was not a practical alternative, for the material conditions necessary for socialism (e.g., large-scale techniques of production) were absent. The early socialists were, thus, quite right in looking upon capitalism as necessary.

Later, socialists took over Coal and Steel and other commanding heights and turned them into a fucking money-pit. In the Seventies, the tax-payer began to rebel. Then came privatization. Bangladesh began privatizing in the early Eighties. It is now ahead of Sen's West Bengal though it was poorer at the time.  

The situation is completely different today thanks to development of the material basis for socialistic production in the capitalistic countries (and also, more recently in the USSR).

Stalin could industrialize by selling grain and timber and fur and gold for hard currency. India couldn't. Deficit financing was simply inflationary. India could not afford Socialism  

Thus a direct evolution towards a socialistic economy is, on the one hand, desirable in terms of the objective of rapid economic growth.

But the Second Plan had run out of money two years previously! Did Sen really not know this?  

This, it seems to me, is the crucial point. We may of course add to this the much-discussed advantages of socialism in the shape of a better income-distribution,

in the Gulag?  

a more fair allocation of economic sacrifice,

in the Lubyanka? 

and so on. These points have been exhaustively discussed in the existing literature on the subject

there were plenty of exposes of Stalinism by 1959

so that we may satisfy ourselves by only referring to them.

But Sen does not refer to them. Socialism means Society gaining control over the country's productive resources. How was India to do that? It could have land ceilings- but this would just mean transfers of property or 'benami' transactions. It could nationalize industries but where would the working capital come from? I suppose, it could beg- but mendicancy isn't Marxism. 

We may now come to the agrarian side of the picture. Some form of cooperation in rural areas seems to be necessary for economic efficiency of agriculture.

Some sort of state support for farmers- subsidized inputs, higher procurement prices etc- was needful. That's where the Second Plan fell down.  

Irrigational activities can be performed with much greater ease by cooperatives;

if the Government pays for it- sure. Otherwise, the Canal administration remains in place. 

better methods of cultivation can be used; even the application of chemical fertilisers will be much simpler if peasants are organised in some form of cooperatives.

Who would do the organizing? Where were these highly efficient and cooperative people supposed to come from so as to lead Indian peasants into the new utopia? 

In providing employment for landless labourers, in organising food supply for the urban population and in integrating rural economic expansion with industrial development, the cooperative farms can play a very important part in India’s economic growth.

But they didn't did they?  

We shall not enter here into the controversy on the right kind of cooperation for the Indian rural economy: there are genuine grounds for differences of opinion on the subject. For our purpose, however, it is sufficient to recognise that even in the rural areas, there should be some movement towards socialistic methods of production given the values assumed in the above discussion.

What values were those? Boo to Capitalism? Agriculture is about growing more food with less labor so that there is a surplus to feed the cities and to export. This required Government support for farmers such that they got cheaper inputs. The matter came down to committing resources to the best farmers not the worst ones. Socialism was no panacea. Actual resources were called for.  

In the light of all this, we may now review the evolution of economic planning in India. In the first five year plan there was very little planning in any significant sense.

There was budgeting. That is all that can be usefully done.  

The plan was more of an anthology of what individual enterprises wished to do. Very few industries were state owned and the control over the activities of private entrepreneurs was very loose indeed. The rural sector also did not undergo any very fundamental reorganisation.

India could not do 'reorganization'. It could not collectivize the land or force peasants into cooperatives.  

The second plan brought into the picture a number of state owned industries, but this was very selective. State ownership was restricted almost exclusively to transport and to the production of producer goods: steel, fertilisers, irrigational works, electricity, locomotives, machine tools, etc. The production of consumer goods remained almost entirely in private hands. Centralised planning was applied to the former group and only indirect control to the latter.

The idea was to pump money into the public sector. But the money ran out very quickly. Financial Budgeting is more important than Centralized Planning. You need a back up plan for when the money runs out.

This dichotomy can, under certain circumstances, be quite useful, but in the context of our economy it is also a source of a number of problems. In the first place, the surplus available for public investment is small since the consumer goods industries, which are relatively more surplus yielding, are almost exclusively in the private sector.

Take them into the public sector and they become deficit yielding. Businessmen try to make profits and, if there is confidence that markets are growing, this leads to investment which leads to growth. The Government gets higher tax revenue which it can spend on public goods. You can't have a plan which assumes that resources have been socialized by magic. If you do, you run out of money.  

In most socialist countries, the bulk of the investible surplus comes from the profits of public enterprises and not from taxation or borrowing.

Only if public enterprises actually make profits. One way to ensure this is to shoot managers who don't overproduce their quota in the back of the head.  

In India the case is just the reverse of this. The surpluses in the consumer goods sector go to the private sector and it is considered to be uneconomic to raise the price of producer goods manufactured by the state on the ground that this will affect further production adversely.

If there are economies of scope and scale- this is perfectly reasonable. But if public sector enterprises are inefficient, or sustained only by cash transfers, no such economies will be available. They will become money pits.  

While surplus, a considerable part of the surplus arising in the private sector is spent on consumption by the capitalists.

Because people who don't consume, won't produce unless you can shoot them in the back of the head. 

Secondly, the existence of a big private sector makes national planning rather unorganised.

It makes it a work of speculative fiction which immediately runs out of money. 

The state plans on behalf of the country what should be done, but this may or may not be carried out by the private sector depending on profit opportunities.

So there is no plan. There is just empty talk. 

If we compare the targets and achievements of the Indian plans (particularly, the first), the point looks obvious enough. The divergences between the two are often very remarkable.

But 1957, it should have been obvious that Mahalanobis & Co knew zero about Economics or Commerce or the Law or anything at all.  

Again, during 1956-57, when private capitalists went far above their schedule of imports, the system of import control could not prevent the jump in imports.

So, the system was crap not to say corrupt.  State capacity was lacking. Planning was an exercise in make believe- like Nehru's foreign policy. 

It is not sufficient to say that this was due to just inefficient administration. No administrative machinery can really control satisfactorily as big, as diffused and as powerful a group of private enterprises as we have in India.

In which case, admit that Socialism will have to wait till private enterprise has been crushed.  

The issue before us is clear, the crossroads being not too far away. The ‘middle path’ seems to have run out. We have to make up our minds as to whether we really want a planned socialist economy.

It wasn't on the table because it would have involved starving millions while exporting rice and wheat and cotton and so forth in the manner of a Stalin or a Mao. 

In the light of the above discussion, it can be said that given the economic values assumed here the case for a socialist economy is very strong.

This is typical of Sen's logic. If a thing is impossible, the case for it is very strong. If a thing is possible- e.g. letting the private sector concentrate on 'wage goods', then the case for it is very weak because Economists should have no truck with reality.  

I realise that this choice will not be settled merely by the presentation of arguments on the two sides with a dispassionate assessment of the ends and means. It is a matter of social and political movements and will be influenced by the strength of the trade unions, the power of the capitalist class, the frustration and the determination of the middle classes, the organisation of the peasantry and such factors.

All of these were irrelevant. Everyone may want affluence and security. But nobody will get it unless a feasible- not a crazy- scheme is adopted.  

It is nevertheless of some use to present the arguments as if the choice is to be made by debates and rational deliberations.

Sen still thinks 'debates and rational deliberation' matter. But he and his ilk were incapable of rationality.  

It is particularly important for the defenders of socialism to avoid confusion between spurious and genuine arguments.

But Sen does not know which is which. A genuine argument for Social control of resources is that the population is as crooked as shit. People will recognize that this is true and submit to a punitive system of economic administration because the alternative is that everybody starves. 

We understand that soldiers may run away or sell their guns to the enemy rather than risk their lives. That is why armies have military discipline of a punitive type.  

Some of the widely used arguments for socialism in terms of the dishonesty, inefficiency and corruption of a capitalist economy only conceal the real argument for socialism and, more often than not, prepare the ground for a right-wing dictatorship.

Utterly false. The argument for a right-wing dictatorship is that crazy Leftists might take over by violence. Killing them requires a Fuhrer or Il Duce. 

The basic socialistic (particularly Marxian) criticism of capitalism can be very easily mistaken for a rather petty version of historical criticism. The Italian Marxist leader Antonio Gramsci called the kind of criticism by the appropriate name of ‘economism’.

But Gramsci was ignorant and spent most of his time in jail. Worker control of factories is a bad idea. The factories collapse and the workers don't get paid.  

‘Critical activity,’ wrote Gramsci describing this school of criticism, ‘is reduced to exposing tricks, discovering scandals, prying into the pockets of representative men’ (The Modern Prince, English translation, London, 1957, p. 158).

Mussolini's 'critical activity' was not confined to beating and incarcerating Gramscian nutters. Sad.  

Not merely does this kind of criticism miss the real point. It also leads to a widespread feeling that all that is needed to make things satisfactory is a bunch of honest, moral men quite irrespective of their political ideals or social background.

But honest, moral, people are required to pull off any scheme whatsoever. A bunch of crooks will rob and kill each other. Nothing will be produced.  

This is the kind of atmosphere in which fascism came to power in Italy, and the process has repeated itself in a number of countries since.

No. The kind of atmosphere were fascism came to power was always and only one where Commie nutters were marching in the streets and a strong leader was required to get guys in uniform to shoot them. 

The defenders of socialism and supporters of planning must, therefore, be very careful about the arguments to support their case.

This is what happened. Socialism was to be based on 'free money' and bribes of one sort or another for everybody involved.  

This is particularly important in the context of India, where the right-wing is likely to be increasingly less liberal than it has been in the past putting more emphasis on ‘efficiency’, ‘order’ and ‘honesty’.

Sen hates 'the right wing' because it favors efficiency (which is what economists aim at) and 'order' (as opposed to chaos) and 'honesty' (as opposed to lying your head off). His fear is that if Indians become less shitty they will be right-wing because they will want to do sensible things in an honest and above board manner. That's Fascism! Mussolini was very efficient and honest and orderly. Gramsci was crazy. That's why we must follow Gramsci. Come to think of it, Sen's best friend's wife- with whom he'd run away- was related to Gramsci. Adultery is dishonest. Thus it is Socialist! Running away from India with your best friend's wife is the best way you can contribute to building Socialism in India. 

It is, therefore, just as important to dismiss the wrong arguments for socialist planning as it is to put forward the right ones.

Apparently, the right argument for Socialism is that the 'Right Wing' is efficient, honest and moral. We must embrace Socialism so as to be inefficient, dishonest and immoral. 

Needless to say, Sen would go on to make his mark as a moral philosopher and as the 'Mother Theresa of Economics'.  

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Rohan D'Souza attacking NEP

 Professor Rohan D'Souza of Kyoto University has a good article here attacking Indian's New Educational Policy.

He writes- that the new policy will replace the '‘mode-for-learning’ approach which privileges critical thinking and citizenship training'

I don't see why one has to go to College to learn these things. Some of the finest of our citizens had no such opportunity. Many dunces, however, have lots of fancy degrees. 

the NEP intends to make dominant a ‘mode-for-instruction’ framework centred around information, exams, vocational training, and skilling.

What's wrong with that? After college most people have to pass various professional or else competitive exams to get a job or to receive promotion. To become an Accountant or an Advocate or an Actuary, you need highly specialized instruction which is quite different from that provided by a Liberal Arts College. 

One other innovation is the lateral entry of 'professors of practice' who may not have an academic qualification. Surely this is a good thing? Why not have English taught to Engineering students by a person who speaks good English and who has worked in the industry? There are plenty of people with PhDs in Gramscian Grammatology who can't speak English but who are supposed to be teaching English to such students. Naturally, those young people can't get a job. 

I suppose what D'Souza is really getting at is that the BJP wants to destroy campuses as 'safe spaces' for anti-fascists. The problem here is that the BJP, with its growing majority in parliament, could pack central universities with their own people and beat everybody else into submission. Professor-centric education means brainwashing by the ruling party. Surely, 'Khan Sir'- an online instructor whose videos are watched by millions of students hoping to pass civil service and other exams- is more likely to provide factual information rather than spread a poisonous ideology? 

D'Souza has an article in Scroll defending his own alma mater- JNU. He points out that many of his batchmates have had very successful academic careers. The problem here is that JNU was founded and had its glory days at a time when India was moving in a Socialist direction. But our Indian academics didn't predict the fall of the Berlin wall. They didn't grasp that the Chinese use of the free market did not represent an abandonment of Communist ideology. Instead they bleated about imaginary Fascists and the need to battle the RSS which turned out to be perfectly harmless. 
Adding edited volumes, journal articles, book chapters, popular writings, working papers and throwing in books reviews as well, then the academic output of the Centre for Historical Studies from a single cohort of 1988-’90 could effortlessly stack a good sized shelf in a library.

But were they worth reading? No. This was a case of diminishing returns. The more research that was done they more useless and uninformative the tome that was produced. The opportunity cost of this research- i.e. what else could have been done with that time and effort- was not factored into the calculation. It was simply assumed that more Foucauldian drivel would make people better citizens- which may have been true for those who emigrated and took citizenship in their new countries of domicile but wasn't at all true for those who had to remain behind in India.

First, the original model of Jawaharlal Nehru University was premised on the strong conviction that there was absolutely no positive correlation between high fees and the quality of education and academic research.

But the subsidy per student was high. Poor countries need to be smart in the way they spend their money. Poorer people did go to JNU in the hope of having a better shot of cracking the Civil Service exam. Those who failed to do so hung around the place getting a PhD. Like Kanhaiya Kumar- once the blue-eyed boy of the Communist party but now with Congress- they did worthless research and were otherwise unemployable.  

The low fees and subsidised residential housing was particularly appealing to the early 20s demographic, with the brilliant and inspired among them being able to thus pursue higher education programmes without having to worry about being a burden on their families.
But they were a burden on the tax payer. Also, had they got proper jobs, they could have helped their families. 
Similar would be the case for many families, especially in the late 1980s and early 90s in India, who would otherwise be financially dis-incentivised from sending their daughters to far-away places such as Delhi for higher education.

What about those who didn't make the cut? One might as well say that the national lottery is a Socialist measure which helps the poor become millionaires. The truth is money is redistributed from many poor people to one or two lucky punters. 

In short, by radically lowering the costs of fees and living, Jawaharlal Nehru University could draw from a much larger pool of the truly talented and motivated in the country.

Why favor the talented and motivated? They can look after themselves. Why not help those without talent and motivation? It is they who are likely to be at the bottom of the heap.  

In effect, more women students, no bank loans and no post-education debt.

while the country goes off a fiscal cliff.  

With higher education, thus, turned into a magnet for all those ambitious and daring, Jawaharlal Nehru University had no place for the client-customer student.

But it did have a place for 'students fighting fascism'. Why subsidize stupidity?  

The second feature would undoubtedly be the unique entrance exam and student recruitment design. Jawaharlal Nehru University had elaborately worked out a system for selecting students based on deprivation points, which, at heart, was aimed at fostering a conversation between not only different social and economic experiences but equally aimed at tapping into India’s immense regional variation of cities, small towns, villages and even forest-based communities.

Why have a diverse student community if you are going to indoctrinate them in stupid shit?  

The income spectrum, similarly, spanned the range from a sprinkling of elites, middle to lower-middle, rural and included many of the poorest of the poor as well. To the best of my knowledge, the majority of the MA History batch of 1988-’90 were breaking fresh ground as far as higher education was concerned within our families. The deprivation point system, in effect, was based on the understanding that meaningful education and research was possible only as a dialogue between facts, theory and personal biography.

But an MA in History is useless. Why have a boring dialogue with imaginary ghosts? 

The third would be the MPhil. As a two-year programme, the MPhil was sandwiched between the Masters and the PhD. At heart, it was to encourage a more intense one-on-one interaction between the faculty and their research students. The MPhil, by focussing on personal attention was, in fact, crucial to reducing the research gap between the poorer students who came from economic and socially challenged backgrounds and those who had privileged educational opportunities.
I can see some point to teaching Helen Keller to communicate. But why teach her to communicate stupid nonsense? 

It was the MPhil programme that provided a launching pad for many who either used the concentrated research training to apply for and secure fat scholarships from prestigious universities abroad

'fat scholarships'- that was the carrot dangled before these donkeys. Meanwhile coders on H-1B visas were making much more money doing slightly less boring shite.  

or harnessed the time and context for cracking the famed public services exams.

which allow you to get rich through corruption. It seems JNU was about escaping the country with a scholarship or bleeding it dry as a bribe-taking Babu.  

It would be wholly correct to argue that the accomplishments of the MA History class of 1988-’90 owes much to the the unique institutional and policy arrangements at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. From the “modern stream” (roughly studying the 18th-20th century), while a number of us submitted our PhDs at Jawaharlal Nehru University itself, four of our colleagues (all women) clinched scholarships at top universities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

So, they became 'diversity' hires and taught cretins worthless shite.  

On the other hand, several among the brightest chose instead to take up jobs with the government, public sector undertakings, journalism and a few joined research foundations as well. On a rough count, 14 of us in the batch currently hold academic positions, of which nine are teaching in universities in India (Delhi, Assam, Lucknow, Benares and Chandigarh), while five are teaching abroad (US, Canada and Japan).

So, none of these guys set up businesses which employ people. They merely took jobs that were already available.  

Clearly, we have made good on the investment of the Indian tax payer.

How? First the tax-payer has to pay them to study worthless shite and then it has to pay them to teach worthless shite. How is that an investment? 

But, equally, we acknowledge that it was Jawaharlal Nehru University that enabled our social mobility by empowering us with the educational means and resources to better the fortunes of our respective families.
while worsening the fortunes of the Indian economy. By contrast, IT services contributes almost 200 billion dollars in revenue and creates about 5 million jobs. That's an investment which has paid off for India. 


Kwarteng's anarchic individualism

 Back in 2011, our current Chancellor published a book titled 'Ghosts of Empire' which blamed many of the problems of Britain's ex-colonies on the "anarchic individualism" of its pro-consuls. A Labor MP reviewing the book summarized Kwarteng's thesis as follows- 'In essence, there was too much autonomy given to imperial agents on the ground. "Officials often developed one line of policy only for successors to overturn it and pursue a completely different approach. This was a source of chronic instability in the Empire."'

Was Kwarteng right? Not really. Countries which were previously horribly governed quickly reverted to being horribly governed once the British left.  'Settler' colonies did fine provided the indigenous people were massacred. The French tended to do a poorer job than the Brits while the Germans were simply awful. 

The six examples that Kwarteng choses are idiosyncratic. The first was Iraq- which was a mandated territory, not a colony and which Britain protected from a Wahabbi invasion. Feisal I was an okay king who did try to conciliate the Shias. Iraq became independent while he was still on the throne. British advisers and administrators did invest in Iraqi agriculture and education. Some oil money was spent on this but, sooner or later, the Iraqis were bound to take back their country which did actually enjoy growing affluence even into the Eighties.  Kwarteng's second example is Burma, whose annexation was good for India- a much bigger land mass which can't be called the product of any type of anarchy or individualism. Had Burma managed to stay democratic, it might be quite affluent.

 Kwarteng mentions the sale of Kashmir to Gulab Singh but that dynasty actually became a little better than what had gone before- indeed, it still exists. But, in 1931, there was a tribal invasion- just as there was in 1948- and British soldiers had to defend the Kingdom. Still, whatever problems the Kashmiri have, they are as nothing compared to, their neighbors, the Tibetans. 

In an interview Kwarteng said 'Kashmir is a fascinating instance where the Hindu royal family was - sold Kashmir in 1846.'

Gulab Singh already controlled it. He paid tribute and entered into a Treaty as was the custom of the time. 

RAZ: Even though the majority of the population was Muslim.

This was irrelevant. There were plenty of Muslim kings ruling over mainly non-Muslim subjects at the time. 

KWARTENG: Exactly, because this man, a man called Gulab Singh, had managed to ingratiate himself with the British.

Gulab Singh was a successful soldier of fortune with a strong base in Jammu. He had the foresight to bet on John Company and profited by it. So did many other princes and taluqdars of the time. 

 He managed to do well in the Sikh empire which controlled Kashmir previously. And the British didn't really want to rule Kashmir directly at that time, so they sold it to him. As a consequence of that, his family ruled Kashmir for 100 years. But when it came to independence, the maharaja had the sole choice, and he decided as a Hindu to go with India. And of course, that had massive consequences, which we still feel today.

This is ignorant. Hari Singh would have preferred to be independent like the King of Nepal or Bhutan. It was the invasion which forced his hand. But it was Sheikh Abdullah's support for the Indians that was crucial in determining the outcome. There are no 'massive consequences' we feel today other than those arising from militant Islam. The underlying problem of poverty was tackled by Abdullah's land reforms. 

I suppose, Nigeria- where the impoverished Islamic North was soldered to the affluent, Christian, South- might look like a better example for Kwarteng's thesis. But Nigerians were able to overcome the Biafran tragedy. It enjoyed affluence and though it has its problems, one can't say it is a failed state. North Sudan did well under the Brits but the South was neglected. Is it governable? Time will tell. Overall, the examples Kwarteng picks on don't really illustrate his thesis. The fact is there were benefits to British rule even in 'Zomias'- shatter-zones of Empires- but it was always obvious that if revenues collapsed then there would have to be a withdrawal. But that had always been the case for thousands of years!

If Kwarteng was wrong about the ghosts of Empire, his term 'anarchic individualism' is an excellent fit for his own policies as Chancellor. This economic historian seems determined to replay two of the worst episodes in our financial history- the 'Barber boom' which coincided with the OPEC oil embargo and which lead to stagflation and deep industrial strife- Heath had to declare a state of Emergency- and the less important, but significant, mistake made by Norman Lamont in 1992 when the financial markets forced the Chancellor to exit the ERM after interest rates soared over the space of a single day. Today, Britain is faced with rising real interest rates- which could destroy the property market and raise mortgage payments for millions of new Tory voters by much more than they could hope to gain through lower taxes. More fundamentally, Kwarteng has dented confidence in sterling. We look like a pack of jokers being scolded by the IMF. 

How did things go so horribly wrong? I suppose the answer is that Truss and Kwarteng felt they had to give the shires strong red meat to compensate for BoJo's departure. What they forgot was 'Ricardian equivalence' or the 'Barro neutrality theorem' both of which militate to the conclusion that you can't just spend your way to growth. If no genuine growth seems feasible, there is mere 'crowding out' of useful investment or consumption activity. The market penalizes what they see as improvidence and so National Wealth- governed by the exchange rate- shrinks which in turn dampens spending.

One reason the British Empire wasn't really 'anarchic' or 'individualistic' was because there were genuine economies of scope and scale and other beneficial 'externalities' associated with joining a big trading and military block. Governance tended to improve because the 'individualists' were replaced by bead-counters and, over time, the bead-counters created state capacity of a minimal but effective sort.

 The Tory party- which is now on its fourth Prime Minister- has gone in the opposite direction. It has gotten Britain out of the EU's basic 'risk pooling' structure without replacing it with anything at all. Meanwhile, uncertainty has increased because of supply shocks like COVID and Ukraine. As with the Barber boom, there is currently a risk of escalation by Putin or further sabotage of oil pipelines. This is not the time to 'bet the farm' on 'Voodoo economics'. Ideology can be a very good thing- but there is a 'kairotic' or timely element to it. It is no good saying it is a glorious morning while yet we hear the chimes of midnight.

I suppose, Truss- not Kwarteng- must have pulled the trigger on this gamble. Other leaders have walked back similar schemes in the face of unruly markets and there would be no shame in her doing so. After all, markets might still fear a Labor government more than the current bunch of anarchists. 

Can the rich be poor?

In a recent paper, Mark Peacock asks 'can the rich be poor?' The answer is no. The fat can't be thin and the good can't be bad.

Peacock's abstract reads-  This theoretical contribution to poverty studies investigates Amartya Sen’s work as a basis for examining poverty.

In which case, it is mental masturbation.

 Sen discusses two social capabilities, each essential to the avoidance of poverty; one is the ability to appear in public without feeling shame,

which drunk people can do even if they are naked and have a radish stuck up their bum.

 the other the ability to participate in the life of the community. 

which has nothing to do with poverty or wealth. Being nice or charming helps. Being nasty or boring is what gets you shunned. Take it from me. I know whereof I speak.

This essay analyzes the intricacies of using the concept of community as a reference group for judging a person’s poverty, and it compares Sen’s use of this reference group with that of Adam Smith and Peter Townsend. 

Townsend really cared about the poor in Britain. Sen only pretended to care about the poor so as to advance his own career.

The essay develops a notion of the “affluent poor,” which is a logical category of the capability perspective which Sen has developed.

There has always been an 'affluent poor'- we call them debtors. 

 Although the affluent poor might appear to be oxymoronic, those who embrace the capability perspective should acknowledge it as a necessary implication thereof.

But what they are embracing is shit the necessary implication of which is being shitty. 

Amartya Sen argues that poverty should be assessed in the space of capabilities (Sen 1992, 9; Sen 1999, 87).

But the space of capabilities is unknowable. Who can tell which entrepreneur or which scientist or which sportsman will prove to be one of the greats? What about how capabilities will change if we have access to quantum computers? Would a cretin like me suddenly become capable of solving complex mathematical problems?  

Whether someone has the capability to do or be X is often independent of whether others have the same capability.

It is unknown. We might think a kid is capable of becoming a great basketball player because he is very tall. But he might not have some mysterious X-factor and thus will never make the grade.  

Consequently, a person who lacks a capability may be deemed deprived irrespective of the capabilities of others, that is, “without [us] having to ascertain first the relative picture” (Sen 1981, 17).

But this is done by arbitrary stipulation. Anyone can point at a kid and say 'I tell you that boy will be the next Roger Federer'.  Equally, I can say 'the poorest man in the world is Bill Gates. Everybody thinks he is rich but they are wrong. All is the fault of the mind-rays of the Lizard people.' 

This is why Sen holds that poverty has an “irreducible absolutist core” (Sen 1983, 332).

No. Sen says things like that because he thinks it makes him sound smart. But he isn't smart. Nothing has an 'irreducible core'. On the other hand, Sen is an incorrigible bore.  

Nevertheless, one’s ability to realize capabilities absolutely

'ability to realize capability' is meaningless. Ability means the same thing as capability. The thing only exists if it can be realized at will. 

can, and often does, involve relativity in the space of resources, commodities or income necessary for realizing certain capabilities.

No. Ability involves realization at will. Realization occurs in a configuration space. But such spaces are not relativized. One might say 'only one person can come first' so realizations are relative. But this is not really true. Two people can come first.  

This is the case for what Sen calls “social capabilities” (Sen 1985b, 670; Sen 1992, 115). One such is the capability to appear in public without shame, which, in what follows, I refer to as the no-shame capability.

Which has nothing to do with poverty. The Duchess may feel she can't appear in public without shame because her new tiara hasn't yet been delivered by the jeweler. I may feel no shame in appearing nude in public because I am drunk. 

Sen may not have noticed that much has changed in England since the time of Adam Smith. Dukes might dress like dustmen if that was what is considered cool.  

Another social capability concerns the ability to participate in the life of the community,

which is solely a function of your social skills, not your poverty or wealth.  

which, henceforth, I call the community-participation capability. Realizing these capabilities, that is, transforming the capability into an achievement or functioning, presupposes that one “meet the demands of social convention” (Sen 1983, 335). Both capabilities therefore involve a reference group – one’s community – which is the bearer of the standards or conventions up to which one must live if one is to be a participating member of the community and to avoid shame.

But, in England, things have changed since the eighteenth century. People aren't judged on the basis of their apparel, the height of their wigs,  or the quality of the sword they have dangling from their belt.  

In this article, I engage in the sort of “conceptual questioning” of poverty for which Sen (2006, 30) calls to accompany the empirical study and measurement of poverty.

Poverty- like Sickness- means an unfortunate state of affairs. The only type of conceptual questioning that is acceptable is such as might mitigate or reduce Poverty or Sickness. Sen-tentious shite won't help. Saying 'x is starving' may cause people to give money to x. But saying 'please help the affluent poor or the  healthy sick or the orphan whose mummy and daddy are very much alive' is counter-productive.   

Sen’s no-shame capability is inspired by Adam Smith’s discussion of “necessaries” which Sen often quotes. Smith writes: By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but what ever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even the lowest order, to be without. A linen shirt, for example, is, strictly speaking, not a necessary of life. The Greeks and Romans lived, I suppose, very comfortably, though they had no linen. But in present times … a creditable day-labourer would be ashamed to appear in publick without a linen shirt … Custom … has rendered leather shoes a necessary of life in England. The poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them (1981/1776, V.ii.k.3).

That has changed. Cotton shirts are perfectly acceptable as are trainers made of goretex or some other such artificial fabric. In any case, Smith was wrong about his own period. Wooden clogs were perfectly respectable in many English towns.  

Smith draws attention to varying resource requirements for meeting the no-shame capability: the eighteenth-century day-labourer, in contrast to his ancient forebears in Greece and Rome, required a linen shirt to meet this capability.

This simply wasn't true. A respectable man or woman remained respectable whatever he or she wore. A rogue or a prostitute remained an object of scorn even if finely dressed.  

Sen stresses that a person who fails to meet the no-shame capability because, say, he lacks appropriate attire, suffers an absolute capability deficit.

Sen comes from the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Theresa. Moreover, the most respected members of the wealthy Digambara Jain sect are completely naked. It is obvious that the ability to receive respect is wholly unrelated to what one wears.  

The absolute deficit in the space of capabilities involves a relative deficit in the space of commodities (Sen 1983, 333, 335):

No. Ability is unrelated to what can be bought or sold. I may dress like a Bishop. I am not a Bishop. But Bishops may wear mufti without any impairment of their dignity.  

Smith’s day-labourer, for example, commands relatively fewer commodities (in particular, no linen shirt) than others in the same community; ridding himself of this shame would be an absolute  achievement for the labourer, the accomplishment of which would require that he pull equal with others in the space of commodities by acquiring a linen shirt.

This is sheer fantasy. The day laborer could wear a woolen or cotton garment. What mattered was his strength and skill. 

Smith draws our attention to two dimensions along which customary differences in resource requirements for meeting the no-shame capability operate. One is temporal, the other spatial. Methodologically, we must consider each separately, although they can be combined. Purely temporal comparisons examine the way in which what is deemed a necessity in one and the same society changes over time. Purely spatial comparisons, on the other hand, involve two spatially separate but contemporaneous societies. Smith (1981/1776, V.ii.k.3) offers us a purely spatial comparison when he tells us that, in England, leather shoes were but, in France, were not required to appear in public without shame.

Smith was wrong. The English had clogs. The French had sabots.  Sen, with typical stupidity, latched on to something silly that Smith wrote and produced a spatially and temporally stupid theory out of it. Maybe, in the Fifties, one could say that men needed to wear suits and hats so as to be considered gentlemen. But, by the Seventies, this simply wasn't true. 

If we compare two geographically separate and non-contemporaneous societies, both temporal and spatial comparison is involved, as with Smith’s comparison of the ancient world (Greece and Rome) with early-modern England.

Socrates would not have been spurned from the doors of the Athenaeum had he turned up in his customary attire. The ability to command respect is a function of virtue and skill not the clothes you have on your back.  

In 1985- in between Thatcher's landslide victories in '83 and '87- Joanna Mack and Stewart Lansley published a book titled 'Poor Britain' which suggested that poor British people were very very stupid. That's why they kept voting for Thatcher even though they were starving to death. Sen, too, suggested that Britain might soon face a huge famine because the working class were too stupid to understand that they had nothing to eat. So they would die and then the Government would feel very sorry for its callousness. 

Similarly, one’s capability to nourish oneself adequately can be misperceived by first-person reports, as Joanna Mack and Stewart Lansley illustrate with the case of “Tricia” who, in order to afford toys for her children, had reduced her food intake to one meal per day. Her self-perception of this state of affairs was that it is “just something I’ve got used to, you know, so I don’t think I could eat every day if people put it in front of me” (1985, 95).

Atul Gopichand and Vivek Iyer investigated the case of 'Tommy' who kept sucking off Tory Cabinet Ministers because this was his only way to gain a little protein in his diet. His self-perception was that he was actually the Queen of Engyland and that Magna Carta obliged him to perform fellatio on evil upholders of Neo-Liberalism. He said 'sucking dicks is just something I've got  used to, you know, so I don't think I could not suck dicks even if none were put in front of me. Also I vote Tory coz Thatcher will soon rid us of all them Pakis and Nig Nogs and Yuropeens.'  

This Stoic attitude belies the objective fact that she suffers from dizziness, most likely a consequence of eating irregularly.

while voting Tory 

Cases like this should lead us to mistrust a person’s expressions of happiness or desire fulfilment as bases for judgements about that person’s well-being.

No. It should cause us to mistrust nutters who tell stupid lies in the belief that this helps the poor. 

  Although the two disagree about many aspects of poverty (Sen, 1985b; Townsend, 1985), both use the notion of community as a reference point for judging poverty.

But the 'community' turned its back on Townsend's bollocks. Still, when he started out, he was part of something good and useful. But pretending that Mrs Thatcher was starving the proles was a stupid lie and so Townsend faded into obscurity.  

In what follows, I compare Townsend and Sen with regard to their respective understandings of community. Townsend holds people to be poor “when they lack the resources to ... participate in the activities and have the living conditions and the amenities which are customary ... in the societies to which they belong” (Townsend 1979, 31, 413, 922).

Which is why they emigrated or were helped to do so. Redistribution soon hit the brick wall of 'stagflation'. The working class wasn't going to tax itself to pamper the work-shy. Thatcher and Reagan came to power and things got better for those with a work ethic and a bit of get up and go.  

There exist, according to Townsend, expectations which render certain goods or “styles of life” necessities if one is to participate in the life of the community. What does Townsend understand by “society” and “community”? Townsend eschews the idea of a monolithic national society which imposes the same expectations on all: “[t]here is no unitary and clear-cut national ‘style of living’. Rather, there are series of overlapping and merging community, ethnic, organizational and regional styles” (Townsend 1979, 249). There exist “social sub-systems” based on ethnicity, sex, locality (urban or rural), class and religion (Townsend 1979, 554, 59, 53).

Imagine the plight of a poor Muslim who can only afford three wives or a starving Hindu who has only one 257 meter tall statue of Sardar Patel. A multi-cultural society has a duty to lift such people out of the abject shame and misery of their deprivation. 

The plain fact is that affluent countries encouraged their poor to emigrate but brought in people from poorer countries who had lower standards of living and thus lower 'disutility' from work. There may have been a time when some silly Lefties thought that voters would want to help the poor by paying more in tax but those days are long gone. Even Sweden it seems has turned to what used to be called 'the far right'. 

Mridula Mukherjee on Nehru & the Bengal Famine

Last year, Mridula Mukherjee published the following in the National Herald-  

This week we bring this passage from 'The Discovery of India' (by Jawaharlal Nehru, published in November of 1946) on the Bengal famine of 1943. It is for the reader to judge whether or not there are uncanny resemblances between the scenario so scathingly sketched in it and the present predicament.

God alone knows what Mridula means. Perhaps she thinks her readers believe that India is still ruled by the British. Or perhaps what she is hinting at that Nehru was as stupid as his great-grandson Rahul while Mamta is as bad as Suhrawardy.  

“India was very sick, both in mind and body. While some people had prospered during the war,

e.g. the guys who financed the Congress Party and the Muslim League 

the burden on others had reached breaking point,

Nehru & Co preferred to sulk in jail while others took on the burden of fighting the Japanese. Many died in battle or in Tojo's prison camps. They had been tested to breaking point. Congress leaders took a break from politics while waiting in jail for the Japanese to be defeated so as to pose as the victors in some supposed 'freedom struggle'.  

and as an awful reminder of this came famine, a famine of vast dimensions affecting Bengal and east and south India.

Nehru should have formed a coalition with Fazl ul Haq. Congress ministries should not have resigned. They had a duty to protect the voters who had put them in power. Instead they made childish demands, which the League would not countenance, and then meekly queued up to go to jail. This turned out to be a good idea because they probably were just as useless and corrupt as people from other parties.  

“It was the biggest and most devastating famine in India during the past 170 years of British dominion, comparable to those terrible famines which occurred from 1766 to 1770 in Bengal and Bihar as an early result of the establishment of British rule.

Transferring power over food to an elected government in Bengal in 1937 turned out to be a bad idea. The politicians preferred to let their cronies get rich. 

It must be said, the 1935 Act had also permitted the setting up of a Federal Government at the  Center. But Congress would not compromise with the other parties to enable this to happen. Thus the transfer of power to 'representative' government in India had not resulted in Indians taking responsibility for feeding or defending themselves. 

As Nehru's pal, Stafford Cripps, told the Americans in a radio broadcast in 1942, Mahatma Gandhi wanted the Brits to leave so anarchy might prevail. The Japanese might take over- true- but Gandhi said that, with a bit of luck, they might move on to somewhere nicer.  

Epidemics followed, especially cholera and malaria, and spread to other provinces, and even today they are taking their toll of scores of thousands of lives.

Gandhi thought mud-packs and enemas might help. But small pox vaccination was evil. It was tantamount to the forcible consumption of beef! BTW, Gandhi's pal, medical Doctor Pranjivan Mehta also opposed vaccinations and quarantines in Burma. Naturally, the fool wanted to make a present of the place to the Burmese who would chase Indians out.

Millions have died of famine and disease and yet that spectre hovers over India and claims its victims.

An agricultural nation can't feed itself. Why? There can be only one answer. It has horrible leadership. The administration may be good but administration is not leadership. In 1951, Nehru asked for and got 2 million tons of food from America. Between 1955 and 1971, America sent over 50 million tons. This was bad for the Indian farmer. It represented a failure of leadership. 

“This famine unveiled the picture of India as it was below the thin veneer of the prosperity of a small number of people at the top — a picture of poverty and ugliness of British rule.

There was a British administration at the Federal level. But the Provinces had control over food and health and education. Thus the situation Nehru is complaining of was the product of Indian misrule or the horrible type of leadership politicians like himself were providing the Indian people. 

That was the culmination and fulfilment of British rule in India.

But there could have been no British rule in India if the culmination and fulfilment of Indian self-rule hadn't been so fucking disastrous that a handful of foreigners from a distant isle could take over the place. 

In 1962, India had to appeal to America for military aid. It seems, under Nehru's leadership, it could neither feed nor defend itself.  

It was no calamity of nature or play of the elements that brought this famine, nor was it caused by actual war operations and enemy blockade.

In which case, the blame falls entirely on the elected Government of the Province in question.  

Every competent observer is agreed that it was a man-made famine which could have been foreseen and avoided.

By those elected to do so but who chose not to. The Ipsahanis made a lot of money out of the famine. Nehru must have known this. But he prefers to blame the Brits though they had an alibi. Power over food had been transferred to elected Indians five years previously.  

“Everyone is agreed that there was amazing indifference, incompetence, and complacency shown by all the authorities concerned.

But those with authority were brown, not white. The Governor had to do what the Premier said- so long as he enjoyed the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. The Viceroy had to go by what the Governor reported. The Secretary of State, back in London, had to abide by the terms of the 1935 Act. So did the Prime Minister.  

Right up to the last moment, when thousands were dying daily in the public streets, famine was denied

by elected Ministers 

and references to it in the Press were suppressed by the censors.

who reported to the elected Ministry.  

“When the Statesman, newspaper of Calcutta, published gruesome and ghastly pictures of starving and dying women and children in the streets of Calcutta, a spokesman of the Government of India,

this was the politician in charge of Food whose very Anglo Saxon name was Jwala Prasad Srivastava 

speaking officially in the central assembly,

whose president had the typically Welsh name of Sir Abdur Rahim. He was a strong supporter of the Pakistan demand and, though Bengali, moved to Karachi in 1947. 

protested against the ‘dramatization’ of the situation; to him apparently it was a normal occurrence for thousands to die daily from starvation in India.

Nehru's pleas for food aid were based on exactly this presumption.  

“Mr. Amery, of the India Office in London, distinguished himself especially by his denials and statements.

Which reflected the constitutional position whereby it was up to the elected Ministry in Bengal to declare, or not declare, a famine.  

And then, when it became impossible to deny or cloak the existence of widespread famine, each group in authority blamed some other group for it.

Why? The Premier and his Cabinet bore responsibility because they and they alone had the constitutional authority to declare, or not declare, a famine. 

Nehru's argument amounts to this- the British are responsible for the famine because they foolishly transferred power over food, finance, and civil supply to elected Indian politicians.  But Nehru was also demanding that the Brits hand over military and diplomatic power! The plain fact is, the Brits won the war militarily and diplomatically. Had a Federal Government been formed- as was envisaged by the 1935 Act- Indians might have had charge of both those departments. It is more than likely that they would have invited the Japanese in. 

Nehru's own diplomatic and military leadership led to a humiliating defeat by China in 1962 despite the fact that Nehru had championed China's cause. 

The Government of India said it was the fault of the provincial government, which itself was merely a puppet government functioning under the Governor and through the civil service.

It was not a puppet government. That's why it was able to enrich its supporters very greatly while making the lives of Hindus intolerable.  

“They were all to blame, but most of all, inevitably, that authoritarian government which the Viceroy represented in his person and which could do what it chose anywhere in India.

This may have been true where the elected administration chose to resign and go sulk in jail. But it wasn't true in the worst famine affected Province.  

In any democratic or semi- democratic country such a calamity would have swept away all the governments concerned with it.

Suhrawardy became Premier after the 1946 election. Had Mujib not been assassinated he'd have been re-elected after the 1974 famine- had he bothered to hold elections. 

Not so in India where everything continued as before….

for Hindus- because Congress continued to be useless.  Muslims however made great progress towards securing Pakistan. 

“The famine was a direct result of war conditions and the carelessness and complete lack of foresight of those in authority.

who were elected Indians.  But Nehru, by 1943, was fuming at Gandhi's complete lack of foresight. Yet, with respect to China, he was to show even less foresight. As he himself said, he and his ilk had lived in a make-believe world. 

The indifference of the authorities to the problem of the country’s food passes comprehension when every intelligent man who gave thought to the matter knew that some such crises was approaching.

Which is why they knew that there was a heck of a lot of money to be made by those with political connections.  

The famine could have been avoided, given proper handling of the food situation in the earlier years of the war. In every other country affected by the war full attention was paid to this vital aspect of war economy even before the war started. In India the Government of India started a food department three and a quarter years after the war began in Europe and over a year after the Japanese war started.

Because, the Indians had not been able to agree to the creation of a Federal Government. Thus the power that had been devolved to the Provinces could not be pooled in a representative Assembly. Indeed, it was only because Congress was sulking in jail that there could be a food department at the Center.  

“And yet it was common knowledge that the Japanese occupation of Burma vitally affected Bengal’s food supply.

But Nehru's pal, Bose- also a former President of Congress- allied himself with Hitler and Tojo though, it was 'common knowledge' that Japanese aggression would bring famine to Bose's own Bengal.  

The Government of India had no policy at all in regard to food till the middle of 1943 when famine was already beginning its disastrous career.

Once Nehru became Premier, India's policy was to beg for food- not try to grow it.  

It is most extraordinary how inefficient the Government always is in every matter other than the suppression of those who challenge its administration.

No great efficiency is involved in jailing people who meekly queue up for that purpose.  

Or perhaps it is more correct to say that, constituted as it is, its mind is completely occupied in its primary task of ensuring its own continuance.

Whereas Nehru's mind did not have to be occupied by anything at all because his jailors were responsible for feeding him and seeing to his medical needs.  

Only an actual crisis forces it to think of other matters.

China forced Nehru to think of 'other matters'- e.g. how to eject their invading troops. But what did Nehru's thinking lead to? He cried like a baby for Whitey to come and protect his people and feed them and wipe their collective bums. Then the Chinese unilaterally ceased hostilities and withdrew to the border they had decided on.  

That crisis again is accentuated by the ever-present crisis of want of confidence in the Government’s ability and bona fides.

Nehru had zero confidence in India's ability. It was bona fide shit, not just pretending to be shit.  

“Though the famine was undoubtedly due to war conditions and could have been prevented, it is equally true that its deeper causes lay in the basic policy which was impoverishing India and under which millions live on the verge of starvation.

That 'basic policy' involved not actually enslaving Indians and shooting seditious barristers and expropriating their property.  

In 1933 Major General Sir John Megaw, the Director-General of the Indian Medical Service, wrote in the course of a report on public health in India: ‘Taking India as a whole the dispensary doctors regard 39 per cent of the people as being well nourished, 41 per cent as poorly nourished, and 20 per cent as very badly nourished. The most depressing picture is painted by the doctors of Bengal who regard only 22 per cent of the people of the province as being well nourished while 31 per cent are considered to be very badly nourished.

By the end of Nehru's reign, Indian Statisticians believed that about a quarter of the population was under-nourished. Those below the starvation level might be about half a percentage with the overall figure around ten percent. There had been no improvement after fifteen years of Independence or twenty five years of Provincial autonomy with respect to food. 

The plain fact is, Congress did not have a Food policy unless begging can be considered a policy.  Why? Policies cost money to implement. Nehru & Co didn't want to spend money on feeding poor people. They could always blame the Brits for everything. Why didn't they simply enslave the natives and send English Dukes and Earls to run the place? 

“The tragedy of Bengal and the famines of Orissa, Malabar, and other places, are the final judgment on British rule in India.

No. The Brits had eliminated famine by the start of the Twentieth Century. They conquered Burma and gave it an incentive to supply the food deficit areas of India. During the Thirties, Burma was responsible for half of all rice exports. India suffered famine when the Japs took Burma from the Brits- at least partly because Indians and some others were too stupid to see that Jap rule would have been infinitely worse than British rule- but the Britain got it back with American help. They did rebuild Burmese exports to benefit their own Food Ministry but India got a much smaller allocation through the International Emergency Food Board. Burmese independence meant that the Burmese government could get a profit by being a monopsonist of rice. Predictably, this meant lower returns for rice and thus a deterioration in quality and quantity.  Also there was a shift away from it to other crops. After the 1962 coup, there was more intensive expulsion of Indians and a further deterioration in exports. 

India, unlike the Brits, never considered how to meet food availability deficit by looking to its own neighbourhood. Thus, it preferred to beg for wheat from America or the USSR even when Pakistan had a surplus. But then, India retained controls on inter-state food transfers after the war. 

The British will certainly leave India and their Indian Empire will become a memory, but what will they leave when they have to go, what human degradation and accumulated sorrow?

The Nehru dynasty will certainly leave Indian politics and their Party will become a memory, but what will they leave when they have to go? Nobody cares. We have better leadership now. India's human degradation and accumulated sorrow during the first half of the Twentieth Century had a lot to do with Indian politicians being utterly shit.  

Tagore saw this picture as he lay dying three years ago: ‘But what kind of India will they leave behind, what stark misery? When the stream of their centuries’ administration runs dry at last, what a waste of mud and filth they will leave behind them!’”

Tagore's grandfather had spent good money lobbying the British parliament to lift restrictions on European settlement in India. Why? Whites would protect Hindus from Muslims. He knew that there would be little Hindu 'mud and filth' left behind in Muslim majority East Bengal where his family owned big estates. That's why he wasn't keen for the Brits to leave. 

When the Brits left did the administration, the army, and the judicial system deteriorate greatly? No- unless there was political interference. Thus Indians could have supplied 'the stream' (i.e. IAS etc) if only their political leaders hadn't been as stupid as shit. Nehru- like Gandhi- genuinely believed Indians were shit. Other politicians were less sure this was the case. Sill, they eagerly adopted Nehruvian or Gandhian or Communist ideologies so as to ensure India would remain shit. Sadly, some Indians didn't get the message. They are not properly Secular and Scientific. Indeed, they are nothing but Fascists! Not the sort Bose who went to cuddle with Hitler but the Franco sort who rebuilt their country and helped it transition to affluence and a type of Democracy which is not founded wholly upon demagoguery against a vanished Colonial power.