Thursday, January 31, 2008
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
If you're a regular reader of this blog it's no secret to you that I've been following the 2008 Presidential election very closely.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Thursday, January 24, 2008
On the surface, there is a simple story about accountability in Indian media. On this view, there is competition; and competition, we assume, produces accountability. But competition alone does not work on many dimensions. Running a newspaper is a financially complicated business. This is particularly true in a country like India where newspaper readers are not willing to pay anything close to the costs of producing quality news. The rest will have to be subsidised by activities like advertising revenue.
Although related, competition for advertising revenues is not the same thing as competition for the needs of readers. Both have different logics. There is a sense in which intellectual ambition is a genuinely public good, but is under-supplied by the market...
This point has come home in a story that should be a frontline scandal in any democracy. A couple of newspapers have been reporting on an open secret of the media, the existence of private treaties. Under these, media houses invest in companies, which then receive favourable media treatment in turn, including column inches favourable to these companies...
The challenge for the media is this. It is caught between a CPM that wants the state to have more powers than it should, and a market structure that thinks literally everything should be for sale. If these are the only choices available to us, God help the fourth estate and Indian democracy. The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This comes out strongly in health care, which is where I also tend to interact with the libertarian view the most. As far as I can tell, most libertarians appear to believe that if you just rip away all cost insulation, forcing individuals to pay costs they can barely burden, that threat of financial ruin will sharpen their minds and lead to better health decisions. I tend to think it will just lead to their financial ruin, and because most of us know that we're not nearly as assiduous as we should be about saving for retirement and putting money in our health savings accounts, we're wise to understand that we do a poor job planning for risk, and so should preemptively enter into agreements that radically reduce the level of insecurity in our lives. If we can add in some incentives and penalties encouraging smart behavior and discouraging poor decisions, that's all for the good.
But it is, at base, a disagreement over the likely behavior of humans, and how we should respond to it. The Cato employees of the world -- Tyler is not one, incidentally -- simply have a much more optimistic take on the individual's mastery over his sphere. We are, with a bit of an assist from price signals, doctors, stockbrokers, bond traders, pension planners, and much else. I on the other hand, see more in the way of frailty and shortcomings, and am instead deeply optimistic that our self-knowledge of those vulnerabilities allow us to stand together and protect each other against not only the vicissitudes of a dangerous world, but occasionally, against ourselves.
All that said, it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Tyler is right that there is much more that unites us than divides us. Kung pao, for instance. And that ain't no small thing. Posted by Ezra Klein on January 21, 2008 10:53 AM Permalink TAPPED Beat the Press Ezra Klein
“...given India’s fragmented party system, the prospects for parliamentary chaos distracting the elected president are considerable. An American or Latin American model, with a president serving both as head of state and head of government, might better evade the problem we have experienced with political factionalism.”Indira Gandhi, at one time thought of French Presidential system and as per some press leaks she discussed the matter with the then visiting French President. But nothing further could be heard thereafter. Only Charan Singh divulged it and opined that it was only the American system he was prepared to accept. At that time some journalists and a few veteran politicians were vocal for a change of system. But it was for a short period and then the debate failed the steam for a national issue. But what is an American system at all? In the US the President is not directly elected by the people but direct involvement of the people in general helps the President to be elected. The presidential election takes place every four years. People across the country cast their votes for whichever candidate they believe will do the best job. Votes are counted, and this is called the popular vote, but it is more than a popularity contest. This is where the Electoral College comes in. The Electoral College is a group of people who gather to cast their votes for the various presidential candidates. When the Americans are casting their votes for the presidential candidates, they are actually casting their votes for electors, who will cast their votes for the candidates. So they form an electoral college for electing the president.When all the electoral votes are counted, the president, with the most votes gained by him or her, in this way, wins. In most cases, the candidate who wins the popular vote also wins in the Electoral College. The American President wields wide powers. The President and his or her cabinet, for example, are not members of Congress, unlike the British or Indian Prime Minister and his or her cabinet, who are all members of parliament. The all three institutions – the Congress, President and Supreme Court are so devised in a system where checks and balances in which the three branches of government work separately from each other. Some may argue that an American President may be an authoritarian so far as the powers he/she wields. But no American President has so far been an autocrat. But in India – Indira Gandhi proclaimed emergency even not discussing the matter with all her cabinet colleagues for their approval. Moreover to offset the autocratic tendencies of the president – an executive chief minister or a governor for a state should be directly elected as it is in the US. I think that considering all the aspects of Indian situation the model of American Presidential system is the best available model for India and a change over to this model is urgently necessary. Otherwise the disrespect and loss of faith in the government may lead to anarchy. Indian cities and towns are fast being ghettos of criminals-who act under the secure umbrella of petty politicians on whom the big leaders depend in times of electoral battles.
But why it has not been discussed in national level and what are the main obstacles for a switch over? We Indians have fallen in a trap. For a change of system the matter must get approval from two thirds members of the parliament. Will they – the executives ever agree? Once elected an MP in the parliament – enjoys enormous perks and family pension securities. But apart from this official payments they get access to earn form various sources including businessmen. This evil is two-fold. First this means that joining in politics is lucrative and so the persons who have power – both money and muscle – make it do or die ventures to get somehow elected. And secondly once elected they are after personal privileges. So this is a vicious circle. More so that these people will never allow for a change of system. So this is fait accompli for India unless there is a popular upsurge against the system...
ADDENDUM- (Tamil Nadu) The two main parties are like two individual companies headed by two persons whose only motive is to keep the parties as their personal zamidaries. I can not reconcile how such a great race like to remain as the subjects of two persons. It is because of this parliamentary system. Tamils feel it not comfortable (because of thousands of years of living in other side of Vindhyas) to be ruled by the pre-dominant North Indians. This psychology has been narrowly exploited by the regional parties. As I have told earlier – this could have been avoided under a Presidential system. India as a whole suffers from not having the Tamils in the mainstream politics... Posted by Babul at 14:15:00
Monday, January 21, 2008
Indian Express: Sunday, January 20, 2008 NEW DELHI, JANUARY 19:
In a terse statement issued on Saturday after it presented its second report to the Prime Minister, the NKC came down heavily on the resistance shown by Union ministries—from Education, Health, Science and Technology and Law—towards its recommendations when it came to their implementation.
The commission released its second annual ‘Report to the Nation’, which was presented to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday.
NKC chairman Sam Pitroda emphasised that the commission “must be involved in ensuring the implementation of their innovative ideas”. “The focus of NKC work has therefore been on ensuring that while the Central Government designs appropriate strategies supported by financial allocations to implement their recommendations, the commission engages simultaneously with diverse stakeholders to build up a groundswell of favourable opinion and assist preparation of implementing strategies at the grassroots. Continuing dialogue with a wide and diverse set of stakeholders has been a critical part of its process both in formulating recommendations and in their subsequent dissemination. The NKC has tried to provide a platform for sharing and debating ideas, a critical requisite for accepting and steering change,” he said.
The NKC, Pitroda said, was now moving on to the next stage of its work, which was formulating Knowledge Initiatives at state and district levels to ensure that there was institutional and mental preparedness at the grassroots level to absorb financial outlays of the 11th Plan. At present, the NKC is engaged in discussions with about 17 states towards this end.
The NKC’s report assumes importance in the context of the UPA Government’s initiatives in the 11th Plan endorsed recently by the National Development Council. The Plan places high priority on education and this is reflected in the proposed allocation of Rs 3,00,000 crore, a five-fold increase over the 10th Plan.
Work, grow, and align the whole organisation toward a common purpose that is bigger than making money
Sudheendra Kulkarni Indian Express: Sunday, January 20, 2008
“Toyota is as much a state of mind as it is a car company,” said a blurb on the book-cover. I completed reading it overnight, and said to myself, “This is mind-expanding stuff. The best minds in politics and governance in India must read this treatise to get ideas on national reconstruction.”
This conviction was reinforced when, during a visit to Japan last year, I made it a point to spend a day at Toyota’s sprawling headquarters in Nagoya. “Respect for Humanity” is at the foundation of the Toyota Way, also known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), which is now studied globally by students of manufacturing management. The company’s president Fujio Cho says, “Since Toyota’s founding, we have adhered to the core principle of contributing to society through the practice of manufacturing high-quality products and services. Our business practices based on this core principle created values, beliefs and business methods that over the years have become a source of competitive advantage. These are known collectively as the Toyota Way.”
There has been a great misunderstanding and deliberate misreading of the fourfold society that the ancients saw
by RY Deshpande on Sun 20 Jan 2008 05:45 AM PST Permanent Link
But as we enter into the global multicultural and multi-religious age, as we step into the age of information, exclusive forms can no longer be justified in our society. But we have to be also alert about global exploitation and, in the rapacious commercialism, mindful of the ecological devastation that we are causing.
Perhaps we may have to evolve altogether new political systems that go beyond norms of the democracy as we understand it. There has to be an economic system that does not does not suppress economic freedom; nor can there be wealth-production as the single aim of all life. Naturally this will require much thinking, planning and new experiments.
There are certain spirituo-philosophical leads available in figuring what that “new” approach could be. In the extreme situation, to the Buddhist it was the relinquishment of the world of suffering and agony, of duhkha, and he did it by stepping into the selfless blank of Nirvana. This certainly is of no avail to the life that must be lived here in its fullness. Nor can a Mayavadin help us. For him oneness with the passive Brahman is the goal, with the single imperative of getting out of this illusory existence. In their extreme negativism these made room for the rush of unregenerate forces to take possession of human pursuits. This disownment deteriorating itself into tamasic indolence finally drove away the spirit of God from the affairs of the world.
In fact we have conflicts between the world of spirit and the world of phenomena; we also have conflicts caused by the various imbalances, of opportunities and capabilities clashing with each other. We have esoteric conflicts and we have secular conflicts. If one extreme of the first throve in India, the other of the second was flagrantly and very insensitively adopted by the West.
In this context when we hear Vivekananda’s message we at once realise that it has a twofold significance. To the West he cried: “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity within.” To the Indian his one firm exhortation was to break all idols and worship God the Poor, daridrī-nārāyaņa: “…the only God I believe in, the sum-total of all souls,—and above all my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, of all species is the special object of my worship.”
If we are to see a purpose in the creation then that purpose would seem to be to live, even here, in the joy of God-awareness. Someone said, “Put God in your programme.” True, but please, let also God have a programme for us if there is none.
Pragmatism or usefulness is a fact of existence today; the possibility to widen its scope of action, to bring newer dimensions in its swift operative dynamics, is also an aspect of its broader and ennobling intention. The thetic and the anti-thetic have to meet and join in the synthetic. The division between the secular and the esoteric has to disappear; ‘this’ and ‘that’ must unreservedly merge into its happy oneness. The will of man, his reason, his emotion and sensibility, his deeper and purer intuition, the calm and silent promptings of his soul, and its unobtrusive persuasion, all have to be recognised and given a natural place. The cry of the Rishi to lead him from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from death to immortality, mŗtyormāmŗtam gamaya, in such an eventuality acquires another poignancy. It becomes an imploration, to put in Sri Aurobindo’s phrase, for “bringing out the Infinite infinitely into form of being”.
That should lead us to understand the nature of a well-balanced and harmonious wholesome society which allows different aspects, collective as well as individual, to come together. Perhaps in it is the sense of an organisation that can meet a thousand and one demands without leading to conflicts. There has been a great misunderstanding and deliberate misreading of the fourfold society that the ancients saw as a proportioned and fulfilling expression of the spirit in life. Only when that is established is there the possibility of higher powers entering into the scheme of collective life, eastern or western, be it today or tomorrow, as it was in the deep past. We should have at least a quick look at it even as we shall try to understand the sense of globalisation.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
In reality, we voters — all of us — make emotional, intuitive decisions about who we prefer, and then come up with post-hoc rationalizations to explain the choices that were already made beneath conscious awareness. “People often act without knowing why they do what they do,” Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, noted in an e-mail message to me this week. “The fashion of political writing this year is to suggest that people choose their candidate by their stand on the issues, but this strikes me as highly implausible.”
Nobody really knows how voters think, especially during primary seasons when the policy differences are minute, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the cognitive chain went something like this:
After seeing a candidate for 100 milliseconds, voters make certain sorts of judgments based on expressiveness, facial structure, carriage and attitude. Alexander Todorov of Princeton has found that he can predict 70 percent of political races just by measuring peoples’ snap judgments of candidates’ faces.
Then, having formed an impression from these thin-slice appraisals, voters rack their memory banks. Decades ago, Kahneman and Amos Tversky argued that human judgment is less a matter of calculating probabilities and more a matter of trying to fit new things into familiar patterns. Maybe John Edwards reminds one voter of the sort of person he disliked in high school. Maybe Barack Obama evokes the elevated feeling another voter felt watching John F. Kennedy.
It is no accident that the major candidates in the Republican field are a pastor, a businessman and a war hero. These are the three most evocative Republican leadership models. Nor is it an accident that the Democratic race is a clash between a daughter of the feminist movement, a beneficiary of the civil rights movement and a self-styled proletarian. These are powerful Democratic categories.
In making these associations, voters are trying to perform trait inference. They are trying to divine inner abilities from outward signs.
At the same time, voters embark on an emotional journey with candidates. Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux have shown that emotion isn’t the opposite of reason. We use emotion to assign value to things, thus making decision-making possible.
As the campaign drags on, voters see candidates at different events. Maybe at one event Mitt Romney smiled without dipping the outer edge of his eyebrows. This is a cue that the smile is fake, and produces distrust. On the other hand, maybe he vowed to bring all the manufacturing jobs back to Michigan. A voter might have known this was impossible, but appreciated the concern nonetheless.
As the months go on, emotions oscillate and voter preferences do, too. Voters listen to policy proposals and infer character traits. A social contagion like Obamamania might sweep the country. A global shock might set off a wave of fear, producing a powerful intellectual cascade.
Social tribes rally for and against certain candidates. Rush Limbaugh is currently going bananas because Mike Huckabee threatens to disrupt the community of conservative dittoheads he has spent decades cohering. Work by researchers at Stanford’s Business School suggests that the voting environment itself — in say a church or a school — can influence choices.
Each of us has an unconscious but consistent way of construing the world. Some of us light up when we see a candidate being intelligent, others when we see a candidate being friendly or sentimental. This is the mode we use every day to make sense of the world.
My own intuition is that this unconscious cognition is pretty effective. People are skilled at judging character. And through reading, thinking and close observation, they can educate their unconscious to make smarter and finer distinctions.
But if there is one lesson from this wacky primary season, it is that we analysts should be careful about imposing a false order on voter decision-making. We can do our best to discern how certain politicians are making connections with certain voters, but in that process we have as much to learn from William James as from political scientists and pollsters.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Durkheim and Mauss were both socialists who emphasized the human interdependence entailed in an expanded social role for markets and money
The founders of modern social theory all considered markets to be progressive in that they broke up the insularity of traditional rural society and brought humanity into wider circles of discourse and interaction. But they differed over what should happen next. Marx and Engels considered that private money (‘capital’) was too fragmented to organize the urban societies brought into being by machine production of commodities; so they looked to the large concentrations of workers for a truly collective remedy. Max Weber recognized that the formal rationality of capitalist bureaucracy often led to a substantive deterioration of livelihood for many. But, as a liberal, he considered wholesale state intervention in markets to be a recipe for economic disaster. Durkheim and Mauss were both socialists who emphasized the human interdependence entailed in an expanded social role for markets and money, while rejecting the Social Darwinist claim that capitalism ensures the ‘survival of the fittest’.
I find Marcel Mauss’s position on markets and money to be more persuasive than Polanyi’s as a basis for ‘institutionalist political economy’. The Gift is an extended commentary on Durkheim’s argument that an advanced division of labour could only be sustained by ‘the non-contractual element in the contract’, a largely invisible body of state-made law, custom and belief that could not be reduced to abstract market principles. Mauss held that the attempt to create a free market for private contracts is utopian and just as unrealizable as its antithesis, a collective based solely on altruism. Human institutions everywhere are founded on the unity of individual and society, freedom and obligation, self-interest and concern for others. The pure types of selfish and generous economic action obscure the complex interplay between our individuality and belonging in subtle ways to others.
When the market is represented, as in neo-liberal ideology, as a force of nature giving expression to individual interests outside society, political opponents are apt to advocate either its abolition or at least closer control by collective interests. But this generates unrealistic and unsustainable programs that reproduce the neo-liberal model by negation. Mauss’s approach draws our attention to the institutional complexity of markets, while emphasizing their evolutionary function as means of drawing humanity into society on an ever-widening scale. Markets are thus an essential and dynamic feature of the human economy.
By calling the economy ‘human’ we insist on putting people first, making their thoughts, actions and lives our main concern. Such a focus should also be pragmatic: making economy personally meaningful to students or readers, relating it to ordinary people’s practical purposes. ‘Humanity’ is a moral quality, implying that, if we want to be good, we should treat other persons, people like ourselves, kindly. Since theoretical abstraction is impersonal and leaves no room for morality, a human economy would have to pay attention to the personal realm of experience; but it would be a mistake to leave it there. Humanity is also a collective noun, meaning all the people who have existed or ever will. So the human economy is inclusive in a sense reinforced by our contemporary witness to the formation of world society...
Money thus expands the capacity of individuals to stabilize their own personal identity by holding something durable that embodies the desires and wealth of all the other members of society. Money is a ‘memory bank’, a store allowing individuals to keep track of those exchanges they wish to calculate and, beyond that, a source of economic memory for the community. The modern system of money provides people with a wide repertoire of instruments to keep track of their exchanges with the world and to calculate the current balance of their worth in the community. In this sense, one of money’s chief functions is remembering. If persons are to make a comeback in the post-modern economy, it will be less on a face-to-face basis than as bits on a screen who sometimes materialize as living people in the present. We may become less weighed down by money as an objective force, more open to the idea that it is a way of keeping track of complex social networks that we each generate.
The reality of markets and money is not just universal abstraction, but the mutual determination of the abstract and the concrete. If you have some money, there is almost no limit to what you can do with it, but, as soon as you buy something, the act of payment lends concrete finality to your choice. Money’s significance thus lies in the synthesis it promotes of impersonal abstraction and personal meaning, objectification and subjectivity, analytical reason and synthetic narrative. Its social power comes from the fluency of its mediation between infinite potential and finite determination. To turn our backs on markets and money in the name of collective as opposed to individual interests reproduces by negation the bourgeois separation of self and society. It is not enough to emphasize the controls that people already impose on money and exchange as part of their personal practice. That is the everyday world as most of us know it. We also need ways of reaching the parts we don’t know, if we wish to avert the ruin they could bring down on us all.
- Inclusion of everyone will not lead to excellence; it will retard expansion too.
- Rapid expansion will necessarily place a premium on the competent, exclude the less able and increase disparities. Due to paucity of skilled manpower, rapid expansion will have to sacrifice excellence too.
- Likewise, maximising excellence will adversely affect both inclusion and rapid expansion.
The challenge of social engineering lies in putting together the mutually incompatible inclusion, expansion and excellence in such a manner that it causes least offence. The solution is not easy. Compromises will be necessary, and no compromise will satisfy everyone. The writer is a former director of IIT, Chennai email@example.com
Over the years, we have developed excellent think-tanks in Public Policy. The Centre for Policy Research is a good example. As a result, we have a broad consensus on policy issues. Everyone is agreed that inclusive growth is a must. Leaving the majority of the country abysmally poor (in absolute, not just relative terms) is morally obnoxious; those who are not troubled by morals will relate to the fact that a large sullen underclass represents a danger to private prosperity inside high-rises or gated communities...
We are in need of think-tanks that are focused, not on policy objectives, where there is more unanimity than we give credit for, but on the mechanics, processes, systems and incentive signals for implementation and execution. The beneficiaries of high growth in India’s private sector need to rise to this challenge. Dealing with this challenge will determine what kind of India we bequeath to our children. The writer is a student and observer of the contemporary Indian scene firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, January 7, 2008
Indian Express: Monday, January 07, 2008 11:16 AM
Sunday, January 6, 2008
The spiritual man who can guide human life towards its perfection is typified in the ancient Indian idea of the Rishi
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Wednesday, January 2, 2008
A true democracy demands constant revitalisation of the spirit of openness, generosity and liberality of opinion
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
"We must each of us, in our own way, fight for the cultural circumstances that make intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth possible, because most cultural circumstances actively suppress our growth as human beings."As such, any purely materialistic political philosophy will be a non-starter. I never say that "Republicanism" is any kind of ideal. Far from it. It's just that the left is so incredibly dangerous and destructive to human ends, that it must be opposed, just as the Islamofascists must be. In the case of the latter, their great evil is the same: the systematic smothering of our spiritual individuation. To force women to live in bags -- i.e., to deprive them of their face -- is a terrifying metaphor of what they do to the soul, which is to say, bury it in darkness. Likewise, radical feminism sophicates the beautiful archetypal feminine form in an airless black bag of faceless ideology. At any rate, all of the archetypes are collective save for one, which is your unique Self, and which is yours to keep as a consolation prize for this difficult journey we call life. Now, presuming there is a Creator, each person represents a unique "problem of God," something spoken of by Sri Aurobindo. And this is where we can run into a bit if trouble with institutionalized, "big box" religions, which can tend to cater to a psychological "type" rather than the individual. It doesn't have to be this way, any more than a Big Mac has to taste the same at every McDonalds in the world, but it's amazing how you can get people to choose things that aren't in their interests with enough salt and fat. Now, there was clearly a time when it was necessary for institutionalized religion to be geared toward the collective, since it wasn't too long ago that what we call the modern individual Self did not exist -- or at least for only a very few lucky souls. If you don't believe me, try digesting Charles Taylor's 600 page explanation, Sources of the Self, followed by his latest offering, A Secular Age, and get back to me. I think he pretty much covers the waterfront on that topic.