Monday, January 23, 2012

Free economic system within a free political system

Google Reader (68): 'via Blog this' THE WINGS OF ENVY AND RESENTMENT from Dr. Sanity by Dr. Sanity

The modern Democratic party is almost entirely based on hyping both envy and resentment, and appealing to the worse of human nature. By doing so, they have created destructive and wealth-destroying armys of entitlement whose goal, whether they admit it or not, is to destroy wealth and the source of wealth. Without envy, there would be no Democratic Party today. And when Sowell says that, "Whole totalitarian governments have risen to dictatorial power on the wings of envy and resentment ideologies", it is clear to even the least observant that this is the destructive path which is being foisted on this country by the mostly clueless minions of the political left.

I have to ask again with some exasperation, why aren't Republicans making a case for the essential morality of capitalism? An entire cultural war is being fought against capitalism, and instead of making the case for why economic freedom and the free market is the best possible means to economic betterment for ALL PEOPLE, regardless of whether they are rich or poor; black or white; gay or straight; male or female or along any other divide the progressives can think of. Instead, Republicans are busy legitimizing the narrative of the Democrats and their progressive left leaders. This is sheer stupidity and represents (sadly) how ubiquitous such narratives (such as "the 1% vs the 99%") have become.

Only in a free economic system within a free political system is it even possible to be moral, since benevolence toward others, compassion, charity, and generosity cannot exist without freedom. Benevolence, generosity, charity, and compassion that are mandated by the state, or by a religion (on pain of death or other consequence); or by any regulations on behavior; or by force--are meaningless insofar as individual morality is concerned. So yes, we must make the moral case for capitalism. We must continually put forth these ideas in debate and argument because they are good ideas and shining through them is the essential morality of America and Americans.

Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil that is undemocratic

The true meaning of the Anna phenomenon would be known only in due course of time. In the meantime, the debate surrounding the Anna movement has got so much charged up that it is becoming difficult to make a political judgment  (…) Ambedkar, quoting Greek historian Grote, had extensively dwelt on the importance of ‘constitutional morality’ in the representative democracy due to the possibility of a distance between the people and their representatives. He said ‘constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realise that our people have yet to learn it.

Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic. The upshot of his statement is quite clear—the spectre of the ‘grammar of anarchy’ is the speed-governor in institutional democracy whereas ‘constitutional morality’ as self-restraint should constitute the ground rule for the free play of democratic politics. But the moot point is: whether the political class in today’s India can claim adherence to it. Does not this appropriation of Ambedkar’s argument from the Constituent Assembly debates by all and sundry today look insincere, selective and insensitive to the larger context in which it was presented, with the obvious intention of just running away from a more nuanced and reasoned debate on the issues in question?

However, the question as to whether the representative is a trustee of the people’s will or a mere delegate, who is to be continuously commanded by the constituents, is itself an open and unresolved issue in the annals of representative democracy since the time of Burke and Mill, who had strained their nerves to come to a definite answer to this dilemma. The present turmoil on the issue of enacting a Lokpal Bill seems to have further aggravated this unresolved riddle of democratic politics, which has been smouldering since the time direct democracy of a participatory mode made way for the indirect one; along with the resultant question as to whether authorisation through election implies giving a carte blanche to the representatives till the next election to do whatever they may consider and construe to be the constituents’ interests. Or, are the representatives only delegates, who have to take directive and command from the people, whom they represent, from time to time and at different stages of political transactions? Not only this. Would the represented, when they feel that their mandate has been betrayed, be within their democratic right to demand an account from their representatives and foist their will on them through democratic means, even before the expiry of their electoral term?

Though, what constitutes democratic means in a democratic polity is itself an unsettled matter in today’s context, as electoral politics no longer performs its role as the only dependable channel of democratic transactions for the people due to a number of its operative deformities. And one thing is very clear that these posers are growing in importance by the day due to the legitimacy-deficit of the elected representatives and each time they are put forth by a discontented civil society, they only cast a longer shadow on the fate of representative democracy which often waxes eloquent about the procedural legitimacy, institutional efficacy and neutrality of its political space. One of the members of Team Anna, Prashant Bhushan, observes that ‘the representative democracy was developed at a time and in the circumstances when there was no mechanism available to know the views of the people on various issues on a continuous basis. But with the technological advances attained over the years, we can now move in the direction of more meaningful involvement of the civil society in the governance through dialogue and deliberations.’ By saying so, he rakes up a crucial issue; that is, the issue of accountability and responsiveness of the representatives towards their constituents in a democracy.

One of the authorities on the political representation, Hanna Pitkin, has said that ‘responsiveness need not to be constant activity in the representative democratic system. But there has to be a constant condition of responsiveness in the sense that the potential readiness of the representatives to respond should ever be present. … The age-old conundrum of democratic accountability is as relevant today as it was when direct participatory democracy transited towards a representative system. Now it is being proved again and again that the accountability and responsiveness issues are valid in themselves and have to be settled on their own terms. They can neither be taken care of within the emotive politics of group rights, as the failure of the social justice politics and their champions in some of the Indian States to stand accountable to their own social constituency, which had reposed so much faith in them, would bear it out. Nor can they be mortgaged to the abstract liberal democratic discourse of institutional neutrality, constitutional oath and secular fidelity, as their omissions and commissions have now become political folklore. Hence, if such meanings are derived from the Anna phenomenon, it would be a better service to the cause of Indian democracy than hiding behind the political rhetoric of parliamentary sovereignty and the civil society’s deformities in India.

It hardly needs any mention that India has neither gone for parliamentary sovereignty of the British type, nor has it adopted the judicial supremacy of the American variety. It has, instead, settled for a doctrine of ‘constitutional supremacy’, which proclaims sovereignty of the people. Can anyone overlook the fact that the Constitution of India swears in the name of ‘we the people’ at the very outset and this precedes everything else including the institution of Parliament? The author is an Associate Professor in Political Science, RLAE College, University of Delhi.

Democracy is just a new name for plutocracy

From two different vantage points, Naidu and Reddy have now been espousing the cause of the farmers in Andhra Pradesh. To say that the espousal of the cause of the farmers is an electoral gambit is stating the obvious.  Electoral politics by their very nature demand that political parties and their leaders be in touch with their constituents.  Irrespective of the next election in Andhra Pradesh being mid-term or on schedule, it is increasingly clear that the separate Telangana is not happening before that. … So what does this tell us about democracy?  It tells us that democracy is actually a surrogate for plutocracy, where the rich in order to control society and become richer still co-opt or coerce other sections of the populations in to their scheme of things by promising the earth, sky, moon and the stars. … Politicians apparently pay lip service to those sections of society that are in distress and chalk out a strategy much like a macro-marketing strategy to draw the votes of those in distress.  So in India, democracy is a plutocracy of people who become legislators by hook sometimes and by crook oftentimes but claim to have the legitimate support of the people.

So is this peculiar to India then?  The answer will be an emphatic no.  The answer is so emphatic not because I have any first hand experience of politics in other countries but because I have studied the evolution of modern day democracy.  The Greeks equated democracy to mob rule, it was only in the modern capitalist period that democracy found some respect.  The champions of modern capitalism such as John Locke and Adam Smith were also champions of democracy, but they never believed in or advocated the concept of Universal Suffrage or Universal Adult Franchise.  What they had advocated was a democratic plutocracy in which only the propertied and the rich would have any rights and say in decision making for society.  It is for this reason that they advocated concepts of free markets and limited governments.  Over the years, some sections from the mobs that the Greek political philosophers feared, were able to find their way into the process of democracy.  Once such people find entry into the democratic process, they lose no time in dissociating themselves from the mobs to which they once belonged and aspire to be plutocrats.  

Therefore, theorists such as Hamza Alavi and Samir Amin are right when they say that politicians constitute a separate class much like the traditional intellectuals (to borrow a term from Antonio Gramsci) think of themselves as a distinct class. The difference is that intellectuals play around with words and concepts and feel gratified if somebody notices what they say (they do not do anything, and I know I am implicating myself here even though I don't see myself as an intellectual in anyway) while the politicians find economic and financial gratification; something that is far more tangible. People's aspirations incidental to this grander scheme of politicians and some benefits that sometimes get passed on to some people are also incidental and just by products of the games that politicians play.  To conclude then, democracy is not will of the people, democracy is not fairness, democracy is not justice, democracy is not empowerment of all; modern democracy is just a new name, a legitimation for plutocracy and the furtherance of the agendas of the rich, be they individuals or corporations.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Cartels are formed not by collusion alone

Cartels Are an Emergent Phenomenon, Say Complexity Theorists - Technology Review: 'via Blog this'
"This cartel organization is not due to an explicit collusion among agents; instead it arises spontaneously from the maximization of the individual payoffs," say Peixoto and Bornholdt. These guys are clearly studying a parameter space displaying a rich variety of patters. And the cartel-like region of this space has its own patterns of behaviour. It is categorised by sudden and dramatic price variations, particularly moving suddenly upwards but decaying only slowly. These variations can also appear cyclical (but are actually aperiodic).

This more or less exactly matches the price behaviour at gas stations and many other economic areas, such as electricity and natural gas prices in Europe. It would be interesting to see if this kind of behaviour emerges in other markets such as eBay. The big question of course is what to do. Cartels that form by collusion are illegal and clearly not in the interests of the general population. But this work muddies the waters somewhat. If cartel-like behaviour is an emergent property of an ordinary market, how should it be controlled, regulated and punished?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jeffrey Sachs: Libertarian Illusions

Libertarianism is the single-minded defense of liberty. Many young people flock to libertarianism out of the thrill of defending such a valiant cause. They also like the moral freedom that libertarianism seems to offer: it's okay to follow one's one desires, even to embrace selfishness and self-interest, as long as it doesn't directly harm someone else.
Yet the error of libertarianism lies not in championing liberty, but in championing liberty to the exclusion of all other values. Libertarians hold that individual liberty should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values or causes. Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable -- all are to take a back seat.
When libertarians translate the idea of liberty into the political and economic spheres, they argue that government should operate only to protect personal liberty and not for any other cause. According to libertarians, the sole role of government is to enforce private contracts and to keep the peace so that no one can use force to deprive the liberty of another. In English political theory, this is called the "night watchman state."

Columbia Economist Slays Straw Man from Cafe Hayek 

Mr. Sachs here performs the equivalent of, say, accusing someone who advocates sobriety of thereby being indifferent to other values such parental responsibility, financial prudence, and neighborliness.  But just as being sober in no way precludes – and likely promotes – other values such as parental responsibility, being a libertarian in no way precludes any of the values and causes that Mr. Sachs lists. Indeed, libertarians argue that these other values and causes are best promoted by individual liberty, and that too many people who insist that achieving these other values requires the suppression of liberty are cynically seeking convenient cover for their own self-aggrandizement.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

IIC Book Discussion on January 19, 2012 at 6.30 PM

There will be a discussion of this book on 19 January 2012 at the India International Centre, 40 Max Muller Marg, New Delhi at the Conference Room No. 1 of the IIC). The discussion will be chaired by Dr. Karan Singh, President, Indian Council of Cultural Relations and will have Dr. Kavita Sharma (Director,IIC), Professor Indra Nath Chaudhury (former Member Secretary, IGNCA) and Professor Sachidananda Mohanty, Editor of this book, as discussants.

[Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, has published Barindra Kumar Ghose’s book The Tale of My Exile:Twelve Years in the Andamans (introduced and edited by Dr. Sachidananda Mohanty of the Department of English, University of Hyderabad) in December 2011.] With warm regards, Anurag Banerjee, Founder,  Overman Foundation.

The 70:20 ratio

"Every party in Parliamentary democracy has to do this (compromise). It has not been done for the first time and also certainly not for the last time." Contending that "Nobody or party can claim to be 100 % pure", he said, "But, BJP is 70 % pure while others are only 20 % (pure). So, still BJP is a party with a difference."
He was reacting when asked how BJP could claim to be a "party with a difference" even after induction of Kushwaha, which came on top of the party forming government in Jharkhand with the support of JMM against whose leader Shibu Soren who is facing corruption charges. "No political party runs as a theological or charitable organisation. As per age-old dictum that politics is an art of possible, every party has to combine ideology and practical wisdom," he said.