Saturday, April 02, 2011

Ronald Dworkin: 'We have a responsibility to live well'

Ronald Dworkin, who wrote 'Justice for Hedgehogs', says that there are some absolute moral values in modern life, which we must integrate in our life in order to have lived really well.

These eternal modern valuesall of which are based on concepts of dignity and self-respect, include:.
...democracy, justice, political obligation, morality, liberty, and equality.

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The banality of the Indian Newspaper Columnists

Akaar Patel writes a typically banal (warning: you will the word 'banal' quite a lot in this post today) column in the Mint newspaper. He basically says that everything about Indian cricket is banal and self-centered - the Indian cricketers play for records (will you leave Sachin alone for a moment?); Indian cricket commentators are banal & blathering morons (as if there was a school for sports commentary); and the Indian sports fans are ignorant/uncultured louts who cannot see their favorite stars fail (what about the football tragedies in Europe and those frequent clashes between club and ciuntry supporters?).

Patel comes across as one of those uppity Indian columnist who has read some more books than the rest of us, and whose contempt for fellow Indians often results in banal & wordy columns which seem to go nowhere.

I know I sound just as bad, but nobody messes with my favorite sport, that too on a wholesale basis.

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Friday, April 01, 2011

To Reduce Bribery, Let's Have More Government Servants Competing for our Bribes

India’s chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu, who also teaches at Cornell university, says that the best way to reduce bribery in India is to make bribery legal - giving immunity to bribe givers and punishing bribe takers. to reduce bribery we should make the paying of bribes (not the demanding!) legal.

All this is sure to generate conversation everywhere. I liked this comment on Marginal Revolution, where commenter M. Dutton says let's have government servants compete for your bribe. The idea being when more pigs play in the mud, some more muck is sure to come up for notice.

...Let’s back up – what’s the problem with bribes? If it’s to jump queue when the queue is full, aren’t bribes more efficient? If the bribes are happening when the queue isn’t full (e.g. to get around licensing requirements, as mentioned above) then it sounds like the bribe-takers just need more competition. Could you have multiple independent places issuing the same licenses?
It is classic Catch-22 type of humor.


Why the SEWA model of self-reliance is way better than Usury model of Microfinance

Professor Jagdish Bhaghwati favors the SEWA (Self Employed Women’s Association) model of helping poor people over the much-maligned Microfinance, which seems to be just another exorbitantly-paying employment scheme for MBA/Finance types. Professor Bhaghwati writes:

1. ...the true pioneer of microfinance is a remarkable woman from Ahmedabad, India (where Mahatma Gandhi had his ashram), Ela Bhatt, a follower of Gandhi who established SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) as a bank in April 1974, two years before Yunus founded his Grameen Bank Project in Jobra, Bangladesh.

2. Throughout its existence, SEWA has been regulated by India's central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, staying strictly within the law and seeking no special dispensations.

3. Unlike the Grameen Bank, it has received no foreign money (such as the grant of $100 million from Norway, the handling of which led to the initial charges of malfeasance against Yunus), and it has distributed dividends of 9-12% annually each year since its founding.

In summary
... SEWA has demonstrated that poor, self-employed women can own and run a financial body in a self-sustained fashion without external largess.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jay-Z, the Mayawati of Rap Music

If Mayawati (Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh) uses her Dalit status to get rich, citing her wealth (and that of the party) to the anonymous and generous donations of well-wishers, then Rap Artist Jay-Z does something similar to make millions (soon billions) by pimping out all sorts of branded products centered around his carefully crafted image.

Both of these remarkable persons will point out to the dark state of their caste/race through speeches/slogans/rap songs/pliable media, and then going on to behave like 'The Man' and amass huge personal fortunes for themselves.

Recently,  Jay-Z's minders got the respected Atlantic magazine to drop a story about Jay-Z making $4 million per year for endorsing a sparkling wine called Armand de Brignac. The wine costs  about $13/bottle to produce, and it sells for upwards of $225/bottle.

It is nothing political or musical, only business.

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The Trouble with Big Idea Books (and book writers such as Malcolm Gladwell): Bulldozers of Idealogical Generalization

From a delicious rip of the current trend of big idea books - Outliers, World is Flat, Black Swan....
What troubles me about the Big Idea Book Club is the way ideas often slide toward ideologies—grand unifying theories of culture, cognition, happiness, talent, the Internet, the future, you name it. “The Hidden Side of Everything,” “The Story of Success”: the italics are mine, but the emphasis is theirs.
...I also detect the insidious influence of the Big Idea books, whose grand theories of humanity often wind up simplifying, ignoring, discounting, or occluding many of life’s complexities, including human individuality.


What Celebrity Culture Means: A World of Token Hurt

Read this post 
Thanks for joining us tonight Mr. Bieber. What are your views on climate change? How do you feel about Iraq? And what do you think of the criticism levied against the parents of the Columbine shooters?”

...that like a celebrity, you must answer; it would be inhuman not to lament a tragedy, callous not to join in the universal support of a victimized people, immoral not to condemn the latest injustice; and like a celebrity, you have only a few words —perhaps 140 characters— and small tokens of your feelings: a ribbon on a tuxedo, an icon on an avatar;

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Monday, March 28, 2011

Self-written death notice of a pioneering hyperlocal reporter

For over 60 years, Harmer Joyce covered her village for the North Norfolk News. This was before the guys at now-defunct hyperlocal news startup had even coined the term 'hyperlocal' journalism.

Joyce died last week, aged 87. Before she died, she wrote her own death notice.

Via The Guardian

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