Monday, March 02, 2015

Drawing the boundaries of constituencies

In the US, it would seem that a Constitutional Amendment will be required to give the authority to draw the lines of constituencies to a body directly elected by the people, responsible to the legislature but not the legislature.  Legislatures are famous for gerrymandering, i.e., drawing constituency boundaries to favor the majority party.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Aam Aadmi Party's win in Delhi

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP - translates to Indian People's Party)  led by Narendra Modi won convincingly in the national parliamentary elections because Modi had a credible message of good governance and economic development.   This despite the "Hindu nationalism" charge constantly thrown against the BJP.   As M.J. Akbar narrated, Modi told people that they could have Hindu-Muslim fights and remain poor, or they could work together and prosper.

Now Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (Ordinary People's Party) have swept the state elections in New Delhi.  This despite Kejriwal's various previous missteps.  The promise again was of corruption-free governance, and of government attention to the needs of ordinary people.

While the punditosphere is full of analysis of what all this means for the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party, for the Congress Party (which is now virtually wiped out), to me it seems that the Indian electorate has moved away from identity politics - voting for one's religious group or caste.  Perhaps not yet decisively, they may relapse a bit, in the two-steps forward, one-step backwards dance that is the nature of progress in real life.  Performance and ideas matter a little bit more than identity now. 

It is very fortunate that Communism is a spent force now, just when the Indian electorate, more open to ideas, might have become enamored with it.   Per the Marxist commentaries that I read, the Communists found that caste-solidarity overcame all their attempts to initiate a class struggle in India, and they were rethinking how to use caste struggles to bring about the glorious Communist Revolution.

I wish well both the parties, ruling Delhi and ruling India from Delhi.  Each has in its grasp a not-easy-to-repeat historic opportunity to transform India in a very good way.  All the indicators are positive; if they squander their opportunities, it will be a tragedy of global proportions.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Cure to Racism?

Over on the Partition of India blog, is posted an excerpt from a paper by Venkat Dhulipala, which describes Maulana Shabbir Ahmad Usmani's Quranic/historic justification for Pakistan, that was influential in the founding of Pakistan.

One thing bothered me:
Usmani outlined Pakistan's significance to Islam in the modern world by declaring that Pakistan was the first step in the process of self purification of Muslims, purging them of all their earlier narrow identities based on race, class, sect, language and region and creating an equal brotherhood of Islam as had been the case in Medina.
The problem with this equal brotherhood is that it deals with differences by trying to eradicate them.  Eliminate differences in language by forcing everyone to one language.  Eliminate differences in tradition by eliminating all pre-Islamic literature and art.  Eliminate differences in dress by getting everyone into one costume. 

It is as though, since we all have different faces, any "narrow identity" based on the face can be dissolved by requiring everyone to keep their face covered with a strip of black cloth.  (Even so, some will try to decorate the black cloth.)

This equal brotherhood idea is not a way of living with being different.  It is closer to "if you are different, you don't live".    It as though religious edict can negate reality. 

This project has resulted in the colossal failure that is Pakistan.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Do Not Multi-Task!

Russ Poldrack, a neuroscientist at Stanford, found that learning information while multitasking causes the new information to go to the wrong part of the brain. If students study and watch TV at the same time, for example, the information from their schoolwork goes into the striatum, a region specialised for storing new procedures and skills, not facts and ideas. Without the distraction of TV, the information goes into the hippocampus, where it is organised and categorised in a variety of ways, making it easier to retrieve.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Prime Minister Modi's answer to the question - Why do we need the state?

At the star-studded (Krugman, Bhagwati, Taleb included) Economics Time Business Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi provided an answer to American Libertarians and Republicans.

Why do we need the state? There are five main components:

.. The first is public goods such as defence, police and judiciary.

.. The second is externalities which hurt others, such as pollution. For this, we need a regulatory system.

.. The third is market power, where monopolies need controls.

.. The fourth is information gaps, where you need someone to ensure that medicines are genuine and so on.

.. Last, we need a well-designed welfare and subsidy mechanism to ensure that the bottom of society is protected from deprivation. This especially includes education and health care.

These are five places where we need government.

Read more at:

PS: more excerpts from Modi's speech here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015


Thursday, January 08, 2015

Je Suis Charlie - Sand Artist Sudarshan Patnaik