May 25, 2015
I'm sure people like Rajiv Malhotra and RSS zealots had no intention of spreading the writings of Wendy Doniger, but that's precisely what they've done.
I don't judge anyone without first understanding their position. When fools like RSS start smearing people, I am very suspicious, because I know how shallow is their intelligence and knowledge.
So I had no comment re: Wendy Doniger's actual work during the Doniger book pulping controversy – because I had NEVER EVEN HEARD OF HER! I'm not much into religion or history so unless you point out a particular issue, I'm likely to never even think about it. I don't go out of the way (as I did when I was much younger) to buy books on religion/ history.
Now that Hindutva fanatics have introduced me to her, however, I was curious. I've since then had a quick look through the early parts of The Hindus: An Alternative History. Yesterday, I also listened to Doniger's recent lecture uploaded by the University of Chicago.
It turns out that Doniger is good. Very good. She has spent nearly 50 years studying Hinduism and India, and has many interesting insights to offer – in an extremely scholarly and dispassionate way.
I'm surprised why Hindutva fanatics are upset by her work, since she has a rather favourable attitude towards Hinduism. She acknowledges that Hinduism is remarkably tolerant. She also shows other religious (like Christianity and Islam) have failed to dent Hinduism; perhaps because it offers to its adherents a structured flexibility that other religions can't, or don't.
Very insightful and scholarly is how I'd rate Wendy Doniger.
She points out also how American IT-literate Hindus (who dominate the internet and Wikipedia) have started insisting over the last 10 years that only THEIR version of Hinduism is right.
I commend her works to everyone. Read it, if only to open your eyes and get a different, scholarly perspective. When I read or hear Rajiv Malhotra I get a sense that I'm reading/listening to a bigot (which he is, without any doubt). When I read/ listen to Doniger, on the other hand, I get the sense that I'm going to learn something through rational discourse. With the use of subtle humour, her work is also extremely readable.
I appreciate the place in the talk where Doniger suggests that scholars of religion, like scientists, merely make their best attempt to interpret things – thereby being open to other opinions and interpretations. ("Our best guess is this"). Unlike them, however, deeply ignorant bigots like Malhotra see the world in only one way – and their way is often plain wrong.
I've got too many other non-historical/religious priorities and so might not finish reading Doniger's work, but if you've bot a moment, do read her and let me know what you think.
May 25, 2015
I've written sporadically on this blog and elsewhere (mainly FB) against behavioural economics. Since I have no central blog post on this issue, I'm starting this one as a placeholder in which I'll bring earlier thoughts together, and add new ones.
MY EARLIER NOTES
Adam Smith's invisible theorem is not handwaving as Thaler contends but along with Hume the first systematic statement of mainline economics. The defining characteristic of mainline economics is the derivation of the invisible hand theorem from the rational choice postulate via institutional analysis. It is this focus on institutional analysis and the contextual nature of humanly rational choice and the exchange relationships that develop that is missing in the contemporary debates on rational choice versus behavioral economics. This has to be corrected and the subsequent revision to behavioral economics would lead to a reset in perspective which would place humanly rational choice aka behavioral economics squarely in the mainline of economic thought. c.f., Hayek's Individualism and Economic Order, pp., 11-14 for an earlier discussion of these issues which amazingly anticipates so much of what gets discussed today.
To which Nobelist Vernon Smith responds:
In my book (2008, p 22), http://amzn.to/1HqX2XZ I cite Mullainathan and Thaler (2001, p 2) as defining behavioral econ as a candidly deliberate search for “Identifying the ways in which behavior differs from the standard model…”
Hence, Beh Econ has been defined by Dave Grether as “searching in the tails of distributions.”
Lopez (1991) wrote an insightful paper surveying the judgment and decision literature and concluded that it was after 1970 that the search for anomalies became evident. (There is a back story about a attempts to prevent it from being published, but I do not know its details or validity)
Before 1970, there was no shortage of examples from decision theory that failed to predict, and of examples that did predict, experimental tests of theory. Ward Edwards and Sidney Siegel, truly great psychologists, published both confirmations and rejections before 1970, but theirs were hardly “searches” for particular outcomes.
I think it is equally true that traditional economic scientists have a “search for confirmations” bias. Of course we have long known about confirmation bias—journals are strongly biased toward empirical findings that are significant at the 5% or lower levels of error. Those such as the behavioral economists who reject the standard model are of course equally guilty of searching for confirmation of their contrary hypotheses; there is both confirmation and anti-confirmation bias..
As noted in my 2014 GMU (Hayek) lecture I have—at least three times—expected outcomes to confirm traditional theory and it failed miserably.
I am giving the Bohm-Bawerk lecture in Insbruck come June 23 and I want to discuss some of these issues there.
Experimental economics grew out of concerns for the imprecision and shortcomings of economics as an empirical science; of course we were long interested in economic behavior, but many of us in that tradition have felt that it is important to make every effort to avoid as best we can, unbalanced confirmations searches whether pro or con. Andrej Svorencik has written the first History of Experimental Economics, and soon to appear is the Witness Seminar on the Emergence of Experimental Economics.
MY VIEW ON THE ABOVE:
I don't object to the search for exceptions (such knowledge is helpful in the academic sense) but to the implication that there are economists or bureaucrats who – based on information regarding any such exceptions that they might get hold of – are somehow capable of making rules for society that lead to what they imagine are 'better' outcomes.
Fatal conceit comes naturally to behavioural economists. They are socialists and planners at heart, their plans being inconsistent with free society.
Unfortunately, this new fad is catching on with a lot of "progressives" who find this a convenient tool to "fine tune" our behaviour.
I see economics as a branch of moral philosophy and liberty, and to the extent any branch of economics actively seeks to undermines liberty, it is out of order and must be called out.
May 24, 2015
Selgin is definitely one of the top 10 living economists today.
I have sporadically read his work here.
But this talk he recently gave on July 2, 2014 in Las Vegas (uploaded on youtube only recently) is superlative. It helped me understand the issues far better, and gave me more reasons to back up the Sone Ki Chidiya agenda's policy on sound money. There is not one minute of this talk (and QA session) that can be missed.
I predict that Selgin will be a lodestar for sound money in the coming decades. India should hire his services AT ONCE. His talk complements Larry White's talk that I heard in Melbourne a few years ago.
May 24, 2015
Hindus are a remarkable "community". They are the richest group in the USA and are fast becoming the richest in Australia. No one, not even the Jews, do as well as the Hindus.
The following statistics from the 2011 Census in Australia raise important issues:
In Australia, Indians (mostly Hindus) tend to actively participate in the workforce and also earn the highest. Just like in the USA, they are fast becoming the richest "community" here.
Muslims, mostly from the Middle East, have very poor economic outcomes in Australia, most being dependent on the welfare state. This mirrors the situation in the UK and Europe.
On the other hand, Hindus tend to do very poorly in India (India is a massively Third Word country), because instead of creating conditions for wealth generation, the politicians in India (like RSS/BJP) are busy inflaming divisions among people.
This has also meant that the brightest and most well educated Indians have tended to leave India, for countries like the USA and Australia. Looks like the fanatic (i.e. incompetent) Hindus tend to stay back in India, and compete in the race to the bottom with the socialists.
There is absolutely no doubt that India (mainly Hindu) can quickly become the world's richest country IF THE CONDITIONS OF WEALTH GENERATION – found in the West – can be replicated in India. For this, the RSS must go. The BJP must go. The socialists must go.
Why do Hindus succeed? Because their religion is quite flexible – particularly among the upwardly mobile groups. It is extremely rare for Hindu families to take their religion seriously. Most people are happy to "worship" anything and everything, or ignore anything and everything. Almost no one goes to temples, and if they do, they do so largely to enjoy the quality of art and painting in the temples.
There are no mad mullas or mad Popes in Hinduism. Hindus have so many "gurus" they can ignore those they don't like.
This makes religion occupy a very SMALL place in the Hindu mind, leaving them free to focus on professional attainments.
The Muslims of the world (including in India) have a big issue in front of them.
1) They take their religion too seriously.
2) They are also afraid of "consequences" if they choose to become atheists or agnostics. (In Hinduism, with its VERY LONG HISTORY of atheism and agnosticism, people are often called "Hindu" even if they are atheists or agnostics, and no one really cares).
The Muslim world is driven by fear. The Hindu world is driven by pragmatism and hypocrisy. That makes Hindus quite flexible and adaptable, and perhaps explains their enormous success in the West.
Note that this is not to condone Hinduism's many crimes – such as the atrocities against persons of lower caste. And I am definitely NOT Hindu. I have NO religion.
But the one take home lesson from this is perhaps this: IF YOU MUST HAVE A RELIGION, DON'T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY.
May 20, 2015
I was very angry when – while talking about Raju, this article started promoting the Swarajya magazine.
This is a blatantly false pitch for the rotten BJP magazine Swarajya. SV Raju himself wrote to me the following:
"The organisers – particularly the CEO, the Chief Financial Officer and the Publisher and Chief Digital Officer of Swarajya 2.are staunch BJP loyalists."Swarajya 2.0" will essentially be more of BJP and less of Rajaji."
Raju may have been nice (as a person) to these people but he would never associate with BJP-wallahs.
And now these BJP-wallahs want to usurp Raju's legacy!
I did not share the precise words earlier, but now I'm putting them out in the public domain as a clear warning to those who support the BJP mouthpiece, Swarajya.
I would not have embarrassed Raju by putting this out in his lifetime, but now that he is no longer there, his FORTHRIGHT classification of Swarajya as "more of BJP and less of Rajaji" – to his confidants – should ring clear in everyone's ears.
THE BJP/ RSS TAKE INDIA TO BE A BUNCH OF FOOLS. NO, WE SEE THROUGH YOUR SHEEP MASK.
May 20, 2015
Naozer Aga – who worked for 30 years with Raju, has written: "Raju believed in self less service to the Indian Liberal cause, without the expectation of any personal reward. As a tribute to his no nonsense working approach, all I will say is that he lived respected and died regretted."
I think it is our bounden duty to document Raju's contributions to Indian liberalism.
I have begun a Wikipedia entry on Raju: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.V._Raju. I invite you either directly update the entry or to send me more details so I can update it.
Raju’s lifetime contributions to Indian liberalism
SV Raju (1933-19 May 2015) was hired by C. Rajagopalachari, the former Governor General of India and retired Chief Minister of Madras, on 16 December 1959 as the Office Secretary of Swatantra Party, which was launched on 1 August 1959. It took Raju one year to shed his socialism and become a member of the party – of which he remained a member till the end of his life.
When Swatantra Party faded away, he decided to focus his energy on the Freedom First magazine which had been started in 1953 by the Indian Committee for Cultural Freedom, which was established by Minoo Masani in Mumbai.
In 1996 the Maharashtra unit of the Swatantra Party, led by Raju and its general secretary, LR Sampat, decide to revive the Swatantra Party. To register it again and reclaim the party symbol, the star, they approached the Election Commission. But Indian law demands that all parties swears allegiance to socialism, in accordance with a 1989 amendment of India’s Representation of People’s Act. They refused and, instead, filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging this provision. Unfortunately, the High Court is yet to have even a single hearing on their petition. Both Sampat and Raju have since passed away.
Raju took Freedom First through thick and thin, including raising funds for its continuation in print, and funds for digitization of the magazine since its inception. He was also the President of the Indian Liberal Group and, upon its dissolution, became co-Director or LiberalsIndia for Good Governance.
He wrote numerous books, in addition to editing and publishing Freedom First. He had a no-nonsense approach to work. As close colleague Naozer Aga, who worked with him for thirty years, wrote: “He lived respected and died regretted”.
Works of SV Raju
Documents about SV Raju
- Madhavankutty Pillai. "Last Man Standing". 5 April 2014.
- Niranjan Rajadhyaksha. "S.V. Raju: the last Swatantrite". 19 May 2015.
- Sanjeev Sabhlok. "Reminiscences of my interactions with SV Raju over the past 15 years". 19 May 2015.
- "R.I.P S.V. Raju, The Man Who Wanted To Revive Swatantra". 19 May 2015, Outlook magazine.