Sanjeev Sabhlok's blog

Thoughts on economics and liberty

Telepathic and spiritual fraud prevention agency

James Randi set up a foundation in 1996 to fights charlatans, uninformed media, and as Randi says, “woo-woos” (!) including faith healers, miracle mongers, and such frauds. Randi's long-standing challenge to psychics now stands as a $1,000,000 prize administered by the Foundation. It remains unclaimed. His website says: "He is the world's most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. He has pursued "psychic" spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water "with a memory," and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public's eyes in the name of the supernatural."

One of the biggest problems in India is charlatans in the guise of religion. Even the educated are not exempt because our educational system is deplorable and does not inculcate the scientific attitude. Even Indian scientists are easily hoodwinked. 

Long many years Chanakya's suggested that "Deceptive occult practices shall be used to frighten the enemy. It is also said that these can be used against one's own people in case of revolt in order to protect the kingdom" (Rangarajan's famous Penguin translation of Arthashastra1987,1992, p.504).

India has a huge industry of petty magic tricksters. Whatever else you see on Youtube, do see this. Thereafter you can marvel at the  fraud being committed by some famous 'babas' and gurus. 

The basic unchallenged truth is that THERE IS NO SUPERNATURAL INTERVENTION IN THE UNIVERSE. All the laws of nature were created at the moment of the big bang. That energy continues eternally, never ever diminished, only transferred from one form to another. The constants in nature inevitably lead to life and then to evolution, and then to what we are today. Note that this does not mean that spirituality is false. Just that MIRACLES, OR DISTORTIONS OF THE LAWS OF NATURE, ARE IMPOSSIBLE

I have no evidence to deny or accept a "God" and so I am comfortable with the idea of people believing whatever they wish. Plus spirituality is a personal matter. There is nothing in nature that denies the existence of a God, should one wish to believe in it.

I'm therefore comfortable with a range of non-magical views such as Advaita and others who speak on a logical basis about spiritual belief. BUT I am not comfortable with people being taken for a ride. I detest fraud of any sort. I detest "religious" preachers who claim to have supernatural healing powers. Such fraud, I gather, is extremely prevalent in India among missionaries. Faith healing is the usual method used to perpetrate such fraud (I trust you've seen, by now, the Youtube video I cited above).

Telepathic and spiritual fraud prevention agency

Consumer laws protect us against fraud of all kinds. We need a law to protect gullible innocent people (including many science PhDs in India who have no scientific attitude!) from cheap magic tricks being projected as mystical power.

I believe that India ought to (and all societies ought to!) establish a publicly funded institute to prevent telepathic and spiritual fraud. This should be populated by scientists who license anyone who purports to have supernatural powers. All "God" men and "God" women will need a licence to ply their obnoxious and fraudulent "trade". I am 100% CERTAIN that no license will ever be issued. Such an agency would protect us against fraudulent magicians who make money from the gullible, or "convert" others to their 'religion'. 

People ought to be free to complain to this agency if any supernatural claims are made during the conversion process. I think it is time to call the bluff and end the nonsense that is perpetrated by 'religions' on innocent gullible tribals in the various corners of India. Such fraud makes it difficult for "religions" to argue that they are the custodians of morality.

(I have an extensive discussion on DOF to show how religions and morality are poles apart. Have a read of it. You might be surprised.)  

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Prohibiting foreign religious charity

I'm posting below my comment made on Shantanu's blog re: political implications of religion. I'm posting it for further action. In particular I need to discuss it further on FTI. Our religious tolerance policy needs to be amended, I think. (I've also dealt with this issue in my September 2010 article for Freedom First, to be published here on 15 September). Basically my view is that foreign funded religious work amounts to yet another invasion of India.

====THE COMMENT (very slightly edited)====

Dear Shantanu

Re: “Christian groups here have reinforced and complimented a sense of distinct ethnicity and otherness which have acted as the main source for creating a non Indian feeling and thereby resulting in separatist movements in the north eastern parts of India.”

To what extent this is true, I’m not sure. There are many other causes as well, including severe mismanagement and misgovernance.

But on the issue of religious interference in politics I have a view. I’m neither a Hindu, nor Muslim nor anything. Just a human. But I note that religions, particularly organised religion, have political impacts. And that means that neither India nor any other country can permit the intrusion of foreign religious funds into the country. Just as political funding by foreigners is prohibited under the law in India (and elsewhere), so also religious funding must be prohibited.

The problem is that foreign funding of religious work mostly goes under the umbrella of charity. I oppose charity on many grounds (e.g. see https://www.sabhlokcity.com/category/policy-perspectives/foreign-aid/), but one more ground now exists, a view I have formed only during the last year, that charity by religious groups should be prohibited regardless of any good they may claim to do. This is necessary, for such charity invariably disturbs  the political balance, and indeed, has significant political impacts.

Note that the free society should not oppose proselytisation and conversion, but these should be restricted to domestic funds and efforts. 

I’m inclined to suggest that FTI add this clause into its religious tolerance policy. In any event, this situation is unsustainable. The political impact of religion needs to be curbed.

There must be no mixing of religion and politics. The state must control any attempt of religion to influence politics. I wonder, though, whether our existing confused political parties have any idea about the nightmare they have created. It is time for good leadership to assemble and show India the right way forward – of freedom, with accountability.

Regards

Sanjeev

ADDENDUM

See my previous comments posted on Shantanu's blog in March this year.

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Preachers, Teachers, Doers – a theory of leadership

There are three ways to influence change: to preach, to teach, or to do it (by force or through persuasion).

Preachers

These are the lowliest form of "leaders". Their message is (at best) meant for books and papers, exhorting others to do something. Most religious preachers (who are copycat followers of the past), but also journalists and ordinary academics who teach by rote, and most ordinary citizens, belong to this group. Thus 99.99% of Indians fall into this category. They would rather preach at others in their dinner conversations, emails, or blogs. For instance, they want 'character' improvements in society, but that should be done by someone else! They want this or that, but they will NEVER raise a finger to do anything about it. That spares them the pain of formulating a strategy, and the pain of repeated failure.

There is no difference between a preacher and a clerk. They are basically copy-cats without any original idea. They spend their life looking backwards, singing praise about how grand their country's history was. (How does it matter if India was great in the past to the orphan child who has to scavenge in a pile of garbage for his next "meal"?) They are future-blind, without any vision for tomorrow. Their strategies are non-existent or flawed. They therefore contribute very little to the advance of humanity. Under their control, the society stagnates and remains where it was even after hundreds of years. In most cases it deteriorates with each passing generation.

Teachers

The next level of leaders are the true thinkers and teachers. They invariably aim to spread their word through 'followers' by engaging in one-on-one conversations with individuals, teaching them their ideas.

Examples include the founders of religions (e.g Christ, Buddha), or the more active think-tanks (e.g. Liberty Institute). These leaders perhaps do some good for society through their teachings, but unless they've mastered the art of creating doers, they will produce merely preachers and clerks who will never take the society any further.

In general, the contributions of teachers are very faint, barely distinguishable from background noise. It is hard to trace a revolution to a particular teacher since doers are self-driven and influenced by many "teachers", and no teacher on his or her own can take any credit for the change.

Even outstanding original teachers like Hayek never directly influence change. Change only occurs if doers like Thatcher admit to their influence. Even the great Hayek is impotent when it comes to changing the world.

Doers

Finally are the doers! These people have the characteristics both of the preacher and teacher, AND the ability to lead and implement change. They are the only true leaders.

Within these are five types (cf. Jim Collins) or more (using my typology in BFN which allows for negative scores as well). 

Thus people like Mayavati – who are both incompetent and horribly corrupt are still FAR superior leaders compared with ordinary middle-class academics or think-tanks who may preach or even teach but are totally impotent when it comes to achieving ANYTHING. Mayavati qualifies as a -3 (minus! 3) category leader on my scale. 

At the top of the ladder of leadership are people like Lincoln and  Gandhi – the level 5 leaders. They are preachers, teachers, and the most outstanding doers, all combined into one. They SHIFT AND CHANGE ENTIRE SOCIETIES! They are the citizen-leaders – the highest form of human being.

No society can change for the better if it produces only copycat preachers (who are basically clerks without any strategic capacity) or teachers (no matter how meritorious). A society MUST produce doers, and within the doers, the ethical (level 4 and 5) doers. That is the great challenge for Mother India, which has unfortunately specialised only in producing clerks and low quality 'doers' for the past 60 years.

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The Keynesians will bury the West

I normally don't comment on Australian policy, particularly where it is somewhat related to my official work. But in areas where my official role is not directly involved, I am able to comment without violating Conduct Rules. And so this post deals with Australian policy. I would like to remind everyone that my views are purely my own and do not represent the official entity that I work for.

Remember that I have commented adversely against the bailouts and stimulus packages in the USA (here). The so-called "stimulus" package in Australia has proved the same point point closer to home: that  Keynesians are the greatest enemies of the West, along with Rawlsian social "liberals" or social democrats.

With NOT THE SLIGHTEST CLUE about how governments actually work (never having worked in the 'trenches' perhaps, inside government), these economists rush in where angels fear to tread, borrowing money in the billions and then throwing it into the ditch. 

I had read a lot of Stiglitz's work as a doctoral student and to an extent he talks sense, but I soon realised that he is among the economists best avoided. I am now very clear that Keynesians of all sorts are dangerous ignoramuses, with absolutely no clue about human incentives and capacities. If only they had the slightest idea of how governments actually work. But they also have an ego the size of the dung on top of the dung beetle: always confident about their reckless "plans" for the economy. Socialists at heart, they are not bothered about things like individual freedom and the limits of a government's role. The whole society is theirs to experiment with, it would appear, with taxpayers' money. If money doesn't exist, they'll print it. 

The following article in The Age today is a breath of fresh air, putting out the key arguments against the reckless destruction of wealth and damage to incentives caused by Keynesians (and he has left out: the welfare socialists) to Australia.

Have a read: "ALP's knight is a thief in rusty armour" by Niall Ferguson

(I just visited Ferguson's website (here) and found a bunch of interesting articles such as "End of the Euro" – the end of which seems inevitable unless strong enforcement mechanisms are devised. The monetary union is turning out to be a cartel where penalties can't be enforced. Ferguson is an economic historian at Harvard – definitely worth reading more of his work.)

Key point from his article:

"Joseph Stiglitz … praised the government's debt splurge as "one of the best-designed Keynesian stimulus packages of any country"." "But is Stiglitz sure — I mean graduate-seminar sure, as opposed to Fairfax-press sure — that this was really due to the government's $52 billion cash splash?" 

(Clearly Stiglitz is imagining things, of that one can have not the slightest doubt).

The "more plausible explanations for Australia's relative outperformance" include: "1. Lady Luck 2. The Howard government 3. The RBA 4. China 5. The mining industry".

Indeed, I have argued at length on internal forums on FTI that Australia's financial system, reformed after the Wallis Review of 1997 (during the Howard government) significantly reformed the financial system and created checks and balances. There remain a few gaps which I believe can be eliminated without significant additional regulation but by better focusing of attention by the regulators.

There does exist a significant further phase of financial reform (for India but equally applicable to Australia – see DOF) which will include dissolution of the central bank and splitting its function into the private sector or independent regulators – as appropriate. Once that happens, all major risks to the financial system will be eliminated.

The government must ONLY regulate. It must NOT directly manage the financial system. And (in relation to the 'stimulus') while infrastructure funding is valid, reckless burning of tax-payer funds is not. 

ADDENDUM: 

Must read this related article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/12/opinion/12poole.html?_r=1

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