Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Tribalism and organized township

Quotation of the Day… - Cafe Hayek
by Don Boudreaux on 10/09/2011 2:47 AM
… is from page 199 of Karl Popper’s The Open Society and Its Enemies; here he’s talking about Plato:

"He transfigured his hatred of individual initiative, and his wish to arrest all change, into a love of justice and temperance, of a heavenly state in which the crudity of money-grabbing is replaced by laws of generosity and friendship. This dream of unity and beauty and perfection, this aestheticism and holism and collectivism, is the product as well as the symptom of the lost group spirit of tribalism. It is the expression of, and an ardent appeal to, the sentiments of those who suffer from the strain of civilization."

A comparison of Utopias as Nandan Nilekani, Kiran Bedi and Plato projects in their book - Guest post by TAHA MEHMOOD

Tihar: And the rise of Kiran Bedi as a Platonic benevolent dictator
When Kiran Bedi first entered Tihar as Inspector General Prisons, she felt like ‘entering an organized township.’[i] For all we know, she may have been referring to an imaginary city state like Plato’s Magnesia. Kiran Bedi, the retired Indian Police Service officer, is universally credited for reforming the largest prison complex in Asia Pacific region- The Tihar prison. In 1999 Kiran Bedi wrote a book, It’s always possible: one woman’s transformation of Tihar Prison, about her experience of managing the Tihar prison complex as Inspector General Prisons between 1993-1995. ...

Contemporary India, in Nilekani’s view, is suffering from a crisis. Where the states are forced into action by market pressure building up. This response led strategy has made ‘chaos the rule in our crumbling cities’[xxiii].

When Nilekani offers a sweeping history of railways in India, he does it through chaos. Nilekani carefully takes out 9 words from a book by Rajan Balachandran to explain how the British officers viewed the newly constructed fortified railway stations in India around 1870’s. In one sweeping sentence, Nilekani describes the railway stations as ‘protective Edens, against which,’ and then comes words form Rajan’s book, ‘the chaos of India beats, outrageous as a sea’[xxiv]. ...
Had Plato seen Chak De, I’d assume he would be amused not because of the narrative of aspiration or because of the redemption narrative but because he suggests citizens should practice war- not in time of war but during peace. And any city magistrate, who has any sense, must provide provisions in order to summon all the youth of the city for games and competitions. City Magistrates must distribute prizes and confer honor to victors and must blame those who lost. Sports for Plato was a tool to make the citizens remember the city-state and identify with it. ...

While reading Plato I often wonder why did he dream of an ideal space in a city setting. What is it about a city that is luring policy makers in India to make a case for urbanization? Why is urbanization the preferred goal of people like Nandan Nilkekani? Surely there is nothing modern about cities. Society in Plato’s time was highly urbanized. What is Thucydides’s account of the Peloponnesian war if not a tale of tens of cities fighting with each other over a fear that Athens could dominate over Hellenes.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Annihilating social fascism

Makarand Paranjape argues that modernity (and even postmodernity) did not come to India as it did in its naturalised form in Britain. As opposed to Western modernity lies Indian dharma as conceptualised by Gandhi, Sri Aurobindo and Nehru, which may be investigated in the mysticism of "svaraj". - Beyond borders: A perspective of postmodernism on the issues of religion, ethnicity and identity. Theorising Religion in a Postmodern Context: Special Topic Issue of South Asian Review (Vol. 30, No. 1)
Ed. John Hawley. Pages 381. 
Price not mentioned. Reviewed by Rumina Sethi

If the chant of Vande Mataram has the power to empower civil society, it also has the power to destabilise democratic institutions that gave life to the poorest of the poor and the lower castes, particularly India’s Muslims. The high moral ground on which the Hindu middle class stands is a breeding ground for social fascism. ...
Corruption is not just economic practice; it is also cultural practice. Social fascism does not want us to see that inter-linkage, though it knows that such linkage exists. - Kancha Ilaiah is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad From: Deccan Chronicle September 7, 2011

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Balance of Justice
The European Court of Justice is a curious and instructive institution. Europe, even while vaunting a monopoly of civilisation, cherishes and preens herself in some remarkable relics of barbarism. In mediaeval times, with the scientific thoroughness and efficiency which she shares with the Mongolian, she organised torture as the most reliable source of evidence and the ordeal of battle as the surest guide to judicial truth. Both ideas were characteristically European. A later age may seem to have got rid of these luminous methods, but it is not so in reality. In place of the rack the French have invented the investigating judge and the Americans some remarkable processes, which I think they call questioning (the old name for torture) in the first, second and up to the fifth degree if not to higher stages of excellence. The torture is sometimes of the mind not of the body; it is less intense, more lingering, but it leads to the same result in the end. When the tortured wretch, after protecting with lies for as long as may be his guilt or his innocence, escapes from his furious and pitiless persecutor by a true or false confession, preferring jail or the gallows to this prolongation of tense misery, the French call it delicately “entering into the way of avowals”. The Holy Office in Seville could not have invented a more Christian and gentlemanly euphemism. The American system, is in the fifth degree, I think, to keep the miserable accused fasting and sleepless and ply him with a ceaseless assault of torturing questions and suggestions until the brain reels, the body sinks, the heart is sick and hopeless and the man is ready to say anything his torturers believe or want to be the truth. It is a true Inquisition; the mediaeval name fits these modern refinements.
The English people have often been accused as a brutal or a stupid nation; but they have a rugged humanity when their interests are not touched and enjoy glimpses of a rough common sense. They have besides an honourable love of publicity and do not like, for themselves at least, secret police methods. They have rejected the investigating judge and torture in the fifth degree. But their courts resemble the European. Under a civilised disguise these Courts are really the mediaeval ordeal by battle; only in place of the swords and lances of military combatants we have the tongues and technicalities of lawyers and the mutually tilting imaginations of witnesses. The victory is to the skilfullest liar and the most plausible workman in falsehoods and insincerities. It is largely an elaborate pitch and toss, an exhilarating gamble, a very Monte Carlo of surprising chances. But there is skill in it, too; it satisfies the intellect as well as the sensations. One should rather call it a game of human Bridge which admirably combines luck and skill, or consider it as an intellectual gladiatorial show. In big cases the stake is worthy of the play and the excitement, a man’s property or his life. But woe to the beaten! In a criminal case, the tortures of the jail or the terrifying drop from the gallows are in prospect, and it is rather the hardihood of guilt than the trembling consciousness of innocence that shall best help him. Woe to him if he is innocent! As he stands there, — for to add to the pleasurableness of his condition, the physical ache of hours of standing is considerately added to the cruel strain on his emotions, — he looks eagerly not to the truth or falsehood of the evidence for or against him, but to the skill with which this or that counsel handles the web of skilfully mixed truth and lies and the impression he is making on the judge or the jury. A true witness breaking down under a confusing cross-examination or a false witness mended by a judicious reexamination may be of much better service to him than the Truth, which, our Scriptures tell us, shall prevail and not falsehood, — eventually perhaps and in the things of the truth, but not in the things of falsehood, not in a court of Justice, not in the witness box. There the last thing the innocent man against whom circumstances have turned, dare tell is the truth; it would either damn him completely by fatally helping the prosecution or it is so simple and innocent as to convince the infallible human reason of its pitiful falsity. The truth! Has not the Law expressly built up a hedge of technicalities to keep out the truth?
As one looks on, one begins to understand the passion of the Roman poet’s eulogy of the defence counsel, praesidium maestis reis, the bulwark of the sorrowful accused. For in this strange civilised gambling with human dice where it is so often impossible to be certain about guilt or innocence, one’s sympathies naturally go to the sufferer, the scapegoat of a callous society, who may be moving to a long period of torturing and unmerited slavery or an undeserved death on the gallows. But if one could eliminate this element of human pity, it would be a real intellectual pleasure to watch the queer barbarous battle, appraise the methods of the chief players, admire, in whatever climes, the elusiveness and fine casualness of Indian perjury or the robust manly cheery downrightness of Saxon cross-swearing. If the Courts convince us of our common humanity by making all men liars, they yet preserve a relishable unlikeness in likeness. And I think that even theology or metaphysics does not give such admirable chances for subtlety as the Law, nor even Asiatic Research or ethnology favour so much the growth of that admirable scientific faculty which deduces a whole animal out of some other animal’s bone. If the thing proved is generally wrong, it is always ingenious; and after all in all these five sciences, or are they not rather arts? — it is not the thing that is true but the thing that is desired which must be established. This is perhaps why the Europeans think the system civilised, but as a semi-civilised Oriental, one would prefer less room for subtlety and more for truth.
On the whole, if anyone were to complain that modern civilisation eliminates danger and excitement out of human life, we could well answer the morbid grumbler, “Come into our Courts and see!” Still, praise must be given where praise is due, and let the English system once more be lauded for not normally exposing the accused to the torture of savage pursuit by a prosecuting judge or the singular revival in modern dress of the ancient “question” by the American police. Where political or other passions are not roused and bribery does not enter, the poor muddled magistrate does his honest best, and where there is a system of trial by jury, the blunders, whims and passions of twelve men may decide your fate less insanely than the caprices of a Kazi, — though even that is hardly certain. At any rate, if the dice are apt to be loaded, it is, with the exceptions noted, not on one but on both sides of the gamble.
Sri Aurobindo

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Full scope of free Market

Free market ideology, as represented in the nuanced ideas of Adam Smith or F.A. Hayek, has not outlived its purposefulness. Indeed, rejecting this ideology would be not just intellectually tragic. Rejection would be practically tragic, threatening the welfare and well-being of billions of people throughout the world. What we do need to reject is “free market ideology” as caricatured by critics and corrupted by politics. Now more than any time in my professional lifetime actual free market economics needs to capture the imaginations of young scientists, political intellectuals, and the general public, so that we can reverse the economic catastrophe we are starring down due to fiscal irresponsibility and monetary mischief. The dire fiscal situation in Europe and the US is not a matter of mere opinion; we have simply reached the tipping point of sustainable public expenditures. In order to address the problem, we need to revisit fundamental questions concerning the proper scale and scope of government in a free society. Sound economic reasoning, not flights of theoretical fantasy, is what is required for this task. The past thirty years proved the validity of Adam Smith’s assertion, “The natural effort of every individual to better his own condition…is so powerful, that it is alone, and without any assistance, not only capable of carrying on the society to wealth and prosperity, but of surmounting a hundred impertinent obstructions with which the folly of human laws too often encumbers its operations. ” During “the age of Milton Friedman”, as Andrei Shleifer dubed it, key developments in economic freedom—deregulation in the US and UK, the collapse of communism in East and Central Europe, and the opening up of the economies of China and India—allowed individuals to surmount government meddling in the economy. From 1980 to 2005, there were marked, world-wide improvements in life expectancy, education, democracy, and living standards as integration into a world economy delivered billions of individuals from poverty, ignorance and squalor. September 11, 2001 changed that. “The war on terror” justified another great expansion of the scale and scope of government. Thus, like the Great Depression before it, the Great Recession was preceded not by a “do nothing” administration that supported free market policies, but by an activist administration that embraced the power of government intervention and greatly expanded the role of government throughout the economy and society at large. The great free market economic thinkers from Adam Smith to F. A. Hayek would understand why this change happened. They never argued that individuals were hyper-rational actors possessed with full and complete information, operating in perfectly competitive markets. They only argued that individuals will pursue, in the best way they can, those activities that are in their interest to pursue. These thinkers knew that individuals are individuals, fallible but capable human actors plagued by alluring hopes and haunting fears, not lightening calculators of pleasure and pain. Human fallibility may cause “failures,” inefficient markets, but this very fallibility also sets in motion the market process of discovery and adjustment. A setting of private property rights, free pricing, and accurate profit and loss accounting aligns incentives and communicates information so that individuals realize the mutual gains from trade with one another. Efficient markets are an outcome of a process of discovery, learning, and adjustment, not an assumption going into the analysis. That process, however, operates within political, legal, and social institutions. Those institutions can promulgate policies that block discovery, inhibit learning, and prevent adjustment, causing the market to operate poorly. So rather than free market ideology being obsolete, what is needed is a reinvigorated ideological vision of the free market economy: a society of free and responsible individuals who have the opportunity to prosper in a market economy based on profit and loss and to live in caring communities. Yes, caring communities. The Adam Smith that wrote The Wealth of Nations also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments, and the F. A. Hayek that wrote Individualism and Economic Order also wrote about the corruption of morals in The Fatal Conceit. Our challenge today is to embrace the full scope of free market ideology so as to understand the preconditions under which we can live better together in a world of peace, prosperity, and progress. About the Author Peter J. Boettke is University Professor of Economics at George Mason University, and the BB&T Professor for the Study of Capitalism at the Mercatus Center. He is the author of the forthcoming book, Economics for Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: On the Teaching, and Teachers, of Economics.