Monday, December 31, 2007

BSNL callousness is really surprising

BSNL callousness is really surprising
from Tusar N. Mohapatra CMD
date 31 Dec 2007 17:36 subject Re: 2605636, 2815130 mailed-by

Dear Sir,
Tomorrow is the New Year's Day. Without the phones I am unable to wish anyone or receive messages. Your callousness is really surprising. What is the use of simply forwarding the e-mail?

Tusar N. Mohapatra
from Tusar N. Mohapatra to CMD date 28 Dec 2007 15:41 subject 2605636, 2815130 mailed-by

Dear Sir,
Both my phones are dead. Can you help?

Tusar N. Mohapatra
-- Savitri Era of those who adore, Om Sri Aurobindo and The Mother.
Tusar N. Mohapatra, President, Savitri Era Party. Director, Savitri Era Learning Forum. [SELF] SRA-102-C, Shipra Riviera, Indirapuram, Ghaziabad, U.P. - 201012, Ph: 0120-2605636, 2815130 INDIA
Reply from CMD to Tusar N. Mohapatra date 31 Dec 2007 17:12 subject Re: 2605636, 2815130 mailed-by

Dear Sir,
We acknowledge the receipt of your email. The same has been forwarded to CGM, Uttar Pradesh (West) for necessary action with intimation to you.

With kind regards,

Undoubtedly, Mayawati and Modi were two big winners this year

Modi policies cash excellent economics Indo-Asian News Service Sunday, December 30, 2007 (New Delhi)
Narendra Modi's victory has been ascribed to two factors - an unsubtle exploitation of Hindu communal sentiments and an admirable record of economic development. While the first can be described as the standard defining characteristic of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the second reason is new in Indian politics. It is also all the more unusual because the growth has been the result of market-friendly policies, marking a sharp departure from the country's customary, if unrewarding, faith in "socialism".
The Gujarat chief minister, therefore, can be said to have charted a new course with the potential of setting a trend that can be of immense benefit to the country.The difference between his approach and that of the Manmohan Singh government is that the latter has been diffident about the pro-capitalist economic reforms that Singh initiated as the finance minister in 1991. However, both he and his party, the Congress, have been somewhat apologetic about the endeavour, presumably because it went against the party's policy of establishing a "socialistic pattern of society", enunciated in 1955.
Their sense of having done something wrong and even harmful was accentuated by the Congress's 1996 defeat that was ascribed by the "socialists" in the organisation to Singh's pro-rich and pro-business economic reforms.This point of view was strengthened in the Left-oriented political class by the defeat of the Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu, who had also tried to break away from the usual public sector- and subsidy-based approach to the economic scene. While the private sector was shunned by this group of politicians because of its profit-oriented attitude, free power for the farmers and a wide range subsidies - whether fertilisers or food grains - were their mantra for electoral success, notwithstanding the well-known resultant wastage.
Even after the Congress returned to power in 2004 and Manmohan Singh picked up the thread of his earlier economic reforms, the Congress still seemed hesitant with one of its ministers, Mani Shankar Aiyar, even saying that if he was a socialist earlier, the reforms had turned him into a Communist. What was more, the high growth rate was constantly criticized for not benefiting a wider section of the people. "High growth, low development" was a typical headline in a Left-leaning newspaper. Modi has turned this view upside down. Not only that, he has shown that a high growth rate - Gujarat grew at the rate of 10.6 percent in the Tenth Plan period - pays electoral dividends. The fear of the "socialists" that since the reforms supposedly make the rich grow richer and the poor poorer and is, therefore, politically disastrous is evidently without basis. Clearly, the people are wiser than the hidebound politicians because they know that a booming economy cannot but create more and more jobs and ultimately be of benefit to all.
Modi's other achievement has been to crack down on corruption, which is inevitable in an economy of "free lunches", where electric supply, for instance, is illegally tapped, and focussing on attracting investment and infrastructure. Not surprisingly, his electoral success has now persuaded several chief ministers to ask the central government to allow them to implement the rules prevalent in the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Gujarat. But since these include less stringent labour laws than in the other states, the centre, dependent as it is on the Left, may not agree. But the message has gone through that, notwithstanding the admittedly slow trickling down of benefits, a high growth rate is preferable to a low one.
Even before the Gujarat polls, the politicians were slowly realising, especially after Lalu Yadav's defeat in Bihar, that the neglect of development could cost them dearly and that the provision of 'bijli, sadak and pani' (electricity, roads and drinking water) was essential for success. But preoccupied as they were with their caste and communal calculations, they persisted with their old policies of promising quotas and favouring subsidies.It was in keeping with such a populist approach that the central government initiated the hugely expensive rural employment policy even though it was known that much of the payments would be siphoned off and that few durable assets would be built. While the Left predictably applauded the wasteful employment programme, it also put pressure on the government to put disinvestments on hold and scuttle several other polices relating to pension fund, insurance and labour reforms. It is not impossible that Modi's success will enable the central government to revive the currently stalled process of reforms, considering that it is now obvious that growth is not only economically, but also politically, beneficial.
The Left itself is not unaware of this fact as the conduct of Marxist Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee in West Bengal shows. He has been quite uninhibited in his pursuit of pro-private sector policies although he has committed a few blunders, as over land acquisition in Nandigram, on the way. Even if Modi's anti-minority bias and the reprehensible role of his government in the Gujarat riots of 2002 are to be deplored, his success in driving yet another nail in the coffin of "socialism" and making the political class aware of the fact that capitalist economic growth is better than socialist stagnation are laudable. For this achievement, he deserves at least two cheers.
Home > Edits & Columns > Numbers on Gujarat’s wall Arun Jaitley indian Monday, December 31, 2007 Modi proved that if leaders have credibility they can win again and again.
The past few days witnessed the results of elections to the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies. The Bharatiya Janata Party won convincingly in both states. There was, however, a fundamental difference between them. Himachal witnessed a routine election where the government in power lost on account of anti-incumbency against it. The general practice of the electorate is to vote out an unpopular government. Unhappy people do not repeat in power those who cannot govern well. Globally, more governments in power lose elections than they win them. An opposition party, when it comes to power on the strength of an anti-incumbency, claims credit for its victory. These victories are easier since they require the opposition to merely channelise the discontent against the government. The net aggregate of the discontent is the shift in the popular vote which influences the results.
What is significant is the Gujarat result, because no leader in independent India has been as criticised by a section of the media as much as Narendra Modi. It does little credit to the credibility and influence of the national media since Modi’s credibility in Gujarat is inversely proportionate to the attitude of a section of national media towards him. Modi and Gujarat’s people have made an effort to take the state out of the developments of 2002. Therefore, 2002 continues to be an issue outside Gujarat rather than within. Post-2002, Gujarat has witnessed a concentrated effort at economic development. Economic and political infrastructure has grown. It is one of the foremost states in manufacturing. Its agriculture income, thanks to greater availability of water and power, has grown several times. Its road network has been traditionally good. The challenge of water scarcity and inadequate power has been conscientiously addressed. The 11 per cent GDP growth here has benefited its population, enriched the government and enabled it to spend more on social sector schemes. The scheme to incentivise girl’s education, curtail infant mortality, empower tribals and fishermen have been highly successful. Modi not only implemented the schemes but held conferences of stakeholders attended by several lakhs to explain them their implications.
Gujarat saw in Modi a leader who was scrupulously honest. He was bold and not willing to be cowed down by criticism. His decisiveness and ability to implement decisions was directly contrary to the prime minister’s weak and indecisive approach. His emphasis on security enhanced his acceptability. His charisma was not in the abstract but based on a huge credibility emanating from his integrity, decisiveness, boldness and administrative skills. In a political era marked by anti-incumbency mandates, he took the risk to contest an election on a pro-incumbency platform. Those hoping that he would lose had proclaimed that no CM who had implemented power sector reforms has ever won. Modi converted the ailing Gujarat Electricity Board with a deficit of Rs 2,200 crore into a profit-maker. The power sector discipline enforced by him enabled the board to supply three-phase electricity for much longer durations. This increased farm and industrial incomes and enabled household industry to grow.
The larger message of the Gujarat election to the country is clear. If a leader has credibility, his record is good, his integrity standards are high, he can win and win again. It is this credibility that constituted Modi’s charisma and resulted in a positive vote. Of course, party cadre also deserve their share of credit. The Congress has not won an election in Gujarat since 1985. The BJP has consecutively won five assembly elections in Gujarat. The first, in alliance with Janata Dal, and the next four on its own. It is the strength of the BJP organisation, coupled with Modi’s leadership, that became an unbeatable combination. It’s this that successfully defied the might of the Central government, the combined campaign of the UPA, the sabotage by rebels and the belied hopes of a large section of the media.
An analysis of the Gujarat result reveals that the BJP’s victory margin over the Congress has increased beyond 2002. In 2002, the BJP led by 9.5 per cent votes. The lead this time is 11 per cent. A larger lead has resulted in fewer seats essentially because of the uneven size of the constituencies and the large BJP vote being concentrated on winning seats. In percentage terms, the victory margin in Saurashtra is 9 per cent; north Gujarat 9 per cent, south Gujarat 14 per cent and, surprisingly, in central Gujarat, the BJP has lead the Congress alliance by 10 per cent. Despite the 10 per cent lead in central Gujarat, the BJP got fewer seats than the Congress because of ‘wasted votes’. The margin of victory in BJP seats was very high and the margin of defeat in others, narrow.
Why is it that the national media refused to gauge the public mood and BJP’s 11 per cent lead almost uniformly spread across four regions? This is because of an oppressive environment that a section of the media felt it could create. Fair reporting was considered a journalistic sin since it would report a Modi win and hence the rule was to misreport. This resulted in a bandwagon effect which essentially involved acceptance of every theoretical proposition propounded by BJP rebels, some of whom had become ideological guides for the Congress. A ‘K’ factor was invented. The BJP would be routed in Saurashtra because of the revolt of the Patels, the Kolis and even the farmers. On the ground, no such factors seriously existed. Even if there was a mild slippage of Patel votes it was more than compensated and in fact enhanced by the OBC vote, Kshatriya vote and Modi’s credibility. The Soharabuddin speech was deliberately interpolated to include sentences like “This is what I did — what is wrong with what I did” and “Soharabuddin got what he deserved”.
Even the going rate of illegal satta market was misreported on the front page of a newspaper. I seriously believe the credibility of a section of the national media is at stake. Not merely because Gujarat’s people chose not to be guided by it but because of this deliberate perversity. Media organisations which claim to have its own in-house ombudsmen would surely take note of this.
Psephologists also suffered credibility jolt. The admission of some — that the raw data favoured Modi but factoring in improbables like fear and over reporting landed them in error — raises a fundamental question. Are we being guided by participatory psephologists? A participant in a political process may well want Modi to lose. But can the participant sift the data and reach an anti-Modi conclusion on the basis of these improbables? Being dissatisfied with the results on various opinion and exit polls, I decided to conduct an exit-poll through a professional agency, purely for my party’s understanding. Its conclusions were close to the final results.
If the Himachal and Gujarat results are taken in totality, the big picture could be disturbing for the Congress. It has lost all the major elections in 2007. There is not a single positive of the Central government that the party is able to propagate in the state polls. The personality of the PM or his performance are of no political consequence in the polls. The belief in the invincibility of the Gandhis has taken a beating. There are very few major states that the Congress continues to govern. If it loses state after state, it will affect its aggregate tally in the next Lok Sabha. After all, Lok Sabha polls are a net aggregate of state polls.
As 2007 comes to an end, it has thrown up two political winners in the year. Undoubtedly, Mayawati and Modi were two big winners this year. Both have proved it is your support base with your constituency and people that matters. Both defied the chatterati and worked endlessly in their constituencies. The writer is BJP’s party general-secretary and ran the party’s election campaign in Gujarat

Was Bush or Reagan a hard core free trader in practice? Nope. They used protectionism when it was politically expedient

The Partisan Trap from Cafe Hayek by Russell Roberts
In reaction to my recent sunny commentary at NPR, a number of NPR listeners have let me know that things are not so good for everyone in the US and that this condition began with the free market policies of the Reagan administration and continue with the Bush administration.
Of course, both Reagan and Bush the younger talked and talk a lot about the power of markets. They claim to believe in markets. But it isn't the reality. And the Democrats talk about how markets hurt people and how the government must intervene, especially to help the little guy.
But there is little difference between Republican and Democratic Presidents in what they actually do. In what they say? Sure. Both Reagan and Bush talk about individual responsibility and the market blah blah blah. Bill Clinton talked more about feeling people's pain and the downtrodden blah blah blah. Similarly, in the current presidential campaign, there are stark rhetorical differences between say Giuliani and Romney on the one hand and Obama and Clinton on the other...
Most of it is talk and it's not just because change is hard to achieve. It's because they really don't want change. Did Bill Clinton get rid of income inequality? Dent it? The share of income going to the top 1% rose throughout most of the Clinton administration. Was it his policies? The steady rise in the share of income going to the top 1% started rising in 1976. Was it Carter's doing?
Was Bush or Reagan a hard core free trader in practice? Nope. They used protectionism when it was politically expedient. Just like Bill Clinton signed welfare reform and NAFTA and then chose not to enforce the truck provision of NAFTA because the Teamsters didn't like it.
Government gets bigger under both Republicans and Democrats. What they spend money on is a little different, yes. But to hate George Bush for being a free market guy is to miss what is really going on. And to hate Hillary because she doesn't understand the power of markets and to love, say, Mitt Romney, is to misunderstand both of them. They use rhetoric to dupe you. Don't be duped. Be clear-eyed, not starry-eyed about the game they play. 8:21 AM

Oil prices are at record highs, and the dollar is plummeting. Foreigners are buying out leading U.S. business assets

That '70s Show from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux
Joel Kotkin, always thoughtful and provocative, does a nice job in today's Washington Post advising us denizens of the first decade of the 21st century not to take our fears too seriously. Here are his opening paragraphs:

The country is in a funk. Oil prices are at record highs, and the dollar is plummeting. Foreigners are buying out leading U.S. business assets. Environmentalists say the world is headed toward an ecological crackup of biblical proportions.

Today's headlines? Well, yes. But for those of us old enough to remember, they could just as easily be bulletins from one of the grimmest decades in recent U.S. history: the '70s. That decade, when all the promise of the 1960s fizzled into disappointment, holds up a mirror to our contemporary pessimism. Then as now, Americans felt uncertain about the present and insecure about the future. But we found a way out of the gloom -- and if that decade is our guide, we're likely to do it again.

I came of age in the 1970s, and I agree with Kotkin.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The very job that a worker today loses because of international trade might well have been created in the first place by international trade

Perspective on Trade from Cafe Hayek by Don Boudreaux
Let's clear up a misunderstanding that I sense in some of the comments to this earlier post (and this related one): I know of no serious economist who ever argued that free trade hurts no one in any way. But let's also be clear that this truth is supremely banal. Of course freer trade almost surely reduces, at least for a time, the incomes of some producers, but such a downside is in no way unique to trade. It is true of almost any economic change and of competition. (See my earlier posts, here and here.)
When the population ages and buys fewer baby diapers and toy rattles, some workers in diaper and rattle factories are likely harmed. When computers replace typewriters, some workers in typewriter factories are harmed. When the latest fad diet sweeps the country, some producers and retailers of the newly verboten foods are harmed. The genuinely deep thinker grasps at least two important prongs of wisdom on this front:
  • First, the fact that economic change causes some immediate losses to some persons does not, standing alone, create a presumption in favor of skepticism, or even of agnosticism, toward economic change -- a skepticism or agnosticism that mindlessly intones that the reality of such losses must in any real-world case be weighed against the benefits in order to "see" if economic change is good or not good.
  • Second and relatedly, the immediate consequences of economic change are not the only consequences; the long-run consequences are real and they matter; they, too, must be reckoned when we make claims about economic change and policies proposed to govern it.
About the second fact: I argued earlier at the Cafe that the longer the run, the more universal are the gains from free trade. By being part of an open economy driven by entrepreneurs pursuing profits by searching for new and better ways to serve consumers (who, in turn, largely are free to spend their incomes as they wish), even those persons who lose today because of a change in consumer spending patterns almost certainly gain over the long run by being part of such an economy. The very job that a worker today loses because of an increase in international trade might well have been created in the first place by international trade. For example, the U.S. steel worker who loses his job today because American consumers are buying more steel from abroad might well never have had that job to begin with were it not for trade in the past that allowed foreigners to acquire dollars in order, in the past, to buy steel made in the USA.
About the first fact: In 1998 I met a gentleman from Jackson, Mississippi (whose name I regret that I forget), who discovered a new means of shipping automobile tires. I don't recall the details, but this creative entrepreneur devised a procedure that, unlike in the past, permits tires to be compressed during shipping without being damaged. The result is that a truck or freight car carrying new tires can today carry ten times as many tires as before. It’s quite likely that this invention has “destroyed” the jobs of a handful of truckers – persons not at the top of the heap of American income earners.
Would any economist today argue that “I’m no opponent of technological innovation and greater capital investment. But those textbook theories that show that market-driven innovations and investments make society wealthier do not – contrary to what some people assert – show that everyone is made better off by such innovations and investments. Some people are harmed. So, again while I’m no opponent of technological innovation and capital investment, I am for an end to the finger-wagging accusations that those who worry that innovation and greater investment will hurt workers don’t understand economics. Those who worry that innovations and greater investments will hurt ordinary workers have a point and deserve some respect.”?
Would any serious economist be sanguine about politicians who talk about limiting Americans' ability to innovate and invest?

I favor further experimentation with school vouchers

In Praise of Uncertainty from Marginal Revolution by Tyler Cowen
Writing in the comments, David R. Henderson asks me to list three policy areas where my views are uncertain. Since this blog (or at least this author) has been streaming uncertainty for over four years, this strikes me as an odd request. But perhaps it is useful to have such a list in one place, so here goes:
1. We must address the looming crisis in medical care costs but how? I am uncertain as to how much means-testing Medicare will ease future budgetary pressures. I do favor means-testing, mostly through lack of better ideas, but it is a) notoriously difficult to enforce, b) often unfair (do we measure income or wealth? current or lifetime?) and c) an implicit hike in marginal tax rates. And if you could talk me out of means-testing, I am not sure which recommendation would come next.
2. I favor further experimentation with school vouchers, but to what extent? There are many good school districts that probably would not be improved much if at all, and the resulting political hand-wringing would be costly and also could give vouchers a bad name. Should vouchers be isolated experiments or implemented on a near-universal basis? Near-universal vouchers run the risk of becoming the new middle class entitlement.
3. I don't see a Social Security "crisis" in the numbers, but I do believe we should be fiscally conservative with the program, most of all because of forthcoming Medicare expenditures. Yet this view would be wrong if the growth rate of the economy exceeds the real rate of interest. We could then spend as much on Social Security as we wanted to. (Growth-optimistic conservatives rarely emphasize this conclusion, I might add.) I do not expect such a result, but I give it a probability of about 30 percent.
4. I am uncertain how much the United States should "move first" with costly anti-global warming measures, assuming that China and other nations are not very cooperative.
5. To what extent is the ongoing loss of biodiversity a very serious problem? I suspect in the long run this will prove a more important issue than global warming, but I am not sure. I also don't know what to do about it; property rights and better quotas for fishing is a good idea but that only dents the larger problem.
6. I favor legalizing or decriminalizing many drugs, but I am not sure how far this process can go when so many actual and potential drug customers are under eighteen years of age. Can we really sell crack cocaine in the 7-11, provided there is an ID check for every buyer?
7. I am pro-immigration relative to either current policy or the median voter, but I am uncertain how many immigrants the United States could take in. I'm not just whinging about not knowing where the decimal point goes. More generally, we don't know when the social and political fabric will start to crack in counterproductive fashion.
8. I am highly uncertain about most of the major questions in foreign policy, for a start try Pakistan or the Koreas or nuclear proliferation. Even if you think we shouldn't have gotten involved in the first place, that doesn't mean immediate withdrawal is our best option. And while I know more about economics than foreign policy, I find that the more I learn about a given foreign policy area, the more uncertain I become.
9. Virtually any question in water policy. This is a good, complex area for shaking up policy preconceptions.
That's a lot of uncertainty. I could go on, but that's already most of the major policy issues today. Don't forget this: even if your view is the one "most likely to be right," in absolute terms your view, like mine, is probably wrong relative to the sum of competing views.
In other words, it is hard for me to see why, in these and many other areas, we should be highly certain of the views we hold.
At some point I'll give you my take on "What I Think We Should Be (Nearly) Certain About." But I am not yet sure what should go in that post.

Credit card defaults are rising in the US, a logical corollary of the defaults on mortgage payments

SWAMINOMICS Dark clouds on the 2008 horizon Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar Sunday Times of India 30 Dec 2007
I tend to be an optimist, but see some dark clouds on the 2008 horizon. Since 2003, India has averaged an astonishingly rapid GDP growth of almost 9% per year. But I believe India has a 50% chance of suffering a painful downturn in 2008-09, a 30% chance of a mild downturn, and only a 20% chance of continuing with rapid 9% growth.
India's economic acceleration since 2003 owes much to the global economic boom, a tide that has lifted all boats including India. If the global tide ebbs in 2008, India will go down along with others. India may prove more resilient than others, but no downturn is painless. Given the risk of a serious downturn, Sonia Gandhi should consider a mid-term election in early 2008, before the global slump hits hard. However, she seems determined to complete a full term, even at the cost of compromising with the Left Front on the nuclear deal with the US. Some analysts say Narendra Modi's electoral victory in Gujarat proves that the Congress is not on a good wicket today. Maybe, but i suspect the wicket will worsen rapidly in the coming year. Congress may face a really sticky wicket in May 2009 when the next general election is due. I am not alone in pessimism about economic prospects for 2008. Many analysts have listed reasons to be downbeat -- the global housing slump, the credit crunch arising from the subprime mortgage crisis in the US, record oil and food prices, and a possible cutback in US consumer spending. High food and fuel prices have a big impact on inflation in developing countries like China and India, where central banks will keep interest rates high to control prices. But this will hit industry.
Credit card defaults are rising in the US, a logical corollary of the defaults on mortgage payments. Household consumption is influenced by the "wealth effect". When housing prices boom, home-owners feel wealthier and so spend more, often more than their annual income. But when house prices fall, as is the case today, owners feel poorer, and slash spending. US spending has kept the world economy booming for five years, and reduced US spending could mean a global downturn. However, stockmarkets the world over positively brim with optimism, and stock prices are at record highs in many places (including India). Global productivity has been rising fast, in China and India no less than in the US. Rising productivity has enabled the world to grow at the fastest rate in history with very limited inflation. Optimists believe this will help overcome all problems. Central banks in the US and Europe are pouring billions into the banking system to avoid a credit crunch. The housing slump in the US has so far not deterred consumer spending. Some slowdown may indeed take place, but optimists expect that the US will have a soft landing with 1% GDP growth, not outright recession. This muted slowdown will also reduce commodity prices and help tame inflation.
Besides, many optimists now think that emerging markets (like India, China and Brazil) have ‘decoupled' from the US economy, and their growth is no longer critically dependent on rising exports to the US. If so, a recession in the US will have little impact on emerging markets. I agree that emerging markets are much less dependent than before on the US economy, yet the decoupling is partial at best. A US recession will mean less US imports from Asian manufacturers like China and India, which will then import fewer components from Japan and Korea, and fewer raw materials from Africa and Latin America. Thus, there will be downward multiplier effects globally. A US recession should reduce India's GDP growth rate from the current 9% to 7% or a bit less. Now, 7% growth still constitutes a miracle economy. So, you might think there is little cause for worry. But a cautionary tale comes from the 1990s. After averaging 7.5% growth in the three years, 1994-97, India slumped to 5.5% in the next few years. That was a decline of only two percentage points, but industrial growth fell to almost zero in 1997-98, and remained weak for years thereafter. Many companies were stranded with excess capacity and huge debts, and went deep into the red. Banks ran up huge losses because borrowers defaulted. Stock markets crashed.
Remember too that in 1997, the Pay Commission award exacerbated the impact of the Asian financial crisis. Another Pay Commission award is due in 2008, again on the heels of a possible global downturn.
Optimists are right that Indian industry and banks are much stronger today, and better able to withstand shocks. If indeed we suffer a serious downturn, it may be sparked by political factors that cannot be forecast. For instance, an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities could double the price of oil to $200/barrel. Al-Qaida could launch another attack on the US. Such political events, rather than purely economic ones, could be the triggers for the next downturn.

When consumers pull back, the economy slows

Editorial Cash-Strapped Consumers NYT: December 29, 2007
During the holiday shopping season, Americans bought fewer gifts while paying more for necessities. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, spending rose only 3.6 percent over the same period last year, the weakest performance in at least four years, according to early tallies from MasterCard Advisors, a unit of the credit card company. One-third of that increase was for gas purchases.
That’s bad news for an economy that is dependent on free-spending shoppers for growth. When consumers pull back, the economy slows. Employers respond by delaying hiring plans, reducing work hours and, if problems persist, laying off workers. Once a downturn starts, it is always hard to reverse, and especially now, with the White House unwilling to acknowledge that six years of debt-fueled growth is proving unsustainable and with most candidates for president only beginning to talk about how they would fix the economy.
Of course, one season does not a trend make. And after-Christmas bargain hunters have yet to spend their last penny. But the preliminary results are not likely to change much. Earlier this month, the government reported that personal spending surged in November, but the boost was mostly due to higher outlays for food and gasoline. More troubling, the rise in spending far outstripped the rise in Americans’ income, with the mismatch covered, in part, by a significant drain on savings.
All of that portends economic pain for families, even if growth, over all, does not contract — the general definition of a recession. That’s because even optimistic growth forecasts — about 1.5 percent for this quarter and next — are too tepid to counter recessionlike conditions in which job growth slows, unemployment rises and paychecks shrink or disappear. If inflation continues, rising prices will only feed the pain. To make matters worse, many Americans are ill-prepared for tougher times.
Since the end of 2001, the economy has posted positive growth every month. That is a performance much trumpeted by President Bush and his aides. There is another aspect of that performance that they don’t talk about. With the Bush-era expansion apparently bottoming out, it may well become the first in which median family income, after inflation, never makes it back up to its level at the peak of the previous business cycle.
A new study by the Economic Policy Institute uses Census data to trace the dismal trajectory. Economic growth during the Clinton administration peaked in 2000, followed by a brief recession. Growth resumed at the end of 2001, the beginning of the Bush-era expansion, but real family income continued to fall through 2004. It has turned up since then, but as of the end of 2006, it was still about $1,000 below its peak in 2000.
Even if that difference is made up this year (and it’s still too early to tell if that will happen) Americans would be merely breaking even. That would be a pathetic outcome after six years of strong labor productivity.
Dismal income growth is no accident. It is the result of misguided tax, labor and social policies — including government disregard of the downsides of globalization for many Americans — that have concentrated income in the hands of the few.
The ease of borrowing has made it possible for many people to live beyond their means. But, the end of easy money is now exposing Americans’ vulnerability. Today’s stingy shopper may be tomorrow’s angry voter. To deserve those votes, a candidate must articulate a plan not only for restoring growth, but for ensuring that in the next upswing, the benefits are shared.

Nationalists tried their best to convince the organisers that the future will never pardon them for any backward step

LOOKING BACK The great ideological split Initiating change: Sri Aurbindo.
The 23rd annual session of the Congress, held in Surat in 1907, firmly entrenched the notion of Swaraj in people’s minds. MANOJ DAS The Hindu Magazine Sunday, Dec 30, 2007
If, of all the ages of recorded history, the 20th century was most prominently characterised by paradox, its first decade was not without its share of this phenomenon. While the British Conservative leader Joseph Chamberlain happily announced, “ ;The day of empire has come!” Madame Cama unfurled the flag of free India at Stuttgart, proclaiming the end of empire!
The Indian National Congress, founded in 1885 consisting of 71 delegates, was “possible under British rule; under British rule only,” announced its first President, W.C. Bonnerjee. Delegates to the second Congress were even entertained by the Viceroy.
However, it was not easy to stomach for an organisation representing the nation to countenance Viceroy (1894-1899) Lord Elgin’s blusters, like “India was conquered by the sword and by the sword it shall be held,” or Viceroy (1899-1905) Lord Curzon’s, “Indeed, truth has never been an Indian ideal,” accompanied by the latter’s pernicious action of partitioning Bengal. Nor did the Muslims feel flattered by East Bengal’s first and last Lt. Governor Fuller’s romantic revelation that he had two wives, one Hindu and one Muslim; the Muslim was his favourite.
An urge for self-assertion was rapidly growing stronger. It found its voice through leaders like Tilak, Bipin Pal, Khaparde and Lala Lajpat Rai. But the genius behind the new spirit was Sri Aurobindo, his role subtle and covert. From Vadodara he came over to Kolkata in 1906 and soon took over the editorship of Bande Mataram, launched by Bipin Pal, a newspaper that in no time became the “the most effective voice of what we then called national extremism,” as S.K. Ratcliffe, then the editor of The Statesman, recollected. The paper was, as he said further, “full of articles in English with brilliance and pungency not hitherto attained in the Indian Press.”
Though his name never appeared in the paper, Sri Aurobindo was prosecuted and that earned him a public reverence he never sought, epitomised in Tagore’s celebrated poem, “Aurobindo, Rabindranath salutes thee,/ Friend, O my country’s friend, O voice incarnate, free, of the country’s soul!”
Voice of the Nationalists
If the formation of the National Congress gave India a voice, Bande Mataram became a voice with a thunderous accent, that of the Nationalists. Their demand that the Congress give up its culture of petition and claim Swaraj was acknowledged as a goal at the 22nd session of the Congress in Kolkata in1906, presided over by Dadabhoy Naoroji. But the moderates managed to change the proposed venue of the next Congress from Nagpur to Surat, their stronghold. The proposed President, Lala Lajpat Rai, just released from jail, was to be replaced by Rash Behari Ghose. The agenda even excluded Swaraj, Boycott and national education, already upheld at Kolkata. “We cannot afford to flout Government at this stage,” was the argument.
Out of step
On the eve of the Surat session, the nationalists tried their best to convince the organisers that the future will never pardon them for any backward step, but to no avail. The next best course for the Nationalists was to show the rulers that the goody-goody policy the official Congress leadership formulated in the flickering flames of their worldly prudence had no relevance to the vast sunshine outside their ivory tower.
The session began on December 26, 1907 before a sea of humanity. Rash Behari Ghose was proposed for the Chair. But the moment the legendary orator Surendranath Bannerji stood up to second the proposal, the gathering storm burst forth. Let us have glimpses of the situation through the inimitable report of Henry W. Nevinson, Special Correspondent of The Daily News of London:
Waving their arms, their scarves, their sticks and umbrellas, a solid mass of delegates and spectators sprang to their feet and shouted without a moment’s pause…the whole ten thousand were on their feet, shouting for order, shouting for tumult. Mr. Malvi (Chairman, Reception Committee) still half in the chair, rang his brass Benares bell and rang in vain. Surendranath sprang upon the very table itself. Even a voice like his was not a whisper in the din. Again and again he shouted, unheard as silence. He sat down and for a moment the storm was lulled. The voice of the leaders were audible, consulting in agitated tones — Dr. Ghose shrill, impatient and perturbed with anger; Mr. Gokhale distressed, anxious and harassed with vague negotiation and sleepless nights… ‘If they will not hear Surendranath, whom will they hear?’ said one. ‘It is an insult to Congress’, said another. ‘An insult to Bengal,’ cried a third. Again Surendranath sprang on the table, and again the assembly roared with clamour. Again the Chairman rang his Benares bell, and rang in vain. In an inaudible voice, like a sob, he declared the sitting suspended.
A gloomy day passed, marked by ominous whispers in an atmosphere tense and awesome. The session resumed the next day. As soon as Dr. Ghose occupied the Chair, a determined Tilak, who had served notice for an amendment, stood up in order to move it. “You cannot move an adjournment of the Congress. I declare you out of order,” warned Malvi.” “I wish to move an amendment to the election of President, and you are not in the Chair,” Tilak answered. “I declare you out of order,” cried Dr. Ghosh. “But you have not been elected! I appeal to the delegates,” snubbed Tilak.
Let us turn to Nevinson again:
Uproar drowned the rest. With folded arms Mr. Tilak faced the audience. On either side of him young Moderates sprang to their feet, wildly gesticulating vengeance. Shaking their fists and yelling to the air, they clamoured to hurl him down the steps of the platform. Behind him Dr. Ghose mounted the table and ringing an unheard bell, harangued the storm in shrill, agitated, unintelligible denunciations. Restraining the rage of Moderates, ingeminating peace if ever man ingeminated, Mr. Gokhale, sweet-natured even in extremes, stood beside his old opponent, flinging out both arms to protect him from the threatened onset. But Mr. Tilak asked for no protection. He stood there with folded arms, defiant, calling on violence to do its worst, calling on violence to move him, for he would move for nothing else in hell or heaven. In front, the white-clad audience roared like a tumultuous sea.
Suddenly something flew through the air — a shoe! — Maharatta shoe! — reddish leather, pointed toe, sole studded with lead. It struck Surendranath Banerjee on the cheek; it cannoned off upon Sir Ferozeshah Mehta. It flew, it fell, and, as at a given signal, white waves of turbaned men surged up the escarpment of the platform. Leaping, climbing, hissing the breath of fury, brandishing long sticks, they came, striking at any head that looked to them Moderate, and in another moment, between brown legs standing upon the green-baize table, I caught glimpses of the Indian National Congress dissolving in chaos.
Like Goethe at the battle of Valmy, I could have said, ‘Today marks the beginning of a new era, and you can say that you were present at it.’
Beginning of a new era indeed! The Bengalee of Surendranath Bannerji bore this headline: “The Congress is Dead — Long Live the Congress.”
Turning point
Dr. Ghose’s Presidential address remained unread for good. Though the next day two different conferences were held, the Nationalists commanded the crowd. Observes Nevinson,
“Grave and silent, I think without saying a single word — Mr. Aurobindo Ghose took the Chair and sat unmoved, with far-off eyes, as one who gazes at futurity. In clear, short sentences, without eloquence of passion, Mr. Tilak spoke till the stars shone out and someone kindled a lantern at his side.”
This first great Congress split, unlike a few subsequent ones caused by a clash of interests or personalities, was strictly ideological, resulting in the concept of Swaraj sinking into the nation’s psyche.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Strengthening the social safety net would not be my policy recommendation

For the sake of the world as a whole, I hope that we respond to the trouble with trade not by shutting trade down, but by doing things like strengthening the social safety net.

That is Paul Krugman, here is more.

I have yet to see the evidence that trade has a significant negative impact on middle class wages, but for sake of argument assume it is true. However benevolent it may sound, strengthening the social safety net would not be my policy recommendation number one. After all, if Samuelson-Stolper factor price equalization is the main mechanism at work, wages would have a long way to fall downwards and if anyone in the middle class is to keep working, the safety net must eventually be cut, not increased. You might think we can fund all these trade-losers by taxing capital but of course the incidence of taxes on capital sometimes falls on labor, not to mention that at some point the Laffer Curve kicks in.
Is not the appropriate policy recommendation to create a budget surplus, create a U.S.A. Sovereign Wealth Fund, and invest the resulting capital in the corporate winners from this entire process? In other words, we would be giving the trade-losers a more direct share in capital. Since output is rising and wages are falling, the return to capital must be rising; let's make money off of that.
You might not trust the government with such investments but it is awkward for Krugman to push that argument too hard. Alternatively, you might think that share prices already have capitalized these gains, but that is hard to square with the view that Krugman is reporting a new result about trade. Share prices are driven by liquidity to some extent, and if you know something about the returns to labor and capital that the rest of the world does not, there ought to be a way to make money. Why spend more on consumption (a stronger safety net today) if the rate of return on investment is rising so high and we are going to need even more of a safety net in the future?

Sri Aurobindo was a reactionary and feudal for the Marxists

The basic question is when did Indian Marxists develop regard for Rabindranath Tagore and his works and for that matter for any great social and spiritual reformers that Bengal has gifted to this countty. Tagore was a bourgeois poet and Subash Chandra Bose was a quisling. In fact, Tagore was attacked for his admiration for Upanishads which was regarded as a symbol of bourgeoisie. Ramakrishna Paramahamsa was dubbed as a mentally unsound person. Sri Aurobindo was a reactionary and feudal for the Marxists. Organiser Home > 2007 Issues > December 30, 2007 CPM's fiction and faith of Ram By S.R. Ramanujan (The writer is former editor of News Time daily.)

Behind the big labels are a variety of issues and historical complexities that challenge every politician and every party

Secularism: The assassination of Benazir Bhutto posted by Craig Calhoun
Benazir Bhutto was my classmate at Oxford in the 1970s.
That is not the opening sentence of a feel-good encomium to cosmopolitanism. Nor is it the start of a personal reminiscence or statement of regret, though I am sad. It is a small note of personal connection to the growing political tragedy in Pakistan. What follows is a reflection on that tragedy. It is also a warning to those who would think their personal connections offer adequate bases for understanding an ever more integrated but deeply troubled world and a plea for pursuing necessary knowledge.
Bhutto’s assassination comes just three months after the 60th anniversary of Pakistan’s birth. The partition of what had been British India in August 1947 was in many ways itself a tragedy of epic proportions. Millions were uprooted and hundreds of thousands died. The Congress Party that led India to independence has had its share of problems, not least losing power for a time to Hindu nationalists. The nonviolence of Gandhi has remained a powerful legacy, but it is one too often honored in the breach, not least as India’s great religious communities clash. Just this past week the Bharatiya Janata Party won state elections in Gujarat. This will keep the notorious Narendra Modi in power, the chief minister who looked the other way as his fellow-Hindus killed Muslims by the hundreds or maybe thousands in 2002.
So too in Pakistan it has been hard to realize the founder’s vision. The most important of Pakistan’s founders was Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a lawyer who spent his early career fighting for Muslim-Hindu unity. Despairing of the prospects for peace and security for minority communities, he became in the 1940s a powerful and intransigent advocate for an independent Pakistan. Like Mohandas Gandhi, his internationally better-known comrade in the struggle against British rule, Jinnah was an eloquent British-trained lawyer. He was a charismatic speaker even though he addressed crowds in polished English, not their local languages. Also like Gandhi, Jinnah died before the state he helped to create took full form, leaving many to speculate on what institutions each might have nurtured. Not least, Jinnah had called for a secular government in the Islamic state of Pakistan. Indeed, advocates for a stricter Islamic state later complained that he and the Muslim League had merely used Islam to advance their secular agenda. He was not assassinated, but died in 1948 of the tuberculosis he had struggled to keep secret through the turbulent campaigns of the preceding decade.
And so for sixty years India has been wracked by communal violence and Pakistan has suffered recurrent collapses of democracy and periods of military rule. Benazir Bhutto’s father, once a popular president, was executed by one of the generals. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto tried to combine Islam with two of the great ideologies (and one of the great phrases) of modernity, proclaiming in 1966 that “Islam is our faith, democracy is our policy, socialism is our economy. All power to the people.” Developing a specifically Islamic modernity has been one of the great challenges of the last half century, not just in Pakistan but around the world.
There is a tendency in the West to misunderstand this issue by identifying Islam erroneously with tradition. This reflects the wider tendency to see religion always in retreat against inevitable secularization. But Islam in particular continues to be transformed by modernization. Islamists may resist American imperial power, the sexual mores of Hollywood movies, and European attempts to banish public religion. But this is hardly a rejection of everything modern. Islam has serially embraced taped and amplified muezzins, sermons circulated on cassettes, and the Internet. Islamists have modernized the architecture of mosques, studied engineering and computer science, and founded innumerable schools and universities. And in any case, so-called “Islamists” are not the only Muslims seeking to create a better version of modernity than the one they see around them. Nor, of course, are Muslims the only people who try to improve modernity.
This is not to say there are no advocates of tradition in the Pakistan story. Benazir Bhutto contended with Punjabi landlords claiming tradition as they protected their wealth and rural men claiming tradition as they dominated women. And these advocates for tradition have sometimes been mobilized by those claiming to speak on behalf of Islam. Indeed, Benazir struggled with right-wing Islamic parties that sought to preserve laws allowing discrimination against women. Ironically, given her status as one of the world’s most prominent women leaders, Benazir’s government was dogged by corruption allegations centered on her wealthy husband. But right-wing Islamist parties have no more monopoly on Islam than crooked businessmen have on capitalism.
To make sense of what is going on in Pakistan—or anywhere else in the world—requires more than application of labels like “Islamic” or “secular” or “modern” or even “democratic”. It requires more than casual contacts. This is where social science research and serious analysis become indispensible. For behind the big labels are a variety of issues and historical complexities that challenge every politician and every party—and which outsiders like the US government dismiss at their peril.
Pakistan was more disrupted by partition than India, more radically a new creation with the instabilities that implied. It underwent its own bloody and perhaps predictable civil war as its geographically separate and ethnically distinct eastern and western halves separated and Bangladesh was created in 1971. Poor response to a 1970 cyclone helped to precipitate the conflict. And the massive refugee crisis moved George Harrison and Ravi Shankar to organize the first of the now recurrent large-scale benefit concerts of the rock era. The Concert for Bangladesh reflected the Eastern interests of Western youth as well as the mobilizing power of TV and music. But those interests and that sort of mobilization have proved episodic. Americans and Europeans look at the Indian Subcontinent in general and Pakistan (or Bangladesh) in particular only occasionally. Too often crises provide the occasion.
Pakistan is still recovering from floods and mudslides that occurred at nearly the same time as Hurricane Katrina. There was much greater loss of life in Pakistan, much greater news coverage in New Orleans. Pakistan remains devastatingly poor, but with growing wealthy and middle classes. It is ethnically diverse, urbanizing, rent by deep divisions and held together by only relatively weak institutions. The military is politically significantly partly because it is one of the strongest national institutions. But lawyers and judges who took to the streets and hunger strikes to demand that Musharraf honor the constitution revealed that legal institutions are also strong.
Nation-building in Pakistan has always had to contend with disputed borders and problematic neighbors. Tensions with India over Kashmir are longstanding. Perhaps more important but less famous are the problems related to the porous border with Afghanistan. That country, never very unified and always interwoven with northwestern Pakistan by tribe and kinship and trade, became an object of Cold War contention. The Soviet Union invaded 1979 in the wake of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. War in Afghanistan had really already started and has continued ever since. The USSR fought Mujahideen rebels. The US supported the Islamists, famously relying on and arming such leaders as Osama bin Laden. But neither Islam nor political ideologies were ever separate from ethnic and tribal structures or contention over local power. And as the great powers fought over Afghanistan, Pakistan became a staging ground for military and aid operations and an asylum for refugees. Pakistanis also saw business opportunities and more than a little of the new wealth has roots in the conflict.
Seeing the current movie, Charlie Wilson’s War, will make many think they know more about Afghanistan than they do. Entertainment media are not under obligations to historical accuracy but the ways in which they represent history have enduring influence. If most Westerners have any image of Jinnah, for example, they probably got it from David Attenborough’s Gandhi which portrayed Jinnah as a cold and calculating villain seemingly bent on an independent Pakistan out of jealousy and careerism. And a million popular representations continue to frame the West’s image of Islam—most very problematically.
None of which suggests that Islamic zealotry isn’t a problem for the West—or perhaps even more for other Muslims. It is to suggest that neither seeing a movie nor having a chance biographical connection, like a classmate, is an adequate basis for comprehending what is going on in the world.
It is one of the jobs of social science to help people do better. Social scientists do this by filling in historical background and geopolitical connections. By analyzing demographic trends and structures. By reporting on economic development, gender relations, the state of government institutions, the options for education in villages. Emergencies offer a lens through which to see the interaction of many different factors of social life. But we can only make sense of emergencies if there are studies of these various factors on which we can rely.
Just a few weeks ago the SSRC began to mobilize some of the specialists who know Pakistan—and its region and the global issues affecting both—to offer essays on the current crisis. None of these is the last word, for the crisis continues to unfold. They focus on different dimensions of the crisis. But each brings forward necessary knowledge to aid in understanding.
The necessary knowledge needed to understand Pakistan comes in several kinds. It starts, perhaps, with the site-specific knowledge of the country itself, its history, its internal character, struggles over political leadership and cultural authority. It continues with knowledge of broader contexts, as events in Pakistan reflect shifting affairs in South Asia and Central Asia, and indeed the Islamic world. To such encompassing contexts should be added the connections forged by migrants, including Pakistanis in the US, Europe, and the Middle East—where Pakistanis are prominent among guest workers in the Persian Gulf—and of course by Afghans and Arabs in Pakistan. To migrants add students and scholars – recall that I met Benazir in Oxford, though neither of us was English. And add businesspeople, aid workers, journalists and diplomats. But connections are not just made personally by travelers of one kind or another. They are made by countries which often have agendas of their own, as with the US in relation to Pakistan. They are made by trade flows both licit and illicit (and much of Afghanistan’s opium production passes through Pakistan). They are made by diseases, and fighting AIDS is made harder by the fact that some of the opium is used in Pakistan in forms requiring needles.
At one level, to understand Benazir Bhutto’s assassination requires simply knowing who she was and who did it, perhaps asking which groups claimed credit and which condemned it. But this is merely a start. Understanding enough to respond in meaningful ways requires knowledge of the contexts and connections in which this event was embedded. And it requires more general knowledge of patterns and causal relationships in social life—of how markets and militaries and popular mobilizations work. Social scientists have long pursued a silly internal dispute that undermines effective public knowledge. Some have favored breaking social life into its most generalizable elements, abstracting from particular contexts. Others have favored studying contexts and connections, seeing the general mechanisms at work in particular situations. We all suffer when one pursuit is valued at the expense of the other.
And by “all” I mean not only professional social scientists but everyone. For when good social science knowledge is not available to policy-makers and the public, both effective planning and democratic judgment of the policies chosen are undermined. Thus we should all want knowledge pursued in depth and discussed among specialists. But we should also want this knowledge synthesized for effective communication—to a broad public, to students, and to policy-makers.
Benazir Bhutto studied social science but made her career in politics. She was an unusually well-educated politician as well as both a courageous and a flawed leader. And one of the virtues of democracy is that well-informed leaders can help to educate broader publics. This is not to say that they should be believed on all points, but that electoral campaigns and public political participation are educational processes. Citizens learn by getting involved. But while we hope that politicians will make use of knowledge and seek understanding, we cannot and usually do not rely on them to educate us fully about public issues. They call attention to crucial points but they also “spin” them. It is vital in a democracy that there also be sources of knowledge to which politicians can be held account, and analyses by scholars who may not always manage to be neutral but whose commitments to the truth outweigh expediency. In Pakistan, as elsewhere, no political party has a monopoly on truth. But when parties and leaders allow open debate, they make it easier for the truth to be seen. And better understanding based on necessary knowledge can make it easier for opposing parties to find common ground on some issues.
The assassination of Benazir Bhutto brought one more death to a country—and a world—in which there is too much political violence. It is a personal blow to Benazir’s family and friends. But it is also a blow to democracy and the informed public discourse on which it depends.
[For more on the situation in Pakistan, go to the recently launched SSRC essay forum, Pakistan in Crisis.—ed.] This entry was posted on Friday, December 28th, 2007 at 4:10 am RSS 2.0 feed. 2 Responses to “The assassination of Benazir Bhutto”
John Whitelaw: December 28th, 2007 at 12:21 pm Your program for “good social science knowledge”–”start[ing] perhaps with site-specific knowledge about the country itself…” then including “knowledge of broader contexts”, and “connections forged by migrants”, and so on–sounds to me like an excellent model for a natural-science study, say, of some animal species at risk in its native habitat...
Craig Calhoun: December 28th, 2007 at 7:44 pm Let me see if I am clear on the issues you raised and try to respond:
1. Should social scientists enter into discussion with people in the places or groups they are trying to study?
Certainly. This is a good way to learn in the first place and it’s a good way to check what one thinks one knows. It’s also a reasonable human reciprocity and a recognition that human beings know something (if not everything) about their own lives. Social scientists seeking to understand people and situations need to try to learn how others see things - not just gather external, objective data.
2. Is this likely by itself to head off disasters like the US invasion of Iraq?
I’m not so sure. Much depends on who one converses with and what intentions and perspectives each side brings to the conversation. Many American officials conversed a lot with Ahmed Chalabi before invading Iraq. He may not have been the right Iraqi, but that’s precisely the issue. If the officials had paid more attention to other sources — and not just conversations with more people who already happened to be in their networks — they might have better understood his biases. More generally, it is in the nature of conversation that it involves a few people, not always representative. One can try to have more conversations with a wider range of people and conduct them more systematically. This could involve formal sampling. It could involve living among people and trying to immerse oneself enough in their culture and context to judge the conversations well. A good starting point is not to believe that a few conversations give one privileged insight because they were with important people, or simply authentic members of the local society. Such conversations can be no more than a start.
3. Are conversations by means of translators ever a fully adequate substitute for learning local or national languages?
No. Neither are conversations with only those people who speak English. Both can be useful but both are limited. Should there be much more teaching of nonWestern languages in the US? Absolutely.
4. Have social scientists in general been proponents either of the Iraq War or of the notion that it is a civil war and the US a benign presence?
I don’t think so. Indeed, far from it. Some social scientists supported the war, it is true. Many were critics of it, and many more are critics now - noting that in addition to being ill-conceived it has been poorly pursued. I doubt that many hold the view that the American (and allied) armies are not now an occupying force but merely “beneficient moderators”. Certainly this is not the view of most well-regarded specialists. For what it is worth, my own view is that the decision to invade Iraq was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in modern history.
5. Do many social scientists underestimate or belittle nationalist discourse?
Yes, unfortunately you are right about this. Social scientists have often failed to take nationalism very seriously, imagining it (like religion) to be something inherited from an earlier era and destined to vanish. This is a mistake. And many social scientists who do recognize the importance of nationalism nonetheless see only its bad sides and excesses, and fail to recognize its role in unifying populations across ethnic, regional, and religious differences (albeit too often with violence or inequity). Many fail to recognize the importance of nationalist discourse to constructing the kind of collective consciousness that enables ordinary people to recognize themselves in documents with phrases like “We the people…”. [See my most recent book, Nations Matter.]
6. Is there bias against Arabs or Arabic?
Yes, certainly. And I’m sure this exists among social scientists though it must be acknowledged that social scientists studying the middle east are much more commonly criticized for the opposite bias. And here it is important that the middle east specialists have pursued real knowledge with serious scholarly and social science methods - because otherwise their accusers (generally better funded) could get away much more easily with lies and distortions.
7. Do social scientists need blogs or other media for interaction?
Of course. We need to be challenged by questions, informed about things we forget or never knew, and pushed to be clearer. Would I ever suggest that it makes sense for “the rest of us” just to wait, listen and in due course be enlightened? No! Keep speaking up. Also reading. 7:36 AM

Globally, corporations do not generally command respect and credibility from society

A question of ethics TARUN DAS The Times of India 28 Dec 2007
Sunday Times of India columnist Swaminathan Aiyar often writes in a strong, direct and unambiguous manner. His articles are usually sensible but that was not the case with the one that appeared on December 16, when he wrote in this paper about the Tata Group. It is important to respond because many corporations, especially CEOs, might believe that he is right and the Tatas are wrong.
In September, in New York, addressing an audience of 500 plus, C K Prahalad - the celebrated business strategist - talked about India’s future. One key issue he raised was the "moral leadership" India could provide in the years ahead. In a world full of turmoil, where countries and corporations are often tempted to take short cuts, and do so, Prahalad said India could be a role model of a different kind based on strong ethics and values. Globally, corporations do not generally command respect and credibility from society. They are perceived to be profiteering, cartelising, protectionist, with vested interests. There are strong negative perceptions about corporations and this is a global phenomenon.
Over the years, there has been some change in India. Isolated cases of corporate philanthropy have given way to widespread Corporate Social Responsibility. Corporations have shown a sustained engagement with and commitment to issues such as HIV-AIDS, corporate governance, affirmative action, skills training, social research, scientific research, community development, primary education and public health. Whilst many corporates are so engaged, clearly, the Tatas are in the vanguard. They are seen as a role model. The oasis of Jamshedpur is just one example of their social leadership. These values are the benchmarks for many companies, not only in India, but globally. On the business and commercial side, Tatas follow the practice of negotiated mutually acceptable acquisitions and mergers. They have said it repeatedly that hostile takeovers are not their policy for growth and expansion. This is a value system of the group, which earns it respect, not hostility.
Therefore, Aiyar’s opinion that these values and traditions be dropped is unfortunate. This is not what Indian industry should be known for. In fact, his advice leads one to think of trying to evolve an informal code to be followed by Indian corporations with regard to mergers and acquisitions, the cornerstone of which should be: No hostile takeovers. If Orient Express Hotels’ management has ignorant, uncivilised views, so be it. It is clearly unaware of India’s brand value or that of the Tata brand, both of which, today, command global respect. In fact, the Tata brand has helped build the India brand because of the respect and admiration for the Tatas in India and around the world. This respect flows out of the practices and policies followed by the Tatas, not out of thin air. Such credibility is far more important and far more valuable than being a predator.
There have been earlier occasions when the Tatas have been criticised, questioned and advised. There will be more. Because, the Indian society’s expectations from Indian corporations are high in terms of conduct, behaviour, transparency, disclosures and values. In India’s strong, noisy democracy with a very free media and about 600 million people living in poverty, corporations need to be looked up to, not looked down upon. Importantly, they need to be viewed with respect and affection, not fear and trepidation.
Indian culture and values appreciate the "good man", the "good company", and not the invader or the aggressor. This is why those Indian companies which are perceived to be ethical and caring of the community, and free of controversy, are appreciated. Business is not only about accumulating wealth and glory. It is not about growth for the sake of size. It is about being a good corporate citizen. This is the model to follow for corporate India. Orient Express may come and go, but the Tatas will go on forever. So, too, will responsible Indian companies. They will increasingly integrate with the society as caring and committed players in a country where inclusive development is the main mantra. (The writer is chief mentor, Confederation of Indian Industry.) Make TOI your home page

From the very same Gita from which Gandhiji derived non-violence and satyagraha, Lokmanya Tilak constructed the case for ferocious response

Home > Op-Ed > SPECIAL TO THE EXPRESS Hindutva and radical Islam: Where the twain do meet
Arun Shourie Indian Express: Friday, December 28, 2007
Every set of scriptures has in it enough to justify extreme, even violent reaction. The tectonic shift in the Hindu mind, that has been going on for 200 years, is being underestimated
'Your Hindutva is no different from Islamic fundamentalism’ — a fashionable statement these days, one that immediately establishes the person’s secular credentials. It is, of course, false, as we shall see in a moment. But there is a grain of potential truth in it — something that does not put Hinduism at par with Islam, but one that should, instead, serve as a warning to all who keep pushing Hindus around. That grain is the fact that every tradition has in it, every set of scriptures has in it enough to justify extreme, even violent reaction.
From the very same Gita from which Gandhiji derived non-violence and satyagraha, Lokmanya Tilak constructed the case for ferocious response, not excluding violence. From the very same Gita from which Gandhiji derived his ‘true law’, shatham pratyapi satyam, ‘Truth even to the wicked’, the Lokmanya derived his famous maxim, shatham prati shaathyam, ‘Wickedness to the wicked.’
In the great work, Gita Rahasya, that he wrote in the Mandalay prison, the Lokmanya invokes Sri Samartha, ‘Meet boldness with boldness; impertinence by impertinence must be met; villainy by villainy must be met.’ Large-heartedness towards those who are grasping? Forgiveness towards those who are cruel? ‘Even Prahlada, that highest of devotees of the Blessed Lord,’ the Lokmanya recalls, has said, ‘Therefore, my friend, wise men have everywhere mentioned exceptions to the principle of forgiveness.’ True, the ordinary rule is that one must not cause harm to others by doing such actions as, if done to oneself, would be harmful. But, the Mahabharata, Tilak says, ‘has made it clear that this rule should not be followed in a society, where there do not exist persons who follow the other religious principle, namely, others should not cause harm to us, which is the corollary from this first principle.’ The counsel of ‘equability’ of the Gita, he says, is bound up with two individuals; that is, it implies reciprocity.
‘Therefore, just as the principle of non-violence is not violated by killing an evil-doer, so also the principle of self-identification [of seeing the same, Eternal Self in all] or of non-enmity, which is observed by saints, is in no way affected by giving condign punishment to evil-doers.’ Does the Supreme Being not Himself declare that He takes incarnations from time to time to protect dharma and destroy evil-doers? Indeed, the one who hesitates to take the retaliatory action that is necessary assists the evil to do their work. ‘And the summary of the entire teaching of the Gita is that: even the most horrible warfare which may be carried on in these circumstances, with an equable frame of mind, is righteous and meritorious.’
Tilak invokes the advice of Bhisma, and then of Yudhisthira, ‘Religion and morality consist in behaving towards others in the same way as they behave towards us; one must behave deceitfully towards deceitful persons, and in a saintly way towards saintly persons.’ Of course, act in a saintly way in the first instance, the Lokmanya counsels. Try to dissuade the evil-doer through persuasion. ‘But if the evilness of the evil-doers is not circumvented by such saintly actions, or, if the counsel of peacefulness and propriety is not acceptable to such evil-doers, then according to the principle kantakenaiva kantakam (that is, “take out a thorn by a thorn”), it becomes necessary to take out by a needle, that is by an iron thorn, if not by an ordinary thorn, that thorn which will not come out with poultices, because under any circumstances, punishing evil-doers in the interests of general welfare, as was done by the Blessed Lord, is the first duty of saints from the point of view of Ethics.’
And the responsibility for the suffering that is caused thereby does not lie with the person who puts the evil out; it lies with the evil-doers. The Lord Himself says, Tilak recalls, ‘I give to them reward in the same manner and to the same extent that they worship Me.’ ‘In the same way,’ he says, ‘no one calls the Judge, who directs the execution of a criminal, the enemy of the criminal...’
Could the variance between two interpretations be greater than is the case between the Lokmanya’s Gita Rahasya and Gandhiji’s Anashakti Yoga? Yet both constructions are by great and devout Hindus. Are ordinary Hindus nailed to Gandhiji’s rendering? After all, at the end of the Gita, Arjuna does not go off to sit at one of our non-violent dharnas. He goes into blood-soaked battle.
The comforting mistake
The mistake is to assume that the sterner stance is something that has been fomented by this individual or that —in the case of Hindutva, by, say, Veer Savarkar — or by one organisation, say the RSS or the VHP. That is just a comforting mistake — the inference is that once that individual is calumnised, once that organisation is neutralised, ‘the problem’ will be over. Large numbers do not gravitate to this interpretation rather than that merely because an individual or an organisation has advanced it — after all, the interpretations that are available on the shelf far outnumber even the scriptures. They gravitate to the harsher rendering because events convince them that it alone will save them.
It is this tectonic shift in the Hindu mind, a shift that has been going on for 200 years, which is being underestimated. The thousand years of domination and savage oppression by rulers of other religions; domination and oppression which were exercised in the name of and for the glory of and for establishing the sway of those religions, evinced a variety of responses from the Hindus. Armed resistance for centuries... When at last such resistance became totally impossible, the revival of bhakti by the great poets... When public performance even of bhakti became perilous, sullen withdrawal, preserving the tradition by oneself, almost in secrecy: I remember being told in South Goa how families sustained their devotion by painting images of our gods and goddesses inside the tin trunks in which sheets and clothing were kept. The example of individuals: recall how the utter simplicity and manifest aura of Ramakrishna Paramhamsa negated the efforts of the missionaries, how his devotion to the image of the Goddess at Dakshineshwar restored respectability to the idolatry that the missionaries and others were traducing... The magnetism of Sri Aurobindo and Ramana Maharshi... Gandhiji’s incontestable greatness and the fact that it was so evidently rooted in his devotion to our religion...

Each of these stemmed much. But over the last 200 years the feeling has also swelled that, invaluable as these responses have been, they have not been enough. They did not prevent the country from being taken over. They did not shield the people from the cruelty of alien rulers. They did not prevent the conversion of millions. They did not prevent the tradition from being calumnised and being thrown on the defensive. They did not in the end save the country from being partitioned — from being partitioned in the name of religion...
There is a real vice here. The three great religions that originated in Palestine and Saudi Arabia — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — have been exclusivist — each has insisted that it alone is true — and aggressive. The Indic religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism — have been inclusive, they have been indulgent of the claims of others. But how may the latter sort survive when it is confronted by one that aims at power, acquires it, and then uses it to enlarge its dominion? How is the Indic sort to survive when the other uses the sword as well as other resources — organised missionaries, money, the state — to proselytise and to convert? Nor is this question facing just the Hindus in India today. It is facing the adherents of Indic traditions wherever they are: look at the Hindus in Indonesia and Malaysia; look at the Buddhists in Tibet, now in Thailand too. It is because of this vice, and the realisation born from what had already come to pass that Swami Vivekananda, for instance, while asking the Hindus to retain their Hindu soul, exhorted them to acquire an ‘Islamic body’. 1 2 3 Next Single Page View

Friday, December 28, 2007

Allindialive launches Online Education courses for Business Startups

Joydip Chakladar's Blog
Business Startup, Business Strategy, Vasundhara, Elearning, Management thoughts Tuesday, December 25, 2007 MAKING THE PROCESS OF STARTING BUSINESS EASIER
Allindialive launches Online Education courses for Business Startups which will make the process of starting business easier. Starting a Business was never easy. The most important bottleneck which an entrepreneur faces while starting a business is lack of knowledge. The problem gets bigger when he doesn’t know what he had to know. So the only alternative is learning by burning your finger.
“When I started up, I didn’t get any courses , which could give me, clarity and direction, on what I should do and what I shouldn’t” says Joydip Chakladar, CEO of Allindialive , a Calcutta based business consulting firm. He adds “I search for education programs for guiding my entrepreneurial Journey. I got enrolled into some of them, which are mostly leaded by business associations. However, I found that those organization has become too big to understand the issues which a small , company specially a startup faces . The only way left out, was to learn by making mistakes.” He adds “ I don’t think this is an great way. As the expenses of those mistakes are very high.
That’s why, we planned to provide online education programs targeted towards issues which a business startup faces through our elearning portal This will be backed by personalized Business consulting and market research services , to those Business startups that the process, of starting up, can be really easy”. So, all the would-be entrepreneurs out there, now you got a source of knowledge, to think about, the issue of starting a business , more seriously.
About Allindialive
Allindialive is a Calcutta based Small Business Consulting, Education and Research organization. It has worked with organizations around the world , in there startup phases, providing Business planning, Market Research, Public relation and Branding support. Spread the Digg Furl Reddit Ask BlinkList blogmarks Google Ma.gnolia Netscape RawSugar Rojo Shadows Simpy Socializer Spurl StumbleUpon Tailrank Technorati Windows Live Wists Yahoo! Help Posted by Joydip Chakladar at 2:27 AM 0 comments Labels:
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Friday, November 30, 2007 Triple Bottom line The concept of triple bottomline has been here for sometime. Triple bottomline refers that organisation will extend thier narrow concept of bottomline. So Business should not only think about economic bottomline. But, it would also think about, how it is making difference to society, by the social bottom line, which is popularly referred as Corporate Social responsibility. The most important addition in the traditional bottomline concept is the enviromental bottomline, which is by an by becoming very important. Seeing the detoriation of enviromental situation, one can always refer this as as the most important compare to the other two bottomlines. Posted by Joydip Chakladar at 3:50 AM
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Saturday, March 3, 2007 Organizational Change and World Transformation All nations and also the entire world are a combination of organizational instruments for the end user citizen. This organizational instruments are very powerful to influence day to day life of citizens. The advantage here is mostly this organizational instruments are disruptive and there are inner conflicts and outer conflcts which make run. This is the fun of democracy.
The life in world depends on how it handles its short term interest and understands what is the extent it will continue to focus on the short term interest and what is the extent it will trade-off with long term interest. Now the journey from short term interest to long term interest is mainly evolutionary and it moves from one milestone to another milestones. There are few who can see the ultimate milestone and chart his journey . The others are the one who sees the milestones of their life in evolutionary way. Posted by Joydip Chakladar at 9:12 AM 0 comments
About Me Joydip Chakladar
Hello Friend, Thank you for visiting my profile. For your convinience, I have divided my profile in the following sections: Who am I? I am a 33 year old entrepreneur from Kolkata, INDIA. I have been in business since 1999 and have worked in several successful consulting projects around 7 countries and have done consulting into lot of Business Startups. I have done my education from ST Xaviers School.And then I went on to do my Bachelors in Science from Vivekanada College. After than I went to study Management in Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata . I am right now doing my Doctoral Studies from Sri Aurobindo Centre for Advance Research I have a vast interest on the concept of Transformation of world into a sustainable economy , enviroment and society- which is popularly refered as triple bottom line . As a entreprenuer I am a lover of the profession of entreprenuership and believes that an entreprenuer can have a substantial impact on transformation of world. I am also lover of the epic poetry Savitri written by Sri Aurobindo which talks about world transformation in poetic and spiritual verses.
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