Sunday, March 22, 2009

It is a myth that gold is a “safe” investment or that it delivers steady returns

Business Line Gold, only to diversify
K. Ananthapadmanabhan Sunday, 22 March , 2009, 10:09

Bangalore: Unlike stocks, where it is possible to arrive at a price target based on a company’s earnings potential, there is no scientific method to arrive at a “fair price” for a commodity. Commodity prices are purely a function of demand and supply factors, with the speculative element usually adding to the momentum on either side.

The prediction that gold will head to $2000 an ounce is thus based either on the study of charts (technicals) or on the fact that gold prices last peaked at $873 an ounce during the oil crisis of 1980. Adjusted for inflation, the 1980 peak equates to $2,500 at today’s prices. As is the case with all predictions, this one too is not foolproof.

Not so safe
Though gold has emerged as full-fledged asset class in recent years, it is a myth that gold is a “safe” investment or that it delivers steady returns. With gold prices remaining extremely volatile, investing in gold today for quick gains, requires as much of timing as do stocks. Gold, only to diversify Sify

Saturday, March 21, 2009

They want to use religious sentiment as political fuel to reach power house

INDIA 210309 TODAY from bijan ghosh <> date 21 March 2009 21:34 subject india today. New Lawyers Chambers Supreme Court Buildings, New Delhi

Three weeks back, I reminded my people to evaluate once that what we got out of demolition of Babri Structure – effect not only in India, but in these sub-continent – apart from gift of growing terrorism.

Today’s news says – RSS Sudarshan said that Babri was demolished by external powers with the help of dynamite , while BJP top Mustak Ahmed said , BJP is not a construction company that it would build temple, mosque, churches… while BHP has been saying of late that demolition was not in the agenda… public-spark of the moment

They are now trying to give a cover of their acts and deeds – but they can not say sorry openly, since they would loss hindu votes. It is electoral politics not religion. They want to use religious sentiment as political fuel to reach power house - ram-nam just being a vehicle.

We must keep ourselves reminded always that vested interested communities internationally would keep on striving to torn India from within, so that India can not achieve superiority in terms of economics, man-power energy sources being the very foundation of it.

Two years back Ayodhya temple received attack, it is not any Islamic out fit or known terrorist camp who is responsible for it, it is totally a new launch premised on economy based war head but in a different colour. All such different attacks will come on India and Pakistan so that each may be provoked to blame the other to instigate religious sentiment – that being the most vernable premises in this sub-continent, which caused partition and the monumental human calamity that has no parallel in history. It is a shame; we adorn Lord Amarnath and indulge equally in communal hatred. What is the use of re-constructing Ram Temple if one has to offer Puja there in police protection!

All that is needed, all political leaders should not translate such accidents for their respective political dividends, restrain themselves in terms of real cause and teach people to maintain communal harmony by all means and at any cost.

The emerging need of the hour is: a strong leadership, an Indian leadership.

The days of individual leadership have gone, it is the day of collective leadership, and collective leadership can be evolved only when one can travel across the political fencing, ideological boundaries and religious limitations – while country being the only biding interest. This is an unusual situation and only an unusual step can help to bail out this situation. Not only pigmies of politics, man of eminence of different fields are also required to be joined hands together in this collective leadership.

Now not the Third Front – but Forth Front has also formed, i.e., unknown-unidentified faces from all the three fronts – see the situation which could be compared with jugglery only – a juggler is playing with four balls – three is always in air …. And everybody is desirous to be the PM, be that Lalu, Paswan, Pawer, Mulayam, Kalyan, Maya, Jayalalitha, Naidu, Gowda – while none of them have the quality to lead the country – specially in the crisis hour of global economy.

The real crisis of India is the crisis of Leadership. Nature will collaborate, immensely, to reinforce INDIA IS GREAT, if we can assure her right and proper utilisation of man-power harmony, integrated “We, the People” - while in absence of true leadership such assurance is a practical absurdity. 1:20 PM

We must follow the path of Sri Aurobindo

Organiser - Content
India has to give a unifying principle—Mohan Bhagwat ... He was addressing a gathering of eminent people at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Shillong, ...

Tri-State Hindus come together for Hindu Sangam in New Jersey ...
16 Sep 2006 ... Mohan Bhagwat Ji addressing the public at Hindu Sangam ... Mohanji recalled Sri Aurobindo’s quote that “Sanatan Dharma will rise” and urged ...

Inspirational Speech by Sri Aurobindo: 15th Aug 1947 Sangh Parivar
we must follow the path of Sri aurobindo and do wht ever is best to full fill ... to give a unifying principle—Mohan Bhagwat · SANGH : UNIQUE AND EVERGREEN ...

Tarun Vijay: Denying Hindus space
He was an ardent devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother had great hopes from him .... Mohan Bhagwat ji releasing the book Saffron Surge by Tarun Vijay at ...

Tarun Vijay: Stronger at Sixty
August 15 also happens to be Sri Aurobindo's birthday, .... Mohan Bhagwat ji releasing the book Saffron Surge by Tarun Vijay at India International Centre, ...

Samvad: Bhadrapad 31, 2065 Vik Samvat. Yugabda 5110 September 16, 2008
Pravas: Sh. Mohan Bhagwat, Sarakaryavaha RSS is on his last leg of the tour with book release functions on ... Sri Aurobindo, India's Rebirth.

Montesquieu observed that “Peace is the natural effect of trade"

Home / Announcements / Free Trade Petition
March 20, 2009 by
David Archer Filed under Announcements
Join the Petition for Free Trade
Dear Friends,
In cooperation with the
International Policy Network and a worldwide group of think tanks, we are circulating this petition to combat recent moves toward harmful economic nationalism. I urge you to sign it. It is not yet a public effort, but please do share it with your colleagues, friends, and professional contacts. The first unveiling of this petition will be April 1st before the G20 meetings in London. It is a part of a much broader campaign that will be mobilized around the world to alert the public to the dangers of attempts to block trade and to revive positive efforts toward increasing freedom of trade. We will have a series of videos on the benefits of trade, booklets, public events, and much more, available in a multitude of languages.
Besides English, this petition will soon be available in over 20 languages. (Please see below). We are working toward an authentically worldwide effort on behalf of freedom of trade. Your help toward that end will be greatly appreciated.
If you would like more information, please contact my colleague
David Archer.
Cordially, Dr. Tom G. Palmer Vice President for International ProgramsGeneral Director, Atlas Global Initiative for Free Trade, Peace, and Prosperity

Free Trade Is the Best Policy
The specter of protectionism is rising. It is always a dangerous and foolish policy, but it is especially dangerous at a time of economic crisis, when it threatens to damage the world economy. Protectionism’s peculiar premise is that national prosperity is increased when government grants monopoly power to domestic producers. As centuries of economic reasoning, historical experience, and empirical studies have repeatedly shown, that premise is dead wrong. Protectionism creates poverty, not prosperity. Protectionism doesn’t even “protect” domestic jobs or industries; it destroys them, by harming export industries and industries that rely on imports to make their goods. Raising the local prices of steel by “protecting” local steel companies just raises the cost of producing cars and the many other goods made with steel. Protectionism is a fool’s game.
But the fact that protectionism destroys wealth is not its worst consequence. Protectionism destroys peace. That is justification enough for all people of good will, all friends of civilization, to speak out loudly and forcefully against economic nationalism, an ideology of conflict, based on ignorance and carried into practice by protectionism.
Two hundred and fifty years ago, Montesquieu observed that “Peace is the natural effect of trade. Two nations who differ with each other become reciprocally dependent; for if one has an interest in buying, the other has an interest in selling; and thus their union is founded on their mutual necessities.”
Trade’s most valuable product is peace. Trade promotes peace, in part, by uniting different peoples in a common culture of commerce – a daily process of learning others’ languages, social norms, laws, expectations, wants, and talents.
Trade promotes peace by encouraging people to build bonds of mutually beneficial cooperation. Just as trade unites the economic interests of Paris and Lyon, of Boston and Seattle, of Calcutta and Mumbai, trade also unites the economic interests of Paris and Portland, of Boston and Berlin, of Calcutta and Copenhagen – of the peoples of all nations who trade with other.
A great deal of rigorous empirical research supports the proposition that trade promotes peace.
Perhaps the most tragic example of what happens when that insight is ignored is World War II.
International trade collapsed by 70 percent between 1929 and 1932, in no small part because of America’s 1930 Smoot-Hawley tariff and the retaliatory tariffs of other nations. Economist Martin Wolf notes that “this collapse in trade was a huge spur to the search for autarky and Lebensraum, most of all for Germany and Japan.”
The most ghastly and deadly wars in human history soon followed.
By reducing war, trade saves lives.
Trade saves lives also by increasing prosperity and extending it to more and more people. The evidence that freer trade promotes prosperity is simply overwhelming. Prosperity enables ordinary men and women to lead longer and healthier lives.
And with longer, healthier lives lived more peacefully, people integrated into the global economy have more time to enjoy the vast array of cultural experiences brought to them by free trade. Culture is enriched by contributions from around the world, made possible by free trade in goods and in ideas.
Without a doubt, free trade increases material prosperity. But its greatest gift is not easily measured with money. That greatest gift is lives that are freer, fuller, and far less likely to be scalded or destroyed by the atrocities of war.
Accordingly, we the undersigned join together in a plea to the governments of all nations to resist the calls of the short-sighted and the greedy to raise higher the barriers to trade. In addition, we call on them to tear down current protectionist barriers to free trade. To each government, we say: let your citizens enjoy not only the fruits of your own fields, factories, and genius, but also those of the entire globe. The rewards will be greater prosperity, richer lives, and enjoyment of the blessings of peace.

Click here to Sign the Petition The Atlas Economic Research Foundation serves as a catalyst and connector to link free-market organizations and individuals to the ideas, people and resources they need to promote a free society. Learn more and please support our efforts to advance freedom around the world.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Roubini decided to discard the assumption of market rationality

Archive Biography RSS Feed Opinions Home Post Global > Columns > The Death of 'Rational Man'
By David Ignatius Sunday, February 8, 2009; Page B07

What allowed some people to see the financial crash coming while so many others missed its gathering force? I put that question recently to Nouriel Roubini, who has come to be known as "Dr. Doom" because of his insistent warnings starting in 2006 that we were heading into a global firestorm.
Roubini gave two kinds of answers. The first involves standard number-crunching of the sort that economists routinely do -- and that Roubini just did better and sooner. It's his second answer that's more interesting, because it goes to the heart of what we should take away from this crisis: Roubini decided to discard the assumption of market rationality that underlies most economics and to embrace the psychological insights of what's known as "behavioral economics."
First, the standard analytical explanation: Roubini said that he studied a chart in economist Robert J. Shiller's book "Irrational Exuberance." It showed that U.S. housing prices, adjusted for inflation, had remained essentially flat for a century, until the mid-1990s, when they began to shoot up. What's more, Roubini saw that the most recent housing correction in the late 1980s had a severe effect on the financial system -- leading ultimately to the collapse of the savings and loan industry.

So Roubini knew two things: Housing prices wouldn't keep going up forever, and when they went down, they would take a big piece of the financial system with them. From then on, it was a matter of watching the data.
But everyone else had those same numbers. Why did Roubini act? The answer is that he decided to trust his gut, which told him there was trouble ahead, rather than Wall Street's "wisdom of the crowd," which -- as reflected in stock prices -- said everything was rosy. He concluded that the markets were not pricing in the degree of risk that was actually present in housing.
"The rational man theory of economics has not worked," Roubini said last month at a session of the World Economic Forum at Davos. That's why he and other prominent economists are paying more attention to behavioral economics, which starts from the premise that economic decisions, like other aspects of human behavior, are influenced by irrational psychological factors.
The most compelling rebuttal of the rational model, paradoxically, was delivered by the ultimate rationalist, Alan Greenspan. "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders," the former Fed chairman told Congress last October.

That's why Greenspan didn't see it coming, argues Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton professor who is often described as the father of behavioral economics. His rational-actor model wouldn't let him.
Let me put in a plug here for the godfather of behavioral economics, John Maynard Keynes. His 1936 "General Theory" is often interpreted simplistically as a call for fixing recessions by boosting demand with government spending. But at a deeper level, Keynes was analyzing the role of psychological factors, such as greed and fear, in economic decisions. He understood that markets freeze when people panic and start hoarding cash. ("Extreme liquidity preference," he called it.) Conversely, economies start to roar when investors feel a surge of what Keynes called "animal spirits."

One of the most powerful ideas I heard at Davos was the idea of "pre-mortem" analysis, which was first proposed by psychologist Gary Klein and has been taken up by Kahneman.
A pre-mortem analysis can provide a real "stress test" to conventional thinking. Let's say that a company or government agency has decided on a plan of action. But before implementing it, the boss asks people to assume that five years from now, the plan has failed -- and then to write a brief explanation of why it didn't work. This approach stands a chance of bringing to the surface problems that the decision makers had overlooked -- the "black swans," to use former trader Nassim Nicholas Taleb's phrase, that people assumed wouldn't happen in the near future because they hadn't occurred in the recent past.

One more take-away from this year's Davos forum was a Japanese proverb cited by one speaker: "An inch ahead is darkness." Recognizing the inherent unpredictability of economic life -- the darkness that's just ahead -- should make us wary. But it can also make us smart.
The writer is co-host of PostGlobal, an online discussion of international issues. His e-mail address is

Doraiswami Iyer was a friend and ardent follower of Sri Aurobindo

Extremism to asceticism S. MUTHIAH The Hindu Metro Plus Chennai Monday, Mar 16, 2009

A few weeks ago, I heard for the first time the name S. Doraiswami Iyer. Since then, the more I’ve heard of him the more he’s sounded a fascinating personality. His journey from extremism to asceticism would certainly warrant a book.
He was a promising young lawyer when he got involved in the freedom movement. When the Congress found itself threatened by division between the Moderates and Extremists, Doraiswami chose the latter, drawn to the message of Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai. The differences climaxed in violence — and a rain of slippers — at the 1907 Surat sessions of the Congress.

One Extremist, who lifted a chair to bring it down on the head of a Moderate, suddenly stopped in mid-action when he recognised who his target was; the old student of Triplicane Hindu High School, Doraiswami Iyer, had in the nick of time recognised his former Headmaster, V.S. Srinivasa Sastri.
When the warring factions of the Congress made their peace a few years later, ‘Surat’ Doraiswami Iyer, disillusioned with the way the freedom struggle was headed, returned to law and became one of the most successful lawyers of his time. He was at the peak of success when he gave it all up, the deaths of his two sons shattering him; one was killed in the early years of World War II while serving with the Royal Air Force and the other died while with the Indian Army. He then turned to spiritualism. He passed away while at the Ashram in Pondicherry.

Two stories about him connected with Pondicherry were recently related to me. I relate them here as told to me. The first is of how Doraiswami Iyer helped a close friend of his, Subramania Bharati. When the outspoken poet had to flee to Pondicherry to escape arrest by the British, news about the happenings in British India was sent weekly to him by Doraiswami Iyer. It was during Doraiswami Iyer’s Friday visits to the Tiruvottriyur temple that he would drop paper slips into the bowls of a couple of beggars. These ‘alms’ found their way to Bharati and his journal India benefitted considerably.
The other story reflects the mellowing of two extremists. Doraiswami Iyer was a friend and ardent follower of Sri Aurobindo. It is said that Sri Aurobindo requested Doraiswami to meet Mahatma Gandhi and convince him to accept the Sir Stafford Cripps proposals to ensure a united India. Gandhiji, of course, thought the proposals “a post-dated cheque.”

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Digital technologies bring with them new forms of control & micromanagement

Communism conference — Michael Hardt
from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro: Now, I am largely in agreement with Hardt (and Negri, and some of the economists associated with their position, like Marazzi and even to some extent Moulier Boutang) about the transformations in capitalism over the last fifty years, and especially since the 1970s.

But I am not sure I entirely accept the framework through which Hardt interprets these developments. In particular, I do not think that immaterial production involves a more “direct” expropriation of the common than was the case when industrial capitalism extracted value. It is true, as I have already said, that a lot of this new source of capital appropriation comes from a kind of “primitive accumulation” — corporations are now appropriating the commons in the form of things like genomes and songs and procedures of working, in the same way that landlords appropriated the commons of land at the time of the enclosures. But I don’t think that this is either a novelty or a reversion. It is rather the case that “primitive accumulation” never went away; it is a continual structural feature of capitalism, and was at work in the industrial age as much as it was in the agricultural stage, and as much as it is still today. Capitalism always both appropriates to itself things that it didn’t produce — and this precisely by “privatizing” them — and extracts a surplus from the processes of production that it directly initiates and supervises.

That is to say, there isn’t that great a difference between, on the one hand, how industrial capitalism imposes “cooperation” on large numbers of workers simultaneously, and draws profit from the economies of scale due to this cooperation (which is a form of relative surplus value) as much as it does from the initial inequalities built into the process of buying and selling “labor power” as a commodity (which is what Marx calls absolute surplus value); and, on the other hand, the way that immaterial capitalism today draws its profits from turning employees’ collaborative projects, and the cultural knowledge of indigenous peoples, into “intellectual property” locked under copyright and patent. In both cases, there is a double movement: on the one hand, the appropriation of what would otherwise be (or what previously was) common, and on the other hand, the transformation of that “common” precisely into a commodified form that stores or embodies congealed “labor” and that allows for the “marketization” of the product. The transformation of home knitting into manufactured clothing is not that different from the transformation of a plant with medicinal properties into a patented drug, or into a genetic sequence that can be used for controlled production of the medicine.

So, the point is that primitive accumulation and surplus-value extraction go together, both in 19th-century industrial production and in today’s immaterial production. This is why I don’t accept Hardt’s claim that production today somehow involves a less mediated and more direct appropriation of the common than was the case in the large factories of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. Primitive accumulation or appropriation doesn’t occur apart from those other techniques of the extraction of surplus value — and this is just as much true for immaterial production today as it is, and was, for industrial production.

If we are to see a difference in the capitalism of the contemporary era, this has to to with the fact that, today, capital has become even more mobile and abstract than it was in the age of heavy industry. The movement from industrial to immaterial production is an intensification of the movement from agricultural to industrial, an even further internalization of capitalist social relations, an increase in the “mobility” or “flow” of capital. Today we are coming closer than ever to the limit-condition of the real subsumption, instead of the merely formal subsumption of all of society under capital. There is less and less of an “outside” that capitalism can “primitively” accumulate, and more and more is included in the mass of what is directly managed by capital’s disciplinary and modulatory procedures. (But there is only an asymptotic approach to the absolute of “real” subsumption; such a totality is never fully achieved. There always has to be some outside that capital has not appropriated yet, and without such an outside capitalism would entirely stagnate — a point made as much by Schumpeter as by Marx).

To say that we are moving ever closer to real subsumption is equivalent to saying that now — under what Jonathan Beller calls “the cinematic mode of production” (although I think it is rather post-cinematic — which is a point I am still working on), or what Jodi Dean calls “communicative capitalism” — surplus value is extracted in the processes of distribution and consumption as well as in the process of primary production.

For Marx, circulation involved the faux frais of the capitalist mode of production, and had to be subtracted from profit. But today, in an “information economy” or ‘attention economy,” circulation is itself a direct source of further profit. Hardt and Negri are correct to associate this situation with real subsumption displacing merely formal subsumption. But they seem to me to be overly opimistic when they suggest that this means that we are finally reaching the point where the “objective conditions” for communism finally exist, or that the property form has become a “fetter” on the technological means of production, a fetter that is ready to be burst asunder. It just ain’t so. Digital technologies bring with them new forms of potential liberation, certainly; but they also bring new forms of control, new potentials for micromanagement and control via continual modulation (as Deleuze says in his great article on the society of control).

Hardt said at several points that the restrictions of copyright, patent, etc., because they are privatizing the common, are thereby making immaterial or affective labor less “productive” than it could be — which isn’t altogether wrong, but also isn’t the right point to be making — since “productivity” (like “efficiency”) is a category of the private enterprise system and wouldn’t have the same meaning (certainly wouldn’t be measured in anything like the same way) in a world of communism, or of the unrestricted common. Part of the point is precisely that (as Hardt, together with Negri, says — and as Virno says as well) even the most individualized and particular acts of human invention rely so extensively on the whole past accumulation of human invention, that private property rights become absurd. I maintain my signature on this blog, for instance, but it would be utterly ludicrous for me to maintain that my ideas and words come from nowhere — in fact, they come from what I have heard and read and otherwise encountered in the society that I live in. My own personal spin on things is still a spin on what arises and exists elsewhere, or in many elsewheres. And people can make what they want of my words, including things that I absolutely detest, which disabuses me of the notion that these words are “mine” in any metaphysical, propertarian sense.

At best, my words here will become part of what Hardt beautifully called — quoting from Marx’s 1844 Manuscripts — “the production of man [sic] by man” — this by way of making the point that those early manuscripts are anything from essentialist, since they see “human nature” not as something that exists once and for all as our basis, but rather as something that human beings themselves continually remake. Our very remaking of ourselves is at stake, and this is one further reason why the relentless privatization of the common is so obscene. But I am made uneasy when Hardt also calls this remaking a process of “biopolitical production” — because, once again, I think that this characterization is only valid under the conditions of capitalist appropriation, and that it would have to be characterized differently if it were truly to be, and to remain, common. I think that more than vocabulary is at stake here; Hardt and Negri’s terminology reflects what I see as their excessive optimism about how conditions for the common have (supposedly) already been achieved in the heart of capitalism itself. [Libertarians and Marxists agree on fictive finance at 12:41 PM]

Friday, March 13, 2009

Humans feel better working to help each other rather than to do each other down

Now is the time for a less selfish capitalism
By Richard Layard FT Home > Comment > Opinion: March 11 2009

Increasingly, we treat private interest as the only motivation on which we can rely and competition between individuals as the way to get the most out of them. This is often counterproductive and does not generally produce a happy workplace since competition for status is a zero-sum game. Instead, we need a society based on positive-sum activities. Humans are a mix of selfishness and altruism but generally feel better working to help each other rather than to do each other down.

Our society has become too individualistic, with too much rivalry and not enough common purpose. We idolise success and status and thus undermine our mutual respect. But countries vary in this regard, and the Scandinavians have managed to combine effective economies with much greater equality and mutual respect. They have the greatest levels of trust (and happiness) of any countries in the world.

To build a society based on trust we have to start in school, if not earlier. Children should learn that the noblest life is the one that produces the least misery and the most happiness in the world. This rule should apply also in business and professional life. People should do work that is useful to society and does not just make paper profits. And all professions – including journalism, advertising and business – should have a clear, professional, ethical code that its members are required to observe. It is not for nothing that doctors form the group most respected in our society – they have a code that is enforced and everyone knows it. So we need a trend away from excessive individualism and towards greater social responsibility.

Is it possible to reverse a cultural trend in this way? It has happened before, in the early 19th century. For the next 150 years there was a growth of social responsibility, followed by a decline in the next 50. So a trend can change and it is often in bad times (such as the 1930s in Scandinavia) that people decide to seek a more co-operative lifestyle. Lord Layard is at the London School of Economics Centre for Economic Performance. He has written ‘Happiness’ (2005) and co-authored ‘A Good Childhood’ (2009)
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009 4:42 PM 11:32 AM

The decisive battle of the Portuguese at Calicut, off Diu in 1509

Mar 12, 2009 On Babur... And The Weather... And Exodus from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

I have just read Amitav Ghosh’s review of the Baburnama, an essay included in a collection titled The Imam and The Indian. It is a brilliant review of this classic work, the diary of the Emperor Babur, founder of Mughal rule in India. I found Amitav Ghosh’s conclusion, in particular, hugely enlightening: the fact that these were “men of the steppes” who had never seen The Sea.

Ghosh finds it “baffling” how, down to Aurangzeb, who exhausted himself and his treasury trying to conquer a plateau, none of the Mughals looked at the sea as a source of wealth and power. “Their emissaries to Persia generally took the difficult and dangerous overland route rather than the much easier seagoing one,” Ghosh writes.

Ghosh concludes that the decisive battle of those years was not Babur’s with Ibrahim Lodi at Panipat in 1526, but that between the Portuguese and the combined navies of the Sultans of Gujarat and Egypt, and that of the Hindu king of Calicut, off Diu in 1509. After that, all the real “action” was seen on the coasts, with the French, the English, the Dutch and even the Danes – following the Portuguese – setting up “factories.” All this while the Mughals, “men of the steppes,” looked for more “acres and revenues” – for more and more Land: indeed, the massive Deccan Plateau.

Says something about our rulers today sitting in New Delhi, like Chacha Manmohan S Gandhi, a sardar from west Punjab, and his anti-commerce minister, The Great Kamal Nutt, whose constituency lies in land-locked, poverty-stricken Madhya Pradesh. Like the Mughals, the rulers of India today are all “landlubbers” who have never “seen” the sea, never thought that there was much more to rule than the Land. That the earth is 70 percent Ocean; that the source of wealth and power is The Sea.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Smith wanted institutional diversity and motivational variety, not monolithic markets and singular dominance of the profit motive

Amarya Sen's Two Brilliant Essays on the Relevance of Adam Smith Today
from Adam Smith's Lost Legacy by Gavin Kennedy
Amartya Sen writes two great articles of current relevance on Adam Smith. The shorter one is in the Financial Times HERE and the longer one is in the New York Review of Books HERE.I recommend them both to you (following correspondents asking if I had read them, and, presumably, looking for my comments on Lost Legacy). As I have been busy completing my paper on ‘Adam Smith’s Alleged Religiosity’, I chose not to post a comment last week, but to generate more publicity for an approach with which I agree and I am pleased now to recommend them and I provide links to the two articles and a very short extract:Adam Smith’s market never stood alone

“For example, the pioneering works of Adam Smith in the eighteenth century showed the usefulness and dynamism of the market economy, and why—and particularly how—that dynamism worked. Smith's investigation provided an illuminating diagnosis of the workings of the market just when that dynamism was powerfully emerging. The contribution that The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, made to the understanding of what came to be called capitalism was monumental. Smith showed how the freeing of trade can very often be extremely helpful in generating economic prosperity through specialization in production and division of labor and in making good use of economies of large scale.

Those lessons remain deeply relevant even today (it is interesting that the impressive and highly sophisticated analytical work on international trade for which Paul Krugman received the latest Nobel award in economics was closely linked to Smith's far-reaching insights of more than 230 years ago). The economic analyses that followed those early expositions of markets and the use of capital in the eighteenth century have succeeded in solidly establishing the market system in the corpus of mainstream economics.

But Smith's defense of private trade only took the form of disputing the belief that stopping trade in food would reduce the burden of hunger. That does not deny in any way the need for state action to supplement the operations of the market by creating jobs and incomes (e.g., through work programs). If unemployment were to increase sharply thanks to bad economic circumstances or bad public policy, the market would not, on its own, recreate the incomes of those who have lost their jobs. The new unemployed, Smith wrote, "would either starve, or be driven to seek a subsistence either by begging, or by the perpetration perhaps of the greatest enormities," and "want, famine, and mortality would immediately prevail...."

Smith rejects interventions that exclude the market — but not interventions that include the market while aiming to do those important things that the market may leave undone.

Despite all Smith did to explain and defend the constructive role of the market, he was deeply concerned about the incidence of poverty, illiteracy and relative deprivation that might remain despite a well-functioning market economy. He wanted institutional diversity and motivational variety, not monolithic markets and singular dominance of the profit motive. Smith was not only a defender of the role of the state in doing things that the market might fail to do, such as universal education and poverty relief (he also wanted greater freedom for the state-supported indigent than the Poor Laws of his day provided); he argued, in general, for institutional choices to fit the problems that arise rather than anchoring institutions to some fixed formula, such as leaving things to the market.”

Amartya Sen received the 1998 Nobel Prize in economics; he teaches economics and philosophy at Harvard University and he has written an introduction for the anniversary edition of ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’ (Penguin Books, 2009) in which he discusses the contemporary relevance of Smith’s ideas.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Finest writings of Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) — the nationalist, visionary, poet-philosopher

Sri Aurobindo: A Contemporary Reader
Edited by Sachidananda Mohanty
List Price: $115.00 Add to Cart ISBN: 978-0-415-46093-4 Binding: Hardback
Published by: Routledge India Publication Date: 28/03/2008 Pages: 180 Description
Contents Bio About the Book

This book compiles some of the finest writings of Sri Aurobindo (1872–1950) — the nationalist, visionary, poet-philosopher. It reflects the range, depth and outreach of the moral, intellectual and spiritual vision of this versatile and multifaceted genius. It aims at providing, at one place, access to the key concepts, tenets, and the spirit of the extraordinary range of texts authored by him.

Although concretely grounded in contemporary times — with its location in a specific socio-cultural matrix — this work projects a body of writings that is certain to have lasting value. In particular, the compilation brings forth Sri Aurobindo’s social vision and his role as a cultural critic: his views on ethnicity, his exposition of the key role language plays in the formation of communitarian identities, his crucial understanding of self-determination which has incidentally become an important aspect of human rights discourse today.

Situating the writings in a specific intellectual, spiritual and historical context, this collection will enable readers to appreciate the overall vision of Sri Aurobindo, in what can be conceived as a caravan of history of ideas in terms of a common heritage of humankind, and recent developments in theory and disciplinary practice, especially those pertaining to consciousness and future studies.

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How caste-based social diversity gets translated into politics

Rise of the Plebeians? from Sri Aurobindo: A Contemporary Reader
Rise of the Plebeians?
The Changing Face of the Indian Legislative Assemblies
Edited by Christophe Jaffrelot, Sanjay Kumar

For decades, India has been a conservative democracy governed by the upper caste notables coming from the urban bourgeoisie, the landowning aristocracy and the intelligentsia. The democratisation of the ‘world’s largest democracy’ started with the rise of peasants’ parties and the politicisation of the lower castes who voted their own representatives to power as soon as they emancipated themselves from the elite’s domination. In Indian state politics, caste plays a major role and this book successfully studies how this caste-based social diversity gets translated into politics.

This is the first comprehensive study of the sociological profile of Indian political personnel at the state level. It examines the individual trajectory of 16 states, from the 1950s to 2000s, according to one dominant parameter—the evolution of the caste background of their elected representatives known as Members of the Legislative Assembly, or MLAs. The study also takes into account other variables like occupation, gender, age and education. ISBN: 9780415460927 Published March 09 2009 by Routledge India.

The City in American Political Development from Sri Aurobindo: A Contemporary Reader
The City in American Political Development
Edited by Richardson Dilworth

There are nearly 20,000 general-purpose municipal governments—cities—in the United States, employing more people than the federal government. About twenty of those cities received charters of incorporation well before ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and several others were established urban centers more than a century before the American Revolution. Yet despite their estimable size and prevalence in the United States, city government and politics has been a woefully neglected topic within the recent study of American political development.

The volume brings together some of the best of both the most established and the newest urban scholars in political science, sociology, and history, each of whom makes a new argument for rethinking the relationship between cities and the larger project of state-building. Each chapter shows explicitly how the American city demonstrates durable shifts in governing authority throughout the nation’s history. By filling an important gap in scholarship the book will thus become an indispensable part of the American political development canon, a crucial component of graduate and undergraduate courses in APD, urban politics, urban sociology, and urban history, and a key guide for future scholarship. ISBN: 9780415990998 Published March 02 2009 by Routledge.

Thanks for the tip on the book India After Gandhi by Guha. (I am not sure which comment train that was under) Although a bit pedantic in places its a pretty accessible detailed history of modern India that I enjoyed. It also clarified for me the unbalanced judicial systems regards the different communal/personal laws of different communities... another book on modern India I just read is called In spite of the Gods Its a fairly neo-liberalist narrative, that champions urban growth and globalization, but all in all not a bad read and interesting in that the book begins in Auroville. Re: India After Gandhi (thanks Rakesh) Tony Clifton Tue 10 Mar 2009 02:06 PM PDT

The State runs monopolies and cartels

North Korea Is Just Like Us from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik

Thus, the news that a Competition Commission of India (CCI) has been constituted should be greeted with howls of derision. The body is supposed to act against cartels and its approval will be required for all acquisitions and mergers. In reality, all that is required for free competition is open entry into all markets.

In India, most markets are closed. Civil aviation is a case in point: the sector was wide open and there was full-blown competition until the government killed it by raising taxes on aviation fuel to sky-high levels, thereby forcing most low-cost airlines into mergers. If competition barely exists today, it is the civil aviation ministry that is to blame.

Further, it is our The State that runs monopolies and cartels – as in steel, as in roads, in electricity, in water – and even in booze shops in Delhi, where the competition commission is headquartered.

The conclusion: Our The State is nothing but a bundle of lies and deceit. It is run by a political cartel, one which includes the top bureaucracy. They call it “democracy” but it is much like East German and North Korean democracy, very far removed from the basic democratic ideal – that power must be diffused, not centralized. Overseeing this democracy is a politicized Election Commission, comprising politicized bureaucrats. Ditto with the new Competition Commission. Pretty ugly, huh?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Gandhi was loathe to give up power, and unlike Sri Aurobindo, remained a politician to the last

Gandhi-Enigma By N S Rajaram
"What is history" Napoleon once asked, "but a fable agreed upon?" This is as true of Indian history as of Europe. A historical fable is usually concocted to serve the interests of a favored few.

In India after independence in 1947, history was made to serve the beneficiaries of the Congress Party that came to power — of a political dynasty in particular. (Ancient and medieval history was also distorted, but that is not the concern here.) Of immediate interest to the Congress Party was the creation and propagation of a version of history of the Freedom Movement in which the role of the Congress Party and its leaders was made all important, while the contributions of others were minimized. As part of this, some figures like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who gave everything while getting nothing in return were vilified and even persecuted.
But even here, in the exaltation of the Congress, one can discern a distinct pattern. It was not the Congress as a whole that was exalted, but the leadership and the movement following the rise of Mahatma Gandhi, coinciding roughly with the death of Bal Gangadhar Tilak. This prominently included the Nehru clan and equally prominently excluded earlier stalwarts like Sri Aurobindo and later rivals like Subhash Bose. The Nehru clan, which came to hold power for nearly forty of the first fifty years in independent India, acquired Gandhi’s name also through the fortuitous circumstance of Jawaharlal Nehru’s daughter Indira marrying a Zoroastrian by name Feroze Gandhi who had nothing to do with the Mahatma. Through another fortuitous marriage, this legacy — and name — is now wielded by the staunchly Catholic Italian woman Sonia Maino with close ties to her Mother Church. So the Congress party, which sprang from the Hindu Renaissance of the nineteenth century, is now for all practical purposes in the hands of a Catholic clique.
This extraordinary turn of history demands serious study, particularly how Gandhi’s name and his ‘legacy’ came to be invoked in this venal exercise. The problem is not merely Gandhi the Saint protecting Gandhi the Politician, but a more recent phenomenon — of safeguarding Gandhi the Capital Investment. Gandhi the Saint demands a life of utmost simplicity and service; Gandhi the Politician — now turned Capital Investment — has become a convenient conduit for acquiring wealth without limit and power without accountability. His saintliness is invoked only to shield venality and stifle debate.

A no less disturbing trend is the inquisitorial atmosphere that has come to prevail in India as regards Gandhi and his role in history. Any academic, journalist or even writer who raises doubts about him is likely face the wrath of powerful interests for ‘hurting the sentiments’ of people. In reality, it hurts only the prospects of politicians and a multitude of individuals and institutions that thrive in his name; there have been no protests by the people, but only of Congress party workers. As an example, a Marathi play based on the testimony of his assassin Godse was banned because it raised some questions about the ‘authorized’ version of Gandhi. The objection to the play came entirely from the Congress workers and not any ‘people’. It ran without incident for several weeks in Gandhi’s home state of Gujarat. Is Gandhi’s greatness so delicately poised that even the statement of his assassin is enough to topple it?
The present effort is intended to serve as a corrective in this stifling atmosphere. It seeks to initiate a fresh debate about Gandhi and his contributions by focusing on two areas in which his role has remained all but unchallenged over the past fifty years: nationalism and the freedom movement. In reexamining these, I have drawn my material from two little known sources — Gandhi and Anarchy by C. Sankaran Nair, and the three volume History of the Freedom Movement by R.C. Majumdar. The former is a contemporary account by a leading Congressman from an earlier generation, while the latter is a magisterial account by one of modern India’s greatest historians. It is a telling commentary on the intellectual and political climate in independent India that the Congress Government made a serious effort to suppress Majumdar’s great work; Majumdar himself in an Appendix gave an account of it. (Majumdar’s books are published by Firma KLM of Calcutta; Nair’s book is out of print.)
The present work makes no claims to being a scholarly study; it may in fact be seen as an extended summary of the two works cited above, especially Volume III of Majumdar’s trilogy. Several generations of Indians — including my own — have grown up on a diet of history that serves only the interests of a narrow clique. In addition, it ignores the enormous contribution made by the Swadeshi movement before Gandhi arrived on the scene — by leaders like Surendra Nath Bannerji, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, and, above all, Sri Aurobindo and Bal Gangadhar Tilak. It can be argued that this Swadeshi movement was the real national movement, and the Congress after the death of Tilak fell into the hands of careerists and opportunists who happened to reap the benefits of historical events — like World War II and its fallout. Even this they botched with timid policies and unprincipled compromises leading to the holocaust of the Partition and the Kashmir problem. This, even more than independence, is the legacy of the Congress Party; independence would probably have come, but lack of both vision and strength of purpose led to problems that have remained unresolved even after fifty years.

Subhas Bose’s contribution suppressed
Upon careful study of these sources one thing becomes quite plain: there has been a systematic campaign by successive Congress Governments to diminish Subhas Bose and his contribution to Indian independence. Two examples should suffice. When Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, all copies of a film on Bose prepared under Sardar Patel were confiscated and destroyed. In addition, the film ‘Subhas Chandra Bose’, with the renowned actor Abhi Bhattacharya in the lead role, was banned by the Government during the emergency. (Earlier, Nehru’s Government had forbidden display of Subhas Bose’s photographs in all offices of the defense establishment. Happily this is no longer true.)
Bose’s contribution, however, cannot permanently be ignored. After supplying some startling evidence, in the second edition of Volume III of his work, Majumdar observed:

It seldom falls to the lot of a historian to have his views, differing radically from those generally accepted without demur, confirmed by such an unimpeachable authority. As far back as 1948 I wrote in an article that the contribution made by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose towards the achievement of freedom in 1947 was no less, and perhaps, far more important than that of Mahatma Gandhi…"

The ‘unimpeachable authority’ he cited happened to be Clement Attlee, the Prime Minister of Britain at the time of India’s independence. (This is discussed in Part II.) This will no doubt come as a shock to most Indians brought up to believe that the Congress movement driven by the ‘spiritual force’ of Mahatma Gandhi forced the British to leave India. But both evidence and the logic of history are against this beautiful but childish fantasy; it was the fear of mutiny by the Indian armed forces — and not any ‘spiritual force’ — that forced the issue of freedom.
(Also, if Gandhi’s ‘spiritual force’ really brought independence from the British, it would tend to make the British rulers a lot more spiritual than what history tells us. For example, there were no ‘spiritual’ considerations when King Henry VIII broke from Church of Rome; nor any in evidence in the recent problems afflicting the English royal family or relationships with Ireland. The British seem to a singularly unspiritual race.)

Lessons of history
This reexamination of history holds important lessons for the future. First, spiritual principles, no matter how noble, are usually helpless in dealing with a ruthless adversary. But a dogmatic belief in the efficacy and effectiveness of such a principle invariably leads to self-delusion and results in misery for its believers. In the Khilafat for example, had Gandhi frankly told his followers and the Government that he would do his best to keep his movement nonviolent, but could not promise that it would remain so, he would have put people on guard, and the scale of the tragedy might have been reduced. Instead he refused accept failure or responsibility and kept insisting that the Government suspend all activities against the Mopla rebels as they went on their destructive spree.
An objective analysis of history shows also the failure of nonviolence as a political tactic. There are times when violent methods have to be used to counter violence. There is a famous Sanskrit line: ahimsa paramo dharmah, dharma himsa tathaiva ca — "Non-violence is the highest principle, and so is violence in defense of the righteous." Pacifists are fond of quoting only the first part. Its real meaning is that in order to establish peace one should be prepared use force to defend dharma. Mindless attachment to pacifism inflicts untold suffering on the innocent, while sheltering cowards and opportunists — as with the Congress Party today. Recognizing this, John Stuart Mill wrote long ago:

War is an ugly thing, but it is not the ugliest of things. The ugliest is that man who holding that nothing is worth defending or worth fighting for would let better men than himself protect him.

And Sri Aurobindo said:

The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfillment of justice as the holiness of the saint. To maintain justice and to prevent the strong from despoiling, and weak from being oppressed is the function for which the Kshatriya was created. Therefore, says Krishna in the Mahabharata, God created battle and armor, the sword, the bow and the dagger.

Votaries of pacifism do not wish to face this truth, for it demands too much of them. But innocent people who trust their leaders to protect them are made to pay the price. This has been the tragedy of India under its supposedly pacific leaders.

Gandhi’s greatness
Since some of the things I have to say in these essays are bound to raise the ire of many Indian (and non-Indian) admirers of Mahatma Gandhi, I should perhaps make my own position clear. I regard Gandhi as a great man, but not a constructive political leader, much less a statesman. I see him as a crusader after causes with no consistent vision embodying either nationalism or national policy. I see his career as a succession of crusades in causes that were sometimes totally unworthy — like the Khilafat. On the other hand, important causes like the Swaraj in 1920 and the national movement in 1932 were abandoned on a personal whim, leaving his followers in the lurch. Above all he embodies for me two viewpoints that have done immense harm in the world, especially India — theocracy and moral relativism.
His ‘saintliness’ was an anachronism — a medieval idea mixing religion and politics. Unlike Sri Aurobindo, who left politics to pursue a spiritual life, Gandhi remained a politician to the last. His saintliness often magnified the sufferings of the innocent while absolving the aggressors of any accountability or even guilt. His moral relativism manifested itself in the slogan of sarva dharma samabhava, which could be, and was, used to equate evil and good — the murderer and the victim. Going by this measure, as an extreme case, Gandhi and Godse were morally equivalent for each being true to his own dharma. As we shall see later, this was the principle applied by Gandhi himself during the Mopla Rebellion, and also in defending the behavior of the Ali brothers when they invited the Amir of Afghanistan to invade India in defense of Islam. This is hardly consistent with a vision of nationalism.
Gandhi’s real greatness lies outside politics — in social work and the inspiration he provided in the fight against oppression worldwide. And it was no small achievement. From Martin Luther King to Nelson Mandela, every leader fighting oppression and injustice has drawn his inspiration from Gandhi. If we take away his contribution as a political leader, Mahatma Gandhi loses nothing in greatness. If anything he gains considerably. Gandhi the Man was much greater than Gandhi the Politician but the latter represents a much more valuable asset to those exploiting his name. (Gandhi the Man demands also a great deal from his followers in the form of simplicity and service, and promises little reward.) And that is India’s tragedy.
More fundamentally, it is important that Indian thinkers outgrow the habit of uncritical acceptance of the ideas of someone simply because he is considered ‘great’. The ideas and actions of everyone must be judged on their own merits — not against the background of his real or imagined greatness. As Karl Popper said: "If our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men. Great men make great mistakes"
And this applies to Gandhi no less than it does to Lord Rama, Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ, Prophet Muhammad — and to every man and woman that ever lived. I will be more than satisfied if the present work leads to some reexamination of the history of the period dominated by Mahatma Gandhi.

I have included three Appendixes, the first two relating to the Mopla Rebellion, and the third on the treachery of the Communists during the freedom struggle. My goal in these is to highlight important facets of history that have been whitewashed by politically motivated scholars to serve their own interests.

Germination of the idea leading to this work, I owe to S.R. Ramaswamy who brought Nair’s important work to my attention and also provided me with a typed copy of this hard to obtain book. My friends Michel Danino and Patrice Marot of Institut de Recherches √Čvolutes of Paris and Mira Aditi Centre of Mysore generously sent me copies of Majumdar’s books which have just been reissued. To all these I express my gratitude. But I alone am responsible for the views expressed in these articles.

Visitors (to the website) are free to make copies and distribute them, but I request that the following two conditions be observed. (1) The contents should not be altered in any way, and (2) the copies should not be used for any commercial purpose.

Friday, March 06, 2009

That most potential and poisonous serpent which partitioned Bharatbarsha

from bijan ghosh <> date 5 March 2009 14:44 subject india
New Lawyers Chambers Supreme Court Buildings New Delhi 110 001011

Pre-pole Alliance , 2009
As of today, the strength & stability of Union Government , thus the fate of the Nation is very much dependent upon the regional and/or small parties, even an individual. Union Govt. with 2/3rd majority – is now only a matter of day-dream or history. More is the strength of regional parties, less is the strength of Central Government. Birth of more and more small parties and more growth of regional parties – would obviously contribute in one way or other , towards the disintegration of the country. Fractured verdict would obviously fracture the fate of the Nation – the psychic of the electoral role must understand this reality, going beyond political sentiment and attachment.
0n 03.03.09 , Deva Gowda announced of an alliance of eight parties – the much waited Third-Front , to be launched on 12.03.09 at Karnataka : CPI , CPM, FB (Forward Block), RPI , TDR, TDP , JD(S) , AIADMK. ( May be, the combination would be changed ).
Third-front has become a potential reality of 2009 – more so, because of PRP – the new party launched by silver hero , Chiranjeebi. He declared that his party will not go for any pre-pole alliance, and no post-pole alliance either with NDA or UPA. So he is insisting for the third-front only – his axis may be , the strong block of Mayabati.

Chiranjeebi belongs to kapu cast – population in AP about 40% - till now there was no such representation of kapu cast in politics – whereas reddy & other upper casts , used to have all the power and wealth sharing while they are having only about 4% population in AP. ( Kamma is the other strong backward agricultural casts, sifting to PRP). So PRP may get about 15 seats in AP, and obviously then AP shall be the determinant factor for the shape and formation of Central Ministry, and otherwise also.
Jyoti Basu said to press that if there is an alliance with Congress and Trinomul ( TMC ) – his party would face a serious problem , also indicated that in that event TMC may get more than 12 seats. This is not the political prediction but a threat upon Congress, for not to go in alliance with TMC , and if required CPM would , as usual, give support from outside. And there is no Constitutional law – which prohibits a party to support another party-camp , in post-pole situation , going just opposite and taking an U tern. Who fought each other teeth & nail in election – may be bhai-bhai after election , this is the political truth preached in Indian Constitution and practiced by , "We , the People" .
Congress would not go for any alliance with TMC, but would care for CMP to use as a timely-stepny at hour of need. This is an established chemistry , may be of decades old.

One may disagree – but there are truth in these words that Advanian hinduism followed by demolition of babri structure – are the re-discovery of that most potential and poisonous serpent which partitioned Bharatbarsha.
Time has come for introspection by them who owe allegiance to Advanian hindusim, and pondering by political population, that what the country has achieved till date by destabilising the settled communal harmony of this country by hurting the sentiment of a community – and more so , in this sub-continent, where helpless hindus have been suffering continuously since Dec 1992 in the name of retaliations. Thousands of temples have been reduced into dust for one babri demolition and till now, so called Ram Mandir could not be built up – though BJP lead Govt. ruled the country for some years.
Though Third front has become a reality with Mayabati or Deva or Sarad or someone as the PM – but in this crisis period of world economy – it would be a dangerous dare-devil fancy to hand over governance of the Country to a team of all new players having no political bondage of assured permanency, mutual allegiance in the true sense of the term and commonality of alliance. They are committed to politics not to people.
Of course this is not a political campaign for or against any political party or front - but reality propelled me to speak to you. Think and think, if I am wrong, correct me.
bijan ghosh

TOI estimate: UPA ahead, but only just Times of India
ELECTION EYE - Poll puts Congress alliance ahead Reuters India

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

To translate the abstract, the intangible, the non-corporeal--the spiritual, if you will--into reality


The entire history of humanity has been driven by those individuals who have the unique ability to make the non-material real; to create wealth out of nothing but ideas. And, while those productive people have definitely benefited materially from their creations; the side effect has been that all of humanity has also benefited. In fact, this transformation of abstract concepts into material goods; of the spiritual into the physical--has been largely responsible for mankind's evolution from caves to modern cities and civilization.

Modern-day Marxists (or, neo-Marxist fascists as I often refer to them) and all their totalitarian cousins (including the environmental fascists and the smiley-faced bureaucrats who think they can spend your money better than you can) would have you believe in typically contradictory postmodern style that:

  1. wealth is created off the backs of the poor, suffering underclass by the always oppressive and exploiting upper classes; and
  2. wealth and consumerism are very very bad because they devastate the environment and destroy the planet.

In the first instance, wealth is considered something good that is being stolen from its rightful owners by the evil capitalists; and in the second instance, the very act of creating wealth and consuming it is bad and inevitably mucks up the planet. What unites the two contradictory positions is the underlying desire of both camps to control and enslave the human mind and spirit.

The creation of wealth is only dependent on human thought, human ingenuity, and human desire (all non-material, yet important components of spirituality and mental development); and these are the foundations of the material progress you see all around you in the United States. When those non-material components of human existence are extrapolated to the real world, the results are the goods and services that overflow in abundance in economically free societies.

  • By appreciating those goods and services, we pay homage to the human mind.
  • By purchasing those goods and services, we honor human creativity as we pursue that which we value and which gives our lives meaning.
  • By enjoying the material things that make my life easier and more enjoyable, we are celebrating the human spirit.
  • By means of materialism --pursuing wealth, money and objects--free people happily provide the means by which many humans can benefit from the imagination of one. In other words, we contribute to the advancement of humanity from poverty to wealth; from homelessness to shelter; from hunger to satiety.
  • By embracing materialism and honoring the human mind, we are embracing the the highest spiritual and mental development of humanity.

The reason to enjoy and appreciate all those materialistic "things" is because they are human thought made visible. When we give "objects" to people we love those objects become concrete expressions of our love. And, as physical beings living in a physical world, it is a function of our essential nature to translate the abstract, the intangible, the non-corporeal--the spiritual, if you will--into reality.

What those who constantly lecture us about the "shallowness" of pursuing material things forget--as they busily attempt to limit our ability to create, let alone pursue them--is that human freedom is inextricably bound up in that "shallow" pursuit. In fact, next time you enter a store and see the incredible variety of wonders for sale--no matter how silly or trivial or "non-essential" they may be--remember that every single one of them is a concrete expression of a human mind. Every time you buy one of those goods (interesting name for material things, no?), you are celebrating the freedom of that mind.

So, the next time you hear the political left and other neo-Marxist thugs and nannies talk about the necessity of "redistributing" wealth, remember that what they are talking about is nothing less than the enslavement of the human mind and spirit.

Feb 27, 2009 Counter-cyclical asset of the day: Atlas Shrugged
from Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok
Sales of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold. Hat tip to Newmark's Door.

Keeping impersonal and personal spheres of social life separate

The political economy of urbanization in contemporary Africa
from The Memory Bank by keith

The moral economy of capitalist societies is based on the attempt to keep impersonal and personal spheres of social life separate (Hart 2005). The establishment of a formal public sphere entailed creating another one based on domestic privacy. The two constitute complementary halves of a single whole. Most people divide themselves every day between production and consumption, paid and unpaid work, submission to impersonal rules in the office and the free play of personality at home. Money links the two sides; their interaction is an endless process of separation and integration, division. The division of the sexes into male and female is the master metaphor for this dialectic of complementary unity.

For any rule to be translated into human action, something else must be brought into play, such as personal judgment. Informality is built into bureaucratic forms as unspecified content. Viable solutions to administrative problems always contain processes invisible to the formal order. For example, workers sometimes engage in a “work-to-rule”. They follow their job descriptions to the letter without any of the informal practices that allow these abstractions to function. Everything grinds to a halt. Or take a chain of commodities from production by a transnational corporation to final consumption in Africa. At several points, from the factories to the docks to the supermarkets and on the street, invisible actors fill gaps the bureaucracy cannot handle directly. Informal processes are indispensable to the trade.

Of course, some activities break the law, through a breach of health and safety regulations, tax evasion, smuggling, the use of child labour, selling without a license and so on. The third way that informal activities relate to formal organization is as its negation. Rule-breaking takes place both within bureaucracy and outside it; and so the informal is often illegal. This compromises attempts to promote the informal sector as a legitimate economic sphere, since it is hard to draw a line between colourful women selling oranges on the street and the gangsters (not to mention policemen!) who exact tribute from them. When the rule of law is weak, the forms that emerge in its place are often criminal in character.

The fourth category is not so obviously related to the formal order as the rest. Some informal activities exist in parallel, as residue. They are separate from bureaucracy. It would be stretching the logic of the formal/informal pair to include peasant economy, housework and so on within the rubric of “informality”. Yet the social forms endemic to these often shape informal economic practices and vice versa. Is society just one thing – one state with its rule of law – or can it tolerate legal pluralism, leaving some institutions to their own devices? European empires, faced with scarce administrative resources, once turned to “indirect rule” as a way of incorporating subject peoples into their systems of government on a semi-autonomous basis (Mamdani 1996). Supervision of indigenous customary forms was delegated to appointed chiefs and headmen, reserving the key levers of power to the colonial regime. Anthropologists played their part in this (Asad 1973). Any serious attempt to link formal and informal economies today would require a similar openness to plural forms.

Comparative insight into the works and ideas of Abraham Isaac Kook and Sri Aurobindo

Mainstream, Vol XLVII No 11, February 28, 2009 Apt Addition to Discourse on Religious Diversity
by Amna Mirza, 2 March 2009 Home page BOOK REVIEW
Inter-Religious Communication—A Gandhian Perspective by Margaret Chatterjee; Promillla & Co. Publishers, New Delhi; 2009; pages 200; price: Rs 425.

Religion in India is a realm where diversity clashes with faith and belief. A society exists when humans interact with each other for coexistence. The state is that realm with authority and regu-lation is sanctioned based on our consent. In this domain, religion is, first of all, a matter of personal belief, and then understood at its realm of operation within the larger society.
The Indian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, the right to freely preach, propagate, religion, as a fundamental right. The state cannot favour any religion nor discriminate against any religion. The country, which is home to more than a billion people, breeds heterogeneity and this in turn leads to the problematique of accommodation, co-existence and toleration in the interplay of operation of various religious views.
Within this framework, an apt addition to the philosophical discourse on religious diversity in India comes from the work by Margaret Chatterjee. She gives it a definite parameter by placing it under the Gandhian perspective. The book and its ideas have been judiciously spread over eight chapters to let us have a step-by-step under-standing leading to the larger conceptual grasp of ideas.

Religion in present times has become the thorny divide to cultivate the concept of Us versus Them. Communication needs a language, the diversity and highly volatile nature of faith adds to complexity in inter-religious communication. An inherent idea of the Frankfurt School’s Critical Theory comes across in her work which calls for an unhindered dialogue to understand the religious faiths of others so as to sow the seeds of an open society.
Chapter 2 gives an elaborate picture of religious pluralism and how different thinkers— Raja Rammohun Roy, Bipin Chandra Pal, Gandhi—dealt with it in trying to uplift the society and politics in India. In the chapter ‘Religious Pluralism and the House of Islam’, she upholds a teleological idea in the Gandhian tenor that all religions point to as also the faith towards an omnipotent being, which would shun non-violence, spread peace, benevolence. The broad agenda of Sufism, the idea of a formless Allah in Islam, the theme of Unity form part of good reading.

A comprehensive deliberative discourse is forced in the chapter ‘Do we need authority in Religious Life?’, where she invokes Hegel calling for authority based on morals, Bentham calling for utilitarian calculus. The idea of authority to manage and guide diversity aimed at promoting common good without fear or favour is her stand. This again would be a polemical realm based on what perspective we adhere to. Some may look upon it as a neo-Rousseuvian idea of coercion in the realm (religious here) to guide us towards maintaining freedom in the right spirit whereas others would find it smacking of something that leads to a slippery slope whereby the funda-mentalists would have a free play for moral policing.
The other chapters on Religious Language (Chapter 4) and Spirituality (Chapter 5) carve out a much wider picture of these concepts relegated not to ‘Almighty-talk’, but as embedded in poetry, images, music, dance, amongst others.

The book ends with a subtle message giving a glimpse of her scholarly approach towards the subject: she offers comparative insight into the works and ideas of Abraham Isaac Kook and Sri Aurobindo. They entrapped sources of learning from different cultural milieu and projected the need for integration for purification of our everyday sins by juxtaposing against everyday reality.
To conclude, a vast canvas is covered, though lucidly yet in detail. It sets the tone for more challenging debates as to how the Gandhian jargon of ‘Ram Rajya’ has been a cause for firing up the communal fangs when the nationalist struggle was on. Issues like trade-off between common law in a democratic polity and the tampering of diversity are certain other areas which also call for a thought. The reviewer is doing her M.Phil in Political Science in the University of Delhi.