Monday, June 13, 2016

Genuine Leftists like the New School's Anwar Shaikh

Discussion on Swarajyamag  101 comments

Islamic State, RSS And The Lazy Intellectualism Of Ramachandra Guha

Guha isn't considered an intellectual or a proper historian because he is neither an Econometrician nor a Historian by training. In a way, this proved providential because he could take a journalistic approach and this made him readable and not outright crazy like the other Guha. However, his superficial education and shallow thinking disqualify him from being anything more now than a rabid self-promoter of Amartya Sen like proportions.
The pity of it is that Right Wing Indians like myself stopped paying attention to genuine scholars on the left. One example is Anwar Shaikh whose magnum opus is actually well worth reading because it incorporates methods from Econophysics. Kalecki is unjustly neglected by us because we associate him with the Planning Commission. Mushtaq Khan, w.r.t Bangladesh, wrote a good paper some years back drawing on Kalecki. Shaikh, of Pakistani ancestry, has developed a concept of dynamic turbulence which we can easily accommodate to our own models. It is interesting, that Pakistani and Bangladeshi Economists are more useful to us because they don't have to spend half their time denouncing the RSS. There was one ridiculous paper by a couple of Bengali Hindus which presented data which shows that Muslims in India have a high Income elasticity to Communal Violence while Hindus don't. However, they felt obliged to state that they had arrived at the opposite conclusion!
My point is that there really is something wrong with Indian intellectuals- was it fear of reprisal?- which led them to write as misleadingly as possible. Guha, poor fellow, is genuinely stupid. Not all others are and yet we are in a parlous state.

Discussion on Swarajyamag  14 comments

Why Is Integral Humanism Restricted Only To Coffee Table Discussions?

Economics is not a 'hard science', like Physics, but it does make scientific advances- like Medicine- when it comes to dismissing foolish aetiologies. Thus we know Gandhiji was wrong about what causes smallpox though, no doubt, there will always be people who believe that vaccinations actually cause diseases.
Back in the Sixties, many academic Economists believed in foolish aetiologies, or, at the very least, pretended to believe that all other economists believed in foolish aetiologies re. the central issues in Growth & Capital theory. Thus they wrote nonsense and offered nonsensical policy prescriptions. Oddly, the 'Leftist' Sen-Dobb strategy was actually worse for working people than the 'Rightist' proposals. Sen proposed freezing real wages for workers so that the surplus from productivity gains could be invested. This was mad because Indian workers needed to eat better, have better housing and medicine and schools for their kids and so on, so as to raise their productivity. Otherwise they can work for a few years, then get exhausted and have to return to their village. To this day, Economists puzzle over why India has less urbanization than we would expect. The answer is that Industrialists were prevented from building proper 'Mill Towns' with good social facilities, rising real wages, job-enrichment etc. Why? One culprit was the 'License Permit Raj' which claimed to economize scarce resources so as to improve Heavy Industry infrastructure. This was feasible- a Soviet Steel plant and even a 'Collective Farm' are still profitable- but unprofessional, politicized, management and Union activism took their toll. Another culprit was a pervasive prejudice against the 'Bania' or other commercial castes. It was true that many business houses got their start through market speculation but the one's which have survived have acquired a technocratic ethos.
Alfred Marshall, writing to a brilliant Indian ex-student of his back in 1910 said India needed a thousand Tatas- i.e. people willing to learn and apply best technological and management practice. Some business houses have managed to do precisely this from generation to generation. But, it is a Darwinian process and India needs to ease 'exit' for it to function. We have done the opposite.
It is easy to interpret Upadhyay along the lines of of the false aetiologies popularized by 'alternative' Western soi disant Economists who died long ago. Thus, we can compare Upadhyaya to Gandhi's rehashing of John Ruskin's 'Economics' or to the stupid Schumacher who actually thought Buddhist Socialism was a good thing! But why should we do so- unless we harbor an animus against a particular Political Party?
Why not give Upadhyay the benefit of the doubt? He wasn't a Mathematical Economist. In the four decades since his untimely passing, there have been a lot of technical and theoretical advances which means that we can move from windy rhetoric to empirical work.

Discussion on Swarajyamag  5 comments

The Relevance Of Integral Humanism In Modern Times

Wonderful article highlighting one of the greatest thinkers of the modern age. Not until Indian learn to value their own culture will they be able to make any progress. Ancient Indian Sages stressed importance of Pranayama. Breath is indeed 'prana'. However, because of slavish imitation of Western theories, Indians stopped breathing and suffered oxygen deprivation. We must build up the State so that it, in turn, can build up the Nation. Only through promotion of integral and humanistic philosophy can the Nation teach people to breathe properly and thus avoid oxygen deprivation related illness or even death by Asphyxiation. Western Political Economy and Philosophy completely neglects such vital topics as importance of breathing to maintain life, procuring and eating food to avoid starvation, and the role of the State in educating people so that they realize that they need to breathe and procure and eat food.

Discussion on Swarajyamag  10 comments

Neoliberalism: The Left’s Eternal Boogeyman

Friedman and Hayek are out of date in terms of policy prescriptions, though- no doubt- their epistemological contributions remain seminal.
To take an example- Israel- nothing in what Friedman wrote or thought anticipated what the Israelis actually did- viz. turn their War Machine into a driver for non-hierarchical Knowledge Economy innovation. Israel is the opposite of a Fascist country because the Military actually contributes to positive sum egalitarian games which raise productivity and turn Israel from a Friedmanite basket-case into an extraordinary boon to all Developing countries struggling with existential threats re. Water or Terrorism.
Israel has been giving away water conservation technology for decades now. Older Indians, like me, may not like the declasse bad manners of the 'sabra' which compare unfavourably with the lachrymose hospitality of the great Arafat!, but for our people to survive rather than die of thirst, we have to accept the 'charity' of those low class 'sabras'.
I wish India could produce a 'sabra' class- i.e indigenous people with egalitarian attitude and technological savvy. In a way, my native Tamil Nadu is developing like that in 'subaltern' locations- like Coimbatore, not Chennai.
Hayek and Friedman were not defenders of the status quo at all. Hayek drew attention to the information aggregation (if not preference falsification ) because he had genuinely engaged with science. Friedman, in his Nobel speech, also relies on a 'Scientist' argument re. signal extraction though he and his wife hadn't the nous to see that research program through.
Genuine Leftists, like the New School's Anwar Shaikh, have embraced the 'Econophysics' which has rendered 'neo-liberalism' or 'Bleeding Heart Libertarianism' or other such oxymorons, utterly obsolescent and fatuous. Credentialised Indian morons- former IAS officer and Amrikan PhD in Econ, Sanjeev Sabhlok for example- write worthless lies because they genuinely don't understand the underlying math.

Worthless vidushak, I am a vidhvan- you are an ignorant hunchback renting out your rectum.

Discussion on openDemocracy  11 comments

Human needs cannot be met by markets

Human needs can't be supplied by markets. That's why you can't buy stuff you need from shops. Only RELATIONSHIPS can supply needs- the mother breast feeds her baby without asking for money. Fathers should refuse to give their children 'pocket money' to buy 'tuck'. Children should develop RELATIONSHIPS rather than seek to satisfy their needs through the cash nexus.
The author says 'the modern welfare system was constructed as a set of responses to various phases of dependency. It recognised that the market could not on its own provide for such needs. Money and resources were redistributed to individuals and families at dependent phases of their life-cycles – as they still are.'
Doctors, nurses, policemen etc are all unpaid. They develop RELATIONSHIPS with dependent people and satisfy their needs out of pure love.
Why is the Govt. demanding taxes from me on the excuse of helping those unable to help themselves? It is a sheer swindle. Money is only useful if there is a market. But markets can't satisfy human needs. My son stopped asking me for pocket money long ago. But the Govt. is as stupid as ever.
I tell you, it is Political Correctness gone mad!

Evolutionary explanations of religion: an exercise in petitio principii

An evolutionary theory of Religion, if it is Eurocentric, can't possibly claim that Religion exists everywhere. What it can and does claim is that under the same selection pressure evolutionarily stable outcomes will show convergence of a type which may justify Universalist ecumenism AT A CERTAIN STAGE OF CIVILIZATIONAL COMPLEXITY. However the 'future of this Illusion' depends on something unknown- viz. the future fitness landscape.
You may recall that Darwin's theories enabled the Buddhists to beat the Xtians at the Panadura debate. Evolution was a scandal for Western Christendom but posed no challenge to apophatic Orthodoxy, Occassionalist Islam, or relationist or process theologies.

Is The Rice Theory of Socialism Valid?

Does rice lead to interdependence and socialism? Can wheat inspire the rise of individualism and capitalism? 
Dr. Thomas Talhelm, a University of Virginia psychologist, and his colleagues, who are behind the study, seem to think that rice is the primary determinant of human psychology and culture. They propose that rice leads to the development of holistic thought and interdependence because cultivating it is much harder. The rice plant is a delicate entity—it grows in a bed of water and requires careful tending. Also, since a rice paddy needs large amounts of water, the farmers have to rely on irrigation systems which can only be created through neighborly cooperation.

In comparison, the study says, wheat is easier to grow. “Wheat does not need to be irrigated, so wheat farmers can rely on rainfall, which they do not coordinate with their neighbors. Planting and harvesting wheat certainly takes work, but only half as much as rice. The lighter burden means farmers can look after their own plots without relying as much on their neighbors.”

[It is known fact that children born out of cousin marriages have average lower IQ.] ~NK
[first cousin marriage is being followed in Hindu “lower caste” society. So lower IQ people in lower caste, not entirely due to their race.]

Ayn Rand did go to some extremes, on occasion. She is very good at an intuitive level but remains only tangentially relevant to the actual governance of any society because she has very poor foundations in the theories of economics, nor a sense of economic history or political history.
She thought she had invented something new. Actually not. There were many precedents to her way of thinking, and many people had gone into much greater depth on a number of issues. She – being ignorant and arrogant in many ways – couldn’t understand them and simply trashed their views.
Ayn Rand was a promoter of pop capitalism; and a very good one at that. But no, no one should base their ideas on serious and complicated issues based on her views.
Friedman, Mises, Hayek, Buchanan, etc. operated on an entirely different plane which she could not even begin to grasp.
  1. AV
    June 8, 2016 at 1:43 pm
    Actually Ayn Rand has created a complete and closed system of philosophy consisting of positions on: Metaphysics, Ethics, Politics, Epistemology and Aesthetics. Her philosophical system is the first complete system of philosophy of reason.
    However, Rand was not an economist. Her ideas in economics can be derived from the positions that she has taken in the areas of ethics, politics, and also metaphysics (because you have to know reality), and epistemology (because system of knowledge is important)
    She was close to Mises in matters of economics, the point of difference was that Mises did not consider “ethics” to be important in deciding what is the moral reason for which we should pursue good economics ideas.
    And Ayn Rand, being an objective philosopher, has insisted that all political and economic decisions must be based on the moral principle that man must do what is necessary for the survival of man qua man. Essentially Rand has taken the position that free market ideas are good because they enable man to survive qua man.
    Traditionally the free market economists have been using the philosophy of altruism to defend their free market ideas. Ayn Rand has rejected altruism, which lies at the core of all socialist, religious and communist ideologies.
    She has chartered a new territory by trying to defend good economics on the basis of morality or ethics.
  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok
    June 8, 2016 at 8:16 pm
    Unfortunately, I can see through Ayn Rand’s work. It is very good in places, and extremely shallow – and UNETHICAL – in other places.
    I recommend a wide and deep understanding of other – many who are more outstanding – thinkers; and evaluate Rand’s work on its merits.
    I still rate Rand very highly, but nowhere in the league of serious thinkers in politics and economists. Her ethics – of course – is her weak link; a sham.
  3. AV
    June 9, 2016 at 1:22 pm
    Ayn Rand was a system-builder. She has created a fully complete and closed system of philosophy. Her writing on Ethics are quite interesting and controversial because it is totally different from what other thinkers in history have written.
    Many of her essays are available on the net.
    Rand has rejected the philosophy of altruism, which mankind has been believing for thousands of years, and has based her ethics on ideas that allow man to survive as man. “The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics—the standard by which one judges what is good or evil—is man’s life, or: that which is required for man’s survival qua man.”
    Her other point of difference with the Austrian school is in the area of epistemology. The Austrian school believes in ‘a priori’ knowledge, which is a Platonic and Kantian idea. All the major statist ideologies like socialism, Nazism, etc., are based on ‘a priori’ epistemology. So the ‘a priori’ epistemology is the fatal flaw in Austrian school.
    Ayn Rand like, Aristotle, has proposed the ‘a posteriori’ system of knowledge. In the area of economics, the free market ideas can be best defended on the basis of knowledge which proceeds from observations or experiences.
    This is just to give an idea. I can’t type out all the details here.
Ayn Rand operated on intuition, not on analysis. Her intuitions were mostly right. Her problem is that since she is not constrained by the reality of actual governance, she went off on many a tangent, making her essentially irrelevant to the actual governance of any society.
You definitely need to understand serious economics before bringing Ayn Rand into the picture. She brought no new insight into economics, nor understood the concept of economic analysis.
Just like no textbook on philosophy will acknowledge Rand, so also no textbook in economics will do so. Her problem was that her intuition was good but she repeatedly failed in the rigorous analysis of anything. Her views on taxation are a joke. Her support for bribery of government by businesses is contemptible.
Rand has a place in life, mainly to give a shock to people smitten by socialism. But she has no solutions for the real world.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

Apprehending the "actual tradition"

Confronting Indology – Part 2 by @RamKumar1133

Rita Felski argues that over the past few decades, many in cultural studies and literature have thought of themselves as engaged in “critique”, or “critical theory” that has its roots in the Frankfurt school as mentioned above.  [...] Critical theory is washed over by a thought process called “Postmodernism” that is typically defined by an attitude of skepticism or distrust toward grand narratives, ideologies, and the existence of absolute truth.  
It asserts that all knowledge and truth are products of unique systems of social, historical, and political discourse, and are therefore contextual and constructed.  The phrase “There are no truths, only interpretations” is a standard characterization of postmodern criticism. The skepticism regarding “grand narratives” is due to the musings of Francois Lyotard, a French philosopher.
The critical theorist, in order to develop his or her ‘critique’, has several tools at his or her disposal, including Freudian (and Lacanian, from Jacques Lacan another psychologist considered to be the most controversial since Freud) psychoanalysis which is obviously useful for determining hidden, subliminal messages that the text can be alleged to have outside of what is actually written. Another tool is one of “Deconstruction” [...]
But the more relevant lesson from the Gita might be to understand that just as man is fooled by the material world which is but a mere shadow of the spiritual world, so too is critical theory the maya to the actual texts and philosophies. As such, there is certainly a battle needed to make the public aware of the need to not confuse what “critical theory” says to the actual tradition itself. And in a world where “critical theory” has become the dominant academic paradigm, confronting its modus operandi is definitely required. But how can this be achieved? Pollock is merely one termite from the termite hill that is critical theory. [...]
From the previous section on ‘critical theory’ and the nature of the modern discipline of ‘critique’, there is little reason to be optimistic on countering ‘critique’ by traditional arguments that logically strive for the “truth”, such as they may be. Given that ‘critique’ takes the position of opposing what this truth is, even by jettisoning truth claims itself by saying there is “no objective truth, only narratives”, it appears that the strategy of uttarapaksha may be futile. Ganesh hints at this in his article when he says
In the Indian debating tradition, the first step is to establish the pramanas (the methods and means by which knowledge is obtained). Then we embark on purvapaksa (a study of what the opponent says) and finally move to siddhanta (a rebuttal to the opponents; also called uttarapaksa). The first imperative step of establishing pramanas is missing in The Battle for Sanskrit.
What Ganesh means here are that there must be consistent ground rules and agreements on the methods and means by which knowledge is obtained. As Kalavai Venkat shows in his article, an evolutionary biologist cannot have a reasonable debate with a theological Christian because the biologist cites empirical evidence whereas the Christian cites the Bible. Our discussion of critical theory should make clear by now that Pollock is not operating in the same axiomatic system that traditional scholars of Sanskrit (even given their heterogeneity) operate in. Since the critical theorist rejects what the texts say, and the authority of author of that text, and looks for “hidden meanings” and “subtexts” via deconstruction, their axioms are not going to be in agreement. 
1) Reading Kalhana's Rajatarangini, am struck by his total honesty in recording good & evil of kings. Hasn't spared anyone, no matter who. 2) Anyone who wants to see what honest recording of history is should keep Kalhana as a role model. See what he writes about Lalitaditya. 6) All RW wannabe historians would benefit from studying Kalhana for honesty, integrity, courage & minutiae. Better than Greek historians.
@maidros78 I'm curious to know how does one verify? His narrative may be written in a way to create trust but certifying it's true is dicey.