Sunday, May 24, 2015

Links 24/5/2015

India should make more of a valuable asset abroad from The Economist but it is a double edged sword I think.
Japan and China play one-upmanship over the AIIB from Asia Times
Brics to establish new multi-currency financial order-experts to RT
Brics trample US in South America from RT
Borders are closing and banks in retreat. Is globalisation dead? from The Guardian
The West and IS Similar reports in several places.
Some of the links above are via The Automatic Earth
Saudi Arabia seeking to head the United Nations Human Rights Council from The Independent
How to motivate your kids from skipping school? (via Anirban Mukhopadhay): "It seems like a no-brainer: Offer kids a reward for showing up at school, and their attendance will shoot up. But a recent study of third-graders in a slum in India suggests that incentive schemes can do more harm than good."
Gulzar Natarajan reports on recent research Broken Windows Theory and Public Policy
France to force big supermarkets to give unsold food to charities (via Rahul Siddharthan)
The news from Britain was a bit different last year.

The daily Buddha

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Some interesting reads

Anatomy of Error, about brain surgeon Henry Marsh from NewYorker
A plea for culinary modernism. Jacobin draws attention a 14 year old article
How spelling keeps kids from learning (about English)
George Yeo's book introduction to his speeches (Former Foreign Affairs minister of Singapore via Akshay Regulagedda)
This is what happens after you die via Lambert Strether of Naked Capitalism
NASA Guide to Air-Filtering Plants via Lambert Strether
Slum squeeze for Melbourne overseas students
Gender and the Harvard Math Department by Meena Bopanna, granddaughter of people I know from USA who are contribute to a lot of social work in India through Hope for Humanity.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Elizabeth Warren on TPP

ELIZABETH WARREN: I've joined with Senator Heitkamp, Senator Manchin and a number of other senators to propose a simple change to the fast-track bill, a change that would prevent Congress from using this expedited process on any trade deal that includes so-called investor state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, and I come to the floor today to urge my colleagues to support this amendment. 

ISDS is an obscure process that allows big companies to go to corporate-friendly arbitration panels that sit outside any court system in order to challenge laws they don't like. 

These panels can force taxpayers to write huge checks to those big corporations with no need to file a suit in court, no appeals and no judicial review. Now, most Americans don't think that the minimum wage or anti-smoking regulations are trade barriers, but a foreign corporation used ISDS to sue Egypt after Egypt raised its minimum wage. 

Tobacco giant Philip Morris went after Australia and Uruguay to stop their rules to cut smoking rates. 

Under TPP, corporations can use these channels to challenge rules right here in America. 

It wasn't always this way. ISDS has been around for a while. From 1959 to 2002 there were fewer than a hundred claims in the whole world. But boy, has that changed. In 2012 alone there were 58 corporate cases. Corporate lawyers figured out how powerful a tool these panels can be for corporate clients. 

Huge financial penalties that these cases can impose on taxpayers have already caused New Zealand to give up on some tough anti-smoking rules. It's already caused Germany to pull back from clean water protections. And it's caused Canada to stand down on environmental protections. 

If that worries you, you're not alone. 
Michael Wessel: I've read Obama's secret trade deal. Elizabeth Warren is right to be concerned:
"The public criticisms of the TPP have been vague. That’s by design—anyone who has read the text of the agreement could be jailed for disclosing its contents. I’ve actually read the TPP text provided to the government’s own advisors, and I’ve given the president an earful about how this trade deal will damage this nation. But I can’t share my criticisms with you.
I can tell you that Elizabeth Warren is right about her criticism of the trade deal. We should be very concerned about what's hidden in this trade deal—and particularly how the Obama administration is keeping information secret even from those of us who are supposed to provide advice.......................
The text of the TPP, like all trade deals, is a closely guarded secret. That fact makes a genuine public debate impossible and should make robust debate behind closed doors all the more essential. But the ability of TPP critics like me to point out the deal’s many failings is limited by the government’s surprising and unprecedented refusal to make revisions to the language in the TPP fully available to cleared advisors."

Discussions of mathiness of economics

Peter Dorman in Econospeak (where there are many more posts recently on the topic):
"Paul Romer’s eruption against mathiness has been quite a spectacle.  Here you have an iconic name in modern economic theory throwing a fit in public, naming names (some of them also iconic) and denouncing his adversaries as enemies of scientific and ethical norms.  It’s a bit over the top, a bit overdue and a bit underconsidered.

I want to focus on the underconsidered part.  I was alerted to this aspect of Romer’soriginal paper by his sideswipes at Joan Robinson and the UK faction of the Cambridge capital controversy.  Now, it happens that I take a middle position on this dispute: I think they were both in some sense wrong.  The British Cantabrigians, along with their Italian comrades, were arguing from a model whose equilibrium assumption (equal rates of profit in all processes) is meaningless, in a mathiness sense, in an intertemporal context.  (If you think Lucas rational expectations is a stretch, Sraffa rational expectations is even crazier.)   But the MITers were also defending an aggregation of physical capital and its equivalence to a sum of financial capital that was also shown to be mathy—see here and here.  Romer’s attack on Robinson was signaling that a double standard was at work."
The second link at the end is to an expensive book, but it is available for free download at A shorter version in a 2014 paper The Aggregate Production Function 'Not Even Wrong'. A quote
 "The “aggregate production function” Solow diffidentlyintroduces (he is not really diffident: he is pretending to be for rhetorical effect) says the making of our daily bread is like a mathematical function’ (McCloskey,1998, p. 48). Put like this, it seems incredible that a function with only two arguments, K and L, together with a shift factor, can adequately represent the total output of an economy."

That is similar to my reaction as an outsider when I first came across Solow Model. See also The superiority of Economics by M.Fourcade and others as to how the profession came to be dominant in spite of dubious foundations of some of the main areas in it.

Seth Ackerman in his review of Piketty also praised the book and some of the difficulties in Piketty's book seem to be due to using these dubious methods in theory parts.

One more from Econospeak 'Napoleon Solow and the Phantom Mechanism'.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Similar songs different music diorectors If that disappears, there is an audio here, song number six in It was sung by Ravu Balasaraswati Devi and A.P.Komala%E0%B0%9C%E0%B0%AF%E0%B0%B8%E0%B0%BF%E0%B0%82%E0%B0%B9/
That was 1955 Telugu movie and was either remade in Hindi as Jaisingh (1959). This time, it was sung by Lata Mangeshkar and Usha Mangeshkar and the MD is Ramesh Naidu.

Jogendra Nath Mandal

The Outlook article by S. Anand linked in the previous post leads to the first law minister of Pakistan Jogendranath Mandal, a follower of Ambedkar. According to Wikipedia "As leader of the Scheduled Castes, Jogendranath had made common cause with the Muslim League in their demand[citation needed] for Pakistan, hoping that the Scheduled Castes would be benefited from it and joined the first cabinet in Pakistan as the Minister of Law and Labour. He migrated to India a few years after partition after submitting his resignation to Liaquat Ali Khan, the then Prime Minister of Pakistan."
Here is a copy of Mandal's resignation letter from October 1950 to the then Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan. It is long but gives a glimpse of those times. It seems that Mandal too was shafted like B. Ambedkar.

Another Nehru-Ambedkar interaction

From S.Anand in and in Outlookindia:
"Let us begin at the end, with one of the worst humiliations in Ambedkar’s life, less than three months before his death. On September 14, 1956, exactly a month before he embraced Buddhism with half-a-million followers in Nagpur, he wrote a heart-breaking letter to prime minister Nehru from his 26, Alipore Road, residence in Delhi. Enclosing two copies of the comprehensive Table of Contents of his mnemonic opus, The Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar suppressed pride and sought Nehru’s help in the publication of a book he had worked on for five years:
“The cost of printing is very heavy and will come to about Rs 20,000. This is beyond my capacity, and I am, therefore, canvassing help from all quarters. I wonder if the Government of India could purchase 500 copies for distribution among the various libraries and among the many scholars whom it is inviting during the course of this year for the celebration of Buddha’s 2,500 years’ anniversary.”
Ambedkar had perhaps gotten used to exclusion by then. The greatest exponent of Buddhism after Asoka had ruthlessly been kept out of this Buddha Jayanti committee presided over by S. Radhakrishnan, then vice-president and a man who embarrassingly believed that Buddhism was an “offshoot of Hinduism”, and “only a restatement of the thought of the Upanishads from a new standpoint”. Worse, when Nehru replied to Ambedkar the next day, he said that the sum set aside for publications related to Buddha Jayanti had been exhausted, and that he should approach Radhakrishnan, chairman of the commemorative committee. Nehru also offered some business advice, gratuitously: “I might suggest that your books might be on sale in Delhi and elsewhere at the time of Buddha Jayanti celebrations when many people may come from abroad. It might find a good sale then.” Radhakrishnan is said to have informed Ambedkar on phone about his inability to help him."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Why are these two books by Emmanuel Todd so expensive?

Unknown buskers in Toronto playing Awara Hun

Where are the poor?

I grew up in coastal Andhra (1941-54) and then got interested in mathematics and it has been a life of abstract thinking since then. My main connection with reality seem to those early years when poverty seemed to be all around. Now visits to that area are about once in year and half or so. Other NRIs from Melbourne visit more often to visit relatives or sick relatives or attend or perform weddings. I ask them about the poor. They say it is all fine now and there are very few poor. That does not correspond with my readings from Angus Deaton and others. So what goes? Again from my readings, the so called middle class in India is very small: about ten percent or so. So, I tell my friends this and say that may be they see only the relatively affluent. Some of them say that they spoke to one of their drivers. The personal drivers in India are an interesting category. Apart from driving, they do several tasks for the car owners like grocery shopping or car repairs and some of them keep a fraction of the proceedings. Since they spend a lot of time outside the house waiting for the owner's call they also interact with other drivers and one can get a lot of information and gossip about the other affluent people from them. So meeting them does not tell much about the poor.
My own impressions is that it reduced in some pockets. In coastal Andhra, I see much less beggars than those days and people do look a bit bigger than before. But it is different in Kolkata where you see a lot of thin people or the boatman on whose boat I crossed Hooghly for two rupees. I also saw women repairing tar roads with clothes tied around their feet, with babies sleeping on the roadside and they go off and on to feed them. There are some very rich neighbourhoods in Hyderabad where you dot see poor because they are kept outside by gatekeepers. But if there is a construction site, you can see many of the workers in small tents in rain and shine. In empty lots, you can sometimes see itinerant groups from medicine men to repairers camping. You can see them in the photographs of Kandukuri Ramesh Babu, or ...of lives and livelihoods series of Madhukar Shukla or from archives like those of P.Sainath. But we do not usually see them from our friends on Facebook which often show paunchy people attending functions or enjoying good food.
May be we cannot see misery all the time. We want to make our own spaces and live in some sort of comfort. After all, we have to make a livelihood, achieve some thing, caught up in these paradigms of growth and achievement. And anecdotal evidence and our own experiences are unreliable. Nor data as Angus Deaton and Tom Slee point out.
P.S. On my wall, Professor Shkla responded:
that's an interesting blog and observation, Prof!
the trend of keeping poor out of the frame in bollywood perhaps started with a film "Dil Chahta Hai" some 10-15 years back (good entertaining film, but that perhaps was the first of this kind showing a 
different sanitized reality), and now there are many movies which would fall into this category.
incidentally, poor have not disappeared - they are all around - in and in the backyard of most prosperous places... but mostly we dont "see" them

My response:
Professor Shukla, I see it a bit differently. We had this exclusion from times immemorial (for lower castes who were essentially poor and in Europe for Jews and Gypsies). During independence movement, there was some flowering of ideas but leadership was mostly from the privileged groups. I think films were influenced by this flowering as well as money at the bottom of the pyramid. That is why classical music, dance previously the exclusive to the privileged classes was reluctantly (remember the Keskar ban) 'diluted' (though some forms were originally adopted from folk idioms) to appeal to the masses. But now with a bigger middle class and NRI market, films can afford to ignore the poor again. Many sceneries in Piku look like those in Hollywood movies, highways, roadside restaurants etc. I think that there is also resurgence of classical music and dance among the middle classes and NRIs.  May be.