Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Some books I liked

Even though I read only a few books this year, it has been more satisfactory reading than before coming to terms with the sort of problems that have been bothering me. A few selections from this year: Piketty's 'Captal21', Emmanuel Todd's books particularly 'The explanation of ideology' and 'The causes of progress' and now 'Ardor' (which I am still reading) by Roberto Calasso. Some of the reviews of Calasso suggest that it is the final book in a whole body of work. But I think it can be read by itself and gives some glimpses of Hinduism to an agnostic like me. Ignore the horrible review by Pankaj Mishra (His review of 'The Namesake' I liked, but he seems to be writing a lot of rubbish) . Two books I read earlier and keep going back to are "The sources of Social power" by Michael Mann and "In an Antique Land" by Amitav Ghosh.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ruble problems

From Couterpunch Ruble takedown exposes cracks in Putin defense (via Rao Nagisetty) "The prospect that there may be collaborators and fifth columnists at Russia’s Central Bank should surprise no one. The RCB is an independent organization that serves the interests of global capital and regional oligarchs the same as central banks everywhere. This is a group that believes that humanity’s greatest achievement is the free flow of privately-owned capital to markets around the world where it can extract maximum value off the sweat of working people. Why would Russia be any different in that regard?.....
Like we said, Putin might be a great chess player, but in his battle with the US, he’s getting his clock cleaned. So far, he’s been no match for the maniacal focus and relentless savagery of the Washington powerbrokers. Yes, he’s formed critical alliances across Asia and the world. He’s also created competing institutions (like the BRICS bank) that could break the imperial grip on global finance. And, he’s also expounded a vision of a new world in which “one center of power” does not dictate the rules to everyone else. That’s all great, but he’s losing the war, and that’s what counts. Washington doesn’t care about peoples’ dreams or aspirations. What they care about is ruling the world with an iron fist, which is precisely what they intend to do for the next century or so unless someone stops them. Putin’s actions, however admirable, have not yet changed that basic dynamic. In fact, this latest debacle (authored by the RCB) is a severe setback for the country and could impact Russia’s ability to defend itself against US-NATO aggression."

Yves Smith in Naked Capitalism quotes Dmitry Orlov "….at the moment Putin is pushing on a string. You see, once you staff the central bank with economic liberals trained to follow the dictates of the IMF, and do nothing to shut the revolving door between the central bank and other big banks (after all, if the Wall Street boys can do it, why can’t the Russians?) then why wouldn’t they rob their own people every chance they get, then attempt to use their ill-gotten gains to subvert the political system—just like the Americans have done?"

Keynes in 1933 which I do not tire of repeating "Let goods be homespun whenever it is reasonably and conveniently possible. Above all, let finance be primarily national'. 

Raghuram Rajan, RBI governor on December 12, "Slow industrial country growth has made more difficult a traditional development path for emerging markets—export-led growth. Indeed, in the last decade, even as China developed on the back of its exports to industrial countries, other emerging markets flourished as they exported to China. Emerging markets now have to rely once again on domestic demand, always a difficult task because of the temptation to overstimulate. That task has become more difficult because of the abundance of liquidity sloshing around the world as a result of ultra-accommodative monetary policies in industrial countries. Any signs of growth can attract foreign capital, and if not properly managed, these flows can precipitate a credit and asset price boom and exchange rate overvaluation. When industrial country monetary policies are eventually tightened, some of the capital is likely to depart emerging market shores. Emerging markets have to take extreme care to ensure they are not vulnerable at that point.
What implications should an emerging economy like India, which has weathered the initial squalls of the “taper tantrums” of the summer of 2013, take away for its policies over the medium term? I would focus on four: 1) Make in India; 2) Make for India; 3) Ensure transparency and stability of the economy; and 4) Work towards a more open and fair global system."

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A thumri from different films


Putin's kleptocracy

I thought that generally Putin was ok. But may be I was wrong. Here is a review of a recent book which is apparently heavily supported by documentary evidence. An excerpt:
 "Indeed, in the months since Putin’s invasion of Crimea, it has become fashionable to suggest that the harder-line face that Putin has more recently shown to the world is somehow, once again, the West’s “fault,” that we have provoked Russia into autocratic behavior through our talk of democracy in Ukraine or that—once again—the “reform process” was somehow brought to a halt because the Russians felt threatened by the expansion of NATO or by Western policy in the Balkans.
But after reading Dawisha’s book, and after absorbing the implications of the stories she has so carefully pulled together from so many sources, it is simply not possible to take this argument seriously. Since 2000, Russia has been ruled by a revanchist, revisionist elite with origins in the old KGB. This elite had been working its way back to power since the late 1980s, using theft on a grand scale, taking advantage of the secrecy provided by Western offshore havens, and cooperating with organized crime." (via Chris Blattman and from a comment, the book has a website http://miamioh.edu/cas/academics/centers/havighurst/cultural-academic-resources/putins-russia/index.html )

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two from Brad DeLong

on "Convergence" "Lant Pritchett and Larry Summers are now trying to blow this up: to say that just as the neoclassical aggregate production function is a very bad guide to understanding the business cycle, as the generation-old failure of RBC models tells us, so the neoclassical aggregate production function and the Solow growth model built on top of it is a bad guide to issues of growth and development as well."
Cosma Shailzi's comment : "Also, I will remind you that aggregate production functions make no sense in terms of neoclassical microeconomics "
Prolegomenom to a reading course on Marx

Vijay Iyer on "Our Complicity With Excess"

These are the sort of questions I ask myself when I see many successful Indians abroad working as IP lawyers or for Halliburton...http://aaww.org/complicity-with-excess-vijay-iyer/ "That I humbly ask of you, and of myself, is that we constantly interrogate our own complicity with excess, that we always remain vigilant to notions of community that might, perhaps against our best intentions, sometimes, embrace a system of domination at the expense of others. Can we radically submit ourselves to the pursuit of equality and justice for all? If we choose to call ourselves Asian American, can we not also choose to be that kind of American that refuses to accept what America has been, and instead help build a better America even for others, who might not immediately seem to “belong” to us?"

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Links, December 14, 2014

Multiple Modernities by S.N.Eisenstadt
The anthropolgy of financial crises by Psedoerasmus "This is Part 2, continued from “Der Todd des Euro” (Emmanuel Todd on the euro), which critiqued his “anthropological” perspective on Germany. Here I make some observations on the role of social capital in financial crises, with a focus on Germany." But a commenter says that he is not too far from Todd.
Ukraine's frozen war brings dramatic changes to world economy by Anatole Kaletsky
Uruguay takes on London Bankers, Marlboro Mad Men and the TPP by Michael Meurer at Truthout
Business interests vs student interests at Cambridge University

Friday, December 12, 2014

Links, 12th December 2014

Do farmers want GM crops? by Glenn Davis Stone
How much of a winner is India in the trade facilitation agreement? by Jhinuk Chowdhury
Growth slowdowns: Middle-income trap vs regression to the mean by Lant Pritchett and Larry Sumners, discussion in The Economist's View
Democratizing Finance by Fred Block "The scope of this article will be
limited in the following ways. First, this paper will only briefly touch on the urgently
needed reforms to the global financial system that would complement the domestic
reforms described here. Second, the paper will not address reforms to corporate
governance and corporate finances that are a necessary part of any effort to renew the
U.S. economy.Third, the discussion of alternative financial institutions will focus on
the problems of consumer finance, small business lending, innovation, and infrastructure."

Michael Hudson on current affairs

In a July interview with RT "The basic principle to bear in mind is that finance today is war by non-military means."
This December Backfired! "The world’s geopolitics, major trade patterns and military alliances have changed radically in the past month. Russia has re-oriented its gas and oil trade, and also its trade in military technology, away from Europe toward Eurasia.
The result is the opposite of America’s hope for the past half-century of dividing and conquering Eurasia: setting Russia against China, isolating Iran, and preventing India, the Near East and other Asian countries from joining together to create an alternative to the U.S. dollar area. American sanctions and New Cold War policy has driven these Asian countries together in association with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization as an alternative to NATO, and in the BRICS moves to avoid dealing with the dollar area, the IMF and World Bank austerity programs."
Despite lot of pressure from USA about nuclear liability bill and for US reactors, according to today's report from The Hindu "The highlight of the meeting — part of an annual summit between the two countries — was the unveiling of a vision statement on atomic energy cooperation, where Russian nuclear agency ROSATOM and the Department of Atomic Energy and NPCIL have agreed to build at least 12 new reactors supplied by Russia over the next 20 years."

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Item songs

Special issue 'item' of Motherland Magazine with several articles linking film item sonns to older traditions.

Long article on Angela Merkel

in The New Yorker. Lot of background material but I am not sure about the discussion on Ukraine. According to Emmanuel Todd "But basically, the new German system is based on the annexation of the active population. Initially they were used in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, etc. The Germans reorganized their industrial system using their cheap labor. The working population of Ukraine of 45 million inhabitants, with its well-educated inherited from the Soviet era, would be exceptional grip for Germany, the possibility of a dominant Germany for a long time, and most importantly, with his empire, immediately passing actual economic power over the United States." Here is a little about what has been happening in Poland.