Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Robert Solow steps in

Thomas Piketty is right says Robert Solow. It seems from the review that Robert Solow could have written a shorter and better book except that Solow says that nobody made the connection (between r and g) before.
P.S. Mark Thoma starts a discussion in Economist's view on the above article.
Meanwhile, there is an interesting article Adam Smith is not the antidote to Thomas Piketty. It seems that Smith's views were not too far off, seems even more radical  "The economic fundamental underlying these views was crystal-clear: For Smith, high profits were bad. They were “always highest in the countries which are going fastest to ruin,” because profit was “naturally low in rich, and high in poor countries.” High profits were not condemned for normative reasons, but efficiency ones: de facto, in countries that thrive, profits are low (except in new economies)."
P.P.S. Brad DeLong discusses Robert Solow review "To sum up: a very good book, a very, as Solow says, serious book. It has certainly moved me from thinking that the odds that two generations hence we will have a much more unequal and plutocratic society were 2-1 against to thinking that they are 3-1 for..."

A forgotten dancer?

Yog Sunder: A true prince of dance by Ashish Mohan Khokar

Archives of documentaries

Shivam Vij and others have pointed to this YouTube uploads of British Pathe documentaries
There are similar documentaries from Russia
Minai has written earlier about both. Two of her posts: One about Uday Shankar and others and the second about Tara Choudhri and others.


Andhra High Court strikes down all sentences in Dalit massacre case
A 1991 article by K.Balaopal Post-Chundur and other Chundurs
Obama not meeting Anwar in Malayasia. Obviously more interested in trade treaties than democracy.
Chris Blattman links to The CIA guide to sabotage
Why the fall in human capital inequality has not been sufficient to reduce income inequality. From the conclusion "...other forces have offset the effects of lower education inequality."

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Masters of the Indian art 1954

I missed this post of Minai. She guides us through the video 'Masters of the Indian art' (1954) which has some beautiful dances and graceful poses.

Rare Video of Dancers Tara Chowdhary, Guru Gopinath, & Indrani Rehman, Sitarist Ravi Shankar, & More (all thanks to Net-Film!)


US related but there may be lessons for others too.
Conservative heavy weights have solar industry in their sights "The institute has warned power companies that profits could erode catastrophically if current policies and market trends continue. If electricity companies delay in taking political action, the group warned in a report, "it may be too late to repair the utility business model.""
Is America an oligarchy? "Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a widespread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened."
Biotech's hard bargain " traditional argument against price controls is looking weaker: biotech companies claim that prices need to be high to reward risky and expensive innovation, but the fact that they’re churning out drugs and profits so consistently seems to undermine that claim. Biotech, in other words, may become the victim of its own success: the bigger the profits, the bigger the likelihood of regulation....he uproar over Sovaldi may, somewhere down the line, help contain drug prices. But in the short run it could well make drugs even more expensive. And that’s what you call a serious side effect. "
Collusion of the Tech giants? "Some of tech's biggest names— Steve JobsEric SchmidtSergey Brin, Bill Campbell —conferred and squabbled and made peace privately for years, documents in a current Silicon Valley antitrust case reveal. But they were unable to pull a new company into the club, the court documents show: Facebook FB +3.90% declined their friend request."

Tyler Cowen is not convinced

His review of Piketty21 here. Summary and discussion in Why I am not persuaded by Thomas Piketty's argument. Another negative review discussed in The Economist "Capital" and its discontents. Some of these points are also discussed in Piketty's Huffington Post interview linked before. Possibly some of the points will be clarified in these discussions. It is time for my second reading of Piketty in the liht of these discussions. Check also Ten questions for Thomas Piketty.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Two songs from Awara

I think I saw this movie in 1952. We used to have a tution teacher in whose house we used to sleep for the night. We let him sleep and ran about six miles to a town called Repalle to watch the late night show of the film. Two moon light songs and scenes are still very vivid.

My granddaughter Ava and Dalel Benbabaali

Photo: Ava after a short vacation resembles Dalel Benbabaali

Piketty Interview at Huffington post

P.S. From 34 minutes, he discusss the criticisms of James Galbraith and Dean Baker.

Some advice about reading books from Tyler Cowen

How to read (any book like) Capital in the Twenty-First Century
In my case I did find Branko Milanovic review useful. In the middle, I tried to do do some exercises and made basic mistakes. Then I found browsing 'Capital is back' by Piketty and Zucman helped in correcting the mistakes, though I did not fully understand the paper since I do not have any background in economics.. Probably I will reread it soon. The mistakes I made were by misreading the book. I think that anybody can read the book. I think Paul Krugman's review in New York Review of books is good. And the one by Timothy Shenk puts in a broader context. There is a discussion of Tim Shenk's review as well as one from Manhattan Institute's Scott Winship here. The paper of Lane Kenworthy used by Scott Winship is also discussed by Steve Roth in a different fashion.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Comments on Tim Shenk review of Piketty by Richard Drayton

It seems Doug Henwood does not like the Tim Shenk review of Piketty. Commenters bring in all sorts of jibes from status to ABD on his timeline. May be an indication why people on the left find it difficult to join forces; there is no unifying aim like making profits. Richard Drayton comments " He is a serious, if a young, public intellectual. We live in strange times if a 30 year old can't intervene in debates." 
Richard Drayton further comments on the review "I don't think that's quite fair Doug. Here's what the article is doing:
(1) explaining to readers the fact, which is far from intuitive for most people, that the idea of capitalism was first crystallized by its critics, in particular socialists,
(2) offering that the paradox of the 1989 moment was that - "nothing did more to entrench the acceptance of capitalism than the demise of the movement that had invented the concept",
(3) explaining the 2008 return to the centre of critiques of capitalism, The Occupy scene and its intellectual cross currents (Jacobin and N+1 etc),
(4) locating the significance of Piketty's Capital (and P. and Saez's earlier identification of the 1%), explaining how it brings together Kuznets and national accounting econometrics with political economy to provide a new longue duree model of inequality
(5) discusses the limits of P's vision of the past and the future
(6) ending with a rather valuable expression of hope (god knows we need episodes of optimism) that P. may become used by others who will make a 21st century post-capitalist social thought."

Tim Shenk responds "Richard, thank you for that summary. I would just add that I'm also trying to explain the longer intellectual history behind Piketty's political economy, hence all that talk about all the non-Marxist (but still socialist) attempts to transcend capitalism." From The Economist Book Club
"As we have discussed several times, a key part of Mr Piketty's story is that the rate of return on capital, r, is greater than the rate of economic growth, g. Critics have suggested that this is at odds with economic theory, but Mr Piketty is not making a theoretical point; he is observing that, empirically, r has been greater than g throughout most of history. If the theory is inconsistent with that, then that is the theory's problem." and also comments on Martin Wolf review which questions whether inequality matters.

Tracking flu levels with Wikipedia

from sciencedaily "Cn monitoring Wikipedia hits show how many people have the flu? Researchers at Boston Children's Hospital, USA, have developed a method of estimating levels of influenza-like illness in the American population by analysing Internet traffic on specific flu-related Wikipedia articles.
David McIver and John Brownstein's model, publishing in PLOS Computational Biology on April 17th, estimates flu levels in the American population up to two weeks sooner than data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention becomes available, and accurately estimates the week of peak influenza activity 17% more often than Google Flu Trends data."

Gabriel Garcia Marquez on Allende

Why Allende had to die (via Rahul Siddharthan)

Friday, April 18, 2014


Reading Piketty and following various reviews took over forty days leading to a burst of weeds in the garden. It took six days, usually 2-3 hours a day but five yesterday, to get the backyard into some shape. Possibly, I will have to spend as much time on the front. But all the time on Piketty has been worthwhile I think. Experts will discuss the finer points but the overall picture is simple and clear. Capital is like a weed, if you don't watch for a while it will grow and spread from Iraq to Ukraine. In spite of Piketty's allergy for Marx, Marx looms in the background. May be time to read some Marxists who do not mention thesis and anti-thesis.
P.S. Here is a start. Benjamin Kunkel explains David Harvey.

Methodical sedition

says The Chronicle of Higher Education in Capital Man
And an interview with Thomas Piketty by Jonathan Derbyshire. Excerpt:
"A big difference between today and a hundred years ago is that you have 20-30 per cent of national wealth in the UK and other European countries belonging to what I describe in the book as the “patrimonial middle class”, by which I mean the 40 per cent of the population that is neither in the top 10 per cent nor the bottom 50 per cent.  The bottom 50 per cent still own less than 5 per cent of the total, so that hasn’t changed much over the past century.
So the existence of this patrimonial middle class makes a big difference to the political, social and economic landscape. The question is what happens next? Is this group going to get stronger or is it going to shrink? Is their share of national wealth going to be reduced, which is, to some extent, what has been happening in the past 30 years?"