Sunday, December 31, 2006

Allen Orr is disappointed with Richard Dawkins

H. Allen Orr reviews some god books including "The God Delusion" by Richars Dawkins here. It is a free access article. Orr is clearly disappointed.
In my opinion, H. Allen Orr is one of the best reviewers of science related books and has written some nice articles himself. Here is a link to some of his articles and reviews. Some more appeared in the New York Review of Books but not all of them are free access articles.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Recent news from

Sujatha wins Ramanujam prize :
Sujatha was educated in India and has been with the institute (TIFR)since 1985. While she does not think that being a woman has hindered her career, she believes that scientific policies could be more sensitive to the problems that women face.
The US$10,000 prize — named after the Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan — was set up last year by the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics in Trieste, Italy, to strengthen science in developing countries.

Research opportunities for scientists from developing countries:
For the first time, researchers in developing countries will be able to apply for European funding under nearly the same terms as European researchers, as opposed to a limited amount of funding for earmarked projects.
The first round of calls for the European Union's US$69 billion Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) will be announced on 22 December.

About Indian IT industry :
India's IT industry is not as successful as it seems and other countries should think carefully before following suit, writes Athar Osama.
In 2003, for example, India claimed to have exported US$8.7 billion worth of software, most of which went to the United States. But US companies recorded just US$420 million worth of software imports from India — a remarkable 20-fold difference.

The GAO believes that this huge inconsistency arises, in part, from India misreporting financial data. For instance, India counts the earnings of all temporary workers in the United States as part of their exports figures. But this is against universally-accepted financial disclosure conventions suggested by the International Monetary Fund. The result is a gross over-representation of Indian software exports.

And many other interesting items. You can register for free updates at
UPDATE 1: Professor Madhukar Shukla has given the link to another article studying the discrepancies in IT figures.
UPDATE 2: Please see Professor Shukla's post on this topic

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Rational Fool quotes from Upanishads

The Rational Fool has an interesting post about Ravi Shastri's travails after commenting on his beef-eating. The quote from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad goes as follows:

VI-iv-18: He who wishes that a son should be born to him who would be a reputed scholar, frequenting the assemblies and speaking delightful words, would study all the Vedas and attain a full term of life, should have rice cooked with the meat of a vigorous bull or one more advanced in years, and he and his wife should eat it with clarified butter. Then they would be able to produce such a son.

The links are in the post. There is also link in the comments to an article in The Guardian which says that according to a poll in UK, 82 percent see religion as a cause of division and tension. The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. I hope that these surveys indicate the correct state of affairs.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dhyan Chand's autobiography

is available online at
It starts with the famous words "You are doubtless aware that I am a common man...." on Madhukar Shukla

It seems that I am not the only one who likes Madhukar Shukla's AlternatePerspective. From
These numbers were brought to my attention by Madhukar Shukla, a professor of strategic management at Xavier Labour Relations Institute in Jamshedpur, India. Shukla's blog, Alternative Perspective, just jumped to the top of the India department of my blogreader with his thoughtful inside-the-numbers look at the startling contrast between export wealth and starving children.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Some American views on globalization

Greg Mankiw
links to this article by senators Byron Dorgan and Sherrod Brown. Excerpt:
We must insist that all trade agreements have labor, environmental and other protections so that American workers can compete on a level playing field. Trade agreements must also be reciprocal. The American market is the most desirable in the world. Every country wants access to it. That gives us a great deal of leverage, if only we'd use it. Barriers to U.S. products overseas should not be tolerated.

Free-trade agreements have protected drug companies, international investors and Hollywood films, yet failed to protect our communities, our workers and our environment.

Mark Thoma links to this post . Excerpt:
Or consider trade-opening agreements. They give Americans access to more low-cost products and services from abroad. This makes Americans’ dollars go further. But the agreements especially benefit the rich, who spend more than the middle class and the poor because they have more income to spend. The agreements also typically impose a burden on working-class Americans who thereby lose their jobs to foreigners. These job losers get new jobs, but studies show the new jobs pay 10 to 15 percent less than the old ones. Even if you assume that access to cheaper goods from abroad adds about 10 to 15 percent to their purchasing power, these working-class wage earners come out about even, at best. That means the overall result of most trade agreements is to widen inequality. Do the efficiency benefits of trade outweigh this result? Maybe a decade ago when inequality was less pronounced. Probably not, now.

From a project (Executive summary here ) sponsored by Democratic Leadership Council:

While public attitudes are complex and sometimes can appear contradictory, this report finds that the challenge for America’s leaders is clear: In the global era, American voters are waiting for a leader and party that can explain how globalization can be made to work for everyone. We began this work with few preconceptions. We knew from other studies that everyday Americans are feeling new pressures on themselves and their families. We found that these everyday pressures have created stark divisions among voters. Some voters look forward to seizing the opportunities offered by globalization, others are most concerned by the loss of economic security and the rapid pace of change. Many Americans hold seemingly conflicting feelings about globalization. They may simultaneously have concerns about lost income and lost job security, but still express a positive overall sense about globalization reflecting our national optimism and competitive spirit. Successful national leadership will address both the concerns about rising insecurity and the hopes felt by most voters.

Links December 26, 2006

After browsing through some of the standard economic blogs, I tried to see whether there are some new age economists and found the names Paul Ormerod and Brian Arthur in the book “Tumbling Dice” by the Australian journalist Brian Toohey.
Excerpts from an interview with
Brian Arthur.:

-- a great deal of economics is done the way it is done for analytical convenience. It is not just that the framework has become, as I said, so persuasive that economists don't feel that they need to look outside anywhere near as much. It is also that the framework itself is 50 percent an approximation to reality and 50 percent analytical self-convenience.

But we're facing a danger that economics is rigorous deduction based upon faulty assumptions. Science after science gets that way from time to time. When it does, we're in real trouble.
: The Libertarians are upset because I'm saying that the invisible hand is not perfect. Indeed, the invisible hand is a little bit arthritic. It's pretty good, but it's slightly less than perfect. I think we need to grow up and recognize this.

Excerpts from another interview which may be relevant to India here .:

These are interesting, especially India. But none are large enough—not even India yet—to make much of a difference.
But a lead in science and in the innovations based on science takes a really long time to build up. You can’t just put in government funding and accomplish this in a decade. Advanced technology comes out of a very deep understanding of the theory and grammar of certain scientific phenomena. It took a huge amount of understanding of quantum physics to produce the laser for example (which lies at the heart of modern telecommunications). And similarly it takes a lot of understanding to translate these scientific understandings into technologies. This sort of understanding can’t just be lifted
from data or knowledge published in technical journals. What counts in these areas is knowing what methods work and what ones don’t, how exactly to “cook” the thing, what ways help to cut through obstacles, and what new directions to pursue next. This sort of expertise is no more easily transferable than is Cordon Bleu cooking. It is a craft—a collection of knowings—of hundreds of particular methods and details. As a craft it resides implicitly in people’s minds and over time, over years, it builds up within small groups in particular high-tech labs and in particular localities. The result is that once a region or a country gets ahead in a set of specific advanced technologies it becomes hard to challenge. I am not saying that other countries don’t have advanced science. I am saying that because of its deep understandings of the sciences behind genomics and proteomics and nanotech, the U.S. is well placed to lead in these new technologies and in the industries they will create.

Seems to be a sort of new age person from this interview ,
and story of a spat with Krugman .
Here is an article which features both Ormerod and Brian Arthur .
And Ormerod on Milton Friedman: here.

These bring me to a recent post by Madhukar Shukla. One wonders whether the sort of problems which MS mentions need thinking about the existing social structures and cultures discussed by Brian Arthur above.
Kuffir has given several links to farmers’ problems in the comments to my post “Why cotton prices are falling?” here.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Science breakthroughs of the year

Science Magazine's list of the science breakthroughs of the year 2006 is led by Perelman's solution of the Poincare conjecture and is available here (December 22, 2006 issue):
It also has a list of areas to watch in 2007.
Weirdest science storiesof 2006 according to are available here:

Why are cotton prices falling?

Off and on there have been discussions in this and other blogs( for example, and about the effects of globalization on Indian farmers. It emerged from the discussions that Indian Govt., various state governments, regional rivalries, spurious seeds and greedy merchants are at least partly to blame. But there was no clear discussion of how prices are fixed. I keep seeing various reports like the following that indicate globalization has effect on prices. From

"Why are cotton prices falling?

Since 1994, international prices have fallen and domestic prices reflect this depression. It was $1.10 for one pound of cotton in 1994 [Rs.2,500 a quintal]. It fell to 40 cents a pound. Today, it is 54 cents a pound [Rs.1,800 a quintal]. Between 1997 and 2003, we imported 110 lakh bales of cotton. The import tariff is only 10 per cent. Textile mills that export yarn do not even have to pay this tariff.

Our political leaders say farmers should compete in the free market and not rely on the government. But, it is not a free market. The prices in the international market are low right now because contries like the U.S. and China give subsidies to their cotton farmers. In the U.S., 20,000 cotton farmers get $4.7 billion in subsidies. China gives Rs. 900 a quintal to its farmers, that is, half the price. How can our farmers compete? That is why they are committing suicide.

Our government should at least intervene to ensure that the prices of cotton lint do not fall below Rs. 80 a kg. Then farmers will be assured of a price of Rs.2,700 to Rs.3,000 a quintal. It does not implement this policy because it is under pressure from the mill lobby, which imports cheap, subsidised cotton."

See also and two earlier posts of Madhukar Shukla mentioned in the article. Again, this is all for my own reference since earlier there was a query as to how American subsidies can affect prices in India.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Links Dec. 20, 2006

Neweconomist blog on Mixed Joys of Privatization
Government's natural advantage is in raising money cheaply. The private sector's is in running organisations efficiently. Public-private ventures should capitalise on these core strengths, with the government raising the money - perhaps via bonds, as Ken Livingstone has suggested - and the private sector partner running the operation. This makes economic and fiscal sense - but has the key failing of not taking government capital spending 'off the books'.

and Wal-Mart in India
After abandoning disastrous forays in South Korea and Germany, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is coming to India. The opportunity is no doubt sizzling, though if Wal-Mart is not careful, it might end up making a hash of it...

Mark Liberman in
Language Log

This reinforces my conclusion that in today's public discourse, science is treated not as a search for the truth, but as source of edifying fables.

More by Liberman on
Science stories

As I've watched the reaction to Louann Brizendine's book over the past few months, I've concluded that "scientific studies" like these have taken over the place that bible stories used to occupy. It's only fundamentalists like me who worry about whether they're true. For most people, it's only important that they're morally instructive.

John Quiggin on
Stern Report
and David Maddison on
Stern Report
New York Times on
Sleeping Over It

Sreesanth's jig

See Dilip D'souza's blog.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Sir Nick's new job

"Sir Nicholas Stern is to become the first holder of the IG Patel Chair at the London School of Economics and Political Science, heading a new India Observatory within the LSE's Asia Research Centre. Subject to clearance under the business appointment rules in the normal way, Sir Nicholas will take up this appointment on 1 June. His successor as Head of the Government Economic Service will be announced in due course."

Monday, December 18, 2006

How the poor live

Stumbling and Mumbling

What exactly does it mean to live on a dollar a day? Here's a fascinating
that tells us, by drawing on evidence from 13 countries. Some highlights:

1. "The average person living at under $1 a day does not seem to put every available penny into buying more calories...Food typically represents from 56 to 78% [of household spending]."
Despite this, hunger is common. Among the extremely poor in Udaipur, only 57% said their household had enough to eat in the previous year, and 72% report at least one symptom of disease.
2. "The poor generally do not compain about their health - but then they do not complain about life in general. While the poor certainly feel poor, their levels of self-reported happiness or health are not particularly low."
3. Spending on festivals - religious ceremonies, funerals and weddings - is high. In Udaipur, median spending on these by people living on $1 a day was 10% of income.
4. In several countries, the extremely poor spend about 5% of income on alcohol and tobacco.
5. In the Ivory Coast, 14% of people on $1 a day have a TV - and 45% of those on $2 a day have one.
6. Many of the extremely poor get income from more than one source. Cultivating their own land is not always the main source of income.
7. Participation in microfinance is not as high as you'd think. The poor seem unable to reap economies of scale, therefore.

An excerpt from the paper (which tallies with some of my observations):

Walking down the main street of the biggest slum in the medium sized Southern Indian
city of Guntur at nine in the morning, the first thing one notices are the eateries: In front of every sixth house that directly faced the road, by our count, there was a woman sitting behind a little kerosene stove with a round cast-iron griddle roasting on it. Every few minutes someone would walk up to her and order a dosa, the rice and beans pancakes that almost everyone eats for breakfast in South India. She would throw a cupful of the batter on the griddle, swirl it around to cover almost the entire surface and drizzle some oil around the edges. A minute or two later, she would slide an off-white pock-marked pancake off the griddle, douse it in some sauce, fold it in a newspaper or a banana leaf and hand it to her client, in return for a rupee.
When we walked back down that same street an hour later, the women were gone. We
found one inside her house, filling her daughter’s plate with lunch that she had cooked while making the dosas. She told us that later that day, she was going out to vend her saris, the long piece of decorative cloth that Indian women drape around themselves. She gets plain nylon saris from the shop and stitches beads and small shiny pieces on them, and once a week, she takes them from house to house, hoping that women would buy them to wear on special occasions. And they do buy them, she said confidently. All the other dosa women we met that day had a similar story: once they are done frying dosas, they do something else. Some collect trash; others make pickles to sell; others work as laborers.

At somewhat higher income levels, I have seen similar things. Women folk bringing sarees from cities and traveling round villages selling them to augment husbands' salaries.
There is also a discussion of the above paper of Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo in

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I often misspell (forget tense, punctuation etc. My excuse is that I studied in a Telugu medium school and have been mostly doing mathematics) and miss the misspelt letters even after a few checks.It seems that spelling may not be that important. Here is a post from the evolotionary-psycholgy group:

Try to read this. I'm sure you can....very interesting.

fi yuo cna raed tihs, yuo hvae a sgtrane mnid too
Cna yuo raed tihs? Olny 55 plepoe can.

i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! if you can raed tihs forwrad it.

I could read this at normal reading speed, which seems just a little absurd.

Posted by
Robert Karl Stonjek (Thanks Gene Johnson)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

No politics in economics?

From an interview with David Card;
I've subsequently stayed away from the minimum wage literature for a number of reasons. First, it cost me a lot of friends. People that I had known for many years, for instance, some of the ones I met at my first job at the University of Chicago, became very angry or disappointed. They thought that in publishing our work we were being traitors to the cause of economics as a whole.

Mark Thoma

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Two of 'Ankuram' organizers

ANKURAM is an organization in the twin cities of Hyderabad-Secunderabad which helps girls from the ages of 3-17 with education and professional skills.

'Ankuram' children

Interesting post on Abdus Salam

Pl. see
for an interesting article on Abdus Salam and very interesting comments and links in the comments ( see the links in saima nasir's comments to articles by Parvez Hoodbhoy).
Pakistan’s space research agency Suparco was created by him and it is only symbolic that a group of Shia workers of Suparco were put to death in Karachi in 2004 by sectarian terrorists. Like Dr Salam, a lot of gifted Shia doctors have had to leave Pakistan because of the state’s twisted policies.

Dr Abdus Salam got his Nobel Prize for Physics in 1979. It was a most embarrassing moment for General Zia who had ‘supplemented’ the Second Amendment to the constitution with further comic disabilities against the Ahmedis. He had to welcome the great scientist and had to be seen with him on TV. Since the clerical part of his government was already bristling, he took care to clip those sections of Dr Salam’s speech where he had said the kalima or otherwise used an Islamic expression. It was Dr Salam’s good luck that one of the believers did not go to court under Zia’s own laws to get the country’s only Nobel laureate sent to prison for six months of rigorous imprisonment. Dr Salam then went to India where he was received with great fanfare. He had gone there to simply meet his primary school mathematics teacher who was still alive. When the two met, Dr Salam took off his Nobel medal and put it around the neck of his teacher.

One wonders why in spite of many new research institutes in India, where some of the elite ones have facilities comparable with the best in the west and with light teaching and relative job security, India has not been able to produce scientists of the calibre of C.V.Raman, S.N.Bose, Meghnath Saha, R.C. Bose, C.R. Rao (just to mention a few trained in India). In Pakistan,this article indicates the problems. It may be much more difficult to analyze the Indian situation; after all Vedic mathematics has not been a great success.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

More University-Industry links

From Guardian :
Sir Richard Doll, the celebrated epidemiologist who established that smoking causes lung cancer, was receiving a consultancy fee of $1,500 a day in the mid-1980s from Monsanto, then a major chemical company and now better known for its GM crops business.

While he was being paid by Monsanto, Sir Richard wrote to a royal Australian commission investigating the potential cancer-causing properties of Agent Orange, made by Monsanto and used by the US in the Vietnam war. Sir Richard said there was no evidence that the chemical caused cancer.

See also here , here and here .

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Some recent posts on caste violence

Rahul Ramagundam and Dilip D'Souzain India Together and Abinandanan in Nanopolitan .

Penile morphology of Indian males?

A recent BBC report about condom sizes in India is drawing interesting comments in several blogs . Indiaincut blog gives links to other sites discussing the topic. Following up a hint in the comments of GNXP, I googled and found here :
This prediction by Eberhard is supported by Dixson (1987) who has analysed different aspects of penile morphology in primate species and found that size and complexity are indeed related inversely to the number of males that typically mate with each female. Thus for monogamous and polygynous males the penis is smaller and simple in design whereas in multimale/multifemale, or dispersed species, it is larger and more complex. Many species of birds are of course also monogamous which would further support this theory.

If true it seems that many Indian males have it good, a noncompetetive system to find partners and a system (caste) in which they automatically acquire some status.

Update 12.12.06: The BBC article mentioned above is still among the most e-mailed articles and it appears that Indian males may have interesting times abroad. Another article on condom sizes in BBC News, this time about South Africa.

Friday, December 08, 2006

University-Industry links; examples from South Africa

From :
In summary, South Africa's best university-industry partnerships provide a simple lesson to other countries: strategically planning the form and scale of links that are to be promoted can strengthen development and help improve quality of life."
The examples given are:
"Two examples from South Africa show that such strategic partnerships can indeed balance academic and industrial interests while contributing to national development.

The Tree Protection Co-operative Programme is a biotechnology research network of large paper firms and small timber producers, working on tree pathogens with academic partners at the University of Pretoria, to the benefit of all.

The university research unit is building an international scientific reputation by producing a large number of postgraduate students and accredited publications. It has become a sponsored 'centre of excellence' that attracts considerable government research funding.

The industry partners depend for their competitive edge on the costly research and development and the risk-management strategies the network provides. For example, the university researchers provide DNA technology to produce trees resistant to pests and pathogens.

A second example of a successful strategic partnership is the remote sensing Multi-Sensor Microsatellite Imager project. In this government-funded research network, university, industry and government partners work together to design micro-satellites that can supply affordable high-resolution imagery to African governments. The images can help monitor, regulate and manage resources, for example, water distribution, crop management and settlement infrastructure.

A Stellenbosch University laboratory conducts fundamental research for the network. A spin-off company manages the technology development, while application research managed by a government science council informs the design. Finally, a Belgian university and industrial partner develop specific technical components.

Mutually beneficial network partnerships like these — where university, industry and intermediary partners work towards a shared objective — generate knowledge and technological innovation for all.

They help universities harness the innovation potential of their researchers while still maintaining academic integrity. They meet industrial needs for technological progress, and also contribute to national development.

In a different direction, New York Times indicates how China chose a modest programme in the 80's which turned out to be useful and productive :

But Dr. Panofsky and others, including Dr. Lee, argued that a more modest machine would serve China better.

“We talked them out of it,” Dr Panofsky said. In 1982, in the midst of economic difficulties, the proton machine was canceled in favor of one that would collide electrons and positrons at the much lower energy of around 2 billion electron volts. Such a machine would produce synchrotron radiation, which has medical and other uses as well as a role in particle research.
“It was finished on time and on budget,” said Dr. Chen, who had returned to China from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1980s to work at the physics institute. where he became director in 1998. The size of the Beijing collider was based on what could be achieved at the time, but it turned out to be a fortuitous choice.

“The energy was lower but it was more interesting,” Dr. Chen said.
The energy range of the Beijing collider, 1 to 2.2 billion electron volts per beam, contained a lot of puzzling left-behind physics, including the tau, a sort of superfat electron, for which nature has no obvious purpose, and the so-called J/psi. The J/psi, consisting of a pair of quarks each exhibiting the quantum property known whimsically as charm, set off a revolution and led to Nobel prizes when it was discovered in 1974.

“There is a lot going on in that energy region,” said Frederick A. Harris, a professor of physics at the University of Hawaii, who works often at the Beijing collider. By tuning the energy of their colliding beams, the Chinese researchers have been able to measure the mass of the tau very precisely, as well as carry out detailed studies of the J/psi and similar particles.

In the collider’s energy range, Dr. Chen said simply, “We dominate.”
Dr. Panofsky, of the Stanford accelerator, said: “Most economic growth is not due to new invention, but making things faster and cheaper. High energy physics mirrors this. In China they measure things known to exist better and with higher accuracy than in the West.”

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Quote of the day

"Regarding tragedies, my polemic was
again to ask why the tragedy of someone that
comes from our socio-economic, cultural and
professional class should be more poignant
than that of someone else from a different class.
I would rather do with tragedies from no class."
B. Ananthanarayan in the comments of:

Monday, December 04, 2006

Mr. Maxwell follows suit

From this article in New York Times :
"But Mr. Johnson found a way to recover the federal royalties on his own. In 1995, he filed suit under the False Claims Act, a longstanding law intended to encourage whistle-blowers. Under the act, best known for its use against overbilling by military contractors, a private citizen can sue a company, contending that it defrauded the federal government. Companies found guilty have to pay as much as three times the amount of their fraudulent gains, and any person who files a suit is entitled to keep up to 30 percent of the money recovered."

Now Bobby Maxwell whose job has been terminated by the Interior Dept (USA) has filed a suit against Kerr-McGee corporation. If he wins, US Govt., Mr.Maxwell and his lawyers will all make a lot of money just as Mr. Johnson did. It seems to be one way to fight corruption and make money at the same time. I wonder how many other countries have similar Acts.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Interesting Economic Discussions

I assumed that economists are like engineers who fix problems as they come up and sometimes even struggle to figure out the problems. This approach is exemplified by Partha Dasgupta's
“Despite the interdisciplinary nature of my enquiries, the lens through which I
have studied the social world has been that of economics. I have assumed a point of view of the
circumstances of living that gives prominence to the allocation of scarce resources - among
contemporaries and across the generations. One hallmark of the viewpoint is to study human well-being in terms of its commodity determinants and the institutions that shape our lives. Another is to reason quantitatively. Moreover, because it is subject to empirical discipline, the inquiry encourages approximations. Inevitably, the viewpoint is partial. But increasingly I have come to realize that it is possible to look outward from that partial view to catch a glimpse of the larger enterprise called "living". I do that regularly in the essays that follow and, in the one methodological essay in the present collection, I respond to several prominent critics of contemporary economics by showing that they misunderstand the foundations of my discipline.
While re-reading the essays here, I noticed that I have rarely ever published an article in which
the bird I was ultimately able to catch was in fact caught. This is because I have rarely ever known what it was that I was really after. Maybe I knew it subconsciously, but I doubt that. In my case, a discovery has meant a growing realization, not a blinding revelation. Usually, it has taken me several publications,brick by metaphorical brick, before I was able even to understand what the phenomenon I had been working on was, let alone to uncover the pathways that give rise to the phenomenon. I don't know whether this is a common experience among scientists, but I doubt it. I suspect there is nothing common among the processes by which we gain an understanding of the world around us."

But it seems lot of economic thinking is also driven by ideology and politics. Before I loose track of them ( once discussions get in to archives, it seems difficult to locate them), I record URL's of some recent discussions, particularly from Mark Thoma's site .
A general discussion of politics in economics:
See also the discussion
where suddenly this kind of statements jump out:
"Of the tendencies that are harmful to sound economics, the most seductive, and in my opinion the most poisonous, is to focus on questions of distribution. "
Discussion of Christopher Hayes article on neoclassical indoctrination:
Mark Thoma
crooked Timber.
Some Comments in Crooked Timber:
Too much of economics teaching is reminiscent of calculus as practiced by Wernher von Braun (in the words of Tom Lehrer): “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down? That’s not my department,” says Wernher von Braun.
Posted by Ken Houghton · November 15th, 2006 at 3:30 pm
2) Say, rather, that neoclassical economics is a very useful set of disciplinary tools for somebody whose instincts and intuitions are on the left. They sharpen your arguments and clarify your thought. By contrast, I think that most people whose instincts and intuitions are on the right find their arguments dulled and muddied by too much exposure to neoclassical economics…

Extensive discussion of invisible hand:
Mark Thoma
Towards the end of the comments, there is a lot of quibbling about definitions.

Pardha Dasgupta's defence of traditional economics:
here and Pardha Dasgupta gives a lesson in math. economics here.
Partha Dasgupta's comments on Stern Report discussed in
Brad DeLong.
There are too many referencesto Mark Thoma and Pardha Dasgupta. It is just that I feel at the moment that Mark Thoma is really struggling to explore the relevance of economics. About Pardha Dasgupta, I heard in the early 80's that he used to travel around India on his bike trying to study the economic and social conditions. I will spend the next few months trying to understand some of these discussions.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Muslims in India

From the Indian Express on Sachar Report :

"Tucked away in one paragraph on page 21 of the 404-page Sachar Committee report on the dismal presence of Muslims in virtually every sector is one finding that holds out a glimmer of hope when it comes to Muslims in employment.

Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs), the heart of the services boom in the economy, the report says, has provided a window of opportunity “where, interestingly a large number of Muslims seem to find employment. It was found that the proficiency of English was the only criterion for gaining employment — sheer market forces were determining recruitment, rather than affiliations of any kind.”"
See also Peter Foster's post.
Update(Jan, 07, 2007):a recent article