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The cradle babies of Tamil Nadu

Click here to read on, at InPEC.

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Society

 

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The invisible hand is evil.

“Intelligent life on a planet comes of age, when it first works out the reason for its very existence. If superior creatures ever visit earth, the first question they will ask, in order to asses the level of our civilization is: Have they discovered evolution yet ?” – Richard Dawkins.

Education today trains us with a variety of skills. People are equipped to program computers and make power point presentations about mergers and acquisitions etc. That’s right, education today, trains us, but we learn very little, to me, this is a fundamental flaw which has led to imbalanced poorly informed societies. Of course fear contributes to all this, what would I do without a job and all the world’s learning in my head if I don’t have a skill required by a corporate ?.

The problem is, we don’t understand Darwin. Darwin, gave us the key to understanding ourselves. Dawkins made things a little simpler, I would make The Selfish Gene mandatory reading in schools, if I could. Natural selection is a fierce competition for the gene to survive. If Dawkins’ superior creatures were indeed, despite all odds, to pay us a visit, they would say, “Why these primitives have discovered evolution, but do not fully understand its implications.” It is true, that Darwin’s theories have turned around biology, but they should have also turned around the social sciences, the impact here hasn’t been felt as much, largely because people are willing to be willfully ignorant.

Natural selection tells us about the survival of the gene, the selfishness inherent in such a struggle for survival and how even apparently altruistic acts can be broken down into the selfish protection of a gene. (By the way, don’t anthropomorphise selfishness, the genes aren’t consciously selfish the way I am sometimes, but it is selfishness that helps them survive.) As Dawkins says (yes I am a HUGE fan) let us learn to be altruistic, because we were born selfish.

It is very interesting to note, that incomplete understanding of the theories of early survival, especially how brutal a natural Darwinian world is, how savagely without mercy the weaker of the species got killed off by nature, leads people to fall into the traps of Darwinism in the social sphere. The main point here is, we are instinctively geared to be Darwinian survival machines, selfish and thoughtless, the mainstream too a product of primitive survival mechanisms,promotes these ideas.

The most important take away from learning about evolution is that it is still happening today, why that is relevant is not because we may evolve into some weird hyper-intelligent species tomorrow (no evolution takes time) its important because it teaches us that we are still primates, controlled at our deepest level by the same forces that created us, the same forces that makes the wild world full of pain and suffering and a crazy struggle for survival. We are still competing, struggling, and leaving out half the population to be losers in the struggle, left behind and forced to die out by the razor sharp scythe of natural selection.

Of course equilibrium could arise, whats so great about that, you could have a market with an equilibrium price, with a large chunk of people too weak to be a part of it, the voiceless with sunken eyes, left to their fate by market forces, the new economic name for ruthless natural selection. The invisible hand of the market is evil if left to itself as it chooses not to grab the neediest of the needy.

Libertarians are economic darwinists, they like everything to happen naturally, for things to equilibriate, but some of us will always fall behind in the race, and more importantly some of our needs will never be fulfilled by competition alone. If you doubt that markets are an economic manifestation of natural selection, think about how they fail every time the ‘good’ in question loses its competitive character. You don’t see a large multinational company in the business of cleaning up the air, do you?.

Darwinism is something we need to learn to understand how things are, so that we can change our fate with an awareness no species before us has possessed. It is not and never should be a guideline to build our society, do note, that it is so programmed into us, that we don’t have to consciously follow it, it is escaping from its throes that would require conscious action.

I am not anti competition, competition has helped us a lot in both the natural and the economic world, it has brought out the best in us and kept our brains sharp. However, it will not serve the purpose of building a more equitable society, it will not remove the pain from the faces of the have-nots as they watch the haves whizz past them. For, nobody was born with the same abilities or in a level playing field. The forces that shaped us are impersonal, they may lead to our destruction with the same disregard they showed while creating us. If we do not learn to get over our selfishness and myopia, we will soon be another hapless species faced with imminent doom in the hands of natural selection and more dangerously the forces of nature.

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2012 in Darwin, Dawkins, Economics, Evolution, Society

 

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Barack n Mo – Sharing their Woe.

The weekend is here folks. Enjoy with Barack n Mo.

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in Humor, India, International, Politics

 

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Narendra Modi – India’s desperation and forgetfulness.

Narendra Modi is a man of many colors. One of them as we all know, is saffron. Moving on, Narendra Modi is also White and Green and an embodiment of the Ashoka Chakra. Narendra Modi personifies the Tiranga Jhanda. You guys think I am mad don’t you? So let me explain.

Modi has been saffron from a very early age. A member of the Rashrtiya Swayam Sevak’s Sangh since childhood and now also the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime leader, a possible Prime Ministerial Candidate.

In January 2001 Gujarat shook. A 7.7 magnitude earthquake rattled the Kutch region claiming above twelve thousand lives and leaving Gujarat in shambles. Gujarat needed a leader, someone who would step in and take charge. Restore the livelihoods of the wounded and homeless masses. Gujarat needed Modi. In October 2001, Modi came to power and he did work, Modi did commendable work and was praised by many including the United Nations. Modi was a miracle. Or was he ?

In February 2002, Gujarat burned. Every report I read makes it very clear the religion followed by the owners of the burnt bodies. Fifty eight Hindus burnt in a train in Godhra. Seven hundred and ninety Muslims were killed in the violence thereafter etc. Was Modi complicit in giving the hindus a free run ? Was the saffron in him standing out ? These questions have been asked and will continue being asked over and over again. The courts gave Modi a clean chit and he came out smiling. I ask you, how does it matter? How does it matter who he sided with or whether he sided with anybody at all ? People died. Hindu/Muslim/Christian/Buddhist or Atheist is not the question here. People were killing each other and burning while law enforcement did little to nothing for a very long time. If you take religion out of the equation you realize Modi has no excuse left. He has to admit that he did not act effectively to stop the mass burning of his citizenry even when he doesn’t have to admit that he was pro-hindu. He has to admit his inefficiency if not his criminality.

Modi has since been turning white, peaceful, at least to the naked eye. He doesn’t want to be seen as a right wing extremist anymore. He wrote a letter to the public which reminds me of one of the apology letters I used to write in school. Mr Modi those are things that work when you go back to class ten minutes late after lunch time not when you are accused of not enforcing basic human rights in your state.(Also someone ask him what he means by ‘citizens of Gujarat’, it beats me). He is also saintly white because he doesn’t overturn the ghastly prohibition law on liquor. Ofcourse this only leads to illegal and shady liquor sales.

If you think the saffronization ended with the post Godhra riots, you need to read up about Sohrabuddin. It was a fake encounter staged by the police to brand an innocent man a terrorist and kill him. Yes he was also Muslim. The case centers around the involvement of Modi’s right hand man Amit Shah. Who is currently on bail. Now you must know that Modi, the true patriot that he is wants the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) back. POTA which I find similar to USA’s Patriot Act, has a provision to detain a person for 180 days without filing of charges. More importantly, any confession made to the police during this time would be considered as evidence in the court, unlike under other acts. Look at it in this light, putting Modi in charge means getting back POTA and giving this man the power to lock anyone up for 180 days and forcing a confession out of him/her and sentencing him/her for it.

I agree we need strong anti terror inititiatives in India, the combination of Modi and POTA , is not what we need. The Indian people are faced with a bag of rotten choices, corruption or right wing extremism. A dynasty rule or a Hindu Rashtra, how do we choose ?
We must be very careful in making our choices, Hitler too came to power in Germany citing his developmental work and Germany’s need for strong patriotic leadership. Modi I agree is no Hitler. Isn’t Hitler/1000 or Hitler/10,000 bad enough though ?

Modi is also the embodiment of the Ashoka Chakra. Tireless work for development and his various ‘yojanas’ or plans which have aided in the rapid development of Gujarat. Critics point out that Gujarat with its vibrant diaspora was poised for development anyway. Nevertheless I give this man credit where its due.
He has also taken hues of green lately, with his latest book on climate change. Good show Modi. I am impressed. Even IPCC chief Dr Rk Pachauri who I greatly admire is impressed by the book.

That is why I nearly supported Modi myself. Until I realized I shouldn’t. I am borrowing a quote already used in this context by a fellow blogger here. Benjamin Franklin’s dictum that “Those who give up liberty to gain temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. “ You should read the article by Supriyo Chaudhuri its less verbose and really wonderful.

Modi, while embodying all the shades of our flag is really a test of our memory. Are we going to live up to the saying that public memory is short or are we going to move beyond that? Let us be worthy of our liberty.

Share it with friends, let someone come and beat me up for abusing Modi (seriously kidding) :P. Click below.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in India, National, Politics, Society

 

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Barack n Mo

Hey guys this is an initial attempt at cartooning, so if you like it, leave a comment/rating/share it around, so I’ll be back with more.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Humor, India, National, Politics

 

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Neta gets a CBI probe.

Man! If anybody in India should be hiring right now, its the CBI! With all the demands for ‘probing’ questionable people,they sure need a lot of hands on the job (or whatever). I don’t envy them guys. Seriously do you fancy ‘probing’ Janardan Reddy? No, no guys the quotes on probe was just a typo. I don’t mean anything like.. THIS!

Well if you wanna gold plate your toilets by stealing away India’s iron ore, I would definitely want you probed, in every way possible! Some of the other demands aren’t so reasonable though, Swami Agnivesh wants to probe Kiran Bedi! Eeks sorry, I meant he wants the CBI to probe her, why ? Because she traveled economy instead of business class and donated the rest of the money to charity! For Pete’s sake they were willing to fly her business class and she could have done that happily without threats of ‘probes’.

While all the noise was being made about Prashant Bhushan exercising his freedom of speech and ‘rightfully’ according to the ‘right’wingers getting beaten up for it, there was a custodial death in JnK. The family of Haeed Sajeed Yusuf, National Congress worker who mysteriously died in custody is demanding a CBI probe. Go for it people, if JnK is a part of India, which it most definitely is! we need to start acting like it and show some concern. (Damn how do you mix seriousness and satire and make sure people get your point? I need a writing class.) Probe on brave CBI.

Lets swing down south to Kerala, Kerala may soon need a CBI all of their own. They need to probe a lot of stuff. Their chief minister famous for being ‘transparent’, no guys im not talking about the ‘mundu’, and girls dont pretend you haven’t tried to stare through the fine Kerala cloth which makes the men’s lower garment and enable ready fold-ups for shows of manliness. I am talking about his webcam on mute on all day long in his office, even when the lights were off or he was out and all you could see was his honorable chair. Yes all his office proceedings were live streamed on camera, I did mention the conversation was muted did I not? Well he seems to have ordered some expensive pollution control equipment for a Titanium plant which the next Left government left around lying unused. The CBI has to probe again!

Kerala also has a case of a 47 year old teacher who was brutally murdered for some reason. Omg people why are you murdering teachers now ? guaranteed that assignment sucks, but knock it off! Okay its not funny and there is no indication that his students played a part, so the CBI has to probe! Do the CBI probe all murders ? Or is it only when the opposition threatens to stall the house?

Jairam Ramesh dares Mayawati to recommend a CBI probe into the embezzlement of MGNREGA funds, jesus Mr Ramesh she wanted a probe into the bees in her rally, shes brave enough to probe anything before they probe her!

Well the CBI has the entire 2G scam and Kalmadi to deal with, Tihar is full of VIPs waiting to be probed, and there is Yeddy in Hyderabad. I pity the CBI. Hats off to them too, for all that they are dealing with and unearthing. Section 377s repeal , Anna Hazare’s movement, well CBI, you can expect a lot more probing in India now 😉

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in Humor, Politics

 

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Honey, I love you, but I am an Economist !

Disclaimer: Views expressed on this blog are my own, when I express my views based on the reading of works of others, it is solely my interpretation that is expressed here and not theirs.

I know how much people hate it when abstract ideas and emotions considered to have special significance like love, hope, fear, the origin of life, matter and energy etc are explained in scientific terms. It seems to take away the touch of magic, the aura associated with these terms.

Today I was reading a paper which like many other of its ilk I feel, provides evidence that marriage is a contract entered into with considerations of associated costs and benefits and an increase in costs, like the economics costs of getting married would decrease the rates of marriage. Don’t get me wrong, I am a romantic at heart who believes in love and companionship for a lifetime. I do however see marriage as a contract that two parties enter into for economic, social and cultural reasons which can all be broken down into their costs and benefits.

A lot of work has been done in this area of economics, but the one I am referring to here is Changing the Price of Marriage – Evidence from Blood Test requirements (Buckles, Guldi, Price, The Journal of Human Resources , 2011).

A lot of us know about the Blood Test Requirements some countries and states have enacted with regard to marriage. These laws exist to decrease the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and reduce the number of  children born with complications due to stds. The focus here is not on the effectiveness of these laws on reducing the above rates but on whether the additional cost of complying with them decreases the rates of marriage registration. A natural experiment which presented itself as most states started repealing BTR requirements helps make this analysis possible.

The authors have presented evidence which I see as a resounding Yes. They used marriage licensing data across US states from 1980 to 2008 to figure out whether the change in price of marriage actually made an impact on people’s decision to get married. They used a within group estimator with state level fixed effects and time trends to arrive at their results. What this basically means is that they were aware that marriage rates could vary from state to state due to trends specific to those states and also across time due to other factors (a growing importance of career for women could be one I guess). So they separate out these trends in a way that what’s left behind gives us the impact of Blood Test Requirement (BTR) laws on the licensing of marriage. 

Whats to be gleaned from the analysis is that while marriage rates have been historically falling overall, the gap is much more between the states which had BTR compared to those which did not. The repeal of BTR also lead to a jump in marriage licensing rates. The authors found that BTRs result in a 6 percent decrease in marriage licensing rates of the state. Only a third of this was associated with couples moving to a non BTR state to get married. The other considerable chunk (3-4) percent of couples just chose not to get married! Presumably due to the monetary, psychological and time costs of BTR.There are numerous other papers which show that increases in price of marriage due to government policy or an increase in opportunity cost of marriage due to other available options decrease marriage rates.

This has got nothing to do with my position for/against marriage or for/against BTR. (I personally do think arranged marriages make a strong case for BTR though.) This however is considerable evidence that marriage like many other things glorified in life, is just a contract and slight changes in the cost benefit equations result in major changes in the willingness of parties to accept it.

 Buckles, K. , Guldi, M. , & Price, J. (2011). Changing the Price of Marriage. Journal of Human Resources, 46(3), 539-567.

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2011 in Economics

 

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