Archive for June, 2015

From driverless cars to driverless monetary policy..

June 24, 2015

Bank of England’s venture into blog had an interesting post on driverless cars. What does a central bank have to do with these kinds of cars? Well, a central bank is bothered about anything under the sun. But this post was on impact of insurance industry die to driverless cars. They will lose premiums on car insurance and so on.

George Selgin says we could do better by moving to driverless money as well:

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Economics of Solid Waste in India

June 24, 2015

M Balasubramanian of Institute for Social and Economic Change has an article on the topic.

It is like the ideal/normative type of research:

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Macroeco transition from philosophy/theory based subject to empirical/data based..

June 24, 2015

Noah Smith has an article on this transition.Big data followers have always suggested that soon all your micro/macro theories will be history. All people will look at is evidence. As more and more data becomes available, we will get trends real time. If the data analysis matches the theory, the theory is lucky else the theory does not matter. The broad idea is earlier the onus was on data to match the theory as former was scarce. Now it will be the reverse – the theory has to match the data.

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A new committee on innovation and no member has really innovated!!

June 23, 2015

As I wrote this post on committees, Anantha Nageshwaran has a piece on NITI Aayog’s new committee on innovation.

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India needs a new Ministry – Ministry of Committees

June 23, 2015

A nice article by Shankar Aiyar.

He critiques this continued focus on role of committees in India’s development.

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Maggi conrovery has messed up Bake in India plans..(But should we just look from the investment angle)

June 23, 2015

A different take on Maggi noodles controversy.

It says the controversy has led to questions over Bake and Make in India plans:

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Good economics meets good politics In Maharashtra

June 23, 2015

Interesting article by Aashish Chandrokar.

He talks about this Jalyukta Gaon Abhiyan scheme in Maharashtra:

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India’s Higher education woes

June 22, 2015

Three articles came during the weekend on state of higher education in India. First on crazy cut-offs in University admissions, Second on declining quality in IIMs and third on inverse relation between high marks and actual education.

This too is a ticking time bomb which has already beginning to show signs of explosion. Overall inflation grading has gone up challenging our price inflation for the top honors, people are using all kinds of ways to get fake degrees and what not. It is all over the place.

All we have done in the name of higher educ is build some elite places (which do not feature anywhere in the world) where only a minuscule number graduate every year. Following some reputation of these places, we are just building more of these names in other places. In the process, whatever was created is getting diluted. There is hardly any discussion on quality of faculty and scholarship which has become a concern even in the established places. There is a feeling in the administration that all we need to do is build fancy campuses and give an established name to the campus, and lo all else will be fine. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As one of the article writers says we need thousands of these top colleges in India. The question still remains who will teach in these colleges? Where is the faculty?

This does not mean we have solved our primary education problems. It has its own share of problems which keep showing in several surveys where higher class students cannot read what they studied in junior classes. It will be interesting to do a similar experiment in higher studies as well.

But then who cares about these issues. They barely matter to the top echelons of the policy who have access to best educational resources across the world. So why bother fixing them here. All we get in this space is just sound bytes and announcements to set up more and more of II variety of institutes. Nothing more, nothing less.

The reasons for Bangladesh team’s recent success (and some history) in cricket…

June 22, 2015

Boria Majumdar, a cricket historian has an article on what explains Bangladesh’s surge in ODI cricket. This was written before the country registered its second emphatic win against India y’day:

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Consumers’ activism: The Facebook boycott of cottage cheese

June 22, 2015

Interesting research on power of social media.

The authors show Israelis used social media to protest against cheese companies that  had raised prices exponentially:

History of noodles: How they achieved a dominating presence & why they can’t be written off

June 22, 2015

Superb piece on history of food, society, wars and so on. It is written by Vikram Doctor in ET.

He shows how emergence of instant noodles was an answer to Japanese hunger, answer to American imperialism, an attempt to keep diets Japanese etc.

We take so many things for granted these days. I mean things like history of noodles is also such a fascinating thing to learn.

 

History will remain painful unless we invest in serious scholarship

June 19, 2015

Sanjeev Sanyal wrote a good article on the need to rewrite Indian history books which have skipped details and have been biased. However, the question remains who shall wrote these books? And do we have enough talent to not just write today’s works but continue the work in future as well?

Surya Marathe in Swarajya says govt needs to invest serously in generating history scholarship in future:

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Bitcoin will be money if it becomes boring

June 19, 2015

A nice piece by Prof Noah Smith.

He says bitcoin is too volatile at the moment. It can only become a currency if it becomes less exciting and more boring:

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What is a company and should it only maximize shareholder value?

June 19, 2015

Martin Wolf writes an interesting piece on companies.

He reviews all the basic ideas regarding what a company is and what it is expected to do:

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Bankers think they have an ethical duty to steal from taxpayers..

June 19, 2015

Interview of Prof Ed Kane of Boston College. he has been a critique of fancy finance for a long time:

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Taught to hate: How Nazi schooling amplified anti-Semitism in Germany

June 18, 2015

Interesting and terrifying bit of research:

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How English ODI Cricket has transformed itself overnight and why England pitches are becoming so flat?

June 18, 2015

One could watch any match in cricket but not a One Day International involving England. I don’t know but the team has never been exciting to watch. Infact why just the audience even the players seem to be disinterested. However, the team was different while playing in whites where atleast there was some intensity to fight. It was difficult to figure why Eng was so poor in shorter formats. They had a decent county cricket setup where ODIs were played as well. It may not have been test level quality but should not have been this poor in ODIs.

But boy, how things have changed. And that too in overnight. There were talks of English Cricket Board building a new team for ODI but those talks have been on for ages. Just that this time, they have  actually walked the talk. More than them, it is the players who have for a change delivered and that too with such gusto. It has surprised one and all.

The recent ongoing series between NZ and Eng is easily one of the most exciting series ever to be played. More so, coming from a team like England. We all thought NZ has set the bar really high in terms of attacking cricket. But this Eng team wants to prove a point and they are doing it really well. It has been one superlative performance after the other. It is one thing that admin gives you licence to kill (and thrill), completely another that the team actually takes the licence seriously and goes on a spree.

In the first ODI they fired a 400 plus total first time for England.  They followed this will three 300 plus scores in all the following three matches, another record. Y’day they chased 350 with such ease in just 44 overs. In the 3rd ODI they made 302 in 45 overs and were all out. If they batted all 50, they could have set NZ a much higher score to chase and perhaps won the match.

And guess what the Eng captain Eoin Morgan said post match yday (he was man of the match as well):

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Book Review: 1971 – A Global History of the Creation of Bangladesh

June 18, 2015

This is a terrific book by all means. How an academician ends up writing a war thriller is a huge achievement. Dr Srinath Raghavan also has a unique background of serving Indian Army before dipping into academics. So, he brings the essence of war politics like few can.

This book is on how Bangladesh was created and the dynamic (and tragic) global politics around the 1971 that led to creation of the country. The book undoes many a myths in the process like Indira Gandhi wanted to control both West Pakistan and East Pakistan  (Indian polity was more bothered with the huge influx of migrants; they actually erred by not interfering in the war earlier), Nixon/Kissinger played a crucial role (the duo actually messed up the whole affair), China did not play a role due to extreme winter conditions (this was a really lame myth by all means, China did not play a role as it was worried this would antagonise Soviets with whom it fought a recent war)..and so on..

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Book review – War and Gold: A Five-hundred-year History of Empires, Adventures and Debt

June 17, 2015

This book is a good historic account of evolution of various currency systems and importance of gold. Written by Kwasi Kwarteng, a historian and a politician in UK. Earlier quite a few politicians could write really well, now it is such a rarity.

The book starts from conquest of Inca empire by Spanish empire. This conquest led to inflow of precious metals (read gold and silver) in the European country which helped finance further wars. The Spanish did a bad job of maintaining this conquest and led to build up of debt.  The high debt leads to issues of currency and inflation. This is how all these things are connected and becomes the theme of the book:

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Creator of Linux on the future without him

June 17, 2015

Interesting article profiling Linus Trovalds, the creator of Linux. Linux was an attempt to create an open source operating system and broadly succeeded. Atleast it created enough noise and highlighted the importance of open source software:

The conversation, combined with Linus Torvalds’s aggression behind the wheel, makes this sunny afternoon drive suddenly feel all too serious. Torvalds—the grand ruler of all geeks—does not drive like a geek. He plasters his foot to the pedal of a yellow Mercedes convertible with its “DAD OF 3” license plate as we rip around a corner on a Portland, Ore., freeway. My body smears across the passenger door. “There is no concrete plan of action if I die,” Torvalds yells to me over the wind and the traffic. “But that would have been a bigger deal 10 or 15 years ago. People would have panicked. Now I think they’d work everything out in a couple of months.”

It’s a morbid but important discussion. Torvalds released the Linux operating system from his college dorm room in Finland in 1991. Since then, the software has taken over the world. Huge swaths of the Internet—including the servers of Google, Amazon.com, and Facebook—run on Linux. More than a billion Android smartphones and tablets run on Linux, as do billions upon billions of everything from appliances and medical devices right on up to cars and rockets. While Linux is open-source, which allows people to change it as they please, Torvalds remains the lone official arbiter of the software, guiding how Linux evolves. When it comes to the software that runs just about everything, Torvalds is The Decider.

What’s more, Torvalds may be the most influential individual economic force of the past 20 years. He didn’t invent open-source software, but through Linux he unleashed the full power of the idea. Torvalds has proven that open-source software can be quicker to build, better, and more popular than proprietary products. The result of all this is that open-source software has overtaken proprietary code as the standard for new products, and the price of software overall has plummeted. Torvalds has, in effect, been as instrumental in retooling the production lines of the modern economy as Henry Ford was 100 years earlier.

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In the early days of Linux, proprietary software giants such as IBM and Microsoft scoffed at the idea of this man and his hobbyist code accomplishing much. As Linux’s popularity soared, their tune changed. IBM and others embraced Linux. Microsoft likened it to cancer and portrayed open-source software as an affront to capitalism. Torvalds was then made out to be the socialist software activist from Finland threatening the huge profits of the software industry earned honestly in the U.S. of A.

The truth is that Torvalds has never really been a man of the people. “It’s not that you do open-source because it is somehow morally the right thing to do,” he says. “It’s because it allows you to do a better job. I find people who think open-source is anti-capitalism to be kind of naive and slightly stupid.”

 


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