Archive for April 20th, 2017

Inter-ethnic marriages in Italy – stable or unstable?

April 20, 2017

Laura Bottazzi, Sarah Grace See and Paolo Manasse research the issue:

Inter-ethnicity is defined as choosing a partner from a different country.  The note starts with this interesting TV drama:

(more…)

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It wasn’t just hate. Fascism offered robust social welfare as well?

April 20, 2017

Sheri Berman, Professor of political science at Barnard College in New York has a piece on possibilities of fascism rising in US:

An analogy is haunting the United States – the analogy of fascism. It is virtually impossible (outside certain parts of the Right-wing itself) to try to understand the resurgent Right without hearing it described as – or compared with – 20th-century interwar fascism. Like fascism, the resurgent Right is irrational, close-minded, violent and racist. So goes the analogy, and there’s truth to it. But fascism did not become powerful simply by appealing to citizens’ darkest instincts. Fascism also, crucially, spoke to the social and psychological needs of citizens to be protected from the ravages of capitalism at a time when other political actors were offering little help.

The origins of fascism lay in a promise to protect people. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a rush of globalisation destroyed communities, professions and cultural norms while generating a wave of immigration. Right-wing nationalist movements promising to protect people from the pernicious influence of foreigners and markets arose, and frightened, disoriented and displaced people responded. These early fascist movements disrupted political life in some countries, but they percolated along at a relatively low simmer until the Second World War.

The key to all such movements who moves first to renegotiate the social contract:

The fascist solution ultimately was, of course, worse than the problem. In response to the horror of fascism, in part, New Deal Democrats in the United States, and social democratic parties in Europe, also moved to re-negotiate the social contract. They promised citizens that they would control capitalism and provide social welfare policies and undertake other measures to strengthen national solidarity – but without the loss of freedom and democracy that fascism entailed.

The lesson for the present is clear: you can’t beat something with nothing. If other political actors don’t come up with more compelling solutions to the problems of capitalism, the popular appeal of the resurgent Right-wing will continue. And then the analogy with fascism and democratic collapse of the interwar years might prove even more relevant than it is now.

History’s so many interpretations…

For a nation born out of tax resistance, why Americans tend to grumble but not revolt against taxes?

April 20, 2017

I had posted earlier how cleverly governments have convinced people that any incomes taxed is white and rest black. However, history of nations shows how revolt against some or the other taxes was one of the crucial ingredients to development of the very nation.

So two more things here. First is to read stuff by Charles Adams who is a tax historian and has written a lot about the subject. Second is this post by Jeff Deist who writes about American tax day:

Today is Tax Day in America. When April 15th happens to fall on a weekend, the IRS generously permits us to extend the filing ritual until the following Monday. But since Monday was a holiday in the District of Columbia known (without irony) as Emancipation Day, we all enjoyed an extra bonus day to comply. And for the most part, comply we do: the voluntary compliance rate, defined by the IRS as taxes timely paid as a percentage of taxes owed in aggregate, is nearly 82%. Compare this with Italy, for example, where tax evasion is a national pastime. For a nation born out of tax resistance, we Americans tend to grumble but not revolt.

We also tend to view taxes only in terms of personal pain: the financial costs of paying, the compliance costs of dealing with the paperwork, and the psychic costs of worrying about it all. It is precisely this pain, experienced only by individuals, that upends the left-wing rationale for imposing taxes on business entities, estates, and all manner of transactions. Only people pay taxes. When someone talks about raising taxes on “greedy corporations,” they’re really calling for higher consumer prices for those corporations’ goods and services.

But the larger impact of taxation is found in the countless and profound ways it changes human activity. Charles Adams, the great tax historian, devoted his career to examining the enormous sociological and cultural impacts resulting from how states raise revenue. Adams called taxes a “prime mover of history,” from ancient Egypt through the Middle Ages, from Enlightenment Europe to Colonial America and all the way up to our present world of offshore tax havens. Taxes, Adams maintained, are far from the price we pay for civilization. Instead they are mean, petty, and arbitrary, causing existential struggles for the poorest people in societies across history. Taxes not only fund wars and enrich unworthy rulers, but also create crippling distortions in every economy the world has ever known.

The impact of taxes on ordinary people in modern America, including the lengths to which some will go to avoid them, is well-represented in our national psyche. We’ve all heard anecdotal horror stories, usually involving someone’s finances being destroyed by a sudden IRS seizure. Americans also view the IRS as wanton and political in its enforcement actions, which makes sense. Even experts can’t agree how much a hypothetical family owes in any given year.

The distortive impact of taxes on US and multinational businesses is also extraordinary, albeit not as much discussed. While monetary policy causes malinvestment through artificially low interest rates, high tax rates and burdensome complexity similarly cause firms to radically alter their business decisions. And just as interest rates affect the length of production, tax rates (and rules) dramatically affect decisions about the capital structure of companies.

Trying to find ways to avoid taxes is hardly anything unique to India as our media and politicians suggests. It is present across countries though degrees may differ. Places where State shows more efficiency in delivering public services, people could be less averse towards paying taxes. It would be just opposite for less efficient States. Though, people might just say efficient State is just an oxymoron…

Water extremes in Chennai: from floods to drought

April 20, 2017

A really sad state of affairs in Chennai on water. The city faced a serious flood two years back and is now facing a drought.

The heat is already making Chennai residents wilt. “It is only April, imagine how bad May and June are going to be,” says K Perumal, manager at a restaurant in south Chennai. At home he is already facing water shortages. “We buy cans for drinking and cooking, but for bathing and washing clothes we get supply only once in three days. We have two schoolgoing children. What on earth do we do for water?”

That’s a question haunting the one crore denizens of the city, which daily requires about 1,200 million litres of water. Of the four reservoirs — Poondi, Chembarambakkam, Cholavaram and Red Hills — supplying the city, the Cholavaram is completely dry and the rest have only around 10 per cent or less of their storage capacity.

After the deluge in December 2015, groundwater levels in Chennai rose by two metres to touch 10.5 metres, according to the Chennai Metrowater Board. Poor rains (62 per cent deficit) the following year pushed people across the State to tap groundwater for their daily needs. The levels fell one to three metres in and around Chennai this year. Private tankers are in demand as government supply has failed in many parts of the city. These tankers illegally draw excessive groundwater, and this is threatening to worsen an already distressing situation.

The decades-old court battles with neighbouring States for water supply from shared rivers offer no hope of succour this time around — Karnataka, too, is facing drought, as is Kerala. In January, the then chief minister O Panneerselvam requested his Andhra Pradesh counterpart, Chandrababu Naidu, to release more water from the Telugu Ganga project. Naidu agreed and 2.5 tmcft (thousand million cubic feet) of water arrived from the neighbouring State. Now that too has trickled away.

Chennai is not alone here. This situation of drought is common across so many cities in India. Even floods are becoming so common across cities. Cities like Bangalore drown in just few hours of rain.


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