Archive for January 23rd, 2020

Tomb Economics

January 23, 2020

Alex Tabarrok in this blogpost wonders why Mughals built so many tombs:

The Mughals of Northern India are famous for their tombs, Humayun’s tomb in Delhi, Jahangir’s Tomb in Lahore and, of course, the Taj Mahal. Why so many tombs? Culture surely has something to do with it, although conservative Muslims tend to frown on tombs and ancestor worship as interference with the communication between man and God. Incentives are another reason.

Under the Mansabdari system which governed the nobility, the Mughal Emperor didn’t give perpetual grants of land. On death, all land that had been granted to the noble reverted back to the Emperor, effectively a 100% estate tax. In other words, land titling for the Mughal nobility was not hereditary. Since land could not be handed down to the next generation, there was very little incentive for the Mughal nobility to build palaces or the kind of ancestral homes that are common in Europe.

The one exception to the rule, however, was for tombs. Tombs would not revert back to the Emperor. Hence the many Mughal tombs.

Interesting. Have no idea on this. Do people have other ideas?


Robert C. Merton and the Science of Finance

January 23, 2020

Zvi Bodie, Professor Emeritus, Boston University pays tribute to Prof Merton’s work:

In my view, no individual has contributed more to the beneficial relationship between finance theory and practice than Robert C. Merton. Today, he still teaches at MIT and often lectures around the world. Not only has “The Mertonian Revolution in Finance” helped shape modern finance, it has also provided
us with insights, theories, and models for our collective future. The title of one of Merton’s recent lectures to an audience in China describes his central theme: “Solving Global Challenges Using Finance Science.”To that I say, amen! 

My earlier piece on Prof Merton’s new project on designing financial solutions for retirement..

75 years of Auschwitz Liberation

January 23, 2020

Auschwitz detention camp is easily one of the biggest blots on humanity. AuschwitzMuseum is running a depressing Twitter handle showing pictures from the camp.

Ana Palacio, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain in this Proj Synd piece says we should not forget this tragedy:

75 years after the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz, anti-Semitism is again on the rise across the Western world. This trend – and the weak response to it – is a harbinger of democratic decay.


A Decade of Decay: Supreme Court serves a self-selecting elite instead of standing up for the Constitution and people.

January 23, 2020

Alok Prasanna Kumar of Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy  in this must read EPW piece:

The Supreme Court of India enters a new decade with its reputation as an independent constitutional court in tatters. It has wilted under the gaze of intense public scrutiny over its actions. In the last few years, it has been called upon to check the unconstitutional excesses of a majoritarian government with a full majority in Parliament, but failed again and again. The only comparable decade is perhaps 1970 to 1979, when the Court was riven internally and succumbed to external pressure in the face of another strong executive government.

In this column, I examine the Supreme Court’s decade of decay to understand where it has all gone so wrong with the Court through two major themes that are fundamental and linked to the Court’s constitutional role: the questioning of the union government’s actions and the appointment of judges.

Instead of an exhaustive survey of all the cases decided by the Court, I have chosen two representative incidents at either end of the decade for each theme to try and map the Court’s trajectory. The Supreme Court, I argue, has fallen into the grip of a self-selecting elite that is more concerned with perpetuating its hold on the Court and the judiciary at large, instead of standing up for the Constitution and people.


%d bloggers like this: