Monday, June 26, 2006

Indian Roads and bribing

Ha Ha !! I guess PM Manmohan Singh has read the NBER paper. However he seems reluctant to admit the problem of corruption and the basic economic and public choice arguments behind the study. Instead he decides to lash out at the public for being 'ill mannered on the road'. Whoa!! Where did that come from? Is it a response to the rediff article on the PM that asks readers to vote? Many readers seem to believe that Indians are ill mannered on the road.

Here is Prof.Tabarrok's post at Marginal Revolution. I think at many levels there is just blatant violation of the law. For example underage driving or teenagers driving without license. When a teen drives a motorcycle it seems it obvious to everyone but the traffic policeman that the kid does not have a license. Are stricter laws a solution? How about making penalties really heavy? As a libertarian my instinct is against any more laws and government interference. However, heavier penalties does seem to work. I know that if I park illegally I could get a $75 ticket, and so I never do, likewise for an accident that did not hurt or injure anyone else and just gave me a flat tyre I pay a $125 ticket. Will I be careless again, of course not!! What are the penalties for drunk driving in India Rs.500 if you get caught and are given a ticket. The most probable event is that you will not be caught at all, and even if you are caught you would probably slide a Rs.100 note to the cop and get away with it.

There is more to the corruption story in India than just moral values. Since everything works only if you bribe someone, the bribe amount is simply part of the price. After all, the government does not set the bribe prices, it is a market determined phenomenon right, so much for such and such service, and the price also varies. Its a nearly perfect example of a free market phenomenon. More on this later.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Rang de Basanti


Wow! What a movie. I loved it. It is zara hatke and would have been better with some more realism. What is happening to Bollywood? Suddenly there are movies like Swades and Rang de Basanti. (Can you believe it, they have wiki pages!!). I like this trend without the usual item numbers, skinny dipping and the same old girl meets boy love stories.

I don't understand all this violence against Prasad theatres for screening Da Vinci Code. After all the movie has not been banned in the country with more Christians than India.. aka USA. I saw the movie a couple of weeks back. I do not think it deserves all the hype surrounding it. Besides Christianity does not preach violence against anyone. No religion does. I am strongly in favour of the theory that these are just mischief makers and some political gimmics to win the vote banks.

aargh!! Everytime I hear about such incidents I just want to come and shake up a few people. I used to have high regard for the current PM and FM, not anymore. I thought being Economists themselves both of them would do the right thing, especially since this was a team during Liberalization almost 15 years back. Sigh! I guess as politicians they are different. I wish they would use their sound economic sense to make changes, especially since they are in a position of power to be able to do so.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Salaam Namaste

A desi rip-off of Nine months. All I Can remember from the movie is Saif and Priety screaming. They were each just screaming their head off. I think they could have expressed their anger with voice modulations other than screaming every word. The sonogram scene is very reminiscent of Hugh Grant in nine months. Salaam Namaste!! Well! It was predictable and I couldn't help laughing at their dramatizations. Another waste of good Netflix movie. On the other hand Dot the I and My life as a Dog were awesome. The former had several twists and was very enjoyable. The latter is a Swedish movie based on a true story and a novel. The amount of optimism a little kid can have is thoroughly amazing. I totally recommend it.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Multimodal distribution

A few weeks back Emily presented a paper at GSPW where she had mentioned something like bimodal political structures could not reach consensus easily. I thought about this then and now as I see the reservation issue in India begin to unravel I begin to wonder if there will be consensus in a multimodal distribution like in India. In addition to the factions for and against reservation there are these several little groups that are somewhere inbetweent he two extremes and do not want to compromise either. It does look obvious that at some point quietly this law will be passed and people will be angry and unable to do anything about it. That is how several other laws have come about. But there is one thing though. The IIM Fee issue alone could have brought down the BJP lead coalition. Is the reservation issue strong enough to bring the current UPA government down? If they are overthrown who will succeed them? It can just be another coalition I suppose with all the small faction drama.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Country with the rudest city and 83,000 millionaires

India has 83,000 millionaries. Not surprising. I wouldn't be surprised if half of them were IT professionals. Read the rediff article here.

Amchi Mumbaikars are unhappy with survey results that show Mumbai as the rudest city in the world. I think the survey is not very accurate, especially on the parameters used to measure politeness and rudeness. There are vast cultural differences between the East and the West and saying ThankYou is not part of the culture in India, and that is considered rude in America. The Times article on it is here. The rediff story with reader comments is here.

My personal experience in Mumbai is rich. One time when I almost passed out on the streets late in the evening, two complete strangers helped me, they took me to a hospital, and were with me half the night until my acquaintance could come help me (I knew no one in Mumbai, and was just visiting). Like every miracle story they just disappeared without leaving any contact details.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Caste and reservation

Its easy to blame everything on the caste system in India. Especially now in the context of the new reservation policy which has been a political and social hot potato. I have been reading articles on both sides of the debate, and I think the upper caste are being unjustly blamed for their successes, in the same vein that successful businessmen around the world are painted as viscious profit seekers who feed on the unsuspecting common man to make money. I do not deny that there are many people who are denied(for whatever reason) the basic amenities to education in India . However, this is a debate that should be for primary and secondary school and not for college or higher education. More to the point, the emphasis should be on education from kindergarten to 10+2 right now, before we move on to higher education. After all, when students do not have access to primary schooling how do we expect them to succeed when they get to college even if there was special reservation for them. I am not suggesting that there should be quotas anywhere. I guess if schools could just be started without major hassles then the problem would be automatically solved. There is no dearth of NGOs and activists working with the poor in India. I would suggest that people who are for the reservation policy look closer at their communities and see how many children get to go to school first. Once the problem of primary education is solved we can talk about opportunities for higher education.

Here is an interesting story. Thanks to Prof.Cowen at Marginal Revolution. You can read his post here.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Wet and humid

The weather here right now is reminiscent of weather back home this time of the year. There were several thunderstorms today and I was waiting for the bus that would take me to school, when it started to pour. I had my umbrella up and took a lot of pleasure watching the rain drops fall and make little ripples on the ground. I was standing right by the traffic lights and there was a slight trough in the road in the slow lane where water tended to collect. It was fun to watch the water being splashed about by passing cars and trucks onto other cars in the next lane. At some point it became funny and I couldn't help laughing out loud everytime a car in the next lane was splashed by a huge wave of water and had to break suddenly due to sudden lack of visibility. I also played a little game guessing which passing car would make the biggest splash, and then forgot to keep track of my observation. :D

It was so much fun standing outside in the rain watching the rest of the world try to escape the rain. The bus was late which gave me 40 minutes of observation. In that time 13 cars shot the red light, and almost everyone was speeding. I guess they all just wanted to get into the relative comfort of their home. A coupla fire trucks also went by. Sigh!! Right now its mildly humid outside.. I wish I could sleep with the AC off and my windows wide open. That would be a treat. I miss being home right now during the rains; dunno what my craving for rain and humid weather is all about.. the bottom line is i love the rains and its making me mildly homesick now. This evening it was just the right kind of weather for garma garam masala chai and pakode and samose.. been ages since i just sat down outside with a cuppa, while the canopy pours, enjoying the little rogue sprinkles on me.. iam glad iam in Virginia and not Nebraska. :)

Grad School groups

Ratty pointed out this grad student comic thing. I found this really funny. Reminds me of the GSPW group at the Mercatus. No guesses as to who is who, it is pretty obvious. Here is another is I think some of us identify with.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Sunday before the big push..

Another lazy sunday. Listened to music I hadn't heard in ages and it felt nice. As usual once the TV came on it has been difficult to take my eyes off it. Well! it is the last day before I start my final 8 week effort I guess. Marek will be here later in the evening to comment on my progress on the keyboard. Enjoyed making my favourite dish this morning and eating it of course. Had a long chat with my parents last night and it always feels nice to listen to mom. It is amazing how much she has changed, to accommodate me, in the last six years or so. I am really proud of them. It feels great to be connected to them. I miss talking and chatting with my Prakki everyday. He has become busy at his job.

Wikipedia's article of the day is on Che Guevara. Read it here. I was surprised that a German weekly thinks of Guevara as a peaceful revolutionary. I am reading De Soto's Mystery of Capital, and the more I read it the less confident I become about my own dissertation ideas. It doesn't seem very novel to tell a Property rights, rent seeking, institutions and entrepreneurship story anymore. He seems to have done all of what I wanted to say about developing countries. I am enjoying the book a lot. My summer reading list has of course watered down to my prelims books from the ambitious fifty that I had. Ah well!! the focus is on the prelims right now.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Prelims in August

Today, I was at school by 9:30 AM. I thought I would spend good time preparing for my prelims which are about 8 weeks away. Well, I read 3 pages of one chapter and finished the chapter, and thought I would look at previous prelims papers to see what I needed to concentrate on. Turns out, I know very little, and it discouraged me. I felt so overwhelmed that I just could nto continue studying. I organised some of my stuff and left school, and had a terrible urge to eat Indian food. Lately I never seem to be satisfied with what I eat, and I hate spending $15 on one good meal. My zest to cook has disappeared, and I eat whatever I find out of my freezer. I went to the Indian store and stocked up on comfort and ready to eat food. Just the day to choose to do all my shopping. The sun was blazing, and being saturday the bus service was minimal, so I had to walk back home 2 miles (the other option was wait 30 mins for my next bus). It wasn't that bad a walk, especially after a huge meal. I would not recommend Bombay Bistro, the lunch buffet is not worth the price. Minerva is much better, although I suspect it would be as pricey.

Well!! Came back home, saw a Japanese movie, nothing interesting, and I regret my netflix choice of it, tried to play my keyboard some, and organised some more of my stuff again. Now, its time I started studying again. I think I will just tackle one page at a time and see where it goes.

Found this interesting blogger. Check out his post and comments on Tanjore Big Temple documentary here

Friday, June 16, 2006

Day 2

Second day blogging. It was a nice day outside. Managed to read one more chapter in preparation for my August prelims. There's lots more to read. Had lunch at King Kabob. Its ok, not amazingly great Kababs. Been watching TV ever since I got back home. Can never tire of FRIENDS I suppose.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

My first blog

Well! I am in the blogosphere finally. After months of watching friends post on their blogs I decided to start one myself.