Saturday, April 28, 2007

Tullockisms!

Last week as I walked around a corner at the Mercatus Centre, I almost ran into Prof.Tullock shuffling away toward his office. To avoid confusion, I stopped, said hello to him and waited for him to make the first move. He returned my hello and said "Standing at attention when you see me and wishing me is the correct thing to do when you see me". So I saluted him and said "Yes Sir". Are you still wondering why he gave me an A+ in his class?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Please spare our children

The school board in India (NCERT) has a plan to remove the two main finishing school examinations in the country (Class X and Class XII). In addition they want to remove the pass fail system in all classes and replace it with grades so 'students have ample scope for improvement'. This is a bad move. Students will have no incentive to study, and this reeks very much of the US Public School ideas. US Public Schools have no retention (no student is failed in a class) and this has been a disaster in this country. Students graduate from high school without knowing even the basics of reading and math. The several misturns in educational policy is India are wrecking havoc in India's competitiveness, this will completely ruin it. The one strength India has always had is its well trained, educated and highly competitive students. Indian students are known as intelligent students across universities in the the US and are well respected across the world. This current move by NCERT will lead to failure on several grounds. This is but the beginning of doom. The biggest problem with all of this is that the results will not appear immediately. The consequences of these policies will be felt 10-15 years from now when this current set of grade schoolers will graduate from high school. Please spare our children and give them a chance at a decent life.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Unintended Consequences

I am watching a PBS series on Loggerhead turtles and the narrator grandly stated "...our actions have unintended consequences.." Funny when they talk about global warming and such stuff this statement comes very easily to the minds of script writers, but when they talk about governance and policy it is rarely, if ever, mentioned. The assumption made seems to be that capitalist actions have unintended consequences that are bad for life on earth, but actions of those in public office do not have unintended consequences. The assumption that is glaring with its absence is that of omniscience of public officials. I appreciate the environmentalists for understanding the knowledge problem; however, there seems to be selective memory. How will some kind of a centralised plan to prevent global warming not have any unintended consequences? We see it all the time. Policies have unintended consequences. The Bush Luxury Tax, instead of taxing those that owned Yachts, stopped the rich from buying yachts which put marginal sailboat builders out of business. Isn't that an unintended consequence?
Environmentalists are also scare mongers. Every moment of every day some one is in the process of inventing something that makes life easier on earth. That is never a part of any of the series on the environment. If Methane gas bubbles to the surface of the seas due to a degree or two rise in sea water temperature, and if people in the scientific community are aware of this, we can be sure that someone somewhere is working to find a way to reduce the unfavourable effects. How come the community never talks about these new inventions that have made life easier to live? Will they be willing to live in conditions of the 18th century world? I doubt it!!
All of their predictions are based on scanty data from the last 50 years or so. Records of such things as sea temperature etc have been kept meticulously only for the last 50 years or so. The study of Earth itself, is a few thousand years old. What is the proof that such a rise in temperature is a natural phenomenon that occurs every other century or so? 50 data points are nothing in statistical analysis, they won't even cover the required degrees of freedom given the number of variables they try to predict. I am highly suspect of the data. Sure the environmentalists have good intentions, unfortunately, their actions and paranoia are causing several unintended consequences.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Entrepreneurship, Bollywood Edition

I was watching a bollywood movie and it suddenly hit me as to why there was so much vulgarity regularly in Bollywood movies and not so much in Hollywood. It is very rare for a Bollywood movie in the last 20 years or so to not have very suggestive sexual scenes. The people on the silver screen don't even kiss (that has changed considerably in the last 5 years or so). Believe it or not there is a simple economic explanation to it. The Film Censor Board of India obviously had strict rules about not showing "kissing scenes" in the early days, and film makers had to retain the sex in the movies and show it somehow without the movie being rated A (Adults only), which is expensive both in terms of low turnout generally and the social stigma associated with being caught watching an A rated movie, which would lower the turnout even further thus bringing in losses for the film maker.
Songs and dances were not disallowed, so it probably began with suggestive and sensual song and dance sequences in movies with some exposure. The world has become more and more tolerant of openly sexual behaviour since the 60s. The Indian Censor Board, I conjecture, retains the same laws and mores from time immemorial and is archaic by any definition. Since direct kissing is not allowed in movies other suggestive scenes have crept in to the extent of vulgarity in 99.9% of run-of-the-mill Indian movies. By contrast a Hollywood movie can suggest sex or passion with a kissing scene, so no vulgarity is required, unless the film maker intends vulgarity. With every generation, some aspect that shocked the previous generation becomes generally accepted and that is where the bar is set for the next round. So we notice a progressive degeneration of the portrayal of sexuality in Indian movies. It is not shocking to note that it is the Censor Board that is to blame for this. Neither is the film crazy public to blame nor the film maker. Women's groups that protest the portrayal of women as sexual objects in Indian movies should make note of this when they call directors foul names. The Entrepreneur always finds a way, especially in an industry as lucrative and competitive as Bollywood where there are huge profits to be made.