Author Archives: Jayant Bhandari

     

 

 

Extracting Meaning from PPP

 

“An alternative exchange rate – the purchasing power parity (PPP) conversion factor – is preferred because it reflects differences in price levels for both tradable and non-tradable goods and services and therefore provides a more meaningful comparison of real output.” – the World Bank

 

Headquarters of the World Bank in Washington. We have it on good authority that the business of ending poverty is quite lucrative for its practitioners (not least because employees of multilateral organizations such as the IMF and the World bank have to pay no taxes whatsoever on their income – and the perks certainly don’t end there). A number of long-serving employees of the institution we have met over time have struck us as quite cynical and not particularly convinced that their efforts in developing countries were achieving much (and it was not for lack of trying). That is of course not the official line and merely represents anecdotal evidence based on a limited sample size. Experience tells us though that we should not dismiss such evidence out of hand – especially not if it rings true. The agency’s views on PPP are a sign that its economists probably don’t get out much. [PT]

Photo credit: Simone D. McCourte

 

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Known for Being Terrible

For the past few decades, Japan has been known for its stagnant economy, falling stock market, and most importantly its terrible demographics.

 

 

A chart of Japan’s much-bewailed demographic horror-show. Most people consider a declining population to be a bad thing due to the implications for assorted state-run pay-as-you-go Ponzi schemes, primarily those related to retirement. It is hard to be sympathetic, since it would have been possible to do something completely different from the outset. Even with respect to existing schemes, we don’t recall that anyone forced politicians to direct funds designated for funding social security claims to alternative uses at the time when these schemes still enjoyed a surfeit of revenues. Of course one has to be sympathetic to the future victims – those who paid in during their working lives and will end up getting stiffed. However, this is a problem that could be easily resolved by simply winding up the State in orderly insolvency proceedings prior to abolishing it. Most nation states have large amounts of assets at their disposal (e.g., they are often the by far largest land owners in the territories they control), which should suffice to cover the claims of creditors and to pay out the NPV of accumulated pension claims in lump sums. There is one way in which a declining population still has to be regarded as a drawback though. The market will so to speak have to function with fewer network nodes as the population shrinks. There will inevitably be a concomitant decline in distributed knowledge. Thus fewer ideas will occur to people and will be pursued; markets will become less efficient, the division of labor in the broadest sense will suffer a setback. Consider in this context that the market is the opposite of central economic planning in every way – the larger the network of people included in it, the better it will work for everyone. [PT] – click to enlarge.

 

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Political Correctness Hampers Honest Debate

What would the world be like today had Europeans never colonized Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, and South Asia?

 

Jayant speaks about Democracy, Welfare and Migration: The West’s March to Self-Destruction [PT]

 

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A Vulnerable System

Parliamentary democracy is vulnerable to the extremely dangerous possibility that someone with very little voter support can rise to the top layer of government. All one apparently has to do is to be enough of a populist to get elected by ghetto dwellers.

 

Economist and philosopher Hans-Hermann Hoppe dissects democracy in his book Democracy, the God that Failed, which shines a light on the system’s grave deficiencies with respect to guarding liberty. As Hoppe puts it: “Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.” At first glance this may strike many people as an exaggeration, but considering the trends that have emerged over the past several decades, it seems difficult to refute this assertion. Particularly since the beginning of the so-called “war on terrorism”, individual liberty has suffered numerous setbacks in Western democracies, while the power of the State has grown to almost unheard of proportions. In a democracy everybody is in theory free to join the psychopathic competition for power (in contrast to the largely rigid power structures prevailing in feudal societies), but all things considered, that is a highly questionable advantage. In fact, in many ways it isn’t an advantage at all. [PT]

 

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Recapitulation (Part XVI, the Last)

Since the announcement of demonetization of Indian currency on 8th November 2016, I have written a large number of articles. The issue is not so much that the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is a tyrant and extremely simplistic in his thinking (which he is), or that demonetization and the new sales tax system were horribly ill-conceived (which they were). Time erases all tyrants from the map, and eventually from people’s memory.

 

According to the Global Slavery Index, an estimated 18 million Indians, equivalent to half the total population of Canada, are bonded, modern slaves.

Photo via patrika.com

 

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Decolonization

The British Empire was the largest in history. At the end of World War II Britain had to start pulling out from its colonies. A major part of the reason was, ironically, the economic prosperity that had come through industrialization, massive improvements in transportation, and the advent of telecommunications, ethnic and religious respect, freedom of speech, and other liberties offered by the empire.

 

The colors represent the colonies of various nations in 1945, and the colonial borders of that time – click to enlarge.

 

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A Shift in Perception – Indians in Silicon Valley

When I was studying in the UK in early 90s, I was often asked about cows, elephants and snake-charmers on the roads in India.  A shift in public perception— not in the associated reality — was however starting to happen. India would soon become known for its vibrant IT industry.

 

Friends and family are helping students taking university exams with cheating. 2.5 million candidates, many of them with PhDs or post-graduates, recently applied for 6,000 of the lowest level job positions (“grade D”) available in West Bengal, which require no more than an early-stage school education. While India produces the largest number of PhDs, engineers, etc. in the world, the educational system is in reality in a shambles and a complete joke. Most of these people are in fact unemployable. [The incredible scene above took place in Bihar and is explained in greater detail here. Relatives of students are scaling the walls of the examination center to pass on cheat sheets to their offspring. Policemen who were supposed to guard examination buildings were often bribed to look the other way. A total of 6 to 7 million people across India were estimated to provide  cheating assistance. [PT]]

Photo credit: Dipankar

 

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Goods and Services Tax, and Gold (Part XV)

Below is a scene from anti-GST protests by traders in the Indian city of Surat. On 1st  July 2017, India changed the way it imposes indirect taxes. As a result, there has been massive chaos around the country. Many businesses are closed for they don’t know what taxes apply to them, or how to do the paperwork. Factories are shut, and businesses are protesting.

 


A massive anti-GST protest in Surat  [PT]

 

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But the Crisis has Deepened and has Become More Entrenched (Part XIV)

 

Nobody for President

On 17th July 2017, India will elect a new President through a vote of the elected representatives. The two real choices are between Ram Nath Kovind and Meira Kumar. Afraid of looking completely ignorant, I asked a few people who Kovind is. No-one knew of him and people only vaguely remembered Ms. Kumar.

 

Adults and juveniles have been arrested in different parts of India for celebrating Pakistan’s victory over India in a recently held cricket match. They have been charged with sedition, a charge that has serious legal ramifications and can potentially send these people to prison for life. With the British gone for 70 years, India’s laws and institutions have lost all mooring to their rational anchors.

Photo credit: Amnesty India

 

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India Reverts to its Irrational, Tribal Normal (Part XIII)

Over the three years in which Narendra Modi has been in power, his support base has continued to increase. Indian institutions — including the courts and the media — now toe his line.

The President, otherwise a ceremonial rubber-stamp post, but the last obstacle keeping Modi from implementing a police state, comes up for re-election by a vote of the legislative houses in July 2017.  No one should be surprised if a Hindu fanatic is made the next President. India is rapidly entering a new phase.

 

Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi on the cover of an Indian magazine in 2002, when he was the Chief Minister of the Indian province of Gujarat. During his reign in Gujarat, a civil-war like situation erupted, which seriously segregated the province’s society. It brought Hindus into a state of trance and excitement and provided them with the fake-security of the collective. Alas, wealth and civilization are created by an intense focus on value-addition, not from the short-term escapist excitement of mobs expressed through riots and rape. Destructive endeavors are a major vulnerability of poor societies, given their irrationality and lack of foresight and planning, and their short-sighted focus on high time-preference, pleasure-centered activities.

 

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Everything Gets Worse  (Part XII) –  Pakistan vs. India

After 70 years of so-called independence, one has to be a professional victim not to look within oneself for the reasons for starvation, unnatural deaths, utter backwardness, drudgery, disease, and misery in India.

Intellectual capital accumulated in the West over the last 2,500 years — available for free in real-time via the internet — can be downloaded by a passionate learner. In the age of modern technology, another mostly free gift from the West which has significantly leveled the playing field, societies that wanted economic convergence with the West, such as Japan, Korea, Singapore, HK, China, etc., have either achieved it rapidly, or have strongly trended toward it.

 

More than 28,000 children less than six years of age have died in just one province, Madhya Pradesh, over the past year. Because these deaths were due to diseases resulting from malnourishment, the government attributed every single death to disease rather than malnourishment.

Photo credit: Hemender Sharma, India Today

 

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India’s Rapid Degradation

This is Part XI of a series of articles (the most recent of which is linked here) in which I have provided regular updates on what started as the demonetization of 86% of India’s currency. The story of demonetization and the ensuing developments were merely a vehicle for me to explore Indian institutions, culture and society.

 

The Modimobile is making the rounds amid a flower shower. [PT]

Photo credit: PTI Photo

 

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