What happened in Pakistan on the first day of the year is no different from what’s been happening: routine killings by Islamic terrorists.

BBC reports: “At least 88 people have been killed by a suicide bomb attack at a volleyball court”, which it says brings up the last three months’ total death toll of Islamic terrorism to around 600.

Of course the BBC being what it is – biased – identifies the criminals as militants instead of Islamic terrorists. Never mind who denies Islamic terrorism – even this – and never mind how vociferous the denial.

But Samuel Huntington’s observation is being corroborated daily, across the world. He wrote, “Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power.” (Ref. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order.)

Continue reading ‘Islamic Terrorism Coming Home to Terror Central’

Most emphatically yes, if it is within your power to do so. A child accidentally falls into a river and your jump in without a second’s thought – assuming that you can swim – and save the child. But what if there are people who are thoughtlessly or even deliberately pushing children into the river. Should you continue to be fully engaged in saving the drowning children or must you at least tackle the problem where it originates, and go tie up the adults who are dropping children into the river?

Continue reading ‘Is it Our Moral Responsibility to Save Drowning Children?’

Everyone seems to be wondering why Muslim terrorists are so quick to commit suicide.

Let’s see now…

· No music
· No television
· No cheerleaders
· No nude women
· No car races
· No football
· No soccer
· No hot dogs
· No burgers
· No chocolate chip cookies
· No lobsters
· No nachos
· No Beer nuts
· No Beer !!!!!!!!
· Rags for clothes and towels for hats.
· Constant wailing from the guy next-door because he’s sick and there are no doctors.
· Constant wailing from the guy in the tower.
· More than one wife.
· You can’t shave.
· Your wives can’t shave.
· You can’t shower to wash off the smell of donkey cooked over burning camel dung.
· Your bride is picked by someone else.
· She smells just like your donkey.

Then they tell you that when you die it all gets better!

I mean, really, is there a mystery here?

[Source unknown.]

US Airways flight 1529 on January 15th 2009 crash landed in the Hudson river barely six minutes after it took off from New York’s LaGuardia airport at 3:15PM. Two minutes into the flight, the Airbus 320 encountered a flock of Branta Canadensis (Canada goose) which both engines ingested and the flight lost thrust. The hero of the story was Captain Sullenberger. Just before the brought down his plane on the Hudson, he calmly instructed, “This is your captain. Brace for impact.”

This is an animation reconstruction of the flight. I watched this several times as I wanted to watch all the action on the screen: the altimeter and the air speed indicator, included. There is a lot of information at this exosphere3d site. Lots of videos as well. (Hat tip: JP.)

David Martin is one lucky guy. He got to record the rescue of the plane from the river from the comfort of his own apartment. He published the time-lapse video of the operation. He writes:

On January 15th 2009, “The Miracle on the Hudson” US Airways Flight 1549 crash landed outside my window in the Hudson river here in New York. Over 72hrs, I captured time-lapse footage of the half submerged A320 Airbus as it grasped for breath as it fought with the elements of nature. The below short movie tells it’s story.

Exclusive unseen video footage of the Miracle on the Hudson, flight 1549 New York City from David Martin on Vimeo.

It is not to the State that we owe the multitudinous useful inventions from the spade to the telephone; it is not the State which made possible extended navigation by a developed astronomy; it was not the State which made the discoveries in physics, chemistry, and the rest, which guide modern manufacturers; it was not the State which devised the machinery for producing fabrics of every kind, for transferring men and things from place to place, and for ministering in a thousand ways to our comforts. The worldwide transactions conducted in merchants’ offices, the rush of traffic filling our streets, the retail distributing system which brings everything within easy reach and delivers the necessaries of life daily at our doors, are not of governmental origin. All these are results of the spontaneous activities of citizens, separate or grouped.

Herbert Spencer in “The Man versus the State” (1884)

Some bits from previous posts on freedom of expression and on the importance of ideas for human welfare.

Freedom of expression is something that some people grant to themselves, and some don’t. The people of the developed nations grant themselves that freedom. A case can be made that development is in a sense an outcome of that freedom. Support for it is provided by noting the strong correlation between how free a society is and how prosperous it is. Societies that forbid freedom of expression are insecure, cowering, fearful, and cowardly.  [Forbidding Expression — Part 1]

The short answer to why support free speech is: because we are not infinitely wise, our rationality is bounded; because we are not equally wise; because ideas matter, and because markets work.

Humans are unique in that they have ideas. Non-humans don’t have ideas. Every hard-won advance in any field of human endeavor resulted from the triumph of an idea among other competing ideas. The winning ideas had to duke it out in the marketplace (markets, lest we forget, is itself one of the finest ideas) and in a Darwinian process of natural selection proved their worth.

We are not equally wise. Some of us are smarter than others. All our ideas consequently are not equally good. Some ideas are wonderful and others stupid. Our rationality is bounded and no one among us is infinitely wise. Therefore it is hard for us to judge ex ante whether an idea is good or not. Ex post we can see the results of the idea and determine whether the idea is good or not. So it is better to let all ideas play in the marketplace. From among the diversity of ideas, the good ones will survive.

We not only don’t know in advance which idea is good but more importantly we don’t know who has a good idea. People don’t come with a label on their forehead which says that their idea is bound to be good. All we can do is to allow everyone to throw their ideas into the ring. [Why Free Speech.]

The welfare consequences of the freedom of expression are hard to overestimate. Every human advance has been the result of some idea that had to win a battle of survival against those who would have liked to see it suppressed. Ideas matter and therefore the freedom of expression matters.

I cannot resist relating (yet again) Robert Solow’s view of Milton Friedman’s — both celebrated Nobel laureate economists — obsession with monetary policy. Every macroeconomic problem and its solution lay eventually in monetary policy, according to Friedman. Solow in exasperation said, “Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Everything reminds me of sex, but I try to keep it out of my papers.” Everything Indian reminds me of India’s education system and I don’t keep it out of my blog posts.

I find a connection between India’s education system and everything good or bad that has happened, is happening and will happen in India. It’s a justifiable obsession. I believe that if one were to fully explore just this one facet of the economy — education — one would see how it affects the whole system and how the system affects this sector. The linkages from education to other sectors are strong and bi-directional. If there is any hope of figuring out what keeps India an under-developed country and thus be able to do something about it, one has to understand how education is at the center of all economic growth and development concerns.

Here we are talking about India’s development. It matters because India represents a sixth of humanity. India’s development or underdevelopment has profound consequences for the world at large. Since India’s development is linked to India’s education system (which I have explored on this blog before but I am merely asserting here), the nature of Indian education has global implications, especially in an interconnected and increasingly globalized world.

The education system has failed the majority of Indians. One indicator is that around 33 percent of Indian adults are illiterate. That is, they cannot read and write a short simple statement relevant to everyday life. Imagine not being able to write a simple note to one’s family saying how one is or not being able to read the news headlines. Perhaps half of Indian adults cannot even read a simple children’s story with comprehension. This may have been acceptable in a world of a few centuries ago but in today’s far more complex world where the ability to process written information determines one’s fortunes, this incapacity cripples at the personal, social and economy-wide levels.

Clearly it is not impossible for any group to attain 100 percent literacy. Unlike listening and speaking which come naturally to humans, admittedly reading and writing are “unnatural” and have to be learnt. But any child given instructions for an hour or so everyday for a couple of years is capable of becoming literate. Yet despite vast expenditures amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars over more than half a century, India is far from having universal literacy.

These questions arise. Is this a deliberate policy? If so, why is it in the interests of the policy makers to keep a large segment of the population illiterate? Is there a connection between this illiteracy and the democratic system — that there is universal adult franchise in a country without universal adult literacy? Is it that those who come to power under the system of universal adult franchise cannot hope to do so if there were universal adult literacy and therefore have an incentive to make universal adult literacy a difficult if not unattainable goal?

I am sure that there is no secret cabal of powerful people with evil glints in their eyes plotting to keep Indians illiterate. But individual behavior motivated by private incentives — micro behavior — have consequences at the social level — macro outcomes — that are not intended by individuals. The most famous example of this Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” — the market mechanism that grinds out the socially beneficial outcome even though an individual is only interested in his or her own welfare. So also, there could be what we can call the “invisible fist” of the government which can pummel the life out of a society even though no single government official is doing anything more than making his or her life comfortable.

In this series on “IITs and Institutionalized Insanity” (previously part 1 and part 2) I will explore nearly all important economic aspects of India. The starting and the ending points will be education. All of India’s problems and all the associated solutions lie in education.