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Archive for January, 2008

The New York Times is not exactly renowned for libertarian views but this particular oped – where the author complains about excessive private philanthropy – is staggeringly regressive even by their standards.

Indeed, the article, after acknowledging that private philanthropy in the US exceeds that of any other country, goes on to state:

Critics of government spending argue that America’s private sector does a better job making socially necessary investments. But it doesn’t. Public spending is allocated democratically among competing demands. Rich benefactors can spend on anything they want, and they tend to spend on projects close to their hearts.

Philanthropic contributions are usually tax-free. They directly reduce the government’s ability to engage in public spending. Perhaps the government should demand a role in charities’ allocation of resources in exchange for the tax deduction. Or maybe the deduction should go altogether. Experts estimate that tax breaks motivate 25 percent to 30 percent of contributions.

In any event, social needs, like those health clinics, are not about charity. They are a necessity. America needs a government that can and will pay for them.

Rajiv Gandhi, the former Indian Prime Minister, once said that for every rupee spent by the government, only fifteen paise reaches the intended recipients. I suspect that the fraction is even lower.

It is precisely because private benefactors care for their projects that the money is likely to reach their destination and be well used.

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Eugene Volokh has a great post about the Hindley affair. Yet another example of political correctness taken too far in America.

Someone once said that the greatest American ideal isn’t democracy or mobility or justice or equality, but freedom. Apropos of nothing, I remember the song –

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone.”

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Federer vs Tipsarevic 6-7 7-6 5-7 6-1 10-8.

I was up till 2 AM watching this epic battle and every moment was worth it.

Here is a great highlights capsule from ESPN. It is merely 1:45 long but includes some of the best points that were played last night.

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Not even as a token of protest…

Ingrid Newkirk and the PETA activists had gone to Gandhi Park, blindfolded the statue of Mahatma Gandhi and hung a board that said ‘reject cruel sport jallikattu.’

Following a complaint lodged by a Congress functionary, police registered cases against Ingrid and others for creating religious ill-feeling, defaming the national leader, trespassing and also under Tamil Nadu Open Places Prevention of Disfigurement Act.

Inspector Cederick Manuel was transferred to the City Police Armed Reserve for failing to stop the protest, police said.

Newkirk told Reuters she did not mean any disrespect to Gandhi but blindfolded his statue to symbolically shield him from the cruelty of the sport.

Going into a public park is trespassing? The token of protest defames Gandhi? Protesting against a sport on purely ethical (and secular) grounds creates religious ill-feeling? There is actually a law called Tamil Nadu Open Places Prevention of Disfigurement Act?!

Also I gladly note how easy it is for an ordinary citizen to get a police inspector transferred.

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Hasbro and Mattel, the makers of the enourmously popular board game called scrabble, want to shut down scrabulous.com, and especially its Facebook avatar.

The article above quotes an angry Scrabulous fan from the United Kingdom : “Do these greedy fools not realize that they should be paying the creators of Scrabulous for all the damn fans of the game they created?”

My sentiments exactly. 

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This nice test measures ‘libertarian purity’, with a high score indicating strong support for anarcho-capitalism.

By the way, I scored 65. The test tells me: You are a medium-core libertarian, probably self-consciously so. Your friends probably encourage you to quit talking about your views so much.

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A wonderful article by Vir Sanghvi on Ratan Tata.

Meanwhile, Mamata Bannerjee wants one million Nanos to be given away for free…

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Microsoft faces new European Union Antitrust probes.

Antitrust laws are a severe limitation on the liberty of a private organization. They, in essence, penalize a company — and take away certain elements of its freedom to operate autonomously — for being too successful or influential. The dominant view is that these curtailments of liberty are outweighed by the benefits they give to the consumer by promoting competition and preventing monopolies from taking advantage of their position. However, if history has taught us anything – if there is any lesson to be drawn from the emergence of Firefox, the toppling of the Detroit three by Toyota in US sales, the fairy-tale of Google and the ascendancy of Apple from nowhere to the pre-eminent position it is in today – it is that you cannot keep a good product down. In this age of instant dissemination of information, companies do not need the help of antitrust laws to rise to the top. And the consumer doesn’t either.

I am against antitrust laws for all but the most extreme situations – and in my book the present one, like all previous cases that have involved Microsoft, does not cut it.

Follow up: The Economist has a nice article about illiberal EU laws that ostensibly strive to stop ‘destructive competition’. Much as I like Europe, sometimes I am glad I live in a country where the government does not clamp down on choice or ban discounts.

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A nice read.

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The Tata car for 100,000 INR is here. And it is green too, with a mileage that is almost twice as good as other cars on the market. 

I am an unabashed admirer of the Tatas and have been meaning to write a longer post about them for a long time. I will do that some day; for now read this note by Laksmi Mittal – remarkable, considering that he is talking of his primary global competitor – (see update below) about the Tatas’ role in transforming the city of Jamshedpur.

Update: I found out that the note is in fact not written by Mittal. It’s a good read, nevertheless. I am not the only blogger who was deceived, a quick google search reveals hundreds of other websites where the article is ascribed to Mital. I have no idea what gave rise to this modern legend. For those interested, the article was written by Suhel Seth, CEO, Equus Redcell, in 2004 and originally appeared in the Asian Age.

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An Indian NGO questions the requirement that all political parties adhere to socialism in writing.

Will this case lead to change? I am sceptical. Yet, one can always hope, and I will.

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Tim de Lisle has a piece in Cricinfo where he says that sledging without an obvious skin-colour dimension is often as offensive as racial sledging. I agree. However, his solution to the conundrum is to ban all sledging. Mine, as I wrote yesterday, is to allow it.

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In keeping with the flavour of our times, a case has been filed against Sania Mirza for insulting the national flag. In the words of the petitioner, Sania “forgot where her feet were” and also did not remember “the value of the tricolour in the heart of Indians”.

I do not begrudge the petitioner. In going to court he merely exercised a fundamental right, one that is rightly granted to all citizens – even those with lots of time and little sense. My beef is with the judge. Why did he accept this frivolous case?

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The poor umpiring and Harbhajan Singh’s three match ban for alleged racist remarks to Andrew Symonds have marred what was otherwise an excellent test match.

Even if it is true that Bhajji is guilty (which does not seem to have been unambiguously proved) I feel that the three match ban is unreasonably harsh. Harbhajan is alleged to have retaliated against Aussie taunts by calling Symonds a ‘monkey’. It would be a laughing matter except that the Aussies didn’t think so. The remark was interpreted as a racist slur, a complaint was made and the sentence subsequently passed by the match referee.

I believe that sledging is a part of the game and players should be allowed to say whatever they wish as long as they don’t get physical. And that includes racially motivated remarks. Test cricket is a contest for grown ups, not a stage for mollycoddling the thin-skinned. Cricketers who cannot deal with verbal attacks on the field should consider other careers.

However, even those who do not agree with me that sledging should go unpunished will perhaps concur that a bit of balance is in order. The trouble is that racism is such a politically sensitive issue that we tend to lose perspective when discussing it. In my opinion, the current scenario, where a pernicious comment to another player about his family, personal life or non-racial physical characteristics receives no more than a routine reprimand whereas the simple act of calling another cricketer a ‘monkey’ in the heat of the moment is punished with a three test-match ban, is a good example of this lack of perspective.

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This is horrifying.

I have a question for the reader (especially the guys). Imagine yourself horny and drunk and suddenly in the middle of such a situation. What would you, as a spectator, do?

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