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Arrogance vs. Challenges

From: K.S.Sastry <kssastry@hd1.vsnl.net.in>

"The way some of the members of the group are expressing themselves is
typical of the assertiveness and arrogance typical of the polticians and
bureaucrats in recent years and atypical of the legatees of Buddha and
Gandhi. Drafting a policy statement consistent with the Indian ethos so
as to reach some kind of a national consensus seems to be farthest from
their thoughts."

I am sure everyone knows for whom this is meant (i.e., me!). I would
like to imagine that my goal on IPI is not as much as to build a
consensus based on the ***current*** level of ignorance and hypocrisy
(in which we do not call a spade a spade, do not call corruption as
corruption, do not want to question why we all consent on our electoral
system where the first thing done by anyone elected is to sign a
falsehood about the expenditures incurred in the election, etc.), but to
build a consensus ***on the basis of understanding the real motives and
incentives that drive human beings including our politicians and

The fact is that you have hit the nail on the head while criticizing me.
Yes. Bureaucrats and politicians tend to be highly arrogant without
knowing that their intentions will never translate into practice without
a very high level of analysis of the human beings involved in any
'system.' As I have often mentioned, there are many, many bachelors of
english literature who have the arrogance to believe that they can plan
the economy of India. When the Nobel prize winners fight shy of
suggestions that this can be done, our ignorant bureaucrats and
polticians are the first to claim from the Red Fort that they can plan
the economy. That is true arrogance. It is this arrogance that I write

On the other hand, throwing out challenges is NOT arrogance. It is like
asking someone to prove that the earth is NOT round. When people are
repeatedly stating that the earth is flat, if someone says that PROVE to
me that the earth is flat, and that it is not round, then that is not a
sign of arrogance, but a simple statement of fact.

I only throw out challenges on all issues where I am convinced that the
scientific evidence is INCONTROVERTIBLE. Julian Simon infuriated many
professional demographers by throwing out challenges and bets which they
lost (Paul Ehrlich is the case in point). I do not much care if I
infuriate anyone who believes in incorrect data and analysis. On the
effect of minimum wages, for instance, the theory and data are
incontrovertibly on one side, and many on this list are on the other
side. That is not sustainable. People HAVE to prove that minimum wages
are theoretically useful for a society as well as provide studies and
data that prove that it is beneficial for the society as a whole. Those
who cannot prove such a simple thing know nothing of merit, according to
me, on this topic, and throwing challenges at them is not being

At the same time, I would be the first to admit that I was wrong on a
particular issue if logic and evidence - incontrovertible - turns up to
show that I was wrong. Please believe me, I am NOT an enemy of the poor.
I believe that theory and evidence points overwhelmingly to the
capitalist system (not exactly as it is practiced in USA, but somewhat
similar to it) at a superior system for providing riches to the poor.

The evidence in favor of capitalism helping the poor is overwhelming. If
we hide from evidence, then I don't care in building a consensus against
capitalism. I will challenge all such "consensuses" as being inferior to
the one that we want for ourselves.

Finally, I would not bother too much about the tenor of the debates, but
on the content. I do not wish to infuriate. I wish to 'invigorate' and
provoke a deeper analysis of the topics in question, and in the process
to learn myself. I do not claim to be a very humble fellow, but neither
am I unwilling to learn because of perverse arrogance. The fact that I
have changed my mind from communism at the age of 13 to fabian socialism
at the age of 22 to capitalism at the age of 34 is evidence indeed that
I go by the facts and I am not averse to calling myself wrong.

Nevertheless, I do apologize if I have given the impression that
arrogance drives these debates. I must think carefully about the
impression that I create. Thanks for letting me know. There must be some
truth in what you say.


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