Sunday, 24 September 2017


Climbing the ladder I
No doubt.

The seventeen spoked
Turned and turned.

False friend
In the end
Why do I
Think of you?

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Fabian Wendt & apophatic Justification

Fabian Wendt's prize winning paper seeks to integrate Comprehensive Liberalism- i.e. the old fashioned sort which had a full theory of Value and brighline judgements on everything under the Sun- with Public Justification Theory so as to depass the dilemmas and aporias of 'Public Reason' Liberalism which shies away from wedge issues.

He writes-
.. laws are publicly justifiable when all members of the relevant ‘public’ have sufficient reason to accept them, whereby ‘having sufficient reason’ is taken to be relative to the individuals’ values and beliefs, not relative to some external standard
Why enact, or justify an existing, law if everybody already subscribes to values and beliefs such that they will abide by it? 
Consider my proposed law banning people from calling each other up in the middle of the night in order to recite the Sillapadikram backwards. Everybody already abides by its stipulation. It is a waste of resources to see it enacted though, no doubt, it is publicly justifiable and need not be repealed if it is already on the statute books.
It may be argued that there is some moral consideration which gives rise to a quite separate 'sufficient reason', for approving the Law I have proposed. It may be that 'respect for persons'- more especially Tambram retards like me- militates for the promulgation of this law.
On the other hand there may be a visceral moral objection to appeasing a repugnant imbecile seeking to validate his own gross superstitions and impious dreads.
In both cases, a new second order, albeit pro tanto, 'sufficient reason' has been created purely because of public justification of a proposed or established law.
In the interests of 'stability'- i.e. to prevent fractious discord- the best thing to do would be to exclude  public justification of my law because nobody is breaking it anyway. Could there be a publicly justifiable general- that is 'constitutional'- law to this effect?

Fabian Wendt concludes his essay thus-
Let us for the moment imagine a comprehensive liberalism that does not include a principle of public justification. In that theory, we still have to accommodate different moral considerations that stand in tension with each other, since every plausible moral-political theory should acknowledge that there is a plurality of values to be considered. When assessing a law, we can ask how just it is, how effective it is, and so on. All these different considerations have to be taken into account before we can come to an all things considered judgment about the law. This makes moral thinking complicated, of course, and the issue of comparability of values is a serious one, but it does not lead to a split personality in any meaningful sense. Now the point is that public justifiability does not make moral thinking more difficult than it already is. It is just another consideration that is to be taken into account. The dichotomy between public justification and correctness-based justification stresses that there are two very different forms of justification, but this obscures the fact that public justifiability functions as one consideration among many other considerations within correctness-based justification, when it is integrated into a comprehensive liberalism. Here is the picture: on the first level in the evaluation of laws , we engage in correctness-based justification and evaluate laws in terms of their justice, fairness, efficiency etc., and we determine what the best law would be in light of these values. On the second level we take into account that others disagree about what the best law would be, and thus we consider moral values that become relevant under such circumstances of disagreement. Here, public justifiability comes into play as one such second-level moral value, and so public justifiability co-determines what the all things considered best law is within a correctness-based justification. Because public justifiability is just another moral consideration to be taken into account, it does not introduce any form of schizophrenia to our moral thinking. We can safely endorse a comprehensive liberalism and incorporate a principle of public justification.'

This means that even under the most favourable conditions- i.e. where there is an ubiquitous  'comprehensive liberalism' with a full theory of value- it would not be the case that 'constitutional laws'- i.e. laws about how laws are to be made or abrogated- could be publicly justifiable. This is because either there is no 'first level' efficiency filter- in which case my law has to be treated in the same manner as one which would filter it out- or else all second order moral considerations are effectually estopped unless they have no bearing on efficiency, justice, fairness etc and thus failed to be taken into account at the first level. But, in that case, they would have failed the first level test anyway.

For a truly Comprehensive Liberalism, Efficiency is all that matters. All rational agents would happily delegate determination of their 'sufficient reason' to an expert, if this could be done for free, and disintermediate themselves from the public justification process. This means that a Revelation principle obtains as does a Justice mechanism which needn't have a representation as a universal law code.

Either there is a 'mysterious economy' in which our Values and Beliefs cause us to affirm Faith or else nothing is, of its nature, secret or apophatic or too complex or computationally costly for utterance. In the former case, Public Justification is either foolish or otiose; in the latter, Values and Beliefs are either puerile or mischievous.

Chris Renwick on why we need the Welfare State.

Chris Renwick, an erudite History professor with a gift for pellucid English prose, writes in today's Guardian-

The poor law, established in 1601, at the end of Elizabeth I’s reign, made Britain’s guarantee of help for the destitute unique among European nations.
Britain did not exist in 1601. James I, introduced the term at his accession in 1604. There was no 'guarantee of help for the destitute' then, nor, truth be told, is there one now. It is not the case that any destitute person is guaranteed help. Various conditionalities have to be met. Genuine claims may be arbitrarily rejected- for example a sick person may be 'sanctioned' for failing to attend an interview- and a legal challenge may fail to avert death by neglect and inanition.

The last peace time famine, in England, occurred in 1623- a time of agricultural collapse in the North and North West. However, the underlying Malthusian aspect of the problem had peaked some sixty years previously and Market based reforms had already been set in motion. This meant that mortality ceased to be linked to bad harvests because trade and diversified specialisation- as well as improved entry and exit- had tackled the underlying problem of 'entitlement collapse' in a rational, not Sen-tentious manner. In other words, people hedged against dearth by their own efforts and decisions. They did not rely on some bogus 'guarantee' which the Crown had supposedly given.

Interestingly, contrary to the Thanksgiving myth, the Mayflower Pilgrims suffered dearth in 1621 and 1622 because most of the colonists were lazy thieves. Things turned around in 1623 and the next year there was an exportable surplus. What changed? The answer is that the guarantee to supply each colonist according to his need was done away with. Instead, each household was allotted land and allowed to keep what they produced.

Had 'Good Queen Bess' actually introduced a Socialistic 'guarantee of help to the destitute'- England would have starved in the same manner as those of its colonies in the New World which initially adhered to the principle 'from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs'.

Renwick is of a different opinion. Perhaps he thinks Britian was an 'organic' Polyani-type 'embedded' Society where the Lord and Lady of the Manor spent their days nursing the sick and distributing largesse to the destitute before getting all dolled up to dance the night away in beautiful ball rooms.

Then something terrible happened. The Jews came. Ricardo showed that, under diminishing returns, Landlords have an incentive to preserve a Malthusian reserve army to enforce the iron law of wages at the expense of Entrepreneurs in a manner which boosts their own rents. A corrupt 'pocket borough' riddled Parliament was holding the productive putative middle class in check by keeping the price of bread high and the wages for labour low. The more industrious farmer or craftsman bore the burden of the 'poor rate' so as to keep the very class he sprang from in a demographic poverty trap.

No doubt, the Reverent Malthus had a 'Keynesian' justification for this Divine dispensation. You see, the Aristos don't like saving money. They are notorious spendthrifts flinging coppers to the destitute and guineas to the gambling tables. They delight in ostentatious consumption. The Middle Class likes to save and invest its money. That would cause an under-consumption crisis. So Aristos we must always have with us. They must be tortured into trusses by their valets and scourged into salons by their footmen. Their gamekeepers lead them to a Golgotha where they are crucified for our sins seated upon their own shooting sticks. Such caviare and champagne as they are forced to partake of are as but vinegar & gall. Yet, in their measureless suffering we are all redeemed.

Renwick doesn't actually say it was the Jews who upset this beautiful apple-cart. Political Correctness gone mad, by Jove! Still, the man is sound enough- probably of solid Cumbrian stock- and he lets those nasty 'reformers' and 'modernisers' have it but good.

In the 1830s, an influential group of reformers, who later would be known as “modernisers”, changed the terms on which that help was offered. Assistance should amount to less than what the lowest-paid labourers could obtain with their wages, reformers insisted. Furthermore, help should only be available to people who were prepared to live in a workhouse – a dark, dank and miserable place where they were given an ill-fitting uniform and forced to carry out menial tasks in exchange for shelter and meagre rations of the most basic food.
Since the middle class paid for the wage subsidy to their less fortunate or skillful cousins, which in turn benefited the big manufacturer or Agricultural Estate, they used their political power to curb such expenditure. They were bound to succeed, because the rapidly growing middle class dominated industrial Towns and Cities had no Poor Law obligation to migrant workers. Rather, it was their own natal agricultural parishes which were on the hook. In other words, the letter of the Law was a double edged sword for the landed class. They would have to give up Agricultural protection (the 'Corn Law') if they wanted to save 'outdoor relief' (i.e. wage subsidies). In the end, they lost both but that wasn't till the dire boom-bust of the '40's shook them out of their complacency.
Renwick himself says
The country had grown wealthy during the industrial revolution, via the financial might of the City of London, the manufacturing power of the north of England, and an enthusiastic embrace of free trade.
But, Poor Law reform was part and parcel of what drove the industrial revolution and turned the north of England into a manufacturing power house. Other monetary and financial reforms, culminating in Gladstone's Free Trade budget, ensured the security and burgeoning might of the City of London.
None of this would have been possible if an able bodied pauper could receive a wage subsidy to remain in his accustomed profession- or no profession at all- at the expense of the rate payer.

Once fallacious and hypocritical arguments- like the notion that widows and orphans would starve unless the yield on consols was maintained, or that Aristocrats had to be profligate to stave off an under-consumption crisis, or that 'outdoor relief' was an intrinsic aspect of 'Merrie England' as was the Corn Law- were driven out of political discourse, the face of the British working class changed completely. The Workhouse became a Hospital for the elderly and indigent. Admittance to it was a matter of bitter shame for the able bodied. The British worker became a Staknonovite avant la lettre. Productivity, not Parasitism, was a badge of pride. Even the Aristocrats began to despise sinecures. The definition of a gentleman became one who held irregular perquisites in abhorrence. In any case, the door was always open to emigration. A Moll Flanders or Magwitch might make good in the Colonies rather than eke out a miserable existence in some Bridewell back home. Rising prosperity meant that hard working immigrants more than made up for the outflow. The perceived need for a captive workforce- itself a cab-rank type fallacy- was reduced.

However, there was still information asymmetry and adverse selection in Insurance markets- where they weren't wholly missing. Employers and workers faced the same problem re smoothing consumption and investment flows. Alfred Marshall would take trains to distressed areas and walk around looking into the pinched and wan faces of laid off workers seeking to divine the cause of this periodic curse. He read Marx and Lasalle but was left none the wiser. Still he soldiered on and, contemporaneously with quite a few other math mavens, founded the 'Marginal Revolution' which clarified the dynamics which Classical economists had left opaque. As he grew older, he grew more Conservative. Increasing acquaintance with bureaucratic reformers pushed him onto Pareto's trajectory. Like Herbert Spenser, Marshall felt instinctively that State Social and Health Insurance wasn't the panacea it might appear from a purely 'missing market' perspective. The underlying problem has to do with 'stickyness' in bureaucratic service provision under Knightian uncertainty. At the margin, it must be the case that some 'noise' is actually a signal. The longer you block that signal, the more painful the eventual shake out.

Renwick paraphrases Beveridge, a math maven Lawyer assimilable to the Coasian tradition, thus-
The biggest contribution to unemployment outside the downward slopes of the trade cycle, Beveridge argued, was the inefficiency of industry when it came to hiring workers. He asked readers of his book Unemployment: A Problem of Industry (1909) to imagine a scene he had encountered on many occasions: 10 wharves that each employed between 50 and 100 men per day, half of whom were regular staff and half of whom were reserves. While each wharf would experience similar high and low points in trade throughout the year, they were also likely to have their own individual fluctuations within those patterns. Anyone looking at the 10 wharves as a whole would not see these smaller deviations. The problem was that those smaller deviations were all that mattered to the reserve labourers walking from wharf to wharf asking for work each morning, because they meant the difference between them and their families eating, or going hungry.
If there was better communication and planning, Beveridge argued, almost all of those men would be able to find work each day. The problem was that business and industries were quite happy with the situation: they often had many more workers than vacancies, and did not need to pick up the costs of supporting those who couldn’t find work. Beveridge believed the state was the only institution with both the power to solve this problem and the interest in doing so. The political will to act on this conviction would have far-reaching implications for the millions of people who have found themselves out of work since. But we have slid backwards into a situation where precarious work paid by the hour is considered a sign of progress.
What could the State do in the above situation? Well, it could regulate the industry such that a levy on employers supported the unluckiest workers. Fine! But two things would happen in response- firstly there would be increased amalgamation within the industry, because of a one-off change in relative costs as well as a migration of business to an unregulated area- secondly there would be rent seeking behaviour on the part of the Industry. Political will suddenly increases in supply where rent-seeking behaviour increases. In the case of vital distribution networks, rent-seeking behaviour has complicated dynamic effects on the economy- none of them good. 

A Coasian solution- viz. voluntary insurance- fails because of adverse selection. The puzzle of existential entrepreneurialism- i.e. poor people taking risks affecting their daily bread- can only be solved by positing a habitus of risk taking. The guy whose income is precarious is thinking furiously about niches in the market. Some of his ilk will succeed, others will go to the wall. Sill, since the fact he is he took the risk, this might actually be individually regret-minimizing as well as Hannan consistent (i.e. dynamically efficient) at the aggregate level.

Beveridge, an old fashioned Fabian who strongly believed in the work-ethic, gained salience because of post-War overfull employment. What was actually happening was that the working class was acquiescing in a shift of the tax burden onto its own shoulders.  Since a reasonably functional democracy and fairly good governance ensured that at least some of that money was spent on things which created assets for working class people, the only nigger in the woodpile was people like me- globally footloose Coloured or, more recently, Continental immigrants.

This led ignorant people to confuse cause and effect. Somehow, the 'Welfare State' was given credit for a phenomenon- overfull employment- common to all Post War industrialised countries- even one's where no such thing existed and which grew far more rapidly. It was thought that the Beveridge Report was the Trojan Horse of Keynesianism. It was no such thing. Overfull employment happened by itself. An inflationary bias was a good way to shrink War time Debt. In the Seventies, 'fiscal drag' increased the tax burden on the working class. This was the other side to the coin of an unprecedented rise in Labour's share of National Income. But, once global monetary policy became explicitly Keynesian- Nixon's folly- Stagflation meant that it was the Welfare State which became the target of choice. Indeed, it was blamed for us immigrants who supposedly only came over to go on the dole. The truth is, what was happening was Tiebout sorting. Workers were coming to a State where workers were taxed and thus some of that tax revenue could be spent on the local public goods such workers valued. This was incentive compatible but it wasn't what Keynes or Beveridge or any other bien pensant Liberal ever envisaged or desired.

Renwick writes
The welfare state that came into being during the late 1940s underpinned a whole way of life that politicians only started to pull apart from the early 1980s onwards.
This begs the question- why then and not previously? The answer is obvious. State capacity had greatly increased because of the War. The entire population had been bureaucratised. Everybody had a ration card and anyone capable of productive work was sure of employment.
Industry took a different shape- not so much in England, where issues of 'caste as class' embittered everything, but elsewhere- because of the integration of a military style line management into the older commercial order. This increased 'Duality' in the Economy and occulted the actual distribution of Income and Wealth. Britain's exceptional Trade Union tradition was a separate factor which, however, proved fatal to its continuing success as a great manufacturing nation. It is not true to say that the welfare state underpinned a 'whole way of life'. Corporate health insurance and Union based unemployment benefits would have been an even better underpinning of a 'way of life' which was Americanised. It is not the case that Beveridge made Keynesianism possible or vice versa. The War changed the population in fundamental ways. It created State capacity of an unprecedented sort. I suppose, overfull employment meant that the Welfare State developed some persistent pathologies- families on the dole generation after generation, shuttling between the Probation Officer and the Social Worker- and undermined the viability of an 'efficiency wage' for the vast majority. However, it did cushion, to some extent, structural unemployment of an inevitable sort in extractive and heavy industries. There were other developments in the Seventies, which were 'Welfarist' but more obviously counter productive, but they have been quietly dropped from the core notion that Renwick cherishes-
The intention during the third quarter of the 20th century was to bring capitalism under control, specifically its tendency to interrupt and put downwards pressure on people’s earnings, rather than dispense with the system entirely.
The third quarter of the 20th century commenced with an unprecedented accumulation of power in the hands of the State. In Britain, Exchange Controls were only fully abolished in 1979, and the fear that they might be restored only dissipated after '92. Capitalism was already under control. Americans couldn't buy gold for most of the period. Markets weren't free and, in the Seventies, it was big Industries which went on the dole. The worker now had to pay for his idle cousins at the racetrack as well as for his inefficient managers on the golf course. The Welfare State had become a Monty Python sketch. At Number 10, the shop stewards have turned up for their ritual 'beer and sandwiches', but the CBI barges in whining for champagne and caviare and millions in bail outs. Everybody has a sob story. The 'White Heat of the Technological Revolution' means handouts to a new class of entrepreneur who promises to bring hi tech jobs to unemployment hotspots. But industry has turned into a money pit.
The Government is no longer in the business of paying people to promise they will build factories where workers will be paid. Why? Because the thing is an obvious swindle.
No doubt, the Govt does pay people to promise they will cut Welfare by pretending sick people aren't sick or unemployed people are not actually looking for work. Without question, the Government throws money at 'public private' initiatives which destroy National Wealth. Clearly, this too is a swindle. But it isn't the same swindle exactly.

Renwick says-
We have come to see the welfare state simply as a cost to be kept down rather than part of an economic and social strategy that aims to deliver security for all and opportunities to obtain more for those who want to.
This is nonsense. Costs should be kept down. Benefits should be increased. Stop doing stupid shit or giving money to obvious swindlers. That reduces costs. Make sure you get value for the money you do spend- that increases benefits. An economic and social strategy that aims to deliver security for all is bound to involve doing stupid shit and giving money to obvious swindlers. Politicians have a fiduciary duty. This duty can only be discharged with due care and diligence if there is clarity as to the corpus available and the class of beneficiaries.  Security for all is meaningless. At the margin, agents need action guiding signals. If the State covers their ears, on the excuse of shutting out 'noise', they may get some false security. But sooner or later, the State will face a fiscal crunch. It's 'guarantees' will turn out to be worthless. Just ask the Greeks or the Venezuelans.
The idea that these goals are no longer obtainable is clearly false. A good start would be to reconnect with the liberal idea, now more than a century old, that everyone sees returns when they pool risks, whether it’s the individuals who can stop worrying about what is around the corner, governments that might otherwise cut their headline costs but succeed only in shifting it somewhere else, or the companies that benefit from healthy and educated workers operating in a safe environment.
A pooling equilibrium is not necessarily a good thing. That's why Nature and Economics display separating equilibria on the basis of costly signals. In the short run, the State can suppress costly signals in favour of cheap talk.  But, the crisis, when it comes, will be that much more severe because an eusocial mechanism has been thoughtlessly disabled.

It is never a good idea to 'reconnect' with century old notions. Why? The guys who had those notions are dead and can't speak up for themselves. The historians who tell us about those notions are stupid and ignorant and tell stupid, ignorant, lies.

We now have a new type of technology which can plug 'missing markets' and do 'separating equilibrium' based risk pooling better and more cheaply than ever before. The British Govt. has shown no deftness in adopting this technology. On the contrary, it appears to be in the business of handing over money to whichever contractor can screw things up most royally.

Companies that benefit from healthy and educated workers operating in a safe environment are doing very nicely for themselves, thank you, without any assistance from the State. They don't want 'risk pooling'. Employees may, because of Knightian Uncertainty, but it is regret minimizing for them to ask for this and remain content when it is denied. In other words, this isn't a first order Preference. It is strategic behaviour.

Renwick says-
A successful economy requires all these actors to understand that they need to give, not just take, in order to build an environment in which they and those that follow them are able to succeed.
This is nonsense. Economic agents don't need to understand meaningless bromides like 'you need to give, not just take' because they already understand that they have to pay for stuff they buy and get paid for stuff they sell. There is no need to 'build an environment' which appears spontaneously all over the world and throughout human history.

By contrast, when it comes to eating a slice of Pizza we do need urgent Government intervention to ensure that a safe and sustainable environment is created in which agents who bite into the pizza are properly cautioned to unclench their jaws and begin a chewing motion. Furthermore, it is important that salivary juices are released as this aids in the formation of a bolus which can be swallowed safely. We must reconnect with the idea of the great Horace Fletcher who propounded this revolutionary doctrine of chewing and mastication a little more than a century ago.

I must stop now, because the guy from Papa John is ringing the bell. Tragically, I may choke to death because this Tory Government has criminally refused to build a proper environment for pizza chewing in this country. If I die tonight, Theresa May and her neo-liberal cabal will have my blood on their hands.

Nobel Peace prize for Theresa May

I read in the Telegraph that-
Britain spent about £305,000 last year on educational programs for the Burmese military on English, democracy, and leadership. The programs do not include combat training.
Unfortunately, it appears that the Burmese military have decided to demonstrate democratic leadership and gain popularity by brutally driving away darker skinned 'kalar' Muslims and Hindus who speak an Indo-Aryan language. Why did they do so? Was it their new found English skills which permitted them to access the philosophical musings of Katie Hopkins? We can't be certain. Still, as a precaution, it is heartening to hear Theresa May's robust assurance that the British Ministry of Defence will suspend these educational courses till...urm.. something or the other happens which makes it acceptable once again.

Why has the Lady, suffering house arrest at Number 10, at the hands of a brutal Brexiteer Junta, not been given a Nobel Peace Prize?

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Why Responsibility to Protect (R2P) failed.

Ramesh Thakur, one of the theorists behind 'Responsibility to Protect', thought Libya was a 'win'.
He wrote-

'Referring to the role of Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice, and Samantha Power in arguing for limited military action in Libya against the non-interventionist inclinations of the male defence secretary, national security adviser and counterterrorism chief, Jacob Heibrunn derided Obama for effectively having been henpecked into interventionism by ''these Valkyries of foreign affairs''.Not to be outdone on misogyny, Mark Krikorian commented caustically that ''our commander-in-chief is an effete vacillator who is pushed around by his female subordinates''.
The jury is still out on whether international military action in Libya will promote consolidation or softening of the R2P norm. The Libyan people's euphoria and NATO's relief over the successful military campaign to remove Gaddafi is likely to temper criticisms of the manner in which NATO rode roughshod over UN authorisation to protect civilians.
That said, we should not be naive about what may be required in particular circumstances. Already in 2003, as Commissioner for the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, I wrote that ''If defeat of a non-compliant state or regime is the only way to achieve the human protection goals, then so be it.'' In Libya, the West's strategic interests coincided with UN values. This does not mean that the latter was subordinated to the former. It does mean, as was the case with Australia vis--vis East Timor in 1999, that there was a better prospect of sustained NATO engagement in an operation on its borders than if Western interests were not affected. Paris, London and Washington - and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - did not waver in their resolve, despite critics from the left pushing for diplomacy and critics from the right calling for boots on the ground. Too many seemed to expect and demand instant military gratification. Six months to overthrow an entrenched and determined dictator is not bad.
The outcome is a triumph first and foremost for the citizen soldiers who refused to let fear of Gaddafi determine their destiny any longer. It is a triumph secondly for R2P. NATO military muscle deployed on behalf of UN political will helped to level the killing field between citizens and a tyrant. It is possible for the international community, working through the authenticated, UN-centred structures and procedures of organised multilateralism, to deploy international force to neutralise the military might of a thug and intervene between him and his victims with reduced civilian casualties and little risk of military casualties.

Ramesh wrote this 6 years ago. Since then much has changed. Libya is now considered an own goal for NATO. Syria was even worse. Last year, Putin started to look like the good guy and Trump was happy to endorse this view. It appears that R2P can indeed bring about 'regime change'- but in Washington, not Damascus. Indeed, things may not stop there. The E.U is already looking very different. If Merkel loses, Syria will be the main reason. Elsewhere we see that Turkey and Iran have realigned. Even the two Wahhabi Kingdoms are at each other's throats.

R2P was about sterilizing the military complement to humanitarian intervention such that no Balance of Power perturbation obtains. This is feasible where a narrow clique supporting a sociopathic dictator are the sole source and foundation of all evil in that polity. A multilateral military strike against the clique, in theory, could quickly lead to a benign regime change welcome to all parties. Not a tear was shed for Ceaucescu who was toppled by moderate Communist apparatchiks who realised that the factory workers had lost patience with the regime and that the Army would not shoot their own kin. Ceaucescu made some incredible blunders in his last days. He hoped to blame everything on the Hungarians. No doubt, he'd have been happy to sponsor some ethnic cleansing in Timisoara in the hope of provoking a military response which would have revived Romanian fears regarding the irredentism of their neighbors. This strategy unravelled in spectacular fashion on live TV as the crowd turned hostile to his speech and took up Timisoara as their own rallying cry.

In the Nineties, the dysfunctional character of Yeltsin's Russia created a power vacuum such that unilateral military action became possible. However, it also became obvious that nuclear weapons were an effective hedge against such intervention. Fortunately, these proved to be far more difficult to develop and deploy than had been previously envisaged. Still, 'W.M.Ds' emerged as a casus belli- one which militated for unilateral interventionism in an obviously dangerous and globally destabilising manner. It was in this context that R2P was envisaged and adopted by the U.N. The Brazilians have proposed a revision of this policy which privileges the older notion of 'humanitarian assistance' and which subordinates military intervention to a humanitarian calculus. There seems little appetite for this view. Why? One reason is that it creates a slippery slope for  Military doctrine and rules of engagement such that both can be gamed by the adversary. Another more basic problem is that R2P isn't incentive compatible- there is no 'Revelation Principle' such that we can discover a correlated equilibrium. Previously, unilateral interventions- e.g. India's in the Bangladesh War- could be justified by the cost borne by the intervening party. India had received millions of refugees which it lacked the means to feed. Still, there was no broader Balance of Power ramification arising from the War. Arguably, America and China gained from having a revanchist Pakistani Army no longer involved in garrisoning a hostile and far off Province.
In that case, there was a 'correlated equilibrium' based on a self regarding calculus. With R2P no similar calculations can be made. After all every Ideology claims that some privileged subset of its exponents have a superior Responsibility to all beings- though this responsibility may consist entirely of euthanising or enslaving vast classes of people. Even if we could filter such ideologies on the basis of outcomes, there is no reason to believe that they can't mutate to defeat the filter. Indeed, Ideologies, unlike Rational Choice Theories, are founded upon the essentially contested nature of deontic concepts like 'Responsibility' as opposed to (at least potentially) alethic notions like 'Revealed Preference'. This does not mean that there can't be an evolutionary normative process in this field. There could- indeed there would, if Econ theory is correct- provided there are no 'income effects' or 'hedging'. In other words, the thing can be done iff doing it doesn't matter very much at all in the broader scheme of things. It is this assumption which has been shown to be wildly optimistic by  Trump's triumph and Europe's current woes.

R2P failed not because it concerned itself with something trivial but rather that it ignorantly meddled in something far more complex than it could conceive.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Why Foucault is more relevant than ever

Peter Gratton, a Philosophy Professor, writes -

 in Discipline and Punish and in The Punitive Society, Foucault argues that it was not theoreticians or philosophers who set the stage for the prison in their theories. Instead it was the workmanlike petit managers who built an incipient criminal science that made the prison possible. For Foucault, there is no prison without criminology and vice-versa, nor are there mental institutions without the medicalization of the mind: no power without certain forms of knowledge and vice-versa.

We, of course, know better than Foucault because we have access to the Wikipedia article on prisons. Theoreticians or philosophers never 'set the stage for the prison'. Benjamin Franklin took an interest in the subject as he did in many other subjects. He was a practical man but his belief that solitude was good for criminals was wrongheaded. He was over-reacting to conditions in local jails where rape and violence were commonplace. Solitary confinement, however, was ineffective and mentally harmful.

Jeremy Bentham's brother came up with the notion of the 'panopticon' but it was in the context of running a factory such that a small number of supervisors could visually verify the activity of the workers without alerting them to their presence. Bentham's ideas had little influence. It was the older tradition of the House of Correction which in turn was connected to the Poor House or Asylum which influenced subsequent developments. Dickensian Beadles were quite innocent of any 'incipient criminal science' but sought to feather their own nests by means fair or foul. Not being great thinkers, they fell by the wayside. Mr. Bumble, it will be remembered, ends his days in the very Poor House over which he presided.

Quakers and Humanitarians- like John Howard- did call for the reform of the Prison system and some of their suggestions were implemented in piece meal fashion but it isn't the case that any 'theoretician or philosopher' had anything to do with the prison system. Criminology developed later but it had little influence on Prison administration which evolved on the same principles as any other bureaucracy- i.e. regardless of considerations of power or knowledge but in a blind and insensate manner. No doubt, at a certain point, credentials were introduced so as to increase wage differentials and create an endogenous interessement mechanism angling for larger disbursements, but those credentials became worthless once a fiscal crunch was experienced.

Foucault could not have known that he lived through a peculiar period in Western Capitalism when the State was able to fight a rear guard action against reducing its share of GNP to pre-War levels. However, the tide had turned by the time he died. Had he lived on to see the burgeoning of private prisons and 'contracting out' of work-related programs in public prisons, as happens in France, he would have understood that Professors of Sociology or Criminology or any other ology had no salience. Nor did 'petit managers'. It was big MNCs with very well rewarded Managers who shaped policy. The only relevant 'Science' was Management Science as taught at leading Business Schools.

Professor Gratton has a different view. He believes Foucault is still relevant, not because he provides a template to complete worthless PhDs in shite subjects, but for some other reason. What might that be? Let us see-

'To understand morality—considerations of justice and therefore of crime and punishment—he avers we would do well to look less at Kant or Mill than the development of the police. Moreover, power since the invention of the prison, according to Foucault’s early to mid-1970s work, operates less through the top-down machinations of a king and his lackeys than through the conformism of mass society. By pulling together disparate events here and there across our landscape—the discipline involved in schools, the military, and the prison—we find the means by which our seemingly most implacable institutions first crystallized. 
The conformism of mass society can't be created by 'schools, the military, and the prison' if there is free exit- i.e. emigration is unfettered- & significant adult entry- i.e. immigration is sizable.
A homogeneous society- like Japan- with a neighborhood policing system, might well be more 'conformist' and thus have lower incarceration rates, but such a society is also likely to hit an abiding fiscal crunch and thus have to rely increasingly on privatization- more especially for low risk or first time offenders.
Apparently, Japan faces a geriatric crime wave featuring lonely elders, unable to feed and house themselves, who are desperate to get sentenced to prison. 
It seems 'the conformism of mass society' isn't a bulwark against even very elderly Japanese people choosing delinquency on the basis of pure economic rationalism.

For this reason, Foucault still remains outside the mainstream of political thinking that predominates on our editorial pages and too often in political theory courses. The state is not the locus of all power in society, whatever the back-and-forth on CNN and the Sunday morning political shows might suggest. Ours is a civilization of constant, localized surveillance, both of ourselves and others, all to bring everyone to heed to unwritten norms guiding the most intimate parts of who we are: our sexuality, our notions of self, and so on.

Right! That's what's happening, sure enough. The TV is watching me. So is the neighbour's cat. OMG, was that a black helicopter I heard just now? Well, I'd better put my todger away. I was going to express my sexuality and my notion of the self by doing something unspeakable to the vacuum cleaner. Sadly, mine is a civilization of constant, localized surveillance mainly carried out by the cats in the neighbourhood. Mainstream political thinking is silent about this feline surveillance which constrains our polymorphous perversity and establishes the conformism of mass society but for which we'd all fuck our Dysons but good. That is why Foucault is still relevant.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Purushottama Lal's Indian irony

P. Lal wrote-
Sanskrit has no word for “irony,” either. The use of words to express something other than or the exact opposite of their literal meaning is more associated with clever city-based civilizations than with the sentimental forest-based ones. English is so charged with irony that I constantly have to be careful when choosing words to translate sacred and secular Sanskrit or other Indian texts.

Ironically, a Google search shows that Sanskrit had over a dozen words for irony.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

So God be my Ghanchi

From the poet's petition, an essential oil to extract
Or that our oleaginous sheen, iridescence refract
Of the dynasty tho' a toady, I pray Narendra Modi
Redeem the Pontiff of Kanchi; so God be my Ghanchi.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Amit Chaudhri on why he's actually Proust

Amit Chaudhri writes- 'THE IMPORTANT EUROPEAN NOVELIST makes innovations in the form; the important Indian novelist writes about India. This is a generalization, and not one that I believe. But it represents an unexpressed attitude that governs some of the ways we think of literature today.'

Dos Passos & Faulkner were American novelists. They made formal innovations which Europeans imitated. Later it was Latin American novelists who made innovations which, once again, Europeans imitated. 

What about 'important Indian novelists'? Vikram Seth is one. Two of his novels are not set in India. One is. Rushdie could be regarded as Indian. He is certainly important and arguably innovative. Some of his novels are about India. Some are not. 

Important Bengali novelists write mainly about Bengal or Bengali people. The same is true of important Gujerati or Kannada novelists. Some are innovative. Some are not. The same is true of European novelists. They important German writes mainly about Germany and German people, He may or may not be innovative.

Amit Chaudhri has a different view. He thinks most people have 'an unexpressed attitude' such that anytime a non-European writing a novel for non-Europeans makes a formal innovation, then most people say to themselves 'wow! this guys writes like an European!'.
 If we find formal innovations in a non-European novelist, modulations on form unrelated to, say, identity, difference, or colonial history, we might say, “This novelist has a European air.” We could say the same about the more formally ambitious of the recent American writers, whose innovations are unrelated to Americana: that they are, in some ways, Europeans from, say, Brooklyn. At the moment, though, because of the centrality in the Anglophone world of the USA and of New York, we don’t think of innovations in fiction emerging from these locations as being primarily connected to what it means to be a New Yorker, or an American—we think of them as formal innovations in themselves. The American writer has succeeded the European writer. The rest of us write of where we come from.-
Does anyone read Joseph Heller or Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K Dick or Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Roberto Bolano and think 'these guys aren't writing within their own literary tradition. They are practicing an alien art and their formal innovations don't reflect their own milieu.'?

An American Carnatic Musician- like Higgins Bhagavatar- may make formal innovations which cause us to think of him as more South Indian than American. But this is because there is no native taste for that style of music. Once something becomes popular with the masses, innovative practitioners reflect their milieu even when practising what was once an alien art. Thus Brazilian jiu jitsu is Brazilian. Californian Yoga is Californian. German Rock is German. Japanese Reggae is now Japanese. 

What about Amit's own oeuvre? It truly transcend borders. A turd is a turd across the world.
Amit disagrees.
He hadn't read Proust- tl;dr- but his maternal cousin's Belgian wife said his work was Proustian.
Was she just being polite?
Or was she hinting he should come out of the closet?

WHEN A COUSIN’S BELGIAN WIFE read my first novel, her response wasn’t, as it might have been: “I know these people, literally.” After all, the characters in the novel were people she’d come to know in Calcutta on her visits from America, then Denmark, in the first decades of her marriage. Her relatives through marriage were my relatives on my mother’s side. They were in the small novel. Instead, she said to my cousin, “It reminds me of Proust.”
This passage is quintessentially Bengali. It establishes its intellectual and aesthetic credentials by wholly genealogical means. Amit might be a shite writer but 'maternal cousin's Belgian wife' is good; mobled Queen is good.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Sundar Pichai, epistemic ethics & Coase's Antidosis

Epistemic ethics is the notion that people who do a particular type of rigorous research should find common 'action guiding' principles on the basis of what they study. So a Geneticist who knows that there is no difference, at the DNA level, between an Iyer and an Iyengar should not behave as though Iyengars are superior to Iyers. Also she should let me take her out on a date. Who knows? Maybe I really am a handsome 24 year old who has been nominated for Fields Medal. Why not take a chance?

Speaking of Iyengars, I notice that Google is now headed by one such youngster. Since Google does research, it follows that Pichai may be bound by the epistemic ethics relevant to the sort of research his company is involved in. Just recently, some guy wrote a memo about how women and minorities are getting special treatment in that Company and boo hoo it isn't fair.

Now, all right thinking people acknowledge that when you run a big company what you should do is to listen to each and every employee and gently lactate the milk of human kindness as you do so.  Pichai, of course, is not denying that he listened very carefully and lactated very profusely but the fact is he also fired the dude who was causing him a headache.

Did Pichai violate epistemic ethics?
Scott Aaronson, at Shtetl optimised, has lactated profusely and cogitated profoundly on this question.
He says-
'if James Damore deserves to be fired from Google, for treating evolutionary psychology as potentially relevant to social issues, then Steven Pinker deserves to be fired from Harvard for the same offense.
Yes, I realize that an employee of a private company is different from a tenured professor. But I don’t see why it’s relevant here. For if someone really believes that mooting the hypothesis of an evolutionary reason for average differences in cognitive styles between men and women, is enough by itself to create a hostile environment for women—well then, why should tenure be a bar to firing, any more than it is in cases of sexual harassment?
Was James Damore employed for the specific purpose of investigating evolutionary psychology? Is he an eminent man in that field? Would a janitor at Harvard, who made similar points to Damore, perhaps not as cogently, and not by means of an email memo, been sacked? I think so. The janitor is employed to mop the floors. Airing his views on evolutionary psychology might constitute a nuisance and it might alarm some students and faculty.

Scott might reply 'But, Pichai & Damore are both Science Nerds'
'They share an epistemic ethics.'
Why should Pichai get to fire Damore?

Ronald Coase developed a Theory of the Firm based on the notion that where transaction costs are high or markets are missing, it makes sense to aggregate certain sorts of activities under a distinct corporate personality rather than to just contract on the open market for specific goods and services as required.

According to this theory, Corporate decision making has a different information set and pay-off matrix from that of any individual. Further, the Chief Executive may be aware of particular cost schedules and other strategic considerations which are not 'common knowledge'. In this case, though all employees may have the same duty to the Corporation, they do not necessarily have the same duties to each other by virtue of their ex officio capacity. As a janitor I have a duty to the Company. However it is not a duty I can properly discharge by barging into the Board Room and explaining my theory of option pricing. There are exceptions to this rule. If I genuinely have important information then a Court may find that I had a duty to share that information even if that was not the specific purpose for which I was hired.

In this particular case, the CEO is empowered to say what is or is not the Company's interpretation of a specific course of conduct in relation to a possible breach of existing policy regarding safety in the workplace. Pichai was legally entitled to sack someone whom he thought had infringed that policy because he had the right to interpret his own Company's rule in this respect. The employee concerned had no such right. Because the law is clear on this point, Damore will face an uphill legal battle if he sues for damages.

However, even he had no legal right to do so, there may have been good commercial reasons for Pichai to sack the fellow pour encourager les autres. His Board would probably have approved. However, in that case Damore may be entitled to damages.

Of course, we all understand that a thing can be permitted by the law and advisable on commercial grounds and yet be unethical. In particular, it may be legal and profitable for a Scientist to endorse some pseudo-scientific rubbish so as to make money, but we would still feel this this to be a violation of epistemic ethics. We would say- 'This man may be doing good Science but he is a bad Scientist because he is undermining Scientific method and the hard won reputation for integrity of other toilers in this field.'

Perhaps, there is some genuine philosophical puzzle or aporia here?

Scott now presents a bizarre argument which staves off this possibility-

But the reductio needn’t stop there. It seems to me that, if Damore deserves to be fired, then so do the 56% of Googlers who said in a poll that they opposed his firing. For isn’t that 56% just as responsible for maintaining a hostile environment as Damore himself was? (And how would Google find out which employees opposed the firing? Well, if there’s any company on earth that could…) Furthermore, after those 56% of Googlers are fired, any of the remaining 44% who think the 56% shouldn’t have been fired should be fired as well! And so on iteratively, until only an ideologically reliable core remains, which might or might not be the empty set.
Under perfect information, no missing markets, no convexities etc; it would be true that people who oppose Damore's firing might be judged to have the same opprobrious quality. But in that case, there would be no Google because the Coasian conditions for the firm to exist would not be met.

It is rational for a person who does not want to be fired- perhaps because his transfer earnings are low- to not want anyone to be fired. Of course, in a perfect information world, nobody earns any economic rent and so it is not rational to object to being fired oneself or care about anyone else being fired.
Obviously, a perfect Arrow Debreu world with perfect forward markets for everything would also be one where there would be no Epistemics or Ethics or Epistemic Ethics. All knowledge would be available everywhere. No Choice would bear an externality or be other than regret minimizing ( which fulfills virtue ethics.)

Scott's foray into epistemic ethics turns out to be utterly worthless.
This raises the question-
Can Epistemic ethics exist in an imperfect Coasian world?

Think of a epistemic duty as being like a liturgical requirement in ancient Athens.
Scott thinks Pichai had an epistemic duty to retain Damore.
By Antidosis, Pichai can say 'I'll swap places with a CEO ready to retain Damore provided I get a company equal to Google to manage.' Scott can put together such a Company and do the deal. 

Actually, Financial Markets allow something like Athenian Antidosis already. It may be that Damore has the right business model. Some VCs get together and make a hostile bid. Or maybe there is a Board Room coup. Or a Management buy out.

It seems the Coasian firm already has a way to do epistemic ethics.
Scott doesn't, but he has lactated very profusely on his blog.
That's something nobody can take away from him.

Scott Aaronson's Naked Emperor Equilibrium

Scott Aaronson has a post at Shtetl Optimized on Kolmogorov's epistemic ethics.Scott writes
 If it means anything to be a lover of truth, it means that anytime society finds itself stuck in one of these naked-emperor equilibriums—i.e., an equilibrium with certain facts known to nearly everyone, but severe punishments for anyone who tries to make those facts common knowledge—you hope that eventually society climbs its way out. But crucially, you can hope this while also realising that, if you tried singlehandedly to change the equilibrium, it wouldn’t achieve anything good for the cause of truth.
This is stupid. Clearly, in a situation where people are too frightened to say 'The Emperor is naked' the very last thing you'd want is for this to become explicit 'common knowledge' because then the task of the Secret Police just gets very much easier. Essentially they'd just need to get an independent truth telling savant to say 'All subversives will be put to a very painful death along with their near and dear on the morrow of the xth night subsequent to this announcement- where x stands for the percentage of potential subversives we have targeted- unless, of course, these potential subversives have the good sense to top themselves first.'

 Imagine an economy with homogeneous labour input (or else assume hatred of the regime is randomly distributed across occupations). A one off technological shock which raises productivity by ten percent might mean that the ten percent of the population who by a Pareto Law, represent most of the Subversion potential can be got rid off.

In this case the alethic Savant who makes it explicitly common knowledge that the regime is murderously efficient only in propagating a stupid lie- e.g that the Emperor aint naked- would also be the best, the most economical, instrument of the Secret Police.  His announcement that such and such is the dastardly plan of those sociopaths would cause around ten percent of the population to commit suicide on the tenth night.

Actually, that isn't quite true. All rational agents with this 'common knowledge' would be committing to 'Newcombe' or 'Kavka' type mechanisms to guard against being 'potentially subversive' on the xth night. Thus any random decimation on the morrow of night x would be sufficient to not just fatally deplete the class of potential subversives but would set off an endogenous 'arms race' of increasingly costly signals of commitment to the 'naked Emperor equilibrium'. Indeed, to adapt the language of St. Paul, we would have a particularly robust, for 'mysterious', moral Economy.

In this context, can there be an action guiding epistemic ethics? In other words, is there something about studying a subject properly which also tells you what to concentrate on within that subject and how to deal with colleagues who may have different views or be more vulnerable to official displeasure?

Scott, believes in
‘the Kolmogorov option. This is where you build up fortresses of truth in places the ideological authorities don’t particularly understand or care about,’
However this wouldn’t work in either Stalin’s or Mao’s Utopia because doing stuff the authorities don’t care about, more especially if it requires brain power, would be considered ‘bourgeois idealism' punishable by a spell in a Labour Camp.

People like Kolmogorov & Hua Luogeng showed the State that Mathematicians were willing to roll up their sleeves and do applied work so as to over-fulfill the 5 year plan or whatever. Luogeng was even able to save the lives of one or two 'bourgeois idealist' Pure Mathematicians.

Scott mentions Lysenko’s idiocy but doesn't get that it was useful to both Stalin and Mao. It gave them an excuse to starve the peasantry thus bolstering the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

In the West we are fortunate to have autonomous universities competing with each other, more especially in ‘games against nature’. Does this circumstance permit the deduction of a categorical imperative for Scientists of the sort given in Scott's post?

Certainly, under a specific type of Dialetheia which features ‘scientific truth’ discoverable in one way and ‘deontic truth’ discoverable in another way. However, this is inelegant and not robust.

If we forbid Dialethia we either have some sort of evidentiary decision theory- which is equally fraught with problems; we might end up ‘managing the news’ or else get caught up in backward causation type paradoxes.

Alternatively we could embrace Gibbard type ‘semantic normativism’ but this too has problems.
Finally, we could think of ‘Truth’ as the solution of a coordination game. However, if Knightian uncertainty obtains, we ought to be hedging through ‘discoordination games’ so similar problems arise.

Kolmogorov himself gives us a demarcation criteria for ‘alethic’ research programs separating them from ‘Preference falsification’ based ‘availability cascades’. Clearly, only a ‘bandwagon’ would instrumentalise complexity classes far beyond our computational capability for prescriptive purposes.
Sadly, this approach doesn’t take us very far either because it fails for co-evolved process

What is the Economic theory of ‘naked-emperor equilibriums—i.e., an equilibrium with certain facts known to nearly everyone, but severe punishments for anyone who tries to make those facts common knowledge’?

This sounds like a ‘pooling equilibrium’ on the basis of ‘cheap talk’. ‘A costly signal’ (e.g. something heavily punished) gives rise to a separating equilibrium- which means there is an arbitrate opportunity between coordination and discoordination games.

However General Equilibrium theory predicts that the moment this is exploited the whole becomes, at worst, ‘anything goes’, or at best ironic in a Hegelian manner. The ‘martyr’ becomes the bedrock of the everlasting Ecclesia founded upon the lie he exposed.

I think this question and its ironic outcome lies at the very origin of Western Philosophy in the duel between Isocrates and Aristotle. The former wrote a letter to the boy Alexander urging him to get shot of his tutor who was having him grapple with difficult and abstract subjects like Pure Mathematics. It is better, Isocrates says, to concentrate on perfecting rhetorical style and the arete proper to pre-eminence.

Isocrates is referred to in the Phaedrus where Socrates comes to the conclusion that the palinode (i.e. being able to change your mind) is paradigmatic of philosophy as something which gives birth to the new. Ironically, Socrates- a descendant of Daedalus- finds an Ariadne’s thread which leads him to become a pharmakos- a scapegoat- for his beloved Polis.

Isocrates’ ‘Antidosis’ (a Coasian mechanism design quirk in Athenian law whereby, if you were selected to discharge a public function then you could challenge some richer guy to do it or else swap estates) is the opposite of Socrates’ own defense against the charge of misleading the youth.

Essentially, in Scott’s terms, this ‘good heretic’ is saying he’d be better at the job of clothing the Naked Emperor in a seamless robe of diaphonous opulence.

This is an idea which the Russians were familiar with from Doestoevsky. If you want to get a job with the Secret Police, you pretend to be a dissident till they pick you up for interrogation at which point you turn the tables on them and explain how you are an even better agent provocateur than those they set upon you. Of course, the thing works the other way as well. A true dissident who really wants to change the system will have disguised himself as a secret policeman straight off the bat.

Perhaps this was the game everyone was playing. People like Luzin, by reason of their mystical leanings, were actually safer if denounced by their own. Those in real danger were the Old Bolsheviks.

The Soviets and the Americans develop O.R to a high standard at around the same time. Two very different systems begin to mirror each other in one respect- their Political Paideia can have a purely mathematical description. The Soviets had Nobel prize worthy mathematical economists just as the Americans did, but it was the latter which developed systematic schools attracting adherents across the globe. Ultimately, in the ’90’s we had the ultimate ‘antidosis’ competition. The Harvard Econ Dept was hired to give Russia an American type economy. We all know how that turned out.

Perhaps we became complacent at some point in the Eighties. It is sad that shrill complaints re. ‘trait based’ discrimination have vitiated proper statistical research into the genuine article as illumined by Sowell, Loury, Fryer & c. There are a lot of bright and good people doing Junk Social Science in order to show they are ‘engaged’.

Misology, too, is a type of ‘costly signal’. If a smart and erudite guy makes it a point to utter ignorant non sequiturs it must be the case that he really really cares, right? Either that or he’s just lazy and likes publicity. But, that’s the nature of our current ‘naked Emperor equilibrium’.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Corrupt Indians prefer Government jobs, Stupid Academics prefer Junk Social Science

Hanna & Wang, of Harvard & Wharton respectively, have a paper claiming that propensity to corruption is linked to a preference for Public Sector employment in Karnataka, India.
Students in India who cheat on a simple laboratory task are more likely to prefer public sector jobs. This paper shows that cheating on this task predicts corrupt behavior by civil servants, implying that it is a meaningful predictor of future corruption. Students who demonstrate pro-social preferences are less likely to prefer government jobs, while outcomes on an explicit game and attitudinal measures of corruption do not systematically predict job preferences. A screening process that chooses high ability applicants would not alter the average propensity for corruption. The findings imply that differential selection into government may partially contribute to corruption. 
Hanna & Wang didn't survey Arts students- claiming people who study Politics or History or Literature don't end up as Public Sector workers even though, historically, Arts subjects are considered a gateway to Babudom. Instead, their sample is about 80 percent Commerce and 20 percent Sciences. Students of the former receive some instruction in basic concepts of Game Theory and Mechanism Design and this is reinforced by popular articles. It is likely that such students would show different behaviour in a 'lab test' even if they share the same normative values with students who don't understand the importance of the concept of Mechanism Design in modern Social Science. In other words, this methodology is ab ovo flawed.

Do Hanna & Wang have 'a screening process' for high ability applicants? No. Their sample was of students, not applicants for UPSC jobs. If the cost of application for Public Sector jobs is zero, which is what they assume, then, okay, there is likely to be a correlation. However, the actual cost of attempting the UPSC exam in a credible fashion is at least 700 dollars in coaching fees and other expenses plus an enormous opportunity cost in terms of time and effort. It is unlikely that the 80 percent Commerce stream, 60 per cent female, 40 per cent minorities, sample they have used is in any way representative of actual applicants, let alone successful ones.

This is not to say that a survey of actual applicants for UPSC jobs might not yield a similar result. However, our two researchers have not in fact made any such survey. Yet, by a piece of verbal sleight of hand, they substitute 'applicant' for 'student' on the basis of a farcically wrong assumption. Their work does not 'predict' anything- save perhaps that their next paper will be garbage.

Hanna & Wang's methodology was as follows-
 'we asked each student in our sample to roll a standard die 42 times and to report the number of each roll in order to receive a payment that was increasing in the number reported. Thus, while we do not know with certainty if an individual lied, we can observe how far each individual’s distribution of reports is from the uniform distribution. Note that this measure is appealing in that it does not prime the subject on corruption or dishonesty explicitly and allows them to feel comfortable in knowing that no one can say with certainty that they are cheating.                   

' key contribution of our paper is that we then conducted a validation exercise of this measure using a real measure of corruption. Specifically, we conducted the dice task with 165 government nurses who were part of an experiment conducted by Dhaliwal and Hanna (2013), in which they collected detailed measures of absenteeism through the use of random checks over two years. Thus, we can test whether the dice task outcome predicts fraudulent absenteeism. '

So students aiming to crack the IAS are being compared to poorly educated female nurses in the districts who have much lower cognitive ability and who are being paid for their participation in the 'lab test' with candy, not money.

Why? It is because the main job of an IAS officer ( 75 % of whom are likely to be male) is emptying bed pans. Moreover, a young Bureaucrat who is good at his job can easily get a visa to Europe or the Gulf and earn much more money for doing the same work.

What about 'fraudulent absenteeism'? Is that a good measure of propensity for corruption? No. A corrupt staff nurse will show up for work every day and extort bribes from patients by threatening to withdraw vital nursing services. Moreover, absenteeism is high where the posting is undesirable- some rural shithole- but the posting is undesirable only because the nurse doesn't have the money or the connections necessary to pay a bribe for a good posting. Such absenteeism has to be tolerated because of poor working conditions and the fallibility and expense of monitoring.

There is literally no similarity or connection between the two sample populations Hanna & Wang have chosen. The nurses are poor and stupid and what's more they know that aint going to change any time soon. Their fate is sealed. The students are not as poor or as stupid and their life is still before them. They can dream dreams. With hindsight, it will be obvious that a lot of them hadn't a hope of cracking the UPSC exam. Some may end up with MPhils or PhDs but still applying for peon's jobs.

Why are Hanna & Wang pretending that there is some hard-wired trait corresponding to a stable, exogenously given, propensity for corruption? Is there any evidence that the thing exists? If it does, why not study how it can be detected and cured? But, why stop there? Why not subscribe to a wholesale Manichaeism? Why not say that this survey predicts that the evil Demiurge is recruiting Satanically inclined minions to staff the Public Sector in a manner that passes Human Understanding?

For the moment, Hanna & Wang are being modest. Probably, they suspect they aren't 'high ability' and so will be screened out if they start babbling about Gnostic Demiurges or Lizard People from the Planet X. Thus they observe-
 students who had above median dice points (i.e. higher probability of cheating) were 6.2 percent more likely to want a government job. We find no significant difference in the predictive value of the dice task for high-ability students than for low ability students in terms of job preferences. This implies that screening on ability would neither exacerbate nor mitigate the selection problem among government workers in this context. Importantly, we find that nurses with above median dice points were 10.7 percent more likely to be fraudulently absent than those below it. Furthermore, as in the student sample, we do not find any significant heterogeneity in the predictive power of the dice task for nurse absenteeism by ability. This simple fact that the dice task also predicts the corrupt behaviour of the government nurses helps validate the interpretation of the student sample. 
Liars tell more lies than non liars which is why it is meaningful to speak of liars as opposed to non liars. We expect Public Sector workers who lie about one thing to be more likely to lie about another thing. Does this prove that liars are more likely to want to be Public Sector workers? No.

Perhaps it 'validates an interpretation' of a study which shows liars prefer Public Sector jobs? No. Substitute the phrase 'Cat lover' for 'Public Sector'. The fact that Cat loving liars tell more lies than Cat loving non liars does not 'validate an interpretation' of a small sample test where it was found that Cat lovers were 6.2 % more likely to tell lies. On the contrary, it invalidates any interpretation of the academic paper in question as other than Junk Social Science.

Civil servants need to be civil. They slot into a hierarchy. It may well be that telling lies is correlated with a type of 'Social intelligence' which is based on what the Greek Church calls oikonomia as opposed to Akribeia- i.e. flexibility rather than rigid exactitude. Lord Armstrong, a leading Thatcher era British Civil Servant, is credited with popularising the expression ' to be economical with the truth'. There is no suggestion that Armstrong was corrupt. Why not? Well, Armstrong was subject to strong checks and balances. These could only be subverted by a powerful nexus created and sustained by the elected politicians he answered to. Even then, he'd have been caught unless the British Courts had as big a backlog of cases, or were as accommodating in granting extensions, as Indian Courts.

In India- Karnataka specifically- preference for Govt. employment is tied to housing situation and family obligations. Those who are well housed in a good area are also likely to have better educational opportunities and choose high paid private sector employment. The Public Sector is only sought by either dunces or those who are part of a powerful clan- i.e. they are, in effect, being recruited by an existing syndicate. One reason for this is that the first years of Government service are financially strenuous. One needs to pay a lot in bribes to get a good posting, nice housing, a non crazy rapist of a boss etc. At this time, it is the extended family which supports you. Sometimes, it is the in-laws who stipulate that you stay in such and such Govt. job so as to be useful to them when you get promoted on the basis of seniority (the bribes only affect posting, not status).

Hanna & Wang chose to remain blissfully oblivious to any and all considerations of the sort listed here. Why? The answer is that Stupid Academics like telling Stupid Lies. Other Stupid Academics, like the good folk at Marginal Revolution, are happy to quote these Stupid Lies because that's how availability cascade based Junk Social Science operates.


Hanna & Wang are good people.
More sadly, they are smart people.
What they are doing is corrupt.
Not ugly and hateful, like what I am doing- as I said they are actually good & smart.
Still... dunno why precisely
Coz I respect their character- their capacity for metanoia- I must trash their thoughts and work.
Below, I quote their paper and then make comments in bold.

Economic theory predicts that civil servants often shirk or take bribes because it is difficult for central governments and citizens to monitor and subsequently punish these bad behaviors (e.g. Banerjee, 1997; Shleifer and Vishny, 1993, Di Tella and Schargrodsky, 2004; and Olken and Pande, 2012). 

What is wrong with this sentence? It says that Economic theory predicts something that utterly implausible- viz. that civil servants shirk or take bribes when they are likely to be caught and shot in the head if they do so.

That just aint true. 

Anyone, not just a civil servant, is likely to shirk or take bribes if it is difficult for his employer or his clients to monitor and subsequently punish bad behaviour. That's why Econ has an incomplete contract theory. It's also why Harvard/Wharton type Econ is an, adding noise to signal, Availability Cascade productive only of degenerate Research Programs and yet more worthless Virtue Signalling.

What is the point of quoting Banerjee 1997 as supporting this view? His paper, when it appeared, wasn't utterly foolish. Or, at least, we didn't know that we would judge it to be foolish twenty years later.

Why not? Well, it did not make absurd claims like 'civil servants shirk or take bribes because, of its nature, performance of ANY civil service job is difficult to monitor.' Suppose there was some problem peculiar to civil service contracts such that the above statement were true. Then, there is an easy solution. Privatise everything. Put everything out to tender. Reclassify each and every Babu as an employee of a Private Sector Enterprise or else an NGO or, worst comes to the worst, just designate the fellow as a urinal or other such public convenience.

This implies that variation in the ability to monitor or incentivise civil servants may drive the observed differences in corruption across countries, across agencies within a country, or even across the types of tasks for which public servants are responsible. 

Not true. The prediction of an Economic theory does not imply- i.e. stipulate- anything about the truth value or likelihood of any conditional. I predict it will rain in 5 minutes time. This prediction does not imply that there will be rain clouds in the sky at that time. Why not? It's because I'm using an Economic theory, not a meteorological one, to make my prediction. I believe the bureaucrats in the Celestial Ministry of Rain production are amenable to bribes of a certain sort because Arrow's Theorem has proved Godel's proof of God is valid in the manner of an 'invisible dictator' and thus monitoring of Celestial Civil Servants is lax or incentive incompatible.

However, not all civil servants engage in the same level of corrupt behavior, even in the same position or role. Besley (2005) and Prendergast (2007) posit that this may be potentially due to different government workers having different preferences over engaging in corruption. As such, it follows that the types of individuals that select into government may help explain variation in corruption levels. 

Or it may not. Besley's paper was okay when it came out. It said 'people don't think Blair is a crook because...urm... well, they just don't okay, and I've written a paper so thank you and good night.' That was 12 years ago. Now everybody thinks Blair was a great big crook and all his vaunted Public/Private Partnership schemes and 'Third Way' 'arms length' Management Organisations were a big fucking swindle from which he and his ilk profited immensely.

Why do Hanna & Wang cite a paper about the likes of Tony Blair in a study about poor students at crap Colleges in Karnataka? Are they mad? Or is this stupidity just par for the course?

Let us see-

The empirical literature has mostly focused on documenting how monitoring and financial incentives affect public service delivery in developing countries (e.g. Fisman and Miguel, 2007; Olken, 2007; Duflo, Hanna and Ryan, 2012; Niehaus and Sukhtankar, 2013).

Fisman & Miguel looked at UN diplomats in New York. Those from highly corrupt countries were less likely to pay their fines. Once enforcement was beefed up, by the confiscation of diplomatic plates, the delinquents toed the line.  Big surprise. Why bring it up in this context? Do Hanna & Wang not understand that diplomats have immunity, save by express waiver by their own Foreign Ministry, and that this is almost never granted? A diplomat only has to fear his own country's laws, not those of the host country. There can be reciprocal agreements- e.g. the Americans and Brits can agree that their respective diplomats pay parking tickets in each other's countries. In their absence, it becomes a matter of punctilio for protocol officers to battle things out. What happened in 2002 which made UN diplomats suddenly amenable to pressure from the host country? Think about it. You know the answer. 9/11. After 9/11, New York could crack down on UN diplomats because... guess what other stuff was going down. America was suddenly in the business of 'boots on the ground' 'regime change' and that sure scared a lot of diplos straight. 

Hanna & Wang aint teenagers. They don't come from rural Karnataka. Why are they quoting a study about diplomats in New York in 2002? 

Are they just stupid and ignorant? Or is this symptomatic of some deeper malaise rendering their profession utterly and hilariously worthless?

Much less is known about the type of individuals who select into civil service, whether opportunities for rents in the government sector attract individuals with a high tolerance for engaging in corrupt activities relative to the private sector, and whether screening methods for civil servants could inadvertently screen in more or less “corrupt” individuals.

Much less is known by whom? The Indian UPSC? The Karnataka Civil Service Board? Are you kidding me? Those guys have built up 'expert cognition'. They can smell it out at a 100 yards. Take my old class-mate, Sanjay Pratap Singh. I made a couple of phone calls and know down to the year and the month, if not the precise day, when he turned rotten. Still, there was another moment, a crossing of a subjective point of no return which can't be precisely stipulated. Graham Greene wrote a great novel about a Civil Servant- Scobie- who passed that point. 'In the lost boyhood of Judas, Christ was betrayed'. Not so with my sometime friend. When I met him again at the Academy in Mussoorie, his eyes blazed with fury when he described the corruption of a UP cadre officer of my caste. It was much later when things went wrong. I have other friends who went to the bad in various All India Services. In one case, it was a rapacious wife- in another an American PhD in crap Econ.

I have also seen people who went in corrupt and came out clean. They paid off their debts to the 'clan' or 'syndicate' and then showed their own families a better path. Mahatma Gandhi, in his letters to his elder brother, is doing the same thing. 

It is not true that some people are born corrupt and others are born innocent. The son of an RSS type honest official is now in jail for utterly brazen and reckless corruption.  The daughter of a Muslim Tax Official, proverbial for his courage and clean hands, is- or was, there is some realignment going on as I write this- the politic face of a worthless bunch of gangsters. These things happen. I don't write off the daughter- though she has behaved abominably to my old friend's widow and robbed her own nephew. But, God alone is great. She was too young to know her father well and then her elder brother also died prematurely. It is easy to blame the in-laws especially if they are 'rural' or 'vernacular medium'. Maybe I am a fool. Okay, I'm definitely a fool but it is not utterly foolish to say that there is something else- some non linear aspect to Time, some cancerous type of concurrency- which both predicts delinquency and permits redemption. 

Ah! I'm an old fool. I see now why Hanna & Wang write as they do. They need to keep a distance, to preserve their ignorance, because, in this context, to seek to know is to fellow suffer. Pathos Mathei- Suffering teaches- what? For the greatest of the Greeks, the Latins, the Teutons, the Celts, or our own Mar Thoma Keralites- nothing but the agonies of Christ's endless crucifixion. 

Corruption is such a malaise of the soul- at least in India, for Indians like those kids in Karnataka who, notwithstanding any 'laboratory result' suggesting the contrary are and will remain so good and so wholesome and true that even if they go the way of Sanjay Pratap, yet they can redeem themselves like the Mahatma. 

Fuck it.
I just heard myself.
Okay, Hanna & Wang aint Junk Social Science
They are just... Social Science.
For Flaubert, Art was a prophylactic.
Worthless Econometrics is now the Soul's used condom.

Perhaps Hanna & Wang's 'lab work' resulted in some human interaction or even a Hawthorne effect.
The fact that this used condom of a 'paper' is all the evidence of it that we see is not germane.

Nothing is, which is not close cousin to 30 pieces of Silver, and an impossible bride price.
Nothing becomes true till it acquires a martyr to this truth.

Has Hanna & Wang's methodological misology become a Religion?
Let us see-
First, is there evidence of selection, wherein individuals who apply for government jobs have a higher propensity for corruption? Second, we ask whether the screening process serves to mitigate or exacerbate this problem.
Sounds reasonable. But, first of all, did Hanna & Wang actually choose a data set of applicants for government jobs? No.  They have a cheap, 'quick and dirty' sample of people unlikely to spend the time and money to actually apply for government jobs, their preferences notwithstanding, because an effective application costs money and time and cognitive resources their adversely selective sample most likely lacked.

Do Hanna & Wang actually evaluate the State's 'screening process'? No. They are too stupid and ignorant to do so or even pretend to have done so. Their screening process was worthless in context. Further, it was one their own sample of 'Government servants' were too stupid and cognitively impoverished to hack. Why are Hanna & Wang telling us such stupid, obvious, lies?
We motivate our empirical exercise by examining the decision to apply for a government position given the returns to different characteristics in the public and private sector. India—like many developing countries—employs civil service examinations primarily aimed to screen potential candidates by cognitive ability. 
Did you just hear that?
Three percent of Muslims crack the Civil Service exams.
That's way below what would one expect- unless Muslims are stupider than Hindus.
They are not.
Hanna & Wang are not Indian.
They are welcome to believe otherwise.
But, if an Indian believes that ANY community in India is less 'cognitively able', then they should just fucking emigrate- and good riddance to bad rubbish is what Eugenics and Scientific Method would say.  Muslims have the same DNA as Hindus or Christians or whatever. I may be as stupid as shit. But, not even I am so stupid as to believe otherwise. 

The truth is well known. If you are of a dominant caste, then a Government job brings you extra perks. If you aint, it is a Cross your family must bear to testify to your Public Spirit.

The framework demonstrates the conditions under which we will observe high-ability individuals who apply for public service jobs also having higher levels of non-wage benefits (such as corrupt payments or utility from public service) in the government. Thus, if screening primarily on ability, one may inadvertently select individuals who possess these other characteristics.
Hanna & Wang went to Harvard and all they got was a lousy T shirt saying-
'India, like every other country, does not practice any Institutional Discrimination whatsoever'.
Fuck is wrong with these retards?
                                                                 The answer soon appears.
They believe there is a 'propensity for corruption' which is individual not Statistical.
So, we now have a new m.p.c- not the stupid Keynesian marginal propensity to consume which gives rise to a delusive 'multiplier'- but a marginal propensity to be corrupt which can act as a multiplier of Junk Social Science.

 our main challenges was devising a meaningful measure of an individual’s propensity for corruption given that individuals may not want to reveal this
That was your major challenge?  Why? Was proving P=NP too easy for you? Why are you two geniuses not claiming the Millennium Prize? After all, you have found a way of defeating an impredicative preference revelation problem, not in the general, or Evolutionarily Stable, case but in the individual case! Wow! You have solved every problem of Mechanism Design and incarnate the Revelation Principle. Why the fuck are you writing stupid illiterate nonsense about kids in Karnataka or poorly paid nurses in the boondocks? Do they really look to you to be so very evil? Shame on you! They are honest and hardworking under very adverse conditions.  What is your excuse for labelling some portion of their number with a 'propensity to corruption?' Are conditions at Harvard or Wharton really so bad? Were you tortured? Were you beaten? 

Narendra Modi said, and the World applauded, 'Harvard Economists are inferior to Hard Working people.' 

Why? The latter can admit the truth. The former live by telling stupid, ignorant, seemingly bien pensant, but actually deeply Racist and Elitist lies. Why were you so lazy as to write in the manner that you have done? Why try to pass off opportunistic, methodologically worthless, work as part of an academic availability cascade? What is your major malfunction?