Thursday, July 30, 2015

UN's Faux Development Agenda

The United Nations seems to be headed for a summit session of the General Assembly in September that will agree on a meaningless global development agenda.

The draft of the document now being discussed in New York makes high minded declarations about "principles" and "commitment" but ignores such key issues as money laundering and drug trafficking that bedevil economic growth in poor countries.

Produced  after lengthy "consultations" by the Ambassadors of Ireland and Kenya, it does not mention drug trafficking at all. Governments only promise to "strengthen the prevention and treatment of substance abuse, including narcotic drug abuse and harmful use of alcohol."

Money laundering is noted obliquely in the pledge by governments that by 2030 they will "significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows ... and combat all forms of organized crime."

There are four anodyne references to terrorism:

1. Governments say they will "take further effective measures and actions, in conformity with international law, to remove obstacles and constraints, strengthen support and meet the special needs of people living in areas affected by complex humanitarian emergencies and in areas affected by terrorism."

2. They will "Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime.

The third and fourth mention of terrorism repeat those formulations word for word in other sections of the draft.

If any of this makes a difference to the lives of the billion people living on less than $1.25 a day it will be convincing proof that miracles do happen.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Debate on Brit Reparations for Colonialism

The Oxford Union/Social media debate on whether the British owe reparations to their former colonies is notable for the alarming display of Indian ignorance of basic facts and interesting in its timing. Items:

1. The British did not rule India for 200 years (as the Oxford debaters, including Shashi Tharoor, said repeatedly). Consider the following time-frame:

  • 1757 The sham “Battle of Plassey” (won by bribery) began the colonial era 
  • 1848 Punjab fell to the British. In 91 intervening years the British did not “rule India;” they took territories in the name of the Mughal Emperor in Delhi and subjected them to rapacious exploitation. They built the railways and telegraph to loot more efficiently. 
  • 1857 Less than a decade after the fall of the Punjab a great national uprising almost unseated the British. In its aftermath Queen Victoria declared herself “Empress of India” and promised to be the people’s “ma-baap” but on the ground vengeful massacres continued for serveral years. The two decades after the uprising saw the worst famines in the country’s history, amidst which the British exported record quantities of food; they also convened a “Great Durbar” and feasted amidst the dying millions.
  • 1885 To try and contain Indian fury, the Agriculture Member of the Viceroy’s Council propelled the founding of the Indian National Congress but the nationalists soon took it over. British “rule” would last just 62 years after that, with the bureaucrats in Delhi in steady political retreat most of the time. 

That timeline shows not only that the British did not rule in any legitimate sense of the word, they also did not control the whole or even most of the country for anywhere near 200 years.

2. The British did not unify India: The British themselves recognized the reality of Indian political unity by remaining Mughal tax collectors for most of their time in India. The country was also united more fundamentally by culture and world view; that was why Gandhi’s political message resonated nationally and mobilized the people. Contrary to its claim to have unified the country is the British record of creating a vicious and unprecedented religious divide.

3. Pre-British India had a range of industries: Social media scoffers at the concept of “deindustrialization” have asked what industries India had other than textiles. India had a wide range of other productive capacities. The highest valued was diamond processing, a uniquely Indian industry through most of history because no other country mined the gems until 1725, when a source was discovered in Brazil. Also widely renowned was the Indian ship building industry. Arab ships were built entirely in India. The country also led in metal work of many kinds, including of course, gold jewelry. The steel pillar near Qutb Minar in Delhi exemplifies the high quality India achieved in a field critically important in making weapons. Tipu Sultan’s use of rocketry against the British also demonstrated an unmatched mastery of other advanced technologies.

4. Toll of British “man-made famines”: Shashi Tharoor said 29 million Indians had perished in British created famines. Going by figures reported by British administrators themselves, the total is over 100 million. Indian estimates go much higher. This phenomenon should not be seen as an accidental by-product of looting. As in North America and Australasia, genocide was British policy.

The Matter of Timing

Shashi Tharoor has been a British spear-carrier for most of his career, so his performance in the Oxford debate needs some explanation. What led him to become so vocal a critic? I would like to think he’s been reading my blog, but having seen him in action for nearly five decades, that explanation is a non-starter. He has a self-serving political aim in mind.

What could it be?

Well, if we’re looking for clues, Sushma Swaraj’s current problems might be a good place to start. They originated in leaks from Britain and have led to calls for her replacement as Foreign Minister. The Times of India reported earlier this week that she had removed the label“Foreign Minister” from her Twitter account.

The Oxford debate was held in May, just about the time when Sushma Swaraj’s problems were surfacing. Shashi did not make public the tape of his speech at Oxford in May or shortly thereafter, when I presume he had it. And now, just as it goes viral, he stirs up a hornets nest in the Congress by criticizing Sonia Gandhi’s tactics in parliament.

Am I being over-imaginative, or does it seem as if he’s preparing to jump ship and bid for the Foreign Minister’s job?

“Not so fast!” you say: “what of the unfortunate Sunanda Pushkar matter?”

Ah yes. Point well taken. But then, a few million pounds distributed in the right quarters might lift that albatross from his political neck.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to Crowd-Fund Greece Out of its Crisis

Greece can pay all its debts in a few months and get back to healthy economic growth immediately if its “socialist” leaders open their eyes to the new capitalism of the Information Age.

As I have been arguing for several years, the corrupt, inefficient corporate capitalism of the industrial era is dying and its successor is waiting in the wings, ready to take the world into the economy of the free market that Adam Smith wrote about in the 18th Century.

What should Greece do?

First, its leaders should use the latest multi-billion dollar bailout not to inflict more pain on their people but to plan how the Greek economy can capitalize crowd funding.

What does that mean?

It means taking advantage of the innovative funding opportunities opened up by the Internet and Worldwide Web.


By creating a global Internet-based lottery with all-expense paid trips to Greece as prizes.

The number of tickets sold for each prize should cover the expenses of all those actively involved in providing a pleasant experience for the tourist, from waiters and guides to hotels and airlines.

An additional number of tickets should be sold to pay off the Greek national debt and fund any programme the government wants.

As some 22.5 million tourists pay to enjoy a Greek vacation every year – most of them Europeans – we can expect that with the whole world bidding the available lottery tickets would be quickly sold out.

Suppose the government sold just 10,000 $1 lottery tickets for each prize, it would generate a total income of 225,000,000,000, which is about the same as the country's 2013 GDP.

The 10,000 figure is of course, ridiculously low; 100,000 tickets could easily be sold globally for each prize.

Such a funding system would have the Greek economy humming instantly and create a very healthy level of employment.

The government could also take several other steps to reform the economic system.

The biggest step should be to end income tax.

It would not only send levels of consumer spending and saving into the stratosphere, there would be an immediate end to the haemorrhage of money into the international black market.

From my napkin calculations, Greece should be able to pay off its national debt with ease and look to the welfare of its citizens without worrying about funding.