…And How Would He Affect India?

As the world hopes / prays / waits for an impending Obama Presidency, OpEds like this one are surfacing asking “what would it mean for us over here?” Writing for the Times of India, the wonderfully multi-syllabically-named Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar takes a look at how Obamanomics might affect the Desh

What They Are Wishing For….

Barack Obama looks certain to beat John McCain and become the next US president. Most Indians will be delighted. An Obama victory will symbolise the vanquishing of racism and the dismal Bush legacy.

…Yet, a look at the voting record and campaign content of the two candidates suggests that McCain might in many ways be better for India than Obama, especially on economic issues.

One of Aiyar’s biggest fears is resurgent protectionism within the anchor tenant for world trade –

…pressures will mount for protectionist measures and beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the US, hurting countries like India. Apart from erecting import barriers and subsidising dumped exports, US politicians will seek to curb the outsourcing of services to India. Visa curbs will slow the movement of skilled workers and their dollar remittances back to India. McCain is one of the few American politicians in either party with the courage and conviction to stand up to protectionist populism. By contrast, Obama embodies protectionism.

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p>Aiyar also fears Obama / Democratic rhetoric which precondition free trade on bilateral environmental / political / labor / social / etc. standards. Wishing rich country lifestyles/workstyles upon poor nations is certainly admirable but mandating it before letting them enrich themselves (& later their workstyles) via trade is an altogether different proposition.

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p>Operationally, we have a pretty tough time determining standards for our own rich selves much less figuring out which of our norms should be applied in the 3rd world. And let’s not get into enforcement and all its unintended consequences. Cynically, such talk is likely instead a way of stitching together the trade unionist and anti-globalization votes – progressive lipstick on a protectionist pig perhaps but not an effective way to address 3rd world poverty.

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p>While trade policy has an overt, direct impact on the Desh, other, more important policies could have an even bigger indirect impact. For example, that old issue of farm subsidies impacts the global economic sustainability of the largest profession in India -

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…Obama favours extensive subsidies for US farmers, hitting Third World exporters like India. This has been one of the issues on which the Doha Round of WTO is gridlocked. McCain could open the gridlock, Obama will strengthen it.

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p>While subsidies distort the agro market in one direction, Bush’s bioenergy mandates have helped distort the market from the other side. Unfortunately, this is one incumbent administration program Obama is likely to not only preserve but probably expand -

…Obama also favours subsidies for converting maize to ethanol. The massive diversion of maize from food to ethanol has sent global food and fertiliser prices skyrocketing, hitting countries like India. But McCain has always opposed subsidies for both US agriculture and ethanol. While campaigning, he had the courage to oppose such subsidies even in Iowa, an agricultural state he badly needs to win if he is to become president.

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p>And so, as the world hopes that the next 4 years will be a marked break from the previous 8, Aiyer sums up his hopes thusly -

So when Obama wins, don’t cheer too loudly. It will be great to have a black US president. It would be even greater if he followed McCain’s economic policies.

Personally, I’m willing to attribute many of these positions to old fashioned campaign season rhetoric. Key Obama econ staff / advisors / supporters are pretty emphatically on the record as trade supporters even though the campaign may have taken on a life of its own. Still, this sort of pandering is doubly sad given the campaign’s pride in taking the intellectual high road. So ultimately, perhaps this is one place where I’ve got the Audacity of Hope that campaign promises won’t be kept.

47 thoughts on “…And How Would He Affect India?

  1. Yes, very sobering piece by Aiyar. The NAFTA/Canada flack certainly represented the low point for the Obama campaign, not only because they were caught being disingenuous, in contrast to the Obama brand, but also because they were making a clear appeal to xenophobia and racism, culminating in Mark Warner’s disgusting speech at the DNC when he took direct aim at Bangalore, India.

    Its sad that the first black president is on the wrong side of the greatest civil rights issue of our time. But I take comfort in the fact that he’s being disingenuous, since this means he’ll do the right thing despite saying the wrong ones. Also, I’m glad he’s showing a dark side because all politicians need to have some Machiavellianism in them to get things done. As long as they use it judiciously and sparingly its all good. I’m sure Oprah, Bono, and the Google guys will make sure he does the right thing at the end of the day.

  2. A protectionist agenda by the U.S. might save India from itself (or its IMF-educated elite class), but it would be a happy accident (for someone with with my views) not a result of one candidate or the other winning. And, like you, I don’t see it happening as the product of domestic political forces given who Obama is stockpiling as economic advisers.

    The impact of both economic and political structural causes are going to constrain Obama severely. He is going to be dealing with a sharp global recession, decades of neglect on infrastructure spending, foreclosures, homelessness, low wages, enormous debt, and other features alongside the economic populist upsurge they contribute to (the one that’s putting him into power although it’s been channeled into identity-based change instead of economic populism). So regardless of what he says, what he believes, and a lot of other stuff, he’s probably going to be put in a position to balance his neoclassical advisors’ advice with what people are calling for and what economic conditions force him into (like stimulus packages). And he’s a pretty smart politician from what we’ve seen so far, so I imagine he’s going to do that balancing, for better or for worse.

  3. Key Obama econ staff / advisors / supporters are pretty emphatically on the record as trade supporters even though the campaign may have taken on a life of its own.

    This was a little scandal out here in the frozen turda (sic). When the messiah cast his gracious eye on this blighted, parched land – the official word was that they’ll reopen NAFTA. Canadian pols were up in arms. What the f…? do they sumbeeches know how good they have it in sucking oil out of the tarsands? … well hold your harpoons, sealhunters. the messiah’s handler passed a note under the table saying, “wink wink. nudge nudge. it’s all a smokescreen”. but the sealhunter envoy was a dummass and leaked the note to the public, and that was used as a campaign tactic by oldboy, though not effectively. well. dummass got fired and the messiah cant be pleased. historically, the first foreign visit by the u.s. head of state has been to canadistan – with the cowboy summit being a prominent exception in a sign of changing affections. we shall see.

  4. heh, heh. good pj o’rourkian narrative of the canada/nafta fiasco, khoofia. you should teach history.

  5. 5 · Rahul said

    I thought Obama was palling around with Aiyars, why the sudden split between them?

    Obama didn’t want, for political purposes, to be associated with this extremist liberation philosophy representing the interests of the poor and dispossessed…although in his heart of hearts he truly believes in it.

  6. 6 · Manju said

    this extremist liberation philosophy representing the interests of the poor and dispossessed…

    This is very much in the realm of dogma unproved by empiricism. Much like “trickledown”, the distributional effects of free trade have hardly been benign or aligned towards the dispossessed.

  7. 7 · Rahul said

    6 · Manju said
    this extremist liberation philosophy representing the interests of the poor and dispossessed…
    This is very much in the realm of dogma unproved by empiricism. Much like “trickledown”, the distributional effects of free trade have hardly been benign or aligned towards the dispossessed.

    What are these ‘facts’ that you speak of? The sun is clearly moving around the earth – we can both see it every day!!!

  8. 7 · Rahul said

    This is very much in the realm of dogma unproved by empiricism.

    % of people living under $2/day? even jeffrey sachs and paul krugman, hardly free-market ideologues, point out that drop in poverty rates is greatest in countries most affected by globalization, while areas that have not been affected have remained stagnant.

  9. 9 · Manju said

    % of people living under $2/day? even jeffrey sachs and paul krugman, hardly free-market ideologues, point out that drop in poverty rates is greatest in countries most affected by globalization, while areas that have not been affected have remained stagnant.

    The differences in positions between the candidates is not as simple as a contrast between globalization and insularity. There is empirical evidence, even supported by the World Bank, hardly a force for protectionism, that the benefits of globalization for inequality and poverty have, at best, been wildly overstated. Krugman himself has talked about the severe inequality that arises as a consequence of global trade, and has quoted the example of Mexico specifically. So, while isolationism is not the answer, just like capitalism needs to be balanced by market regulation, it seems like the beneficial effects of globalization can be best harnessed with sensible trade policy, tariffs and other techniques. There can be debate about the appropriate extent of the barriers that are needed, but knee-jerk reactions against talk of barriers to unfettered globalization seem pretty dogmatic.

  10. The article was mentioned in Greg Mankiw’s Blog two days back. Just mentioning this because I found an interesting response to it which notes that: A poll showed that Indians overwhelmingly went for Obama over McCain (87 to 13) The sample of the poll was skewed — but it skewed in a way that would understate the support for Obama! (As various comments pointed out — the poll participants were Indian readers of the economist — this is a group which commonsense dictates will both be far better informed about economic issues and far more pro free-trade than the average Indian.)

    Not saying that Aiyer’s points do not make sense, just that I found the response interesting,(especially the comments with it).

  11. 10 · Rahul said

    The differences in positions between the candidates is not as simple as a contrast between globalization and insularity

    right. as i said, some of obama’s stated positions are disingenuous.

    There is empirical evidence, even supported by the World Bank, hardly a force for protectionism, that the benefits of globalization for inequality and poverty have, at best, been wildly overstated.

    Well, this is a very different argument from saying there’s is no empirical evidence that free-trade benefits the poor. Krugman position is that it does but its been overstated. And then there’s the side issue of equality, which is different from prosperity. recessions, however, are great for increasing equality.

    to be fair, i believe stats do show the poor in developed nations stand to get hurt by globaliztion at least in the short run.

  12. interestingly, the gallup poll shows the world prefers obama overwhelmingly, but india seems less excited with only 7% favoring obama (comparred to 2% for Mccain). for some reason the vast majority of indians refused to give a preference.

  13. 12 · Manju said

    Well, this is a very different argument from saying there’s is no empirical evidence that free-trade benefits the poor.

    That isn’t what I said.

    right. as i said, some of obama’s stated positions are disingenuous.

    As I understand it, Obama’s positions call for a far higher degree of protectionism (incentives against outsourcing, . His NAFTA campaign rhetoric about opting out of it if it wasn’t renegotiated is certainly overblown (just being realistic), but this does not mean that he won’t push hard for it to be renegotiated (I don’t know, just speculating on this latter part). My point is that just saying that “Obama is protectionist” as if that ends the debate makes about as much sense to me as “he spreads the wealth” or “free the markets”.

    P.S: None of this discounts the scaremongering ads on outsourcing, which have been distasteful, all the more so because they use people who don’t have a voice in American politics as soft targets and portray them as villains.

  14. 12 · Manju said

    to be fair, i believe stats do show the poor in developed nations stand to get hurt by globaliztion at least in the short run.

    Since Keynes is very much back in fashion these days after 50 years of Friedmanism, I guess now’s the time to remind folks that in the long run…

  15. I’m being charitable to Gallup by even posting this in response to a survey like this, but this is what their methodology notes were for their China data:

    Survey Methods Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,239 adults in China, aged 15 and older, conducted Sept. 22-Oct. 20, 2008. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of design-adjusted sampling error is ±6 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
  16. 14 · Rahul said

    My point is that just saying that “Obama is protectionist” as if that ends the debate makes about as much sense to me as “he spreads the wealth” or “free the markets”.

    well, i’ll give you credit for consistently preferring technocrats (like clinton) over awe-inspiring leaders with soaring rhetoric, but is it really fair to compare Aiyar’s arguments with McCain’s sloganeering. After all, he gives specific examples like: “In 2007, he voted to reduce visas issued to foreign workers (such as Indian software engineers), and to ban Mexican trucks on US roads…Obama favours extensive subsidies for US farmers, hitting Third World exporters like India….Obama also favours subsidies for converting maize to ethanol. The massive diversion of maize from food to ethanol has sent global food and fertiliser prices skyrocketing, hitting countries like India.”

    As an Obama supporter, I agree his postions cannot be reduced to protectionism, but his over heated rhetoric and playing of the xenephobia card opened him up to such charges, as opposed to the groundless “socialism” charges.

    One of the great promises of the Obama presidency is that he’ll finally put an end to American progressivism and anti-globaliztion at a time when it should be resurgent due to the crises in global capitalism. with thier long hispory of hurting the very people they claim to represent, as krugman argues, they’ve long discredited themselves by their inability to show some pleasure over the millions crossing the poverty line in india and chaina. instead they patronizingly praise pre-insdutrial societies even as the members of such societies routinely reject it when given a choice.

    Anyway, he appears to have pushed back cold war rhetoric effectively. I see he’s on Rachel maddow tonight declaring himself an ardent free marketer and capitalist. His mocking of the communist label with his peanut butter joke was great. Most importantly, black Americans, once the natural market for anti-american leftists like bill Ayers, will finally be bought solidly into the democratic capitalist fold, where they have always been of course, but did not have the emotional investment untill now.

    obmam changes everything. sorry, im not as cool and academic as you, rahul, so i like a littel hyperbole. i’m really excited.

  17. interestingly, the gallup poll shows the world prefers obama overwhelmingly, but india seems less excited with only 7% favoring obama (comparred to 2% for Mccain). for some reason the vast majority of indians refused to give a preference.

    Could be Jai the Agriculturist Jeet Dhabawallah don’t encounter Gallup so much.

    I generally remind myself that Obama only talks about not giving “tax breaks” to companies that “outsource jobs”, whatever qualifiers that encompasses. I am aware that Obama draws a distinction between Amrikan Desis and those back “Home”, but would a maker of dal really screw it up for Desh?

    Rachel Maddow has her own video page now, in case anyone misses it.

  18. Uncle Cookiebrown thinks that for an ABD (or DBD) to highlight out the multi-syllabic (or is it polysyllabic?) nature of Tamil names is very uncool.

    And if it isn’t uncool then my real name isn’t Kumbakonam Seetharama Balasubramanian Iyer.

  19. free trade is good. obama’s demagoguery on this issue is shameful, though not surprising (kerry prefigured it with 2004′s ‘benedict arnold’ CEOs; this is basically the democrat’s version of ‘the southern strategy,’ bigotry outsourced abroad just isn’t as bad i guess).

    that being said, a friend of mine who is an economist says that he thinks there’s a good argument for the USA to just declare bankruptcy. we’ve just nationalized a large portion of the financial industry (under the aegis of a republican president who heads a party which claims that the leader of the opposition is a socialist!). we’re going to probably bail out a whole bunch of citizens who were irresponsible with their mortgages to save a large minority who got screwed or had a string of bad luck (hey, i saw the cars and vacations some people were getting with their lines of credit with home equity; though others did invest in their childrens’ education). the fed lowered the interest rate to 1%. the stock market is behaving as erratically as a meth addict.

    frankly i really don’t give a rat’s ass about the poor people in the third world right now, if i wanted to live in f**king argentina i’d move there! we can celebrate the gains to trade when the chinese sovereign wealth fund gets its claws off the balls of the US government. meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of american troops are running around in a sand-trap of a hellhole because that moron george w. bush can’t admit he was wrong. i’m not exactly excited for my tax dollars to go to bailing financial institutions, but there’s a pretty rational argument for why we have to do this, but it see no reason why my tax dollars have to be flushed down the tigris and the euphrates year after year. i really don’t care if iraqis kill each other because they worship different primitive non-existence godlings at this point. if we could do something, we would and should, but they’re better at killing each other than americans are at bullets and bombs.

    chances are i don’t live in argentina-north. like many people i’m probably hysterical, which is probably why i’m thinking now and then of thomas jefferson’s maxim that “the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    more coherently in the moral consequences of economic growth the political economist benjamin friedman shows that the historical record in the USA has a rather close correlation between liberal values, broadly construed, and gains in income to the broad middle of american society. during times of economic stress the culture gives rise to parties such as the know nothings, and turns against “outsiders” and “marginals.” during the clinton years there was some resumption of the growth in incomes to the middle class. during the bush years the spigot of cheap credit allowed for a debt fueled consumption culture. there’s still no growth in incomes, and he spigot is now turned off. in fact, people are going to have to service their debt as they crawl back toward the black.

    i guess i’m feeling that i’m in a country first mood; that is, when i’m not feeling family first….

  20. and btw, i’m going to strangle the nearest ret*rd the next time i read something to the effect that “The American people aren’t stupid” in the press. THEY ARE TOO STUPID! humans are, on average, a really stupid animal. the media doesn’t have to pretend because most of the animals only read people and parade (and probably us weekly).

  21. I’m not an American, but I’m really hoping for Obama to win. I hope to see a similar, inspirational South-Asian American in the mainstream political arena in my lifetime.

    Come the 4th, if Obama doesn’t win, I’m not sure exactly how I’ll feel. Like I said, I’m not even American, but I’m thinking that an Obama loss is going to definitely wind me.

  22. 8 Dr. Amonymous

    What are these ‘facts’ that you speak of? The sun is clearly moving around the earth – we can both see it every day!!!

    You may like to read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heliocentrism#The_view_of_modern_science

    2 Dr. Amonymous

    A protectionist agenda by the U.S. might save India from itself …

    Yeah India needs to be saved from being a richer country with lower levels of poverty.

    22 Razib:

    and btw, i’m going to strangle the nearest ret*rd the next time i read something to the effect that “The American people aren’t stupid” in the press. THEY ARE TOO STUPID!

    This is the truth that dare not speak its name

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b5p3OB6roAg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Myth_of_the_Rational_Voter http://www.cato-unbound.org/2006/11/06/bryan-caplan/the-myth-of-the-rational-voter/

  23. I didn’t spend too much time looking into this, but how did they conduct that global electoral poll. It seems REALLY skewed. Take the US, it says that 87% support Obama, vs 13% for McCain. We all know that the poll numbers are much closer than that.

  24. I’m busy so this is going to have to be short, and maybe incomplete. The bottomline is that given the significant and convincing evidence that globalization has actually been detrimental to vast swaths of the poor, parroting standard pro-free trade stuff and claiming that opposition to free trade is being on the wrong side of basic human equality seems overblown at best, and more accurately, wrongheaded. It seems like the current structure needs to be leavened by more protection for the poor on either side of the equation to distribute the gains to trade better.

    17 · Manju said

    but is it really fair to compare Aiyar’s arguments with McCain’s sloganeering.

    Yes. The article is a full-throated tirade for unchecked free trade across borders, with the basic assumption being that this is good, no questions asked. Every other sentence is something to the effect of:

    …pressures will mount for protectionist measures and beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the US, hurting countries like India.

    that helpful little scorecard that’s linked just again amplifies the point, starting with the “fact” that every row is something that’s inherently bad, and therefore opposing them is the only acceptable answer.

    as are Vinod’s repetition of the tired old bromides about labor standards etc.

    And this, when even you have to grant in the face of data that globalization has actually reduced the PPP based standard of living of the poor.

    The article is mostly correct on the fact that McCain has historically opposed subsidies (not true about ethanol, in 2006 when he began his campaign in Iowa and was fully for ethanol subsidies, a position he pivoted on again in 2007 presaging his campaign’s current predilection for switchbacks, some wag then observed that “this finally proves that mccain is serious about running for president”), and except for now where he strongly favors “incentives” for nuclear power , a technology that cannot even begin to fill the gap between our current energy consumption and supply.

    I think American subsidies severely distort the free trade equation, and that is a fair thing to ding Obama and pretty much most politicians on either side of the aisle on, but I doubt that you will see McCain doing that (going back to your talk about whether Obama opens himself to these charges).

    As for your claim about “one of the great promises of an Obama presidency”, I have no idea what this means given that either you believe Aiyar’s dire prognosis, or you believe that his policies will likely mostly be similar to Clinton’s, and the general trend of pro-globalization in American politics, if you think that Obama’s rhetoric favoring populism over Clintonian triangulation is just campaign hooey.

    Maybe I will just chalk that down to your uncontrollable excitement (“great civil rights issue of our time”, “great promises of an Obama presidency”, “technocrats over awe inspiring leaders with rhetoric” and so on and so forth :-)

  25. 26, Rahul:

    I’m busy so this is going to have to be short, and maybe incomplete. The bottomline is that given the significant and convincing evidence that globalization has actually been detrimental to vast swaths of the poor, parroting standard pro-free trade stuff and claiming that opposition to free trade is being on the wrong side of basic human equality seems overblown at best, and more accurately, wrongheaded.

    You have any proof that globalization and free trade have systemically lowered aggregate wealth and increased poverty?

  26. One of Aiyar’s biggest fears is resurgent protectionism within the anchor tenant for world trade

    As the recent Economist endorsement points out, Obama has shown himself to be too much of a pragmatist to make stupid ideological moves. The biggest worry would be his interest/ability/guts to stand up to the protectionist nitwits in his own party, and that will decide this aspect. Hopefully he will. In any case what is the option – a McCain who has more than sold his soul for the presidency and thus could continue to do whatever is politically beneficial while being President. Plus, we are also not accounting for the fact that he could very well try to isolate China and Russia in his league of democracies mumbo jumbo, and that could hurt the world economy much too. Plus he little taste, understanding or interest in economics and has shown poor taste in his choice of economic advisers so far. At least Obama has shown himself to be able to learn, understand and take advice from the people who know, while ‘gax tax holiday’ John McCain has shown little of any of it.

  27. As for free markets, they are good and they bring benefits that no other system does. Globalization is good. One sees a big differnce in the comfort and opportunities available for people pre and post liberalization and that should be a reminder of this. Ditto for China.

    When one starts considering cases where people have suffered due to globalization, one sometimes neglects the consideration that free markets cannot operate in a vacuum by themselves. They need good systems around them including regulation. Where they do not work, more often than not its because other aspects such as corruption and artificial distortions to the market mess things up. Another aspect that is often quoted is the examples of poor who have got poorer. One needs to realize that globalization is like a disruptive business/technology. A cheap walmart will hurt the mom and pop stores but benefits society as a whole. The system around the markets needs to take the adequate measures to provide these displaced moms and pops with alternative opportunities. Its not the globalization that fails here (unless you believe the market would fix everything).

  28. I am not worried about an Obama presidency because for one thing he is a Democratic leader and they as a rule, in about the last 100 years are smarter than the best the Repubs have come up with, barring of course Ike and Nixon. Ike was good and smart while Nixon was crooked and smart. Bush Sr. was just OK, while Reagan is a low point for any party in being a total doofus. Chris Hitchens calls him a Global Village Idiot. This President is a few steps – a few – above Reagan – but remarkably ignorant and uncaring. Of course in this election it’s not saying much to say that Obama-Biden are about a million times smarter than McSame-McFashion. Thru this campaign it has been very revealing to see the unraveling of McSame, who I thought, mistakenly, knew something about international relations. His international relations knowledge is at the Cliff Notes level, and I would say is even worse than his knowledge of economics. The military chooses its leaders wisely, and not only for valor, which is a necessary but not sufficient condition. And there is a good reason why McSame with all the strings he could pull could barely sneak into the war college and then had to leave without becoming an Admiral. He is unfit for command. Mcfashion of course thinks that “flintstones” is a documentary. So as Razib says, since the electorate will generally buy a lot of BS, McFashion stands a good chance of remaining for long in the public eye.

    Obama’s criticism of the current trade regime is justified, because in the current zero sum game that is the economy, rewards are to be had for cost reduction, and shafting the workforce. Wall Street has distributed several billions in bonuses during the last few years, and there is something obscenely wrong with that. And although Vinod lives in this lovely little bubble, for the first time in decades US infrastructure faces the very real possibility of falling behind beyond repair. It’s about time we threw aside this bakwas about the market solving everything. I have worked with too many corporations to believe in those fairy tales.

    and of course I hope an Obama administration takes the 1st steps towards universal enforcement of environmental and labor standards – full enforcement will take a few decades – but would be welcome. If it is illegal for children in the US to be locked up in carpet factory, or a glass foundry, or a toy factory; children in no other country should be enslaved just so that we can obtain these goods at rock bottom rates. Let’s not waffle about this. Throw out all those disingenuous amoral academic papers on the subject. We have been through that process of universalisation in the US as fair labor standards spread out of the Northeast toward the South and West, and we are better off for that today. It is phoney economics. In India in Sivakasi the ban on child labor has improved living standards because the fireworks makers and printing presses have had to employ adults at higher wages, freeing the children to attend school. Of course fireworks cost more – they should.

    And since when did a creationist sympathiser like Swaminathan Aiyar, who is also a pseedoscientific crank as a climate change denialist, count for serious opinion?

  29. 30 · jyotsana said

    And since when did a creationist sympathiser like Swaminathan Aiyar

    what’s this about?

  30. 30, Jyotsana:

    And since when did a creationist sympathiser like Swaminathan Aiyar, who is also a pseedoscientific crank as a climate change denialist, count for serious opinion?
    1. Swami Aiyar is an atheist — A liberal atheist demands respect
    2. On all his writings this is the one I could retrieve explicitly about “Climate Change” Plausible hypotheses are not scientific facts written 2 years back on Nov 14, 2006. I don’t know if he has changed his mind on this issue like some other earlier prominent skeptics like Ronald Bailey. He does raise some important issues with current climate change dogma and does propose some constructive ways to go ahead.
    So, many experts want us to take a decision without concrete proof. If we wait decades for conclusive proof, they say, it may be too late to take preventive action. This is altogether a more respectable argument than the claim that global warming is a scientific fact. There is a case for viewing emission curbs as an insurance premium worth paying just in case the disaster hypothesis, though unproven, is correct. Rational people buy insurance against events that may never happen. Homeowners in Delhi buy earthquake insurance, although no major earthquake may ever hit the city. Is the Kyoto insurance premium commensurate with the insurance benefits promised? Only if it is small (as in the Delhi earthquake example). Experts now estimate that checking emissions to safe levels will cost around 1% of GDP. That may not sound excessive. However, it translates into a whopping $ 500 billion a year at today’s global GDP level. I would strongly oppose India paying anything like 1 % of its GDP as a premium, given the many uncertainties about global warming. The US refuses to join Kyoto, saying it have to pay an unacceptably high premium. It also insists that it will not join until India and China, whose emissions are small but rising fast, make some commitments. What position should India take? Traditionally, it has argued that its emissions are very low on a per capita basis, and so it should be exempted from Kyoto. The argument is a good one. Yet if the Goldman Sachs BRIC report is right in projecting India as having the third largest economy in the world by 2050, India can hardly insist that all premiums should be paid by today’s OECD economies, almost all of which will be smaller than India’s by 2050. India-maybe in conjunction with other developing countries-could offer some limited commitments. These countries cannot be asked to cut their emissions to 5% below 1990 levels, the Kyoto target for rich countries. But India could offer to cap its greenhouse gas emissions at say the 1960 or 1970 per capita level of France or Germany. That level will not be reached for a long time, and may not be reached at all if new energy sources like solar electricity become viable. Yet it will be a reasonable commitment. The main aim of such a strategy will be to persuade the USA to join Kyoto. By committing itself to pay a small premium many years hence, India may get the US to pay a large premium immediately. That will not quite be a free ride, but it will be a very low-cost one. What if the US refuses to join anyway? In that case India should refuse too. Without US participation, no serious emission control is possible. The benefits of the insurance policy will not be commensurate with the premium.

    There is still a body of scientists raising issues about the current evidence which you can read at http://www.climatedebatedaily.com/ Personally I believe that climate change is happening, however I am of the opinion of the Copenhagen Consensus that humanity has other more pressing issues to deal with, and which it can deal with more cost efficiently.

  31. 30, Jytosana:

    So as Razib says, since the electorate will generally buy a lot of BS, McFashion stands a good chance of remaining for long in the public eye.

    Ya don’t think that Obambiden is leading because of the public’s irrationality and gullibility, just as Razib (and Bryan Caplan) says?

    and of course I hope an Obama administration takes the 1st steps towards universal enforcement of environmental and labor standards…Throw out all those disingenuous amoral academic papers on the subject.

    I hope you did read the studies linked by the articles Vinod referred to. But I guess you won’t let knowledge come in the way of your ideology. And you call Swaminathan Aiyar “pseudoscientific”. Jytosana, thy name is irony.

    Bhagwati on the morality of the free market (PDF alert)

    For example, many believed that poor peasants would respond to the greater economic opportunities presented by globalization by taking their children out of school and putting them to work. Thus considered, the extension of the free market would act as a malign force. But I found that the opposite was true. It turned out that in many instances, the higher incomes realized as a result of globalization – the rising earnings of rice growers in Vietnam, for example – spurred parents to keep their children in school. After all, they no longer needed the meager income that an additional child’s labor could provide.
  32. Swami Aiyar published a neo-creationism (Intelligent Design) friendly edit some years ago that featured prominently in the Discovery Institute’s (a notriously pseudoscientific group) blog. Apart from that Swami Aiyar’s has simply an opinion on climate change, and all of us know that thing about opinions that everyone has one. He is a know nothing as far as climate science is concerned, and repeating crank and crackpot arguments by Steve Milloy, Ron Bailey (borderline crank from Reason) renders his opinion worthless. Ah! Copenhagen Consensus? That disgraced academic fraud Bjorn Lomborg? The consensus makes questionable assumptions, starting with the notion that all those many problems aren’t linked and can be solved piecemeal. But of course I won’t attribute to malice what is due to stupidity, so I don’t think the Copenhagen Consensus folks (as also the WSJ Op Ed page’s resident morons) are all funded by Big Oil. In fact all these different problems – solving the problems of clean water and sanitation, malaria etc. involves cleaning up our act. There’s no either/or there.

  33. 30, Jyotsana:

    And since when did a creationist sympathiser like Swaminathan Aiyar,…

    Adding to my comment at #31 above:

    1. http://www.google.com/search?q=evolution+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.swaminomics.org In all the articles where he uses evolution in the biological sense he clearly accepts the Theory of Evolution.

    2. http://www.google.com/search?q=creationism+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.swaminomics.org and http://www.google.com/search?q=intelligent+design+site%3Ahttp%3A%2F%2Fwww.swaminomics.org yield nothing. Nowhere in his columns has Swaminathan Aiyar remotely sympathised creationism or “intelligent design”.

  34. I don’t see how Swami’s opinions on Climate change and/or religion are relevant unless you are trying to state that everything that Swami writes is BS and thus not worth consideration. AFAIAC, If he has a valid point on this topic, that’s all that should matter. If he does not, then that’s all that should matter.

  35. 34 · jyotsana said

    Swami Aiyar published a neo-creationism (Intelligent Design) friendly edit some years ago that featured prominently in the Discovery Institute’s (a notriously pseudoscientific group) blog.

    Link? Citation?

    That disgraced academic fraud Bjorn Lomborg?

    Proof?

    But of course I won’t attribute to malice what is due to stupidity, so I don’t think the Copenhagen Consensus folks (as also the WSJ Op Ed page’s resident morons) are all funded by Big Oil.

    Wise move. Since the Copenhagen Consensus is funded by:

    According to the conference website the sponsors are * The Tuborg Foundation and The Carlsberg Bequest to the Memory of Brewer I.C. Jacobsen with 1,1 million Danish Kroner * The Ministry of the Environment with 2 million Danish Kroner. * The Economist magazine

    This is according to the leftist Center for Media and Democracy website Sourcewatch

    Jyotsana, you have been indulging in ad hominem and baseless attacks on individuals and organisations, without a shred of proof. Interestingly you have not presented any of your credentials.

  36. You are right folks, Swami Aiyar did not pen that edit in support of creationism. The Times of India did. Strike that one out. The danish Ministry of the environment is headed by a friend of Lomborg’s, so no surprises there. In any case the Consensus is one of those many minor groups that are given to making trivial pronouncements dressed up in profound robes. These groups have become the popular haunt of reactionary washed-outs who can’t bear the rigors of an academic institution – think Heritage foundation, Cato etc.,. Climate science is a scientific discipline, not some philosophical endeavor.

  37. 33 · Digital Cabinet said

    Ya don’t think that Obambiden is leading because of the public’s irrationality and gullibility, just as Razib (and Bryan Caplan) says?

    No, it’s because the collapse of the financial sector (and possibly the popular response) changed the media narrative on the campaign, generating more space for economic issues and less for identity-based fearmongering. That combined with the candidates’ different responses, the perception of opportunism in the choice of Palin by Mccain who is rightly or wrongly viewed as frightening as president, the overall electoral climate after bush, and a lot of other things. The public’s “irrationality” and “gullibility” have never been in doubt, but I think it was Bob Dylan who said that someone else said that you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time … at least when it comes to unsuccessful warfare, pocketbook issues, and reading people’s behaviors (people are quite good at picking up on liars, lack of warmth, etc. when given a fair chance)

  38. Yes. The article is a full-throated tirade for unchecked free trade across borders, with the basic assumption being that this is good, no questions asked. Every other sentence is something to the effect of: …pressures will mount for protectionist measures and beggar-thy-neighbour policies in the US, hurting countries like India.

    Well, Rahul…what you did was detach his overarching philosophy from his specific examples and then accuse him of being essentaily an ideologue. The very next lines mention import barriers, subsidising dumped exports, curbing of the outsourcing of services to India, visa curbs and subsequent slowing of dollar remittances back to India.

    Now, its true that these specifics are assumed to be good for India, and he does not bother to question that basic assumption, but if you think he’s wrong an those counts you’re free to counter.

  39. Barack Obama is a welcome change in terms of racial equity and discrimination in politics. However, his protectionist stances on American economic policies will set both the U.S. and India back 50 years.

  40. Uncle Cookiebrown thinks that for an ABD (or DBD) to highlight out the multi-syllabic (or is it polysyllabic?) nature of Tamil names is very uncool. And if it isn’t uncool then my real name isn’t Kumbakonam Seetharama Balasubramanian Iyer.

    cookiebrown, it can be multi- or poly, ever since the seventeenth century, but the excellent sepia word application insists on a hyphen nohow. Point is, not all poly-multi- names are Tamil– take Mrinalini Oindrilla Devi Chattopodhyay. The problem in this country lies in achieving correct stress realization among the general public, especially where the names are perceived as pseudowords or, speaking really frankly, as pseudonyms.

  41. 38 · jyotsana said

    You are right folks, Swami Aiyar did not pen that edit in support of creationism. The Times of India did. Strike that one out.

    Interesting. Got a link to that?

    The danish Ministry of the environment is headed by a friend of Lomborg’s, so no surprises there.
  42. 38 · jyotsana said

    You are right folks, Swami Aiyar did not pen that edit in support of creationism. The Times of India did. Strike that one out.

    Interesting. Got a link to that?

    The danish Ministry of the environment is headed by a friend of Lomborg’s, so no surprises there.

    Got a citation for that?

    In any case the Consensus is one of those many minor groups that are given to making trivial pronouncements dressed up in profound robes. These groups have become the popular haunt of reactionary washed-outs who can’t bear the rigors of an academic institution – think Heritage foundation, Cato etc.,. Climate science is a scientific discipline, not some philosophical endeavor.

    If you don’t agree with your opponents try to trivialise them or call them names, like Climate denier (shades of “Holocaust denier” anyone?) You are right that Climate Science is a scientific discipline and not some philosophical endeavour, and I hope people like Gore would understand that and progress to a cost-benefit analysis of proposals to combat climate change rather than drumming on proposals with tremendous costs to the life of people (especially in the 3rd world) with religious fervour.

  43. Digital Cabinet, I linked to a World Bank report in an earlier comment. You might also want to read the IMF report on globalization and inequality (pg 44 talks about India). Again, inequality has increased significantly. It is not clear to me whether the IMF studies use the correct measure of PPP, which were rectified late last year, and reflect that poor people have done worse under trade liberalization.

    My comment was a direct response to rhetoric about “the greatest civil rights issue of our time”, the current situation makes it seem that maximizing aggregate wealth (even if you believe that liberalization does that in today’s regime) does not translate to uplifting the poor, and hence can hardly be framed as such. (and this does not translate to a flippant claim that “recessions improve equality”).

    Manju, as for Aiyar’s points, they are reasonable issues – both dems and republicans who need to get votes from the corn belt have consistently supported farm subsidies (McCain hasn’t had that issue since he is running from Arizona, and India is not competing for golf courses yet, I guess). However, Vinod’s extrapolation that ensuring human rights is clearly a negative is not necessarily justified, again, given the high disparity in wealth gain between rich and poor.

    As for ethanol, Aiyar is dead wrong. The current incarnation McCain has started supporting it ever since he started trying to run as a national candidate in this election (he skipped Iowa in 2000 precisely because he would likely lose due to this issue) – in 2006,2007, and 2008 (as recently as 2 days ago). So there isn’t really anything to distinguish between the two candidates on this issue.

    As for removing import barriers, again, this can disproportionately affect the lowest tier of American workers, and without investing in education and skill development, it seems like it could have a negative impact on them. The same is true in developing countries (not that Obama should be held responsible for the Indian govt not doing its job), but removing tarrifs willy-nilly without helping families or communities compensate can lead to devastating effects.

  44. This is amar. it is a nice blog. I hope that Barak Obama will change the US politics. Barack Obama is a welcome change in terms of racial equity and discrimination in politics. However, his protectionist stances on American economic policies will set both the U.S. and India back 50 years.

    warm regards, amar.