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Posts Tagged ‘Big Government’

Cars & TVs that last 25-years

April 29, 2012 2 comments

Garbage mush, mostly plastic and paper, three times bigger than India in size, floats across the Pacific and Atlantic. Progress and development …

Purple crab 'discovered' at Palawan, Philippines  |  Image source & courtesy - blogs.discovermagazine.com  |  Click for image.

Purple crab ‘discovered’ at Palawan, Philippines | Image source & courtesy – blogs.discovermagazine.com | Click for image.

Bright purple crabs with big red claws were one of four species recently discovered on the Phillipine island of Palawan during a study by the Senckenberg Research Institute in Germany and De La Salle University in Manila. Our Amazing Planet calls Palawan a “major biodiversity hotspot” and about half its species are found nowhere else on earth.

So of course the crabs’ habitat is threatened, in this case by mining activities.

Of course it is. When was the last time you read a story that said, “Wow, look at these awesome animals and people are leaving them alone”? (via 10 Amazing Discoveries You Missed This Week | Environment | AlterNet).

Is this worth dying for?

This dig-and mine, the strip-and-bare system of natural exploitation by our ‘development’ only comes out with cars that need to be replaced every 5-10 years.

Is our global cardiac problem due to excess nitrogen via fertilizers in our food? The link between nitrogen and cardiac functioning is known.

Our first family-TV worked for 15 years. The second lasted all of 6 years. The third TV is in its 5th year. I am told that these LCD panels do not last for more than 7 years. Is there is a big difference between these three TVs. Not worth the Rs.1,00,000 (US$4000) that was spent on these TVs.

All this becomes trash, garbage, waste.

Where is this garbage going?

The "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex"  |  Source & courtesy - cereplast.com; no creative details at source.  |  Click for larger image.

The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex” | Source & courtesy – cereplast.com; no creative details at source. | Click for larger image.

A “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. (The world’s rubbish dump: a tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan – Green Living – Environment – The Independent).

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch  |  Source: biglobe.ne.jp  |  Click for image.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch | Source: biglobe.ne.jp | Click for image.

It gets worse.

Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the trash vortex in the Pacific.

“Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. (See pictures of the Pacific Ocean trash vortex.)

“But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic.”

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia (see a U.S. map).

As with the Pacific garbage patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean for years

Tiny pieces of trash, each less than a tenth the weight of a paper clip, make up most of the debris, Law said February 23 at the American Geophysical Union’s 2010 Ocean Sciences meeting in Portland, Oregon..

In some places the students found more than 200,000 bits of trash per square kilometer (520,000 bits per square mile). The vast majority of these fragments come from consumer products that were blown out of open landfills or were tossed out by litterbugs.

Similar surface trawls in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch have found as many as 750,000 bits of plastic per square kilometer (1.9 million bits per square mile), noted marine chemist Giora Proskurowski, also with the Sea Education Association.

But that’s only a portion of the total, he said, because waves often carry plastic as deep as 65 feet (20 meters) below the surface. (via Huge Garbage Patch Found in Atlantic Too).

Is this the only model?

Why can’t we have a TV or cars that works for a generation – 25-years?

We can have aluminum and stainless steel cars that will last 25 years. Or made of plastics that have to be recycled by the manufacturer.

Technology updates can be modular. We don’t have these products because of faulty tax policies.

Will our manufacturers come out with junk if they had to pay 25-year tax upfront?

A pollution tax paid upfront for 25 years on all industrial products. Future payments could adjusted against 25-year warranty fulfillment or when producer takes the product back from the consumer and recycles it.

In the meantime, maya rules.

We may be dying of myriad cancers, with our diabetic lifestyles – if we are not dead due to cardiac arrest.

But we are getting technology and progress.

Is that not good?

Great Pacific Garbage Patch infographic  |  Source & courtesy - webecoist.com  |  Click for image.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch infographic | Source & courtesy – webecoist.com | Click for image.


The Public Story We Don’t Know About Secret Police That Controls Us

November 1, 2011 4 comments

Public information about secret police buried so deep under so much paper that any simple search reveal no data at all.

The real numbers behind the fog and smokescreen  |  Cartoon by :Lisa Benson; Date: 2011-03-17; Source and courtesy - cartoonistgroup.com  |  Click for larger image.

The real numbers behind the fog and smokescreen | Cartoon by :Lisa Benson; Date: 2011-03-17; Source and courtesy – cartoonistgroup.com | Click for larger image.

Deloitte & Touche, Ernst & Young, KPMG and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. They scour the books of 98 percent of American companies with revenue over $1 billion, according to the Government Accountability Office. On the Department of Justice’s preferred gauge of competitiveness, the Hirschman-Herfindahl Index, the industry qualifies as super consolidated.

If auditors aren’t raising rates in line with more laborious fact checking, that raises the question of whether corporate accounts are getting the full treatment they deserve. (via Enron’s worst legacy: auditors too big to fail | Features | Breakingviews).

National disaster

Super concentration of power. That is what this means.

With one law-breaker or law enforcer, for every 17 adult males, the US is a world leader. For the 70 million American males in the 18-60 years of age who are the predominant target; there are 17 apex American secret service agencies that track these 70 million people. The biggest secret service in the world, the largest prisoner population, in addition to one of the the largest police forces in the world, make US clearly a leader of the ‘Free’ World.

Graphic source and courtesy - economist.com.

Graphic source and courtesy – economist.com.

With scattered data, protected by legal secret classifications, figures are hard to come by. After two years of work, a recent report describes the US intelligence network that is

so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist. Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.

An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances. Every day across the United States, 854,000 civil servants, military personnel and private contractors with top-secret security clearances are scanned into offices protected by electromagnetic locks, retinal cameras and fortified walls that eavesdropping equipment cannot penetrate.

The U.S. intelligence budget is vast, publicly announced last year as $75 billion, 21/2 times the size it was on Sept. 10, 2001. But the figure doesn’t include many military activities or domestic counterterrorism programs. With the quick infusion of money, military and intelligence agencies multiplied. Twenty-four organizations were created by the end of 2001, including the Office of Homeland Security and the Foreign Terrorist Asset Tracking Task Force. In 2002, 37 more were created to track weapons of mass destruction, collect threat tips and coordinate the new focus on counterterrorism. That was followed the next year by 36 new organizations; and 26 after that; and 31 more; and 32 more; and 20 or more each in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

At the recommendation of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, the George W. Bush administration and Congress decided to create an agency in 2004 with overarching responsibilities called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to bring the colossal effort under control. 51 federal organizations and military commands, operating in 15 U.S. cities, track the flow of money to and from terrorist networks. Analysts who make sense of documents and conversations obtained by foreign and domestic spying share their judgment by publishing 50,000 intelligence reports each year.

Only a handful of senior officials – called Super Users – have the ability to even know about all the department’s activities. But as two of the Super Users indicated in interviews, there is simply no way they can keep up with the nation’s most sensitive work.

International Threat

The US Government carries out more assassinations, covert operations, killings and bombings than by any other regime, military, terrorist  – or even a criminal group.

In more than 50 countries in any month – actually, a figure of 120 countries is being waved around.

Never in Soviet history were there more than 4 secret service agencies in the USSR. Today the US has 17 agencies form what the US calls Intelligence Community. A large rainbow of agencies – CIA FBI, NSA, DEA, DOE, Bureau of ATF, DIA, NRO, NIMA, CTC. NPC. INR. DOE Intel., Army Intelligence et al litter the global scene. Some US Govt. cables, from Wikileaks, quoted US Defence Secretary, Robert Gates on Russia as an “oligarchy run by the security services”.

Going by above data, it would be easier, to describe the USA, using those words.

So much power – in so few hands

2 million people in US prisons. Human beings. All of them. US has more human beings than animals in captivity. More than in any dictatorship. More surveillance cameras and telephone tapping in the US, Britain and Europe than in any dictatorship in the world.

Over the last 25 years, Governments have spent huge amounts of money to intrude and monitor its population. Millions of CCTV cameras monitor people all over the world. Facial recognition software can ‘see-through’ modifications like spectacles, beards, wigs, changes in hairstyle, etc.

In Britain alone, as per count of  few years ago, 60 million subjects are tracked by 1.5 million closed-circuit television cameras. In the USA, there are an estimated 30,000 people, who are listening to phone conversations.

Control Over Media

Global media is dominated by a few news agencies like Reuters, Bloomberg, API, and AFP. These agencies in turn are fed by various think tanks and research organizations, which then dominate global debate.  In the last few years, top 10 websites control 75% of the web traffic. Hollywood dominates the big screen. Organizations like Google monitor every click on your computer– which is available to any determined bureaucrat. If not easily, with some difficulty.In today’s age, censorship is usually not the answer. More noise is equally effective.

View from Germany

The German magazine, Der Spiegel, in a recent posts analyzed the US situation.

Nearly two-thirds of net private assets are concentrated in the hands of 5 percent of Americans. In comparison, the upper 5 percent of Germany hold less than half of net assets. In 2009 alone, at the same time as the US was being convulsed by mass layoffs, the number of millionaires in the country skyrocketed.

Indeed, if you look at the reports it compiles on every country in the world, even the CIA has concluded that wealth disparity is greater in the US than in Tunisia or Egypt.

A New ‘Gilded Age’

In a book published in 2010, American political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson discuss how this “hyperconcentration of economic gains at the top” also existed in the United States in the early 20th century, when industrial magnates — such as John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan — dominated the upper stratum of society and held the country firmly in their grip for years.

Writer Mark Twain coined the phrase “the Gilded Age” to describe that period of rapid growth, a time when the dazzling exterior of American life actually concealed mass unemployment, poverty and a society ripped in two.

Economists and political scientists believe the US has entered a new Gilded Age, a period of systematic inequality dominated by a new class of super-rich. (via The Second Gilded Age: Has America Become an Oligarchy? – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International).

If the difference in US and German terminology is standardized, Germany is no better than USA.

Now

Combine this power with the less than 5,000 politicians who control the Government; the 50,000 businessmen who control the 2500 biggest corporations, the 25,000 academics who control national thought streams – and then the enormity of the model becomes numbing.

And the Maya माया of it all takes over.

Ghor mayaघोर माया.


 

The Curious Case of the Bloated State

May 15, 2011 4 comments

A distinct feature of the developed world is the size of the bureaucracy and State employment. Fully 10% to as high as 30% of the labour force depend on the State for income and employment.

Iceberg ahoy!

With ‘advanced’ EU countries like Ireland, Greece, Portugal, Spain, (PIGS) on the verge of bankruptcy, strangely mainstream media is silent on the important aspects of this crisis.

The mammaries of the Welfare State?     If everyone is part of the Government, who will you tax?

The mammaries of the Welfare State? If everyone is part of the Government, who will you tax?

Overpaid public servants

Critics, however, are also questioning the present government’s decision not to touch civil service pay and pension. The civil service, apart from the bureaucracy, also includes health service and education administrators etc. As a group, this has over 300,000 members and a massive vote bank no government wishes to antagonise, least of all a very unpopular coalition government led by the Fianna Fail party. In 2002, the government had agreed to massive rescaling of civil service pay and pension benchmarking it on private sector scales. Today despite a fall in private sector pay, government servants have managed to stick to their higher salaries, which some today estimate is 30 per cent above their private sector counterparts.

Ireland is a 4.5-million strong country which is about one-fourth the size of the National Capital Region in India. Its economy is primarily supported by exports, which today accounts for 80 per cent of its GDP. Information technology and pharmaceutical industries are the largest exporters from Ireland. Ireland incidentally also has the largest number of US FDA-approved plants outside the US. Food, retail and logistics also account for a sizeable portion of its export today. (via Exporting out of the mess).

This economic model needs a perpetual supply of victims to support this bureaucracy. | Cartoon by Bill Day; courtesy - cagle.com| Click for larger image.

This economic model needs a perpetual supply of victims to support this bureaucracy. | Cartoon by Bill Day; courtesy – cagle.com| Click for larger image.

Irish cream

Ireland is truly a remarkable case.

In a country of 45 lakhs, an estimated 69% are in the 15-64 years of employable age – leaving us with a workforce of 30 lakhs people. Of these 30 lakh people some 3 lakhs are highly paid government employees – fully 10% of the Irish workforce is in the Government.

With such a bloated bureaucracy, apart from bankruptcy, what else can happen in Ireland? Is Ireland an exception?

Is the situation different in other countries?

The coming storm

Let us look at 3 countries (UK, USA, India) which for the time being are not in the ‘bankrupt’ position.

A look at British situation is revealing. The size of the British public sector is “6.1 million people on the state payroll, (and) an increase of about 900,000 in 13 years.” From a working population of some 30 million, and total population of some 60 million.

Faceless bureaucrats who devise wars, famines, disease to keep their jobs | Cartoon by Clay Bennett | Courtesy - claybennett.com | Click for larger picture.

Faceless bureaucrats who devise wars, famines, disease to keep their jobs | Cartoon by Clay Bennett | Courtesy – claybennett.com | Click for larger picture.

 For every four private sector employee, there is one public-sector employee.

That is the British situation for you.

In the land of the free enterprise?

How about the US?

Surely, the land of free enterprise, free markets, has to be different.

The estimated gross US labour force for 2010 is 15.4 crores. US Government – local, state and federal, has some 2.0 crore (20 million) employees. And we are not talking of contract staff in the US Govt. who are off-rolls. Experts worry about

the 10.5 million federal contractors and grantees the government’s “hidden workforce” because politicians tend not to mention them when discussing the size of the federal bureaucracy. Yet such workers absorbed nearly $400 billion in federal contracting funds and $100 billion in federal grants in 2005. They often performed vital work such as researching new vaccines, running federal computer systems and making body armor, weapons and meals for the military.

The number of civil servants is increasing, too, up 54,000 since 2002 to 1.9 million workers. That is still fewer than the 2.2 million civil servants on the federal payroll in 1990, at the end of the Cold War.

Doors shut, minds closed, opportunities lost, lives destroyed. The Bloated State | Cartoon by Clay Bennett | Click for larger image.

Doors shut, minds closed, opportunities lost, lives destroyed. The Bloated State | Cartoon by Clay Bennett | Click for larger image.

To this figure now add unemployed people – who are also State responsibility – part of the public sector. US unemployment is running

at 9 percent, well above historical norms, with about 14 million Americans looking for work. Those figures don’t tell the whole story. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says more than 8 million people are working part-time but would rather be working full-time.

We are sitting at a total of 4.4 crore people from a labour force of 15.4 crores.

Nearly 29% of the labour force is used and paid by the US State.

Aha .. Where is India?

Examining India shows a vastly different picture.

A report on Indian bureaucracy reveals

The size of government employment is not that large. On 31 March 2005, total public sector employment was 18 million, divided into 3 million for the central government, 7.2 million for the state governments, 5.7 million for quasi-government and 2 million for local bodies. With an estimated labour force of 420 million in 2004-05, government employment thus accounts for 4.1 percent of total employment within the country.

One small guy against a huge bureaucracy - bought, paid and controlled by the powerful few | Cartoonist - Jim Morin | Click for larger image.

One small guy against a huge bureaucracy – bought, paid and controlled by the powerful few | Cartoonist – Jim Morin | Click for larger image.

The Indian figure includes the railways, which the world’s single largest, employer, all the public sector corporations (like banks, govt. telecom companies,  etc.).

Global disease

A bloated State, over-sized bureaucracy that controls every aspect of our life. On one side, these States speak of freedom,  liberty, human rights. The reality is increasing prison populations and an expanding police State.

Fundamentally, the country model of the West has failed – and the time for भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra draws near. In the last 200 years, भारत-तंत्र Bharat-tantra has gone into regression. But, in this period, the world has also learnt more about the limitations of the Desert Bloc ideology.

People get ready!


SEC to sue Goldman Sachs

April 20, 2010 1 comment

The gentle art of suing Big Guns

SEC’s decision to sue Goldman Sachs, brings to an end, a long drama.

In August and September of 2008, 2ndlook was calling for investigations into the collapse of Bear Sterns, Lehman, et al. When the Great Recession was not real – and only a fear. While Preet Bharara was busy building a flimsy case against Rajarathnam? When Bharara should have been investigating Hank Paulson, the Former Treasury Secretary, under whose watch many bankruptcies happened. Conveniently in favour of JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. Even now, this investigation,

To say that it comes at an awfully convenient time for President Barack Obama’s Democrats is a colossal understatement.

With mid-term elections just a few months off and the U.S. Congress set to debate a massive financial regulatory reform package — one that Wall Street lobbyists and their pals in the Senate have been fighting every step of the way — the suit offers tailor-made reformist ammo for Obama & Co.

Birds of feather

Khuzami tells us that Goldman Sachs is cared. Tell that to the birds!

Khuzami tells us that Goldman Sachs is cared. Tell that to the birds!

By sending a notice to Goldman Sachs, in July 2009, SEC gave enough time to Goldman Sachs to enable them to prepare adequately for an extended court-room battle. Businessweek  writes about three issues,

Robert Khuzami, shortly after becoming the Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement chief last year, told Congress the agency must be willing to fight big cases to show it poses a “credible threat.”

Does Khuzami think that SEC scares Goldman Sachs? With the kind of money power that Goldman Sachs has, it can manage a battle with SEC for an entire generation. What SEC’s action will do is scare the likes of the co-accused in the Rajarathnam case. Extremely small fry. Even Rajarathnam was  not scared of SEC. Minions – that is who Khuzami is trying to scare.

European regulators are following the SEC’s case. Britain’s Financial Services Authority said today it will start a formal probe of Goldman Sachs’s London unit. BaFin, Germany’s financial-services regulator, is requesting information from the SEC about the case.

Big Business loves regulatory overload. It kills competition!

Big Business loves regulatory overload. It kills competition!

Win over voters. Avoid charges of collusion. Shake the money tree. Gordon Brown has a tough election to win. In the middle of the Great Recession, the German Government needs to show ‘resolve.’ In the meantime, AIG has also decided to try a shakedown.

The SEC’s Republican commissioners, Kathleen Casey and Troy Paredes, opposed the lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, which was approved in a 3-2 vote, two people with knowledge of the matter said yesterday.

Nobody’s ‘tellin’ but everybody knows. Big business and Big Government. That is the axis on which ‘progressive’ economies of the world are being built – and depend on. Or become a large public-sector enterprise – like Europe has become. This is the regulation gambit.

Government’s impose regulation to eliminate the small players – who cannot bear the regulatory overload and compliance costs. More regulation helps the big players – and big players have the financial and bureaucratic muscle to manage excess regulation.

The trouble with Hank

Was Hank Paulson making it easier for his ex-employer Goldman to buy up competitors? Was he helping out JP Morgan with WaMu and Bear Stearns? It was well-known that JPMorgan Chief, Jamie Dimon had long drooled over WaMu. While a lot of stressed organizations were getting support, Hank Paulson allowed Lehman to go under! JPMorgan was being blamed for Lehman collapse.

US bank JPMorgan Chase stands accused of precipitating the collapse of American investment bank Lehman Brothers by freezing Lehman assets days before it filed for bankruptcy protection, the Sunday Times reported.

After 60 Days

Was Paulson looking at his own future, while deciding on the future of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, WaMu? How 60 days later, when he would need a new job! Was the collapse of Lehman, a deal for a job with Goldman – or was it JP Moran Chase? While a lot of people were getting support, Paulson allowed Lehman to go under!

I wonder why?

Transparency International does not call this corruption. But then, that is par for the course!

Been there and done that

In a democracy, people have choice!

In a democracy, people have choice!

This is very similar to Joseph Kennedy’s shorting the market before The Great Depression. It has always been a source of wonder to me how could Joseph Kennedy, a bootlegger and a friend of the mafiosi become SEC Chairman? And after that, could the Great Depression not follow?

It was always 2ndlook’s suspicion that Hank Paulson’s behaviour in the Lehman collapse is similar to Bootlegger Kennedy’s behaviour. And this now coming out all in the open!!

The biggest bankruptcy in history might have been avoided if Wall Street had been prevented from practicing one of its darkest arts.

As Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc struggled to survive last year, as many as 32.8 million shares in the company were sold and not delivered to buyers on time as of September 11, according to data compiled by the Securities and Exchange Commission and Bloomberg. That was a more than 57-fold increase over the prior year’s peak of 567,518 failed trades on July 30.

The SEC has linked such so-called fails-to-deliver to naked short selling, a strategy that can be used to manipulate markets. A fail-to-deliver is a trade that doesn’t settle within three days.

“We had another word for this in Brooklyn,” said Harvey Pitt, a former SEC chairman. “The word was ‘fraud.’” (via Naked short sales hint fraud in bringing down Lehman).

Back then in 2008, first, the world was hit by Big Oil at US$150 per barrel. As though that  was not enough, came the Big Banks! After Big Oil and Big Banks, we will have the pleasure of getting the The Big Lie!

Goebbels is alive, well and kicking. All of us.

The Supply of Justice – Indira Rajaraman

The Great Brown Indian State has become a land grabber

The Great Brown Indian State has become a land grabber

The replacement of indigenous systems of justice by the colonial British system of jurisprudence radically reshaped the structure of property and other rights in the country. The implications of this implant in the legal landscape continue to be explored in a large literature by historians and economists.Painstaking surveys of the topography of the land were a necessary underpinning of the new legal system. The initial cadastral surveys performed more than one hundred years ago remain the basis for land rights to this very day. The new legal structure spawned a class of Indian lawyers who functioned as its gatekeepers for a bewildered population, and earned fabulous wealth by so doing. Ironically, some members of this class, Motilal Nehru prominent among them, ploughed their wealth into the movement for the eviction of the colonial government, the very means of their enrichment. (via Indira Rajaraman: The Supply of Justice).

The indigenous system

Going by official accounts and history, India did not have any system of justice before the Colonial Raj. The modern Indian State has eagerly embraced the Desert Bloc system of justice, law and legality. Indian people and Indic systems have been neglected and excluded by the Indian State. The Indian State is becoming a captive of Big Business and the Big State – and to keep Indians quiet, it is throwing crumbs and bones (like NREGA) at us.

It is good that parts of the ‘establishment’ do remember that there existed an indigenous system of justice, law and legality – which pre-dated the colonial system. It is a radically different system.

The Great Indian Land Grab continues

The Indian State must this temptation!

The Indian State must resist this temptation!

The Indian peasant was the first and the only peasant in the world to own his property – till ‘Desert Bloc’ rulers started a 800 year trend of ‘landgrab’. Yes. India does need to re-visit ‘general governance’! We need traditional governance – and not the ‘modern’ colonial baggage, that India has not discarded. We need to give back the lands that were grabbed from the poor Indian peasant and the poor Indian tribal.

And it would serve India very well.

Fat in the wrong place

November 2, 2009 9 comments

As more Indians moved away from the brink of survival, they have come to demand and depend less on public health care and public food grain distribution.

Liberty will do ... as long as my Welfare State and my bailout is safe! | Cartoon Michael Ramirez; on 8th April, 2009; Source and courtesy - investors.com | Click for larger image.

Liberty will do … as long as my Welfare State and my bailout is safe! | Cartoon Michael Ramirez; on 8th April, 2009; Source and courtesy – investors.com | Click for larger image.

The generally accepted view is that the government runs a bloated bureaucracy. Its current employee strength is 3.32 million. But over 80 per cent of this number is accounted for by specific service departments: posts, central police forces and the railways. Logically, these should not be counted as part of a “bureaucracy”, which as a consequence stands reduced to a relatively modest 600,000. Since the overwhelming majority of even that consists of clerical and support staff, the operational part of the government is quite simply too small. (via Fat in the wrong place).

The good news!

2ndlook has been consistently saying that the Indian Government is NOT fiscally expanding – as percentage of GDP. In terms of employee numbers, like this post (linked above) shows, it has shrunk. As more Indians have moved away from the brink of survival, they have come to depend less on public health care and public food grain distribution.

Who will cut health care costs? For instance in the US, the majority wants the State to increase its powers!  |  Cartoonist - David Horsey; Originally published on August 24, 2009; courtesy - sfgate.com  |  Click for larger image.

Who will cut health care costs? For instance in the US, the majority wants the State to increase its powers! | Cartoonist – David Horsey; Originally published on August 24, 2009; courtesy – sfgate.com | Click for larger image.

It wuz jes poor service

Critics may carp that the those who have moved away, have done so due to the ‘poor’ service levels at Governmental health care and public food-grain centres.

What the carpers forget is that there is a decrease in total demand for such centres or any vocal activism to improve the ‘free’ system.

Quite unlike the citadel of the welfare state – the West.

Indians see a decreasing role for the State in the future – in spite of the best efforts of the State to increase its role. And a ‘progressive’ lobby, like the writer of the post (linked above), who would like the Government to have a better ‘teeth-to-tail’ ratio.

The Indian State meets its colonial cousin

Under the garb of ‘growth’ and ‘progress’ the Indian Government has launched new mega projects to expand its footprint. For instance, the NREGA and Unique Identification Database Authority of India (UIDAI; headed by Nandan Nilekani of Infosys fame). Will the Indian Government sheds it colonial baggage and Western leanings and go for an Indic model?

So, what will it be, India?!

The world’s first (and only?) lean Government – or a bloated Western style ‘Welfare State”?



Is India becoming an oligarchy

August 16, 2009 5 comments

How Big Business and Big Government combine against the aam aadmi, the common man.

Organized crime

Organized crime

analysing a set of figures: the number of billionaires per trillion dollars of GDP for the major countries of the world. Heading the list is Russia with 87 billionaires for its $1.3 trillion of GDP. Coming second is India which has 55 billionaires for the $1.1 trillion of GDP that it generates. Why should this be worrying at all? After all, we did have a booming economy in the last few years. But some perspective would help to see this in the global context. Brazil, which is often cited as an example of very high income inequality, has only 18 billionaires despite a greater GDP than India, while Germany, boasting three times India’s GDP and a per capita income that is 40 times India’s, has just about the same number of billionaires.

For Rajan, who headed a committee on financial sector reforms in India, the numbers are alarming: “Too many people have gotten too rich based on their proximity to the government. If Russia is an oligarchy, how long can we resist calling India one?” It is his contention that reforms have created new sources of rents for the establishment, specially from the allocation of scarce national resources. This means that barring a few exceptions most of India’s billionaires have been created through sweet deals in land, mining, coal, oil and gas. (via Latha Jishnu: It’s a stink and a powerful one).

With concentration in power comes lack of responsiveness! |  Image Source & courtesy - Times Of India, cartoon by Ajit Ninan on 27 Dec 2009  |  Click for image.

With concentration in power comes lack of responsiveness! | Image Source & courtesy – Times Of India, cartoon by Ajit Ninan on 27 Dec 2009 | Click for image.

Concentration Of Power

How does one measure concentration of power.

Today the most popular method is the Fortune /Forbes /Businessweek  /FT 500 listing of Top corporates. These listings demonstrate that half the world’s economic output is controlled by about 25,000 individuals. Add another 25,000 politicians and bureaucrats. We have about 50,000 people managing the lives of 5 billion people.

Read this with the faceless corporate entity aspect, hiding behind legal facades, banks of call centers and telephone operators, off-shore locations – and the opacity becomes more worrisome.

What is happening in India

Out of the 30 current Sensex stocks, which make up the Indian Benchmark Index, 15 started off as SME (small and medium enterprises) 25-50 years ago. These organizations today are lobbying (successfully) to ensure that other SMEs do not challenge and compete with these large corporations. Indian policy makers, apparently, cannot learn from successes.

Democracy is a tool that finally lays blame for the crimes of the polity at the feet of the victim | Ajit Ninan cartoon | 2009 Apr 28 The Times Of India Bangalore | Click for image.

Democracy is a tool that finally lays blame for the crimes of the polity at the feet of the victim | Ajit Ninan cartoon | 2009 Apr 28 The Times Of India Bangalore | Click for image.

And what you think is a right move …

On the other hand, limited liability companies have created a huge debt mountains. What about expanding liability, instead of limited liability. While LLCs can have limited outward liability, they can create unlimited inward liabilities – in the way of debt, bonds, debentures, notes, paper, et al.

These two elements, limited liability and a separate legal entity, have made these Frankensteins different from any previous association of businessmen. The legal structure of corporations allow actual owners to hide behind a legal façade, without liability. These corporations have access to large amounts of fiat currency. Old debts are repaid by taking new debts. Competition is killed by raising entry barriers – which is again done by accessing huge amounts of debt. Some of this borrowings are irredeemable – and called equity.

Limited liability of the shareholders has meant that various stakeholders usually have little or no recourse – when things don’t pan out. Some stakeholders (usually shareholders and management) have access only to an upside, other stake holders, actually, finally take the risk. Such companies resist any attempt at accountability.

It is this ability to evade ethical practices and issues that differentiates these corporations from other business enterprises. From the massacre of millions of Indians during the 1857 War (by the East India Company), the many regime changes that corporations have pushed, the record of these organizations has been far from average.

`A collusive polity, allied with State-funded media and academia, combine against the common man, the aam aadmi.  |  Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; source - Times of India; on 10 Apr 2009  |  Click for image.

A collusive polity, allied with State-funded media and academia, combine against the common man, the aam aadmi. | Cartoon by Ajit Ninan; source – Times of India; on 10 Apr 2009 | Click for image.

You surely know this …

A favorite scam in the Indian mobile phone industry is to activate services that the customer has NOT asked for – and start charging him for it. It then becomes the customer’s responsibility to discontinue these services. If the customer does not pay the bill, his name gets reported to CIBIL, a credit bureau – which will make it difficult for the customer to access other credit services in future.

If he pays the bill , the telecom has succeeded in the scam. The effort required to discontinue these services, in many cases, is seemingly higher than the charge for these services – about Rs.20-30. (40-50 cents per month). The scam becomes outrageous when you multiply this amount with the number of subscribers – at last count nearly 40 crores (400 million).

Stop this swill

Stop this swill

The Mobile Recharge Scam

The same scam makes an appearance in mobile recharges. In most circles, especially Mumbai, customers have no way of knowing how and where their money has gone. Hiding behind walls of call centres and IVR machines, telecom companies in India are working hard at keeping customers in the dark.

In the mobile recharge system, an additional victim is the retailer. 2%-4% of pre-paid recharges never reach the consumer. The retailer refunds the money to the customer. In many cases, the reimbursement from the telecom company never reaches the retailer. What is the retailer commission for these recharge services. 2.5%-4%. What are the number of recharges which don’t reach the customer – 2%-4%.

It so turns out that the retailer ends up subsidizing the mobile phone companies by providing these services to the telecom customer. A similar story is playing out in credit card businesses, banking and unsecured loans.

Big Business and Big Government

They are both on the same side. Fighting the two Goliath is equally impossible for Desi Ram or Indy Joe. The outrage against these scams is building up – and will damage the faith that the Indian has in Indian business.

A word of advice

They are working hard to lose the trust that the average Indian has for Indian corporates. Stop all these wasteful CSR swill and propaganda – and just get your members to work their businesses cleanly. That itself will be a big enough CSR for Indian industry.

I doubt if India and Indians need or expect more from businesses – BIG or small.

The largest employer in India is the SME sector

And the BJP does not talk about the SME at all. Just like the Congress is not bothered about them at all. Save the big industry. There is space for big industry and India needs big industry too. The big moneybags call the shots, in both the Congress and the BJP. So, any belief that any one is any different is all wrong. They are more or less of the same agenda.

Shallow thinking

Both have the same limitation in the thinking – set by the external agenda and vocabulary. The difference is language. Congress swears by India (a Latin name of Bharat) and BJP swears by Hindustan and Hindutva (a Levantine name for Bharat). Both miss out on the Bharati nature of people.

No talk of Third currency

Neither (the Congress or the BJP) has the imagination or the strategic depth to think out of the Western box. They are all trying out the same tired Western cliches of IMF and World Bank reform – which is going nowhere. It is the IMF and World Bank which keep the Third World poor and backward.

Sad.


 

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