Beyond Parody

Yeah, I know that I should stop picking on random people on the net and argue with more substantive points, but…

But the Indian farmers who refuse to give up their land – and thwarted plans to build the world’s cheapest car in West Bengal — know one thing. As long as they have their land, their fate depends on the weather and the harvest. Once they leave their land, they face even greater uncertainties — from the job market to the world economy. Just like Singaporeans today. (Abhijit)

I suppose certain poverty is infinitely more preferable than fluctuating prosperity.

Dear Sainath

You say

The region’s farmers could be trading one volatility for another. (via)

In your world, does having a Plan B increase risk?

Update: OK, so my point was not clear, but the article is. The farmers are not getting married to soya bean. They are planting it this year and they can return to cotton next year – the article itself predicts that they will, when the price of cotton moves back up. The two crops could be individually as volatile as they want. But unless their volatilities are perfectly correlated -the evidence of the article indicates that they are not-  when the two are combined,  their effect on the farmer’s fortune will be to reduce volatility.

Calling Sainath

As we all know, India’s agriculture is in deep and continuing distress and its farmers are committing suicide in large numbers because the government has reduced its investment in agriculture and R&D.  While all this is happening, the media is cheering the rise of the stock market and reporting on fashion shows. Worse still, now we have the shocking spectacle of a private corporation preying off the distress of farmers by spreading its tentacles all over the country and claiming to provide what the government should be doing. Read the story of this atrocity here.  (Registration may be required.)

The Future of Futures Trading

 An expert committee set up over a year ago to study if futures trading influenced commodity prices will neither recommend a ban nor favour continuing trade in essential commodities, said a member of the panel. (AP)

When I heard this news a couple of days back, I could guess why.  The panel is headed by an economist who also happens to head the planning commision. If he claims that Futures trading causes an increase in prices, his fellow economists will laugh at him. If he claims that it does not, he gets into trouble with his political masters.

Sharad Joshi, founder of Shetkari Sanghatana and the member of the panel referred to above, explains that there is more to it  in a well argued article.  

A Familiar Story

Disparities between cities and villages are widening. Village land is under the chokehold of government officials, who behave like petty landlords. Agricultural land is being taken away for development projects with no compensation to farmers, because farmers do not have any real rights over their land. The excuse given for denying farmers rights over their land is that if they can freely own and sell their land, the current shortage of arable land will worsen. But in practice, farm land is being given away anyway, so the restriction only means that farmers don’t get anything from the development.

We are of course talking about China.  While agents of China seek to bring about a Maoist revolution and collective farming in India, Chinese peasants are asking for their land to be privatized.

Good Really Old Days

This is Survivorship Bias week at The Examined Life.

Hunter-gatherers may have been so lithe and healthy because the weak were dead. The invention of agriculture and the advent of settled society merely swapped high mortality for high morbidity, allowing people some relief from chronic warfare so they could at least grind out an existence, rather than being ground out of existence altogether.

Notice a close parallel with the industrial revolution. When rural peasants swapped their hovels for the textile mills of Lancashire, did it feel like an improvement? The Dickensian view is that factories replaced a rural idyll with urban misery, poverty, pollution and illness. Factories were indeed miserable and the urban poor were overworked and underfed. But they had flocked to take the jobs in factories often to get away from the cold, muddy, starving rural hell of their birth.

That is from the Economist once again. Here is something I posted on my blog four years ago.

(A tip: The Christmas special issue of the Economist is always worth reading. Lots of interesting stuff. )