Modi Cut India’s Taxes, Corruption, and Regulations

(p. B1) MUMBAI, India — A jeans maker saw his delivery costs cut by half when the highway police stopped asking for bribes. An aluminum wire factory faced only three inspectors rather than 12 to keep its licenses. Big companies like Corning, the American fiber-optic cable business, found they could wield a new bankruptcy law to demand that customers pay overdue bills.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised nearly five years ago to open India for business. Fitfully and sometimes painfully, his government has streamlined regulations, winnowed a famously antiquated bureaucracy and tackled corruption and tax evasion.

. . .

(p. B5) Mehta Creation, a jeans maker in a dilapidated concrete building in the northern outskirts, paid a welter of taxes until two years ago. That included the dreaded octroi, a British import from medieval times that allowed states and some cities to collect taxes whenever goods crossed a boundary.

Mehta Creation’s budget was contorted by corruption. To avoid the octroi, which could triple the cost of a delivery and add delays, Mehta paid drivers about $5 for each parcel of jeans and then reimbursed them up to $6 per parcel to bribe the local police at every border, said Dhiren Sharma, the company’s chief operating officer.

Mehta’s costs dropped after the government abolished 17 taxes, including the octroi, two years ago and established instead a national value-added tax on most business activity. Continue reading “Modi Cut India’s Taxes, Corruption, and Regulations”

Some Routine Tech Jobs in India Can Be Automated

(p. B2) . . . the global tech industry is increasingly relying on automation, robotics, big data analytics, machine learning and consulting — technologies that threaten to bypass and even replace Indian workers. For example, automated processes may soon replace the kind of work Mr. Choudhari was performing for foreign clients, which involved maintaining software by occasionally plugging in simple code and analyzing data.

“What we’re seeing is an acceleration in shedding for jobs in India and an adding of jobs onshore,” said Sandra Notardonato, an analyst and research vice president for Gartner, a research and advisory company. “Even if these companies don’t have huge net losses, there’s a person who will suffer, and that’s a person with a limited skill set in India.”

. . .

Of course, new technologies will create new jobs. The impact of automation and artificial intelligence still is not clear, and they could open up new areas that simply shift tech work rather than eliminate it.

For the full story, see:

Nida Najar. “Tech Jobs Cut in India. A Reason? Technology.” The New York Times (Monday, June 26, 2017): B2.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 25, 2017, and has the title “Indian Technology Workers Worry About a Job Threat: Technology.”)

Future Population Lower Than U.N. Estimates, Perhaps by Billions

(p. A15) Is a dangerous population explosion imminent? For decades we’ve been told so by scientific elites, starting with the Club of Rome reports in the 1970s. But in their compelling book “Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline,” Canadian social scientist Darrell Bricker and journalist John Ibbitson lay out the opposite case: “The great defining event of the twenty-first century,” they say, “will occur in three decades, give or take, when the global population starts to decline. Once that decline begins, it will never end.”

. . .

So why exactly is everyone still worried about the opposite problem? The authors pin the blame on faulty assumptions by the population establishment, as represented by the U.N. Population Division. They don’t use the United States as an example, but I will: The U.N.’s most recent population forecasts suggest that the average U.S. total fertility rate from 2015 to 2020 should be 1.9 children per woman. In reality, CDC data shows U.S. fertility has averaged about 1.8 children per woman from 2015 to 2018. In 2019, early indications are that fertility will probably be nearer 1.7 children per woman.

. . .

As Messrs. Bricker and Ibbitson point out, U.N. forecasts are substantially out-of-step with existing data from many countries, including China, India and Brazil. As a result of these mistakes, the most widely used population benchmarks in the world are probably wrong. The future will have far fewer people than the U.N. suggests; perhaps billions fewer.

For the full review, see:

Lyman Stone. “BOOKSHELF; A Drop In Numbers.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, February 7, 2019): A15.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date February 6, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘Empty Planet’ Review: A Drop in Numbers; Governments stoke fears about overpopulation, but the reality is that fertility rates are falling faster than most experts can readily explain.”)

The book under review, is:

Bricker, Darrell, and John Ibbitson. Empty Planet: The Shock of Global Population Decline. New York: Crown, 2019.

Innovative Entrepreneurs Bring Prosperity to the Poor

(p. A17) As the economist Joseph Schumpeter observed: “The capitalist process, not by coincidence but by virtue of its mechanism, progressively raises the standard of life of the masses.”

For Schumpeter, entrepreneurs and the companies they found are the engines of wealth creation. This is what distinguishes capitalism from all previous forms of economic society and turned Marxism on its head, the parasitic capitalist becoming the innovative and beneficent entrepreneur. Since the 2008 crash, Schumpeter’s lessons have been overshadowed by Keynesian macroeconomics, in which the entrepreneurial function is reduced to a ghostly presence. As Schumpeter commented on John Maynard Keynes’s “General Theory” (1936), change–the outstanding feature of capitalism–was, in Keynes’s analysis, “assumed away.”

Progressive, ameliorative change is what poor people in poor countries need most of all. In “The Prosperity Paradox: How Innovation Can Lift Nations Out of Poverty,” Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen and co-authors Efosa Ojomo and Karen Dillon return the entrepreneur and innovation to the center stage of economic development and prosperity. The authors overturn the current foreign-aid development paradigm of externally imposed, predominantly government funded capital- and institution-building programs and replace it with a model of entrepreneur-led innovation. “It may sound counterintuitive,” the authors write, but “enduring prosperity for many countries will not come from fixing poverty. It will come from investing in innovations that create new markets within these countries.” This is the paradox of the book’s title.

Continue reading “Innovative Entrepreneurs Bring Prosperity to the Poor”

Idyllic Golden-Age Hunter-Gatherers

(p. A8) Before he was killed by an isolated tribe on a remote Indian Ocean island, John Allen Chau, a young American on a self-propelled mission to spread Christianity, revealed two things: that he was willing to die, and that he was scared.
. . .
He tried to give gifts. A boy shot an arrow at him. He expressed fear, fatalism, frustration and some humor.
The people Mr. Chau chose for his mission are among the most impenetrable communities in the world, known for their intense hostility to outsiders. They have killed or tried to kill many outsiders who attempted to step on their rugged island 700 miles off India’s mainland, where they are one of the last undiluted hunter and gatherer societies.
. . .
Mr. Chau was trying to accomplish the impossible. The people on North Sentinel have not accepted anyone outside their society. Anthropologists, filmmakers and government officials have tried to approach them. Just about all have been driven back by bows and arrows.
. . .
The fishermen said he had told them to give the letter to a friend, in case he did not come back.
In one passage, he asked God if North Sentinel was “Satan’s last stronghold.” In another: “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”
“It’s weird — actually no, it’s natural: I’m scared,” Mr. Chau wrote. “There, I said it. Also frustrated and uncertain — is it worth me going a foot to meet them?”
He added, “I don’t want to die!”
Still, he went back.
On the afternoon of Nov. 16, the fishermen told police officers, Mr. Chau reassured them that he would be fine staying on the island overnight and that the fishermen could go. They motored out, leaving Mr. Chau alone for the first time.
When they passed by the island the next morning, they saw the islanders dragging his body on the beach with a rope.
No one knows what exactly happened. Police officials said the islanders most likely killed him with bows and arrows.
Mr. Chau’s body is still on the island, but several police officers said they were worried about retrieving it, lest the same thing happen to them.

For the full story, see:
Jeffrey Gettleman, Hari Kumar and Kai Schultz. “American’s Last Letter Before Being Killed by Tribe on a Remote Indian Island.” The New York Times (Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018): A8.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 23, 2018, and has the title “A Man’s Last Letter Before Being Killed on a Forbidden Island.”)

Lack of “Air-Conditioning Can Be Deadly”

(p. A10) The number of air-conditioners worldwide is predicted to soar from 1.6 billion units today to 5.6 billion units by midcentury, according to a report issued Tuesday by the International Energy Agency.
. . .
While 90 percent of American households have air-conditioning, “When we look in fact at the hot countries in the world, in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, where about 2.8 billion people live, only about 8 percent of the population owns an air-conditioner,” said Fatih Birol, executive director of the energy agency.
As incomes in those countries rise, however, more people are installing air-conditioners in their homes. The energy agency predicts much of the growth in air-conditioning will occur in India, China and Indonesia.
Some of the spread is simply being driven by a desire for comfort in parts of the world that have always been hot.
. . .
And when it gets hot, forgoing air-conditioning can be deadly. The heat wave that plagued Chicago in 1995 killed more than 700 people, while the 2003 European heat wave and 2010 Russian heat wave killed tens of thousands each.

For the full story, see:
Kendra Pierre-Louis. “World Tries to Stay Cool, but It Could Warm Earth.” The New York Times (Friday, May 18, 2018): A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 15, 2018, and has the title “The World Wants Air-Conditioning. That Could Warm the World.”)

Marx Liked Bourgeois Modernity Better than Feudal Despotism

(p. 24) In his early writings and well through the 1860s, Marx propounded a theory of history that extolled the heroic achievements of the bourgeoisie as the collective agent of global change. Before the proletariat could develop into a mature class and become truly conscious of its revolutionary task, he reasoned, it was first necessary for capitalism thoroughly to modernize the world. All remnants of feudalism would dissolve; local custom and tradition would be swept aside, and industrial production would surge, condensing the two remaining classes into radically opposed groups in anticipation of capitalism’s final crisis.
This theory implied a certain inevitability to the gathering processes of historical change. It also left little room for the possibility of independent revolution in less developed regions around the globe, in the east or in the outer reaches of Europe’s empires. Marx’s universalism found its classic expression in “The Communist Manifesto,” which declared that all nations must submit “on pain of extinction” to the forces of bourgeois modernity. Elsewhere, Marx celebrated the introduction of steam power into India and the consequent dissolution of the archaic “village system.” And in the first volume of “Capital,” completed in 1867, he still reserved special disdain for what he called “ancient Asiatic” forms of production, condemning them as symptoms of a despotism that must be swept aside on the way to revolution.

For the full review, see:
PETER E. GORDON. “Call Him Karl.” The New York Times Book Review (Sunday, October 23, 2016): 24.
(Note: the online version of the review has the date OCT. 21, 2016, and has the title “A New Biography Focuses on Karl Instead of Marxism.”)

The book under review, is:
Jones, Gareth Stedman. Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.