Saturday, April 28, 2007

To fight corruption in India

One of the ways of looking at Indian history is as a struggle between the forces of corruption and the forces of cleanliness. The cleanliness of original religion in India was overtaken by the corruption of the priesthood, against which various people tried to rebel, but the Buddha and Mahavira eventually led a successful revolt. However, Buddhism and Jainism themselves developed not only priesthoods (completely against the spirit of the original teachings of the Buddha and of Mahavira) but even corrupt priesthoods, against which people rebelled, turning to the good news of Jesus the Lord in the first century AD. However, our elites responded to the combined challenge posed by the followers of the Buddha, Mahavir and Jesus, by turning against them all, abandoning the original and even the late religion described in the Vedas, and inventing idolatry, caste and all the other institutions included in the so-called "way of life" that went by the name of Hindu practices till, initially Islam, and later but much more significantly Protestant influence began to reform them from the eighteenth century. That is what has resulted in what is called by the Western label of "Hinduism" today - a label, by the way, that was accepted by us Indians only in the nineteenth century.

The resultant fate of India is that we have had religious systems that are themselves corrupt - much as, in the West, the church became corrupt , till it began to be cleaned up by the Protesters, resulting in the split between those who refused to be reformed (Roman Catholics), those who accepted a partial reformation (the mainstream reformation, such as the Lutherans and Presbyterians), and those who wanted to go for a thorough-going cleaning up (such as the Waldensians, Hussites, Amish, Quakers, Mennonites, Baptists, Charismatists or Pentecostals, and so on).

When religion is itself clean, it can be a force to help clean up society, however marginal religion may be in that society. But when religion itself is corrupt, a society has precious few resources with which to combat corruption. In India, we are reliant mainly on modernism and market forces to help clean up the corruption in the country.

The forces of modernism have followed Protestantism in trying to create new institutions, such as Public Interest Litigation and the Right to Information Act to help citizens challenge corruption. These are being used, with varying degrees of effectiveness.

Now the Anti-Corruption Bureau has added one more means of fighting corruption. Citizens are requested to inform the ACB if they know of any Government Officer (however senior or high-ranking) who has spent a large amount on foreign holidays, expensive education, jewellery, vehicles, or properties. It does not matter if the expense was incurred in their own name or in that of their family members. The information can be sent anonymously. This is the simplest and easiest way to curb corruption. The information needed is very brief as explained in

We can be religious or Sphere: Related Content

Nanomaterials are unhealthy for humans, healthy for bacteria!

It is interesting to see that some of the latest research shows the interesting and contradictory fact that nano-materials are wonderful for bacteria but unhealthy for humans:

Why should nanomaterials be healthy for one life form but unhealthy for us? At present, this is unknown.

Evolutionists will be pleased to hear that bacteria will eventually evolve sufficiently to find out, and will then spread nanomaterials around so as to eliminate humans and take over the planet :) Sphere: Related Content

Monday, April 09, 2007

Jeff Sachs, poverty, philanthropy and culture change

For any of my readers who don't recollect this, Dr. Jeffrey Sachs is special adviser to the United Nations secretary-general.

He made an interesting series of statements to Financial Times (see the article titled "Philanthropy ‘can eclipse G8’ on poverty" by Leyla Boulton and James Lamont, published on April 8 2007, which you can reach by clicking on

Among other things, Sachs believes that wealthy philanthropists have the potential to do more than the Group of Eight leading nations (G8) to lift Africa out of poverty!

It is of course true that Dr Sachs was attempting to keep his chin up in view of flagging governmental initiatives in relation to the Millennium Development Goals: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development reported last week that aid from rich countries to Africa remained static last year even though G8 leaders promised in 2005 to spend $50bn more each year to 2010 on aid, with half the rise going to sub-Saharan Africa.

So Dr Sachs hopes that the financial clout of the likes of Microsoft’s Bill Gates and international investor Warren Buffett, who have pledged billions of dollars to global health and education, could help matters.

Well, how does one respond to Mr Sachs proposal that even people who are less wealthy should contribute to a new private sector foundation that could help speed the elimination of diseases and tackle specific challenges? “There are 950 billionaires whose wealth is estimated at $3.5 trillion [$3,500bn]. An annual 5 per cent ‘foundation’ payout would be $175bn per year – that would do it. Then we don’t need the G8 but 950 people on the Forbes list,” said Mr Sachs. “Maybe private philanthropists will champion solutions to individual problems rather than the G8,” he said.

This is a wonderful hope, but we know from experience and from history that the rich, with a few exceptions such as Buffett and Gates, generally contribute far less than ordinary people as a proportion of their income (at least in the West, regarding which we have as usual plenty of facts and figures available). Most of these billionnaires are in the West, though an increasing number live in countries that are doing well at present, such as China and India.

So, if Sachs is serious about a 5% contribution from billionaires, the easiest will be for the UN to charge a 5% "Billionnaire's tax". That will not only get the money in pretty quickly and efficiently, but also make Sachs and Ban top favourites with billionnaires! I am being ironic, of course.

No, contrary to what Dr Sachs claims, the fact is that even if all the billionnaires gave away 100% of their money, that still would not solve the problem. The total wealth of this group, $3.5 trillion, is less than what is flashed around the world in one day by the world's financial trading systems, so each day the world's financial system increases the divide between the rich and the poor because of the was it functions.

A change in the global system is therefore the first essential to reducing global poverty. Such changes include reforms in the stock exchange system, the creation of a dual-share system for corporations, moving to complementary currencies, and so on.

In Africa itself, the problem is not one of lack of money or resources. The problem with Africa is African culture which is built on tribalism, and which in practice has few moral constraints in relation to matters of sex, violence or money.

The result is widespread corruption and abuse of power. So, no matter how much money flows into the continent, most of it ends up in the private pockets of the elite and the powerful.

Rather than more aid, whether from philanthropists or from government, what is needed is efforts to change African culture, at least at the points of attitudes to and arrangements in relation to sex, violence and money.

Money and violence, yes, I hear you say; but why sex?

Because one of Africa's biggest economic issues is the impact of AIDS - which has spread in Africa principally though not exclusively because of the sexual mores of Africa.

If Africans would only reform themselves in relation to tribalism, violence and corruption, then this resource-rich continent could show other parts of the world the way to live, rather than being one of the poorest parts of the world, from times immemorial to the present.

That is the sad truth of the matter. Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Errors, human and technical

According to a top executive speaking at an event in the last few days, 90% of the problems encountered in relation to IT systems are due to human error - not system error or external attacks.

In other words, humans may be able to produce near-perfect machines and technological systems, but it all still comes down to the quality of the human interaction with these miraculous machines.

Reminds me of the days when, during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, Indians on WWII planes outperformed Pakistanis on the latest aircraft supplied by the USA - mainly F-86 Sabre jets if I recollect aright.

Thankfully, belligerence between India and Pakistan has now gone, and that war was apparently due to "strategic miscalculations" by both sides.

"Strategic miscalculation" is of course itself a human error. Unfortunately, "strategic miscalculation" is not confined to military matters. Sphere: Related Content