Tweets for 31st August, 2019

 

Links for 30th August, 2019

  1. The Baader-Meinhoff phenomenon.
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  2. “It even makes its way into common parlance: in Kannada, hasidu halasu tinnu, undu maavu tinnu (loosely: eat jackfruit when hungry, eat mango when full) and in Bengal, summers are synonymous with aam kanthaler gandho (loosely: fragrance of mango and jackfruit). It is used in different ways all across the country, where it goes by different names: kathal (Hindi), kothaal (Assamese), chakka (Malayali), phanas (Marathi), ponos (Konkani), halasa (Kannadiga).”
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    A lovely read about one of my favorite fruits: the jackfruit.
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  3. “Just as the current disaster was made in Washington, it can be unmade in Washington, and rather quickly, simply by enforcing the existing U.S. Code on patents, government science, and the public interest.  ”
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    Can you guess what the article is about by just reading the excerpt above? Informative, if not always prone to being agreeable.
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  4. Plant a trillion trees“.
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  5. Bugs deserve our respect.

EC101: Links for 29th August, 2019

  1. A simple explainer from the ToI about what RBI’s surplus funds are.
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  2. “Central bank balance sheets can be difficult to grasp and are the subject of much debate. This note makes the case that gross capital is large on RBI’s balance sheet (and further additions to the capital by way of retained earnings do not look necessary) but given the large government debt on the RBI’s books, it is difficult to justify any one-time standalone transfer to the government now.”
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    Ananth Narayan, writing about a year ago (close enough) on the advisability of handing over the funds to the GoI. A nuanced argument, and worth reading.
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  3. “So what you do is:      On the liability side, you reduce the provisions by a certain amount
    On the asset side, you cancel out some government bonds. What the government owes the RBI (as interest and principal) goes away into thin air.

    This gives the government the ability to issue more bonds (since it just saved a truckload on interest costs) and thus use that additional money to do different things.”
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    Deepak Shenoy on the same topic, again from a while back.
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  4. “The balance in the CF is about ₹2.32-lakh crore, which is around 6.4 per cent of the RBI’s total assets.This is reportedly much higher than the 2 per cent average that other BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa) hold, according to a Bank of America Merrill Lynch report.”
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    The Hindu Business Line on how high the contingency funds are as a percentage of the balance sheet, and how high that number is in comparison to other economies.
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  5. “But there’s a danger, exemplified by Venezuela in the 1980s and 1990s. The central bank, pushed into insolvency by its support of the Latin American government’s industrial policy, leaned too heavily on the power of cheap money-printing to earn profits and repair its balance sheet, and lost control of inflation. Thinning out the Indian central bank’s capital cushion could introduce a similar vulnerability”
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    Andy Mukherjee plays devil’s advocate.

Row: Links for 28th July 2019

  1. “Until the 1985 Plaza Accord no one outside a tight official circle knew when the seven finance ministers met or what they agreed upon. The summit was announced the day before and a communiqué was issued afterwards.”
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    Today’s articles are about the G-7. Its history, its purpose, and its shortcomings. The excerpt above is from the Wikipedia article about the G-7’s formation. I learnt today that it was earlier called the Library Group.
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  2. “They have similar names and similar functions. While the G7 mainly has to do with politics, the G20 is a broader group that focuses on the global economy. It’s also known as the “Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy” and represents 80% of global GDP.”
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    Time Magazine explains the difference between the G-7 and the G-20. That last sentence is a useful way to understand the 80-20 rule, by the way.
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  3. “In addition to its internal divisions, the G7 is no longer as influential as it once was, many analysts note. Some argue that without China and other emerging global powers, the group lacks relevance. In 2018, Jim O’Neill and Alessio Terzi of the European research institute Bruegel wrote that the G7, “in its current formulation, no longer has a reason to exist, and it should be replaced with a more representative group of countries.””
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    CFR weighs in on the future of the G-7, and finds it to be pretty bleak. Worth reading for the charts alone.
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  4. “Some enterprising chronicler of the leisure industry should surely write a full account of the importance of hotels in political history. After all, now that the president of the United States is a hotel tycoon, and is seemingly always keen to use politics and diplomacy to advance his hotel-building business plans, the interface between hotels and politics has rarely been more relevant.”
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    Martin Kettle in the Guardian, in a snarky but informative piece about the roles that hotels have played in important historic events, including snippets about hotels in Biarritz.
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  5. A list of other country groupings from Wikipedia. I cannot believe they didn’t think of a way to turn CAME into CAMEL.

Launching the One Book a Month Club @GIPE

Calling it a club is a bit of a misnomer, since it’s mandatory for the undergrad students at the Gokhale Institute, but it just sounds cooler.

One thing that we wanted to fit in (but couldn’t) for the undergraduate degree at Gokhale Institute was a Great Books program. In retrospect, that was a blessing in disguise, because it has given me the chance to launch this instead.

The One Book a Month program involves inviting one person a month to nominate a book that they think young folks absolutely must read. Said young folks read the book,  and write a five hundred word report on the book. At the end of the month, all of us – person, young folks and I – sit down and talk about the book. Rinse and repeat. There’s a competition, with rules, carrots and sticks – more details here.

But stripped of all the razzmatazz, it really is just an effort to get people to read more – which is kind of the whole point, no?

Amit Paranjape has very kindly agreed to kickstart proceedings, and his book of choice for this month is Sapiens, by Yuval Noah Harari. I’ll share the date on which we’ll have the talk with Amit – if you happen to be in town, and are interested in attending the talk, you’re most welcome! We’ll also be putting up the discussion itself on YouTube and on a podcast based on this series – links to those will also be made available.

If you have book suggestions, guest suggestions, or other suggestions about how this series could be made better, I’m all ears! Drop me a mail at ashish at the rate econforeverybody dot com.

Tech: Links for 27th August, 2019

I got the day off today!

Harsh Doshi, an alumnus of GIPE and a friend, has written today’s post about bitcoins.  Thanks, Harsh.

He has, he wrote to me in an email, used my style – which made me realize I have one. Still, here you go five (but who’s counting) links about bitcoins:

  1. Before trying to understand how the Bitcoin took form of money, commodity and security – something truly unique – it is important to understand what was the idea behind the genesis of the bitcoin. Read this whitepaper, authored by Satoshi Nakamoto. We are still unaware of who s/he truly is, or are we?
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  2. The Economist explains lucidly what bitcoin is and how it works.
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  3. Just what is bitcoin mining?
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  4. Bitcoin, or in general crypto, is looked at as an advanced technology with the likes of AI and ML. But too much tech may also not be necessarily prone to disasters, one that has blocked $137 million.
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  5. The Government of India and RBI, along with SEBI have banned cryptocurrencies and hailed the idea of blockchain, a decentralised ledger technology. Here is an article debunking the myth that separating the two will be good.
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  6. Bonus: One of India’s most articulate voices on Bitcoin, here in his 20 min long TEDx Talk

5 non-textbook books about international trade

A student asked me this question in class the other day – if I could recommend five books about international trade that aren’t textbooks. I found the question quite interesting, and what follows are five books that I recommended on the spot

  1. Vermeer’s Hat: One of my favorite books to read about globalization, and the fact that it also speaks about art and history just adds to the treat. Lovely book.
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  2. Shogun: An extremely long book, but also an extremely readable one. On the face of it, this is about internal politics in Japan – and that’s one way to read it. But another way to read it is to think about globalization before the era of globalization.
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  3. Tai-Pan: An equally long book, and this one explains why and how Hong Kong became Hong Kong. Again, explains the historical context and the start of globalization in Asia.
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  4. Monsoon: This was written a while ago, and it holds up reasonably well. Kaplan argues that it is time to take a look at the world with the Indian Ocean front and center, and examines who the key players in this part of the world are likely to be. Especially appropriate for a read today – and this book was written in the pre-Belt-and-Road era.
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  5. OK, I’m cheating a little. I can’t for the life of me remember what I actually said in class the other day, but even if I didn’t mention this book, I’ll go along with it. Easily the most academic book of the five (and easily the most boring, if I am going to be honest), but a good read nonetheless for gaining information about the development of international trade. Power and Plenty, by Findlay et al.