Thinking out loud

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Apple Cart again...

Here's why I love the preface. I quote:

"An election at present, considered as a means of selecting the best qualified rulers, is so absurd that if the last dozen parliaments had consisted of the candidates who were at the foot of the poll instead of those who were at the head of it there is no reason to suppose that we should have been a step more or less advanced than we are today. In neither case would the electorate have had any real choice of
representatives. If it had, we might have had to struggle with parliaments of Titus Oateses and Lord George Gordons dominating a few generals and artists, with Cabinets made up of the sort of orator who is said to carry away his hearers by his eloquence because, having first ascertained by a few cautious feelers what they are ready to applaud, he gives it to them a dozen times over in an overwhelming crescendo, and is in effect carried away by them. As it is, the voters have no real choice of candidates: they have to take what they can get and make the best of it according to their lights, which is often the worst of it by the light of heaven. By chance rather than by judgment they find themselves represented in parliament by a fortunate proportion of reasonably honest and public spirited persons who happen to be also successful public speakers. The rest are in parliament because they can afford it and have a fancy for it or an interest in it.


You will notice that I am too polite to call Demos a windbag or a hot air merchant; but I am going to ask you to begin our study of Democracy by considering it first as a big balloon, filled with gas or hot air, and sent up so that you shall be kept looking up at the sky whilst other people are picking your pockets. When the balloon comes down to earth every five years or so you are invited to get into the basket if you can throw out one of the people who are sitting tightly in it; but as you can afford neither the time nor the money, and there are forty millions of you and hardly room for six hundred in the basket, the balloon goes up again with much the same lot in it and leaves you where you were before. I think you will admit that the balloon as an image of Democracy corresponds to the parliamentary facts."

There is more where this came from. I love the preface. Read it! Project Gutenberg of Australia has been gracious enough to make a copy available here.

The Apple Cart

For years have I searched for this book. I had a frayed old copy which I had read. Several pages were missing from the preface. Yet, I am a tremendous fan of Shaw's work. The Apple Cart is, a political comedy. More importantly, it is a satire on democracy vs. monarchy. Or rather, as Shaw says himself, of both vs. plutocracy.

The play is great. The preface is better. A must read for!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

OPEC oil cuts

The OPEC cut oil production by a record 2.2 million bpd yesterday, in order to stop the fall in crude oil prices. The United States has condemned this move by the OPEC saying that "OPEC has an obligation to keep the market well supplied and to consider the health of the global economy, so efforts to limit the benefits of lower energy prices are short-sighted".

Yeah right! OPEC has the responsibility to let the world see the benefits of lower energy prices. And how about the US' responsibility of making all sorts of technology cheaply available to the rest of the world, for the improvement of living standards in general? How about cheaper Intel processors and Microsoft software? How about cheaper medication for critical diseases?

I don't think the US is under any obligation to give out freebies - but then neither are the OPEC countries.

Would you buy terrorist insurance?

Insurance companies in India have recently begun offering "terrorist insurance". They're offering a cover of 5 lacs for a premium of Rs. 100 if you were to die in a terrorist attack in the next year. That's 1 in 5000 odds that you will die in a terrorist attack.

The Times of India (17th December 2008) reports that even in 2008, on average 2 people have died per day in terror related incidents.

On the other hand, The Hindu reported in 2007 that there are about 20,000 deaths due to rabies every year in India. Maybe we should buy rabies insurance instead. Oh and by the way, apparently there are laws in India against killing stray dogs. Sheesh!