Not in Rock Lyrics

February 8, 2008

Who is more deserving of scorn, opprobrium, and calls for jihad? Daughtry, for using the word ‘closure1‘ in a rock song; or the All American Rejects, for using OKCupid dating test results as song titles?

Discuss in comments.

1: Closure is not only psychobabble but financial jargon also. Daughtry has polluted rock with a word used by two despicable groups of people: whiny characters from American sitcoms, and investment bankers.

Sania Says K

February 6, 2008

IIMB lingo evolves rapidly and continuously, throwing up new words and phrases with every batch of MBAs. Skimpy has already written about how ‘are’ burst on to the scene and gained currency. Slightly after that, another important meme evolved in IIMB: K.

Just as ‘are’ was originally supposed to mean ‘exists’ and later came to mean ‘is good’, ‘K’ too mutated. It was originally shorthand for ‘okay’, but then came to be used only in situations where the okay was accompanied with vast wodges of contempt.

So K now means ‘Your argument is so bereft of logic that I will not waste time responding to it. I refuse to acknowledge your terms of debate. Instead, I quit the discussion, or I will do my own thing.’ Which, honestly, is an amazing amount of information to communicate with a single character.

The verb form of K is ‘say K to’, i.e. to refuse to defend yourself in the face of nonsense. Whether you say K by walking away, or by attacking is up to you. The important point is not to acknowledge the other party’s demands.

The act of saying K existed long before the phrase did. There are hajaar precedents and all. For example, when Hitler wished him Happy Birthday, King Christian X sent back a terse, three word reply. That Snopes page also debunks the urban legend about all Danes wearing a yellow Star of David, which would be a fabulous example of saying K if it was true. And when Mahatma Gandhi went on the Dandi March, he was basically saying K to the British Empire.

The most prominent literary example of saying K is in Atlas Shrugged, where the inhabitants of Galt’s Gulch say K to the world at large.

And now, Sania Mirza has said K to one and all by refusing to play in India:

“Everytime I have played in India, there has been some kind of problem. So we just thought it was better not to play this time,” she said.

Full respect are there.

Does Not Compute

February 5, 2008

(Cannot… resist… virgin… joke)

Mint comes up with a perplexing paragraph:

While this will be the first time Tata Teleservices will be partnering with a brand such as Virgin, Branson has already formed two similar alliances globally.

(emphasis mine)

So, it’s not Virgin’s first time, but it is Tata Teleservices’? I’m confused.

Even More on Land Sale Reform

February 5, 2008

Barun Mitra has a Mint oped today on why not allowing the free sale of agricultural land is a bad idea. Excerpts:

Which leads us to the question: Why is it legitimate to acquire land for industrial use, but prohibit farmers from consolidating and expanding their landholding to improve agriculture? Why shouldn’t a farmer be able to legitimately acquire a thousand acres?

Indian industry can raise capital from the global market on the basis of a prospectus, which promises performance in the future. But Indian farmers can’t raise adequate capital on the basis of the land asset which they already possess.

However, it is critical that the value of the land of farmers, often their only asset, is maximized, and it is made simple to capitalize. The problem facing the poor is not their poverty, but inability to capitalize their assets. Typically, agricultural land hardly fetches Rs2-3 lakh per acre. Agriculture income, even if the land is cropped twice a year, can hardly be more than Rs30,000 per acre, at current productivity levels.

The industry could also offer shares or bonds in lieu of land. Or even provide alternative land if the farmer decides to continue with his vocation. In an open land market, with protected property rights and security of contract, there would be a wide range of choices to meet almost every requirement.

Very much worth reading. So do read.

The Underpants of Homer

February 4, 2008

Although my quest for superhero underpants remains unsuccessful, I have discovered the next best thing: Homer Simpson underpants.

They’re electric blue boxer shorts with ‘Doh!’ and ‘Donuts’ speech bubbles. Sadly, they’re also 300 rupees a pair. Sadness comes.

Making Roads and Mortgaging Farmland

February 4, 2008

Four months ago, I wrote a post on how allowing the free sale of agricultural land for any use was the best possible move against agricultural distress. My logic in that post was:

  1. Allowing the free and easy conversion of agricultural land for residential, commercial, or industrial purposes creates a liquid market for agricultural land.
  2. The liquid market for agricultural land makes it more acceptable as collateral for lending.
  3. The existence of the liquid market also makes agricultural land more valuable.
  4. Point 2 and Point 3 combine to drive down interest rates and increase the loan amount a farmer can get against his land.
  5. This means that being indebted is not such a problem for farmers.

I now worry that I gave the impression back in October that allowing the sale and conversion of agricultural land was a magic bullet, and that once this happened we would enter a happy agricultural paradise. It isn’t. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. You need other things too. The three most important ones I can think of are:

  1. Farmers actually knowing that they can sell and mortgage their property legally, and knowing what the market rate is. Currently, anybody who wants to buy agricultural land to put up flats or a factory bribes the collector to change the land usage, buys it at a bargain basement rate from the farmer, and then goes ahead and develops it. If land sale is legalised, but the farmer doesn’t know about how much more valuable this makes the land, all that changes is that the developer no longer has to pay a bribe (or as much of one). As I mentioned in the October post, auction sales are a good mechanism to prevent this happening.
  2. Competition in the market for lending. Which means multiple banks lending to rural areas. As things currently stand, I think each Regional Rural Bank has a geographical monopoly on rural banking in its particular region. Discussing how to create viable and competitive rural banking is a blogpost in itself – many blogposts axshully. Maybe later.
  3. The agricultural land needs to be well-connected enough to urban centres that there’s demand for it. Which in turn means rural roads. Rural roads also have the advantage that they make it easier for banks to reach farmers (fulfilling Point 2), and make it easier for multiple land developers to court farmers for their land (fulfilling Point 1).

Happily, this week’s Swaminomics (h/t: Ravikiran) is all about rural roads. Key excerpts:

For every million rupees spent, roads raised 335 people above the poverty line, and R&D 323. Every million rupees spent on education reduced poverty by 109 people, and on irrigation by 67 people. The lowest returns came from subsidies that are the most popular with politicians – subsidies on credit (42 people), power (27 people) and fertilisers (24 people).

For decades, rural roads in India were neglected by most states. Besides, rural employment schemes, starting with Maharashtra’s Employment Guarantee Scheme in the 1970s, created the illusion that durable rural roads could be built with labour-intensive techniques. In practice labour-intensive roads proved not durable at all, and those built in the dry season vanished in the monsoons.

The posts on rural banking and agricultural finance will happen sometime in the future. Work is horrible this month.