Monday, May 22, 2006

Getting Value out of the Investment Game

If your trust is based in fundamentals, if your eggs are spread wide across diverse baskets, if every entity whose stock you hold produces and sells something that you'd buy with confidence if you had the money and the need/desire, if the rise of your portfolio has been gradual and sustained, if you spend your own time researching and investing at least a good part of your own money, then market crashes are a time to buy, cautiously picking the birds that are pulled down for a moment but look strong enough to take flight soon.

Investment is a delicate dance, performed on the edge of a cliff in sporadic storms. If thy fingers are nimble, play on, and make a show to remember. What value do stock market investors add? Their collective mind, evaluating our production mechanisms. Stock markets act as Quality Assurance measures taken to ensure healthy economic growth.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My Little Paradise

The little known village is in a little known lap of the Himalayas. It is called Nunoori Behli, the local pronunciation for Nunoor Valley. Sainj, a tributary to the Beas flows right in front of my land. Plum , Almond and Apple grow wild here, littering the ground. The local neighbors are simple people. Living in raised wooden homes that creek even under the lightest feet. The sun comes up from behind the thick, lush foliage, pouring drops of radiance over this valley of slow life contrasted against the rush of the river. The water is pure, drinkable straight from fast river, sweet to taste.

The short way to reach is a wooden rope-bridge that gets washed away every few years because of flooding. When the bridge is not there, the walk is about 4 kilometers. 4 kilometers of blissful strolling on foot-wide meandering paths drawn by the erasable pencils of local feet.

There is peace here. My idea of paradise. We own a small piece of land. Some day I'll build a small home here, for the times when nothing but solitude gives solace.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Gender Equality and Dignity of Labour

One of the most pertinent issues pertaining to gender equality is who engages in what vocation. Before equality of social status based on equal working opportunities is aimed for, one has to aim for a change in how people think about vocations.

For example, being a master chef is not as "respectable" as being an engineer. We club our ambitions based on how much money a particular vocation gets us. While this is somewhat understandable in a country like India (where the primary concern has been bread-winning), this difference of perception regarding different vocations leads to some of them being classified as "unambitious" or "lower".

This is so to a lesser extent in countries like the U.S., where dignity of labour is (somewhat) higher compared to here, for all vocations.

Once our attitude towards the "status" we associate with various vocations changes to one of equal respect for skilful execution of whatever vocation one is interested in, it will be easier for people to be satisfied working many jobs that we currently consider "odd".

What happens now is that males, being more assertive by nature, unilaterally make the decision of being the bread earners, because there is a "shame" in doing house work for the male. If dignity of labour is achieved, such a shame will diminish, and everyone will be more willing to take up a variety of new kinds of jobs.

I believe a good cook is more respectable than an average doctor or engineer or businessman. respect should come from how good you are at whatever you do, rather than from what you do, howevermuch inept you might be at it.

The problem is not that women are confined to do house chores, but that house chores are looked down upon as menial jobs.

I don't have an exact solution for the problem of raising dignity of labour overall, but i strongly believe that in dignity of labour lies the answer to gender-, and even caste- equality.

A connected point is: you'll always find that there is relatively more gender equality in economically developed nations. Why is this so? Because even the so-called "menial" jobs pay quite well. Chefs and often even janitors come and go in their own cars and have decent homes. I've seen this first hand. It is a pitty that I have to use expressions like "even janitors use cars" as if they are not entitled to. This is not to say that developed nations are ideal. Stereotyping of vocational preferences is very common there too.

The point is that once a certain job has respect (through it being paid well for, or otherwise), it ceases to be thought of as a job as menial as it is seen as in less fortunate circumstances. So people in general are more willing to take up these vocations, and so things like homemaking are seen as respectable occupations. Then, all (men and women) find homemaking (or cookery, or interior design etc.) a more satisfying occupation. In this case the division of labour will be based more on ability rather than the status it brings to people.

Since abilities differ between genders to some extent, even though there might be a statistical skewedness in which gender takes up which kinds of jobs, both genders will be happy, because they will have chosen what they are good at, and doing that they will be able to earn and maintain respect, which really is what "equality" is all about. Mutual respect.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Scepticism (versus?) Traditionalism

Science (and analytic philosophy) - the forte of the sceptics - starts with its own set of axioms for which no proof is possible. Yet science (for the most part) tries hard to show that whatever it assumes is falsifiable at least in principle. The difference between this and religious tradition is that religion does not attempt to show its assumptions as falsifiable. In fact, it asserts the infallibility of its axioms and sticks by them.

The question is, given that the above is the difference between how sceptics and how traditionalists respectively think, which tool is useful when (if at all)?