Dec 29, 2009

Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A review

"The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other."

Seeing this Richard Bach's existential novella among the top British fictions of all time finally convinced me that, maybe there is substance to all the praises and acclaim this book has been garnering all these years and I must read it! Hadn't known the book was so short. Finished it in one reading and in less than an hour and loved it!

"Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight--how to get from shore to food and back again," and hence ordinary and that's why the novella is not about them. It about a seagull among them called "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" who aims not to be the ordinary, but to be the ordinary extraordinary. Jonathan is plagued by the existential question of meaning of life and he is bored with the daily squabbles over food. He is dissatisfied with the restricted norm of life of his comrades, for whom it is not flying that matters, but eating. And that's all they care about in life. But Jonathan is different as flying matters more to him than eating. Seized by the passion for flying, he pushes himself, learning everything he can about flying, and keeps mastering the higher levels of the art of flying. His unwillingness to confirm to the social norm that seagulls don't fly and shouldn't care about flying eventually gets him banished from his flock. Being an outcast, Jonathan keeps yearning towards perfection. There is more to the story but I wouldn't want to spoil your fun…

Ultimately, the novella is about finding a higher purpose in life even if it doesn't confirm to the views of your friends, family or neighborhoods. I liked the simplicity of the novella. It's as simple as a story can be and yet quite inspiring and offering convincing explanations to questions of life and its meaning. Like the author says in the beginning that the book is to the real Jonathan living within us, it does force you to introspect. Limiting yourself is can be one of the worst you can do. The book inspires the readers to break the limits imposed upon them by the society, social norms and by themselves as well. It urges you to come out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself which as the author describes leads to perfection. And finding perfection is the best thing anyone can make out of their existence in this absurd and indifferent universe!

"Remember Jonathan heaven is not a place or a time, because place and time are so very meaningless.", "Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is now." Bach's simplicity hasn't failed to convey the existential themes to the readers convincingly.

"It is right for a gull to fly, that freedom is the very nature of his being, that whatever stands against that freedom must be set aside, be it ritual or superstition or limitation in any form." "The only true law is that which leads to freedom," Jonathan said. "There is no other." Richard Bach emphasizes the importance of individual freedom. And of course, freedom I believe is the most basic of the fundamental rights any individual has. And freedom is what makes existence worth having, I believe.

A highly recommended reading! In some reviews you'll find the book being appreciated or criticized for bearing resemblance to Christianity though. Just ignore the BS, who cares anyway?

Dec 23, 2009

गरिबी कसरी हासिल गर्ने? केही उपायहरु

अहिले देशको स्थिती र समाजमा ब्याप्त सोचाइहरु देख्दा लिओन लाउ ले सन २००० ताका लेखेको "Strategies for achieving poverty" भन्ने  लेख साह्रै सान्दर्भिक  लाग्यो । तेही भएर यो लेख अनुवाद गरेर यहाँ प्रस्तुत गरेको छु । पढेर प्रतिकृया दिनुहोला ।

लेखन :
लिओन लाउ
अनुवाद : सुरथ गिरी

गरिबी हासिल गर्न ध्यानपूर्वक योजना गर्न जरुरी छ । केही चिरपरिचित अत्याधुनिक रणनीतिहरु जसले गरिबी बढाउँछन् ती हाम्रो पहुँचमा छन् ।

सबै देशका राजनीतिहरु सम्रिद्धी रोक्ने नीतिहरु मनपराउँछन् र हामीले मान्नुपर्छ कि उनीहरु वा  उनीहरुका सल्लाहकारहरु गरिबी चाहन्छन् । उनीहरुका लागि एउटा खुसीको खबर छः धन गरिबी-मुक्त स्वतन्त्र बजारहरु र हस्तक्षेपवादका कारणहरु अहिले यति चिर परिचित भएका छन् कि गरिबी बढाउने अत्याधुनिक रणनीतिहरु अब उनीहरुको पहुँच भित्र छन् ।

हुनत:
हाल हामी नसोचिएको विश्वव्यापी आर्थिक स्वतन्त्रता र अन्तत् विश्वव्यापी समृद्धिको युगमा बाँचिरहेको छौं जसले गर्दा गरिबी-प्रेमीहरुलाई समस्या परिरहेको छ । प्रविधि सूचना र सम्रिद्धीले गर्दा सम्पूर्ण जनसंख्यालाई गरिब बनाउन गाह्रो छ तर अझै यो सम्भव छ ।संसारका सबैभन्दा महान् गरिबी हासिल गर्नेहरुसँग हामी के सिक्न सक्छौ त ? मेरो लेख "गरिबीको चमत्कार" मा मैले व्याख्या गरेको छु किन गरिबी आधुनिक सरकारहरुको सबैभन्दा ठूलो उपलब्धि हो भनेर । सरकारहरु सिपालु र दृढ हुनु जरुरी छ । संसारकै चिरपरिचित गरिबी निर्माताहरु जसले कुनै समयका चीन य तान्जानियालाई गरिब बनाएरे छाडे उनीहरुसंग सिकेर सराकारहरुले आधुनिक आर्थिक चमत्कार गरिबी हासिल गर्ने सर्वोत्कृष्ट अभ्यासहरु प्रयोगमा ल्याउन सक्छन् ।

अर्जेटिनाका लागि नरुनु

अर्जेटिना सबैभन्दा अचम्मका पूरना आर्थिक चमत्कारहरुमध्येको एक थियो । तुलनात्मक रुपमा बजारहरु स्वतन्त्र राखेर र आफ्ना उब्जनशील जमीनमा उत्पादित गेडागुडी र मासु युरोपमा निर्यात गरेर यो देश सन् १९२०को दशकमा विश्वकै नवौं धनी राष्ट्र  बनेको थियो । सर्वसाधारण जनताले बढी मात्रामा भौतिक वस्तुहरु प्रयोग गर्नपाएको, राम्रो स्वास्थ्य स्वच्छ वातावरण तथा आरामदायक काम गर्ने अवस्था तथा वातावरण पाएको अवस्था देखेर गरिबी समर्थकहरु स्तब्ध भएका थिए । भाग्यवश १९३० पछि सिपालु सैन्य तानाशाहरुले अर्जेटिनाको सत्ता आफ्नो हातमा लिए । उनीहरुले पहिले नै प्रयोग गरेर प्रमाणित गरिएका जुक्ति लगाएः देशलाई घुँडा टेक्न बाध्य बनाउनका लागि ।

युद्धपश्चातको पेरोनको सत्ता सबैभन्दा राम्रो थियो । यसले लगानीकर्ता र जागिर-प्रदायकहरुको खर्चमा युनियनहरुलाई मजबुत बनाउने काम गर् यो र अन्ततः तलब-भत्ता तथा अन्य सुबिधालाई बजारमा चलेको भन्दा माथिको दरमा बढाइदियो ।यसले जमिन तथा अर्थतन्त्रमा राम्रो योगदान पुर् याइराखेका उद्ध्योगहरुलाई राष्ट्रियकरण गर्‍यो , विदेशी लगानीकर्तालाई निषेध गर्‍यो , विनिमय दर नियन्त्रित गर्‍यो,कृषिजन्य उत्पादनमा कर लगायो, सेवा तथा मूल्यहरु नियमन गर्‍यो र अभिव्यक्ति स्वतन्त्रता हनन् गर्ने काम गर्‍यो  ।

पछिल्ला सत्ताहरुले पनि अघिल्लो सत्ताका सफलतामा साथ दिँदै घाटामा बजेट चलाए र मुद्रास्फ्रीती मुल्यब्रिद्धीलाई निरन्तरता दिइरहे । मजबुत बनाइएका युनियनहरुले पेरोनवादी बजारविरोधी नीतिहरुलाई साथ दिएर ठूलो योगदान दिए । सरकारी खर्च कटौती गर्न तलब-भत्ता व्रिद्धी  रोक्न र मुल्यव्रिद्धी रोक्न गरिएका प्रयासहरुलाई दबाउन पनि युनियनहरुले सहयोग गरे । अर्जेन्टिनाका समर्पित नेता तथा राज्य व्यवस्थापकहरु विश्वकै महान् आर्थिक अवनति हासिल गर्न सफल भए । उनीहरुका आर्थिक नीतिहरु र नागरिकको हक हननले  घातक बन्द-विरोध िहंसा र आतकंलाई प्रेरणा दियो । सन् १९७० मा आइपुग्दासम्म अर्जेन्टिनाको आर्थिक स्वतन्त्रता वैदेशिक व्यापारमाथिको प्रतिबन्ध, विनिमय दरमाथिको नियन्त्रण, मुद्रा आपूर्ति
मुल्यब्रिद्धी ,उच्च कर र जागिर-प्रदायक विराधी श्रम कानूनका कारण मरणासन्न अवस्थामा पुगिसकेको थियो । वितिय सेवा ,अनौपचारिक व्यापार ,खनिज पदार्थ, विद्युतिय व्यापार जस्ता क्षेत्रहरुमा सानातिना नियमनहरुको सन्जाल  नै शुरु गरियो जुन दक्षिण अफ्रिकाको भेदभाव युगको शासन भन्दा भिन्न थिएनन् । 

पूर्वी जर्मनीको कायापलट

अर्को महत्वपूर्ण पूराना आर्थिक चमत्कार युद्ध पश्चातको पूर्वी जर्मनी थियो । जर्मनीको प्रविधि उद्योग प्राकृतिक धन तथा बौद्धिक वर्ग पाएको पूर्वी जर्मनीले सम्रिद्ध  होला कि भन्ने डर थियो । भाग्यवश यसको
प्रजातान्त्रिक सरकारले प्रयोग र प्रमाणित गरिएका पूराना साम्यवादी जुक्तिहरु काममा लगायो जसले गर्दा धन-वृद्धि रोक्न सफल भयो । आर्थिक जीवनका सम्पूर्ण पक्ष राष्ट्रियकरण गरियो वा नियमन गरियो र पूर्वानुमानित फल पनि प्राप्त भयो ।

चीनको महान् प्रतिगामी बुर्कुसी

अध्यक्ष माओले चीनमा अहिलेसम्मकै सबैभन्दा सफल गरिबी कार्यक्रम आयोजना गरे । उनको महान् अग्रगामी बुर्कुसी (The Great Leap Forward) अहिलेसम्मैको  सबैभन्दा ठूलो प्रतिगामी बुर्कुसी हो । साँस्कृतिक क्रान्ति साँस्कृतिक घृणाको भव्य उत्सव थियो । उनले दुष्ट पुँजीवादी उपकरणहरु जस्तै शौचालय,डसनाको जमेर विरोध गरे।उनको वृहत कर्मचारीतन्त्रले हङकङमा भएका उनिहरुका दाजुभाइहरुलाई दु:ख दिइराखेको भगुवा सम्रिद्धीको डटेर सामना गरे ।

जटिल रोजगारी कानूनले कसले के काम गर्छ भनेर छुट्याउथ्यो । जमिन सफल व्यवसायिक किसानहरुबाट खोसेर अव्यवसायिक किसानहरुलाई बाँडियो । फुलेका सरकारी निकाय भन्दा बाहिरका औपचारिक व्यापार तथा उद्योगलाई नियन्त्रण गर्न सहकारी तथा सामूहिक
सन्जालहरु खडा गरिए । ठूला-ठूला सरकारी कारखानाहरुले उद्योगहरुका निमित्त सामग्री उत्पादन गर्थे सरकारले तोकिदिएको परिमाणमा ; उपभोक्ता वा अरुको मागलाई ध्यानमा राखेर होईन। ग्रामिण समुदायहरुलाई औद्योगिक सामग्रीहरु उत्पादन गर्न लगाइन्थ्यो, खाद्य सामग्री उत्पादन गर्न होइन् । यसकै परिमाण स्वरुप भोकमरीका कारण दुई करोडको मृत्यु भयो दशकौंसम्म ऋणात्मक व्रिद्धिदर  अर्थात आर्थिक अवनति हासिल भयो । जीवनस्तर ५० प्रतिशत भन्दा बढीले झर्यो । कतिपय उद्योग तथा कामहरु नै हराएर गए । माओले बुद्धिमतापुर्वक चलिआएका कलामाथि प्रतिबन्ध लगाए । शेक्सपिएर ,पिकासो तथा विथोभनका सृजनाहरु प्रतिबन्धित गरियो ताकि मानिसहरुले आफुले कमाएको गरिबीमा विना रोकटोक रमाउन पाँउन ।

अन्य राम्रा अभ्यासहरु

नयाँ आर्थिक चमत्कारका लागि तान्जानियालाई लिई हेर्नुस न्क्रमाले अफ्रिकामा पहिलो पटक उपनिवेशबाट स्वतन्त्र भएको समृद्ध  देश घानालाई अपाङ्गमा परिणत गरेका थिए तर न्यरेरीले त उनलाई पनि जिते। उनको एकल दिमागीय तान्जानियाली अफ्रिकी समाजवादको  प्रयोगले देशमाथि विशाल समाजसेवाको बोझ र दिमाग शुन्य कर्मचारीतन्त्र लाद्यो । बैंक तथा उद्योगहरु राष्ट्रियकरण गरियो र ग्रामिण भेगका जनतालाई सामूहिक खेती गरिने "उजमा" गाउँहरुमा पुर्नस्थापना गरियो । सफलता तुरुन्त प्राप्त भयो । कृषिजन्य निर्यात आधी घट्यो र औद्योगिक उत्पादन तीन-चौथाइले । सडक व्यवस्थापनलाई यतिसम्म हेला गरियो कि हजारौं माइल राम्रो सडकहरु कच्ची बाटोमा परिणत भए ।

न्यरेरी जसलाई प्रशंसकहरुले महानताको कदर गरेर "म्वालिमू" भनेर सम्बोधन गर्थे उनले प्रति व्यक्ति आयलाई वार्षिक १२० डलरसम्म गिराएर छोडे । यसरी उनी तान्जानियालाई सबैभन्दा धेरै प्रति व्यक्ति वैदेशिक सहयोग पाउने मूलुक हुनुका बाबजुद विश्वकै सातौं गरिब मूलुक बनाउन सफल भए । उनले पहिले कहिल्यै नसोचिएको स्तरमा साम्रगी खाद्यान्न तथा पाटपूर्जाको अभाव हासिल गरे । र साथमा मुद्राको कालो बजारीलाई प्रसय दिए ।अनुपादकत्व र भ्रष्ट्रचार जस्ता मिहिन कलामा निपुणता हासिल गरियो ।
"अफ्रिकी समाजवादका पिता" ले धेरै तान्जानियाली जनतालाई गरिबी बनाइ छाडे् । र आफ्नो उपलब्धिका बारेमा वर्षौसम्म घमन्ड गर्दै आफ्ना भाषणहरुमा आफू "सङ्घर्ष नायक" भएको बताउँथे जुन सुनेर जनताहरु हर्षले ताली बजाउँथे ।

घरनजिकै हामीसँग अर्को नयाँ आर्थिक चमत्कार "जिम्बावे" छ । यो अत्याधुनिक चमत्कार हो गरिबीको। जिम्बावेले गरिबी हासिल गर्नमा आफ्नो उत्तरी भेगको छिमेकीको अनुसरण गर्दै उछिन्ने काम पनि गरिसक्यो ।स्वतन्त्रताका बखत जाम्बियासँग मलिलो कृषियोग्य जमिन र खनिज धन थियो जसलाई उसले माक्स्रवादीनीतिहरु जस्तै रास्ट्रियकरण  प्रयोग गरेर तहसनहस गर्‍यो ।

ढिलो आइपुगेका मुगावे भने तुलनातमक रुपमा असफल ठहरिए । उनले माक्स्रवादको कुरा त गरे तर आफ्नोअल्छीपनले गर्दा सबै नीति लागु गरेनन् जसले गर्दा जिम्बावेको अर्थतन्त्र शुरुका दिनमा फैलियो । आफ्ना पछिल्ला वर्षहरुमा आएर उनले आफ्नो गल्ती महशुस गरे । उनले कौन्दाको उदाहरणीय प्रस्तुती बल्ल ख्याल गरे ।यसरी ढिलै भएपनि मुगावे गरिबीको चमत्कार हासिल गर्न लागि परेका छन् । उनले चालेका कदमहरु र नविन सृजनात्मक रणनीतिहरु प्रमाणित भइसकेका हुन् र यी कति सफल छन् भन्ने कुरा हामी जिम्बावेलाई हेर्दै थाहा पाउँछौ ।

सफलताका सुत्रहरु

त्यसोभए गरिबी स्थापनाको चमत्कार हासिल गर्नका लागि सबैभन्दा विस्वस्त सुत्रहरु के-के हुन् त ? स्पष्टै छ यदि तपाई गरिबी चाहनुहुन्छ भने तपाई धन उपार्जन के गरि हुन्छ भनेर त जान्न जरुरी छ । उदाहरणका लागि तपाईले बजार पुँजी उद्यमशिलता तथा सीपविकास जस्ता कुरालाई बिर्सेर  पनि बढावा नदिनुहोला । यदि दिनै पर्‍यो  भने पनि सधै परिवर्तन भइराख्ने खेलका नियमहरुले बाँधेर राख्नुहोला । यसैगरी तपाईले जातियता,राष्ट्रियता, धनी विदेशी बहुराष्ट्रिय कम्पनी ,पुँजीवादी महाशक्ति जस्ता कुराहरुप्रतिको डाहयुक्त घृणाको भने मजाले प्रयोग गर्न सक्नुहुन्छ । तर ध्यान दिनुहोला सुनियोजित रणनीतिहरु प्रयोग गर्नुहोला जनताको ध्यान अन्तै मोड्न ताकि आन्तरिक परिणामको दोष आन्तरिक नीतिमाथि नपरोस् ।

गरीबीको शिखर कसरी हासिल गर्ने

एउटा चाखलाग्दो प्रश्न के हुनसक्छ भने गरिबीको शिखर हासिल गर्ने निश्चित एउटा बाटो छ कि धेरै विकल्पहरु छन्। संसारको अनुभवले हामीलाई के सिकाउँछ भने धेरै विकल्पहरु मध्येमा केही साझा कुराहरु छन् जुन अपरिहार्य छन् । आखिरमा तपाईले जुनै नीति लागु गर्न खोजे पनि उक्त नीति प्रयोग गरेर सफल भएको देशहरु हामीसँग थुप्रै छन् -जस्तै उदाहरणका लागि जर्मनीको श्रम बजारमाथिको तीव्र नियमन हेर्नुस जुन आफैमा अपुग भएको छ जर्मनीको विशाल अर्थतन्त्र ध्वस्त गर्न । गरिबी हासिल गर्नका निमित्त दर्जनौ नीतिका बाबजुद युरोपको अर्थतन्त्र विकास भइरहेको कुराबाट पनि सचेत हुनुहोला । यसबाट तपाईले सजग र सचेत हुन जरुरी छ एकदमै दृढ रुपमागरिबी हासिल गर्न खोज्ने नयाँ आर्थिक चमत्कारलाई पनि नचाहेको आर्थिक
वृद्धीले धक्का पुर्याउन  सक्छ ।

र हार नमान्नुहोला । यदि केहि गरि आर्थिक वृ
द्धी भइहाल्यो भने पनि सृजनात्मक रुपमा हस्तक्षेप गर्न तपाईले प्रशस्त बाटो पाउनुहुनेछ । "गरिबी" की परी प्रायः जसो सानातिना कुरामा लुकेकी हुन्छिन् । उदाहरणका लागि यदि कुनै कारणवश तपाईले आयात माथि कर बढाउन पाउनुभएन भनेपनि तपाई जहाजहरुलाई ढिलो सामान खसाल्न दिने, खर्चालु न्यूनतम गुणस्तर लाद्ने, भंसारको काममा ढिलाई गर्ने ,आफ्नो भूमिमा वैदेशिक लगानीमाथि प्रतिबन्ध लगाउने, जागिर-प्रदायक विरोधी श्रम कानूनी लगाउने, वित्तिय सेवालाई खर्चालु र गाह्रो बनाउने ,विद्युतीयव्यापारमाथि नियन्त्रण गर्ने, खनिज पदार्थहरुलाई राष्ट्रियकरण गर्ने, दक्ष र उत्पादक विदेशीहरुलाई बाहिरै राख्ने, उपभोक्ता सुरक्षाको नाममा उद्योगहरुलाई शिकार बनाउने र वर्षैपिच्छे नयाँ नयाँ नियमहरु लागु गर्ने जस्ता कामहरु गर्न सक्नुहुन्छ । संसारका ढलमलाइरहेका अर्थतन्त्रहरुले के देखाउन भने यी उपायहरुले काम गर्छन ।यिनीहरुलाई लागु गर्नुस गरिबी अवश्य प्राप्त हुन्छ ।

Nov 27, 2009

Call of the entrepreneur: A review

Most of the societies in the world haven’t looked upon the entrepreneurs with the respect and support they deserve. The negative connotations of greedy, vicious, selfish, apathetic to others benefit seems to be attached with entrepreneurs everywhere. Nepalese society too isn’t very kind to entrepreneurs and businessmen. The same negative labels plague Nepalese entrepreneurs as well although if we look at our history Nepal had once been a prosperous country. And the main reason behind it was the environment where tradesmen and entrepreneurs flourished. Nepal, being the trade route between India and Tibet in the earlier centuries, enjoyed an immense benefit of trade between them. Along with the trade prospered our art, our culture and our living standards. But with the political turmoil began the downfall of this once prosperous country which reached the worst point in the autocratic Rana Regime I believe. The hostile attitude towards them continues even today in a democratic Nepal. No wonder Nepal is still one of the poorest countries in the world despite of having tons of natural resources.

Call of the entrepreneur is a documentary about three entrepreneurs, a merchant banker, a failing dairy farmer, a refugee from Communist China. One risked his savings. One risked his farm. One risked his life. Why are their stories important and what’s there relevance to our society? Because how a nation views its entrepreneurs and businessmen… as greedy or altruistic… as virtuous or vicious… matters immensely! It is one of the factors that determine whether a country prospers or not?

The Plot: The entrepreneurs in the documentary are Brad Morgan, Frank Hanna, and Jimmy Lai. Morgan, a dairy farmer from Evart, Michigan discusses his journey from a struggling dairy farmer to the owner and operator of a million-dollar dairy and Compost Company. Hanna, a merchant banker in New York City, explains how financial engineering not only makes credit more widely available to entrepreneurs today but also played a crucial role in the discovery of America. Lai talks about his childhood in Communist China and his move at twelve years old to Hong Kong where, he founded Giordano, a retail outlet, and later Next Media.
The documentary also contains information from experts in the field of economics, including Rev. Robert Sirico, founder and President of the Acton Institute, Dr. Samuel Gregg, Dr. Jay Richards, George Gilder, and Michael Novak.

A highly recommended documentary to those interested in having a greater understanding of the entrepreneurship, its importance in the prosperity of a nation.

Running Time: About 60 Minutes!

Nov 15, 2009

Rich is a Religion by Mark Stevens: A review

Though almost put off by the title of the book, (I hope you have known me to be an atheist) its tagline “Breaking the timeless code to wealth” induced me to skim through the book at least. I presumed it to be another book about get-rich-quick-schemes that preach you to death but was pleasantly surprised to find it a bit different. The book focuses on shifting your attitude towards money rather than telling you how to earn money. Though lying in the similar patterns of teachings of Robert T. Kiyosaki, Mark Stevens here does a decent job of presenting the code and breaking it.

Like Kiyosaki, the author advices you to invest in appreciable assets and not depend on monthly paychecks to run your life. He also suggests not owning things that own you by making you work and earn just to maintain them. It’s desirable to save and invest your earnings in things that appreciate or things that generate you wealth. The author goes on saying that material possessions don’t make wealth and has done a good job of proving his points by providing examples of many millionaires and billionaires as well as failures. Examples include Warren Buffett, Sam Walton, Norman Mailer, Bill Gates, Bill Simon, author’s own father and his neighbor. The stories are well illustrated and enjoyable.

According to Stevens, the basic tenets of Rich is a religion is the need to respect money and handle it with discipline and a sense of fiduciary control avoiding the view of money of just something to spend and impress others. He recommends eschewing the undue risk towards a person’s home, family and livelihood and learning the techniques of smart management i.e. “making money while you sleep”.

Overall, an enjoyable and worthwhile read (175 pages) that helps you shift your paradigm regarding money and wealth. The author doesn’t promise to make you rich but the principles expressed are universal and make sense which will help you at least live better financially.

Nov 3, 2009

The height of a mountain

Don't inquire
why the mist rises
above the clouds
and yet melts into the sun?
Finding you in my eyes
had melted me!

Don't ask
why the rocks trample
the hills
and yet crumble into the sea
Your touch
had crumbled something inside me!

Ask me
If it was all worth the pain
Dragging along the ridges
in a wild wet rain?
Was there anything
to be gained?

"In your love I have attained
The height of a mountain!"

Oct 14, 2009

Låt den rätte komma in (Let the right one in) : A Review


It’s usually a pleasure for me to find a foreign (non-Hollywood) film in the Hollywood predominated IMDB’s Top 250 list. A foreign film adds to the genuineness and reliability of the list I believe. So far non-Hollywood movies I watched from the list had confirmed my belief e.g., Old boy (South Korean), The Bicycle Thief (Italian), the lives of others (German). This first Swedish movie I watched however proved to be one of the major disappointments for me. Don’t be fooled by all the glowing reviews it got or numerous awards it bagged. It’s a highly over-rated silly movie. Not only is this movie unfit for the list, it is a below average movie, if you ask me! There isn’t a clear demarking line to whether to categorize this movie as a horror movie or a romantic movie but either way I found it to be a poorly made, poorly acted flick.

Directed by Tomas Alfredson, this 2008 Swedish romantic (?) horror (?) film is based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay for the film. It tells the story of a bullied 12-year-old boy who develops a friendship with a vampire girl child in Blackeberg, a suburb of Stockholm, in the early 1980s. The friendship kind of turns into love affair and the vampire helps the boy to fight back the bullies.

If you are expecting something more than this; sorry, “Let the right one in” is definitely not for you! The plot is unusually dull and ridiculous (I considered not finishing it a couple of times), the acting is awful, and the filming is less than desirable. The two child leads are super boring and non charismatic, you would wonder if they could at the very least find two attractive kids to play the role. It's that kind of movie which you are watching hopelessly thinking something good will happen, but NOTHING HAPPENS, NOTHING!! There are so many "OMG, seriously no! This can't be the next scene" but yes, this is the next scene. Unless you're completely retarded you can easily guess what's going to happen next and there is no surprise. Well, I don’t want to scare you but given the super boringness of the plot and awfulness of the acting, at some time during the movie, you might think, it’s child porn! Seriously! From the horror movie's viewpoint, it looks like an amateur made movie!

I wonder what’s the world is coming to! So many awards and honors to this incredibly boring movie. Calling this a masterpiece would be an insult to even an average horror movie or a romantic movie...Whatever!!! Avoid it at all cost! You’ll surely have better movies to watch than this!

Oct 11, 2009

Okuribito (Departures): A Review

I watched this movie more than a month ago but just now I felt like writing about it. Anyway, here is my view about the movie:

Departures (2008)
"The Gift of the last memories"

Seeing an 8 plus rating on IMDB had already piqued my interest to watch this movie. Oscar award for best foreign language picture turned it into a must see! And I must say I wasn’t disappointed by the movie. I was exhilarated to watch one of the most beautiful movies about the beauty of human life and not only life but the death itself as well. Very few films I have seen from any film maker or any film culture which show such reverence for the life and DEATH of ordinary people. Directed by Yōjirō Takita, this 2008 Japanese film took ten years in making and was loosely based on Aoki Shinmon's autobiographical book Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician.

“Departures” follows Daigo Kobayashi, a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and who is suddenly left without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled “Departures” thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a "Nokanshi" or "encoffineer," a funeral professional who decorates and prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo who despised the job at first slowly begins to take a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of Nokanshi, acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living.

I absolutely loved the movie! Contemplation about death and afterlife makes the viewers to show, a kind of appreciation towards life…even if the life belongs to an absolutely ordinary person. Besides these I also loved the way the movie depicts how Daigo overcomes his grudge and forgives his father. Maybe if we are able to forget the nuisances, overcome grudges and are able to forgive the people who have hurt us, we will begin to appreciate life more.

And not to forget, the great soundtrack of the movie! Joe Hisaishi does magic with his works. “Memory” was absolutely amazing! I hope someday it will find a place among the IMDB's top 250 movies!

Finally, a word of caution: many of the main stream movie viewers might find the movie boring given the fact that it’s a movie that contemplates about the evergreen existential issues!

Sep 20, 2009

Frederick Bastiat's "The Law": A review

The Law, first published as a pamphlet in June, 1850, as a response to socialism in France, is already more than a hundred years old. And because its truths are eternal, it will still be read when another century has passed.

Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850) was a French economist, statesman, and author. He did most of his writing during the years just before - and immediately following -- the Revolution of February 1848. This was the period when France was rapidly turning to complete socialism. As a Deputy to the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Bastiat was studying and explaining each socialist fallacy as it appeared. And he explained how socialism must inevitably degenerate into communism.

In "The Law" ,Bastiat demonstrates a thorough and flawless understanding of both the bright and dark sides of human nature, of the essential role each has played in the growth and divergence of collectivist and (18th century) liberal ideologies, and most importantly, the resulting tendency for government, in all of its most common manifestations, to grow and for liberty to yield. The principles proffered herein are the very genesis of the body of thought most commonly attributed to such brilliant authors as Milton Friedman, F. A. Hayek, Adam Smith, and Thomas Paine. Bastiat was the consummate humanitarian, and a genius with no peer.

An excerpt from the book:

"But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense."

Overall, a must read book for anyone who wants to understand the nature of the government and the value of liberty!

Jun 12, 2009

अनुभव गर्नुहोस् चिनिया ईन्टरनेट सेन्सर्शिप को !

चीनमा हुने मानव अधिकारको हनन,दमन तथा अत्याचारको बारेमा त हामी सबैले सुनेका छौ । तर आफैले भोग्नु नपरेको हुनाले धेरै जसो ब्यक्तीहरु उक्त समाचारहरुलाई पश्चिमी संचार माध्यमको चीन बिरुद्ध्को प्रचारबाजीको रुपमा लिन्छन । चीन सरकार ले गर्ने ईन्टरनेट सेन्सर्शिप को बारेमा पनि धेरै चर्चा हुने गरेको छ तर आँफैले नभोगी तेस्को पिडा बुझ्न गार्हो छ ।

तेसैले अब चिनिया सेन्सर्शिप को प्रतक्ष अनुभव गर्नुस् :

Mozilla FireFox को China Channel भन्ने Extension Download गर्नुस् र प्रत्यक्ष अनुभव गर्नुस् चीनमा बसेर ईन्टरनेट चलाऊदा को अनुभव। शायद तपाईंले एस्पछी चिनिया सरकारी निती प्रती केही प्रश्न उठाउन थाल्नु हुनेछ कि?

Download Link: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/9330

Jun 10, 2009

Economics in One Lesson: A review

"The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate, but at longer effects of any act or policy, it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group, but for all groups.”

Usually considered one of the most important books in economics, Henry Hazlitt's classic, Economics in One Lesson, is an easy-to-read introduction to the concepts of economic liberty. This manifesto of free market economics has taught millions sound economic thinking. Written in a very lucid manner and revolving around the central theme of free markets, the book is as simple to read and understand as compelling and profound it is in its logic. The hardheaded, sensible and resonable way used to deal with the basic economic principles makes it clear that economic idealism which entails in expansion of government's intervention in markets often results in tyranny,corruption and ultimately waste of resources, impoverishing the majority. The logics presented are based on the common senses and basic economic principles and hence even the most determined anti-free market activist can't afford to ignore them.

The book was written when Hazlitt was an editorialist at the New York Times with the hope of creating a book on economics that would boil down all the principles of economics into few simple lessons that even layman would understand and never forget. Fortunately, the book has proved to be successful in its intent.

The book was written based on some stories by Bastiat and it was the book that made the the idea of the "broken window fallacy" so famous.A must read book for anyone interested in understanding how economy works and thinking like an economist. Besides, after reading the book , you will think twice regarding the economic decisions being made around you.

May 24, 2009

Diary of just another Saturday!

I am not much of a socializer despite of being aware of the fact that Social skills are arguably the most important set of abilities a person can have. A social skill is any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning such skills is called socialization. So, i had a thought today, I am going to meet a lot of people today and interact with them. Fortunately, the day favored me.

Early morning, I met with a lawyer along with my family members and relatives to discuss over some legal matters. I usually did not use to interact with my relatives which I did today. After three hours of heated arguments and discussions , the meeting had a positive conclusion.

The early afternoon I went over to the Book fair being organized in Bhrikuti Mandap accompanying a friend telling him ( I had hoped it would be her but I couldn't ask her out ...lack courage..dammit) about the anecdotes and stories about the books that were there. Like what made Daphne du Maurier write the novel "Rebecca" , what compelled James Fenimoore Cooper to write "The Last of Mohicans" , who is Warren Buffett? How he started investing at the age of 11? His peculiar habits. Who was Dale Carnegie and how are his books? What are my most favourite self-help books? etc etc...I love looking at books and reading the blurb but am not much interested in buying them thaks to the public libraries and ebook torrents.

Then we went shopping for movies...(it reminds me that i haven't reviewes a movie for a long time but i will surely do it in near future)... Another series of story telling started ..only that this time the subjects were movies...which movie has what rating in IMDb, When was a movie released, Did it win any oscars or the Cannes? The shopkeeper where i always buy the DVDs greeted me with an apologetic smile for the third time for not having any new "old movies". I have exhausted his collection of movies that are on the IMDb top 250 and have been asking for more which he has been able to cater for. Anyway, how could i return empty-handed? So, I bought "Traffic" and "Jerry Macguirre" and asked my friend to buy "Million Dollar Baby" and "Cidade De Deus" for their second viewings.

Late afternoon, friend offered lift upto Baluwatar where the new office of Youth Initiative is situated. Connected and reconnected with some new people and lots of friends there. Sometimes I find it an easy and exciting job interacting with people or herd of people and sometimes I wish no one even looked at me (I am not talking about when I am feeeling down...)

Evening bought a pleasant and exciting surprise. Some friends suggested we go to Osho Gangotridham for Satsang. Boy, I had been to many Satsangs but never had so much fun before. Break dance at the fast track of "Om Nama Sivaye" and bhramar dhyan was so thrilling. Plan to be there again.Tired physically, alert mentally I reached home to watch "Once" an Irish musical and "City Lights" the Chaplin comedy. Both were great movies, loved watching both of them.

End of diary of just another day!!
Thank you for reading so patiently!

May 12, 2009

How voucher system can improve Nepalese Education?

Introduction:

"[I]n this century, the wealth and success of nations will depend like never before on the ability to produce and use knowledge." -Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University

Photo by: asia-youth-leader.org
With the recent conflict of the private educational institutions and the government, the age-old battle between the two has begun once again. The newly declared “Education Tax” that was levied at 5% on private schools lit the spark of controversy this time. Though the ensuing conflict has been resolved for now, both the parties have been left alienated and rumors of nationalization of the private education institutions are rife, which is likely to cause further conflict in future as well and further deteriorate the already pathetic education level.

Despite of private educational institutions often being accused of profit-centred, culprits for commercializing education, they have been far superior in the quality of education as compared to the government run schools. As per the School Leaving Certificate exam results, more than 80% of the private schools pass their exams whereas, less than 40% of the students from public schools pass the exams. Had not the private institutions been in the picture the pass percentage would drop down to less than 20%. Due to the low level of performance of state-run schools, it wouldn't be unwise to say “Our government provides schools but not education.”

Right to education has been considered as a fundamental right in our constitutions. Our government has been spending huge amounts of funds and has tried various ways to ensure that every citizen receive the right education. But still, our educational system is bogged down by the traditional and unscientific approach. The poor performing public schools haven't helped to alleviate this scenario. So what exactly is wrong with our public schools?

To understand this, we need to look at the two different ways these two systems are operating. The government run schools get their funds from the government and are accountable to the government itself. They are in no ways accountable to the students, who are directly affected by the service provided and there isn't any incentive system designed to make these schools responsible and accountable towards the students.

The performance of such schools isn't linked with the funding and accountability linked to its primary stakeholders, that's why irregularity of teachers, lack of proper use of resources, lack of performance appraisal system, lack of responsibility, lack of competitiveness, lack of innovation are the major problems ailing these schools and the concern of parents or students over the poor performance is of no avail.

On the other hand, private schools generate their funds from students and are accountable to the students and their parents. The performance of a school is a strong determinant of the amount of profit or revenue it makes. If a school doesn't perform well or lives up to the expectations of the parents, the parents can choose to move elsewhere. This freedom of choice on the part of parents makes private schools perform better than public schools. Their funding is directly linked with their performance. No matter, how badly people may criticize private schools for being expensive and profit oriented, no person has ever moved their children to the state-run schools despite of having the choice to do so.

Therefore, if we analyze it clearly, state's policy of funding the schools not the students which has limited choice among students is the primary culprit of poor performance of state-run schools. Nationalization of schools would not only further degrade the quality of education but destroy the whole educational system infiltrating it with politics and vested interests of the decision makers.

Education Voucher: A way out

An education voucher also known as school voucher is a certificate issued by the government which the parents can use to pay for the education of their children at the school of their choice. The voucher may cover the full or partial cost of the education. The voucher is usually non-transferable and hence cannot be used by another person or for any other purpose other than education.

Under the system, the government issues education vouchers to the students which they submit to the school they want to study. The schools then deposit them in their bank accounts and the banks then credit the school accounts by equivalent money while debiting the account of the government. No money actually changes hands, only the voucher moves from the student to the school, and back to the government.

Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman argued for the modern concept of vouchers in the 1950s, stating that competition would improve schools and cost efficiency. The view further gained popularity with the 1980 TV broadcast of Friedman's series "Free to Choose" for which volume 6 was devoted entirely to promoting "educational freedom" through programs like school vouchers. Vouchers have since been introduced in countries all over the world but are controversial as they reflect political and ideological splits as well as limiting the role of unions in education. (Wikipedia)

School vouchers provide the students with the ability to choose among schools. They can choose the schools. If a school fails to meet the expectations of the students or the parents, they can move to a better school with their voucher. The voucher system would transform the apathetic schools to competitors vying for competition, eager to please their consumers with quality service. The institutions are forced to operate at higher efficiencies when they are allowed to compete and any loss of supply and demand for public institutions would be offset and equalized by the increased demand for private institutions. The voucher system not only increases choice for students, it also promotes equality of opportunity to all students regardless of their age, caste or creed, which would help in creating the inclusive New Nepal we are talking about.

Implementation of the voucher system would not only promote quality education but also improve the public opinion of public schools with their increased efficiency. Besides, these voucher system also provides incentives for the schools to increase the student enrollment and improve quality to retain the number of students since the funding of the schools directly depends on the number of students they serve. Competition between schools, will lead to increased school accountability. And, increased school accountability, in turn, will encourage individual schools to experiment with different educational approaches in order to find those that work best for the students they serve.

Voucher system brings win-win outcomes as government school students who get a voucher are able to change schools and do better for them. Evidence suggests that even those students who stay in government schools also perform better. First, the student-teacher ratio improves and second, schools become more attentive to stop student numbers from going down further. All students achieve better learning outcomes.

Education Voucher and the enrollment campaign

Low school enrollment is another major problem our country is facing. Some eight percent children belonging to school-going age are currently staying away from schools in Nepal, according to DoE. Of the total children enrolled in schools, some 12 percent children drop out their studies.

The government has been organizing campaigns to increase the enrollment rate for more than five years in order to meet one of the Millennium Development Goals. i.e. Education for All. The campaigns have been moderately successful but haven’t been able to achieve satisfactory results.

Implementation of the voucher system would help in achieving this goal since voucher system provides incentives for the schools to organize similar campaigns themselves. The schools would spontaneously work towards increasing enrollment rate.

Evidences have shown that voucher system increases school enrollment rate significantly. Chile saw an increase of 30% in school enrollment rate with the introduction of the system. Similarly countries like Colombia, Czech Republic, and Italy also saw increase in enrollment rates.

Voucher system would surely help in increasing enrollment rates and reducing the drop-out rates in our country.

Education Voucher and Social Inclusion

Education is one of the most pre-requisite for fulfilling the Utopian dream of New Nepal and the education system should be able to cater to the needs of all the citizens of the country regardless of their caste, origins, and regions. Government’s recent decision to impose tax on private schools had been on the pretext of providing free education to children from backward regions, Dalits and Madhesi community.

Implementation of voucher system would help the government in this cause without alienating the private schools. As it’s clear that even if the government raises the so called education service tax all it can provide the target children with schools but not with the education. Voucher system would help to break the barriers that prevent the children from above mentioned communities from going to school.

Evidences have even suggested that students from marginalized communities benefit more from the voucher system by empowering them and making them feel confident and competent to their advantaged classmates.

Controversy

Like every sound idea, voucher system isn’t free from criticisms and most of the criticisms of the voucher system are ideological rather than practical considerations. Voucher system having its origins to free market capitalism is very prone to hostility from political leaders opposed to free markets and liberalism. Policy makers and state officials who have their interest safe guarded in the status qua would be very reluctant to listen to the arguments of voucher system let alone the implementation of such policy. Parties inclined to socialism would find the idea of promoting competition to improve education might find the idea against their ideologies.

Moreover, such a system would meet very hostile opposition from the parties benefiting from the present educational system. Education officials, government school teachers, labor unions of educational institutions are found to be vehemently opposing the education voucher system which seems natural as they are the only people who are being benefited from the current educational system and are likely to have adverse effects on their interest with the proposed new educational system.

Conclusion

Implementing the voucher system is the best possible way of improving the Nepalese education system. Education vouchers are the answer for the current ineffective and inefficient Nepalese education system especially the public education system which seeks to improve these institutions through the discipline of market. Education vouchers will remove the burden of providing education from the government, increase efficiency and accountability of the educational institutions, promote innovation through competition, bring down the cost of education children with more efficient use of resources, increase school enrollment rates to achieve one of the millennium development goals by creating incentives for schools to enroll more children, create a more inclusive Nepalese society by removing barriers for children of certain communities to go to school, promote freedom of choice among students and moreover empower the low-income students to receive education and thereby building an effective educational system for the free and prosperous New Nepal.

In a country like Nepal, where majority of population lives under the poverty line, education vouchers would come as a boon for the population under the poverty line as poor people are the only people who are trapped in the schools that don’t work for them and can’t afford to move to the schools that meet their expectations.

A strong political will, genuine concern for future of Nepal and a positive attitude towards free markets and freedom of choice are the necessary pre-requisites for implementing the education voucher system and thereby creating an educated and prosperous Nepal.

References:
  1. http://www.allianceforschoolchoice.org/UploadedFiles/ResearchResources/Competition-%20Hoxby.pdf
  2. http://schoolchoice.in/schoolchoice.php
  3. http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/16821
  4. http://www.asiantribune.com/?q=node/16821http://schoolchoice.in/globalexperience.php
  5. Elacqua, Gregory. “Enrollment Practices in Response to Vouchers: Evidence from Chile.” National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education (NCSPE). (2006) 7.
  6. http://schoolchoice.in/globalexperience.php
  7. http://www.nepalnews.com/archive/2008/sep/sep23/news14.php
  8. Herbet J. Walberg ,”School Choice the findings” Cato Institute 2007 p. 42

Apr 29, 2009

Common Sense Economics: A review

Though, my blog has readers almost next to none but still I must say it has been a long long time since I updated my blog and I was afraid that my blog was slowly going into oblivion. Looking around in search for something to post , i found a short review I had written about this book called "Common Sense Economics", which one of the first book i read in my quest for understanding free market economy and its importance. I present my readers my review .


Common Sense Economics

What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity
By James Gwartney, Richard L. Stroup, and Dwight R. Lee

Economics and fun have long been an oxymoron to a layman. Economics has been accused of being too abstract, irrelevant, unrealistic and boring subject but here comes a book that defies all these notions. "Common Sense," subtitled "What Everyone Should Know About Wealth and Prosperity," contains a wealth of information about the major sources of economic progress, economic progress and the role of government, and important elements of practical personal finance. Written by three of the most prominent economists of today, this book acts as a bridge between common sense and the basic principles of economics. Its language is simple, clear and straightforward but not at the cost of any important insights and basic economic theories. It is a book with strong message justified by strong arguments- economic progress is the result of competitive & free markets, of individual initiatives and minimalist state.

The last section of the book contains finance principles on how to invest your money, using the principles of compound interest and how to get more out of your money. There's nothing in the book that goes beyond common sense, something rare these days.

Summary

Part I: The Key Elements of Economics

-Incentives matter
-No matter what people care about personal costs and benefits. Incentives play vital role when people make specific decisions
-Applies to economical, political and social situations, selfish and altruistic acts.
-There is no such thing as a free lunch.
-Productive resources that fulfill human desires are limited whereas human desires are virtually unlimited
-Everything has a cost, direct or opportunity cost. If a resource is free for a person, then the cost is being borne by someone else.
- Decisions are made at the margin.
-Decisions or choices always involve additions to, or subtractions from current conditions, rather than "all-or-nothing" decisions.
-Political actions also reflect decisions made at margin.
-Trade promotes economic progress.
-Trade moves goods from people who value them less to people who value them more.
-Trade makes larger outputs and consumption levels possible because it allows each of us to specialize more fully in the things that we do best.
-Voluntary exchange makes it possible for firms to achieve lower per-unit costs by adopting mass production methods.
-Transaction costs are an obstacle to trade.
-Costs incurred in transactions make trade costly.
-Not all middlemen are obstacles; sometimes they reduce transaction costs by brokering deals.
- Profits direct businesses toward activities that increase wealth.
-People earn income by helping others.
-Only if people value a person's service will they be paid
- High earnings come from providing goods and services that others value
-Economic progress comes primarily through trade, investment, better ways of doing things, and sound economic institutions.
-Investments in productive assets (e.g. tools and machines) and in the skills of workers enhance our ability to product goods and services.
-Improvements in technology spur economic progress.
-Improvements in economic organization can promote growth.
-The "invisible hand" of market prices directs buyers and sellers toward activities that promote the general welfare.
-Too often long-term consequences, or the secondary effects, of an action are ignored.

Part II: Seven Major Sources of Economic Progress

-Legal system: The foundation for economic progress is a legal system that protects privately owned property and enforces contracts in an even-handed manner.
-Private ownership encourages wise stewardship.-Private ownership encourages people to use their property productively.
-Private owners have a strong incentive to develop things that they own in ways that are beneficial to others.
-Private ownership promotes the wise development and conservation of resources for the future.
-Competitive markets: Competition promotes the efficient use of resources and provides a continuous stimulus for innovative improvements.
-Competition places pressure on producers to operate efficiently and cater to the preferences of consumers. Firms that fail to provide consumers with quality goods at competitive prices will experience losses and eventually be driven out of the markets.
-Competition gives firms a strong incentive to develop better products and discover lower-cost methods of production.
-Competition also discovers the business structure and size of firms that can best keep the per-unit cost of a product or service low.
-Limits on government regulation: Regulatory policies that reduce trade also retard economic progress.
-Many countries impose regulations that limit entry into various businesses and occupations.
-Regulations that substitute political authority for the rule of law and freedom of contract will tend to undermine gains from trade.
-The imposition of price controls will also stifle trade.
-An efficient capital market: To realize its potential, a nation must have a mechanism that channels capital into wealth-creating projects.
-To make the most of its potential for economic progress, a nation must have a mechanism that will attract savings and channel them into the investments that are most likely to create wealth.
-Monetary stability: Inflationary monetary policies distort price signals, undermining a market economy.
-Low tax rates: People will produce more when they are permitted to keep more of what they earn.
-High tax rates discourage work effort and reduce the productivity of labor.
-High tax rates will reduce both the level and efficiency of capital formation.
-High marginal tax rates encourage individuals to consume tax-deductible goods in place of nondeductible goods, even though the nondeductible goods may be more desirable.
-Free trade: A nation progresses by selling goods and services that it can produce at a relatively low cost and buying those that would be costly to produce.
-The people of each nation benefit if they can acquire a product or service through trade more cheaply than they can produce it domestically.
-International trade allows domestic producers and consumers to benefit from the economies of scale typical of any large operations.
-International trade promotes competition in domestic markets and allows consumers to purchase a wider variety of goods at lower prices.

Part III: Economic Progress and the Role of Government

-Government promotes economic progress by protecting the rights of individuals and supplying goods that cannot be provided through markets.
-Government is not a corrective device.
-The costs of government are not only taxes.
-There is the loss of private-sector output that could have been produced with the resources that are now employed producing the goods supplied by the government.
-There is the cost of resources expended in the collection of taxes and the enforcement of government mandates.
-There is the cost of price distortions resulting from taxes and borrowing.
-Unless restrained by constitutional rules, special interest groups will use the democratic political process to fleece taxpayers and consumers.
-Unless restrained by constitutional rules, legislators will run budget deficits and spend excessively.
-Government slows economic progress when it becomes heavily involved in trying to help some people at the expense of others.
-The costs of government income transfers are far greater than the net gain to the intended beneficiaries.
-An increase in government transfers will reduce the incentive of both the taxpayer-donor and the transfer recipient to earn income. Economic growth will thereby be retarded.
-Competition for transfers will erode most of the long-term gain of the intended beneficiaries.
-Programs that protect potential recipients against adversity arising from their imprudent decisions encourage them to make choices that increase the likelihood of the adversity.
-Central planning replaces markets with politics, which wastes resources and retards economic progress.
-Central planning merely substitutes politics for market verdicts.
-The incentive of government-operated firms to keep costs low, be innovative, and efficiently supply goods is weak.
-There is every reason to believe that investors risking their own money will make better investment choices than central planners spending the money of taxpayers.
-There is no way that central planners can acquire enough information to create, maintain, and constantly update a plan that makes sense.
-Competition is just as important in government as in markets.
-Constitutional rules that bring the political process and sound economics into harmony will promote economic progress.

Part IV: Twelve Key Elements of Practical Personal Finance

-Discover your comparative advantage.
-Be entrepreneurial. In a market economy, people get ahead by helping others and discovering better ways of doing things.
-Providing others with goods and services that are highly valued compared to their cost is the key to financial success.
-Spend less than you earn. Begin a regular savings program now.
-Don't finance anything for longer than its useful life.
-Two ways to get more out of our money: Avoid credit-card debt and consider purchasing used items.
-Begin paying into a "real-world" savings account every month.
-Put the power of compound interest to work for you.
-Diversify-don't put all of your eggs in one basket.
-Indexed equity funds can help you beat the experts without taking excessive risk.
-Invest in stocks for long-run objectives; as the need for money approaches, increase the proportion of bonds.
-Beware of investment schemes promising high returns with little or no risk.
-Teach your children how to earn money and spend it wisely.


Apr 8, 2009

Estonia: The little country that could!


Being a libertarian, I am always fascinated by the progress achieved by Estonia by transforming its its economy from a centrally planned structure under Soviet Communism to a free market economy. Estonia is currently the 41st country among the countries with the highest per capita income. It has rose from oblivion to recognition for its economic freedom,its adaptation of new technologies along with being one of the world's fastest growing economies for several years.

I was scanning through the Wikipedia and found these facts about Estonia, maybe we could learn something from her. Maybe, we (Nepal) could be a little hopeful about breaking this vicious circle of poverty.

In August 1940, Estonia was illegally annexed by the Soviet Union as the Estonian SSR. The provisions in the Estonian constitution requiring a popular referendum to decide on joining a supra-national body were ignored.

TheEstonian Sovereignty Declaration was issued on November 16, 1989 and formal independence declared on 20 August 1991, reconstituting the pre-1940 state, during theSpviet military coup attempt in Moscow. The first country to diplomatically recognize Estonia's reclaimed independence was Iceland. The last Russian troops left on 31 August 1994.

In 1994, Estonia became one of the first countries in the world to adopt a flat tax, with a uniform rate of 26% regardless of personal income. In January 2005 the personal income tax rate was reduced to 24%. A subsequent reduction to 23% followed in January 2006. The income tax rate will be decreased by 1% annually to reach 18% by January 2010.

A balanced budget, almost non-existent public debt, flat-rate income tax, free trade regime, fully convertible currency backed by currency board and a strong peg to the euro, competitive commercial banking sector, hospitable environment for foreign investment, innovative e-Services and even mobile-based services are all hallmarks of Estonia's free-market-based economy.

Estonia Ranks 22nd in the index of Civil and Political Liberties.

Although Estonia is in general resource-poor, the land still offers a large variety of smaller resources.

The Estonian energy market liberalization is in progress and should be completed before 2009, as well as all of the non-household market, which totals around 77% of consumption, before 2013.
Please share your comments!!



Apr 2, 2009

"Good artists copy... Great artists steal" Pirates of Silicon Valley : A Review

Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999)

Directed by:Martyn Burke
Runtime: 95 min

IMDb: 6.7/10
RottenTomatoes: 84%

I watched this documentary while screening it at a program about entrepreneurship. Being avid fan of information technology and internet, and entrepreneurship and a guy with dreams of changing the world, it was a feast for me. The documentary is an interesting look on how two of the most prominent personalities of IT industry Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple Computers,started their ventures from basements and used their unique personalities to grow their businesses into empires and dominate the computer world. I was delighted to know the kind of businessmen they are today compared to how they began.

Besides this, the documentary also manages to capture the developments in computer industry which determined the nature of modern computing. Ignorance and lack of far sighted vision of Xerox and Hewlett-Packard, Steve Job's artistic vision and personality, Bill Gates ruthless business practices, innovative computer scientists are some of the most important things that shaped the computer industry and the documentary presents them well.

The documentary isn't very kind to its subjects, Bill Gates is portrayed as a ruthless,sociopath who is determined to destroy every enemy that comes into his way. Steve Jobs is shown as a visionary but at the same time a slave driver and a cruel person ( as he refuses to accept the young girl as his daughter). I think it adds to the neutrality of the documentary.

To talk about the negative aspects , the documentary is boring at times and historically inaccurate in some places.

Overall, a good watch for people with inclinations towards IT industry and for those who dream of changing the world.

Thank you reading patiently!

Apr 1, 2009

Nepal's PrimeMinister Ousted, Army imposes curfew!

Found this on a Facebook page! Though a Arpil fool hoax, I felt like a fear inside being revealed. It's the same thought a lot of Nepalese are entertaining these days, aren't they?

Mar 29, 2009

Animals are beautiful people (1974): A review

Animals are beautiful people (1974)
Directed by: Jamie Uys
IMDb: 8.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A

I recently watched this documentary(?) for second time and I was once again rolling over the floor laughing.

I don't know if "Documentary" is a right word to use for Animals are beautiful people,which is an entertainment film that incorporates nature footage and some nature fact, dramatic or comedic invention, accompanied by music. Whatever it is, it is a complete entertainment package for people of all ages.

Animals are beautiful people is about life in the harsh conditions of southwest Africa’s Namib Desert and Kalahari desert. The documentary begins with the narrator saying "You'd think nobody could make a living here." but the whole documentary is centers around how the animals have adapted to the harsh environment and made a paradise out of the place.The film is a serio-comic look at the lives of these animals. Humor and tragedy occur intermittently throughout the film.

Some of the highlights of the film include insects with various types of body air- conditioners ,cartwheeling baboons, bachelor bore getting married,animal residents of the fertile Kavango flood plains intoxicated on fermented fruit,mating dance of Ostrich,the remarkable partnership of the badger and the honey-guide bird, and the astonishingly intricate lengths to which the Kalahari bushmen go to find water., the treatment of the annoying bird by the bushman which are very humorous and uplifting whereas the fire at the birds' nest, the excruciating death march of the pelican chickens is very saddening.

In short, an inaccurate documentary (?) that is humorous in parts, saddening in some, beautiful in some but charming all the time. A very fine family viewing. And a must watch for those who love animals and funny animals!!!

Mar 9, 2009

Earth (Documentary): Breathtaking Beautiful Documentary about our Planet

I know, I know! Despite of it's title suggesting otherwise, my blog is turning into a movie review blog! Can't help it though because writing a review about the latest movie or documentary I watched is one easy thing i find to do that keeps my blog regularly updated. I hope I will be able to write something beside reviews not long from now! Till then here is a short review of the documentary I watched last night.

Earth (2007)
Directed by: Alastair Fothergill & Mark Linfield
IMDB: 7.8/10

I bought this documentary in an impulse. Just saw the good reviews on its covers and I didn't find any good movies with the vendor so I took it.

I loved this documentary and the way it has been made. Having watched numerous environment and nature related documentaries, I was prepared for the usual propaganda and preachings about the need to conserve environment , minimize our use of natural resources but it took me by surprise with its spectacular, heart stoppingly beautiful photography of a range of scenery and animals, from arctic to tropical and everything in between. The camera works are varied for close ups to aerial views. The view of the rain forests and the coniferous forests was exceptionally beautiful but it was the aerial view of the waterfalls in the Himalayas that took my breath away!

Mar 3, 2009

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest : A review

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest
Directed by:Milos Forman
Year: 1975
IMDB: 8.9 /10
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Yahoo Movies: A-
Tagline: If he's crazy, what does that make you?

I watched this film with the knowledge that it had been the second film in history to win the 'top five' Oscars (for Best Picture, Best actor, Best actress, Best director and best screenplay), is one of the highest rated movie ever in IMDB.com as well as Rotten Tomatoes and has been praised as "one of Jack Nicholson's finest roles" and "one of the classics of the 70's". Naturally, after hearing all this, I had high expectations for One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest. And I have to say, my expectations were fairly met.

Based on the novel of the same name by Ken Kesey, the story follows Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson), who is convicted of statutory rape, in an attempt to get out of spending more time in prison, pleads insanity for his crime, and is therefore sentenced to time in a mental institution.His expectations of finding a better place than a prison are quickly shattered as he finds himself living among desolate patients and the incredibly repressive Nurse Ratchet. His non- conformist attitude and the youthful rebellious spirit finds it hard to survive in an authoritarian system. In defiance he plays pranks,horseplay, commits mischiefs. His constant optimism and reckless defiance against the rules of the assylum and the authority of Nurse Ratchet can be very uplifting to the viewers but at the same time the bleak environment of a mental instittution can be depressing to some as well.

It's true that movies cannot be taken as the mirrors of a society. But they can be analysed and again psychoanalyzed to understand the society or the mood of the society at the time the movie gets produced. In the same way, one can analyze the character of protagonist and his acts of defiance against the establishment can be viewed as the general trend of wrld in the 70s to go against the establishment and against the general trends of the society. One can also view the character of Nurse Ratchet symbolising the then USSR and the world's yearn towards freedom.

I hardly find anything that hasn't been said about this movie. It has an excellent storyline, top notch acting, painfully bleak visuals, perfectly setting the tone for the movie, and a great ending that leaves the viewers with conflicting emotions. It's true that it suffers from some flaws but which movie doesn't? Overall a very good movie! A feast for the classic lovers! Truly deserves the praises!

Thank you for reading patiently!

Feb 20, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire : A Review

Being a movie fanatic , from the first time I saw Slumdog Millionaire listed in the "Top 250 movies" of imdb.com, I was dying to watch this movie, and now I have watched this movie I am dying with rage.

After waiting for weeks (bloody load shedding!) and hearing rave reviews till I got tired , I watched this movie to find a terribly over hyped ridiculous fairy tale. Just a glorified fairy tale full of stereotypes and cliches but thanks to the marketing and western prejudice towards third world countries, it's getting rave reviews, has already won numerous awards, a 34th position on the imdb top 250 movies and is on its way to the Oscars.

I take movies as a form of art and also a medium of getting your ideas across the audience and it pains me to see such movies winning accolades. It saddens me to see people's ability to think logically subconsciously bullied by the media hype.

Let's play the Who wants to be a scumdog exploitaires? Quiz. Starting with a question for:

Rs. 1000: Does it take two hours to know the story of Slumdog Millionaire?
The film is very predictable,you can tell the whole story of the film in approximately 10 mins.All the characters are either black or white,excepting the hero's brother.The climax was a let down,typical of bollywood films(a frantic climax where somehow everything becomes right!)

Rs. 4000 : Is hindi for the villianious characters and low class characters whereas English is for any portagonist even if he is uneducated?
Language: The language in which the characters speak is the soul of a movie. Cidade de Deus, Shichinin no samurai, Ladri di biciclette were made in native language and so the originality of the movie was intact. Here kid learns to speak English so well when he lived in the slums of India and never learned to read. Okay, "whole movie can't be in subtitles" but then why do the prostitutes and the abusive husband of latika speaks in Hindi. Does it mean that hindi is spoken by the low class or villainous characters only. Why do the policemen speak English in Indian accent even when they are most probably more educated than Jamal.

Rs. 16000: Which is the most pathetic scene in the movie history?
A kid jumps into a pool of excreta to get an autograph of Amitabh Bachchan.And he gets the autograph!!!. What a pathetic scene!

Rs. 250,000: What is Real India and Real America?
The kid gets beated and tells the American , "This is real India" and the American lady handles him a $100 bill saying that's " real America"? WTF!!!! What do you mean?Since when do people tip with $100 bills, and this AFTER the people themselves have been robbed? Are Americans so foolish and so ego-trip centered?

Rs. 1 Million:Who wrote the history of Taj Mahal? And who can work as guides in Taj Mahal? How did Mumtaz die?
A lazy G***Fu**ing Indian wrote the history of Taj Mahal. Mumtaaz died in a road accident. AND tourists are so naive that they believe this!!

Rs. 2 Million:How did Amitabh Bachchan use to treat the participants of his show "Kaun Banega Crorepati?"
He makes such sarcastic comments like "chaiwala", "easier than making chai" and tries to humiliate his guest. Audience laugh at his sarcastic remarks and cheer. And he is very worried about someone winning so much money that he risks his image and feeds wrong answers. And it's a LIVE SHOW!

Rs. 5 Million: How does one know who invented revolver?
By looking his brother (who doesn't know himself) use a colt revolver to kill someone. What not many people (even who own a colt revolver) know someone knows by just seeing it being used.

Rs. 10 Million: How are the societies of the third world countries?
Morally Bankrupt. Not only there is poverty but there is misery everywhere.Nothing else!

And Finally the question of

Rs. 20 Million: Should Slumdog Millionaire win the Oscars or any more awards?
I will be Damned if it does. What wrong with Danny Boyle , I wonder. But still who knows, it the mass opinion that matters. Besides Oscar hasn't that good record of appreciating the good movies...take the example of "Shakespeare in Love" over "Saving Private Ryan". So the correct answer would be "ASK THE AUDIENCE".

Thanks for Reading patiently!

Feb 16, 2009

Valentine's Day, Hike at Shivapuri and the InkSpots!

Having been single for as long as I can remember and having a short lived relationship that left me embittered and shattered (for a while though), I could not care less about The Valentine's Day but thanks to the delicacy of the feelings that we tend to attach with this thing called "Love" , I was apprehensive to the arrival of this year's valentine day. I was wondering what shall I do this day so as not to feel bad for not having someone to love. Frankly, I don't give a damn about my relationship status. I find it unnatural for me to be in a relationship. An introvert, reserved personality with a critical attitude towards frivolousness and what more, a not so good looking face...not a wonder , I find valentine's day alone.

Well, this Feb 14 , along with some tough friends with mine, I planned to celebrate by embarking on an Xtreme hike at Shivapuri National Park. I call it Xtreme owing to the fact that we rarely traveled through the hiking trails, instead we took the difficult shortcuts that's straight through the jungle and up the waterfalls. It was a tiring experience but I enjoyed it immemsely coz I love hiking and I love testing myself to the extreme. As a saying goes "How can you know about yourself fully if you haven't pushed yourself to the limit? " And these experiences are my effort to push myself to the limit and know who I am. A tiresome uphill hike to the Baghdwar and after a short rest again an uphill hike to the top of the hill...I can't describe the pain and the joy as well. Shivapuri is really one of the most wonderful place for hike lovers and for lovers as well.

Panting fast and loud, while I was applying my greatest effort to take one more step uphill and trying to convince myself that the destination was about to come .just a couple of steps more, a thought struck me... "What could Love mean to me?"


I don't know the answer but I think love should make our life simpler and easier and not complicate it. If it doesn't complicate your life, it will surely help to bring out the best in you. For me that's an important need in life...bringing out the best in yourself. I found myself humming this song by InkSpots (Afican American Vocal Group that ganied popularity during 1920s and 1930s):
If I didn't care more than words can say
If I didn't care would I feel this way?
If this isn't love then why do I thrill?
And what makes my head go 'round and 'round
While my heart stands still?

If I didn't care would it be the same?
Would my ev'ry prayer begin and end with just your name?
If I didn't care...

Feb 11, 2009

Self Ownership In Nepalese Society

When looked upon from the vantage point of freedom, Nepalese society seems to be in infant stage. A mature society implies respect for the right of an individual to enjoy maximum freedom as to what to do with his life, actions and property and hence live a life he chooses while respecting similar rights of others. This viewpoint of a mature society arises from the concept of self-ownership which may seem bizarre to a society like ours. Despite gaining political and civil liberties to some extent as a result of various political movements and revolutions and the impact of globalization, Nepalese society hasn’t yet embraced the concept of respect for the rule of law and social and economic freedom.

What is self-ownership?

The concept of self-ownership can be traced back to John Locke who said the individual "has a right to decide what would become of him and what he would do, and as having a right to reap the benefits of what he did." To put it simply, the concept of self ownership means that every person owns himself and is responsible for all his actions, which means that you have the highest claim to your life. No other person or groups of person own your life nor do you own the life of others. If anyone else would have a higher claim to your life than you do then it would imply that you are a slave, not a free person. Every person is equal and therefore they also have the highest claim to their life. So, what person “A” does with his life or his body shouldn’t be of any concern to “B” until and unless A doesn’t breach B’s rights of self ownership. No individual has the right to initiate force to take away other person’s life or liberty. The right to own oneself is hence, "self-evident."

Another facet of self-ownership is that the state is merely a body representing individuals for the sole purpose of safe-guarding the natural rights of its people. Government officials don’t enjoy any rights more then we civilians do. Officials don’t have the right to take away someone else’s life, liberty or property without their voluntary consent. Since we don’t have these rights, naturally our representatives can’t have that right. One cannot give what one doesn’t have is a universal truth. Rights to life, liberty and property don’t come from the state they are with us from birth. State is there to safeguard our rights.

Self-Ownership and Personal freedom

A society with respect for self-ownership rights gives maximum freedom of choice to individuals; making them responsible for their own actions which in turn drives the society towards progression through better decisions, competition and innovations. Only in such societies is a person free to choose the course of his life, his religious values, his culture and traditions and live a dignified life.

Self-Ownership and Private Property

The concept of self-ownership and private property are interdependent. Self-ownership states that property is something a person acquires by using his labor and liberty. Property is part of the nature which individual turns to valuable use or something he/she acquires through voluntary exchange. A person has the highest claim over his justly acquired property. No one has the right to exert forceful aggression against anyone else’s property. A person is free to choose what to do with his property. He can choose to destroy it, lend it, throw it, utilize it, underutilize it and whatnots until and unless there isn’t any aggression on somebody else’s property.

Why is it necessary for a prosperous society?

As we can see that in a society where self-ownership rights of the individuals are respected, every person has to be responsible for himself. He/She cannot think of prospering on someone else’s expenses. Every decision she makes and every action she performs is of utmost importance to her as the consequences are to be borne by him/her. When a person feels responsible for herself, she starts acting for her own best interests seriously. When every one feels responsible for their life and starts working to improve their life sincerely, society moves towards progression.

The property right of a person acts as an incentive for him to work more and be prosperous. The people who put more efforts in their life get more whereas people unwilling to work for themselves won’t prosper or survive because they can’t forcefully take someone else’s property. Property right motivates people to work more, innovate new things, use their resources more efficiently and productively which contributes in the economy of a society.

What is the present condition in Nepalese Society?

Self –ownership is a new concept for our society. There are many instances where our culture and practices prevent people from becoming self-responsible. Let take the example of the practice of inheritance. According to our culture and our law, a person inherits the wealth of his parents. A person regardless of his wishes, has to give his property to his wife and children. The children who receive huge wealth from their parents without having to work for it take it for granted. There is no incentive for them to work hard and make a fortune for themselves. If someone’s father is earning well, then the son doesn’t think it necessary to work for his living as he is sooner or later going to inherit the wealth.

Another example can be the tendency of Nepalese people living with their parents even after attaining adulthood. The free scholarship and free lodging –fooding we receive from our parents is making us less responsible in our studies and life. Most of our youngsters today complain more and take less responsibility for their life.

On a higher level, if we look at our society, even a small problem in the neighborhood awaits the government’s action. A strict government is the panacea to all the problems. “The government should take more action…”, “Our government should provide us this and that …..”, “That’s not my job, the government should do it…” are one of the most common phrases we hear everyday. Our expectations from government ranges from free education, free health services to employment. Our expectations from the government are not only too many but ridiculous as well. Letting government be responsible for many aspects of our life, we have increased the government’s control on our lives. There are very few aspects of our life which are free from government control. Letting government take decisions for us, every child born in Nepal has an increasing debt of more than Rs.13000 on his head.

Lack of respect for self-ownership rights appear time and again in our news. Husbands killing their wives for dowry issues and feeling no regret, labour unions shutting down industries, various women groups attacking the beauty pageants and refusing to let the participants make their decision on whether the pageants are using them as commodities or not, security personnel killing civilians, ruling party seizing the property of civilian and refusing to return them are some very common news in our media.

Conclusion

The society with respect for self-ownership rights is the most practical, ethical and prosperous society. It’s the society where its members learn to be responsible for their lives and enjoy maximum freedom to shape up and live their lives as they choose. Due to responsible citizens, the resource in such societies are utilized most efficiently and productively. A free and responsible society is the ultimate stage of any civilization. Sadly, our society lags far behind in this regard. While we are talking about a new prosperous Nepal, every Nepalese should realize that the pathway to our goals is a free and responsible society and works towards the attainment of the same.