This is your independence day!


Twitter tells me that this is India’s independence day. Since I didn’t know that this was the case until this morning, I obviously have nothing deep to say. Except let me enjoin the people of India and its leadership class to one thing: do not be haunted by the past, look to the future.

The 2004 film Troy emerged in the wake of the sword & sandals boomlet triggered by Gladiator. It won’t be remembered for much longer, but there is a speech that Brad Pitt’s Achilles make to his soldiers. He tells them that immortality is there for the taking, but they need to grasp it.

Though there are clearly broad forces of history at work in which individuals, and even nations, swim, there is still agency. The world is what we make of it within the boundaries of reason. We must all grasp our agency, and shake off the dead weight of the past at some point…

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32 Replies to “This is your independence day!”

  1. I thank Razib for his kind words and well-wishes to us on this day. I would like to be the bearer of sobering news.

    At the moment, the prospects for Indian economic and geopolitical rise are more remote than ever. There are neither the means nor the desire to change those facts. India may have had a “tryst with destiny,” but it seems destiny has decreed that we be an also-ran in the affairs of the world.

    Assuming, of course, that you believe economic and geopolitical matters are the only thing of importance. I would encourage Indians to think outside the box; there are other ways to achieve “immortality” other than brute power.

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      1. That we are sclerotic and inefficient as hell and have no apparent desire to progress beyond our socialist past.

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  2. depends on what your target would be. even being a ‘middle income’ nation would be a benefit. and india (especially but not exclusive to BIMARU) is still leaving HDI growth on the table.

    sri lanka’s life expect is 77 years. india is about 10 years lower.

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    1. Getting to Mexico or Brazil’s GDP per capita level would be a monumental achievement, but even that is decades in the future at best, and may not happen unless India develops a new desire for steady economic reforms.

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      1. assuming 6% GDP from india and mexico 3% from current nominal per capital gdp india would match mexico in 50 years. so sounds right (though it would match current mexico much earlier)

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      2. H. M. Brough,

        When you travel around India what parts of India do you hang out in? What parts of India do your Indian friends, business partners and family live in? I find your pessimism confusing.

        I am continually surprised by the pace at which most things in India are improving. Including Indian people {their intelligence, their thinking process, their self confidence}, Indian business people, Indian banks/brokerage firms, Indian educational institutions.

        Maybe you are very young. India use to be far, far worse in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

        I think India’s outlook is more promising than Mexico’s and Brazil’s. India’s talented tenth are more impressive with more upside. India has an easier path to playing a major role in high end global product development, process innovation and R&D. Indian culture (or Bharatiya Hind, Hindustani, Hindu, Swadeshi, eastern culture) values deep intelligence, deep mental health, academic excellence, thinking different, meditation. This gives India an incredible cultural long term edge.

        Indian culture values the crazy ones:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rwsuXHA7RA

        India’s inequality upside is much higher. I think more inequality drives economic growth and higher living standards for most. More inequality means more examples of excellence, capacity, competence, merit. Which others then try to emulate. Poor people especially benefit from more inequality.

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    2. I think India will eventually become middle income country, perhaps a lower middle income country. But more importantantly it has started in motion a sort of semi social security where the lowest of the low get some protection or the other. Coupled with low inflation, will make India a more socially secure country. To me that’s a good target

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      1. Saurav, India is “ALREADY” a lower middle income country by global standards. India will be a middle income country within a decade. And within two decades an upper middle income country.

        To break out of the upper middle income trap, India needs significant additional difficult reforms. I think they will happen, but they have not happened yet.

        India’s current push to encourage sports, exercise, stretching, breathing (Yoga) and meditation can do wonders to sharply increase national physical health, mental health and intelligence. Which in turn–I believe–are the primary drivers of total factor productivity.

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          1. Dont know anyone can ever fix rural stuff. The only country which could fix its rural area (of this size) is China , and we know how it got it fixed. India is still a democracy and 60 percent folks still live in rural areas. Rural also happens to be the Achilles heel of this Govt.

            Any overt move to disturb the status quo in rural areas will have huge backlash which no Govt can survive. The best bet it lo expedite the already “under the radar” urbanization of rural areas.

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          2. “urban pollution and hygiene is probably a serious drag.

            and it needs to get its rural shit (literally) in total order.”

            100% agreed.

            There are green sprouts in rural areas too. Telecommuting is starting to allow the global upper middle class (and soon the global middle class) to live in inexpensive rural areas with nature. Don’t want to elaborate more now. Kushal does a good job at explaining why there is hope in rural India. Albeit a very long way to go.

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        1. Your last paragraph is equivalent with my writing about cricket…I’ll be back with my comment about Troy.

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  3. India has stopped looking back at Kashmir and has moved forward with the issue with outright annexation. I hope Modi’s right wing government continues to increase India’s ease of doing business index and continues to invest in infrastructure. Capital investment, improvements to education, ensuring freer markets, and greater integration into global economy are key going forward. Also, ensuring greater security and law and order is necessary for moving forward in all ways, including but not limited to, increasing HDI, securing foreign direct investment, and encouraging indigenous innovation.

    The Left in India needs to get its act together to challenge Modi, so things can remain in balance. The future looks bright. Happy Birthday India! Wishing you well as a resident and proud citizen of the USA, the greatest nation in history

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  4. I really liked that scene and have used it many times in political commentary. Yes, the world belongs to those who really wants it.

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  5. I was pleasantly surprised with Brad Pitt’s acting , when the movie came out. All along i felt he was just a pretty face who would mostly do rom-coms and such. Same feeling when short-ish Tom cruise did mission impossible.

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  6. PM Modi gave an amazing inspirational speech today in Urdu/Hindustani/Hindi.

    If only America chose leaders like this. ;-(

    Obviously America also has them (Yang and Tulsi come to mind) . . . but they aren’t at the top of polls to win their party’s nomination for President or leaders in the Congress.

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    1. LOL, yeah i think it has become a bit better, its not Naipaul days anymore, but yeah its still a big issue.

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  7. Just a short preview before I make a comment. By coincidence I haven’t seen the whole movie, only few excerpts. What we can see from this one. Blonde and blue-eyes Greeks? This thing does not exist. They look like more as…er…hm…Serbs. Warriors? C’mon. Myrmidons? Did I say that all ancient toponyms containing MIR are Serbian? Who lived in Troy? Not Greeks. Going to destroy some others’ town as aggressors and kill their people – a road to immortality? What a motivational speech, what a crap. Gods (all blondes?) involved in the war? Greeks at that time haven’t seen and did not know for Olympus, they were hundreds of years far from this. They did not have kingdoms, only city-polis and these, hundreds of years after the battle. At that time, they hardly lived in Greece, maybe just started to migrate to islands. Who lived in Greece? It was said that Achilles killed Peonian Asteropay as a retaliation for his friend’s death. Who were Peonians (or Pelasgians, or Panonians)? Indigenous people of today’s Greece. On early Greek vases Achilles was presented in Serbian clothes with Vinca’s symbols (cross with 4 crescents) which is the official coats of arms of Serbia since Vinca until today. Who was Achilles? Iliad was translated to Greek language 600 years after the battle. Who orally transmitted the epic and in which language? Etc.

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    1. PS: BP, in his motivational speech (targeted to American morons, tomorrow’s invaders), did not mention that Mike Tyson caught him stoned and let him go free, after founding him in Mike’s house while fcuking his wife Robin Givens…

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  8. yesterday (aug 14) was pakistan’s independence day too.

    I wonder what your message to them would be.

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  9. If speeches were horses beggars would ride. India’s economic numbers are grim. Unemployment in India is the highest in 45 years from demonetization. Hindians are content to be fooled by Modi’s nationalist rhetoric for now.

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  10. Modi in his independence day speech called “wealth creation” a national service. I never thought in my lifetime I would hear an Indian leader emphasize such a nakedly capitalist statement. If India’s fabian socialism was imposed top down, then it can also be undone top down.

    A word on GDP comparisons though since I see a lot of Whatsapp Uncle level comments.

    It’s also important to understand that Chinese GDP is an output metric, and thus not comparable to the GDP of a normal state. Their GDP is centrally planned and the debt required to achieve it is the variable. Companies need the permission of the state to file for bankruptcy. Thus, to compare it to USA, France, Brazil or India even – you would have to subtract from GDP growth, the non performing assets. That’s fundamentally a legal process.
    When people say Chinese numbers are dodgy they don’t mean Chinese are chronically dishonest, they mean they don’t believe in the integrity of the Chinese legal system.

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    1. “I never thought in my lifetime I would hear an Indian leader emphasize such a nakedly capitalist statement”

      Not to be pessimistic or anything ,that’s what he is good at. Indians in last 70 years are so desperate (perhaps too strong a word) for certain type of change that even someone making a slight change or even a statement , is seen as breath of fresh air. Just after uterring those words , Modi made a statement about population control . You know as well as i do on which issue (wealth creation or pops control) , policy,laws will be framed. 🙂

      One other area is military, having exhausted all diplomatic options against Pakistan’s kinetic options (militants) , Indians wanted someone who at least appears “militaristic” and does something, anything. Thats why success metrics don’t count.

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    2. \Modi in his independence day speech called “wealth creation” a national service.\

      Similar statements were made Deng Hsiao Bing 30 years back.

      Individual desire to get rich is a great driver for economic development.

      One of Deng’s quotes

      Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious.

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  11. Too much pessimism around in the comments, which I find irrational.
    Short term trends don’t matter much

    Just got to put our heads down and build, not worry about the outcomes.

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