Indian futures

Over at his Substack, Noah Smith has a pretty bullish take on India, Here…comes…INDIA!!!:

The United Nations estimates that India has now surpassed China as the world’s most populous country — or, as we colloquially say, the world’s “largest” country.

Obviously, crossing this threshold doesn’t mean much in practical terms. Being a tiny bit bigger than China doesn’t really change anything, and India has just about as many people as it did a year ago. But the flurry of news stories accompanying the event is a wake-up call for the world: India has arrived on the world stage, in a big way.

What does that mean? Well, a whole lot of stuff. More stuff than I can summarize or even mention in a single blog post. There was a quote attributed to Napoleon two centuries ago: “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” Well, China did wake up, and the world has been shaken. The whole economic landscape of the planet, the geopolitical balance of power, and even the Earth’s environment have been irrevocably changed in the last three decades by the addition of 1.4 billion human beings to the ranks of the (more or less) developed world. Now India brings another 1.4 billion, eager to join those ranks. Get used to seeing a lot more graphs with this basic format…

It’s a long post, but I think the major takeaway from the viewpoint of an economist is agglomeration. The co-location of producers and consumers and resources at such massive scale nations like China, India and the USA, result in a level of synergistic economic growth and power that smaller nations cannot match structurally. This is probably one reason that Britain punches below its weight vis-a-vis the US, it cannot scale.

But Smith is aware of human capital concerns, and this is probably the a signifier of the number one issue: Worthless Degrees Are Creating an Unemployable Generation in India. Fake credentialing just means firms will have to re-train or do their own intake (the obsession with credentialing shows up in funny ways on even on this blog; I don’t care what your credential is if you are a moron, something is common-sense to Americans working in tech).

Another issue that is focused on in the post is that India needs to focus on productivity growth through manufacturing. I actually thought a bit about India when I read this long and excellent piece in Palladium on the century-long failure of the British ruling-class on updating their nation for the 20th century.

Soldier Sahibs-Review

I reviewed this book for the Pakistani magazine “Herald” 22 years ago. We had a podcast about the East India company yeseterday and it reminded me of this book, so I dug up my old review (posted unedited):

Soldier Sahibs is an old-fashioned and unapologetically imperialist book. And writer Charles Allen makes sure you know what you are getting into by giving it the flagrantly politically incorrect subtitle: The Daring Adventurers Who Tamed India’s Northwest Frontier. But imperialist does not necessarily mean inaccurate and Allen has taken a good deal of trouble to get his facts right. The book claims to tell “The astonishing story of a brotherhood of young men who together laid claim to the most notorious frontier in the world, India’s North-West Frontier,
which today forms the volatile boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
The men in question include John Nicholson, Harry Lumsden (founder of the Guides), Herbert Edwardes, William Hodson, James Abbot and Neville Chamberlain. Protégés of Sir Henry Lawrence, these men were responsible for laying the foundations of British rule in the Punjab and the Northwest Frontier. The author’s intent is to tell the story of these young men and through their adventures, give the reader an idea of how the British conquered – or, as he would prefer, “pacified” – the ‘wild’ Northwest Frontier of India.
But while Soldier Sahibs gives a very readable account of the adventures of these (surprisingly) young men, it is not possible to piece together the broader history of those times from his book. Why the British were here in the first place and what were the factors that made a small island in Europe more powerful than any kingdom in India do not form any part of Allen’s concerns. Nor does he waste much time explaining the situation in the Punjab or of the East India Company at that time. In fact, the author does not even provide a map of the vast area over which his protagonists established their rule. If you are totally at sea about those times, then you may have to read a few other books to fully appreciate the goings-on in this one. But if you are one of those enthusiasts who cannot get enough of the Raj, the mutiny and all that jazz, then you will definitely enjoy this book. Its written in authentic ‘Flashman’ style, with wit and verve and loads of ‘local color’. Continue reading Soldier Sahibs-Review

Episode 22 – The British East India Company

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

In this episode, Shrikant, Gaurav and Omar talk to Maneesh about the beginning, consolidation and end of the British East India rule in India. We end the episode on the 1857 revolt.


The East India Company; the most powerful corporation in the world- Tirthankar Roy
Indian Empire – its People, history and products – William Wilson Hunter
Empire – Niall Ferguson
The Men who ruled India – Philip Mason
The Anarchy – William Dalrymple
1857 revolt – RC Majumdar
The British Empire – Stephen Sears
The European theft of India – Roy Moxhom
The inglorious empire – Shashi Tharoor

The once and future India

A lot of the media is writing about how India’s population is now, or will be any moment, bigger than China. The issue I always have with these narratives is India is a big country; UP has a total fertility rate of around 3, while West Bengal is closer to 1.5. I assembled data on TFR’s in administrative divisions across India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I plotted by population and TFR (the second chart is log-transformed so you can see more of the labels). Click to enlarge.

Also attached the table below.

Continue reading The once and future India

Major Amin on the Current Crisis in Pakistan

A lot of our regular listeners have been asking for Major Amin’s views on the current crisis in Pakistan. We are fortunate that he shared his views today and gave a short summary of the political history of Pakistan, the current crisis and especially the role of the army and the impact its mishandling has had on its image.

You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Major Amin – Brown Pundits

A Conversation on Caste with Dr. Prakash Shah

Postscript from Omar Ali: My apologies to Maneesh and Gaurav, who got very little air time. And my apologies to listeners. I think Prakash and I should have explained more clearly what his argument is. I can see that many listeners expected a description of caste oppression in India, not a discussion of why this description is itself problematic or at least, incomplete..

We may have ended up with a discussion that will fail to get past the existing beliefs of most listeners. I hope we will try again in the future and as is the case with all complicated arguments, it may become clearer with repetition and rejigging. For now, take my advice from late in this podcast and see what happens if you suspend judgment and give the arguments a chance… Also see the articles and books linked at the end.

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Dr Prakash Shah, Reader in Culture and Law at School of Law Queen Mary University of London, talks to Dr Ali on the framework of studying caste in India and it’s colonial antecedents.

A list of publications from Prakash Shah and associates can be found here. 

A long talk from Prakash Shah on this topic may give more background:


Perhaps the Indus Valley Civilization did descend from Zagrosian farmers?

On the limits of fitting complex models of population history to f-statistics:

These results show that at least with regard to the AG analysis, a key historical conclusion of the study (that the predominant genetic component in the Indus Periphery lineage diverged from the Iranian clade prior to the date of the Ganj Dareh Neolithic group at ca. 10 kya and thus prior to the arrival of West Asian crops and Anatolian genetics in Iran) depends on the parsimony assumption, but the
preference for three admixture events instead of four is hard to justify based on archaeological or other arguments.

Why did the Shinde et al. 2019 AG analysis find support for the IP Iranian-related lineage being the first to split, while our findGraphs analysis did not? The Shinde et al. 2019 study sought to carry out a systematic exploration of the AG space in the same spirit as findGraphs—one of only a few papers in the literature where there has been an attempt to do so—and thus this qualitative difference in findings is notable. We hypothesize that the inconsistency reflects the fact that the deeply-diverging WSHG-related ancestry (Narasimhan et al. 2019) present in the IP genetic grouping at a level of ca. 10% was not taken into account explicitly neither in the AG analysis nor in the admixture-corrected f4-symmetry tests also reported in Shinde et al. (2019).

Open Thread – 04/14/2023 – Brown Pundits

Since Pandits and Kamboj always ask me if it’s true if they’re Iranian, Iran through the ages: civilization’s eternal crossroads and Pre-Persian Iran: from the invention of agriculture to the Aryan onslaught. Part 3 and 4 will land next week.

I have a post (right now at 5,500 words) that I’m working on relating to caste, the CISCO case, and the US, for my Substack. I want it to be my “last word” on the topic…but basically, the issue here is that Leftist-prog types who believe in the total malleability of culture somehow also believe that Indian Americans are moving their society in toto to the US without modification. This is obviously false. You can speculate why this is happening, but it’s just a fact.

Also, Saagar Enjeti is asked about his caste on Red Scare. It’s kind of a joke, as the hosts are pro-Indian (especially Dasha). I am hopefully going to on Red Scare in the next six months to talk about genetics (last time I was in New York Anna K. was out of town).

Conversation with Chitra Iyer: Founder- Space2Grow a Social Impact Firm

Another Browncast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify, and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Chitra Iyer, Co-founder and CEO of Space2Grow, talks to Maneesh about Anti Child Trafficking, Digital Safety and making  Indians employable.


You can read more about Space2Grow on:

Website :
LinkedIn  – Space 2 Grow (
Facebook – Space2grow (
Twitter – space2grow_llp (


Cousin marriage in Bangladesh

This piece arguing for the end to cousin marriage in the UK in The Times (driven by Pakistanis) took me to a paper in PLOS One, Genetic and reproductive consequences of consanguineous marriage in Bangladesh:

The mean prevalence of CM in our studied population was 6.64%. Gross fertility was higher among CM families, as compared to the non-CM families (p < 0.05). The rate of under-5 child (U5) mortality was significantly higher among CM families (16.6%) in comparison with the non-CM families (5.8%) (p < 0.01). We observed a persuasive rise of abortion/miscarriage and U5 mortality rates with the increasing level of inbreeding. The value of lethal equivalents per gamete found elevated for autosomal inheritances as compared to sex-linked inheritance. CM was associated with the incidence of several single-gene and multifactorial diseases, and congenital malformations, including bronchial asthma, hearing defect, heart diseases, sickle cell anemia (p < 0.05). The general attitude and perception toward CM were rather indifferent, and very few people were concerned about its genetic burden.

A rate around 5% is in line with my intuition and what I’ve seen elsewhere, though there is wide variance by locality. The best thing about the paper is the chart above, the offspring of first cousin marriage have mortality rates 3 times greater than non-cousin marriages. There are other numbers relating to disease, etc. The paper is good because it’s from a developing country without world-class healthcare (though no longer a total basketcase) so you can see disease risk plainly.

More generally in relation to “cousin marriage”

– I have seen “outbred” Pakistani genomes that look like the product of cousin marriage due to the practice’s frequently earlier on in the pedigree

– This is comparable to some Indian caste groups that practice exogamy (North Indian) on the jati level. The jati has been endogamous so long that everyone has become a second cousin…

Brown Pundits