Thursday, September 20, 2007

response to Academia and Free Marketers: Garland in the hands of a monkey

I had posted a response on a blog - Krish's Politics a while ago. When I went back to read it recently, I was very impresed with my own argument that i decided to repost it on my own blog. What a self-loving individual am i? well, who is not...


You make a good point when you say,
“There is another aspect of academia, which these free market fundamentalists can never comprehend. As the kid portrays in his post, we cannot just buy a paper and make a product out of it. Thatz not the way academia works. Scientists are not shopkeepers waiting with papers so that consumers (read business people) can come and buy it”.

Your point also highlights something more deeper in research and incentives. A scientist needs to be truly “objective” and in that sense detached from the phenomenon and the findings. Research that is closely tied to output that can be monetized severely taints the objectives of the true scientific enterprise.

The tenure system in good universities exists so as to enable such researchers to pursue issues that might lack immediate monetary potential but have long range implications for the benefits of a broader audience.

Sure, academia has to collaborate with the industry - but monetizing research output should not be the only criterion for this collaboration. Industry can provide the necessary real world context for the theoretical models that academia develops and the academia can provide a deeper “causal” understanding of the real world that industry desperately needs.

Research has a much broader purpose that is beyond a few innovative ideas and a few researchers making money. It is to develop a deeper understanding of the real world and advance our understanding about ourselves in such a way that it increases social welfare in general.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Privatized War

I am against the Iraq War – for that matter, any war.  I believe we have evolved considerably as a civil society to sort out our problems amicably.  Nothing can change my opinion on this.  I do not believe in the eye for an eye adage, although at times I have felt that the US invasion of Afghanistan was justified.  What troubles me more is the fact that many have come to profit from a war that has brought nothing but misery and death to thousands in the middle east.  A nice article on MSN Money specifies the numbers here

As the article rightly points out the last five years have brought a windfall to some of these firms and I am sure to all the “institutional investors” in these firms.  The mutual funds and pension funds that hold the defense stocks and the banks, and all the small investors who have bought these funds.  In a way, many of us have financed the war and are profiting from it.  That troubles me the most.  In an increasingly networked business world, it is not very clear what is being financed by whom.



Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The tailless "Fox"

Fox news has gotten into a very bad habit of censoring speeches.  Apparently, they censored Sally Field's acceptance speech when she was accepting an award at the Emmy Awards show last sunday.  The words that were censored included "goddamn war".  I guess, Fox mistakenly censored its own tail and has grown into a channel that is not only conservative right wing - that resonates with people who read Ann Coulter and listen to Bill O'Reilly. I cannot fathom the reason behind what is so offensive about the words "goddamn war". Guess, the religious types at Fox, did not like the word goddamn and the conservative political folks did not like the war being damned.