March 16, 2013

Its ‘noble’ nature makes gold ‘useless’

Anthropologists Approve Ethics Code November 7, 2012 - By Scott Jaschik Inside Higher Ed - As a discipline, anthropology has at times been divided over ethics, with many in the field feeling shame over early work in the field that was used to promote imperialism and with more recent debate over whether it is appropriate for anthropologists to work with the U.S. military… The new code offers seven main principles:
  • Do no harm.
  • Be open and honest regarding your work.
  • Obtain informed consent and necessary permissions.
  • Weigh competing ethical obligations due collaborators and affected parties.
  • Make your results accessible.
  • Protect and preserve your records.
  • Maintain respectful and ethical professional relationships. 
Wealth and Money from Centre Right India by Sonam Agrawal
Barter comes into picture because not everybody is good at everything… Barter also exemplifies the concept of voluntary cooperation. People looking for their own benefit enter into an agreement without the use of force… Gold has high value density… In some sense the uselessness of Gold is one of the qualities that make it useful as money. The fact that gold does not react with anything else makes it non-perishable and so it can be preserved for eternity at very low cost. Its cost is actually only regarding its security. In fact, all of the gold ever mined on this planet remains as gold. Unlike diamond which is pure carbon and can be burnt at sufficiently high temperatures to give carbon di-oxide, gold virtually does not combine with any other element and can be purified from contamination at very low costs (you cannot get back a diamond from carbon di-oxide).Thus, its ‘noble’ nature makes gold ‘useless’ for any productive activity while makes it immensely useful as an eternal preserver of value… This stored or saved money is the ‘Capital’… voluntary cooperation in which two people or entities enter into an agreement to help each other in exchange for money or goods… Legal force might be initiated only if a violation of a voluntary contract occurs.
The other major point to differentiate between wealth and money is that while wealth deteriorates over time, money remains intact. The effect of this is that simply having money cannot give us our standard of living. Wealth has to be created, repaired and serviced. We may end up consuming all of our wealth and we’ll still remain with all our money, but that money would not be of any use; its use is only in enabling our transactions of what we produce. Thus we need to constantly work, if only to maintain our current standard of living.
It’s useful if more and more people work, according to their will, inclination and need. These issues are highly subjective and best left to the individual. But one cannot deny the fact that without working productively no increase in wealth is possible. You can put it anyway you like but at the end of the day it’s only the products and services that matter and enable our living. Of course, we would like to work less and worry less about our daily chores and popular perception would have you believe that we are too materialistic; In fact our material progress is what allows us to enjoy more of our lives and creative pursuits.

Nothing was more total throughout human history than the constant tyranny of daily subsistence.  Socially, this was expressed in human social interactions (“hermit” alternatives were biologically unproductive – those trying it, died out in one generation).  Only in cooperation have humans continued their propagation through the generations.  This requires, as Smith pointed out, the mediation of self-interest (not the ‘dictatorship’ a la Ayn Rand over others) in human contact, as represented by the classic common howlers in the neoclassical misreading of Smith’s “butcher, brewer, baker” example as “Max U” (see Deirdre McCloskey’s” brilliant rebuttal of ‘Max U’ thinking).  To which we can add the almost total unfamiliarity of modern theorists with Smith’s “Moral Sentiments” (how carefully did Polanyi read TMS?). Markets are but one form of social and individual exchange, and not the only one today, nor throughout human history. Smith understood that. 

The greatest mystery - Times Of India Sunil Khilnani Dec 19, 2011
Unfortunately, the power of the scientific method - its satisfying promise of certain knowledge - has emboldened many to see it as a universal method, as applicable to humans as the physical world. Some of the most fundamental forms of human creativity and activity - how we use language, our religious beliefs, economic exchange, morality itself - are increasingly studied by means of statistical models borrowed from a partial understanding of science.
Sometimes, significant patterns and shapes are revealed, while other times what's discovered may be more akin to the face a child detects in a cloud formation than a basic causal connection. One impulse of those who apply the scientific method to human activity is to reduce action, intellection and belief to instrumental functions. Religion and ethics, for instance, are viewed as serving evolutionary aims, the mind is seen as essentially a biological system, and ideas become neurological emanations.
The historical irony is rich. From its origins, human civilisation has been driven by an urge to escape the constraints of nature. The scientific method was a human invention designed to understand nature better, precisely so humans could escape its exigencies and expand the realm of their free action. Yet now, the method's intellectual rampage seeks to imprison us within nature - by telling us that any action we believe to be freely chosen is in fact determined and necessitated by nature's purposes. Thus generalised, scientific method is transformed into scientism: less a predetermined biological reflex than a superstitious, ideological choice about how to see the world.
Consider the discipline of economics - perhaps the most spectacular example of scientism's imperiousness. An obsession with modelling, market efficiency, individual rational expectations, and with pure technical prowess, has populated financial institutions with experts focussed on narrow imperatives. Certain of their ability to master uncertainty, they have in fact massively proliferated it - and as such bear a large responsibility for the crisis of the global economy.
Admittedly, policy economists are today deeply divided over how to get out of the crisis - some advocate severe austerity, others expansionist spending. But very few indeed have felt any need to examine the recent evidence and seriously question the foundations of their discipline. Those economists, and all aspirants to scientism, would do well to reflect on the physicists in pursuit of their fundamental particle. If firmly established, the Higgs boson will confirm extant theories of the nature of the physical universe.
If the CERN experiment disproves its existence, our view of the universe will be thrown into crisis. Physicists don't seem to shy away from that prospect, and some seem to be almost hoping for evidence that may upend the certainties of our world-picture. That openness to new uncertainty is the part of the scientific method that needs to rampage a little wider. The writer is director of the India Institute, King's College, London.

Mar 15-18, 2013 SACAC, New Delhi, an arts, communication and management institute of Sri Aurobindo Society, is organizing a festival of Akira Kurosawa films, titled Kurosawa Retrospective — Experiencing the Genius Akira Kurosawa. All world cinema aficionados are cordially invited. Hall of Divine, SACAC Campus, New Delhi | Integral Education - SACAC

Sri Aurobindo Society Focus Area Indian Culture Glimpses of the Sanskrit Sahityotsav Feb 22-24, 2013 Dussehra Maidan, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Recently, Dr Sampadanand Mishra, Director—Sri Aurobindo Foundation for Indian Culture (SAFIC),was invited as a special guest speaker at Sanskrit Sahityotsav, a grand Sanskrit Festival organized by the Madhya Pradesh Government in collaboration with Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, New Delhi; Kalidasa Academy, Ujjain; and Sanskrit Promotion Foundation, New Delhi, to speak on ‘Challenges in the Development of Sanskrit’. The festival took place in Ujjain, the city of Mahakaleshwar in Madhya Pradesh, from 22nd to 24th February 2013. There were nearly 3,000 delegates invited from various parts of India. The Dussehra Maidan of Ujjain was pulsating with all the people communicating in Sanskrit. 

Dilip Datta, Trustee of the Ashram, has been siphoning Ashram funds to benefit his immediate family members. The Ashram Trust holds vast properties in Pondicherry, and since the Trustees keep all Ashram affairs hidden from the Ashram resident Inmates, they can get away with surreptitious sales of the Ashram’s lands and properties. There have been many land scams in the last 15 years in which the Trustees sold off Ashram lands purchased by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother (or received by them as gifts) for the Ashram’s needs and future security. Each time Ashram land is sold off over 50% of the sale price is alleged to be received by the Trustees in cash and used for their personal benefits. 

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