Swaminathan Aiyar at PostGlobal

Swaminathan Aiyar

New Delhi, India

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar is the Consulting Editor of The Economic Times, India's largest financial daily. He writes a popular weekly column, titled Swaminomics in the Times of India. He spends roughly half the year in New Delhi and half in Washington D.C., where he is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and an occasional consultant to the World Bank. He has been the editor of India's two main financial dailies, The Economic Times (1992-94) and Financial Express (1988-90). He was also the India Correspondent of the British weekly, The Economist, for most of two decades between 1976 and 1998. Close.

Swaminathan Aiyar

New Delhi, India

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar is the Consulting Editor of The Economic Times, India's largest financial daily. He writes a popular weekly column in the Times of India titled Swaminomics. more »

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June 25, 2008 6:44 PM

No Moral Ground to Oust Mugabe Alone

The Current Discussion:Zimbabwe's chaos has brought about unprecedented cooperation in the UN, with even China and Russia switching sides to condemn Mugabe's government. So -- what should this united UN DO to force change?

Robert Mugabe is indeed an odious ruler with blood on his hands. But since when is that a disqualification to rule? The world has long been full of rulers even more odious and bloodthirsty than he.

We would love to have a world composed exclusively of enlightened democracies. But since that is not the case, should we oust dictators by force? The practical difficulties--and possibility of massive, cruel disaster--have already been demonstrated in efforts to remove a dictator in Iraq. Even putting aside the practical difficulties, how firm is the moral ground for acting against Mugabe?

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April 16, 2008 8:18 AM

Both Bush and Greens Fuel Food Shortage

George Bush and the greens, usually foes, have joined forces to create a food shortage that today threatens millions in poor countries with hunger and starvation.

Greens have long demonized the consumption of petroleum and genetically modified foods, and crusaded against carbon. To this fatal broth, Bush has added the notion of energy independence for the US, backed by enormous subsidies and mandatory targets for converting corn to alcohol. This policy aims at doubling use of corn-based alcohol in gasoline by 2008, and quintupling it by 2022. Europe has mandated 10% use of biofuels in transport by 2020.

The result is a rising diversion of agricultural land from food to fuels. This has happened just as fast economic growth has lifted the demand for meat in many developing countries, and it takes several tons of grain to produce one ton of meat. Combined with two successive droughts in Australia, this has caused a modest shortfall in food availability. But food demand is so inelastic that even a small shortfall sends prices shooting up. Other than Brazil, few countries can quickly bring additional arable land under cultivation -- all the best land has long been harnessed, and only marginal lands are uncultivated. And the green agitation against genetically modified foods, backed by many European governments, has discouraged developing countries from planting high-yielding modified varieties, for fear of economic sanctions.

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March 11, 2008 6:29 PM

Spitzer's Behavior Shocking, But Personal

The Current Discussion: New York State governor Eliot Spitzer admits he hired a prostitute. Should people care, and why?

In a free society, sex between consenting adults should be their business and theirs alone. On the other hand, in a free society people must also be free to advocate norms of behavior for those in public life. So, while I have no objection whatsoever to Spitzer's activities, I will not deny critics the right to be shocked.

February 9, 2008 7:22 PM

Secularism on Shaky Footing

The hallmark of a secular nation is its ability to limit the role of religion in political life. This most certainly does not require a ban on one sort of dress or another. India is a secular country, with 150 million Muslims, and female students are welcome to wear or not wear head-scarves and veils. Nor does India ban the wearing of turbans by Sikhs, or of crosses by Christians, or of sacred threads by Hindu Brahmins. Such dress codes should be an irrelevancy in a truly secular state.

The wearing of head-scarves in Turkey cannot make or break secularism. If a two-thirds majority in Turkey's democracy favors a relaxation of the current dress code, this cannot be construed as the imposition of political Islam or disappearance of secularism. Some secular Turks argue that this is the thin end of the wedge, and that the Islamicization of Turkey will inevitably follow. If this is really the case, then Turkish secularism is built on sand, and will collapse anyway.

January 23, 2008 1:59 PM

Sick, But Not Contagious

The Current Discussion: If countries around the world are doing so well economically, why are they still catching a cold when the United States sneezes?

Countries around the world have been doing very well precisely because globalization has greatly strengthened economic opportunities and linkages across countries. Even African countries, which grew at no more than 2.4% (lower than population growth) in the 1980s and 1990s, have averaged almost 6% growth per year in the last four years. A rising global tide has lifted all boats. The U.S. has contributed much to that rising tide, but so have many others (notably China and India).

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January 23, 2008 10:40 AM

Prosperity – It’s All Relative

The Current Discussion: In the future, global prosperity will present more of a threat than poverty, according to a recent Post op-ed. Is this just rich-American rhetoric, or is the world really getting too prosperous for its own good?

Will prosperity be more of a threat than poverty in the future? If GDP keeps rising the world over as it has in recent years, poverty will virtually disappear by any absolute yardstick (like the World Bank’s benchmark of consumption per capita of $1 per day in PPP, or purchasing power parity, terms) in, say, 50 years. For most countries, however, poverty has become a relative concept, not an absolute one. Countries have a habit of constantly adjusting the poverty line upwards as they get richer. The U.S. poverty line is $10,400 per year for an individual, against just US$200 per year in India. So by Indian standards, the American “poor” are fabulously well off. Yet the concern of Americans about their “poor” is as genuine and strong as it is in India.

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December 17, 2007 8:39 AM

Global Warming Is Science, Not Sin

**Editor's Note: This piece was written in response to a question asking panelists to choose the best of six proposals on how to move forward on climate change. Read More Panelist Views**

Scott Barrett’s research and development proposal is the best one, since he treats the key issue as one of science rather than sin. Despite their scientific pretensions, too many other proposals are based on the popular notion that carbon emissions constitute original sin, for which expiation should take the form of emission reductions.

Scientific advances are taking place on a scale unrivalled in history. The climate models of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) include several parameters, but exclude the most important parameter of all: the ability of scientific advances to change all parameters. Scientific advances in geo-engineering might one day enable us to control the temperature of the earth, turning it up and down like a thermostat. I know that sounds like science fiction. But so, too, at the start of the 20th century, did space travel, nuclear bombs, and the Internet.

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November 19, 2007 11:25 AM

Global Economy Looks Better Than Ever

The world economy is actually in excellent health, notwithstanding occasional warts. The price of oil is near US$100 a barrel because the strongest economic growth I have seen in my lifetime is lifting all commodity prices. The high price constitutes a welcome market warning to consumers to slow consumption, and to producers to increase exploration. Credit markets are okay in most of Asia and Africa. They have been roiled in the U.S. and Europe by the sub-prime mortgage problem. An excellent market invention (securitization of loans) made it possible for poor people to get home loans earlier denied to them. The defaults arising from excessive adventurousness on the part of banks constitute a modest social price for increasing financial access to the poor. The penalty for excesses has been paid by those most culpable, who have the deepest pockets. The U.S. may indeed be slipping into a mild recession, but that is an overdue warning from markets that living beyond your means is not feasible forever, and that Americans need to curb their consumption.

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