There were times when brawn mattered more than brain. In the battle between nerds and jocks, jocks always had the last laugh. But the second half of the 20th century witnessed the rise of nerds. Bill Gates was consistently on top of the Forbes list of billionaires for long. The investing career of Warren Buffett is so successful that Fortune has had an expert on him since 1966. Jocks should be worried.
This collection chronicles the career of a man who does not quite fit the stereotype of a billionaire. Mr Buffett spends much of his time reading and thinking. He has been reading books on investing since the age of eight. He does not split his stock. When Mr Buffett was once asked when he would sell his Coca-Cola shares, he replied: “Never.” He rarely travels beyond Omaha. He does not venture beyond his area of expertise. For long, he refused to use an electronic computer. He is not swayed by the latest fads in the investment arena. He has a schedule free of meetings. Listening to stupid people gives him “blinding headaches”. He would not do business with people he dislikes.
Mr Buffett loves his work. His unwillingness to compromise the integrity of his work enraged a Fortune editor, Daniel Seligman; at one point, Seligman wanted the magazine to not publish the great investor’s article. When he was 19, Harvard rejected Mr Buffett because he had the social skills of a 12-year-old. In other words, if the jocks in the pre-industrial age needed a punching bag, Mr Buffett would have been the most obvious candidate. But, as Ms Loomis points out, in the information age, few jocks can afford a stock of Berkshire Hathaway. Today, it sells at a hefty price of $134,490.
Read The Nerd Of Omaha in Business Standard.
Robert Greene thinks intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy. A sensible man would regard this “insight” somewhat suspiciously, because intelligence is also his greatest strength. But Mr Greene can say in his defence that he understands people really well. When he writes about the faults and foibles of little people, he does it with the authority of the highest level of scholarship. His erudition would put most academics to shame.
Mr Greene’s fifth book, Mastery, however, is not merely about politicking and power games; it describes what great achievers in history have in common. Mr Greene writes that there is nothing mystical about genius; it takes many hours of practice over years, perhaps decades, to achieve mastery in any field. There is nothing new here. What sets mastery apart is that it rejects many myths and simplistic dichotomies.
Read An Anatomy Of Greatness in Business Standard
Many decades from now, my most vivid memories of elections in my youth will be that of the indelible ink mark on the fingers of conscientious people littering my Facebook newsfeed. According to the Election Commission, the polling rate in the 2014 elections is the greatest in the history of independent India. Before you sing loud hosannas to the voter who carries a part of the Indian society
on his shoulders, remember: voters are like adolescent boys. It is dangerous to give them what they crave.
But then, it is impossible to give voters what they profess to like without aggressing against them, as it is impossible to give the teenage boy what he “craves” without aggressing against the girl. The aggression might as well be worth it if that is what they genuinely want. But, what if it is not? Of course, the difference is that unlike the teenage boys, the sanest among us learn to live with what the average voter chose when he was knocked out of his wits.
Read Should We Celebrate Record Polling? in DNA.
Farming is considered a patriotic enterprise, and nearly half of India’s labour force is engaged in agriculture and allied activities. Almost everyone believes that in the election season, political parties should pledge to aid this patriotic endeavor to feed the nation.
But, farming is a risky profession, and agricultural products form only 14% of India’s total produce. After the economic reforms, the growth in agricultural GDP has averaged only 3.4%. Even India’s high inflation is said to be caused by such low agricultural productivity. George Bush had once said that India’s greedy middle class that consumes more than it produces is responsible for the rise in food prices across the world. Now, one of the greatest challenges the new government would face is that of controlling inflation. But, are these claims even plausible?
Read Why Blame The Farmers For Price Rise? in DNA
India is the most populous democracy in the world. It is also the country where young men and women were once hauled away to forced sterilization camps. The youth learned that even the fundamental right to propagate one’s kind could not be taken for granted. But they still had the right to propagate political delusions. In 1977, when Indira Gandhi closed the sterilization camps and called for fresh election, the philosophy of population control was quickly voted out of existence. People marched into the polling booths and voted against it with a feeling of vengeance. But this was a rare moment in the history of Independent India because moral outrage in politics rarely has its roots in the love of liberty and justice.
Read Has The Indian Republic Failed The Youth? in DNA
H L Mencken, who died on January 29, 1956, was the first celebrity intellectual and one of the greatest journalists of all time. He was a witty polymath, and knew more about the American language than almost anyone. Today, the “misogyny epidemic” is much debated in the Indian media and social networking websites, but very few Indians have even heard of Mencken’s scholarly work, “In Defense of Women,” written way back in 1918. Mencken knew that of all the delusions that are close to the heart of men, the most pathetic is their belief that they are intellectually superior to women. Rarely do we see a woman who can expatiate on inflation statistics or predict the size of our economy four decades from now with such great precision, with decimal points. Men are convinced that this makes them superior to women. Mencken held that this is a delusion.
Read Men Smart? Women Smarter! in Business Standard
When an auto rickshaw driver in Karnataka ferried people to the polling booths for free on the Election Day, the media called him a great philanthropist. But, is it self-evident that it is a virtue to vote? Does it make sense to encourage the passive to vote?
The mainstream media celebrates the phenomenon of the people who do not even know their own age registering their opinion on complex policy matters. They are, after all, eager to vote. The underlying logic is irrefutable: “If ignorance does not stop the passengers from pushing the buttons and pulling the levers of the air craft, this must be noble. At least, they are doing something.”
Read my piece, In defense of the passive citizen in DNA.
If voters are decent fellows who are pained by the aggressive vote buying tactics of politicians, it is not hard for them to do something about it. They can easily decide to not vote for the politicians who spend more on advertising and campaigns. Nothing angers people more than the influence of corporations in elections. If politicians have raised money by promising to sell favors to Tata’s and Ambani’s, it is suicidal to vote for politicians who spend more. If voters reasoned like this, politicians will spend as little as possible. Politicians can sell favours only if the voters do not care. If politicians sell favours that anger voters, they will soon be looking for a real job.
Read Does Corporate funding undermine democracy? in DNA.
Several millions of students will enter higher educational institutions in the next one decade. The Human resources development ministry wants to double the gross enrolment ratio in higher education by 2020. The brick-and-mortar colleges in the country are not equipped to meet their needs. Many believe that with higher internet penetration, the demand for online education will grow radically in India. Some even believe that the traditional university system might not survive for long. Though the internet penetration in India is low, in numbers, the number of internet users in India (150 million) is second only to China (575 million) and the United States (275 million), and the numbers are growing radically.
Read Will The Internet Replace Universities? in DNA.