Sunday, December 27, 2009

Of Rivalries

A happy conjunction of conjunctibles is able to giving rise to this post on rivalries.

I. Cambridge v. Cambridge

Paul Samuelson died. The world lost a great textbook author. Apparently he was also a great economist. RIP.

[Aside: As Abi has pointed out, Subramanian Swamy wrote a tribute to his guide and mentor. Curiously, the Rediff version has a few choice not-so-nice things to say about certain "Left triumvirate" including a certain other Nobel laureate. Pretty much the same tribute, minus the not-so-nice is in the Hindu. Either some editor has wielded the selective scissor of Hindu-style political correctness, or Swamy himself, for all his brashness, went easy on the masala.]

[Aside': This is a first derivative aside. Aside to the above aside. Heh heh. Some lovely lectures happening at IISc over the next few days. Damn.]

Enough asiding. Onto the rivalry. Our good economics professor friend and lurker on this blog who goes by the epithet That Man Keynes And His Homosexual Intrigues told us about a Samuelson rivalry that possibly only economists know or care about.

The Cambridge Capital Controversy is a debate from the 1960s that pitted Samuelson and Robert Solow from Cambridge, MA against Joan Robinson and Piero Sraffa from Cambridge, not-MA.

Apparently, the debate was
...concerning the nature and role of capital goods (or means of production) and the critique of the dominant neoclassical vision of aggregate production and distribution.
Whatever. It seems that the debate was in many senses inconsequential. Wikipedia says:
Despite the highly technical nature of most of the discussion, in many cases it generated more heat than light.
Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen says:
Sadly I must characterize the Cambridge capital debates as a fruitless diversion.

Like all highly technical questions in most subjects, the details need not concern us ;) The consensus is that the culmination of the debates was a more or less hands down (if inconsequential, as noted) win for the Poms. I remember That Man Keynes... saying that Samuelson had the good grace to admit as much in writing, and pretty much capitulated in front of Robinson, at least as far as this issue went. He must've been a great man.

[Aside: Joan Robinson was arguably one of the greatest economists of her generation, and sadly (? post-Obama and Kissinger) never won the Nobel. That Man Keynes..., the source of so much of the economics tidbits claims that the Nobel Committee pretty much waited for her to cop it, before awarding the Nobel to one of her rivals. Details will follow, if I can find them.]

II. Krishna v. Srinivasan

The Hindu carried a piece last Sunday by the vocalist T.M.Krishna in which he (pretty unambiguously) criticized the use of certain instruments in Carnatic music, because they cannot render all the notes and microtones needed to make a raagam what it is. Violins and mandolins can apparently be successfully re-incarnated in south Indian avatars (ugh!), but saxophones and pianos cannot. This was the opening salvo.

Today's Hindu Sunday edition has a riposite from (my friend!) noted pianist Anil Srinivasan. Anil, while agreeing in part with Krishna, argues against being "...autoregressive when discussing the preservation or conservation of a tradition. Trapping it in a time capsule and not allowing it to breathe or acquire newer characteristics is antithetical to the very notion of an intergenerational transfer."

By this time, the issues are abstruse enough that people like me whose aesthetic sense was last seen headed in north-northeasterly direction across the Siberian tundra have only a vague notion of what both sides are talking about.

Surprisingly, today's Hindu also contains a re-rejoinder from Krishna, who says that Anil misses his (Krishna's) point entirely. The show goes on. One wishes it didn't end here and moved into blogosphere. Rahul Siddharthan is doing his bit to make this happen!

III. Sibling v. Sibling

Vijay Nagaswami eschews the customary "end of year" ramble for his column and writes quite sensibly about relationshipsbetween siblings. Very readable, my brethren and cistern.

Here endeth the year. Blogging will possibly be more prolific in 2010. By the way, we must take this opportunity to announce that alack! the Filter Coffee will no longer be served in the new year. But every silver lining has a cloud, in the form of more enthu and content for the choultry.

Take care, y'all.


Samanth said...

But you didn't catch the irony! Vijay Nagaswami's sibling rivalry column sat right on top of the TMK-AS pair of columns... And TMK and AS, while not siblings, are first cousins. :-)

Ludwig said...

[Samanth] Oh dear, that would've been a lovely catch :P I didn't realize they're first cousins!