Tuesday, 31 March, 2009

Should there be quality standards in services too?

Can a restaurant take too long to serve you? Can a shop have a complicated, time-wasting billing process? Is charging 2% on credit card payments OK?

There can be two views. Yes, these but correspond to quality standards for products. If its fine to have restrictions in products, and not wait for market forces to reform or ruin wrongdoers, why not have them in services too?

The opposite view is that quality in services would be hard to quantify. Hence, a breach of quality standards should be hard to establish, and punish. Besides, you'll have to combine the CIA, KGB and Gestapo to keep track of the offences. Yet...

Actually, this begs a bigger question: Should illogical be illegal? Should bad business practices, those that can be shown to be counter-productive (to whom?) be banned? On the other hand, how much can outsiders interfere without Marshal Stalin taking over? Shouldn't some businesses be allowed to fail so that others may learn? Failures are the stepping stones to success, etc.

Should there be certification for buying financial products?

You need to be 18 to vote. And to drink. And you need this and that degree for various jobs. And to sell this and that.

Then why not make it mandatory that you'd have to go though certain courses before you can buy certain financial products. The more complicated the product, the more detailed the course.
This may mean that a few products will be available only to doctorates. Or it may mean that most people will find ways of going around the rule, buying products in others' name.

Either way, it should free the government of any obligation to save those ruined by the stock market and its appendages. Just as the government is not expected to pull out those ruined by gambling. You're supposed to have taken the risks knowingly.

It may also spell the doom of some products, whose existence depend on finding enough suckers most of the time.

Wednesday, 25 March, 2009

Send him back to school

Liddy of AIG made all sorts of excuses for handing out bonuses. Do they make sense? I beleive they defy basic economic sense. Here's why: http://docs.google.com/fileview?id=F.ac5a3238-af19-43eb-aaf3-d899e16160ee&hl=en

Italics for emphasis; comments in blue.

Wednesday, 18 March, 2009

Why Varun hates Muslims

Sanjay Gandhi's son, Varun Gandhi, is in trouble over inflammatory, anti-Muslim election speeches. But there may be a very good reason behind his hate. You see, most of us like to believe that Mrs Gandhi and her son lost the 1977 elections because of the Emergency. The people of India demonstrated how dear democracy is to them, etc. 

I think that's BS. We give less than a hoot for democracy, or any ideal, being the most materialistic tribe on earth. 

But we must breed. Sanjay Gandhi's undoing were the sterilisation camps, especially in Muslim areas, which got a lot of attention.  

And his son thinks like I do.

In praise of pitches

Speculative creative work, that too for free, is probably the most inefficient way of getting business; but it may also be the most effective way of training young ad men, particularly in account servicing. That's when they learn to ask questions and judge if work is on breif.

On the other hand, may be not. 

In workshop after workshop I have seen account servicing people applying their grey cells wonderfully. In office, the very next day, they'd all go back to being peons. I never understood why. Here they were getting all the praise in the world, and being promised that if they contributed similarly in real world, they will surely make more money, for themselves and the agency... yet, in the real world, they wouldn't even try!

Monday, 2 March, 2009

Valkyrie lifted?

We saw Valkyrie (music by John Ottman) yesterday night, and the background music in most of the dramatic scenes was a 'rat-a-tat-rat-a-tat' that iexactly the same as in Battle for Algiers (music by Ennio Morricone & Gillo Pontecorvo). I can't believe it was coincidental.

Export manufacture, reserve service

Said Obama to Congress on 24 February, " We will restore a sense of fairness and balance to our tax code by finally ending the tax breaks for corporations that ship our jobs overseas." 

Congress applauded. Aside from some huffing and puffing that night, Indian commentators ignored the threat (promise). Afraid? Or dumb?

Because Obama didn't say anything about ending tax breaks to companies who buy foreign goods, which, in effect, ships manufacturing jobs overseas, that is, to China.  

Astoundingly, when we talked about this to a couple of people, the instant reaction was that Obama was doing what was 'good for his country'. Reservation is good for USA! Not competing for jobs with slum-dog Indians is good for USA! Since when? Since they burnt all the books by their 'free market' economics who have been untiringly taking Indians to task for not opening their economy?

OK, USA is an outlier. Rules that apply to others don't apply to it. And I don't say this cynically. I mean it. Perhaps the good of all lies in understanding and accepting this. (Bhim should get more food than his four brothers. There is nothing unfair or bad about it. He's just a very big boy.) 

However, shouldn't our free market economists take the trouble to explain this to us poor brownies, if for nothing else, then for the sake of a 'sense of fairness' (never mind if that is not the same as fairness itself)?