Monday, June 29, 2009

Quotes of the day

Here is a handy-dandy way to determine whether the failure to order some exam or treatment constitutes rationing: If the patient were the president, would he get it? If he'd get it and you wouldn't, it's rationing.--Michael Kinsley

The pattern that I see [from the Obama administration] is one of following the path of least political resistance, even if it means failing to make any significant contribution to solving the actual public policy problem. I cannot say that I am completely shocked by this. It is sort of Public Choice 101. But there are a lot of bright, highly-educated people in the Obama Administration who, if they were to step back and evaluate what is happening, would see the pattern for what it is. They believe that they inherited such bad policies that they could not possibly do worse. That belief is starting to look shaky.--Arnold Kling

It is one thing to have different views from those of the Fed Chair on particular decisions that have been made-- I certainly have plenty of areas of disagreement of my own. But it is another matter to question Bernanke's intellect or personal integrity. As someone who's known him for 25 years, I would place him above 99.9% of those recently in power in Washington on the integrity dimension, not to mention IQ. His actions over the past two years have been guided by one and only one motive, that being to minimize the harm caused to ordinary people by the financial turmoil. Whether you agree or disagree with all the steps he's taken, let's start with an understanding that that's been his overriding goal. These interrogations reveal more about those doing the grilling than they reveal about Bernanke. I see this as pure political theater, and I don't like it. If Congress wants to explore more usefully the wisdom and motives behind some of the decisions that have been made, it might want to investigate why some legislators are now pushing for Fannie and Freddie to guarantee a riskier category of mortgage condo loans.--James Hamilton

Some hope for restoring faith in the effectiveness of democracy has come from the idea that while voters may not be all that big on ideas and words, they may be able to judge the competence of politicians.The idea is that they know enough to tell when incumbents are doing a good job by not screwing things up and throwing out those who are. Unfortunately, effectively judging the competence of politicians requires citizens to be able to tell the difference between conditions caused by incumbents' policies and those that merely happened to occur on their watch without any such causal connections. In short, voters may be fooled by randomness into thinking that skillful politicians are improving things rather than simply enjoying lucky timing.--John Carney

... growth isn't a mystery. By and large, we know what works and what doesn't. Corruption doesn't work well, property rights do. Globalization is working everywhere it is allowed. Protectionism is a disaster, in the long term and usually before. Democracy, unfortunately, seems insignificant in promoting growth, but free markets are essential.--Bryan Caplan

Economic laws can either enhance or undermine the vibrancy of an economy, helping or hurting individual incentives and the flow of creative ideas. Policymakers everywhere need to keep this in mind. There are $100 bills on sidewalks all across the world. What matters is whether people have the incentive to pick them up.--Brian Wesbury

Transformers 2 more than $200 million in opening. Incredible somebody finally found a way to make money using American cars.--Jimmy Fallon

Just how bad is the new Cap and Tax bill? Greenpeace is against it.--Stephen Green

The biggest doozy in the CBO analysis was its extraordinary decision to look only at the day-to-day costs of operating a trading program, rather than the wider consequences energy restriction would have on the economy. The CBO acknowledges this in a footnote: "The resource cost does not indicate the potential decrease in gross domestic product (GDP) that could result from the cap."--WSJ Editorial Board

The [Community Reinvestment Act] did not singlehandedly cause the meltdown. But the relaxation of credit standards that allowed the meltdown did start, as far as I can tell, with the CRA. And perhaps more importantly, the CRA, and the mentality behind the CRA, made regulators extremely unwilling to intervene. Everyone wanted to make credit more widely available to the poor. Well, the poor aren't good lending risks. So if you want to give them access to credit, you need to relax your lending standards. Any attempt to tighten lending standards on the part of the government would have resulted in a massive contraction in the credit available to core Democratic constituencies. Meanwhile, the Republicans were hoping that turning poor people into homeowners would make them more Republican.--Megan McArdle

In any case, the biggest danger of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency is not that it will artificially limit risk-taking. Rather, it’s that giving products a government imprimatur can make people feel safer than they really are. (The economist Kip Viscusi has termed this type of problem “the lulling effect.”) Regulation can help protect people from fraud and trickery, but finance will still be a place where ill-informed or reckless decisions can wreak havoc on people’s lives. A consumer-finance agency is a good thing, but it would do well to teach consumers a simple lesson: if you don’t understand the deal you’re making, don’t make it.--James Surowiecki

He thought he could dodge his way through life, but he couldn’t dodge death. ... I was tremendouly upset when he died. You’re stuck with friends after a while, and I realised he was part of me.--Martin Amis

[Socrates] said that death is one of two possibilities. Either it is a long dreamless sleep and really rather pleasant, or it is a passage to another place, namely Hades, and there we’ll be able to hang out with Homer, Hesiod and rest of the Greek heroes, which sounds great. Socrates’ point is that we do not know whether death is the end or some sort of continuation. He concludes by saying only God knows the answer to this question. Of course, this makes it a little tricky if you don’t, like me, have the good fortune to believe in God.--Simon Critchley

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