Friday, November 20, 2009

Quotes of the day

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will seem that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.--Charles Mackay

I find it deliciously ironic that one of the top five results returned by Google for the search terms "corn stover removal soil fertility" turns out to be research paid for the company planning to do the removal.--Andrew Leonard

People seldom do what they believe in. They do what is convenient, then repent.--Bob Dylan

The beauty of errors of omission is that they they are largely undetectable by clients as long as they go unreported by managers. Because I believe that owning up to one's mistakes in a public fashion decreases the probability of those errors reoccurring, I do so here.--William Ackman

I love that as a six year old [my daughter] still believes in the concept of “too much” money. Those words are so foreign to me as an adult. There’s no such thing as “too much” money. That’s crazy talk. Have you ever heard someone at work say, “Yeah, my wife and I realized we have too much money so we’re trying to figure out how to do something with it before it does something with us.--Jon Acuff

Should Osama bin Laden be captured alive—and I imagine most Americans hope he won’t be captured alive. But if he is, it is ludicrous to suggest he should be tried in a Federal court on Center Street in Lower Manhattan.--Charles Schumer

On February 4, 2009, President Obama signed Public Law #111-3, the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009. §701 of this law increased tobacco taxes, effective April 1, 2009. Since most smokers have annual family income less than $250,000, this was a clear violation of the President’s pledge.--Keith Hennesey

As the dean of Harvard Medical School I am frequently asked to comment on the health-reform debate. I'd give it a failing grade. Instead of forthrightly dealing with the fundamental problems, discussion is dominated by rival factions struggling to enact or defeat President Barack Obama's agenda. The rhetoric on both sides is exaggerated and often deceptive. Those of us for whom the central issue is health—not politics—have been left in the lurch. And as controversy heads toward a conclusion in Washington, it appears that the people who favor the legislation are engaged in collective denial.--Jeffrey Flier

How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.--Penn Jillette

Aggregators, investment or otherwise, are not the cause of the downfall of traditional news gatherers like newspapers. They are simply a sign that people are hungry for information and analysis presented in an efficient manner. For better or worse, that instinct to seek out order in an increasingly complex world is here to stay.--Tadas Viskanta

... let's face it, the genre of the female political autobiography is itself in its infancy. It's like some 53rd state, housing at this moment in time only a handful of crude, wooden, lean-to outposts.--Sandra Tsing-Loh

In truth, we are forever innovating to stretch our resources. Transportation was one of the scarcest goods during the first half of America’s nineteenth century, but by the end of the century the railroads had made it so abundant that the face of America changed irreversibly. That could be said today about information. Innovation makes scarce goods abundant. This quest to do better, to go farther, to extend our reach is part of what makes us human. There is more to economics than the desire to consume and to avoid risk. ... Most observers now acknowledge that capitalism, even in the midst of the 1930s depression, has long been creating unprecedented, unimagined levels of productivity and wage rates—for the rest of the world as well as for the handful of capitalist economies themselves. Now, however, some philosophers and social critics are suggesting that even capitalism has outlived its usefulness—that pursuit of new goals requires another system. It must be clear by now that this analysis overlooks what has been the key dimension of capitalism from its first functioning early in the nineteenth century. This dimension is what capitalism’s dynamism offers to human experience and human benefit—the true moral dimension of economics, in other words. Well-functioning capitalism, where it is attainable, is of undimmed value because it allows human beings to realize their true nature as creators and innovators.--Edmund Phelps

Upon Singapore’s independence in 1965—three years after Jamaica’s own establishment as a nation—the two nations were about equal in wealth: the gross domestic product (in 2006 U.S. dollars) was $2,850 per person in Jamaica, slightly higher than Singapore’s $2,650. Both nations had a centrally located port, a tradition of British colonial rule, and governments with a strong capitalist orientation. (Jamaica, in addition, had plentiful natural resources and a robust tourist industry.) But four decades later, their standing was dramatically different: Singapore had climbed to a per capita GDP of $31,400 (2006 data, in current dollars), while Jamaica’s figure was only $4,800.--Josh Lerner

If the New England Patriots were allowed to spend $50 million more on players than any other team, they would go 15-1 or 16-0 every single year. And people would not stand for it. But in baseball, a great and dominant team might only win 95 out of 160, and it doesn’t seem so bad.--Joe Posnanski

One of my strongest beliefs about the financial crisis is that the narrative that we come to accept about it will matter much more than the crisis itself. I see a strong parallel between the narrative "TARP prevented a Great Depression" with the narrative "The New Deal ended the Great Depression." The latter narrative has very little economic support, even among economists who avidly support the New Deal. However, it is the dominant narrative because it supports progressive ideology. --Arnold Kling

So, phrasing it as "the top 5% of earners pay 60% of the taxes," while comparing apples to oranges, sounds a lot more "unfair" to the wealthy than "the group that earns 37% of the income pays roughly 60% of the taxes."--Kid Dynamite

In his classic book “Famine Crimes” Alex De Waal observes that NGOs make “habitual inflation of estimates of expected deaths.” De Waal notes that during the pre-Christmas prime fundraising season, ‘One million dead by Christmas’… has been heard every year since 1968 and has never been remotely close to the truth.” Put into the current mix a credulous Western media that is happy to check the box “Ethiopia = famine,” and is unable to handle subtleties like chronic food insecurity and chronic malnutrition vs. emergency famine. Between unreliable media, NGOs, and government, it is tragically difficult to know when tragedy is happening.--William Easterly

There's no doubt that erasing global inequality, which has been with us for millennia and has expanded to unprecedented levels over the past century and a half, won't be easy. But by accepting the role of failed governments and institutions in causing poverty, we have a fighting chance of reversing it.--Daron Acemoglu

Some people are calling what I did an act of civil disobedience. I don’t know much about that, but if civil is what the government is, then call my part savage disobedience.--Wayne Johnson

Most pundits, professional and amateur, consider a genius as someone who can effectively articulate one's platform more efficiently than themself. An idiot is someone who effectively articulates the other side.--Eric Falkenstein

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