Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quotes of the day

Following Yeltsin’s death less than three years before and that of the “godfather of glasnost,” Alexander Yakovlev, in 2005, it is almost like nature itself has conspired to make the Gorbachev-Yeltsin-Gaidar revolution an aberration and Putinism Russia’s norm. As if Dostoevsky’s Great Inquisitor was right when he told the imaginary Christ: you have come to make people free, but they don’t want to be free.--Leon Aron

What [David] Halberstam shows is that investment bankers certified who was reliable or not--to serve in foreign policy positions.--Arnold Kling

The proportion of aid channeled through the UN system shrank from ten percent to five percent over the last eight years. And yet the UN’s massive bureaucratic machinery is not being downsized accordingly.--Sandra Sequeira

Some microfinance borrowers say they need village moneylenders to help them pay their debts on time. Some academic researchers believe the moneylenders are keeping afloat many microfinance groups.--Ketaki Gokhale

Of course, history offers more than just the lesson that financial accidents will happen. One of the most important historical truths is that the first draft of history -- the version that gets written on the spot by journalists and other contemporaries -- is nearly always wrong. So though superficially this crisis seems like a defeat for Smith, Hayek, and Friedman, and a victory for Marx, Keynes, and Polanyi, that might well turn out to be wrong. Far from having been caused by unregulated free markets, this crisis may have been caused by distortions of the market from ill-advised government actions: explicit and implicit guarantees to supersize banks, inappropriate empowerment of rating agencies, disastrously loose monetary policy, bad regulation of big insurers, systematic encouragement of reckless mortgage lending -- not to mention distortions of currency markets by central bank intervention. ... Consider this: The argument for avoiding mass bank failures was made by Friedman, not Keynes. It was Friedman who argued that the principal reason for the depth of the Depression was the Fed's failure to avoid an epidemic of bank failures. It has been Friedman, more than Keynes, who has been Bernanke's inspiration over the past two years, as the Fed chairman has honored a pledge he made shortly before Friedman's death not to preside over another "great contraction."--Niall Ferguson

Why is business investment so weak? Part of the reason is that the downturn is severe and investment responds to the overall economy. Part of the reason is that the credit crunch makes financing more difficult. Part of the reason is that the policy environment seems adverse to business. I am referring here to a group of policies that include higher minimum wages, the seeming retreat from free trade, proposed mandates to provide employees health insurance, higher prospective energy costs from climate change regulation, and the likelihood of higher future tax rates resulting from the huge fiscal imbalance we are now experiencing. All of these factors have worked in concert to depress business investment.--Greg Mankiw

Another unique characteristic about Brian [Moynihan] is that he actually wanted the job.--Ken Lewis, outgoing Bank of America CEO, on his successor

Climate change is not the fault of man. It's Mother Nature's way. And sucking greenhouse gases from the atmosphere is too limited a solution. We have to be prepared for fire or ice, for fry or freeze. We have to be prepared for change. We've been deceived by a stroke of luck. In the two million years during which we climbed from stone-tool wielding Homo erectus with sloping brows to high-foreheaded Homo urbanis, man the inventor of the city, we underwent 60 glaciations, 60 ice ages. And in the 120,000 years since we emerged in our current physiological shape as Homo sapiens, we've lived through 20 sudden global warmings. In most of those, temperatures have shot up by as much as 18 degrees within a mere 20 years.--Howard Bloom

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