Monday, January 04, 2010

Quotes of the day

Truth is a glorious but hard mistress. She never consults, bargains or compromises. She cries from the top of the high places, "Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold." After that, every man is on his own. He may accept or refuse, receive or set at naught as he pleases; and there will be no attempt at coercion, though the man's whole destiny is at stake.--A.W. Tozer

The economics students seem to be born guilty, and the other students seem to lose their innocence when they take an economics class. You might be an economist if you refuse to sell your children because they might be worth more later.--Yoram Bauman

Your girlfriend is testing you, and you are at risk of failing. Naturally she is pleased to have a young, intelligent boyfriend, but she is worried that you only love her for her cash and will dump her for a younger model once you have a decent income of your own. So she is using a “screen”, as described by Nobel laureate Michael Spence. By ensuring that she remains a cost centre rather than a cash cow, she is creating a situation that would be intolerable to a genuine gold-digger. She wants to see how you react, but by assuming that the “next level” is a free apartment for you, rather than a proposal of marriage, you are simply confirming her fears. Forget the flat, buy her a diamond ring, and she will mellow. All this assumes, of course, that she is not just a miserly sociopath. Either way, good luck.--Tim Harford

[Robert Samuelson] points out that a real recovery will come from people embracing change and starting new businesses, but in today's environment people seem more fearful. In my view, this suggests that if people are waiting for government stimulus, this will promote passivity rather than a real economic recovery.--Arnold Kling

By failing to adopt a measured approach to economic policy, Congress and the president may be slowing the economic recovery, and thereby prolonging the distress from the recession.--Gary Becker, Steven Davis and Kevin Murphy

To do inflation right, you have to be a little sneaky. Especially if you don’t want your creditors feeling totally screwed and have them walk away the next time you need to borrow. Don’t announce it as a policy. Have it just happen. In fact, have it happen in spite of all of your best efforts to reign it in. So you need a controlled burn that looks like it is spontaneous. Who knows, maybe this idea actually is making the rounds.--Rick Brookstaber

It was a year of Hope -- at first in the sense of "I feel hopeful!" and later in the sense of "I hope this year ends soon!" It was also a year of Change, especially in Washington, where the tired old hacks of yesteryear finally yielded the reins of power to a group of fresh, young, idealistic, new-idea outsiders such as Nancy Pelosi. As a result, Washington, rejecting "business as usual," finally stopped trying to solve every problem by throwing billions of taxpayer dollars at it, and instead started trying to solve every problem by throwing trillions of taxpayer dollars at it.--Dave Barry

In short, the case for efficient regulation rests on the failures of courts.--Andrei Shleifer

Monsters are monsters, it seems, for want of enough lectures.--Tony Woodlief

Self interest was at first derided as amoral, Machiavellian, but first Adam Smith showed that it could generate socially desirable results through unintended consequences, though to this day many find this fanciful. Evolutionary biologists like David Hamilton and George C. Williams showed that self interest could lead to altruistic instincts towards are families. Game theorist showed that rational, far-sighted self interest produced 'win-win' outcomes, as in the iterated Prisoner's Dilemma. Given the conspicuous failure of socialism in 1989, wealth maximization is intellectually defensible on moral, societal, and libertarian grounds. There is no such bright side to envy, which does not generate any salubrious unintended consequences. ... John Adams made sure the USA had many republican features because he worried that "There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide", an opinion first articulated by Thucydides in the fifth century BC. I think this is because mob rule unleashes the envy of the masses, which brings down the best, and in the process the talented tenth, the elites, that drive anything worth cumulating upon in the realm of ideas (and thus, art, science, and technology). Under the elevation of diversity as an end in itself, envy is almost shameless now.--Eric Falkenstein

What experts are really good at is circling the wagons to protect themselves. Talking points get repeated. Evidence that appears to cast doubt on experts gets picked apart, while evidence that appears to favor the experts is uncritically passed on. Ben Bernanke enjoys protected status. The global warming believers enjoy protected status. Stimulus advocates enjoy protected status. Above all, the label "expert" is carefully restricted to those who can be trusted to respect other experts and to denounce skeptics. As I have said before, this is the syndrome that David Halberstam identified in The Best and the Brightest as leading us into the Vietnam War. When experts fail, it may be immature to decry their imperfections. However, it is not mature to shrug helplessly. What would be truly mature would be to work for decentralization of power and to work against the concentration of power in the hands of experts.--Arnold Kling

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