Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quotes of the day

Never forget that in the long-term, soft commodities should become cheaper and cheaper. That's because human technology advances mean that farms will become more efficient. This has obviously already been the case, humans can now produce far more wheat, corn, etc. with far less effort than in the past. While we may all feel we know this, sometimes we may forget what this implies for soft commodities' prices.--Vincent Fernando

It's curious how the Tea Party view of the President exactly mirrors the way the left talks about Palin: both are self-evidently stupid.--Jonathan Raban

You wouldn’t want to be inside the sausage factory that is the GDP calculation in Chad.--Chris Blattman

Every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here, and we just accept it, and accept it. And this is mainstream media. There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kinds of lies.--Sean Penn

There should be a bar by which one goes to prison for I Am Sam.--Michael Schaub

The public does not like bad literature. The public likes a certain kind of literature and likes that kind of literature even when it is bad better than another kind of literature even when it is good. Nor is this unreasonable; for the line between different types of literature is as real as the line between tears and laughter; and to tell people who can only get bad comedy that you have some first-class tragedy is as irrational as to offer a man who is shivering over weak warm coffee a really superior sort of ice.--G.K. Chesterton

The attempt to do more than we can will itself be a disturbance that may increase rather than reduce instability.--Milton Friedman

It seems director Ron Howard was trying to find something to 'do good', so he chatted with the earnest and overeducated Elizabeth Warren, and decided consumer financial regulation was the kind of smart idea that would obviously work. After all, who's against consumer protection? I am! This is the same government that goaded banks to lower standard to lend more to historically damaged communities, and then when those borrowers defaulted, blamed such lending on the banks. Avoiding the poor is redlining, targeting the poor is predatory, which means, whatever goes wrong can be blamed on the banks. Government always wants to have its cake and eat it too: low taxes & high spending, high growth and union-type work rules, banks lending more today and raising their capital. ... When the businesses fail, they almost always go out of business (unless they are really big); when government fails, it just increases its mandate's scope. --Eric Falkenstein

Local authorities were attracted to the swaps because they saw them as an opportunity to borrow at rates lower than prevailing market rates. They would swap their existing fixed-rate lending for a variable rate with the investment banks. In a period of low rates, when many of the deals were struck, this meant local authorities on a variable rate could find their borrowing costs shrank. However, as interest rates rose, local authorities would find themselves on the losing side of their bet with the banks as the amount they owed increased.--Rachel Sanderson

... we can appreciate that enhanced government spending does not bulk up the economy, nor merely crowd out worthwhile private activity. Instead, it undercuts, penalizes and distorts everything that private parties attempt to do to create wealth. Ham-fisted government regulations and additional taxes are known killers of economic growth. The investors' famine and the government's feast therefore are not merely coincidental, but causally connected.--Robert Higgs

[Woodrow] Wilson was the first president to criticize the Founding Fathers. He faulted them for designing a government too susceptible to factions that impede disinterested experts from getting on with government undistracted. Like Princeton's former president, Obama's grievance is with the greatest Princetonian, the "father of the Constitution," James Madison, Class of 1771.--George Will

[President Obama], like so many people who advocate further government intervention in health insurance, has been trying to confuse the issue for years--and he ended up confusing himself. President Clinton did it regularly, talking about tens of millions of people going without health care when what was really true was--and is--that tens of millions of people go without health insurance.--David Henderson

Even if you believe that the spending cuts and tax increases in the bill make it deficit-neutral, the legislation will still make solving the problem of the fiscal imbalance harder, because it will use up some of the easier ways to close the shortfall. The remaining options will be less attractive, making the eventual fiscal adjustment more painful.--Greg Mankiw

So…before you can amend a law, it has to be a law?--Michael Cannon

The real danger to our health comes from such myopic views of safety and a hyperconservative, opaque, and capricious FDA keeping useful medicines out of the hands of American doctors and patients. The FDA needs to be reminded that it is reviewing drugs for humans, not for rodents.--David R. Henderson, Charles L. Hooper

Negative liberty matters in part because it is a highly effective, if imperfect, way of promoting positive liberty. The result of freedom of thought, of freedom of association, of the division of labor within firms and of the specialization of roles that evolves between firms is that society becomes an unimaginably complex web of cooperation, moving ever further away from individual self-sufficiency. Although it may sound somewhat paradoxical, this is actually a contribution to positive freedom, because, as particular roles within society become redundant, a given individual grows less dependent on particular providers of a given service. Freedom in the positive sense can and sometimes does burgeon along with the increasing complexity of this web of interdependence.--David Schmidtz and Jason Brennan

The present worry is that the explication of natural selection by appeal to selective breeding is seriously misleading, and that it thoroughly misled Darwin. Because breeders have minds, there's a fact of the matter about what traits they breed for; if you want to know, just ask them. Natural selection, by contrast, is mindless; it acts without malice aforethought. That strains the analogy between natural selection and breeding, perhaps to the breaking point. What, then, is the intended interpretation when one speaks of natural selection? The question is wide open as of this writing.--Jerry Fodor

The title of the book, What Darwin Got Wrong (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), tells you their opinion of the old English naturalist and of his theory of evolution through natural selection. If Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini were an isolated case, one could dismiss their book with a grimace (if you were a biologist), or welcome them with a cheer (if you were a creationist). But in the philosophical community, there is an increasingly vocal cadre of eminent philosophers harboring doubts about Darwin. ... In a recent article, [New York University philosopher Thomas] Nagel argues that it is proper to teach intelligent design in the classroom. Doubting the Darwinian claim that the sources of variation are undirected, Nagel quotes Behe as an authority. "Are the sources of genetic variation uniformly random or not? That is the central issue, and the point of entry for defenders of ID," Nagel writes. He goes on to tell us that Behe's recent book, The Edge of Evolution, examines the "currently available evidence about the normal frequency and biochemical character of random mutations in the genetic material of several organisms." Nagel leaves the reader with the impression that Behe's concerns are well taken. Behe, according to Nagel, argues that "widely cited examples of evolutionary adaptation, including the development of immunity to antibiotics, when properly understood, cannot be extrapolated to explain the formation of complex new biological systems. These, he claims, would require mutations of a completely different order, mutations whose random probability, either as simultaneous multiple mutations or as sequences of separately adaptive individual mutations, is vanishingly small." ... Like [Alvin] Plantinga, Nagel is skeptical about the whole evolutionary enterprise. Suppose someone says that doubting evolutionary theory is equivalent to thinking the earth is flat. Nagel writes: "This seems to me, as an outsider, a vast underestimation of how much we do not know, and how much about the evolutionary process remains speculative and sketchy." He goes on to tell us that those who think we are now well on the track to understanding the mechanisms of evolution are wrong: "Nothing close to this has been done." And in a comment to which I shall refer below, he writes: "A great deal depends on the likelihood that the complex chemical systems we observe arose through a sufficiently long sequence of random mutations in DNA, each of which enhanced fitness. It is difficult to find in the accessible literature the grounds for evolutionary biologists' confidence about this." Naturally the origin-of-life issue is raised—and found wanting ("a complete scientific mystery at this point"). It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Nagel thinks that evolutionary biology is more happily accepted by nonbelievers than by theists: "This is just common sense."--Michael Ruse

... it is much more dangerous to publish a cartoon of Mohammed than to slice apart a Christian with a machete.--John Hinderacker

I converted to Christianity because I was convinced by Jesus Christ as a character, as a personality. I loved him, his wisdom, his love, his unconditional love. I didn't leave [the Islamic] religion to put myself in another box of religion. At the same time it's a beautiful thing to see my God exist in my life and see the change in my life. I see that when he does exist in other Middle Easterners there will be a change. I'm not trying to convert the entire nation of Israel and the entire nation of Palestine to Christianity. But at least if you can educate them about the ideology of love, the ideology of forgiveness, the ideology of grace. Those principles are great regardless, but we can't deny they came from Christianity as well.--Mosab Yousef, son of senior Hamas leader

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