Monday, September 27, 2010

Quotes of the day

As President Obama put it at the U.N., millions of people “have relied on food assistance for decades. [But] that’s not development, that’s dependence, and it’s a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and peoples a path out of poverty.” The problem is not with the analysis but rather with the president’s implicit claim that we know how to offer peoples and nations such a path. This, too, is an article of faith in the development world, as will be well know to anyone familiar with the ignorant if well-intended antics of a Bono or a Bob Geldof, or, for that matter of academics like Jeffrey Sachs, whose 2005 book, titled with Sach’s typical modesty, The End of Poverty, makes a negligible contribution to development theory but will be of riveting interest to future scholars of early twenty-first-century utopianism. The stark fact is that only if one fetishizes the idea of civil society as a kind of universal ideological solvent, and believes that, in tandem with scientific innovation, the road to our collective salvation is now open to us, can such optimism be justified.--David Rieff

Well, that’s why [Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps] was an Ivy League liberal’s fantasy. “I’m going to go to Wall Street and solve the world’s energy problems while riding expensive motorcycles and having sex with a semi-attractive woman in my TriBeCa loft.”--Credit Suisse analyst

I used to get really upset when I had a down year. Now that I’ve been doing it this long, I have a much easier time. What matters, ultimately, is the track ­record I have over time.--David Tepper

Tepper admits he can be difficult. “I used to be worse,” he says over the phone. “When I was at Goldman, I’d say things to people like, ‘Do you know what a schmuck is? Go look in the mirror.’ Now I’m kinder and gentler. Aren’t I kinder and gentler?” he asks his employees. In the background there’s silence.--Jessica Pressler

[John Kenneth Galbraith's] "A Theory of Price Control," which was published in 1952 to favorable reviews but infinitesimal sales, was his one and only contribution to the purely professional economics literature. Thereafter this most acerbic critic of free markets prospered by giving the market what it wanted. Now comes the test of whether his popular writings will endure longer than the memory of his celebrity and the pleasure of his prose. "The Great Crash" has a fighting chance, because of its very lack of analytical pretense. "History that reads like a poem," raved Mark Van Doren in his review of the 1929 book. Or, he might have judged, that eats like whipped cream. But the other books in this volume seem destined for only that kind of immortality conferred on amusing period pieces. When, for example, Galbraith complains in "The Affluent Society" that governments can't borrow enough, or that the Federal Reserve is powerless to resist inflation, you wonder what country he was writing about, or even what planet he was living on.--James Grant

[G.K. Chesterton] is not joining some great conversation with Duns Scotus, Aristotle, and Nietszche. Rather he is in a constant scrum with Bertrand Russell, Benjamin Kidd, Cecil Rhodes, H.G. Wells, Sidney Webb, Edward Carpenter, W.T. Stead, etc… Notably, only half those names live on and most are dimmer than Chesterton’s. Judged in that company he is sterling. When was the last time you saw an H.G. Wells insight applied to anything? If Chesterton were alive today a similar list would be something like, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Karen Armstrong … Marty Peretz, Stephen Hawking, and Jonathan Chait. If I were going to produce a polemic against Karen Armstrong’s book The History of God – and I dearly would like to – you might be satisfied with a clever review. You wouldn’t chastise me for failing to produce the Summa Theologica. To criticize Chesterton in this regard seems unfair. Besides The Everlasting Man, his books are mostly recycled newspaper material. Next to a considered book of philosophy, Chesterton seems a little smug. Next to a cartoon and letters to the editor and in response to his actual opponents, he’s not only a genius, but a delightful one.--Michael Brendan Dougherty

In Concord, the Minutemen clashed with the British at the Old North Bridge within sight of a man enslaved in the local minister’s house. The fact that there was slavery in the town that helped birth American liberty doesn’t mean we shouldn’t celebrate the sacrifices made by the Minutemen. But it does mean New England has to catch up with the rest of the country, in much of which residents have already wrestled with their dual legacies of freedom and slavery.--Elise Lemire

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