Thursday, October 20, 2011

Quotes of the day

One of the sad signs of our times is that we have demonized those who produce, subsidized those who refuse to produce, and canonized those who complain.--Thomas Sowell

... Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined is a doorstop of a book about the progress of non-violence and humanitarianism in Western civilization whose index contains no references to Francis of Assisi, Bartolome De Las Casas, or William Wilberforce, and whose author betrays not even the slightest interest in the various sympathetic and provocative accounts of religion’s role in the development of the modern West and modern world.--Ross Douthat

We must hit the QB hard and often. QB's are over-rated, over-paid, pompous bastards and must be punished. Great pass coverage is a direct result of a great pass rush, and a great pass rush is simply a relentless desire to get to the QB.--Buddy Ryan

Steven Jobs, the late co-founder of Apple Computer, and Steven Chu, the current secretary of Energy, are both examples of super-achievers. Jobs created an innovative company that is currently among the most valuable in the world as measured by stock market capitalization. Chu earned a Nobel Prize in physics and sees himself as a leader in the battle against global warming. At this point, it seems likely that Jobs will be remembered as having contributed significantly to human progress. Chu's historical legacy is more problematic. Assuming that Chu's efforts at promoting solar power and electric automobiles are no more successful than the Carter-era effort to build a breeder reactor, they will end in dismal failure. Is there a lesson to be learned from this about where society should want its super-achievers to perform?
The U.S. Constitution was designed to thwart super-achievers in the public sector. However, by the middle of the 20th century our culture venerated super-achievers in office, and we no longer look to the Constitution to impose the restraints it once seemed to enumerate. Unless our culture changes, Constitutional restraints on power will not be resurrected. The longing for super-achievers in government is dangerous and misguided. The power that has accumulated in Washington, state capitals, and local governmental units is more than can be exercised responsibly. We have set ourselves up for disappointment and failure. What if, instead of doling out loan guarantees as secretary of Energy, Steven Chu were to set up a private venture capital fund to invest in the sort of projects he thinks are worthwhile? As a private venture capitalist, Chu might not be able to exert as much leverage on the industry as he can in his role as dispenser of taxpayer-funded guarantees. Power in the private sector is more dispersed. Most of the people who exercise it do not have credentials as impressive as Chu's Nobel Prize in physics. Still, the United States would be better off if super-achievers like Chu felt driven to pursue their goals in the private sector rather than through the institution of government. I would like to see a culture where super-achievers look to the (non-banking) private sector as the arena for attempting to realize their visions. Government should be an arena for quiet competence, not for those who aspire to great achievement.--Arnold Kling

The price black people pay for being free thinkers in this country is a very, very cruel one. Ask Clarence Thomas.--John Nolte

Federal employees whose compensation averages more than $126,000 and the nation’s greatest concentration of lawyers helped Washington edge out San Jose as the wealthiest U.S. metropolitan area, government data show. The U.S. capital has swapped top spots with Silicon Valley, according to recent Census Bureau figures, with the typical household in the Washington metro area earning $84,523 last year. The national median income for 2010 was $50,046.
Last year Washington also had the most lawyers per capita in the U.S. compared with the 50 states, with one for every 12 city residents, according to figures from the American Bar Association and the Census Bureau. In New York State the figure was one out of every 123 residents, while in California the ratio was one in 243. Associate attorneys in the Washington area who have worked between one and eight years had a median salary of $186,250, compared with the national median for their peers of $123,521, according to a survey by the Washington-based National Association for Law Placement.  Lobbyists play a prominent role in the Washington economy. In 2010 there were 12,964 registered lobbyists, with most working in or around the nation’s capital, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington- based research group that tracks political spending. Spending on lobbying efforts reached a record $3.51 billion last year, up from $3.49 billion in 2009.
--Frank Bass and Timothy R. Homan

A New England Journal of Medicine article this morning really gets at this tension, between the good of job creation and bad of growing health costs. It suggests that a key driver behind our health-care job growth is a decline in productivity. We’re adding more workers, the article argues, because, in the aggregate, each health-care worker is doing less. And that’s the opposite of every other industry sector that’s growing right now.--Sarah Kliff

There may be a trade-off between practicality and conveying status. Apprenticeships offer the former, but internships offer the latter.--Arnold Kling

How Does Your Kindergarten Classroom Affect Your Earnings? is one of the most impressive empirical papers ever written. The data collection is amazing. The empirical analysis is clear and careful. Above all else, the authors' methods are transparent. Lesser authors would have buried the conflicting findings. Chetty et al. took the high road. Unfortunately, the world is so eager for stories about the power of early education that their paper is being badly misinterpreted. Chetty et al. don't confirm romantic hopes about teachers that change young minds forever. Despite their pro-education tone, they expose these hopes as wishful thinking.--Bryan Caplan

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