Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quotes of the day

Might the rising share of the top 1 percent be related to the increasing use of English as a global language?--Greg Mankiw

International marriages are often attacked as exploitative, because they typically take place between an older richer man and a younger, less well-educated woman from a poor country. Terrible examples of abuse do exist. Yet the evidence suggests that international marriages often last longer than average and that migrant wives come to play important roles in their husband’s host country. Marriage remains, for the most part, an institution that promotes economic improvement and personal happiness. It also tends to boost social assimilation—the main exception being when a second-generation immigrant weds a girl from a village his parents had left long before.--Economist

So it's one thing to say [skill players who can dictate terms to the defense] they are the future and another to actually find enough people to make that future a reality. Just like at the quarterback position, there are simply more job openings than there are qualified candidates. Wanted: 6-foot-6 freak athlete who can run a 4.5 40, has incredible hands, is willing and able to block 300-pound defensive ends, and can immediately memorize a 1,000-page playbook. No appointment necessary.--Chris Brown

THE Occupy Wall Street movement has raised important questions about the respect paid to wealth in our society. There is a good deal of unfairness in the American economy, and by deliberately targeting the “top 1 percent,” the demonstrators have opened up a dialogue that is quite useful. Nonetheless, as someone from a conservative and libertarian background, I find that I am hearing too much talk about riches and not enough about values. It’s worth recalling why so many Americans have respected the wealthy in the first place.
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The relevant question, in my view, is not about how much you have earned but about how you have earned it. To further confuse matters, many right-wing Republican politicians supported corporate bailouts and corporate welfare far beyond what was necessary to stabilize the economy, in doing so further muddying the difference between productive and predatory capitalism.--Tyler Cowen

The Clinch River Breeder Reactor. The Synthetic Fuels Corporation. The hydrogen car. Clean coal. These are but a few examples spanning several decades — a graveyard of costly and failed projects. Not a single one of these much-ballyhooed initiatives is producing or saving a drop or a watt or a whiff of energy, but they have managed to burn through far more more taxpayer money than the ill-fated Solyndra. An Energy Department report in 2008 estimated that the federal government had spent $172 billion since 1961 on basic research and the development of advanced energy technologies. What does Washington have to show for these investments? And should the government even be in the business of promoting particular energy technologies?--Steven Mufson

... Hoover's Peter Schweizer's new book claims that 80% of the loans in the DOE program that Solyndra tapped went to companies owned or run by Obama backers.  Of course, one would expect that most "green energy" types would be enthusiastic Democrats.  Still, the thing has a certain whiff about it.  Then today we learn that Solyndra, which was originally going to announce layoffs in late October 2010, held off on the announcement until November 3rd (aka election day).  And they seem to have done so at the behest of the White House.  I think the very least you can say is that the political side became inappropriately entangled with the technocratic side of this loan.  It undermines one's faith in both the program, and the administration.  Obviously, this is not the worst thing that any president has ever done, or even in the top 100.  But it's not a good thing.  And the people who support these sorts of technocratic subsidies should be the first people, not the last, to decry the actions which have tainted the program.--Megan McArdle

Both [Paul] Krugman and [Larry] Summers spent a lot of time saying that they agreed with each other — with one big difference. They both quoted Keynes as diagnosing “magneto trouble” — the engine of the economy is broken, and it needs to be fixed. Summers has faith that, in Churchill’s phrase, “Americans can always be counted on to do the right thing, after they have exhausted all other possibilities” — the right thing, here, being to fix the magneto with expansionary fiscal and monetary policy. Krugman, by contrast, sees political gridlock as far as the eye can see, and says that it doesn’t matter how innovative or philanthropic or demographically attractive the U.S. is — if you don’t fix the magneto, the car won’t start, and America’s magneto ain’t gonna get fixed any time soon.
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So, do I think that North America faces a Japan-style era of high unemployment and slow growth? I’ll agree with Summers and Krugman on this one: yes, it does. Will it manage to do what’s necessary to avoid that fate? That’s something no one can know with any certainty. But life’s certainly a lot easier if you believe that it will.--Felix Salmon

Banks pour huge amounts of money into one particular asset class. They are encouraged to do this by public policymakers, although there is some dispute about whether that was the main reason for their decisions. These assets have a long tradition of doing well, although a close look at the evidence would have raised red flags. The asset market in question suddenly takes a big dive as default risk increases sharply. This drags down many large banks, forcing policymakers to provide assistance. What have I just described? The sub-prime fiasco or the PIGS sovereign debt fiasco? I’d say both. I’d say these two crises are essentially identical.--Scott Sumner

There is one group that is not smiling about these new, low-cost teeth-whitening services: the Connecticut Dental Commission. In June, the Commission ruled it is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail or $25,000 in civil penalties for anyone but a licensed dentist to offer teeth-whitening services, even if the customers apply the product to their own teeth. Teeth-whitening products are regulated by the FDA as cosmetics, which mean anyone—even a child—can purchase them and apply them to his or her own teeth without a prescription and without supervision or instruction. The Dental Commission's ruling has nothing to do with public health or safety and everything to do with protecting licensed dentists from honest competition.--Institute for Justice

People who are wise, good, smart, skillful, or hardworking don't need politics, they have jobs.--P.J. O'Rourke

The U.S. Constitution is less than a quarter the length of the owner's manual for a 1998 Toyota Camry, and yet it has managed to keep 300 million of the world's most unruly, passionate and energetic people safe, prosperous and free.--P.J O'Rourke

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