Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quotes of the day

Failure is not something to be avoided. It may be an early warning sign for success.--Dan Heath

The [South] Korean fishing fleet gives off more light than all of [North] Korea except Pyongyang.--Eric

Real freedom is the absence of monopoly. --Arnold Kling

51% of the nation’s voters fear the federal government more than private insurance companies.--Rasmussen Reports

Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall.--Douglas Elmendorf

Four out of 10 Britons going abroad for surgery do so to avoid NHS waiting lists at home, a survey has revealed. ... The poll found that 34% of people went abroad because they were uninsured for particular treatments or surgery in the UK, while 32% wanted a treatment or surgery not available at home.--UK Press Association

In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to compare the human and veterinary health services of Great Britain, and on the whole it is better to be a dog. As a British dog, you get to choose (through an intermediary, I admit) your veterinarian. If you don’t like him, you can pick up your leash and go elsewhere, that very day if necessary. Any vet will see you straight away, there is no delay in such investigations as you may need, and treatment is immediate. There are no waiting lists for dogs, no operations postponed because something more important has come up, no appalling stories of dogs being made to wait for years because other dogs—or hamsters—come first. ... I also want, wherever I am, the Americans to go on paying for the great majority of the world’s progress in medical research and technological innovation by the preposterous expense of their system: for it is a truth universally acknowledged that American clinical research has long reigned supreme, so overall, the American health-care system must have been doing something right. The rest of the world soon adopts the progress, without the pain of having had to pay for it.--Theodore Dalrymple

... most of us realize that there are huge differences between price rationing and government rationing, and that the latter is usually much worse for everyone. This is one of the things that most puzzles me about the health care debate: statements that would strike almost anyone as stupid in the context of any other good suddenly become dazzling insights when they're applied to hip replacements and otitis media. ... But there is also a real difference between having something rationed by a process and having it rationed by a person. That is, in fact, why progressives are so fond of rules. They don't want to tell grandma to take morphine instead of getting a pacemaker. It's much nicer if you create a mathematical formula that makes some doctor tell grandma to take morphine instead of getting a pacemaker. Then the doctor can disclaim responsibility too, because after all, no one really has any agency here--we're all just in the grips of an impersonal force.--Megan McArdle

... things like going back to school, entering the peace corps, joining the army and declining immigration are signs of a bad economy. Even if they don't count as worker discouragement from a government stats perspective, they are, strictly speaking, symptoms of worker discouragement. So it's possible that we'll not hit the 10% [unemployment rate] number, but the number is pure fiction. What we want to know is whether people who want to work can find jobs -- and that isn't something which the unemployment rate, below or above 10% actually tells us.--Joe Weisenthal

In my own life, in my own small way, I have tried to give back to this country that has given me so much. See, that’s why I left a job at a big law firm for a career in public service.--Michelle Obama

What she doesn’t mention is that the helping industry has treated her pretty well. In 2006, the Chicago Tribune reported that Mrs. Obama’s compensation at the University of Chicago Hospital, where she is a vice president for community affairs, jumped from $121,910 in 2004, just before her husband was elected to the Senate, to $316,962 in 2005, just after he took office. And that does not count the money Mrs. Obama receives from serving on corporate boards.--Byron York

President Barack Obama reminds me of Felix the Cat. One of the best-loved cartoon characters of the 1920s, Felix was not only black. He was also very, very lucky. ... Six months in, Mr Obama still has the look of a lucky, two-term president. But that could change if voters become even more disenchanted with the legislative branch and start blaming the president for the looming fiscal train-wreck. The scariest possibility for Mr Obama is that the runaway deficit could leave him with the worst of both worlds: exploding debt and flat-lining growth.--Niall Ferguson

... if Joe Cassano (of AIG) was the "man who crashed the world," Spitzer was the guy who gave him the keys to the car. And all this for his supposed non-fraudulent responsibility for a barely material (if that) accounting mistake, plus, of course, the boost to Spitzer's then career.--Larry Ribstein

One of the few uncontested causes of the current crisis is the 2004 decision by the Securities and Exchange Commission to let the largest investment banks increase their leverage ratio from about 12-to-1 to 30-to-1, or even higher.--Megan McArdle

I think that the challenge is to come up with a reward system for the regulator/entrepreneurs. It isn't just fraud that you are trying to find. What you want is a set of incentives that in 2004 and 2005 would have rewarded the social entrepreneur for identifying and measuring the exposure of key financial firms to stress in the housing market and to the misbehavior in the mortgage market. It's even tougher than that, because there are two types of errors the regulator/entrepreneur can make. One is to fail to spot a dangerous situation. The other is to incorrectly characterize a benign situation as dangerous. Too much incentive to avoid one type of error will increase the errors of the other type.--Arnold Kling

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the House bill, however, is its reliance on regulators to recognize and rein in compensation practices that encourage risky actions by executives at financial services companies. Under the bill, federal regulators would write new rules to prevent “inappropriate or imprudently risky compensation practices” that could threaten the safety and soundness of major financial institutions. It’s hard to believe that regulators are savvy enough about both pay packages and risky compensation incentives at financial companies to recognize when either or both have become dysfunctional. Remember, these are the same regulators who allowed brokerage firms to increase their leverage to wildly high levels, who helped break down investor protections put in place during the Great Depression, who let big banks balloon their balance sheets with poisonous assets and who were unable to spot the decades-long fraud of Bernie Madoff. That’s some track record. How do you think they will do when it comes to pay? A much better fix would be to hold compensation committees and directors themselves accountable for pay policies and responsible for discouraging reckless managerial practices.--Gretchen Morgenson

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