Monday, October 26, 2009

Quotes of the day

... an artist listens to his inner calling and hopes the public agrees. A business person listens to the audience and gives them what they want.--Scott Adams

Maybe my thesis is perfectly banal: The course of personal technology is centripetal. Things come together.--Derek Thompson

Just as the Nobel Committee awarded President Obama the Peace Prize in anticipation of his future achievements, the stock market has anticipated a recovery in the economy.--David Einhorn

Deposit insurance is the cause of the banking crisis.--Charles Calomiris

The $787 billion Obama stimulus package that was supposed to keep U.S. unemployment at under 8% will not only fail to keep it under 10%. But by mid-2010 “fiscal stimulus will be contributing little to further growth.” As for President Obama’s big promise last January to create 3.5 or 4 million new American jobs. Forget it. “Unemployment is unlikely to end 2010 much below its current levels.” [Christina] Romer’s admission was startling. You’ll recall that it was her January 10th paper that outlined what a mighty job machine the Obama presidency would be. Every 1% boost in GDP would get a million new jobs. Now here we are running stimulus-heavy budget deficits that will total almost $3 trillion over this year and next. GDP is on the rise again. And still, no new jobs.--Evan Newmark

Forced to take a taxi, [president of the NY Fed Timothy] Geithner turns to his colleague and says that he has no cash. Perhaps this would have been a moment to teach the head of the New York Fed how to use an ATM. --Arnold Kling

There is a well-known finding that people who get flu vaccinations have lower death rates than people who do not. But this finding is not based on an experiment. It is instead based on observation of people who choose to get shots and people who do not. My hypothesis is that people who get flu shots are more conscientious than people who do not, and more conscientious people have lower death rates. Whatever the reason, the article cites research where what economists would call "natural experiments" show that flu shots do not affect death rates. --Arnold Kling

When a group is discriminated against, as women clearly were at the time [I think of some of the stories Milton Friedman's secretary Gloria Valentine, told me about how women were treated in the 1960s when she worked for Continental Bank], narrowing the pay differential reduces the cost of discriminating and, therefore, leads to more discrimination than otherwise. It's surprising that [Steven] Levitt, in particular, who hails Gary Becker's work on economics, misses this key insight from Becker's classic book, based on his dissertation, The Economics of Discrimination.--David Henderson

When health plans are not allowed to compete on price, they will not compete (in a positive way) in any other dimension either.--John Goodman

Reform advocates start with anecdotes about the underprivileged who are uninsured, then turn around and propose something that would hurt at least some members of that group.--Tyler Cowen

The promise of the public plan is a mirage. Its political brilliance is to use free-market rhetoric (more "choice" and "competition") to expand government power. But why would a plan tied to Medicare control health spending, when Medicare hasn't? From 1970 to 2007, Medicare spending per beneficiary rose 9.2 percent annually compared to the 10.4 percent of private insurers -- and the small difference partly reflects cost shifting. Congress periodically improves Medicare benefits, and there's a limit to how much squeezing reimbursement rates can check costs. Doctors and hospitals already complain that low payments limit services or discourage physicians from taking Medicare patients. --Robert Samuelson

FAIRNESS is in the eye of the beholder, but nothing about a government-run health care system strikes me as fair. Squeezing providers would save the rest of us money, but so would a special tax levied only on health care workers, and that is manifestly inequitable. In the end, it would be a mistake to expect too much from health insurance reform. A competitive system of private insurers, lightly regulated to ensure that the market works well, would offer Americans the best health care at the best prices. The health care of the future won’t come cheap, but a public option won’t make it better.--Greg Mankiw

Perhaps Blankfein could learn a few things from New England Patriot coach Bill Belichick. The coach doesn’t care if people like him or his team. He frustrates reports with terse, evasive answers in news conferences. His staff was accused of covertly video tapping a New York Jets practice to learn their plays. And when he loses (like after the Pats’ surprise loss to the NY Giants in the Superbowl in 2008), he’s been known not to shake hands with the opposing coach. What Belichick cares mostly about is winning. In short, the Patriots, like Goldman Sachs, is a team that a lot of people love to hate and probably often will. It is one of the tradeoffs that comes with success.--Michael Corkery

Why would prosecutors try so hard to ruin the lives of so many individuals, even with the evidence so tenuous? Money, of course! The Enron Task Force has proven to be a great springboard for lucrative private-sector careers.--Joe Weisenthal

Not everyone in Houston was rejoicing, but for [journalist Bethany] McLean, it was a special moment, for she was a journalist who actually had a vested interest in this verdict. You see, McLean had a secret "romantic" relationship at the time to the lead federal prosecutor, Sean Berkowitz. After the trial but before the sentencing hearing, the two became engaged and married a while later, and the guilty verdict meant a financial payday for the happy couple. (Immediately after the guilty verdict, McLean went to Chicago for Berkowitz's birthday party.) Berkowitz, now a "star," would leave the Department of Justice for a partnership with the wealthy and high-powered law firm of Latham & Watkins in Chicago. McLean parlayed her Enron success to a new position at Vanity Fair, where she has written that Fannie and Freddie really were the good guys in the latest financial meltdown.--William Anderson

Mark Twain once said, "Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel." Well, the web has changed that. Now you can pick a fight and get the word out and not be afraid that you can't defend yourself when you come under attack. And I bet that drives many people at the NY Times, the WaPost, the L.A. Times, and others crazy.--David Henderson

The circulation figures for the top 25 dailies in the US are out, and they're horrifying. The median decline is well into the teens; only the Wall Street Journal gained (very slightly). I think we're witnessing the end of the newspaper business, full stop, not the end of the newspaper business as we know it. The economics just aren't there. At some point, industries enter a death spiral: too few consumers raises their average costs, meaning they eventually have to pass price increases onto their customers. That drives more customers away. Rinse and repeat . . .--Megan McArdle

I'm trying to come up with a good Halloween costume. ... One idea is to wear a Barack Obama name tag with my regular clothes. Then I'll wait for someone to say, "Barack Obama? How's that Barack Obama? I had such high expectations for your costume and all you did was...oh, wait. I get it."--Scott Adams

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