Thursday, February 11, 2010

Quotes of the day

Markets don't reward merit; they reward value--two very different things. ... the idea that value creation is a one-way street from the top to the bottom is not just offensive, but it ignores the principle of comparative advantage, a key breakthrough in market theory. Put simply, this principle holds that everyone benefits by exchanging goods and services with everyone else, regardless of anyone's inherent capabilities. ... The beauty of the market, Hayek brilliantly pointed out, is that it allows people to use knowledge of their particular circumstances to generate something valuable for others. And circumstances, he emphasized, are a matter of chance--not of gift. Furthermore, since no two people's circumstances are ever identical, every producer potentially has something--some information, some skill or some resource--that no one else does, giving him a unique market edge. ... [Free markets] close the talent-gap by allowing people to ferret out and market whatever they've got--even, regrettably, Paris Hilton. In America, for instance, there are opportunities galore for funny people--standup comedy, late-night talk shows, etc.--who may have no head for math or science. Their sense of humor is a prized commodity, a gateway to riches and fame, instead of social ridicule as it would have been in the India of yore. But markets don't just expand and democratize the concept of merit; they render it moot. No longer does it matter what great qualities reside in you. What matters is if you can make them work for others. The concept of merit is replaced by that of value. Merit is intrinsic, concentrated and atomistic; value is relational, decentralized and social.--Shikha Dalmia

What were entities like CalPers and the Church of England doing plowing their money in along with real estate moguls like Tishman Speyer? The answer is "looking for alpha". Underfunded pension funds have been looking for extra return in order to make up the holes . . . and the problem is worst among public pension funds, because until recently, their accounting wasn't very good, so politicians were fond of making unfunded promises in lieu of wages. Needless to say, public pension funds cannot necessarily afford to attract top investment talent, particularly since appointments tend to have a political as well as financial component. ... Public pension funds shouldn't be trying to make up their deficiencies by chasing unrealistically high returns. Of course, if politicians and their appointees had the courage to pay for the gifts they gave public employees, rather than looking for loopholes, we wouldn't be in this mess in the first place.--Megan McArdle

Tebow's opinion on one of the nation's most contentious issues likely formed in the womb. Had Pam Tebow followed doctor's orders in 1987 and aborted her pregnancy, there wouldn't be a Tim Tebow for TMZ to publish shirtless photographs of. The younger Tebow won't apologize for his stance, even though he knows a lot of people will hate him for it. Tebow refuses to be one of those corporate jocks who only worships tiny pictures of Benjamin Franklin. That's probably for the best; we don't tend to learn what those jocks believe in until a 9-iron hits a window.--Andy Staples

Pam Tebow and her son feel good enough about that choice to want to tell people about it. Only, [the National Organization for Women] says they shouldn't be allowed to. Apparently NOW feels this commercial is an inappropriate message for America to see for 30 seconds, but women in bikinis selling beer is the right one. I would like to meet the genius at NOW who made that decision. On second thought, no, I wouldn't. ... See, the best way to deal with unwanted pregnancy is to not get the sperm in the egg and the egg implanted to begin with, and that is an issue for men, too -- and they should step up to that. ... If the pro-choice stance is so precarious that a story about someone who chose to carry a risky pregnancy to term undermines it, then CBS is not the problem. --Sally Jenkins

[Elizabeth] Gilbert had found a new man to love and a sense of the transcendent. She swore, however, that she would never remarry. Like all of us who swear that we will never do something—and then sheepishly retract it—Gilbert has lived to eat her words.--Cindy Crosby

Modern feminists are rightly alert to the insidious effect of women-only laws, which would, happily, be struck down as unconstitutional today. Why aren't they libertarians? The Brandeis brief is only one example of how dumb science is invoked to support bad policies. The progressive era is replete with special favors to agriculture and labor that bear no relationship to the disinterested scientific model, unless strong labor unions, with mighty strike potential, and agriculture cooperatives that burn crops rest on some deep progressive insights that elude those now obsolete defenders of laissez-faire.--Richard Epstein

Some Republicans, not named Paul Ryan, who participated in a government shutdown to force Medicare cuts in 1995 are now railing against the idea that the Democrats' health care plan would force Medicare cuts. That's the problem.--Derek Thompson

[Gary] Johnson wears his ideology on his sleeve--not up his sleeve, which is what I think that Obama did with his vague, gauzy campaign rhetoric.--Arnold Kling

I wonder who on the current staff is expected to win a Nobel prize.--Greg Mankiw

It appears consistent with the view that female orgasm has an evolved adaptive function.--Evolution & Human Behavior

Two new biographies of Palin—along with the self-proclaimed hockey mom’s own memoir, Going Rogue, which set a record for advance orders—are helping to make sure that she won’t fade away any time soon. Together, this trio of books offers more information and context about Palin than all but her most ardent detractors and fans could possibly stand. Yet the volumes, alone or together, still don’t give a clear picture of either the woman herself or what it is about her that drives her fans and critics alike to the edge of insanity. More important, the books strongly, if unintentionally, suggest that Palin does not have what it takes to redefine a Republican Party whose future looks about as bright as that of General Motors. Despite her impressive fan base and her ability to turn out huge crowds, Palin’s own program for “The Way Forward” (as she names a chapter in Going Rogue) makes plain that she is last year’s political model, a vehicle for a backward-looking GOP bent on blending generic social conservatism, small-government encomiums, big government spending, unconvincing outsider outrage, and status quo foreign adventurism. With a Saint Reagan statue firmly glued to the dashboard, of course. ... In light of candidate Obama’s notorious statement about fearful rubes clinging to their guns and their religion, Palin and Obama have emerged as archetypal opponents for a new generation of American politicians, with Palin as a pragmatic nativist and Obama as an idealistic cosmopolitan. Though neither speaks a foreign language, they are night and day, fire and ice, Alaska and Hawaii.--Nick Gillespie

The myth of the academic meritocracy powerfully affects students from families that believe in education, that may or may not have attained a few undergraduate degrees, but do not have a lot of experience with how access to the professions is controlled. Their daughter goes to graduate school, earns a doctorate in comparative literature from an Ivy League university, everyone is proud of her, and then they are shocked when she struggles for years to earn more than the minimum wage. (Meanwhile, her brother—who was never very good at school—makes a decent living fixing HVAC systems with a six-month certificate from a for-profit school near the Interstate.) Unable even to consider that something might be wrong with higher education, mom and dad begin to think there is something wrong with their daughter, and she begins to internalize that feeling.--Thomas Benton

... people are more likely to be drawn toward those whose surnames begin with a shared letter (e.g., "B" people gave more money to Bush in 2000, "G"s gave more to Gore) and more likely to look favorably on those who share their birthday. This appears to hold true on the road: Studies have found, for example, that drivers are less likely to honk at cars of similar perceived status as their own.--Tom Vanderbilt

When I am blogging this material, you know I have too much time on my hands at home. I'm not usually this grumpy but I've been locked up for days.--Tyler Cowen

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