Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quotes of the day

On average, bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists.--Victoria Medvec

While it's no longer possible to observe the scores of individual judges, [Eric] Zitzewitz analyzes whether having a home-country judge on the panel still results in a higher average score. He finds that the home-country bias gets even worse when anonymous judges can hide from a scrutinizing press and public, despite the barriers that anonymity may create for effective backroom deal-making. The home-judge advantage under the new system is about 20 percent higher than in the days of full disclosure. (Zitzewitz can't say how much of this increase in bias is from the home-country judge himself, and how much from others he's persuaded to go along with him; how each judge has scored a performance—and which judges' scores are counted—are kept secret.)--Ray Fisman

To paraphrase William Gibson: The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed.--Eric Barker

The people who surround us every day that hoard things a lot more subtle than phone books they can’t part with or clothing they’ve never even taken out of the shopping bags or food that has long gone bad. I thought about the people who hoard things like hurt and shame and guilt. You can’t see those people nearly as easily. Unlike the cat woman who had dozens of decomposing dead cats within her house, they never smell so strongly that neighbors alert the authorities.--Jon Acuff

Like legitimate art, legitimate criticism is a tragicomic holding action against entropy.--John Gardner

Surely building a company that sells a product and is accountable to shareholders is nothing like being a law dean and being accountable to a university president or maybe a subordinate. So I wouldn't want to get carried away with this analogy.--Larry Ribstein

A supply-chain manager in a retail operation works long days, and the only studying he can afford to do is on topics that may bore him to tears, but which is essential in order to keep up with the market and maintain his salary. A professor, on the other hand, studies what interests her. She reads hours and hours on topics that engage her aesthetically and intellectually. To then chalk up all those hours and hold them equivalent to the work of an HR manager who spends his day handling personnel disputes is pretty disingenuous. Look, no one here is begrudging you your career choice or lifestyle. But try to peer outside your world a bit and understand that you are, compared to the average American, extremely privileged economically. And a great many of your colleagues, who are fortunate to make more than you while living in lower-cost parts of the country, are even more so. Just keep that in mind when you want to push the argument that the lot of you are leftists because you simply aren’t as materialistic as the rest of us.--Tony Woodlief, to professor Laurie Fendrich

We forget that when Thomas Carlyle coined the epithet “the dismal science”, he was condemning not the gloomy Malthus but John Stuart Mill and his stubborn, infuriating opposition to slavery.--Tim Harford

We are agnostics living deep in the heart of Texas and our family fakes Christianity for social reasons. It’s not so much for the sake of my husband or myself but for our young children. We found by experience that if we were truthful about not being regular church attenders, the play dates suddenly ended. Thus started the faking of the religious funk. It seemed silly but it’s all very serious business down here. We don’t go to church or teach or children one belief is “right” over another. We expose them to every kind of belief and trust that they will one day settle in to their very own spirituality. However, for the sake of friends and neighbors, we pretend we are Christians. We try not to lie but rather not to disclose unnecessary information. As the children are getting older, this isn’t so easy for them and an outing is probably eminent. We are not the only ones. We have found a few other fakers out there.--unnamed Freakonomics reader

Zero fiscal multiplier: European version ... OK all you Keynesian macro modelers; raise your hand if you included the likely central bank reaction function in your fiscal multiplier estimates. That’s what I thought.--Scott Sumner

Does Mr. Cohen really think the government is always accountable to the people? Let me guess that Mr. Cohen was opposed to the invasion of Iraq. Who exactly does he think did this? Hint: it wasn’t a corporation.--Todd Henderson

The [Robin Hood] tax [on banks' financial transactions] would certainly be attractive if, like a tax on carbon dioxide or congestion, it reduced destructive activities. But would it? James Tobin and John Maynard Keynes both proposed taxes on financial transactions and each believed that the tax would reduce financial volatility. This is possible but far from obvious, when you realise that the tax might encourage bigger, more irregular financial transactions. An analogy: if I have to pay a charge whenever I use a cash machine, I make fewer, larger withdrawals and the amount of money in my wallet fluctuates more widely. Bear in mind, too, that the most bubble-prone asset market is for housing, which is bought in very lumpy, long-term chunks.--Tim Harford

As far as spotting bubbles, however, [Paul Krugman is] not so brilliant. Like most people he calls price patterns bubbles when he can’t explain them in terms of fundamentals. BTW, what would Hayek think if he came back today and found so many people who confidently knew when markets were overpriced? Why do we even need markets? If it so obvious what the correct price is, let’s bring back Soviet-style central planning. (On the other hand, even the Soviets couldn’t have done much worse than some of our bankers.)--Scott Sumner

Fundamentally, Obama has failed as a politician -- his top priority is much less popular now than it was when he started. You can blame that on Republican intransigence, on the economy, or on messaging, but the bottom line is that his job is to shepherd legislation around those obstacles, and he hasn't done that. George W. Bush was terrible on policy but tremendously effective at getting his agenda through. The way he did that was not by attempting grand bipartisan compromises, but by creating a political climate in which moderates from the other party found it in their best interests to cooperate. Obama has done just the opposite: with the Tea Party movement scaring the crap out of moderate Republicans, they can't support him even if they agree with his policies. I don't see a way for this dynamic to reverse before the 2010 elections.--aka Jesse Livermore

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