Monday, March 15, 2010

Quotes of the day

The long-term unemployed tend to lose confidence in their abilities, their resources to finance their consumption gets depleted, and their skills begin to depreciate. They may be forced to uproot their families to move to new communities where employment is more readily available. As a result of all these factors, their family life undergoes considerable stress, which leads to marital problems, and not infrequently to divorce. These effects are all reasons why special attention has to be given to reducing the rate of long-term unemployment, and mitigating some of its harmful effects. ... The only real remedy for the long-term (and other) unemployed is to have the economy grow fast, as it did after the severe recession in 1982 when unemployment peaked in December of that year at 10.8%, and then fell rather rapidly. There is no magic bullet to accomplish this, but I do believe it would help a lot if the leaders in Washington did not try to radically transform various aspects of the economy while we are recovering from a serious recession, and thereby magnify the high degree of uncertainty that is typically caused by a recession. Instead, they should be concentrating on fighting the recession, and stimulating long-term economic growth.--Gary Becker

... say goodbye to the made-up, non-existent, never-happened, figment of their imagination “naked short-selling scandal” that brought down America.--Jeff Matthews

[Steve] Ballmer’s father, of course, was not alone. All the car companies used to feed spanking-new, smokin’-hot, top-of-the-line models to ‘the suits.’ That’s why the suits never saw the Japanese coming. And Ballmer—like father, like son, it would seem—is doing the same for Microsoft. It’s been four years since we here at NotMakingThisUp flagged that intransigence as a potentially fatal flaw—and that was back when the iPod was the hot new product. Of course, the iPod long ago made Microsoft’s “Zune” music player as extinct as monks transcribing bibles. More recently, it is the iPhone that has been pushing Microsoft’s own smart-phone software off the shelves and into computer museums, where it belongs.--Jeff Matthews

Why should the solution to global warming be decided by rich country technocrats? Is this an environmental version of the White Man’s Burden, that rich country environmentalists patronizingly impose their solutions on the rest of the world?--William Easterly

Andrew Montford’s The Hockey Stick Illusion is one of the best science books in years. It exposes in delicious detail, datum by datum, how a great scientific mistake of immense political weight was perpetrated, defended and camouflaged by a scientific establishment that should now be red with shame. It is a book about principal components, data mining and confidence intervals—subjects that have never before been made thrilling. It is the biography of a graph. ... People make mistakes in science. Corrections get made. That’s how it works, is it not? Few papers get such scrutiny as this had. But that is an even more worrying thought: how much dodgy science is being published without the benefit of an audit by Mcintyre’s ilk? As a long-time champion of science, I find the reaction of the scientific establishment more shocking than anything. The reaction was not even a shrug: it was shut-eyed denial. If this had been a drug trial done by a pharmaceutical company, the scientific journals, the learned academies and the press would have soon have rushed to discredit it—and rightly so. Instead, they did not want to know.--Matt Ridley

Surveys are proliferating like Japanese knotweed. They borrow the authority of statistics to lend an air of truth to otherwise implausible claims.--Nigel Hawkes

It’s science’s dirtiest secret: The “scientific method” of testing hypotheses by statistical analysis stands on a flimsy foundation. Statistical tests are supposed to guide scientists in judging whether an experimental result reflects some real effect or is merely a random fluke, but the standard methods mix mutually inconsistent philosophies and offer no meaningful basis for making such decisions. Even when performed correctly, statistical tests are widely misunderstood and frequently misinterpreted. As a result, countless conclusions in the scientific literature are erroneous, and tests of medical dangers or treatments are often contradictory and confusing. Replicating a result helps establish its validity more securely, but the common tactic of combining numerous studies into one analysis, while sound in principle, is seldom conducted properly in practice. ... Over the years, hundreds of published papers have warned that science’s love affair with statistics has spawned countless illegitimate findings. In fact, if you believe what you read in the scientific literature, you shouldn’t believe what you read in the scientific literature. ... it appeared that Paxil might be more dangerous than Prozac. But actually, the rate of suicidal incidents was higher with Prozac than with Paxil. The apparent safety advantage of Prozac was due not to the behavior of kids on the drug, but to kids on placebo — in the Paxil trials, fewer kids on placebo reported incidents than those on placebo in the Prozac trials. So the original evidence for showing a possible danger signal from Paxil but not from Prozac was based on data from people in two placebo groups, none of whom received either drug. Consequently it can be misleading to use statistical significance results alone when comparing the benefits (or dangers) of two drugs.--Tom Siegfried

Don't make a decision based on a single faculty member. He or she may leave or turn out to be not quite as wonderful as you now presume.--Greg Mankiw

[David] Brooks is turning out to be like Big Bird to Obama's Snuffaluffagus! He's the only one who can see the real Obama and nobody believes him.--Jonah Goldberg

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