Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Quotes of the day

Everyone wants to think they’re smarter than the poor souls in developing countries, and smarter than their predecessors. They’re wrong. And we can prove it.--Carmen Reinhart

Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?--Tom Gilovich

Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. (The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation of a child’s value in five ruthless words: “Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”) Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses. ... [Kei Nomaguchi and Melissa A. Milkie] found that the most depressed people were single fathers, and Milkie speculates that perhaps it’s because they wanted to be involved in their children’s lives but weren’t. Robin Simon finds something similar: The least depressed parents are those whose underage children are in the house, and the most are those whose aren’t. This finding seems significant. Technically, if parenting makes you unhappy, you should feel better if you’re spared the task of doing it. But if happiness is measured by our own sense of agency and meaning, then noncustodial parents lose. They’re robbed of something that gives purpose and reward.--Jennifer Senior

The 5.5% of disposable income that Americans spend on food at home is less than half the amount of income spent by Germans (11.4%), the French (13.6%), the Italians (14.4%), and less than one-third the amount of income spent by consumers in South Africa (20.1%), Mexico (24.1%), and Turkey (24.5%), which is about what Americans spent DURING THE GREAT DEPRESSION, and far below what consumers spend in Kenya (45.9%) and Pakistan (45.6%).--Mark Perry

Keynesians believe in the paradox of thrift. Saving never increases investment. Instead, if any sector of the economy tries to increase saving, the result is to reduce income. From this perspective, any sector that increases its saving is doing harm, and often Keynesians will go so far as to attribute sinister motives. This means that when the balance of savings shifts, the Keynesians attribute sinister motives to the savers. Keynesians are inclined to blame savers for changes in identities. ... However, one might tell the story differently. That is, one could choose to blame the spenders. It could be that the U.S. trade deficit is caused by the lack of U.S. national saving, rather than excessive saving by China and Germany. It could be that the high government deficit causes savings to rise elsewhere (including in China and Germany, as well as private sector saving in the United States). It could be that massive spending by households during the housing bubble caused savings elsewhere to rise (including in China and Germany, as well as the corporate sector in the United States). Then when massive spending by government kicked in during the last two years, savings elsewhere had to rise, including the corporate sector. I do not like these latter interpretations any better.--Arnold Kling

Yet there was one group of businessmen that succeeded where Wall Street failed, beating back regulation and insuring that Congress would let them carry on with business as usual. These unexpected masters of Capitol Hill? The nation’s auto dealers. The reform bill was potentially alarming for auto dealers because they’re major players in the consumer-credit business. There are close to eight hundred and fifty billion dollars’ worth of auto loans outstanding in the U.S.—about as much as our total credit-card debt—and car dealers broker about eighty per cent of them.--James Suroweicki

In short, without looking carefully at the whole production chain of intelligence information, it makes no sense to snigger at the significance of this excellent US power-play against a laboriously established Russian network.--Charles Crawford

... one of the senior engineers at Facebook responsible for SRE (site reliability engineering) challenged Facebook employees to try to compromise him and gain access to Facebook’s administrative system via information obtained from him. They succeeded. It took a couple of weeks though. Employees supposedly got in via his home WiFi network, says our source. The details aren’t entirely clear, and Facebook isn’t talking. What I’ve heard is that they were able to intercept data from his home network after capturing his WPA password by luring him into logging into a rogue WiFi SSID that appeared to be his own router.--Michael Arrington

David [Brooks] represents to [the Obama White House] the sensible Republican. If David is convinced, they regard that as a real bi-partisan triumph.--Gail Collins

Low wages are not the result of arbitrary company decisions; they are the result of low worker productivity. A pen even as mighty as that of Pres. Obama cannot miraculously invest low-skilled workers with greater skills.--Don Boudreaux

... I argued that the “operating system” used by the current international aid agencies is stuck using IBM punch cards while the rest of the world has moved on to cell phones, laptops, and iPhones. In the old system, you had to type programs into a stack of hundreds of punch cards, walk them down to the computer center, hand them to an operator, and wait in line for them to be processed. The lower you were in seniority, the longer you had to wait. Contrast that with today, when hundreds of millions of people have their own computers, and several billion people have access to cell phones. iPhone and Android platforms now provide a way for hundreds of thousands of individuals to create and distribute new software. That software may or may not succeed in the marketplace, but it can be downloaded and used, and the most popular new apps get flagged to other users. What would an analogous distributed operating system look like for the aid business?--Dennis Whittle

According to Bill Clinton (HT: Drudge) Robert Byrd wasn’t a racist, he just played one on the campaign trail. He was just pretending to be a racist. To get elected. So he wasn’t a racist. Just unprincipled. That’s a relief. Thanks, Bill.--Russ Roberts

... leaving the maximum number of dollars in the possession of those who earned them is an exercise in enlarging freedom. I do this little game sometimes if I’m in a high school classroom. I walk around and ask innocently, ‘Does anyone have a dollar bill?’ – and some kid will produce one and I just stuff it in my pocket and walk on. After the consternation and the giggling stop, I say, ‘What, What?’ Then I go into a little rap and I say, ‘Oh, Jonathan wants his money back – notice that he is a dollar less free than he was a minute ago; if he had that dollar he could decide, he could choose’. Then I talk about how inevitably we have to coerce money out of people to do necessary and important public business. But if we believe in freedom and liberty than we ought to do that only for necessary purposes. Then I go on to talk about competence and the fact that it becomes an equally solemn duty to never misspend a dollar. Maybe that’s not the right response but when I’m asked about governing as a libertarian, I would say that’s one way I do it.--Mitch Daniels

When you see other people doing something that really offends you, are you willing to see the state allow that behavior to continue? Only if you can answer "yes" are you a natural libertarian. I think that there are very few natural libertarians.--Arnold Kling

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