Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Quotes of the day

Uh-oh. I didn't know conversation had rules.--75% of Scott Adams' readers

I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they’re not true. . . . I find that they’re not true without looking further than myself. I don’t deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.--C.S. Lewis

The bottom line is these models are not useful in the real world, Markowitz's focus--as opposed to his big idea--has been a distraction, irrelevant. I've been to private wealth manager conferences, those people who daily deal with customers who have more than $5MM in wealth. They don't know much math and don't care too much to learn more, seeing little need for it. They do know a lot about taxes, the law, and communication skills. It simply hasn't been the case that investing is highly influenced by "scientific precision" of these financial founding fathers, because the main issues--what asset classes to invest in, what managers to choose within these classes--remains a very qualitative affair. Deviations from the consensus at any level usually involve a qualitative story. As they say, in theory, theory and practice are the same; in practice, they are not. --Eric Falkenstein

No aspect of history seems to repeat itself quite as regularly as financial history. The written history of financial crises dates back at least as far back as the reign of Tiberius, when we have very good accounts of Rome’s 33 AD real estate crisis. No one reading about that particular crisis will find any of it strange or unfamiliar – least of all the 100-million-sesterces interest-free loan the emperor had to provide (without even having read Bagehot) in order to end the panic. So although I am not smart enough to tell you who will or won’t default (I have my suspicions however), based on my historical reading and experiences, I think there are two statements that I can make with confidence. First, we have only begun the period of sovereign default. ... The second statement I think I can make with some confidence is that there is no threshold debt level that indicates a country is in trouble.--Michael Pettis

It would be easy for Europeans to shrug off America's Europhobic generalizations and mischaracterizations if they were exclusive to would-be-intellectual neoconservatives, Bible Belt evangelists, and provincial Midwest xenophobes. But ever since the European Union dropped the ball in the Balkans in the mid-1990s, a potent mix of influential American thinkers, policymakers, and commentators have given anti-Europeanism a new respectability that cannot be dismissed out of hand. On the major issues that preoccupy Americans -- defense, security, terrorism, intervention, free trade, sovereignty, and nationalism -- the argument that Europe has lost its way has gained in influence. And as a debt-laden European Union stares at the fiscal abyss, one can almost feel the schadenfreude emanating from across the pond.--Simon Tisdall

The most amazing part of the game, though, was watching my friend and the way his entire opinion of Dean Smith, like a time lapse photograph, sharpened into focus. By the end of the game, my buddy could not stop talking about the genius of Dean Smith. North Carolina won, of course, and the entire car ride home my friend babbled about what he had seen. Did you see how he countered that offense? Did you see how he cut down that three-point shooter? Did you see how he had them attack that zone? Did you see the way. … The trick, they say, isn’t doing something great. The trick, they say, is doing it again. This is why I have always loved Toy Story II more than Toy Story I. The first Toy Story was brilliant and revolutionary and a landmark — no one had ever done a computer animated movie like it before. But the second Toy Story was true greatness … it was a little bit funnier, a little bit more touching (Jessie’s song is one of the great moments in recent movie history), and — more than anything — it was second. The first is inspiration. The second belongs to the power of resolve. Great second albums, great second seasons, great second books just impress me more than debuts. Dean Smith’s teams did it again and again and again, so often that it seemed routine, so brilliantly that years with Final Four losses somehow felt like disappointment. ... North Carolina shot 50% year after year after year. But the team changed subtly every single year. North Carolina won before the shot clock. North Carolina won after the shot clock. North Carolina won before the three-point line and after.--Joe Posnanski

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