Thursday, August 12, 2010

Quotes of the day

Yahoo had two problems Google didn't: easy money, and ambivalence about being a technology company. ... Hacker culture often seems kind of irresponsible. That's why people proposing to destroy it use phrases like "adult supervision." That was the phrase they used at Yahoo. But there are worse things than seeming irresponsible. Losing, for example.--Paul Graham

In finance terminology, we experienced a lot of volatility—the major indexes have fluctuated a lot—but not much real growth. One possible explanation for this pattern is that the equity premium has eroded. Markets have grown more efficient over time, as more and better information—and the computer tools to analyze it—has become available. Meanwhile, the stock market has democratized. ... The equity premium’s shrinkage may have another reason. Financial markets have an interesting feature that has undone many a trading strategy: once everyone starts believing something, it often stops being true.--Megan McArdle

Mathematically, society simply cannot have a high and growing dependency ratio--at least, not if the retirees expect to be supported in the style to which they have become accustomed. (I take it that this is what is meant by "a decent living and a stable retirement"). We can warehouse people in spartan old folks homes (or treat them like kids and move them into the spare bedroom), in which case they can enjoy a lengthy retirement. Or they can retire for less time, and live more lavishly. But there is no conceivable system that is going to allow the vast majority of the population to spend a full third of their adult life in retirement, at anything like the same standard of living they had when they were working.--Megan McArdle

The most important job I have I don't get paid for: raising my kids. Just because you aren't getting paid does not mean something important isn't necessary, onerous, and time consuming, just like paid jobs. It is a mistake to think those without paying jobs are or should be sitting around waiting for a foreman to tell them where to shovel. Everyone has many jobs to do right now. Entropy naturally creates disordered states that need reorganizing. We all could invest more in ourselves by learning Java, or fix things in our house. Unless you are an invalid you have jobs to do that increase your wealth and that of the community. ... A make-work job, like charity that it is, does not generate happiness for the recipient because it is degrading. That's why if you want someone to like you, ask them a small favor, it shows you appreciate them; if you want them to hate you, do them a big favor. A good example is how France loved America for needing their help in our revolution, so much so they built us a Statue of Liberty 100 years later. After freeing them from the Germans twice in 30 years, however, the French find Americans annoying. ... A bureaucrat, who's not financially interested in your employment status, and does not know you well, will certainly find you a worse employment match in whatever job is given to you. Life has a lot of randomness to it, but thoughtfulness and effort help tilt the probabilities in your favor. Effort and thoughtfulness pays off, if only statistically. --Eric Falkenstein

Is there another human being on Earth more singularly terrifying and insane than Grace Jones? Anyone?--Eric Gillin

... the actual facts of the sacrifices [of professional athletes] repel us when we see them: basketball geniuses who cannot read, sprinters who dope themselves, defensive tackles who shoot up with bovine hormones until they collapse or explode. We prefer not to consider closely the shockingly vapid and primitive comments uttered by athletes in postcontest interviews or to consider what impoverishments in one's mental life would allow people actually to think the way great athletes seem to think. Note the way "up close and personal" profiles of professional athletes strain so hard to find evidence of a rounded human life -- outside interests and activities, values beyond the sport. We ignore what's obvious, that most of this straining is farce. It's farce because the realities of top-level athletics today require an early and total commitment to one area of excellence. An ascetic focus. A subsumption of almost all other features of human life to one chosen talent and pursuit. A consent to live in a world that, like a child's world, is very small.--David Foster Wallace

Casey [Mulligan] points out that there is a regular surge in teenage employment during the summer months because more teenagers are available to work (that is, the supply of their labor has increased). That is no surprise: It is normal supply and demand in action. But if aggregate demand were the main constraint on employment, this increase in supply should not translate into higher employment during deep recessions such as this one. But it does! ... I am neither a supply-side economist nor a demand-side economist," I said. "I am a supply-and-demand economist.--Greg Mankiw

Agricultural output is several times higher today, both in absolute amount and in yield-per-acre. Available supplies of nearly all minerals continue to increase. Americans of all income levels are much better fed, much better clothed, much better housed, and much better cared for medically. The automobile cleaned America’s streets of the dung and flies that once cursed denizens of cities and towns. Electricity and petroleum have replaced far-filthier coal and wood as major sources of household energy. Perhaps most significantly, life expectancy in 2010 is 30 years longer than it was in 1910. Let’s hope that this “catastrophe” continues.--Don Boudreaux

While suffering, though, I achieved enlightenment. In my anguish, my constant thought was, "Must do something or other about this!" Rationally, I realized that any action I took would be ineffective or counter-productive. I've tried it all; nothing works better than nothing. But my skin kept screaming at me to try something... anything. And through my pain, I finally understood the TARP mentality of 2008. Call it the Activist's Fallacy: "Something must be done; this is something; therefore, this must be done." It's inane.--Bryan Caplan

... there actually are secular arguments [against same-sex marriage]. Americans are both extremely na├»ve about sex and extremely selfish about marriage. But marriage evolved to structure the specific ways in which sex between a man and woman can be really devastating to society, or really fruitful. In order for men and women to have sex with one another, to avoid causing a lot of disruption and wrong action in society, they have to do a lot of difficult things. The fact that a lot of them don’t want to do those things now and don’t even see those things as related to marriage is part of the problem, not an excuse to further move away from the idea of marriage as the structure. ... So if humans were perfectly able to control their reproduction, could pick when they had kids and with whom, and men and women are interchangeable both socially and biologically, then you don’t have marriage. Why would you? It arises to manage not only procreation, but also the social and biological differences between men and women prior to reproduction.--Eve Tushnet

... 40 percent of blacks in marriages and live-in relationships who attended religious services regularly had a partner who did the same, compared with 29 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 29 percent of Hispanics. White couples, in general, reported greater relationship satisfaction than other groups, presumably because of income and educational advantages, the study says. But the racial gap lessens when religious similarities come into the mix.--Donna St. George

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