Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Quotes of the day

Certainly there is nothing scientific about dismissing the reality of a phenomenon whose importance is manifest in the history of the species and is likely or liable to determine the fate of the planet. Atheism has no necessary interest in dismissing the mind, either. Why this strange anthropology has flourished under the name of science and in association with the New Atheism, I don't know, though perhaps acknowledging the brilliance and profundity of human beings would seem to these writers to have inevitable religious implications.--Marilynne Robinson

Of course, solipsism is false. But we two solipsists can still teach the world a lesson. Namely: in a deep sense, trade increases productivity. You might object, "We already know that trade increases productivity via shared knowledge, increasing returns, etc."  But these are all empirical claims.  My point is stronger: Trade tautologically increases productivity.  And if a solipsist can see this, so should everyone.--Bryan Caplan

Almost all of [Josh Kaufman's] peers and managers boasted elite MBA degrees. To overcome his feelings of intimidation and to prepare for the job, he began reading, and reading, and reading, from textbooks, such as the "Essentials of Accounting," to "Competitive Strategy" by Harvard professor Michael Porter and "The Effective Executive" by the late management guru Peter Drucker. "After I went through the self-education process, I felt like a peer," says Kaufman. "I was able to walk into a boardroom and hold my own with people who had graduated from Stanford and Wharton. It was very exciting." ... Kaufman points out that going to Harvard, all told, can cost you about $350,000. If you amortize that at a 6.8% rate of interest over 30 years, it's a $2,200 monthly payment. When you account for the interest, the total comes to $821,000.--John A. Byrne

[Wall Street is] like a church that’s running raffles on the weekend.--Warren Buffett

The pricing strategy is brilliant. By staging a series of perceived technology innovations and then adding price decoys, reference prices, obscurity and bundling, Apple makes us willing to pay more to do the same stuff we did 30 years ago: read magazines, type messages, watch shows or make phone calls. The communication breakthroughs are mostly an illusion, but with shiny aluminum in our hands, who cares what it costs?--Ben Kunz

A surprising amount of the work of the Valley is done in the cafes on or just off University Ave in Palo Alto. If you visit on a weekday between 10 and 5, you'll often see founders pitching investors. In case you can't tell, the founders are the ones leaning forward eagerly, and the investors are the ones sitting back with slightly pained expressions.--Paul Graham

A market fundamentalist is someone who thinks that markets never produce bad outcomes, unless government interferes in some way. (I am not a market fundamentalist, by that definition.) A government fundamentalist is someone who thinks that governments never produce bad outcomes, unless they lack resources or power. In the case of the fire, the government lacked sufficient power to force the homeowner to pay for fire protection. In general, government fundamentalism is irrefutable. If public schools fail, the government fundamentalist says that it is because the schools lack resources. If financial regulation fails, the government fundamentalist says that is because the regulators lack power. Be careful how you tangle with government fundamentalists. For example, what do you think will happen if the opponents of the health care mandate succeed in their Constitutional challenge? That is, suppose the Supreme Court rules that citizens cannot be forced to obtain a service from the private sector. The reaction of government fundamentalists could very well be, "You know, that's right. People should not be forced to obtain private health insurance. But universal government health insurance is clearly Constitutional. Look at Medicare. What the Supreme Court is telling us is that we need single-payer.--Arnold Kling

... unsurprisingly, everyone grows more appealing the further they get from Paris Hilton.--Alan Sepinwall

Although fertility levels in the mid-1950s were about the same in the two countries — at six children per woman — fertility rates have declined much faster in China than India, due in part to China’s one-child family policy. Today, China’s fertility is below replacement and one child less than India’s — 1.8 compared to 2.8 children per woman. With its higher birth rates and younger age structure, India’s population is growing more than twice as fast as China’s — 1.4% versus 0.6% annually. The demographic outcomes of these growth rates are annual additions of approximately 17 million Indians and 8 million Chinese. In addition, India’s annual population increase exceeded China’s in each of the past 30 years. Both China and India have significantly more males than females, in sharp contrast to demographics in most other nations. This atypical gender imbalance is due in part to the use of prenatal ultrasound scanning to abort female fetuses. While the practice of sex-selective abortion is prohibited in both countries, it has been difficult to prevent. By 2020, it is estimated that the number of young “surplus males” unable to find brides could be more than 35 million in China and 25 million in India. While the future remains uncertain, it is evident that the major factor determining the future growth of the Chinese and Indian populations is fertility.--Joseph Chamie

If a family of four costs $15,000 per year to insure, then every worker has to be worth $15,000 a year to the employer just for break-even, before the worker gets any take-home pay. That means that somebody who is worth less than $40,000 a year to a firm probably will not get hired. People who are worth $25,000 to $50,000 a year would be more likely to have jobs if taxpayers gave them health insurance vouchers and employers did not have to pick up health insurance cost.--Arnold Kling

Imagine you're sitting in Sweden and you're on the [Nobel Peace prize] committee trying to choose the winner. You really do want peace. You notice that some of the most brutal people in the world have stopped being brutal and are suing for peace. You want to encourage that. And so you argue for giving them the prize. That seems like a reasonable incentive. The problem is that when people understand the incentives, they also understand that to get into the position of stopping killing people, they have to kill people first.--David Henderson

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