Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quotes of the day

The World Bank has apologized for displaying damning images of Ghana at its recent annual meeting in Washington DC. Some of the pictures have half-naked women breastfeeding their kids and portray a country high on poverty levels.--Joy News

One night in 1902, an ambitious young American engineer named Willis Carrier was waiting for a train, watching fog roll in across the platform, when he had a sudden flash of insight: he could exploit the principle of fog to cool buildings. He patented the idea, protected it fiercely, put his new invention into production, and made a fortune. In 2007, the still-surviving Carrier Corporation generated sales worth $15bn. As eureka moments go, even Archimedes might have had to concede that Carrier's was impressive. For [Steven] Johnson, though, what's really interesting about that story is how unusual it is: although the eureka moment is such a cliche, big new ideas almost never get born like that.--Oliver Burkeman

There is not a single example of a nonrenewable resource that has run out. Nobody ran out of stone in the stone age, iron in the iron age, or bronze in the bronze age. That's not why these ages peter out, it's rather because we move on to something else ..whereas renewable resources tend to run out, like whales, passenger pigeons, and white pines.--Matt Ridley

When movies are made, especially today, they eliminate the risk factors to such a great extent by predigesting the movie and applying what they think are rules learned from successful films. The investor dominates the process. And so the films don't have complexity and depth. Clearly [Apocalypse Now] went off on its own to explore the themes of what was a very unusual, maybe unprecedented, war on many levels. So when the film came out, it shocked people at first and almost defied them, because it was so different then what had been considered a war film. When that happens—when risk is taken and the filmmakers dive into the subject matter without a parachute—very often what you get it something with those qualities that make it age well with the public. Risk is a factor in making art, making films. But because films are, of course, an industry, and so many people are making a living from it, they have really learned over the last twenty years to make risk-free projects. Although I don't know that they've succeeded. Films still lose a lot of money.  ...  You never stop learning about film. I plan to just keep doing my own little films. If I have to finance them, that's fine. I was trained by Roger Corman so I know how to make a low-budget film if I have to. It's more important for me to make the films that only I can make, which is that of my own feelings or what I think is the meaning of life or chip away at it rather than to go get a job and have a bunch of thirty-two-year-old executives give me their theory of what they think the box office requires. --Francis Ford Coppola

Sure, school pays at the individual level. But from a social point of view, Thiel's right: The world would be a better place if smart, motivated kids tried to please billions of consumers instead of a few dozen professors. As expected, Thiel's audacity provoked a lot of venom - a.k.a. "the kind of publicity that money can't buy." I bet that Thiel will have thousands of awesome applicants... largely thanks to criticism like this.--Bryan Caplan

It’s true that Obama has suffered politically because of economic trends beyond his control. But those same economic trends are what delivered him huge congressional majorities in the first place! It’s true that his supporters on the left and center-left alike had unreasonable expectations for this presidency. But (as Baker’s piece points out) it was Obama’s grandiose rhetoric and sweeping promises that helped create those unreasonable expectations to begin with! And it’s true that the partisan, superficial, Politico-ish culture of Washington makes effective governance extremely difficult. But the Obama administration has spent two years empowering Washington to an unprecedented degree! Again, it’s not that Obama’s inner circle doesn’t have anything to complain about. But they have less to complain about than they seem to think — and their self-pity, at this stage, is more than a little bit unseemly.--Ross Douthat

If you're looking for a great example of a negative externality, an act, remember, that comes about because the decision maker doesn't bear a large percent of the cost of his decision, look no further than Bush's Iraq invasion or Obama's "stimulus" package.--Arnold Kling

Since the financial crisis began, I have been inclined to think that we need to go back to traditional mortgage lending and stop trying to use government policy to sustain the securitization model. Each month, the principal-agent costs seem to mount, adding to the disadvantage of securitization. To me, it is obvious that the overall costs of the securitization model are high relative to the costs of traditional lending. But what is obvious to me is unthinkable in the two places that matter--Wall Street and Washington.--Arnold Kling

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