Thursday, March 03, 2011

Quotes of the day

For humans, context matters more than content. A computer does not have existential angst. It does not hold grudges or have its reactions shaped by its childhood experience. It does not respond to a remark based on the previous conversations and how that colors the sense of the other person's interests and emotions. These dimensions of human interaction are flattened as we sink into the texting, twittering world.--Rick Brookstaber

Staid maintenance of the status quo may not be a sign of life; it may even be a sign of death.--Don Carson

A few weeks back I got push-back from commenters who seemed to think I was naive in arguing that politicians shouldn’t favor the special interest groups that got them elected. Politics is about doing deals (they argued)—I help your special interest, you help mine. But if it was so easy to do Pareto-improving deals, then why are the economies of corrupt countries so messed up? I’m afraid that altruism is our only hope. Without at least somewhat idealistic politicians, there is no hope, no safety net to stop us from falling into into a gangster state. And we won’t have civic-minded politicians without a civic-minded public. All over the world (except Denmark) moms are inculcating dictator values into their cute little babies—raising the next generation of Putins and Berlusconis.--Scott Sumner

Health care, I finally found out how expensive it is, especially when you have a family.--All-Pro, first round draft pick linebacker Jerod Mayo who signed a 5-year $19 million contract

If you think that the cuts will cause a direct loss of 650,000 government jobs, as many bloggers seem to, you're saying that cutting Federal spending by 1.6% is somehow going to cause the federal government to shed more than 20% of its workforce. Alternatively, if we're talking about all government jobs, we're saying that a 1% drop in all government spending will cause government at all levels to lay off 3% of their workforce--even though government employment is, as we've seen, pretty hard to cut. Using these "standard multipliers", if we cut government spending by 1/3, then government at all levels would employ no one at all.--Megan McArdle

McKinsey, the global consulting firm, has created dubious strategies for all manners of companies ranging from Enron to General Electric. Indeed, where ever there has been a financial disaster in the world, if you look around, somewhere in the background, McKinsey & Co. is nearby.--Barry Ritholtz

McKinsey believe that intellectual brawn is more important than practical experience McKinsey prefers to hire new consultants straight out of places like Harvard Business School rather than from industry itself. A McKinsey partner once told Forbes Magazine: "We don't learn from clients, their standards aren't high enough. We learn from other McKinsey partners." ... Even by McKinsey standards, [Enron's President Jeff] Skilling was phenomenally successful, rising through the extremely competitive ranks with startling speed. It normally took a successful McKinsey consultant seven years to become a partner and twelve to become a director. Skilling made partner in five years and director in ten. He is still proud of the fact that only a handful of people (including Lou Gerstner) rose through the ranks faster than he did. McKinsey perfectly suited his strengths, but also played to his weaknesses. Working there only heightened his natural arrogance. [Skilling] embraced the firm's ruthlessness, and was never much of a team player. Other McKinsey partners described Skilling as "sometimes wrong, but never in doubt." Ultimately, McKinsey was the formative experience of Skilling's business life. Though McKinsey has since sought to distance itself from Enron, much of what he brought to Enron--not only ideas about how to reshape the natural gas industry but ideas about what a company should value and how it should be run--came out of his experience as McKinsey.--Jeff Kosty

I can't sympathize with a union that fights to keep exactly as many jobs at exactly the same pay forever, even after the owners offer to pension off the displaced current workers at full pay. If unions had been doing this sort of thing in 1810, we'd all still be working in cotton mills and dying at 45.--Megan McArdle

Several commenters have pointed out that the conflict in Wisconsin is not (directly) about wages, benefits or working conditions, but rather about collective bargaining. This seems to me to be a distinction without a difference; nobody would care about collective bargaining unless they expected it to affect wages, benefits, and/or working conditions. The point stands that workers who are very upset about losing their collective bargaining rights must expect to use those rights to achieve above-market compensation.--Steve Landsburg

Voters are not merely ignorant; their beliefs about policy-relevant subjects are often systematically biased. Voters systematically overestimate the fraction of the federal budget spent on foreign aid and welfare, and underestimate the fraction spent on Social Security and health.--Bryan Caplan, Eric Crampton, Wayne Grove, Ilya Somin

In 1999, I co-authored a book called "Dow 36,000" that became, in some circles, a notorious symbol for bullishness about the stock market. While the book had a provocative title, its fundamental message was mainstream: Long-term investors should load up on U.S. stocks. ... I was wrong.--James Glassman

Glassman’s … conclusion is exactly the opposite of the truth. He explains that “stocks appreciate faster than real estate; they always have and they always will. The reason is that a share of stock is a piece of a company in which minds are producing value. Real estate just sits there.” The truth is that stocks appreciate faster than houses precisely because a house does not just sit there; it provides shelter, warmth, and closet space every single day that you own it. Stocks need to appreciate faster to compensate for the fact that they don’t provide any comparable stream of services. If stocks and real estate appreciated at the same rate (counting the dividends as part of the appreciation, as Glassman does), nobody would own stocks.--Steve Landsburg

My guess is that if you want to improve health outcomes in the United States, ignore health insurance and focus on literacy. Even if it has nothing to do with whether or not they can follow a doctor's written instructions, my guess is that better literacy has a positive impact on health outcomes. The question is whether educators know enough about how to improve literacy to be able to do so effectively.--Arnold Kling

You seem to make better decisions when you have a full bladder.--Mirjam Tuk

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