Thursday, June 02, 2011

Quotes of the day

Nothing is easier than self deceit.--Demosthenes

So apparently authorities believe that spreading knowingly false information with the intent of manipulating asset prices is acceptable behavior, when it is done by the authorities and the matter is deemed serious. Seriously!--David Einhorn

Potomac fever is contagious and incurable. I know one economist who deliberately hired an undocumented nanny as a commitment device to avoid the temptation of government.--Bob Hall

... clinging to a failed monetary peg causes problems that can drag on for years. Look at Argentina in the 1990s, or the entire developed world during the Great Depression: the longer a country clung to the gold standard, the longer and deeper the economic suffering. I think the chances of the euro zone surviving intact are now less than 50%. They're not 0%. But they do seem to be shrinking every day.--Megan McArdle

You do [have more Twitter followers] these days, that’s for sure. You’ve got to give me your tips.--Paul Ryan, to Anthony Weiner

... bankers have always been greedy, what they didn't have was government not merely telling them that they should lower their underwriting standards, but that if they didn't they would be sued for disparate impact. Any CEO seeing this trend, and asking 'well, what have our losses been on these riskier home loans government wants us to make?', would have been told 'not much', because historically the collateral had always risen. That is, while default may have been high, recoveries were higher, and defaults were also masked by the higher collateral that made refinancing easier. In this environment, it is easy to see how banks slowly eliminated their previous lending criteria.--Eric Falkenstein

It’s well known that analysts rarely put sell ratings on the stocks they cover. Typically, the explanation for this is that banks don’t want to jeopardize their investment banking business.  The reality is much more complicated. Skeptics and whistle-blowers risk huge career costs that go beyond conflicts of interest. Investors think they want unvarnished advice, but many don’t truly appreciate it. Most banks don’t want employees to play detective. Regulators abandon whistle-blowers, acting tardily and ineffectually.--Jesse Eisinger

Heaven presses into hell, and this is why you get up and breathe again when you’d rather not, because even when you are in hell, grace comes to you. Especially in hell.--Tony Woodlief

A few years ago, I spoke here and had Carl Icahn speaking after me, and that didn’t go too well. And then last year, I’m told that I had the worst choices in the whole thing. And so I wondered if I should come back this year, and I realized that the conference gets bigger every year. They’ve expanded the speaker list. So it’s going to be harder for me to have the worst ideas this year.--David Einhorn

The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.--C.S. Lewis

We take for granted many intuitions, but its important to remember what intuitions are truly universal, and which are the function of explicit training. For example, speech is hard-wired into our brains, and children exposed to people talking will naturally learn to talk. In contrast, kids won't learn to write or read without years of instruction. Empathy and appreciating motive are innate (mirror neurons), but understanding that evil is usually the result of ignorance, is not.  ... even geniuses don't 'get' certain things that seem like pure logic, but really require a non-intuitive way of looking at things. It's like the story of Paulos Erdos not understanding the Monte Hall problem.--Eric Falkenstein

It may well be that many US workers have been hurt by the forces of globalisation. But the iPhone and iPod show why the whole business is complex. Products that are made in China may actually be rewarding producers in Japan and California, and, of course, consumers across the world. It’s a curious paradox: the more pervasive globalisation becomes, the less we understand it by looking at trade statistics.--Tim Harford

... we know of one culture that's very, very good at helping people build wealth: academia. Of course, academics start with a solid base: if you're a tenured professor, you are definitionally good at delaying gratification. But one thing you learn from financial reporting is that the ability to delay gratification in your career does not always translate into wise financial stewardship; there are lots and lots of doctors, lawyers, and MBAs who clearly had what it took to go through a long initiation process, and nonetheless manage to end up with no savings and a lifestyle that can't survive more than a few weeks of job loss or other financial distress. Academia pays modestly, and yet on average, tenured professors have quite a lot of wealth built up by the time they retire. ... So while the material people have to work with might be genetic, that doesn't mean that a more frugal culture couldn't produce better results.--Megan McArdle

Yesterday I went to Walmart and demanded that they give me a cartload of merchandise for free. This demand was not well-received, so I didn’t get to the second part of my plan which would have involved criticizing the job performance of the people who were giving me free stuff. Okay, I didn’t really go to Walmart and demand free stuff. You probably knew that because it sounded ridiculous on face value. We all understand that no entity can survive for long if it gives away its resources while asking nothing in return. And this leads me to my point: In the United States, 51% of adults pay zero federal income tax, and yet they have the right to vote. That’s the very definition of a system that can’t last.--Scott Adams
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