Monday, November 07, 2011

Quotes of the day

The great value investor Benjamin Graham suggested that investors should never have less than 25% or more than 75% of their money in stocks.--Jason Zweig

I realized technical analysis didn’t work when I turned the charts upside down and didn’t get a different answer.--Warren Buffett

I’m already highly irritated. What makes this canuck think that “the simplest model you can imagine” has any bearing on whether NGDP targeting is a wise policy for our highly complex economy? Theoretical macroeconomists love to play with their little toy models, but unfortunately these models don’t actually describe the world we live in. In their models the IS curve slopes downward. Output depends on real interest rates. Inflation depends on output gaps. I don’t know about you, but that’s not the world I inhabit.--Scott Sumner

Well, you're gonna be dead a long time. Might as well have fun when you're alive.--Rex Ryan

In terms of guardrails in the financial system, I think automatic saving for me is the best example for this. You know the rational thing to do is to look at the end of each month and see how much money we had, how much expenses we had and then at the end of each month decide how much to send for our long-term savings. But I think we all intuitively realize that if this was the case we would not save as much. American savings rates are nothing to be proud of, but they will probably be even lower. And it clearly doesn’t make rational sense because we have different levels of expenses in the winter and in the summer. There are fluctuations. There are things that come as emergencies. Saving should not be the same every possible month. But we know that if we relied on our mediocre cognitive ability and thinking and demanded that every month we make this decision, the odds are we will never make this decision. Or at least we’ll make it very infrequently. So by creating a system that takes this decision out of our hands we actually do much better.--Dan Ariely

[At Goldman, Jon Corzine] was called ‘Fuzzy’ because he’s a sloppy thinker.  You can never really figure out what he’s doing because he doesn’t know. He just kind of wings it.--Goldman Sachs executive

I suggest that a rich person can consistently favor taxes on the rich without volunteering to pay such taxes him or herself. The argument is simply that the world in which every rich person pays is preferable to me to the world in which no rich person pays which is preferable to me to the world in which only I pay.--Karl Smith

... I learned far more from 3 months with the Assimil self-study course than from 5 years of school French. The absurdity of that comparison only grows upon comparing the hours spent. The Assimil method took 0.5 hours per day for about 90 days: That’s 45 hours. The 5 years of school French happened every school day for roughly 50 minutes. A school year has roughly 180 days, for a total of 750 hours over the 5 years. Including homework, the total is probably 900 hours. That’s a time-invested ratio of 20 to 1. Thus, despite spending 5 percent of the hours that I spent in school, with the self-study method I became far more competent in the language.--Sanjoy Mahajan

The history of English’s global diffusion is littered with important dates: the planting of the Jamestown colony in 1607; Robert Clive’s victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757, which ushered in the dominion of the British East India Company; the creation of the first penal colony in Australia in 1788; the British settlement at Singapore in 1819 and establishment of a Crown Colony in Hong Kong in 1842; the formal beginning of British administration in Nigeria in 1861; the foundation of the BBC in 1922 and the United Nations in 1945; the launch by AT&T of the first commercial communications satellite in 1962. This list is condensed. It takes no account, for instance, of the various waves of Anglomania that swept much of Europe in the eighteenth century. But it will be apparent that the diffusion of English has had a lot to do with material reward, the media, and its use as a language of instruction. A fuller list might intensify the impression of a whiff of bloodshed. Wherever English has been used, it has lasted. Cultural might outlives military rule.--Henry Hitchings

Retractions of research papers have soared in recent years, which demonstrates how unethical scientists, like financial criminals, cut corners to tell people what they want to hear.--Edward Tenner

Together with a string of other recent cases, the Bronx case suggests that a culture of corruption and entitlement has spread through the ranks of the thin blue line. Worse, it is clear that police union officials are the mainstay of the illegal ticket fixing enterprise, so much so that prosecutors considered indicting the union as a corrupt organization under racketeering laws. The police demonstration in the Bronx was apparently orchestrated by the union, which sent text messages to officers urging that they show up to support colleagues involved in ticket fixing. “It’s a courtesy, not a crime,” was the slogan.
This of course is what everybody thinks of special privileges. That’s what doctors and lawyers think when they cover up professional wrongdoings by their guild brethren. It’s what investment bankers think when they pass on inside information to favored clients — a courtesy not a crime. It’s what politicians think when they do favors in exchange for money and it’s what Don Corleone and Tony Soprano think when they do favors for their friends. The essence of privilege (private law, etymologically speaking) is exactly that: exemption from the laws that govern other people. The police union in New York believes that based on longtime practice it possesses certain unique rights to circumvent the written law.
What that Bronx courtyard shows us is a political culture in decline and a development model on the brink. New York’s dependence on Wall Street and the federal government is becoming more acute by the year. Post bubble and post stimulus, neither source of revenue can be expected to grow at an adequate rate, and it is not unlikely that both will be shrinking for years. The pieces of the coalition are venting their rage and hostility, and new supplies of money are nowhere in view.--Walter Russell Mead

But if we are headed toward collapse, what would an American “Oh sh*t!” moment look like? An upsurge in civil unrest and crime, as happened in the 1970s? A loss of faith on the part of investors and a sudden Greek-style leap in government borrowing costs? How about a spike of violence in the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan, as insurgents capitalize on our troop withdrawals? Or a paralyzing cyberattack from the rising Asian superpower we complacently underrate? Is there anything we can do to prevent such disasters? Social scientist Charles Murray calls for a “civic great awakening”—a return to the original values of the American republic. He’s got a point. Far more than in Europe, most Americans remain instinctively loyal to the killer applications of Western ascendancy, from competition all the way through to the work ethic. They know the country has the right software. They just can’t understand why it’s running so damn slowly.
What we need to do is to delete the viruses that have crept into our system: the anticompetitive quasi monopolies that blight everything from banking to public education; the politically correct pseudosciences and soft subjects that deflect good students away from hard science; the lobbyists who subvert the rule of law for the sake of the special interests they represent—to say nothing of our crazily dysfunctional system of health care, our overleveraged personal finances, and our newfound unemployment ethic. Then we need to download the updates that are running more successfully in other countries, from Finland to New Zealand, from Denmark to Hong Kong, from Singapore to Sweden.
And finally we need to reboot our whole system. I refuse to accept that Western civilization is like some hopeless old version of Microsoft DOS, doomed to freeze, then crash. I still cling to the hope that the United States is the Mac to Europe’s PC, and that if one part of the West can successfully update and reboot itself, it’s America.
But the lesson of history is clear. Voters and politicians alike dare not postpone the big reboot. Decline is not so gradual that our biggest problems can simply be left to the next administration, or the one after that. If what we are risking is not decline but downright collapse, then the time frame may be even tighter than one election cycle.--Niall Ferguson

The one thing that we absolutely know for sure is that if we don’t work even harder than we did in 2008, then we’re going to have a government that tells the American people, ‘you are on your own. If you get sick, you’re on your own. If you can’t afford college, you’re on your own.--President Obama

Roosevelt transformed millions of Americans from citizens into clients. The direct effect of this was evil, and the indirect effect was even worse, for all these people were robbed of their self-respect.--H.L. Mencken

A president’s approval rating at the beginning of his third year in office has historically had very little correlation to his eventual fate. In January 1983, Reagan had an approval rating of just 37 percent, but he won in a landslide. George H. W. Bush had a 79 percent approval rating in January 1991 and was soundly defeated. But voters start to think differently about a president over the course of his third year; they view him more on the basis of his performance and less on the hopes they had for him. These perceptions are sharpened by the beginning of the opposition party’s primary campaign, which, of course, accentuates the negatives.  A president’s approval rating toward the end of his third year, therefore, has been a decent (although imperfect) predictor of his chances of victory. Reagan saw his approval rating shoot up to 51 percent in November 1983 amid the V-shaped recovery from the recession of the previous year — the first sign that he was headed for a big win. Obama’s approval rating may have rebounded by a point or two from its lows after the debt-ceiling debacle — but not by much more than that. In late October, it ranged between 40 and 46 percent in different polls and averaged about 43 percent.  There have been two presidents stuck with similarly low approval ratings a year in advance of the next election. Gerald Ford had a 44 percent approval rating a year before his loss to Carter. Johnson had a 41 percent approval rating in November 1967, and although he was eligible for another term, he opted not to run. His vice president, Hubert H. Humphrey, did, and he lost.--Nate Silver

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