Friday, December 02, 2011

Quotes of the day

My more liberal friends argue, based on Keynesian principles, that we need dovish fiscal policy as well. They often argue for short-run fiscal expansion coupled with long-run fiscal contraction. The problem is that fiscal policymakers cannot bind their future selves. It is hard to make commitments to future fiscal contraction credible, especially as short-run actions expand the budget deficit.
My more conservative friends argue, based on monetarist principles, that a dovish monetary policy risks future inflation. In my view, however, there are bigger risks than inflation just now. They include prolonged high unemployment and meager growth.--Greg Mankiw

People talk about Main Street vs Wall Street. It should be Main Street vs the Beltway.--David Friedman

Professors are terrible at evaluation. Their method of judging student work is very simple: How close is it to what I would have done? The better you can imitate the professor, no matter what the class, the higher your grade.--Seth Roberts

In short, education becomes little but a vast public subsidy for private ambition. ... The result is a spiral of credential inflation; for as each level of education in turn gradually floods with a crowd of ambitious consumers, individuals have to keep seeking ever higher levels of credentials in order to move a step ahead of the pack. In such a system nobody wins. Consumers have to spend increasing amounts of time and money to gain additional credentials, since the swelling number of credential holders keeps lowering the value of credentials at any given level. Taxpayers find an increasing share of scarce fiscal resources going to support an educational chase with little public benefit. Employers keep raising the entry-level education requirements for particular jobs, but they still find that they have to provide extensive training before employees can carry out their work productively. At all levels, this is an enormously wasteful system.--David Labaree

Today Lipitor, the world's best selling drug and Pfizer's single most profitable product, loses patent protection and goes generic. If Lipitor (generic name atorvastatin) holds true to form for other generic transitions, Pfizer can expect to lose much of its market share and the price of atorvastatin will eventually plummet by as much as 80%. But while everyone is celebrating the "birth" of yet another cheap generic from an expensive blockbuster, it would be good for policymakers and the press to pause and reflect on where generic drugs come from.
The stork doesn't bring them to your local pharmacy. They are often the products of years or even decades of enormously expensive and painstaking research by innovative (and yes, profit-driven) companies.
What is the proper response to Lipitor going generic? Thank God for blockbuster drugs.
Because without those drugs we wouldn't have the tremendous health gains from statins and other widely used drugs to treat stroke and hypertension - or the cheap generics that the health care system gains once those drugs lose patent protection.--Paul Howard

A corporate CEO's pay is determined by how well he or she manages two entities: the company; and the board. If you manage your board well, you can manage your company poorly and still make a lot of money. Conversely, I thought that Leland Brendsel managed Freddie Mac pretty well, but several years after I left he got ousted by the board in an accounting "scandal" that consisted of holding down accounting earnings to more closely reflect economic earnings. His successor, Richard Syron, managed the board well, but he was a disaster for the company--and for the whole financial system.--Arnold Kling

... I see [Adam Smith's] two preeminent works amounting to a unified theory, a blueprint for a more stable and sustainable version of capitalism; a conscious capitalism. The Wealth of Nations presupposed actors in the capitalist system operating on the moral framework he laid out in the Theory of Moral Sentiments. The free market has no conscience of its own: it is made up of billions of people transacting. Though Smith asserts that each of these people are guided by their self interest, he presupposes that each of the actors in the marketplace are guided by some internal morality and an awareness of one's place within the broader context of his community — locally and globally.
The current version of capitalism is not the one envisioned by Smith at all. He was seeking to create a system defined by efficient allocation of resources driven by self-interest, but guided by self-restraint. This is conscious capitalism.
The current version of capitalism's guidance from self-interest in the corporate world is evidenced in the legal duty to maximize shareholder value, which opens directors up to a lawsuit from their shareholders if they make a decision that fails to make the highest possible profit for their shareholders. Thus, the duty to maximize shareholder value handcuffs directors that want to make decisions that seek to create benefit for people and planet as well as financial returns.
There is debate whether this duty exists, but it is such a dominant perception among directors that it is the practical reality. In order for corporations to be free from the shackles of maximizing shareholder value, the fiduciary duties must be broadened.--Kyle Westaway

Westaway's thoughts on Adam Smith really inspired me, but I was sorely disappointed when he put his hope on legislating forward. Let's look at the track record, Kyle!--Cav

Earlier this year, some very smart people in Washington even suggested that states, which cannot place themselves in bankruptcy, be allowed to do so to solve their pension and employee compensation problems. One argument repeated over and over by advocates of this option was that a bankruptcy judge would void onerous union contracts and pension obligations. In Greek theater, critics once called this the "deus ex machina" ending, where a god in a chariot descended on the stage and untangled all of the complications of a plot that the playwright couldn't resolve in any other way.
But there is no deus in municipal bankruptcy law; instead, parties involved must do exactly what they have failed to otherwise do, which is to sit down and negotiate their way to a settlement with the judge serving as a referee. And elected officials who somehow think that bankruptcy will give them political cover when they have to cut services and raise taxes are just kidding themselves. Taxpayers rarely blame the consequences of a municipal bankruptcy on the judge.--Steven Malanga

If you wouldn't object to China sending products to the United States for free, then on what basis would you object to currency “manipulation” that allows you to purchase undervalued Chinese imports at a huge discount and great bargain?--Mark Perry

If you're married, and you have a wife, and you really love your wife, is it good enough to only say to your wife 'I love her' the day you get married? Or should you tell her every single day when you wake up and every opportunity?--Tim Tebow

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