Economists’ Quotes

About quotations, the German-born American actress Marlene Dietrich said, “I love them, because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognizedly wiser than oneself.”

I agree with her. I love quotations and collect them assiduously. They are valuable because they encapsulate ideas and thoughts that I have had but expressed better than I ever can.

Since being an economist is my vocation as well as my avocation, I like to keep bits of writings of real economists. Here are a few that I hope you would like. If you find any of them puzzling, or if they lead you to questions, I’d be happy to expand on them. Feel free to ask me anything. Continue reading “Economists’ Quotes”

The World in 2036 – Nassim Taleb

Nassim Nicholas Taleb is an awesomely successful investor, public intellectual and author of many best sellers. The wiki page on NNT says that–

“Taleb criticized the risk management methods used by the finance industry and warned about financial crises, subsequently profiting from the late-2000s financial crisis. He advocates what he calls a “black swan robust” society, meaning a society that can withstand difficult-to-predict events. He proposes what he has termed “antifragility” in systems; that is, an ability to benefit and grow from a certain class of random events, errors, and volatility as well as “convex tinkering” as a method of scientific discovery, by which he means that decentralized experimentation outperforms directed research.”

The Economist published a brief piece by him in 2010 titled, “The World in 2036: Nassim Taleb looks at what will break, and what won’t .” It has aged pretty well, and I suspect that he’s largely accurate. Here it is.
Continue reading “The World in 2036 – Nassim Taleb”

A Lee Kuan Yew Anthology

Recently, Mr Zane Austen assembled “The Comprehensive Lee Kuan Yew Anthology” (PDF, 200MB.) I quickly scanned through the over 12,000 pages. For people like me who think that LKY was one of the greatest  benefactors of humanity in the 20th century CE, it is a good reference work. (Hat tip: @smjalageri via twitter.)

Stephen Fry

I confess that I have strong likes and dislikes in almost everything — concrete or abstract. That goes for people as well. Of course, I have my economist heroes — Hayek, Buchanan, Friedman, et al — and anti-heroes (who shall remain unnamed.) Among politicians, my greatest hero was Lee Kuan Yew and the greatest villain Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

I began to think about this today because a friend told me that Nassim  Nicolas Taleb considers Edward Snowden to be a fraud. I liked NNT’s book Antifragile. He’s obviously very intelligent and highly opinionated (which is a good thing, in my opinion), has enough “f u money”, and is widely celebrated as an intellectual. But he’s often needlessly mean and vicious to people. Continue reading “Stephen Fry”

James Buchanan – In Summary

It is rare that an author puts the summary of his subject matter at the beginning of the introduction of the book. It’s what David Reisman does in his 2015 book titled James Buchanan (part of the Palgrave Macmillan Great Thinkers in Economics Series.)

At the top of my list of the great in economics, I put Buchanan, Hayek and Mises. Their works have informed my understanding of economics. The sad fact is that it was only after I finished my formal training in economics that I began to read them. Better late than never, though.

Back to the book by Reisman. Since I am familiar with Buchanan’s work, I found the summary concise and accurate. I realize that it may not mean much to someone who is not familiar with Buchanan’s ideas. But here it is, for the record.

Continue reading “James Buchanan – In Summary”

Nobies on The Simpsons

The all-wise wiki says, “The Simpsons is an American animated sitcom created by Matt Groening for the Fox Broadcasting Company. The series is a satirical depiction of American life, epitomized by the Simpson family, which consists of Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. The show is set in the fictional town of Springfield and parodies American culture and society, television, and the human condition.” Continue reading “Nobies on The Simpsons”

Hay You

“The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York.” ― Freeman Dyson, Infinite in All Directions 

Continue reading “Hay You”

Friedman on Free Lunch

In 1993, at the grand opening of the Cato Institute’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Dr Milton Friedman gave a talk. It is worth listening to even after 28 years. He was introduced as “the Nobel Prize winner, economic trailblazer, author, scholar, statesman, champion of political freedom and economic liberty, Dr. Milton Friedman.”

Friedman was awarded the Nobel Memorial prize in economic sciences in 1976. He died in 2006 at the age of 94.

Although the substance of his talk at the Cato Institute relates to the US, it is relevant in a much larger contemporary context of what is going on around the world and in the US. Understanding Friedman’s points helps us make sense of the world. Besides being informative, he is as always delightfully funny and entertaining. Here’s the .mp3 audio of the talk. Continue reading “Friedman on Free Lunch”

Hayek on Monotheism

I have the most profound respect for F. A. Hayek (1899 – 1992). He was one of the greatest economists of the 20th century CE. I am supremely grateful that I have access to his ideas, thanks to my formal training in economics. All the effort of studying economics is worth the reward of being able to read Hayek.

I was delighted to learn what Hayek thought of monotheism, one of the two ideologies — the other being socialism/communism — that I thoroughly detest. Here it is: Continue reading “Hayek on Monotheism”

No Excuse

Tweet from Oct 12, 2021

In a tweet on Oct 12th, Prime Minister Modi boasted, “I feel proud that even at the peak of COVID-19, 80 crore Indians got access to free food grains.”

It takes an extraordinary amount of self-deluded arrogance for a prime minister to claim credit for something that any person of average morality and sensibility would be ashamed to admit. It is shameful that India is so desperately poor that 800 million (out of a total population of around 1,400 million) would starve under adverse conditions without government food assistance.

“If you feel driven to feed the poor, get your checkbook out and keep your tyrannical mouth shut about it.” – Lewis Goldberg

If it was Modi’s personal fortune that was the source of the largesse, he could have been justifiably proud for having helped the poor in distress. But it was not his money; he merely extracted the wealth from about 600 million at the point of a gun and transferred it to the 800 million. In doing so, he forcefully demonstrated that Indians can be conceptually partitioned between two mutually exclusive and exhaustive groups: those 800 million who are reduced to beggary, and the 600 million who are reduced to slavery. Continue reading “No Excuse”

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