In a community regulated by laws of demand and supply, but protected from open violence, the persons who become rich are, generally speaking, industrious, resolute, proud, covetous, prompt, methodical, sensible, unimaginative, insensitive, and ignorant. The persons who remain poor are the entirely foolish, the entirely wise, the idle, the reckless, the humble, the thoughtful, the dull, the imaginative, the sensitive, the well-informed, the improvident, the irregularly and impulsively wicked, the clumsy knave, the open thief, the entirely merciful, just, and godly person.John Ruskin (1915). In Upton Sinclair, ed. The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.
Cryptocurrencies: Everything we don’t understand about money combined with everything we don’t understand about computers.John Oliver (2018). Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
There are no solutions; there are only trade-offs.
The language of … ideological politics … is the language of solutions and of the unconstrained vision behind solutions, the vision of the anointed. (T)his language says that the preferences of the anointed are to supersede the preferences of everyone else – that the particular dangers they fear are to be avoided at all costs and the particular benefits they seek are to be obtained at all costs. Their attempts to remove these decisions from both the democratic process and the market process, and to vest them in obscure commissions, unelected judges, and insulated bureaucracies, are in keeping with the logic of what they are attempting. They are not seeking trade-offs based on the varying preferences of millions of other people, but solutions based on their own presumably superior knowledge and virtue.Thomas Sowell (1995). The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, p 142
The vast material and intellectual progress under the short era of liberalism threatens to be its own undoing, through placing power – physical, intellectual, organisational, and moral or psychological – in the hands of man and especially the common man, more rapidly than he has educated himself to distribute it equitably and use it wisely.Frank H. Knight (1921). Risk, Uncertainty and Profit, Preface to the 1948 Edition, p lii
Since economics is meant to be my profession, no matter what I make of my love affair with philosophy, I might as well begin by acknowledging that my profession has had something of a troubled relation with the perspective of happiness.Amartya Sen (2009). The Idea of Justice, p 269
Many contemporary scholars, and not only popular writers, have … argued that the standard socio-economic science model requires, justifies and promotes selfish behavior. On the contrary, … opportunism in all relational contracting and exchange across time (is a) cost, not a benefit, in achieving long-term value from trade; an ideology of honesty means that people play the game of “trade”,’ rather than “steal” … .Vernon Smith (2003). Constructivist and Ecological Rationality in Economics (Nobel Prize lecture). The American Economic Review, (93 (3), p 466
(T)he opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. The scepticism that I advocate amounts only to this: (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment.Bertrand Russell (1958). On the Value of Scepticism, in The Will to Doubt, p 39 (via Conversable Economist Timothy Taylor)
These propositions may seem mild, yet, if accepted, they would absolutely revolutionize human life.
There’s no evidence … that greed or miserliness or self-interest was new in the sixteenth or the nineteenth or any other century. Auri sacra fames, “for gold the infamous hunger,” is from The Aeneid, book 3, line 57, not from Benjamin Franklin or Advertising Age. The propensity to truck and barter is human nature. Commerce is not some evil product of recent manufacture. Commercial behavior is one of the world’s oldest professions.Deirdre McCloskey (2006). The Bourgeois Virtues. Ethics for an Age of Commerce, p 2
Losers in a democratic contest have to hold two contradictory views: that the policies of the winners are misguided, and that these policies should be implemented.Jan-Werner Müller (August 2020). Democracy for Losers. Boston Review.
Under the rule of individual property, the division of the produce is the result of two determining agencies: Competition, and Custom. It is important to ascertain the amount of influence which belongs to each of these causes, and in what manner the operation of one is modified by the other.John Stuart Mill (1848). Principles of Political Economy, Book II, Chapter IV
Political economists generally, and English political economists above others, have been accustomed to lay almost exclusive stress upon the first of these agencies; to exaggerate the effect of competition, and to take into little account the other and conflicting principle.
Growing prosperity seems to give an ever-wider range of people a sense of power and independence. It encourages a special form of self-esteem that comes when people recognize themselves as central causes of the particular lives they are living – rather than being in any way the ward of others, no matter how well meaning, other-regarding or wise those others might be. In many countries, citizens are increasingly resentful about having economic decision-making power taken from them by the planners of the social-democratic state. In ways that are difficult fully to understand, prosperity makes the personal exercise of economic liberty more rather than less valuable to many liberal citizens.John Tomasi (2012). Free Market Fairness, p. 61
“Market” is a remote and unhelpful analogy. Things don’t work out optimally for a simple reason: there is no reason why they should. There is no mechanism that attunes individual response to some collective accomplishment.Thomas Schelling (1978). Micromotives and Macrobehavior, p. 32
Citizenship is by its very essence less comfortable than customership, and if measured by the same criteria must inevitably lose out.Wolfgang Streeck (2012). Citizens as Customers. Considerations on the New Politics of Consumption, in New Left Review, 76, p 41
Plenty of charities and nonprofits don’t actually change or improve the world or deliver any useful product at all, but rather simply continue as lost causes with no impact. The same cannot be said for most commercial businesses, at least not over extended periods of time. If I think “nonprofit sushi”, my first instinct is to run away, not to embrace it.Tyler Cowen (2019). Big Business. A love letter to an American anti-hero, p35
- Spelen culturele verschillen een rol in de verschillen in infectie- en overlijdensratio’s tussen en soms zelfs binnen Europese landen? Dit kaartje toont frappante verschillen in Zwitserland. Het Duits-sprekend deel heeft ratio’s die overeenstemmen met die van Duitsland; idem voor het Franstalig deel en het Italiaans-sprekend deel. Ook in België was de taalgrens een Coronagrens. Was, want ondertussen heeft heel België dezelfde kleur.
- Vervolg op en gevolg van de open memo (en hier) die Brian Armstrong, oprichter en CEO van de financiële innovator Coinbase, kort geleden publiceerde en waar hij zich afzette tegen Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) en politiek activisme binnen Coinbase. Ondertussen hebben 60 van de 1,200 werknemers van Coinbase ontslag genomen, weliswaar met het genereus afscheidspakket dat Armstrong in een follow-up post aanbood aan wie het niet eens was met zijn visie.
- Oeps, politiek incorrect artikel? Psychologen en computerwetenschappers van onder meer de University of Columbia onderzochten de loonkloof tussen mannen en vrouwen in een anonieme arbeidsmarkt. Ze bekeken hoe meer dan 22,000 free lancers voor 5 miljoen opdrachten betaald werden in Mechanical Turk, het freelancersplatform van Amazon. Opdrachtgevers in Mechanical Turk kennen het geslacht van hun opdrachtnemers niet. De onderzoekers vonden dat vrouwen gemiddeld 10.5 procent minder verdienden dan mannen. Een van de mogelijke verklaringen was dat vrouwen de neiging hadden opdrachten te kiezen die minder betaalden. Via Marginal Revolution.
- Interessant en vermakelijk interview met Angus Deaton, Nobelprijswinnaar Economie van 2016 en volgens interviewer Gordon Rausser “maybe the greatest applied economist of his generation“. In de eerste zeven pagina’s van de pdf geeft Rausser een goed overzicht van de loopbaan en verwezenlijkingen van Deaton. Het jongste en ophefmakende boek van Deaton en zijn vrouw Anne Case, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, bespreek ik “binnenkort” in de reeks over het einde van het kapitalisme.
- De top 100 van productopzoekingen op Amazon in 2020.