Friday, August 24, 2012

Some clippets of interesting writing

Here are some enlightening quotes that I have read of late.

From Michael Lewis's Vanity Fair piece on Daniel Kahneman:

"He was working, equally unhappily, on a paper about human intuition—when people should trust their gut and when they should not—with a fellow scholar of human decision-making named Gary Klein. Klein, as it happened, was the leader of a school of thought that stressed the power of human intuition, and disagreed with the work of Kahneman and Tversky. Kahneman said that he did this as often as he could: seek out people who had attacked or criticized him and persuade them to collaborate with him. He not only tortured himself, in other words, but invited his enemies to help him to do it. “Most people after they win the Nobel Prize just want to go play golf,” said Eldar Shafir, a professor of psychology at Princeton and a disciple of Amos Tversky’s. “Danny’s busy trying to disprove his own theories that led to the prize. It’s beautiful, really.”

From Richard A.Posner's rebuttal to the book "How Much is Enough?" (The Economist should have made some of these points made in its review of the book. Instead, the once great magazine just kind of nodded and agreed with the book, completely failing to come to the defence of the market mechanism...bah!)
"Keynes, middle- rather than upper-class, worked hard all his life, but he was highly cultivated, a member of the Bloomsbury set, a balletomane, an admirer of the “good life” in a distinctively English sense unrelated to material comfort." (I'd assumed most developed countries shared this idea of the good life...well, you know what they say about assuming things).

This next paragraph carries little mental weight, but is a fun read:

"In recent years, England has become much more like the United States, but I well remember as recently as the 1980s how shabby England was, how terrible the plumbing, how shoddy the housing materials, how treacherously uneven the floors and sidewalks, how inadequate the heating and poor the food — and how tolerant the English were of discomfort. I recall breakfast at Hertford College, Oxford, in an imposing hall with a large broken window — apparently broken for some time — and the dons huddled sheeplike in overcoats; and in a freezing, squalid bar in the basement of the college a don in an overcoat expressing relief at being home after a year teaching in Virginia, which he had found terrifying because of America’s high crime rate, though he had not been touched by it. I remember being a guest of Brasenose College — Oxford’s wealthiest — and being envied because I had been invited to stay in the master’s guest quarters, only to find that stepping into the guest quarters was like stepping into a Surrealist painting, because the floor sloped in one direction and the two narrow beds in two other directions. I recall the English (now American) economist Ronald Coase telling me that until he visited the United States he did not know it was possible to be warm."

"The Skidelskys are correct that because goods and services can be produced with much less labor than in 1930, we could live now as we did then while working many fewer hours. We want to live better than that."

"Americans value leisure, but it is expensive leisure, and so they have to work hard in order to pay for it. As a result they have less leisure time than if their preferred form of leisure were lying in a hammock, but on balance they obtain more pleasure."    
"The greatest defenders of slacking seem to be incapable of doing it themselves. Bertrand Russell, for instance, squeezed in the writing of In Praise of Idleness between 30,000 letters, more than 70 books and a further 16 volumes of work unpublished in his lifetime." - point noted.

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