Category Archives: Quote of the Week

Quote of the Week

[P]olitical liberalism supposes that there are many conflicting reasonable comprehensive doctrines with their conceptions of the good, each compatible with the full rationality of human persons, so far as that can be ascertained with the resources of a political conception of justice.2 As noted before, this reasonable plurality of conflicting and incommensurable doctrines is seen as the characteristic work of practical reason over time under enduring free institutions. So the question the dominant tradition has tried to answer has no answer: no comprehensive doctrine is appropriate as a political conception for a constitutional regime.

— John Rawls, Political Liberalism (New York: Colombia University Press, 1993), p. 135.

The footnote,

The point here is that while some would want to claim that given the full resources of philosophical reason, there is but one reasonable conception of the good, that cannot be shown by the resources of a reasonable political conception of justice.

Quote of the Week

If The Road [to Serfdom] was often misconstrued as a blast against the welfare state, it found readers in German-speaking Europe where its message was understood the other way around — as an insightful analysis of recent history and as a plea for a system, liberalism, that had never really been tried in Germany. In English, The Road was a conservative manifesto; in Germany, it turned out to be revolutionary. As a result, The Road‘s actual influence on German politics may have been more profound and lasting than it has been in the English-speaking world, a fact usually ignored by American Hayek scholars.

— François Godard, “The Road to Serfdom’s Economistic Worldview,” Critical Review 25, 3–4 (2013), pp. 378–379.

Quote of the Week

In 1952,…only 6.5 million Americans (4% of the U.S. population, or roughly 9.5% of households) owned any common stock — below the 1920s level of 15 to 20% of households and far below the 2007 figure of 49.1%. In 1952, approximately half (46%) of equity investors owned only one issue (ed. emphasis mine).

— Janice M. Traflet, A Nation of Small Shareholders (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013), pp. 4–5.

Quote of the Week

On the difference between an accounting identity and a model,

[T]here is a crucial difference between this law [β = s(avings)/g(rowth)] and the law α = r × β, whch I called the first fundamental law of capitalism in Chapter 1. According to that law, the share of capital income in nationa income, α, is equal to the average rate of return on capital, r, times the capital/income ratio, β. It is important to realize that the law α = r × β is actually a pure accounting identity, valid at all times in all places, by construction. Indeed, one can view it as a definition of the share of capital in national income (or of the rate of return on capital, depending on which parameter is easiest to measure) rather than as a law. By contrast, the law β = s/g is the result of a dynamic process: it represents a state of equilibrium toward which an economy will tend if the savings rate is s and the growth rate g, but that equilibrium state is never perfectly realized in practice.

— Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge: The Belknap Press, 2014), pp. 168–169.

Quote of the Week

From a section on self-esteem,

…[I]f the number of dimensions is not unlimited and if great strides are made to eliminate differences, that as the number of differentiating dimensions shrinks, envy will become more severe. For with a small number of differentiating dimensions, many people will find they don’t well on any of them.

— Robert Nozick, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), p. 245.

I also like the argument he makes about perfect equality along all, or given, dimensions. We feel good about ourselves when we compare our ability to that of others, and when we can see that our ability is high relative to others. But, if all of our abilities are equal, then we all feel equally frustrated at the fact we are just normal with respect to others. A better world is where the amount of dimensions approaches infinity, so that everyone can find a dimension along which they are superior.

Quote of the Week

The evolution of our monetary system over the last three millennia reflects a tension between two conflicting forces. One is the competitive search for lower-cost media of exchange; the other is the desire of the state to monopolize the supply of money. The tension between them became more acute with the emergence of banking. One the one hand, banking substantially reduced the cost of providing money; on the other, the state could not monopolize banking as effectively as it could monopolize coinage.

— David Glasner, Free Banking and Monetary Reform (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 44

Quote of the Week

The preservation of a free system is so difficult precisely because it requires a constant rejection of measures which appear to be required to secure particular results, on no stronger grounds than they conflict with a general rule, and frequently without our knowing what will be the costs of our not observing the rule in the particular instance. A successful defence of freedom must therefore be dogmatic and make no concessions to expediency, even where it is not possible to show that, besides the known beneficial effects, some particular harmful result would also follow from its infringement.

— Friedrich Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty: Rules and Order (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1973), p. 61.