Food for Thought
- "Hitherto the Industrial Revolution has been based essentially on the
exploitation of inanimate energy derived from irreplaceable sources ... One
can summarize the story of our happy generations in the following way: for
millions of years wealth was stored and cumulated. Then, someone in the family
discovered the hoard - and started to dissipate it. We are now living through
this fabulous dissipation. Humanity is today consuming more coal in a single
year than had been generated in a hundred centuries or so during the process
of carbonization." (Carlo M. Cipolla, The Economic History of World Population,
Penguin, 1962, page 55)
Growth and Technology
- "We are not used to thinking of ideas as economic goods, but they are surely
the most significant ones that we produce ... We once used iron oxide as
a pigment in cave paintings. An elaborate set of ideas now lets us use
it to store magnetic signals on audio cassettes, video cassettes and computer
disk drives." (Paul Romer (1993), 150 Economist Years, page 86).
- "Ideas are instructions that let us combine limited physical resources
in arrangements that are ever more valuable", (Paul Romer (1992), "Two
Strategies for Economic Development: Using Ideas and Producing Ideas",
Proceedings of the World Bank Annual Conference on Development Economics)
- "Good work is rightly appreciated, inventions and improvements in machinery,
in process and the general organization of the business have their merits promptly
discussed: if one man starts a new idea, it is taken up by others and combined with
suggestions of their own; and thus becomes the source of further new ideas."
(Alfred Marshall (1890) Principles of Economics, IV.X.3)
Division of Labour
- "Quantity and quality are therefore more easily produced when a man specialises
appropriately on a single job for which he is naturally fitted, and neglects
all others." (Plato, The Republic, trans. Lee, D, 2nd Edition, Middlesex:
Penguin, (1974) cited by Bhagwait, J)
- "The greatest improvement in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill,
dexterity and judgement with which it is any where directed, or applied, seem to have been the
effects of the division of labour." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter I)
- "As it is the power of exchanging that gives occasion to the division of labour,
so the extent of this division must always be limited by the extent of that power,
or, in other words, by the extent of the market." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter III)
- "The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter,
for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education." (Adam Smith,
The Wealth of Nations, Book I, Chapter II)
- " ... the obsession with competitiveness is not only wrong but dangerous,
skewing domestic policies and threatening the international economic system
... Thinking in terms of competitiveness leads, directly and indirectly,
to bad economic policies on a wide range of issues, domestic and foreign."
(Paul Krugman (1996), Chapter 1, Pop Internationalism, MIT Press,
- "The popular view that free trade is all very well so long as all nations
are free-traders, but that when other nations erect tariffs we must erect
tarifss too, is countered by the argument that it would be just as sensible
to drop rocks into our own harbours because other nations have rocky coasts
...." (Joan Robinson, Essays in the Theory of Employment, Oxford:
- "What an extraordinary episode in the economic progress of man that age was which came to an end
in August 1914! ... The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed,
the various products of the whole earth, in such quantity as we might see fit, and reasonably expect
their early delivery upon his doorstep; he could at the same moment and by the same means adventure
his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprises of any quarter of the world, and share,
without exertion or even trouble, in their prospective fruits and advantages." (John Maynard Keynes,
The Economic Consequences of the Peace, New York: Harcourt, 1920, p. 11)
- "In a regime of Free Trade and free economic intercourse it would be of little consequence that iron
lay on one side of a political frontier, and labor, coal, and blast furnaces on the other. But as it is,
men have devised ways to impoverish themselves and one another; and prefer collective animosities
to individual happiness." (John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, New York:
Harcourt, 1920, p. 99)
- "It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will
cost him more to make than to buy. The taylor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of
the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but employs a taylor. The farmer
attempts to make neither the one nor the other, but employs those different artificers. All of them
find it for their interest to employ their whole industry in a way in which they have some advantage
over their neighbours, and to purchase with a part of its produce, or what is the same thing, with the
price of a part of it, whatever else they have occasion for. What is prudence in the conduct of every
private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us
with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better buy it of them with some part
of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some
advantage." (Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, New York: The Modern Library 1937, p. 424).
- "Modern industry has established the world market ... All old established national
industries ... are dislodged by new industries whose ... products are consumed, not only
at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants ... we find new
wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes."
(Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto)
- "Complete equality of factor prices is ... almost unthinkable and certainly highly improbable",
(Bertil Ohlin 1933)
- "In fact, there are exactly 2118 goods and 2118 factors. You did know that, didn't you?"
(Edward Leamer, Sources of International Comparative Advantage: Theory and Evidence,
MIT Press, 1984)
- "One of the best ways to understand how the international economy works is to start looking at what happens inside nations ...
The data will be better and pose fewer problems of compatibility, and the underlying economic forces will be less distorted by government policies."
(Paul Krugman, Geography and Trade, MIT Press, 1991)
- "Saying that trade policy exists because it serves to transfer income to favored groups is a bit like saying Sir Edmund Hillary
climbed Mount Everest because he wanted to get some mountain air." (Dani Rodrik, Chapter 28 in Handbook of International
Economics, vol 3, page 1470)
- "The progress of a society is all the more rapid in proportion as it is more completely
subjected to external influences." (Henry Pirenne)
- "A day will come in which you, France; you Italy; you Great Britain - all you nations of the continent - will
be united in close embrace, without losing your identity or striking originality. ... A day will come in which
markets open to commerce and minds open to ideas will be the sole battlefields." (Victor Hugo, 1861)
- "And what is the plight to which Europe has been reduced? ... over wide areas a vast quivering mass of tormented,
hungry, care-worn and bewildered human beings gape at the ruins of their cities and their homes, and scan the dark
horizons for the approach of some new peril, tyranny or terror. ... That is all that Europeans, grouped in so many
ancient states and nations ... have got by tearing each other to pieces and spreading havoc far and wide. Yet all
the while there is a remedy ... It is to recreate the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide
it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United
States of Europe" (Winston Churchill, Zurich, 19 September, 1946)
- "From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe.
Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia" (Winston Churchill, The Sinews of Peace
Speech, March 5, 1946, Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri)
- "Productivity isn't everything, but in the long run it is almost everything" (Paul Krugman,
The Age of Diminished Expectations, MIT Press, (1994))
- "Every city, no matter how small, is in fact divided into two; one the city of the rich, the other the city of the poor",
(Plato, The Republic, cited in Benabou (1996))
- "We have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, the workings of which we do not understand."
(John Maynard Keynes, The Great Slump of 1930).
- "Economics is a science of thinking in terms of models joined to the art of
choosing models which are relevant to the contemporary world." (John Maynard Keynes in
a letter to Roy Harrod, 1938, cited by Vickers, J, Bank of England Quarterly Bulletin,
May 1999, page 210).
- "All models are wrong, but some are useful." (Box, G (1979) "Robustness in the Strategy of Scientific Model Building",
in (eds) Launer, R and Wilkinson, G, Robustness in Statistics, cited by Temple, J (1998)
"Robustness Tests of the Augmented Solow Model", Journal of Applied Econometrics, 361-75).
- "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak"
(Hans Hoffman, cited in Efron, B and Tibshirani, R (1993) An Introduction to the Bootstrap,
Monographs on Statistics and Applied Probability 57, Chapman & Hall).
- "The grand aim of science is to cover the greatest number of experimental facts
by logical deduction from the smallest number of hypotheses or axioms." (Alfred Einstein)
- "What can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one cannot speak
thereof one must be silent." (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,
trans. C Ogden and F Ramsey, Routledge (1992)).
- "If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance;
let us ask, does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does
it contain any experimental reasoning, concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit
it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion"
(David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (1748), section 12, part 3)
- "There is, unfortunately, a kind of alchemy about figures which transforms the most dubious
materials into something pure and precious; hence the price of working with historical
statistics is eternal vigilance." (Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), cited by Angus Maddison)
- "When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know
something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers,
your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind." (William Thomson, Lord Kelvin,
Electrical Units of Measurement, 1883)
- "The great tragedy of Science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact."
(T. H. Huxley, Collected Essays, 1893-4)
- "Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and
continue on" (Winston Churchill)
- "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" (Albert Einstein)
- "The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are
right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood.
Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves
to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves
of some defunct economist." (John Maynard Keynes, The General Theory
of Interest, Employment and Money, London: Macmillan, (1936)).
- "Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy and an amusement; then it becomes
a lover; then it becomes a master; then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about
to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him about to the public." (Winston
- "The greatest problem in communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished."
(George Bernard Shaw)
- "Economists set themselves too easy too useless a task if in tempestuous seasons
they can only tell us that when the storm is long past the ocean is flat again." (John
Maynard Keynes, 1923)
- "If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level
with dentists, that would be splendid." (John Maynard Keynes)
- "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." (Albert Einstein)
- "We should take care not to make the intellect our god; it has, of course, powerful muscles, but no personality."
- "It is the allowing of machines to be our masters, and not our servants, that so injures the
beauty of life nowadays." (William Morris)
- "Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." (Winston S. Churchill)