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AN ARMOURY OF APHORISMS FOR USE IN ARGUMENT

How Government Reckons: The Formula

Think of a project; estimate (or, rather, underestimate) its cost; estimate (or, rather, overestimate) the revenue it will generate; and, if an inconvenient gap still exists, close it by valuing the social benefit at the sum required.

Robert Heller: The Naked Manager, London, Barrie & Jenkins, 1972 (quoted in: Roger James, Return to Reason: Popper’s Thought in Public Life, Open Books, Shepton Mallet, Somerset, 1980)

Ann Coulter’s Mattress

Society cannot legislate what goes on “in the bedroom”. But if we can’t legislate what goes on in the bedroom, why can’t I hide money from the IRS under my mattress?

Ann Coulter, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Crown Forum, New York, 2006

Enduring Money

Money is an institution which, like language and law, has evolved not through the conscious design of chattering class scribblers, but through the experience gained as a result of many small innovations, by very many people, over a very long period of time. Numismatists are instinctive conservatives.

Ray Evans, “Whose is this image and superscription? Money and Sovereignty”, in Conservative Realism: New Essays in Conservatism, edited by Kenneth Minogue, HarperCollins (in association with The Centre for Policy Studies), London, 1996

The Discipline of Gold

Gold provides a unique discipline because it cannot be created by banks. In a gold system, gold is the ultimate regulator.

William Rees-Mogg, “Reality and discipline are gone with the gold”, The Times, Friday 20 July, 2012, page 28

Dr Samuel Johnson on Power

Power is always stealing away from the many to the few because the few are more vigilant and consistent.

The Code of da Vinci

As you cannot do what you want, want what you can do.

Racing Cows

Setting a prefixed (and grandiose) goal is irrational because there is no reason to assume that the goal is attainable at a reasonable cost with the available means. It doesn’t make sense to have the goal that your cow will win the Kentucky Derby. No amount of expert training will create a Derby-winning race cow. It makes much more sense to ask, “What useful things can a cow do?”

William Easterly, The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts  to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006

The Force of Markets

A rational and useful investment meets the test of paying for itself under a regime of normal, market interest rates. That is what the market test is for – to help weed out irrational and wasteful ideas.

Hunter Lewis, Where Keynes Went Wrong and Why World Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles and Busts, Axios Press, Mount Jackson, Virginia, 2009

Financier’s Greed? Only half the story…

When government serves free drinks by printing money, driving interest rates down, and overspending, Wall Street tends to get drunk. This is very convenient for government because, when the hangover comes, the average person will blame the drunk, not the bartender. This happened each time a bubble popped, at the end of the 1920s, the end of the 1990s, and the end of the recent housing bubble.

Hunter Lewis, Where Keynes Went Wrong and Why World Governments Keep Creating Inflation, Bubbles and Busts, Axios Press, Mount Jackson, Virginia, 2009

von Mises on Collapse: Sooner or Later, but Inevitable

There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion.  The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.

Ludwig von Mises, Human Action, Yale University Press, 1949

The Economy of Time

Prosperity is simply time saved, which is proportional to the division of labour.

Matt Ridley, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Fourth Estate, London, 2010

Market Intelligence

Nobody planned the global capitalist system, nobody runs it, and nobody really comprehends it. This particularly offends intellectuals, for capitalism renders them redundant. It gets on perfectly well without them.

Peter Saunders, “Why capitalism is good for the soul”, Policy Magazine, Vol. 34 No. 4, Centre for Independent Studies, St Leonards, New South Wales, 2007 (quoted in Matt Ridley op. cit.)

Pedagogical Coercion

To cast answers like stones at the heads of those who have not yet asked the questions is the fatal pedagogical error.

Paul Tillich, quoted in Michael Vincent Miller, “Does Sex Still Exist?, in Katherine Washburn and John Thornton (eds), Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip Mining of American Culture, W. W. Norton, New York and London, 1996