Category Archives: Pith

Quotation of the Day

Fortune can bestow no higher benefit upon us, than the discord of our enemies.

-Tacitus, Germania, 33.179

Adam Smith on the New Tone

“The furious behavior of an angry man is more likely to exasperate us against himself than against his enemies.”

-Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments

Erasmus on Thinking for One’s Self

Erasmus opens In Praise of Folly with a letter to Thomas More, author of Utopia. They became good friends when Erasmus stayed in England. He gave More this bit of praise:

“[S]uch is the excellence of your judgment that it was ever contrary to that of the people’s.”


Polls Are Useful

A USA Today/Gallup poll finds that:

[O]nly 38% of Americans say Obama definitely was born in the USA, and 18% say he probably was. Fifteen percent say he probably was born in another country, and 9% say he definitely was born elsewhere.

Republicans are inclined to say the president was born abroad by 43%-35%.

What makes this poll useful? As Oscar Wilde once explained, “By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.”

Why I Enjoy Reading

“A book is an arrangement of twenty-six phonetic symbols, ten numerals, and about eight punctuation marks, and people can cast their eyes over these and envision the eruption of Mount Vesuvius or the Battle of Waterloo.”

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man without a Country, p. 133

The Wisdom of Philosophers

“There is nothing so absurd which has not sometimes been asserted by some philosophers.”

-Cicero, De Divinatione, ii, 58.

Words for the Wise

“But he was primarily an artist and therefore knew that in nature the intermediary colors predominate and an absolute white and an absolute black are rarely found.”

Hendrik WillemVan Loon, describing Desiderius ErasmusThe Praise of Folly.

Wise words for Republicans, Democrats, good-government types, anarchists, and all the other ideologies that suffer from too much Certainty.

A Bit of Smithian Wisdom

“[T]he law ought always to trust people with the care of their own interest, as in their local situations they must generally be able to judge better of it than the legislature can do.”

-Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations, Book IV, Ch. 5.

This sentence must have had a tremendous influence on Hayek’s thought.

Quotation of the Week

“To err is human; to get paid for it, you have to be an economist.”

Larry Sabato, on unemployment projections being 100,000 off from what was released today.

Advice for Writers

“[O]bscurity is usually the refuge of incompetence.”

-Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land.