50 Fascinating Things I've Read Lately

Pretty simple. When I read something I like, I try to write it down. In no particular order, here are 50 things I've read lately that, for one reason or another, caught my attention.

"Today, of Americans officially designated as 'poor,' 99 percent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 percent have a television, 88 percent a telephone, 71 percent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these."
--Matt Ridley

"As late as the 1950s, New York's garment industry was the nation's largest manufacturing cluster. It employed 50 percent more workers than the auto industry in Detroit."
--Edward Glaeser

"If everyone worldwide had the same chance of becoming a billionaire, you'd expect the chance of a billionaire child having a billionaire parent to be one out of 9.3 million. In reality the odds are two out of five."
--Charles Kenny

"Two married 66-year-olds with roughly average earnings over their lives will end up paying about $110,000 in dedicated Medicare taxes through the payroll tax, including the portion their employers pay. They can expect to receive about $340,000 in benefits. Two average-earning 56-year-olds will pay about $140,000 and get back about $430,000 in benefits." 
--David Leonhardt

"In 1941, the U.S. economy produced almost 40 percent more output than it had in 1929, with virtually no increase in labor hours or private-sector capital input. Almost all of the increase in output per hour is attributable to technological and organizational advance. ... The [Great Depression in the] 1930s were indeed the most technologically progressive decade of the century."
--Alex Field

"The average Mexican lives longer now than the average Briton did in 1955. Infant mortality is lower today in Nepal than it was in Italy in 1951. The proportion of Vietnamese living on less than $2 a day has dropped from 90 per cent to 30 per cent in twenty years. The rich have got richer, but the poor have done even better."
--Matt Ridley

"If fertility drops much below 2.1 babies per woman, the population will shrink unless it is offset by higher immigration. For this reason, a demographic cloud hangs over China. It may be 'the first country to grow old before it grows rich.' ... Its fertility rate is below two and its working-age population will start to decline around 2015."
--Greg Ip

"Over a 15-year stretch ending in 2006, General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) poured $55 billion into its workers' pension plan, compared to only $13 billion that it paid out in dividends."
--Roger Lowenstein

"New Jersey boasts the highest percentage of passport holders (68%); Delaware (67%), Alaska (65%), Massachusetts (63%), New York (62%), and California (60%) are close behind. At the opposite end of the spectrum, less than one in five residents of Mississippi are passport holders, and just one in four residents of West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas."
--Richard Florida

"Worldwide, there are now as many people overweight as malnourished (1 billion)."
--Charles Kenny

"In manufacturing, the market price is set by the smartest guy with the best, cheapest production process. In [stock] markets, the price is set by the dumbest guy with the most money to lose."
--William Heyman

"The world has plenty of better artists, smarter writers, funnier humorists and more experienced business people. The rare part is that each of those modest skills is collected in one person. That's how value is created."
--Dilbert creator Scott Adams

"A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed."
--Peter Thiel

"The United States, with income per capita of $29,000 and annual health care expenditures per head of $5,711, sees a life expectancy of seventy-seven years. Compare this to Costa Rica, where annual income per head is $6,500, annual health expenditures per capita is $305, and life expectancy is seventy-nine years."
--Charles Kenny

"Sudanese people live in unspeakable poverty, yet come to the U.S. and remark on how miserable Americans' lives are. All we do is work. No time for family, friends, or social gatherings."
--Adapted from the documentary God Grew Tired of Us

"In school they give you a question and ask you to find an answer. In the real world the answers are everywhere -- the Internet, calculators, history books, reference manuals. The trick is asking the right questions."
--Adapted from speech by Conrad Wolfram

"Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real."
--Joseph Stiglitz

"A recent study found that the iPod -- a nearly ubiquitous device -- has created 13,920 jobs in the United States, including engineering and retail. That's a pretty small number."
--Tyler Cowen

"Small government is better than big government, but size is less important than quality. For example, Sweden's government spends more than half of gross domestic product while Mexico's spends only a quarter of its GDP. But Swedish government is efficient and honest while Mexico's is inefficient and rife with corruption. That's one reason Sweden is rich and Mexico is poor."
--Greg Ip

"The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor; the fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich."
--Nassim Taleb

"Groupon saw its revenue surge to $760 million last year from $33 million the previous year."
--Michael Hickins

"Food prices declined by one-half in the second fifty years of the twentieth century alone."
--Charles Kenny

"In 1945 the U.S. accounted for about 50% of total global output, twice what it does now. Why? Because most of the rest of the industrial world was in ruins. Had history taken another turn or two, the U.S. would not have had the monopoly of riches it enjoyed for the next three decades. Consider: At the beginning of the last century, Germany was an industrial and scientific powerhouse, but two world wars and Nazism ended that. Had it not succumbed to militarism in the 1920s and '30s, Japan would have had a modern, technology-based economy by the 1940s, not the 1970s."
--Michael Elliott                     

"A Canadian polling company once asked people how many millions there are in a billion. Forty-five percent didn't know. So how will they react when they're told that the arsenic levels in their drinking water are three parts per billion? Those who don't know what a billion is can only ... hit the panic button."
--Daniel Gardner

"So [government] spending [in 2010] was $186 billion higher than if we'd stuck to the [2000-2007] trend, and revenue was $681 billion lower. In other words, the giant deficit is mainly the result of the collapse in tax receipts brought on by the recession, not the increase in spending. Nice to know, huh?"
--Justin Fox

"The wisdom of crowds only really applies when forecasts are genuinely independent, as when farmers are guessing the weight of a bull at a country fair. Once you know what others are thinking, their views lead you into error."
--The Economist

"That what is self-evident to one person can be seen as silly by another should give us pause about the reliability of common sense as a basis for understanding the world."
--Duncan Watts

"We learn less from history than we think we do, and this misperception skews our perception of the future."
--Duncan Watts

"The stock market is a giant distraction from the business of investing."
--John Bogle

"Americans who live in metropolitan areas with more than a million residents are, on average, more than 50 percent more productive than Americans who live in smaller metropolitan areas."
--Edward Glaeser

"The long-term growth rate of earnings per share on the stock market has lagged behind that of American GDP because many of the fastest-growing companies are not quoted."
--The Economist

"Going from an income of a dollar a day to $150,000 a year is about the same distance as going from $150,000 a year to the type of income that might get you on the Forbes list of richest Americans."
--Charles Kenny

"A recent survey found that of tested Indian students who had completed the lower primary cycle, 31 percent could not read a simple story and 29 percent could not do two-digit math problems."
--Charles Kenny

"I grew up with the priceless advantage of having to work for what I got."
--John Bogle

"[Alan Greenspan] told the New York Times Magazine in 1976 that he rationalized his decision to join the government thusly: 'I could have a real effect.'"
--Matt Taibbi

"The percentage of [home] buyers in Phoenix paying cash hit 42% in 2010."
--Mitra Kalita

"One classic paper compared the effects of right-to-work laws on factory jobs in neighboring counties, on either side of a right-to-work border. It found that manufacturing grew 23.1% faster between 1947 and 1992 on the anti-union side of the divide."
--Edward Glaeser

"Don't have $7.5 million? Most American millionaires wouldn't define you as rich. Of the 1000 respondents in a survey by Fidelity Investments, all with at least $1 million in investable assets, 42% said they do not feel rich. In 2009, when the economy was worse, 46% reported not feeling rich."
--Zoe Fox

"By the age of 3, children from wealthier households hear, on average, about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. The ratio is reversed in households on welfare."
--Jonah Lehrer

"The opposite of success isn't failure; it is name-dropping."
--Nassim Taleb

"Being poor is bad when you need access to expensive treatments or services. Luckily, however, many of the services and treatments most necessary to increase quality of life are very cheap."
--Charles Kenny

"The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable."
--John Kenneth Galbraith

"In 2009, economists Emmanuel Saez, Joel Slemrod and Seth Giertz concluded raising [tax] rates on the rich by 1 percent may cause them to report 0.1 percent to 0.4 percent less taxable income."
--Greg Ip

"Steinhardt founded Steinhardt Partners LP, one of the most successful hedge fund managers, in 1967. Back then 'you had to be a special money manager to run a hedge fund because you were expected to do well,' he said. 'It's a very different world today.'"
--CNBC

"Paying Kim Kardashian $10,000 to tweet about a product may well buy less buzz than paying 10,000 ordinary Twitter users $1 each."
--Chris Chabris

"If you manage a team of 10 people, it's quite possible to do so with very few mistakes or bad behaviors. If you manage an organization of 1,000 people it is quite impossible. At a certain size, your company will do things that are so bad that you never imagined that you'd be associated with that kind of incompetence."
--Ben Horowitz

"Between 1980 and 2000, financial industry profits rose from $32.4 billion to $195.8 billion ... and the financial sector's share of all domestically produced profits went from 19 percent to 29 percent."
--John Cassidy

"Don't believe that 'customer is always right' stuff. ... ING Direct has built the fastest-growing bank in America by saying no. When customers ask for a credit card, the answer is no. When they ask for an online brokerage, the answer is no. When they ask if they can open an account with a million dollars, the answer is no."
--Jason Fried

"Blaming individuals is no substitute for acknowledging the failure of a [financial] system."
-- Mervyn King

"The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."
--Mark Twain

Check back every Tuesday and Friday for Morgan Housel's columns on finance and economics.

Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. General Motors is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (35) | Recommend This Article (154)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 5:57 PM, xetn wrote:

    Slow day, Morgan?

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 6:03 PM, bretco wrote:

    Good stuff, as usual.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 9:03 PM, ernieslog wrote:

    not good stuff, great stuff

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 9:08 PM, Kiffit wrote:

    I really enjoyed that.

  • Report this Comment On April 15, 2011, at 11:32 PM, TMFUltraLong wrote:

    Epic Morgan.....

    Sean (TMFUltraLong)

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 2:19 AM, TMFKopp wrote:

    Nice work Morgan.

    Matt

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 9:00 AM, Darwood11 wrote:

    Good stuff.

    I was aware of the IPod job statistic. It's one of the reasons I avoid Apple products. As American "luxury" products, they produce few American jobs, and many of those are low pay "Apple Kiosk" attendants.

    I think the opportunities are better starting at the bottom in many other industries.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 1:38 PM, CatFoodMoney wrote:

    Interesting read.

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 1:44 PM, Adagion wrote:

    This was a fun read,i enjoyed it. Thanks!

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 1:47 PM, TMFBomb wrote:

    Made my day, Morgan.

    My favorite is probably:

    "The opposite of success isn't failure; it is name-dropping."

    --Nassim Taleb

    -Anand

  • Report this Comment On April 16, 2011, at 5:10 PM, benthalus wrote:

    I actually studied the health care system in Costa Rica for a summer during medical school. There are some significant environmental and lifestyle factors that contribute to their disease-free longevity, such as a warm climate and small towns where walking and bikes are as common of methods of transportation as cars, and easy access to cheap, healthy fruits and vegetables. But their other secret to success is a government-managed healthcare system that places a heavy focus on primary and preventive care. More than half of that $305 per year goes into primary care. All employees contribute to the plan via their employer, and self-employed people are allowed to buy in at slightly higher rates than the employees pay.

    But lest you capitalists sneer at this liberal socialist paradise, fear not! A robust second tier of private health care exists, and if you want to spend the extra money, you can pay for your own private insurance and private doctors. Get your non-urgent hysterectomy done tomorrow instead of 6 months from now.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 1:52 AM, buddyglee wrote:

    i put a bunch of those quotes on my facebook

    i asked my wife how many millions are in a billion

    she knew the answer :)

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 8:26 AM, nancyChen0999 wrote:

    and my input:

    coupon socialnetworks like groupon etc are the next big bubble...

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 11:09 AM, MajorBob04 wrote:

    Fascinating. Puts a lot of things in perspective.

    The chances of becoming a billionaire or even rich are small, but we can at least strive to have "enough", and live with a lot more balance in our lives, like the Sudanese and the Costa Ricans and many other societies that aren't as rich as we are, but enjoy life a lot more.

    Not saying I don't enjoy life and that nobody enjoys life, but I see a lot of people that could find a lot more balance.

    Me included. ;-)

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 12:32 PM, radicalbyte wrote:

    This quote highlights the author's ignorance more than that of the Canadian public:

    "A Canadian polling company once asked people how many millions there are in a billion. Forty-five percent didn't know. So how will they react when they're told that the arsenic levels in their drinking water are three parts per billion? Those who don't know what a billion is can only ... hit the panic button." --Daniel Gardner

    There are at least two definitions of a billion US: 10^9, UK: 10^12(10^6 * 10^6). The French for 10^9 is miliard, and for 10^12 is billion.

    So the fact that Canadians - residents in a country where French is an official language and which was previously part of the British Empire - are confused by a question involving this number (asked by an American) should come as no surprise.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 2:24 PM, deckdawg wrote:

    Morgan - after your detailed analysis of the Republican budget proposal, I've been watching for a similar breakdown on President Obama's proposal. Is something like that in the works?

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2011, at 7:37 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ There weren't many details to pick apart, but I tried:

    http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2011/04/14/what-you-ne...

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 11:34 AM, TheMotleyTimbear wrote:

    "In 1941, the U.S. economy produced almost 40 percent more output than it had in 1929, with virtually no increase in labor hours or private-sector capital input. Almost all of the increase in output per hour is attributable to technological and organizational advance. ... The [Great Depression in the] 1930s were indeed the most technologically progressive decade of the century."

    --Alex Field

    Thanks WWII!!!

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 12:04 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    TheMotleyTimber,

    America's involvement in WW2 didn't ramp up until 1941/1942, which is why I assume Field chose '41 as an end date.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 1:55 PM, tom2727 wrote:

    "If everyone worldwide had the same chance of becoming a billionaire, you'd expect the chance of a billionaire child having a billionaire parent to be one out of 9.3 million. In reality the odds are two out of five."

    --Charles Kenny

    I think the amazing thing about this statistic is that it's ONLY 2 of 5. Let's see what happens when we repeal the estate tax in the US.

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 4:26 PM, badnicolez wrote:

    ...and the US is rich despite a government that is corrupt and inefficient...

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 4:37 PM, pastreet wrote:

    There's some awesome and inspiring stuff here!

    Pat

    www.compoundingreturns.com

  • Report this Comment On April 18, 2011, at 7:17 PM, digistar wrote:

    TMFHousel,

    While it is true that you said about the United States involvement in WW2 for itself, in 1940 and 1941 industry in the U. S. was building up selling war supplies to Great Britian and China. So WW2 is a valid reason for U.S. growth prior to 1942.

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2011, at 12:45 AM, akutach wrote:

    Tom2727,

    Morgan pre-responded to your comment:

    "The fastest way to become rich is to socialize with the poor; the fastest way to become poor is to socialize with the rich."

    --Nassim Taleb

    Toss in the wit that a fool and his money are soon parted, and I think 2 out of 5 sounds about right.

    Alan

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2011, at 1:55 AM, hbofbyu wrote:

    "And it won’t make one bit of difference if I answer right or wrong. When you’re rich, they think you really know!" - Tevye - Fiddler on the Roof

  • Report this Comment On April 19, 2011, at 3:22 PM, mclaugph wrote:

    agree with others...good post.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2011, at 12:54 PM, woodNfish wrote:

    A lot of these quotes are just pure nonsense. Such as "By the age of 3, children from wealthier households hear, on average, about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. The ratio is reversed in households on welfare."

    --Jonah Lehrer

    That is just unprovable crap. While this might be an amusing read, I certainly wouldn't use it as a guide for anything.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2011, at 12:58 PM, TMFHousel wrote:

    ^ Why do you find it unprovable?

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2011, at 12:34 PM, 123spot wrote:

    Wonderful and thank you. More, please.Cheers.

  • Report this Comment On April 21, 2011, at 10:42 PM, thisislabor wrote:

    "By the age of 3, children from wealthier households hear, on average, about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. The ratio is reversed in households on welfare."

    --Jonah Lehrer

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2011, at 4:35 PM, sidehiller wrote:

    This was good fun, and I LOVED it that Mark Twain got the last word.

    (However, I would like to point out tht ING does offer brokerage service--they bought Sharebuilder.)

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2011, at 8:42 PM, banditone wrote:

    I will add my own personal quote for you Fools to consider.....

    "The bottom line is the bottom line"

    Happy holiday

    Bandit

  • Report this Comment On May 07, 2011, at 6:10 PM, Keeskennis wrote:

    I have asked my reader to react on your 50

    I have done so on a few

    http://keeskennis.blogspot.com/2011/05/answer-3-posts-and-co...

  • Report this Comment On May 29, 2011, at 1:09 PM, fbcx wrote:

    About David Leonhardt's Medicare comment, if those same two 66 year-olds had achieved a modest 4.25% return on their annualized payments, their benefits and payments with compound growth would be $341,666.10 vs the $340,000.00 in benefits they supposedly would expect to recieve. So what's your point? Medicare is a lousy investment. The Government failed to invest the money properly. What else is new? Whose fault is that? Medicare is not a subsidy. It is a very poorly managed insurance policy, but it is a contractual agreement that must be honored.

  • Report this Comment On November 04, 2011, at 1:50 PM, efmagowan wrote:

    I also must question the following:

    "By the age of 3, children from wealthier households hear, on average, about 500,000 encouragements and 80,000 discouragements. The ratio is reversed in households on welfare."

    --Jonah Lehrer

    That works out to roughly one encouragement or discouragement per minute for 8 hours per day since they were born. It does strain credulity, to put it mildly.

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