Herb Stein's Unfamiliar Quotations

May 16 1997 3:30 AM

Herb Stein's Unfamiliar Quotations

On money, madness, and making mistakes.

(Continued from Page 2)

--Henry C. Simons, Economic Policy for a Free Society, 1948

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What fascinates me about this sentence is the word "unlovely." It is a candid declaration that feelings on this subject are "feelings," not matters of efficiency or justice but matters of taste, of aesthetics, of emotions.

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There is a great deal of ruin in a nation.

--Adam Smith, in a letter to a friend who, after the battle of Saratoga, was lamenting that the revolt of the colonies was going to ruin Britain, late 18th century

This is a comfort when one is listening to politicians or editorialists describing the ruin that will follow if their pet policies are not adopted.

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If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

--Stein's Law, first pronounced in the 1980s

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This proposition, arising first in a discussion of the balance-of-payments deficit, is a response to those who think that if something cannot go on forever, steps must be taken to stop it--even to stop it at once.

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If a plank creaks in the floor, he [Ernesto IV] snatches up his pistols and imagines that there is a liberal hiding under his bed.

--Stendhal, The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839

A comment on many of today's pundits.