Deficits, the National Debt, and Economic Growth: What many politicians don't want you to know.
Debt is the wrong enemy.  Growth is our forgotten friend.
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I've collected several quotes over the years, and on this page I classified them under subject headings. (Some of them fall under more than one heading, so you'll see some repeats.)

 

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Growth/Stagnation/Recession

Steve Forbes
You can't cut your way to prosperity, you've got to grow the economy.

Nathan Rosenberg
If Malthus, writing almost two centuries ago, could not foresee continued growth in the branch of the economy which supplies food, it is easy to see why contemporary neo-Malthusian movements, based on the substitution of other resources for food in the Malthusian argument, should find it impossible to conceive that Western growth can continue for much longer.

Nathan Rosenberg
Growth is, of course, a form of change, and growth is impossible when change is not permitted. And successful change requires a large measure of freedom to experiment. A grant of that kind of freedom costs a society's rulers their feeling of control... The great majority of societies, past and present, have not allowed it. Nor have they escaped from poverty.

George Gilder
The key to growth is quite simple: creative people with money. The cause of stagnation is similarly clear: depriving creative people of financial power.

Charles Van Doren
Nothing is more conducive to progress than the widespread belief that it can occur.

Charles Van Doren
With all its stress, anxiety, and threat of dangers never before known, it is modern life that is simpler and easier, not the life of the past.

Jane Jacobs
When new work is added to older work, the addition often cuts ruthlessly across categories of work. Only in stagnant economies does work stay docilely within categories.

Jane Jacobs
Many evils conventionally blamed upon progress are, rather, evils of stagnation.

Jane Jacobs
Developing economies are all too ruthless to nature, but their depredations do not compare in destructiveness to those of stagnating and stagnant economies where people exploit too narrow a range of resources too heavily and monotonously for too long.

Jane Jacobs

A country's basic wealth is its productive capacity, created by the practical opportunities people have had to add new work to older work.

Jane Jacobs
If highly developed economies do not continually find ways to supply capital for new work in their cities, they too must stagnate and then their wealth must inevitably begin to dwindle.

Jane Jacobs
The embarrassment of riches in an economy that is economizing on development of new work is temporary. It is a prelude to stagnation.

Jane Jacobs
Economic development, no matter when or where it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.

Jane Jacobs
In human history, most people in most places most of the time have existed miserably in stagnant economies. Developing economies have been the exceptions.

Nathan Rosenberg
Unlike most forms of geometric expansion, there is no reason to believe that the expansion of knowledge has any inherent limits.

Nathan Rosenberg
Growth is a form of change. Change implies innovation; and the Western system of innovation has depended upon wide diffusion of the power to undertake and use innovations, coupled with ample rewards for success and penalties for failure.

Reagan/1980s

George Gilder
In the United States, in the 1980s and on into the 1990s, during a time when leading economists on all sides of the political spectrum were predicting a worldwide depression, America's entrepreneurs made a defiant statement of their optimism and faith. They started new companies at a rate of nearly 600,000 a year, more than six times the number begun annually in the supposedly thriving years of the950s.

Rich/Poor

Jane Jacobs

Poverty has no causes. Only prosperity has causes... Poverty can be overcome only if the relevant economic processes are in motion.

Nathan Rosenberg
Growth is, of course, a form of change, and growth is impossible when change is not permitted. And successful change requires a large measure of freedom to experiment. A grant of that kind of freedom costs a society's rulers their feeling of control... The great majority of societies, past and present, have not allowed it. Nor have they escaped from poverty.

Jane Jacobs

The idea that, under sensible economic planning, population growth must be limited because natural resources are limited is profoundly reactionary... It is becoming conventional to assume that poor and unproductive people cause their own poverty by their very numbers. But if it is true that poverty is indeed caused by overpopulation, then it follows that poor people ought to prosper wherever populations decline appreciably.

Nathan Rosenberg
The perception of poverty as morally intolerable in a rich society had to await the emergence of a rich society.

Wealth

George Gilder

Volatile and shifting ideas, not heavy and entrenched establishments, constitute the source of wealth.

Peter Drucker
First-year accounting students are taught that the balance sheet portrays the liquidation value of the enterprise and provides creditors with worst-case information. But enterprises are not normally run to be liquidated. They have to be managed as going concerns, that is, for wealth creation.

George Gilder
The wealth of America is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic, living entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions. To vivisect it for redistribution would eventually kill it.

Jane Jacobs
A country's basic wealth is its productive capacity, created by the practical opportunities people have had to add new work to older work.

Nathan Rosenberg
The perception of poverty as morally intolerable in a rich society had to await the emergence of a rich society.
Income Distribution/Redistribution

George Gilder
The wealth of America is not an inventory of goods; it is an organic, living entity, a fragile pulsing fabric of ideas, expectations, loyalties, moral commitments, visions. To vivisect it for redistribution would eventually kill it.
Money

George Gilder
The key to growth is quite simple: creative people with money. The cause of stagnation is similarly clear: depriving creative people of financial power.

Dr. Rick Boettger
Using gold to back up money is like using old poker chips to back up new ones... Gold is nothing but an old-fashioned form of money.

Dr. Rick Boettger
What backs up our currency is better than gold. It is the wealth, power, stability, and talent of the wealthiest, most stable, and surely the most powerful nation in the history of the earth.

Capitalism/Socialism

Kenneth Baker
Socialists make the mistake of confusing individual worth with success. They believe you cannot allow people to succeed in case those who fail feel worthless.

Henry David Thoreau
If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.

George C. Marshall
Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

George Gilder
Owners are besieged on all sides by aspiring spenders -- debauchers of wealth and purveyors of poverty in the name of charity, idealism, envy, or social change.

George Gilder
Greed is an appetite for unneeded and unearned wealth and power. The truly greedy seek comfort and security first. They seek goods and clout they have not earned. Because the best and safest way to gain unearned pay is to get the state to take it from others, greed leads, as by an invisible hand, toward ever more government action - to socialism, not capitalism.

Jane Jacobs
In developing economies, parvenus are constantly emerging... But in stagnant economies the same people - and those whom they choose to admit into their ranks - hold onto power indefinitely... Juggling social hierarchies and economic improvement go hand in hand.

Nathan Rosenberg
...the West's system of economic growth offered its largest financial rewards to innovators who improved the life-style not of the wealthy few, but of the less-wealthy many.

Nathan Rosenberg
Historically, one of the most distinctive features of capitalist economies has been the practice of decentralizing authority over investments to substantial numbers of individuals who stand to make large personal gains if their decisions are right, who stand to lose heavily if their decisions are wrong, and who lack the economic or political power to prevent at least some others from proving them wrong.

Nathan Rosenberg

[In well-ordered societies,] control of either scientific inquiry or innovation is located at points of political or religious authority... In all well-ordered societies, political authority is dedicated to stability, security, and the status quo. It is thus singularly ill-qualified to direct or channel activity intended to produce instability, insecurity, and change.

Nathan Rosenberg
One seldom-praised function of competition in economic growth is that it eliminates obsolete forms of economic activity, clearing away the underbrush or, if one prefers, burying the economically dead.

Nathan Rosenberg
The belief that very large industrial enterprises dominate Western economies is simply mistaken, as a matter of where most of the work of producing and distributing goods and services in these economies gets done... Such work is less than a quarter of the total work of the economy.

Demand/Supply

Soichiro Honda
We do not make something because the demand, the market is there. With our technology, we can create demand, we can create the market.

Debt

George Gilder
Debt is dangerous only when assets are declining in value and income is shrinking. During the980's, asset values grew far faster than debt.

Alexander Hamilton
A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing.

Ritter & Silber
Debt has to be viewed in context, in relation to the assets behind the debt and to the ability of debtors to service the debt.

WALTER WRISTON, former chairman of the Citicorp Bank
http://darren.lib.utah.edu/quotes.htm
If we had a truth-in-Government act comparable to the truth-in-advertising law, every note issued by the Treasury would be obliged to include a sentence stating: "This note will be redeemed with the proceeds from an identical note which will be sold to the public when this one comes due." When this activity is carried out in the United States, as it is weekly, it is described as a Treasury bill auction. But when basically the same process is conducted abroad in a foreign language, our news media usually speak of a country's "rolling over its debts." The perception remains that some form of disaster is inevitable. It is not. To see why, it is only necessary to understand the basic facts of government borrowing. The first is that there are few recorded instances in history of government-any government-actually getting out of debt. Certainly in an era of $100-billion deficits, no one lending money to our Government by buying a Treasury bill expects that it will be paid at maturity in any way except by our Government's selling a new bill of like amount.

Deficits/Surpluses

Dr. Rick Boettger
In the old days, when a community had a problem they didn't understand, they threw some more virgins in the volcano. Now, we're much more sophisticated. We throw jobs in the volcano of deficit reduction.

Entrepreneurs

George Gilder
The means of production of entrepreneurs are not land, labor, or capital, but minds and hearts... The single most important question for the future of America is how we treat our entrepreneurs... If we smear, harass, overtax, and overregulate them, our liberal politicians... will be amazed how quickly the wealth of America flees to other countries... Even the prospects of the poor in the United States and around the world above all depend on the treatment of the rich.

George Gilder
As entrepreneurs accelerate the processes of creative destruction that impel all economic advance, the economists measure the destruction but not the creativity... So countries that multiply the production of well-defined and well-catalogued products of the past -- from subsidized steel ingots to protected automobiles -- will seem to grow faster than countries that multiply entrepreneurs and innovations.

Jane Jacobs
Where large organizations are relied upon for economic expansion and development - that is, where small organizations find little opportunity to multiply, to find financing, and to add new work to old - the economy inevitably stagnates.

Julian Simon
Humans are, on net balance, builders rather than destroyers.

Nathan Rosenberg
The main characteristics of innovation -- uncertainty, search, exploration, financial risk, experiment, and discovery -- have so permeated the West's expansion of trade and the West's development of natural resources as to make it virtually an additional factor of production.

Nathan Rosenberg
...the West's system of economic growth offered its largest financial rewards to innovators who improved the life-style not of the wealthy few, but of the less-wealthy many.

Spending

Paul Zane Pilzer
Despite a documented low correlation between money spent and improvement in the quantity and quality of public education, the reform of public education has focused almost exclusively on the financial issue.
Investment & Capital

Milton Friedman
It is a mystery to me why... it is regarded as a sign of Japanese strength and American weakness that the Japanese find it more attractive to invest in the U.S. than Japan. Surely it is precisely the reverse - a sign of U.S. strength and Japanese weakness.

Stein & Foss
Capital has value because it can give rise to a flow of income now and in the future, so any activity with this income-producing characteristic can be viewed as capital formation or investment. Human capital is one form of intangible capital. Another is the 'stock' of scientific and technical knowledge.

Education & Knowledge

Paul Zane Pilzer
Despite a documented low correlation between money spent and improvement in the quantity and quality of public education, the reform of public education has focused almost exclusively on the financial issue.

Barbara Tuchman
Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill. They are engines of change, windows on the world, lighthouses erected in a sea of time.

Julian Simon
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the knowledge now exists to support many times the present world's population on less land than is now being farmed.

Nathan Rosenberg
Unlike most forms of geometric expansion, there is no reason to believe that the expansion of knowledge has any inherent limits.

Technology

Paul Zane Pilzer

Without the appropriate technology, physical resources are useless.

Paul Zane Pilzer
Technology determines our supply of existing physical resources by determining both the
efficiency with which we use resources and our ability to find, obtain, distribute, and store them.

Paul Zane Pilzer
The rate at which a society's technology advances is determined by the relative level of its ability to process information.

Richard P. Feynman
For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.


Innovation & Invention

Jane Jacobs
Our remote ancestors expanded their economies by adding new kinds of work. So do we. Innovating economies expand and develop.

Jane Jacobs
The emergence of new products in place of old ones is absolutely necessary to economic life; otherwise the planet would long since have been ruined from excessive, monotonous exploitation of the same few resources.

Julian Simon
More people, and increased income, cause problems of increased scarcity of resources in the short run. Heightened scarcity causes prices to rise. The higher prices present opportunity, and prompt inventors and entrepreneurs to search for solutions. Many fail, at cost to themselves. But in a free society, solutions are eventually found. And in the long run the new developments leave us better off than if the problems had not arisen. That is, prices end up lower than before the increased scarcity occurred, which is the long-run history of food supply.

George Gilder
As entrepreneurs accelerate the processes of creative destruction that impel all economic advance, the economists measure the destruction but not the creativity... So countries that multiply the production of well-defined and well-catalogued products of the past -- from subsidized steel ingots to protected automobiles -- will seem to grow faster than countries that multiply entrepreneurs and innovations.

George Gilder
While science and enterprise open vast new panoramas of opportunity, our established experts flee in horror to all available caves and cages, like so many primitives, terrified by freedom and change.

Dr. Rick Boettger
Every single "luxury" we enjoy above the level of raw food and primitive shelter we owe to the natural concentration of work upon the most efficient producers, and the eventual re-employment of displaced workers on new, previously unimagined projects.

Nathan Rosenberg
The main characteristics of innovation -- uncertainty, search, exploration, financial risk, experiment, and discovery -- have so permeated the West's expansion of trade and the West's development of natural resources as to make it virtually an additional factor of production.

Nathan Rosenberg
In orthodox economic analysis, the firm is viewed as an organizational black box, sometimes called a production function... The resulting simplification works well in explaining existing production and distribution, but it does not explain economic change and growth...

Nathan Rosenberg
Innovation often originates outside existing organizations, in part because successful organizations acquire a commitment to the status quo and a resistance to ideas that might change it.

Nathan Rosenberg

Innovation is more likely to occur in a society that is open to the formation of new enterprises than in a society that relies on its existing organizations for innovation.

Trade

Milton Friedman
It is a mystery to me why... it is regarded as a sign of Japanese strength and American weakness that the Japanese find it more attractive to invest in the U.S. than Japan. Surely it is precisely the reverse - a sign of U.S. strength and Japanese weakness.

Dr. Rick Boettger
Free trade only costs American jobs if we as a nation are too stupid to re-employ those workers relieved from menial jobs which other nations want to do.
Immigration

Paul Zane Pilzer
From a selfish as well as a moral point of view, we should not seriously want to stop economically productive individuals from entering our country.

Greenspan & Fed

Ed Crane, CEO Cato Institute (introducing Alan Greenspan,0/19/2000)
Alan, you'll be glad to know that my portfolio over the last seven months has been anything but irrationally exuberant; quite the contrary. And I hope you're happy.

Economics, Economists, & Ideologies

John Maynard Keynes
When my information changes, I change my opinion. What do you do, Sir?

George Gilder
The problem of the economists is that despite years of effort to predict economic change, they remain nearly oblivious to the vital processes of innovation and new company formation that constitute economic development.

George Gilder
[The perpetual error of demand economics:] The vision of human beings essentially as mouths, not minds - as "consumers" of goods and services, but not producers of them, as users of jobs but not as creators of new work.

George Gilder

The belief that all wealth comes from stealing is popular in prisons and at Harvard.

Paul Zane Pilzer
Keynes was wrong in thinking that people's needs were basically fixed and absolute - that they were capable of eventually being met, at which point demand would be satiated.

Dr. Rick Boettger
A science [economics] that can describe minute changes in the price of a bushel of corn does not even try to place a value on any aspect of human welfare. To the old economists, surplus corn warehoused in silos is more valuable than all of the lives saved by avoiding a war. Because they are unable to place an exact value on human life and happiness, as you can on a bushel of corn, the old economists don't even try to give it any value at all. And they blithely dismiss those who do.

Jane Jacobs

[Adam] Smith gave to division of labor unwarranted credit for advances in economic life, a mistake still much with us. Division of labor, in itself, creates nothing. It is only a way of organizing work that has already been created... it is a device for achieving operating efficiency, nothing more... Seen as a source of new work, division of labor becomes something infinitely more useful than Adam Smith suggested when he limited its function to the rationalization of work.

Nathan Rosenberg
In orthodox economic analysis, the firm is viewed as an organizational black box, sometimes called a production function... The resulting simplification works well in explaining existing production and distribution, but it does not explain economic change and growth...

Nathan Rosenberg
Economic power, in its simplest sense, means the power to satisfy one's economic wants... But it often seems to carry a more invidious connotation of power to prevent other people from satisfying their own economic wants by preempting or monopolizing a society's economic resources... The invidious sense of economic power reflects an unstated assumption that economic resources and economic output are fixed.

Politicians

Abraham Lincoln
With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.

Clint Hayes, Apr. 2001
With politicians and economists putting out so much conflicting information, it's hard to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

W.E. Forster
What is the use of lying when the truth, well distributed, serves the same purpose.

Unknown
Lawyer (definition): The larval form of a politician.

Military

Charles Van Doren
It is very difficult for ordinary people to protect themselves from outlaws. Protection has always been a highly specialized occupation, and in fact it is the oldest profession. [It] is a full-time job, and the people whose job it is must receive their sustenance from those they are protecting.

Government & Leadership

George C. Marshall
Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world so as to permit the emergence of political and social conditions in which free institutions can exist.

Charles Adams
There have been great and powerful men who have moved civilization, but most of the time no heroes can be found, and the world is led by scoundrels, fools, and second-stringers.

James Madison
That alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own.

Jane Jacobs
In developing economies, parvenus are constantly emerging... But in stagnant economies the same people - and those whom they choose to admit into their ranks - hold onto power indefinitely... Juggling social hierarchies and economic improvement go hand in hand.

Jane Jacobs
The primary economic conflict, I think, is between people whose interests are with already well-established economic activities, and those whose interests are with the emergence of new economic activities. This is a conflict that can never be put to rest except by economic stagnation... The only possible way to keep open the economic opportunities for new activities is for a "third force" to protect their weak and still incipient interests. Only governments can play this economic role.

Joseph Needham
Capital accumulation in Chinese society there could indeed be, but the application of it in permanently productive industrial enterprises was constantly inhibited by the scholar-bureaucrats, as indeed was any other social action which might threaten their supremacy.

Nathan Rosenberg
[In the Asian and Islamic empires,] arbitrary levies on the property of a subject were a ready means of political reprisal and social control, preventing successful merchants from accumulating wealth on a scale judged inappropriate to mere subjects.

Nathan Rosenberg
[In well-ordered societies,] control of either scientific inquiry or innovation is located at points of political or religious authority... In all well-ordered societies, political authority is dedicated to stability, security, and the status quo. It is thus singularly ill-qualified to direct or channel activity intended to produce instability, insecurity, and change.

James Madison, Federalist #55
As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust, so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form. [Otherwise] the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.

above, paraphrased:
Republican government presupposes the existence of [virtuous human nature] in a higher degree than any other form. . . . [Otherwise] the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and that nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.

Environment

Jane Jacobs
Many evils conventionally blamed upon progress are, rather, evils of stagnation.

Jane Jacobs
Developing economies are all too ruthless to nature, but their depredations do not compare in destructiveness to those of stagnating and stagnant economies where people exploit too narrow a range of resources too heavily and monotonously for too long.

Julian Simon
Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the knowledge now exists to support many times the present world's population on less land than is now being farmed.

Julian Simon
Coal's damage to health due to mining risks as well as air pollution is much worse than even the most pessimistic estimates of the possible risks from nuclear power, and dwarfs any likely damage from nuclear power.

Petr Beckmann
The artificial and irrational arguments against [nuclear waste] disposal in stable geological formations help to perpetuate the present way of disposing of fossil-powered electricity wastes - some of them in people's lungs.

Julian Simon
Automobiles not only cause air pollution and accidents and become junked cars; they also reduce the number of horse carcasses in the streets -5,000 per year in New York City alone at the turn of the century, deaths from horses and runaway carriages - 750,000 injuries a year in900 when the population was much lower than now - and pollution from manure in the streets - forty-five pounds per day per horse.

Humorous

Henry David Thoreau
If I knew for a certainty that a man was coming to my house with the conscious design of doing me good, I should run for my life.

Dr. Rick Boettger
In the old days, when a community had a problem they didn't understand, they threw some more virgins in the volcano. Now, we're much more sophisticated. We throw jobs in the volcano of deficit reduction.

George Gilder
The belief that all wealth comes from stealing is popular in prisons and at Harvard.

Casey Stengel
Son, we'd like to keep you around this season, but we're gonna try to win a pennant.

Yogi Berra
I wish I had an answer to that, because I'm getting tired of answering that question.

Franklin Pierce Adams
Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.

Clint Hayes
With politicians and economists putting out so much conflicting information, it's hard to know how to separate the wheat from the chaff.

 

End of this article
Last update of this page: June 24, 2001
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