Quotes Uncovered: Wit and Wisdom from Economics and Finance

Continuing with my requests for famous quotations and sayings that might make it into the next edition of The Yale Book of Quotations, I’d like now to ask for memorable recent (or not-so-recent) words of wit or wisdom from the realms of economics and finance. These could be theoretical insights, sound-bites from the economic crisis of the past few years, or proverbial maxims.


"If you have a bazooka in your pocket and people know it, you probably won't have to use it,'' U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson said at a July 15 Senate Banking Committee hearing.


"After all, you only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out." - Warren Buffet


"The worst thing is uncertainty. Just give us a set of rules and we'll figure out how to work around them... I mean work with them."
- A senior US banker, discussing Basel III, corrects himself just a moment too late.

from Euromoney

marketing idiot

"The future belongs to people who see possibilities before they become obvious."

Ted Levitt

Robbie Laney

"This much is true: you have been lied to, robbed, and used by your own government-the people you elected into office and the people you should be able to trust. The government is expanding, taxes are increasing, inflation is ballooning, and our basic freedoms are disappearing. Enough is enough. It is time for a revolution." - Ron Paul, The Revolution


Read my lips, no new taxes (Bush I)

irrational exuberance (G-span)

Arguing w/ you is like arguing with my dining room table (Barney Frank)

Don't let a crisis go to waste (Rahm Emanuel)

They know nothing (Jim Cramer)


"the fundamentals of our economy are strong"- John McCain- senior moment, or toe the propaganda line regardless of the maelstrom?

Alan Thiesen

Nobel-Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman invented the wonderful phrase "a Wile E. Coyote moment". Here is an example, from "Will there be a dollar crisis?" (Economic Policy July 2007, printed in Great Britain (c) CEPR, CES, MSH 2007)

"If markets are failing to take the required future fall of the dollar into account, they will eventually have a 'Wile E. Coyote' moment, when they look down and realize that nothing is supporting the currency. At that point the dollar will plunge."

The phrase "Wile E. Coyote moment" is footnoted. The footnote reads:

"For those not familiar with the classics: there were often scenes in Road Runner cartoons in which the ever-frustrated Wile E. Coyote would run off a cliff, take several steps on thin air, then look down - and only after realizing that there was nothing under him, would he plunge."

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

"Economics is the Science of Saying No."

--My own quote.

Potato King

"Everything reminds Milton Friedman of the money supply. Well, everything reminds me of sex, but I keep it out of the paper."
-Robert Solow

Paul-Felix Montez

"If you can see the box your still in it". Personal quote for my theme, set, multi-media marketing design company that I have used for over ten years, since the box reference first came out.


I've never found who was the first to say this or what is the exact quote, but it goes something like this:

"The man who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart, but if he is still a socialist at forty he has no head."

Winston Churchill or Aristide Briand?

Bill Ross, NY

A worthy pair, which I'd quoted in my humble blog in the Fall (both ways) of 2008:

1. (The) "Bankruptcy of 'law of the jungle' capitalism"

>> "This crisis underlines the excesses and uncertainties of a casino capitalism that has only one logic - lining your pockets," said German lawmaker Martin Schulz, chairman of the Socialists in the EU assembly. "It also shows the bankruptcy of 'law of the jungle' capitalism that no longer invests in companies and job creation, but instead makes money out of money in a totally uncontrolled way."
- "U.S. gambles blamed for world's financial crisis," MSNBC.com (10/1)

2. "The riverboat-gambling scheme of investment banking"

>> "As long as people are compensated hugely for taking risks with other people's money, and do not suffer equally on the downside, then those risks will inevitably become outrageous."
>> "These companies need to tie compensation to long- rather than short-term performance. This won't be popular on Wall Street, but if we want to turn investment banking back to performing something useful and positive rather than some sort of riverboat-gambling scheme on which we are all unwitting participants, then there's not much choice."

- "For Wall Street, Greed Wasn't Good Enough," by Paul Wilmott, in NYT Op-Ed (9/17)


(Hey, I'd already spent the time back then picking and editing those down; seemed like a good enough reason to risk the appearance of blatant self-promotion, which, of course, I would never, ever...)


Tom G

There is one way that will always improve personal finance: Don't buy $*1). . . (stuff)

Adam J. Fein

"An economist is an expert who will know tomorrow why the things he predicted yesterday didn't happen today." -- Laurence J. Peter

Fritz Mills

Catfood Commission
Laffer Curve
WIN (Whip Inflation Now)
Ford to New York: Drop Dead!
Full-employment surplus (Nixon)
"Keep your government hands off my Medicare"
The New Normal


"Greed, for a lack of a better word, is good."

- Gordon Gekko, "Wall Street"


"Give me a one-handed economist! All my economists say, On the one hand on the other." Truman, Harry S (BTW: there is no period after the S)


"Buy land. They ain't making any more of the stuff."

"An economist's guess is liable to be as good as anybody else's. "

"There is one rule that works in every calamity. Be it pestilence, war, or famine, the rich get richer and poor get poorer. The poor even help arrange it."

All of the above from Will Rogers.


to add on to post 19:

"things ain't what they use to be, and probably never were"

Will Rogers