I. Greed is good.

II. The larger the island of attainment, the longer the coastline of desire.

III. Behind the populist rhetoric lies the mailed fist of vested interest.

IV. There is no passion more powerful than the desire to change the world.

V. Nothing is either good or bad save alternatives make it so.

VI. Error is infinite, but truth is finite.

VII. These are the calipers by which we take the measurement of an event: Is it interesting? what causes it? is it good or bad?

VIII. Most new ideas are wrong. Most old ideas are wrong also, except that, having stood the test of time, an old idea is apt to be better than a new idea.

IX. Bad economics makes bad ethics.

X. The remedy for poverty is money.

XI. One man asks: what did I get today?; another asks: what did I give today?; still another: what did I learn?; and yet another: what did I enjoy? But I ask: why does it matter what I did today?

XII. Though all progress is ultimately illusory if it does not redound to the advantage of the common man, progress itself is made by the uncommon man.

XIII. One generalization is worth a thousand correlations.

XIV. Ensnared by the universal but unusable truth that everything depends on everything else, a complicated theory is always a bad theory. Good theory is simple; but simplicity is not a simple concept.

XV. Misfortunes test the soul. The weak man dwells upon them and sinks beneath them, the shrewd man lives around them, while the wise man meditates upon them and goes beyond them.

XVI. Ideas without passion illuminate but do not inspire.

XVII. Ideas are the capital of civilization and words are its media of exchange.

XVIII. We live by words and die for slogans, yet who can define truth, or beauty, or humor?

XIX. All charity tends to corrupt, and absolute charity corrupts absolutely.

Charles Issawi’s Laws of Social Motion,
From Columbia Forum, Summer 1970
Charles Issawi was Ragnar Nurkse Professor of Economics at Columbia University

1. The Law of Conservation of Evil
The total amount of evil in any system remains constant. Hence, any diminution in one direction - for instance, a reduction in poverty or unemployment - is accompanied by an increase in another, e.g., crime or air pollution.

2. The Course of Progress
Most things get steadily worse. (Note: this does not contradict (1), for a few things have become much better, e.g., surgery, economic theory, long-playing records.)

3. The Path of Progress
A shortcut is the longest distance between two points.

4. The Dialectics of Progress
Direct action produces direct reaction. For example, student attempts to radicalize the faculty succeed only in reactivating them.

5. The Pace of Progress
Society is a mule, not a car. One cannot just press on the accelerator and go exactly where one wishes. The animal can be prodded, but most of the time it will go at its own pace, often straying from the path. If pressed too hard, it will kick and throw off its rider.

6. On Reform
Most people do not go to the dentist until they have a toothache; most societies do not reform abuses until the victims begin to make life uncomfortable for others.

7. On Revolution
Revolutions revolve 360 degrees.

8. On unexpected Side-effects
If economic theory, historical perspective, and political sagacity give you reason to believe that A leads to B, then if you are wrong or unlucky, you will get X instead. But if your sums are correct and you have a reasonable measure of luck, by producing A you should get B. However, you can be sure that, at the same time, you will get C, D, and E, whose existence neither you nor anyone else ever suspected.

9. On Expectations and Achievments
In the most favorable circumstances, achievements cannot exceed the square root of expectations.

10. An Operational Definition of Development
In an underdeveloped country, when you are absent your job is taken away from you; in a developed country a new one is piled on you.

11. The Means of Development
Economic development takes place when managers work hard and die young. If they have heart attacks at the age of 50, as in the United States, that is called Free Enterprise. If they are shot periodically, as in the Soviet Union, that is Planning. If they come to their offices at 10, have frequent breaks and long lunch hours, leave at five, and generally create a pleasant atmosphere, as in England, there is no development.

12. Issawi’s Factor of Error
Experts in advanced countries underestimate by a factor of 2 to 4 the ability of people in underdeveloped countries to do anything technical. (Examples: Japanese on warplanes, Russians on the bomb, Iranians on refineries, Egyptians on the Suez Canal, Chinese on everything.)

13. On the Waste of Labor
All societies have a mechanism for wasting labor. In underdeveloped countries, raw labor is wasted: people are underemployed, and several unskilled men do the work of one. In advanced societies, embodied labor is wasted: the goods and materials produced by highly productive workers are thrown away.

17. Second Law of Committo-dynamics
The less you enjoy serving on committees, the more likely you are to be pressed to do so.

20. On Near and Distant Neighbors
All countries hate their immediate neighbors and like the next but one. (For example, the Poles hate the Germans, Russians, Czechs, and Lithuanians, and they like the French, Hungarians, Italians, and Latvians.)

21. Issawi’s Law of Petroleum
Where there are Muslims there is oil; the converse is not true.

22. The Issawi-Wilcox Principle
Problems increase in geometric ratio, solutions in arithmetic ratio.


Steven Wright's Rules

1. All those who believe in telekinesis, raise my hand.

2. I almost had a psychic girlfriend but she left me before we met.

3. OK, so what's the speed of dark?

4. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.

5. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.

6. Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.

7. Shin: a device for finding furniture in the dark.

8. I intend to live forever -- so far, so good.

9. 24 hours in a day ... 24 beers in a case.....coincidence?

10. When I'm not in my right mind, my left mind gets pretty crowded.

11. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

12. If at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.

13. Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

14. For every action, there is an equal and opposite criticism.

15. Success always occurs in private, and failure in full view.

16. The problem with the gene pool is that there is no lifeguard.

17. Monday is an awful way to spend 1/7th of your life.

18. The sooner you fall behind, the more time you'll have to catch up.

19. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

20. If you must choose between two evils, pick the one you've never tried before.

21. A fool and his money are soon partying.

22. Bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks.

23. Borrow money from pessimists-they don't expect it back.

24. Half the people you know are below average.