September 30, 2008
"If a nation expects to be ignorant - and free - in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1816 - letter to Colonel Charles Yancey
Paulsen's ill-advised plan
A large number of economists in this country signed a letter to Congress requesting that we do not rush in to Paulsen's plan for bailing out specific investors and companies who made some bad investments.
I've reproduced the letter in it's entirety below the fold.
(This letter was sent to Congress on Wed Sept 24 2008 regarding the Treasury plan as outlined on that date. It does not reflect all signatories views on subesquent plans or modifications of the bill)
To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate: As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:
1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.
2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.
3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.
For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
Signed (updated at 9/27/2008 6:00PM CT)
Acemoglu Daron (Massachussets Institute of Technology)
Ackerberg Daniel (UCLA)
Adler Michael (Columbia University)
Admati Anat R. (Stanford University)
Ales Laurence (Carnegie Mellon University)
Alexis Marcus (Northwestern University)
Alvarez Fernando (University of Chicago)
Andersen Torben (Northwestern University)
Baliga Sandeep (Northwestern University)
Banerjee Abhijit V. (Massachussets Institute of Technology)
Barankay Iwan (University of Pennsylvania)
Barry Brian (University of Chicago)
Bartkus James R. (Xavier University of Louisiana)
Becker Charles M. (Duke University)
Becker Robert A. (Indiana University)
Beim David (Columbia University)
Berk Jonathan (Stanford University)
Bisin Alberto (New York University)
Bittlingmayer George (University of Kansas)
Blank Emily (Howard University)
Boldrin Michele (Washington University)
Bollinger, Christopher R. (University of Kentucky)
Bossi, Luca (University of Miami)
Brooks Taggert J. (University of Wisconsin)
Brynjolfsson Erik (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Buera Francisco J.(UCLA)
Cabral Luis (New York University)
Camp Mary Elizabeth (Indiana University)
Carmel Jonathan (University of Michigan)
Carroll Christopher (Johns Hopkins University)
Cassar Gavin (University of Pennsylvania)
Chaney Thomas (University of Chicago)
Chari Varadarajan V. (University of Minnesota)
Chauvin Keith W. (University of Kansas)
Chintagunta Pradeep K. (University of Chicago)
Christiano Lawrence J. (Northwestern University)
Clementi, Gian Luca (New York University)
Cochrane John (University of Chicago)
Coleman John (Duke University)
Constantinides George M. (University of Chicago)
Cooley, Thomas (New York University)
Crain Robert (UC Berkeley)
Culp Christopher (University of Chicago)
Da Zhi (University of Notre Dame)
Darity, William (Duke University)
Davis Morris (University of Wisconsin)
De Marzo Peter (Stanford University)
Dubé Jean-Pierre H. (University of Chicago)
Edlin Aaron (UC Berkeley)
Eichenbaum Martin (Northwestern University)
Ely Jeffrey (Northwestern University)
Eraslan Hülya K. K.(Johns Hopkins University)
Fair Ray (Yale University)
Faulhaber Gerald (University of Pennsylvania)
Feldmann Sven (University of Melbourne)
Fernandez, Raquel (New York University)
Fernandez-Villaverde Jesus (University of Pennsylvania)
Fohlin Caroline (Johns Hopkins University)
Fox Jeremy T. (University of Chicago)
Frank Murray Z.(University of Minnesota)
Frenzen Jonathan (University of Chicago)
Fuchs William (University of Chicago)
Fudenberg Drew (Harvard University)
Gabaix Xavier (New York University)
Gao Paul (Notre Dame University)
Garicano Luis (University of Chicago)
Gerakos Joseph J. (University of Chicago)
Gibbs Michael (University of Chicago)
Glomm Gerhard (Indiana University)
Goettler Ron (University of Chicago)
Goldin Claudia (Harvard University)
Gordon Robert J. (Northwestern University)
Greenstone Michael (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Gregory, Karl D. (Oakland University)
Guadalupe Maria (Columbia University)
Guerrieri Veronica (University of Chicago)
Hagerty Kathleen (Northwestern University)
Hamada Robert S. (University of Chicago)
Hansen Lars (University of Chicago)
Harris Milton (University of Chicago)
Hart Oliver (Harvard University)
Hazlett Thomas W. (George Mason University)
Heaton John (University of Chicago)
Heckman James (University of Chicago - Nobel Laureate)
Henderson David R. (Hoover Institution)
Henisz, Witold (University of Pennsylvania)
Hertzberg Andrew (Columbia University)
Hite Gailen (Columbia University)
Hitsch Günter J. (University of Chicago)
Hodrick Robert J. (Columbia University)
Hollifield Burton (Carnegie Mellon University)
Hopenhayn Hugo (UCLA)
Hurst Erik (University of Chicago)
Imrohoroglu Ayse (University of Southern California)
Isakson Hans (University of Northern Iowa)
Israel Ronen (London Business School)
Jaffee Dwight M. (UC Berkeley)
Jagannathan Ravi (Northwestern University)
Jenter Dirk (Stanford University)
Jones Charles M. (Columbia Business School)
Jovanovic Boyan (New York University)
Kaboski Joseph P. (Ohio State University)
Kahn Matthew (UCLA)
Kaplan Ethan (Stockholm University)
Karaivanov Alexander (Simon Fraser University)
Karolyi, Andrew (Ohio State University)
Kashyap Anil (University of Chicago)
Keim Donald B (University of Pennsylvania)
Ketkar Suhas L (Vanderbilt University)
Kiesling Lynne (Northwestern University)
Klenow Pete (Stanford University)
Koch Paul (University of Kansas)
Kocherlakota Narayana (University of Minnesota)
Koijen Ralph S.J. (University of Chicago)
Kondo Jiro (Northwestern University)
Korteweg Arthur (Stanford University)
Kortum Samuel (University of Chicago)
Krueger Dirk (University of Pennsylvania)
Ledesma Patricia (Northwestern University)
Lee Lung-fei (Ohio State University)
Leeper Eric M. (Indiana University)
Letson David (University of Miami)
Leuz Christian (University of Chicago)
Levine David I.(UC Berkeley)
Levine David K.(Washington University)
Levy David M. (George Mason University)
Linnainmaa Juhani (University of Chicago)
Lott John R. Jr. (University of Maryland)
Lucas Robert (University of Chicago - Nobel Laureate)
Ludvigson, Sydney C. (New York University)
Luttmer Erzo G.J. (University of Minnesota)
Manski Charles F. (Northwestern University)
Martin Ian (Stanford University)
Mayer Christopher (Columbia University)
Mazzeo Michael (Northwestern University)
McDonald Robert (Northwestern University)
Meadow Scott F. (University of Chicago)
Meeropol, Michael (Western New England College)
Mehra Rajnish (UC Santa Barbara)
Mian Atif (University of Chicago)
Middlebrook Art (University of Chicago)
Miguel Edward (UC Berkeley)
Miravete Eugenio J. (University of Texas at Austin)
Miron Jeffrey (Harvard University)
Moeller, Thomas (Texas Christian University)
Moretti Enrico (UC Berkeley)
Moriguchi Chiaki (Northwestern University)
Moro Andrea (Vanderbilt University)
Morse Adair (University of Chicago)
Mortensen Dale T. (Northwestern University)
Mortimer Julie Holland (Harvard University)
Moskowitz, Tobias J. (University of Chicago)
Munger Michael C. (Duke University)
Muralidharan Karthik (UC San Diego)
Nair Harikesh (Stanford University)
Nanda Dhananjay (University of Miami)
Nevo Aviv (Northwestern University)
Ohanian Lee (UCLA)
Pagliari Joseph (University of Chicago)
Papanikolaou Dimitris (Northwestern University)
Parker Jonathan (Northwestern University)
Paul Evans (Ohio State University)
Pearce David (New York University)
Pejovich Svetozar (Steve) (Texas A&M University)
Peltzman Sam (University of Chicago)
Perri Fabrizio (University of Minnesota)
Phelan Christopher (University of Minnesota)
Piazzesi Monika (Stanford University)
Pippenger, Michael K. (University of Alaska)
Piskorski Tomasz (Columbia University)
Platt Brennan C. (Brigham Young University)
Rampini Adriano (Duke University)
Ray, Debraj (New York University)
Reagan Patricia (Ohio State University)
Reich Michael (UC Berkeley)
Reuben Ernesto (Northwestern University)
Rizzo, Mario (New York University)
Roberts Michael (University of Pennsylvania)
Robinson David (Duke University)
Rogers Michele (Northwestern University)
Rotella Elyce (Indiana University)
Roussanov Nikolai (University of Pennsylvania)
Routledge Bryan R. (Carnegie Mellon University)
Ruud Paul (Vassar College)
Safford Sean (University of Chicago)
Samaniego Roberto (George Washington University)
Sandbu Martin E. (University of Pennsylvania)
Sapienza Paola (Northwestern University)
Savor Pavel (University of Pennsylvania)
Schaniel William C. (University of West Georgia)
Scharfstein David (Harvard University)
Seim Katja (University of Pennsylvania)
Seru Amit (University of Chicago)
Shang-Jin Wei (Columbia University)
Shimer Robert (University of Chicago)
Shore Stephen H. (Johns Hopkins University)
Siegel Ron (Northwestern University)
Smith David C. (University of Virginia)
Smith Vernon L.(Chapman University- Nobel Laureate)
Sorensen Morten (Columbia University)
Spatt Chester (Carnegie Mellon University)
Spear Stephen (Carnegie Mellon University)
Stevenson Betsey (University of Pennsylvania)
Stokey Nancy (University of Chicago)
Strahan Philip (Boston College)
Strebulaev Ilya (Stanford University)
Sufi Amir (University of Chicago)
Tabarrok Alex (George Mason University)
Taylor Alan M. (UC Davis)
Thompson Tim (Northwestern University)
Troske Kenneth (University of Kentucky)
Tschoegl Adrian E. (University of Pennsylvania)
Uhlig Harald (University of Chicago)
Ulrich, Maxim (Columbia University)
Van Buskirk Andrew (University of Chicago)
Vargas Hernan (University of Phoenix)
Veronesi Pietro (University of Chicago)
Vissing-Jorgensen Annette (Northwestern University)
Wacziarg Romain (UCLA)
Walker Douglas O. (Regent University)
Walker, Todd (Indiana University)
Weill Pierre-Olivier (UCLA)
Williamson Samuel H. (Miami University)
Witte Mark (Northwestern University)
Wolfenzon, Daniel (Columbia University)
Wolfers Justin (University of Pennsylvania)
Woutersen Tiemen (Johns Hopkins University)
Wu Yangru (Rutgers University)
Yue Vivian Z. (New York University)
Zingales Luigi (University of Chicago)
Zitzewitz Eric (Dartmouth College)
Action . . . now
“I believe that the people you and I represent are ready to chart a new course. They look to us to meet the great challenge, to reach beyond the commonplace and not fall short for lack of creativity or courage... We can restore our economic strength and build opportunities like none we’ve ever had before. As Carl Sandburg said, all we need to begin with is a dream that we can do better than before. All we need to have is faith, and that dream will come true. All we need to do is act, and the time for action is now.”
— Ronald Reagan
[Via the Patriot Post.]
September 29, 2008
"Nothing is more certain than that a general profligacy and corruption of manners make a people ripe for destruction. A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time, but beyond a certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual, and slavery must ensue."
-- John Witherspoon, 1776 - The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men
On modern mores and the family
"But I do know that we've swallowed what I'd call the "Dr. Spock syndrome," wherein we question our own values and whether we have a right to impose our beliefs on our children. And in doing so, we've weakened the family."
-- Ronald Reagan
[All of today's Reagan quotes are from Paul Smith Jr.'s site, paulsmithjr.com.]
On social programs
"You know, I think the best social program is a job."
-- Ronald Reagan
On some economists
"A friend of mine was asked to a costume ball a short time ago. He slapped some egg on his face and went as a liberal economist."
-- Ronald Reagan
On FDR's Democrat platform
"I didn't desert my party. It deserted me. I looked up FDR's old platform, and I discovered that it called for a restoration of state's rights and a reduction in the national budget. You know what? I'm still for that."
-- Ronald Reagan
September 28, 2008
"I entirely concur in the propriety of resorting to the sense in which the Constitution was accepted and ratified by the nation. In that sense alone it is the legitimate Constitution. And if that is not the guide in expounding it, there may be no security "
-- James Madison (letter to Henry Lee, 25 June 1824)
September 27, 2008
"Taxes should be continued by annual or biennial reeactments, because a constant hold, by the nation, of the strings of the public purse is a salutary restraint from which an honest government ought not wish, nor a corrupt one to be permitted, to be free."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Wayles Eppes, 24 June 1813)
September 26, 2008
"If it be asked what is to restrain the House of Representatives from making legal discriminations in favor of themselves and a particular class of the society? I answer, the genius of the whole system, the nature of just and constitutional laws, and above all the vigilant and manly spirit which actuates the people of America, a spirit which nourishes freedom, and in return is nourished by it."
-- James Madison (Federalist No. 57, 19 February 1788)
September 25, 2008
"This gave me occasion to observe, that when Men are employ'd they are best contented. For on the Days they work'd they were good-natur'd and chearful; and with the consciousness of having done a good Days work they spent the Evenings jollily; but on the idle Days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their Pork, the Bread, and in continual ill-humour."
-- Benjamin Franklin (Autobiography, 1771)
September 24, 2008
"The consciousness of having discharged that duty which we owe to our country is superior to all other considerations."
-- George Washington, 1788 - letter to James Madison
September 23, 2008
"Whatever enables us to go to war, secures our peace."
-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to James Monroe, 24 October 1823)
September 22, 2008
September 17, 2008
My wife and I are leaving this morning to go to her parents' house south of Houston (near Clear Lake) to help clear and repair the damage caused by hurricane Ike. They weathered the storm with us, but are anxious to return home to assess the damage.
Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I won't be able to post anything from down there unless the power is restored to the in-laws' house . . . and I'm not half dead from debris clearing and house repair . . .
I hope to be back by Monday, but we'll just have to see about that.
Take care. I'll see ya in a few.
"[Y]our late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view to emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country; but I despair of seeing it."
-- George Washington (letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 10 May 1786)
“On Sept. 8, Fox News broadcast an interview between Obama and Bill O’Reilly that focused on taxation and the economy. Obama repeated his pledge to cut taxes for 95 percent of Americans, while raising taxes on the tiny fraction who earn more than $250,000... His tax proposal, he explained, was a matter of civility: ‘If I am sitting pretty and you’ve got a waitress who is making minimum wage plus tips, and I can afford it and she can’t, what’s the big deal for me to say, I’m going to pay a little bit more? That’s neighborliness.’ If that is Obama’s rationale for making the tax code even more steeply progressive than it already is, it’s no wonder voters are having second thoughts about his economic aptitude. ‘Neighborliness.’ Perhaps that word has a nonstandard meaning to someone whose home adjoined the property of convicted swindler Tony Rezko, but extracting money by force from someone who earned it in order to give it to someone who didn’t is not usually spoken of as neighborly. If Citizen Obama, ‘sitting pretty,’ reaches into his own pocket and helps out the waitress with a large tip, he has shown a neighborly spirit. But there is nothing neighborly about using the tax code to compel someone else to pay the waitress that tip. Taxation is not generosity, it is confiscation at gunpoint. Does Obama not understand the difference? Perhaps he doesn’t. Eager though he may be to compel ‘neighborliness’ in others, he has not been nearly so avid about demonstrating it himself. Barack and Michelle Obama’s tax returns show that from 2000 through 2004, when their adjusted gross income averaged nearly a quarter of a million dollars a year, their annual charitable donations amounted to just $2,154—less than nine-tenths of 1 percent. Not until he entered the US Senate in 2005 and began to be spoken of as a presidential possibility did the Obamas’ ‘neighborliness’ become more evident. (In 2005-2007, they gave 5.5 percent of their income to charity.)”
— Jeff Jacoby
[Via The Patriot Post.]
September 16, 2008
"We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."
-- George Washington (letter to Philip Schuyler, 7/15/1777)
“Ultimately, the choice before the American people is the choice between two visions: on the one hand, the policies of limited government, economic growth, a strong defense, and a firm foreign policy; and on the other hand, policies of tax and spend, economic stagnation, international weakness and accommodation, and always, always, from them, ‘Blame America first.’ It’s the choice between the policies of liberalism or the policies of America’s political mainstream.”
— Ronald Reagan
[Via The Patriot Post.]
Who's on first?
I just had to post this. It's still hilarious after over 60 years! . . . :-)
September 15, 2008
"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe to treat us with justice."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1797 - letter to Thomas Pickney
Americans' right to arms
"Americans have the right and advantage of being armed – unlike the citizens of other countries whose governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."
-– James Madison
"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
-– Mark Twain
September 14, 2008
"Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread."
-- Thomas Jefferson (Autobiography, 1821)
September 13, 2008
"Is the relinquishment of the trial by jury and the liberty of the press necessary for your liberty? Will the abandonment of your most sacred rights tend to the security of your liberty? Liberty, the greatest of all earthly blessings - give us that precious jewel, and you may take every things else! Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel."
-- Patrick Henry (Speech to the Virginia Convention, 5 June 1788)
September 12, 2008
"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course."
-- George Washington, 1796 - Farewell Address
"Whenever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery."
-– Benjamin Disraeli, 1874
"There is no distinctly native American criminal class save Congress."
-– Mark Twain
September 11, 2008
George Bush did not start the war on terrorism.
Innocent Americans died as a result of this murderous and cowardly attack on the World Trade Center.
People like Jose Cardona who never returned to his family and friends after that fateful morning on September 11, 2001.
This is why we fight -- to prevent this from ever happening again.
September 10, 2008
"I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1785 - letter to John Adams
The right to bear arms
"The Constitution shall never be construed … to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms."
-– Samuel Adams
Government's most useful role in commerce
"Government never furthered any enterprise but by the alacrity with which it got out of its way.'
-– Henry David Thoreau
September 09, 2008
"The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of its political cares."
-- Alexander Hamilton, 1787 - Federalist No. 12
A video note to Mr. Obama
This is a moving tribute to the absolute necessity of fighting for freedom.
[Via The Jawa Report.]
"If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free."
-– P.J. O'Rourke (1993)
"A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them."
-– P. J. O'Rourke
September 08, 2008
"No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous."
-- Benjamin Franklin and George Whaley, 1774 - Principles of Trade
The virtue of the free market
"The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another."
-– Milton Friedman
"A government which robs Peter to pay Paul, can always count on the support of Paul."
-– George Bernard Shaw
September 07, 2008
"In the next place, the state governments are, by the very theory of the constitution, essential constituent parts of the general government. They can exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without them."
-- Joseph Story (Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833)
September 06, 2008
"[T]o exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the States on the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the Constitution, which is the cement of the Union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the States and to the people as equally incorporated with and essential to the success of the general... as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfillment of my duty, they will be a resource which can not fail me."
-- James Madison (Second Inaugural Address, March 1813)
September 05, 2008
"I believe a time will come when an opportunity will be offered to abolish this lamentable evil. Everything we do is to improve it, if it happens in our day; if not, let us transmit to our descendants, together with our slaves, a pity for their unhappy lot and an abhorrence of slavery."
-- Patrick Henry (letter to Robert Pleasants, 18 January 1773)
Change and hope
“Change is not a destination just as hope is not a strategy.”
-- Rudy Giuliani, RNC
September 04, 2008
"The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 22, 14 December 1787)
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a "community organizer," except that you have actual responsibilities."
-- Sarah Palin, RNC
September 03, 2008
"They are not to do anything they please to provide for the general welfare, but only to lay taxes for that purpose. To consider the latter phrase not as describing the purpose of the first, but as giving a distinct and independent power to do any act they please which may be good for the Union, would render all the preceding and subsequent enumerations of power completely useless. It would reduce the whole instrument to a single phrase, that of instituting a Congress with power to do whatever would be for the good of the United States; and as they sole judges of the good or evil, it would be also a power to do whatever evil they please...Certainly no such universal power was meant to be given them. It was intended to lace them up straightly within the enumerated powers and those without which, as means, these powers could not be carried into effect."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1791 - Opinion on National Bank
"Our enemies may be irrational, even outright insane, driven by nationalism, religion, ethnicity, or ideology. They do not fear the United States for its diplomatic skills or the number of automobiles and software programs it produces. They respect only the firepower of our tanks, planes, and helicopter gunships."
-- Ronald Reagan
On the economy and politics
"The Founding Fathers knew a government can't control the economy without controlling people, and they knew that when a government sets out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose. So we have come to a time for choosing."
-- Ronald Reagan
September 02, 2008
"Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties which may make anything mean everything or nothing at pleasure."
-- Thomas Jefferson, 1823 - letter to William Johnson