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date: 19 May 2024


  1. There's no such thing as a free lunch.
    Anonymous: colloquial axiom in US economics from the 1960s, much associated with Milton Friedman; recorded in form ‘there ain't no such thing as a free lunch’ from 1938, which gave rise to the acronym tanstaafl in Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1966) ch. 11
  2. You shall not press down upon the brow of labour this crown of thorns, you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.
    opposing the gold standard
    William Jennings Bryan 1860–1925 American Democratic politician: speech at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1896
  3. One of the guidelines which I have laid down throughout my chancellorship is no return to boom and bust.
    Kenneth Clarke 1940–  British Conservative politician: speech, House of Commons, 30 October 1996; see Lawson
  4. Everyone is always in favour of general economy and particular expenditure.
    Anthony Eden, Earl of Avon 1897–1977 British Conservative statesman, Prime Minister 1955–7: in Observer 17 June 1956
  5. Inflation is the one form of taxation that can be imposed without legislation.
    Milton Friedman 1912–2006 American economist: in Observer 22 September 1974
  6. In a community where public services have failed to keep abreast of private consumption things are very different. Here, in an atmosphere of private opulence and public squalor, the private goods have full sway.
    J. K. Galbraith 1908–2006 Canadian-born American economist: The Affluent Society (1958) ch. 18
  7. Trickle-down theory—the less than elegant metaphor that if one feeds the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.
    J. K. Galbraith 1908–2006 Canadian-born American economist: The Culture of Contentment (1992)
  8. The labour of women in the house, certainly enables men to produce more wealth than they otherwise could; and in this way women are economic factors in society. But so are horses.
    Charlotte Perkins Gilman 1860–1935 American writer and feminist: Women and Economics (1898) ch. 1
  9. Any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes.
    known as Goodhart's Law, and often quoted as ‘When a measure becomes a target it ceases to be a good measure’
    Charles Goodhart 1936–  English economist: Monetary Theory and Practice: the UK Experience (1984)
  10. Balancing the budget is like going to heaven. Everybody wants to do it, but nobody wants to do what you have to do to get there.
    Phil Gramm 1942–  American Republican politician: in a television interview, 16 September 1990
  11. How do we know when irrational exuberance has unduly escalated asset values?
    Alan Greenspan 1926–  American economist: speech in Washington, 5 December 1996
  12. Having a little inflation is like being a little pregnant.
    Leon Henderson 1895–1956 American economist: J. K. Galbraith A Life in Our Times (1981)
  13. The best of all monopoly profits is a quiet life.
    J. R. Hicks 1904–89 British economist: Econometrica (1935) ‘The Theory of Monopoly’
  14. Gross national product…measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.
    Robert Kennedy 1925–68 American Democratic politician: in New York Times 10 February 1968, in A. M. Schlesinger Robert Kennedy and his Times (1978)
  15. Lenin was right. There is no subtler, no surer means of overturning the existing basis of society than to debauch the currency.
    John Maynard Keynes 1883–1946 English economist: The Economic Consequences of the Peace (1919) ch. 6
  16. Speculators may do no harm as bubbles on a steady stream of enterprise. But the position is serious when enterprise becomes the bubble on a whirlpool of speculation.
    John Maynard Keynes 1883–1946 English economist: General Theory (1936)
  17. Rising unemployment and the recession have been the price that we've had to pay to get inflation down. [Labour shouts] That is a price well worth paying.
    Norman Lamont 1942–  British Conservative politician: speech in the House of Commons, 16 May 1991
  18. The green shoots of economic spring are appearing once again.
    often misquoted as, ‘the green shoots of recovery’
    Norman Lamont 1942–  British Conservative politician: speech at Conservative Party Conference, 9 October 1991
  19. All the current talk of no return to ‘boom and bust’ is somewhat premature to say the least.
    Nigel Lawson 1932–  British Conservative politician: lecture, London School of Economics, 20 June 1994; see Clarke
  20. First of all the Georgian silver goes, and then all that nice furniture that used to be in the saloon. Then the Canalettos go.
    on privatization; often quoted as, ‘Selling off the family silver’
    Harold Macmillan 1894–1986 British Conservative statesman; Prime Minister, 1957–63: speech to the Tory Reform Group, 8 November 1985
  21. If the policy isn't hurting, it isn't working.
    on controlling inflation
    John Major 1943–  British Conservative statesman; Prime Minister, 1990–7: speech in Northampton, 27 October 1989
  22. Demand for commodities is not demand for labour.
    John Stuart Mill 1806–73 English philosopher and economist: Principles of Political Economy (1848) bk. 1, ch. 5
  23. Expenditure rises to meet income.
    C. Northcote Parkinson 1909–93 English writer: The Law and the Profits (1960) ch. 1
  24. The entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labour. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future.
    Thomas Piketty 1971–  French economist: Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014) conclusion
  25. Economics is the science which studies human behaviour as a relationship between ends and scarce means which have alternative uses.
    Lord Robbins 1898–1984 British economist: Essay on the Nature and Significance of Economic Science (1932) ch. 1, sect. 3
  26. We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt 1882–1945 American Democratic statesman, 32nd President 1933–45: second inaugural address, 20 January 1937
  27. Wall Street indexes predicted nine out of the last five recessions.
    Paul A. Samuelson 1915–2009 American economist: in Newsweek 19 September 1966
  28. Small is beautiful. A study of economics as if people mattered.
    E. F. Schumacher 1911–77 German-born economist: title of book (1973)
  29. Call a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation of man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations: as long as you have not shown it to be ‘uneconomic’ you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper.
    E. F. Schumacher 1911–77 German-born economist: Small is Beautiful (1973) pt. 1, ch. 3
  30. The cold metal of economic theory is in Marx's pages immersed in such a wealth of steaming phrases as to acquire a temperature not naturally its own.
    J. A. Schumpeter 1883–1950 Austrian-born American economist: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy (1942)
  31. The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.
    Ezra Solomon 1920–2002 Burmese-born American economist: in Reader's Digest 1985; often wrongly attributed to J. K. Galbraith following a humorous piece in U.S. News & World Report 7 March 1988
  32. What a country calls its vital economic interests are not the things which enable its citizens to live, but the things which enable it to make war.
    Simone Weil 1909–43 French essayist and philosopher: W. H. Auden A Certain World (1971)