Ward Elliot’s Laws About Life

Ward Elliot, a professor of government at Claremont, has an amusing personal web site. He has two pages of "laws and insights" — some from himself, some from others. Below are my favorite nuggets from both categories.

From others:

  • Greed is good.
  • Behind the populist rhetoric lies the mailed fist of vested interest.
  • There is no passion more powerful than the desire to change the world.
  • Error is infinite, but truth is finite.
  • These are the calipers by which we take the measurement of an event: Is it interesting? what causes it? is it good or bad?
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • One generalization is worth a thousand correlations.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Ideas without passion illuminate but do not inspire.
  • Ideas are the capital of civilization and words are its media of exchange.
  • We live by words and die for slogans, yet who can define truth, or beauty, or humor?
  • All charity tends to corrupt, and absolute charity corrupts absolutely.

From him:

  • Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • Population control is a form of arms control.
  • Ambition craves jurisdiction.
  • The Constitution is not a blank check to posterity.
  • If an ounce of something is good, it doesn’t mean that a ton of it is better. Conversely, if a ton of something is bad, it doesn’t mean that an ounce of it is bad.
  • If it’s not worth doing, it’s not worth overdoing.
  • If it’s a commons, people will overuse it.
  • The invisible hand is not the one that changes most diapers.
  • If assumptions were horses, economists would ride.
  • You can’t marry everyone you love.
  • My students were put on earth for my amusement and enlightenment–and I for theirs.
  • My colleagues, by contrast, were put on earth to be my straight men.
  • Having a cause enlarges you.
  • Life is like Latin.  If it were easy, the teacher would not have assigned it.
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