David R. Henderson  

The Wisdom of Chairman Dwight

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I had lunch yesterday with Richard McKenzie, one of the co-authors of the Econlib Feature Article that will appear Monday. He gave me a copy of a special little paperback he produced of what he calls "Dwightisms." They're actual sayings that economist Dwight Lee, another contributor to Econlib Feature Articles, has come up with over the years. Richard handed out copies at a special retirement party held for Dwight at Southern Methodist University last May. It's roughly the size of the handouts some of us suffered through in the late 1960s when Maoists on college campuses handed out things titled "The Wisdom of Chairman Mao." With this difference: Dwight actually is wise.

There's a lot of good content there. I'll give some of the best "Dwightisms" below. I'm arranging them in three categories: (1) his insights on economics, (2) his well-known self-deprecating style, and (3) his insights on other things.

Insights on economics

A preacher blaming his congregation for being too small would be recognized as a moron. But blaming suppliers for price gouging, while equally moronic, is considered impressive economic insight.

Businessmen are more honest about the quality of their products than preachers, politicians and professors are about the quality of theirs. [DRH note: When I read this, I thought of a similar comment from the late George Stigler. This is the one in particular that I thought of:

Advertising itself is a completely neutral instrument and lends itself to the dissemination of highly contradictory desires. While the automobile industry tells us not to drink while driving, the bourbon industry tells us not to drive while drinking.... Our colleges use every form of advertising, and indeed the typical university catalog would never stop Diogenes in his search for an honest man.

Self-Deprecating Style

I got over embarrassment at an early age. I grew up in a house full of mirrors.

Those who limit their friendships to those socially superior to themselves are commonly criticized. This is unfair to me since that is the only choice I have.

Insights on Other Things

I like teaching a lot, I just don't like teaching a lot.

My wife and I like to take cruises, or more accurately, my wife likes to take cruises and I like my wife.


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CATEGORIES: Economic Philosophy



COMMENTS (3 to date)
Lawrence H. White writes:

Dwight was my colleague for 8 years at UGA. One of my favorite Dwightisms:

You can tell for whose benefit an institution is run by looking at who gets the closest parking spaces. At universities the students get the most distant spaces, administrators and faculty the closest. At Wal-Mart, they ask the employees to park away from the entrance.

Craig Richardson writes:

Glad you were able to have lunch with Richard. He and I get together every time he is in town for great conversation about economics. He shared with me the Dwightisms book as well.

dragonfly writes:

"My wife and I like to take cruises, or more accurately, my wife likes to take cruises and I like my wife."

I wish my husband was so wise :)

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