"It Isn't Easy to Figure Out How the World Works" (Larry Summers, 1984)

Update to my post “Dr Smith and the Asset Bubble”: Ever since I wrote this post I have been wracking my brain trying to remember whether Larry Summers told me“It isn’t easy to understand how the world works”as in an earlier version of this post, or“It isn’t easy to figure out how the world works.”At first, I dismissed “figure out” because that is a favorite phrase of mine and I feared I had substituted that into my memory. But I keep coming back to “figure out.” And it occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons I like “figure out” may be precisely Larry Summers using it in this context. In any case I have decided to edit the repeated quotation to the “figure out” form. If anyone knows from Larry’s speech patterns which he would have been more likely to say, let me know.  

By the way, this is a good place to let readers know that I have enough of a random, patchwork, perfectionistic impulse that I routinely allow myself silent edits in my blog posts without an update notification. I am not running for office, I am not on trial, and I already have tenure, so I don’t have to play the game of “gotcha.” In my case, it is my words that matter, not me, and the words that matter are the ones I am willing to stand behind in the end.

But in this case, the “It isn’t easy to understand how the world works” version of the quotation has already gone out into the world and even become the title of a blog post by Kevin Grier—“Angus” at Kids Prefer Cheese, so I feel I need to clearly signal this particular update.  On other occasions, clearly signaling an update helps to drive home the overall point of a post. And if I ever write on some other website, I will follow the norms there.