Topical Quote: When the facts change, I change too: Churchill; Keynes; Samuelson

Victor Steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 30 06:19:34 UTC 2011

Three press comments on the subject. They are fairly short, so I
included the entire pieces. NY Mag referred to Romney as "a gullible
googler". But there is actually another joke hidden here, even if the
expression cannot be attributed to Keynes. As another Chuck Todd post
says, "Of course, it was just last week when Romney suggested he doesn’t
change positions." Ouch!

> Irony alert: Romney cites wrong Brit in defense of flip-flops
> By NBC's Garrett Haake and Jo Ling Kent
> Speaking to a New Hampshire Town Hall audience of more than 250
> yesterday, Mitt Romney addressed perceptions that he is a flip-flopper
> by quoting from a political leader he often cites on the trail,
> Winston Churchill.
> "In the private sector, if you don't change your view when the facts
> change, well you'll get fired for being stubborn and stupid." Romney
> said. "Winston Chuchill said, 'When the facts change, I change too,
> Madam'"
> The problem? That quote was not uttered by Britain's great wartime
> leader, but instead is credited to John Maynard Keynes, the British
> economist whose economic studies gave rise to so-called Keynesian
> economic theory, which calls for government intervention in economies
> to balance market forces, and who is loathed by many conservatives.
> The full quote, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you
> do, sir?" is most often attributed to Keynes offering a defense of why
> he often changed his positions in the constantly-evolving world of
> macroeconomics.
> And while the quote is regularly attributed to Keynes, there is more
> than a little reason for confusion. In a February blog post on the
> Wall Street Journal's website a Keynes' biographer is quoted as saying
> he believes that quote is in fact "apocryphal", and another said there
> was "no evidence" in the form of primary sources, that Keynes was the
> quote's originator.

[WSJ post cited above]
> February 11, 2011, 9:19 AM ET
> Keynes: He Didn’t Say Half of What He Said. Or Did He?
> As Yogi Berra once said, "really didn't say everything I said." Yogi,
> shake hands with John Maynard Keynes. A Google search for "keynes" +
> "The market can remain irrational longer than you can remain solvent"
> turns up more than 150,000 hits, including this one and this one, from
> recent days. Meanwhile, the new book "Safety Net" by James K. Glassman
> hangs its introduction on Keynes' supposed riposte to one of his
> critics who accused him of being a flip-flopper: "When the facts
> change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?" Hedge-fund managers
> Whitney Tilson and Glenn Tongue invoked the same quotation this week
> to explain why they are no longer shorting Netflix. (A Google search
> on this purported bit of Keynespeak turns up around 441,000 hits.)
> There's just one problem with both these quotations: No one can point
> to a primary source proving that Keynes ever uttered them.
> In an e-mail in 2003, Keynes' most authoritative biographer, Lord
> Robert Skidelsky, told investment advisor William Bernstein that he
> believed they were "both apocryphal." This week I asked another
> renowned expert on Keynes, Donald Moggridge of the University of
> Toronto, if he could identify the source of either of the oft-quoted
> remarks. "The simple answer," Prof. Moggridge replied by e-mail, "is
> there is no evidence."
> So here's our challenge: MarketBeat will pay ten increasingly
> Keynesian U.S. dollars (yes, $10 in rapidly depreciating legal tender)
> to the first reader who can point to an irrefutable primary source
> proving that the godfather of fiscal intervention ever said either of
> these things. Find the sources for both and we’ll pay you $20.
> If you hurry up, the $20 might even still be worth $20 by the time our
> envelope arrives in your mailbox. But we're betting we never have to
> pay out a single sawbuck: We think both quotations are bogus.
> Until then, would everybody please stop putting words in the old boy's
> mouth?

[This one also cites WSJ post and Wiki]
> When the Quotes Change, I Check My Attributions
> September 29th, 2011 at 4:48 pm Noah Kristula-Green
> Mitt Romney is a big fan of Winston Churchill. At a recent GOP debates
> he promised that if he was elected, a priority of his would be to
> restore a bust of Churchill back into the Oval Office. Yet it seems
> that Churchill-philia has gotten the better of Romney. During a Town
> Hall meeting in New Hampshire, Romney defended accusations that he was
> a flip-flopper by 'quoting' Churchill:
>> In the private sector, if you don't change your view when the facts
>> change, well you'll get fired for being stubborn and stupid. Winston
>> Churchill said, 'When the facts change I change too, Madam.' What do
>> you do?
> The problem for Romney is that this quote is often attributed to
> fiscal stimulus advocate John Maynard Keynes.
> Keynes reportedly gave the quote as a response to criticism that he
> had changed his views on monetary policy during the Great Depression.
> He reportedly said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do
> you do, sir?"
> While this does appear to be the smoking gun that can end the Romney
> campaign by revealing him to be a closet Socialist (just like Obama!)
> there is still a ray of hope for Romney. According to a Keynes
> biographer, it turns out that there is "no evidence" that the quote
> can be attributed to Keynes and that it is in fact, apocryphal.
> As presidential candidate Mitt Romney says, when the facts change...

On 9/30/2011 1:20 AM, Garson O'Toole wrote:
> Mitt Romney is in the news for attributing a quotation to Winston
> Churchill. Here is an excerpt from an MSNBC article:
> <Begin excerpt>
> "In the private sector, if you don't change your view when the facts
> change, well you'll get fired for being stubborn and stupid." Romney
> said. "Winston Churchill said, 'When the facts change, I change too,
> Madam'"
> <End excerpt>
> Thanks to Barry Popik for mentioning this news story to me. The Quote
> Investigator website has an article about this saying which has been
> attached to famed economist John Maynard Keynes for decades. The
> earliest instance I found was said in 1970 by Nobel laureate Paul
> Samuelson.
> In a quick search the earliest cite I found for Churchill was dated 1999.
> Cite: 1999 September 18, Florida Times-Union, Editorial, Term Limits:
> Fowler's dilemma, Section Metro, Page B-6, Jacksonville, Florida.
> (NewsBank)
> <Begin excerpt>
> Winston Churchill once said to a woman berating him for changing his
> position, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do,
> madam?"
> <End excerpt>
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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