21 Invaluable Charles R. Morris Quotes

Charles R. Morris is a lawyer, former banker, and author. With more than a dozen books written to date, Morris is a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times. Here is a look at some of the best Charles R. Morris quotes to remember from his lifetime.

“Be fearful when others are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful.”

“Business schools tend to focus on topics that are suitable to blackboards, so they overemphasize organization and finance. Until very recently, they virtually ignored manufacturing. I think of lot of the troubles of the 1970s and 1980s, and now more recently the 2000s can be traced pretty directly to the biases of the business schools.”

“Credit is the air that financial markets breathe, and when the air is poisoned, there’s no place to hide.”

“For just a few dollars registration, you got temporary possession of a good piece of land. Live on it for five years, build a house, and farm it, and it was yours. What a brilliant economic stimulus!”

“I think it was the occasion of the final psychological break with Great Britain, in a way that had clearly not happened to that date, especially in New England and to som degree in the South.”

“I would speculate that a critical mass of the population has to internalize a middle class outlook first. International aid experience has demonstrated many times that just building railroads doesn’t get you there. You need people ready to sue them.”

“In raw markets, the scent of money deadens all other sensory and ethical organs.”

“In the brave new world of absolute markets, it is not only dangerously naive to trust your mortgage broker, but based on recent scandals in college tuition lending, even your student aid counselor.”

“It may not be replicable: One of the hardest transition that a developing country can make is the transition to middle-class status. Governments have to let go, people start insisting on following their own lights, etc.”

“It’s clear that North took some original steps in that direction, but Hall probably had the most complete approach and should get the most credit. But for Hall, unfortunately, the data are all impressionistic – what people said. None of his machinery survived. His patents were all lost in the Patent Office fire.”

“John D. Rockefeller was certainly the first to create a consumer product that was sold literally throughout the entire world. Those blue 5-gallon cans showed up in some of the remotest parts of the world.”

“LTCM is now a classic case of “fat tails” in finance. Portfolio math mimics diffusion physics—a scattergram of the outcomes from trillions of small random movements maps smoothly onto a bell curve. In well-behaved markets, finance looks much the same. But markets are rarely well-behaved for long, and big deviations from the norm happen very frequently in finance—the finance bell curve, that is, has fat tails. When Russia defaulted on its sovereign bonds in 1998, it was a fat tail for LTCM, and it was on the wrong side of the trade, with very heavy leverage.”

“My neck is too arthritic to snap around. The big shift in my perspective that happened in the writing process, however, was the paramount importance of the “West” epitomized by Cincinnati.”

“No specific technology. My guess is that it was the instinct always to go to maximum scale. Great Britain kept much more of a small shop mindset well into the twentieth century, for instance.”

“The drive to scale in almost every endeavor. The British went very large scale in ship building and a few other industries. Their steel plants were bigger and much more advanced than ours after the Civil War, but we had blown past them by the mid-80s.”

“The evolution was always to greater scale and speed. Other countries did that here and there – GB in textiles, Germany in steel – but we went in that direction almost across the board.”

“The kind of precision manufacturing epitomized in the armories, while it was important, was only a small share of the economy until quite late in the century. Large-scale natural resource development and processing was the name of the game.”

“The paradigm of the development of natural resource-based industry – meatpacking, lard, timber, iron and coal, grain. Cincinnati’s lard processing plants looked a lot like JDR’s oil refineries thirty years later.”

“The Transcontinental Railroad Act is the first step in creating a continental common market.”

“We demonstrated what you could do when a band of entrepreneurs settles an empty country with vast resources. The Chinese have a billion people and are running out of water. Tougher problem for sure.”

“We were suddenly getting big, with burgeoning capabilities on all sides, but very clumsy, knew we were on some kind of ride, and things changing fast, but with very little idea of what was going on.”

Check out this review of Charles Morris’s book, ‘The Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Easy Money, High Rollers, and the Great Credit Crash.’

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