Generation 40s – 四十世代

Good articles for buddies


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職位破壞者玩弄數字遊戲

Hong Kong Economic Journal
B14 | 專家之言 | By Paul Krugman
2012-01-07

美國經濟復蘇緩慢得幾乎不像復蘇,尤其是在職位方面。因此,在一個理想的世界中,總統奧巴馬面對的挑戰者會是一個能夠認真抨擊他的就業政策,並提出一個認真的解決建議。但現在可以肯定的是,奧巴馬將要面對的是羅姆尼(Mitt Romney)。

羅姆尼批評奧巴馬是職位破壞者,而他自己是創造職位的商人。例如,在霍士新聞節目上說:「這屆總統在位期間流失的職位是胡佛總統以來最多的。」他繼而聲稱,在管理其私募公司Ba in Capital時: 「我對那時候很滿意,我們協助創造了超過十萬個職位。」不過,他對奧巴馬往績的指控可以說是靠近不誠實的邊緣,而對自己往績的描述則已是完全踏入了不誠實的領域。

先說關於奧巴馬的。自他上台後,美國的確流失了大約一百九十萬個職位,但他接手的是一個處於水深火熱中的經濟,不應該要他為前任者最初幾個月的職位流失負責,因為當時他自己推出的政策根本沒有時間彰顯效果。那在2009年上半年,奧巴馬要為多少美國流失的職位負責?

答案是:比上述所講的都要多。在2009 年1 月至6 月期間,美國流失了三百一十萬個職位,其後增加了一百二十萬個。這是不足的,但完全談不上羅姆尼所說的摧毀職位。

數據誤導性非常高順帶一提,前布殊政府聲稱在位期間的職位增長不是從總統就職日開始計算的,而是從2003 年8月開始,即布殊時代就業人數跌至最低點的時候。以這個標準計算,奧巴馬可以說他從2010 年2 月開始創造了二百五十萬個職位。

因此,羅姆尼對奧巴馬在職位方面的往績不是全錯的,但誤導性非常高。但真正有趣的是是他如何說自己。他聲稱的十萬個新職位來自何處?

《華盛頓郵報》的凱斯勒(Glenn Kessler)從羅姆尼的選舉團隊那裏得到答案。那是羅姆尼協助創辦或增長的三家公司的新職位總和。它們分別是Staples、The Sports Authority 和Domino’s。凱斯勒馬上指出了兩大問題。

這是根據現有職位數目計算的,不是羅姆尼在Bain Capital 工作的時候,而且當中不包括Bain Capital參與的其他公司的職位流失。單是這兩個問題中任何一個,都令羅姆尼的聲稱變得完全荒謬。

關於使用現有職位數目計算的問題,以Staples 為例,該公司目前的分店數目比1999 年──羅姆尼離開Bain Capital 的時候──增加了一倍。他可以把Staples 過去十二年的好成績都歸功於自己嗎?

而且,Staples 的成功之處是把焦點從價格轉到顧客服務上,那是在他離開商界很久之後落實的。

只計增加不計減少

然後就是只計入職位有增長的公司的問題,無視那些裁減了員工或結業的。嘿,如果只計增加不計減少的,那玩老虎機的人都要贏大錢了。

無論如何,單看一家公司的員工數目變化來斷定美國整體職位創造情況是完全不合理的。舉例說,你的辦公室用品連鎖店市場份額上升,你招聘了更多員工,你的對手減少招聘,這對美國整體職位數目有什麼影響?有一點可以肯定的是:一定比你公司增加的職位少很多。

而且,如果業務不是因打敗對手而擴張,而是透過收購,那被收購者的員工就變成了自己旗下的員工,這樣有創造到職位嗎?

問題是,即使提出的數字正確,羅姆尼對自己是職位創造者的聲稱也是無稽的,更不用說那些數字並不真確。

可能有讀者會問,說羅姆尼摧毀職位是否也沒錯。的確是這樣。羅姆尼和他的同僚被埋怨的不是摧毀了職位,而是摧毀了優質的職位。

當Bain Capital 協助重組的公司縮減了規模或很多時候直接結業後,美國內整體職位應該與之前差不多,但流失掉的職位無論在薪酬或福利上都比取而代之的新職位要好。羅姆尼和他的同類沒有摧毀職位,但他們在致富的同時,協助摧毀美國中產階層。

當然,這就是所有關於創造職位的商人和摧毀職位的民主黨人的胡言亂語和誤導所要掩飾的真相。

版權所有:《紐約時報》

Paul Krugman


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Changing minds

South China Morning Post
2012-01-03
Opinion

Chang Ping says the question of whether revolution or reform is more suitable for today’s China fails to consider realities on the ground, and it overlooks the importance of one influencing the other

Three recent blog essays by the young writer Han Han – on revolution, democracy and freedom – sparked a fierce debate on the internet. Among his views, his support for reform over revolution was the most contentious. Han’s popularity is of course one reason his postings ignited such a debate. But the fact is, the subject resonated because China stands at a crossroads.

The relevance of revolution in today’s society was a hot topic among scholars three months ago when the centenary of the 1911 revolution rolled around. Law professor Xiao Han declared China today to be ripe for a revolution, and believed a revolution was inevitable. He said he did not hope that violence could be avoided, but suggested it should be justified.

Philosopher Li Zehou took the opposite view. In his argument for a “farewell to revolution”, he said any regime that seized power through violent revolt would itself cling to the use of violence to maintain power. Yet another tyrant or autocratic government would be born, inciting yet another revolt. This was the vicious cycle of violence that accompanied the rise and fall of China’s dynasties, he said. No matter which held power, it was the people who suffered. Notions of democracy, freedom and the rule of law would be mere slogans, for there would be no room to develop them.

Han made the same argument. Besides, he said, Chinese people on the whole were not well educated and, in the chaos of a revolution, there would be nothing to stop villains and opportunists from taking power.

One observation is left unsaid: the history of the Chinese Communist Party proves this argument right. The party led a violent revolution holding aloft the banner for democracy and freedom for an oppressed people. They seized the so-called “political power that comes from a gun barrel” and founded a new China. Sixty years on, not only has democracy failed to arrive, the rights of freedom of speech, publication, association and protest have all deteriorated. A person could be arrested today for voicing support for the values widely trumpeted in the 1940s.

The advantage of reform over revolution can’t be as handily illustrated, but it, too, has historical precedence. Before 1911, two generations of Chinese had worked to put in place innovative reforms. If social justice could be achieved without bloodshed, only the bloodthirsty would not attempt to do so.

The question is: how can reform be made possible? Li Zehou advocated letting the ruling authorities dictate the pace of change and making sure their interests were not threatened, and reform would come. In this view, history is written by the social elites, and ordinary people may only await their fate. Historical change will come at the expense of people’s rights and interests.

Han Han understands the importance of individual resistance. In his third essay, he urged authorities to relax censorship controls on media and the arts. And if things did not improve in two or three years, he said, he would stage protests at the annual conferences of the Chinese Writers’ Association or the China Federation of Literary and Art Circles.

Will this work? Such a protest is likely to be dispersed by the police. Some protesters may even be arrested and jailed, as activist Wang Lihong was after she protested outside a court in support of three bloggers on trial. If replicated in China, Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent resistance – openly defying the colonial government, repeatedly organising sit-in rallies, even tearing up his identity card – would unfortunately invite the same punishment from officials as a violent protest.

It is worth asking if the recent stand-off in Guangdong’s Wukan village is a revolt or reform. Out of concern for their own safety, the villagers denied they led an uprising. But the fact is they fell out of government control for three months, and formed their own governing body based on clan relations and elections. This would be considered illegal, and reason enough for a government crackdown. Yet the Wukan villagers mobilised to set up road blocks in open confrontation with armed police, and eventually forced the government to recognise its “illegal organisation” and even negotiate with it. This was a fundamental breach of government; we’d only be fooling ourselves by calling it “reform”. Put another way, can such “reform” be promoted elsewhere? Or, if it were a revolution, how was it able to maintain order and achieve success?

Guangdong officials who took part in resolving the crisis now take credit for it, and it is possible they would set it up as an example of the Guangdong government’s “humane treatment of its people”. But it should be clear that without the people’s refusal to back down in the face of police force, and their determination to hold even bigger rallies, the government would not have instituted change.

Where does the impetus for reform come from? I asked this question of several people familiar with government thinking, and their answer was: not from any belief in just rule, but from the pressure to maintain stability. Where does this pressure come from? Clearly, not from scholars’ rational and constructive criticism, but from mass movements that threaten violent disorder and social breakdown.

Binary thinking of reform or revolution is to my mind somewhat misguided, and does not accord with the realities of China’s underclass. It lacks awareness of civil rights. Effective people’s resistance is likely to be a combination of both: the fear and pressure of revolution giving the impetus to reform, and progressive reform leading to systemic change that is nothing short of revolutionary.

Chang Ping is a current affairs commentator writing on politics, society and culture. This commentary is translated from Chinese


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吵鬧的圖書館

Hong Kong Economic Journal
C04 | 品味旅遊 | 劍河長篙 | By Alan.C
2012-01-07

時值東羅馬帝國君士坦丁大帝(Constantine I)建都拜占庭( 今土耳其伊斯坦堡)的公元四世紀,基督教在《米蘭詔令》(Edictum Mediolanense )的頒布下在歐洲正式落地生根,初次成為合法且自由的宗教,在位時亦促進歐洲普遍地方逐漸擺脫奴隸社會,從而為過渡到封建時代奠下基礎。其時一位年輕拉丁文修辭學(Rhetoric)教授從帝國的北非蠻人之地(拉丁文謂之Barbari)乘船到了羅馬,此人名叫奧古斯丁(Aurelius Augustinus 或 Saint Augustine)。

早年深受Cicero的《規勸論》(Hortensius)思想影響,進而修畢帝國最高學位,奧古斯丁年僅二十即於迦太基(Carthage)傳授修辭學中的雄辯術,後轉移至羅馬開設私立學校自行執教,因跟政府設置的呆板公立課程不銜接而沒有得到資助,且學生蜂上課以後學費卻長期欠奉,落得一貧如洗、兩袖清風。後幸得羅馬行政院內一位有識之士相邀聘請至米蘭教授雄辯術和文學,隨即欣然赴任。身在米蘭時,奧古斯丁編寫完成《懺悔錄》(並非後來Rousseau的LesConfessions ),描述內心之多極思想掙扎角力,直到讀過保羅的《使徒行傳》後克服猶豫決意歸附基督。其著作當中一重要段落對「默讀」與「朗讀」有過詳盡細膩的描述,屬歐洲文獻上對此最早且較完善的記載。

默讀與朗讀

沉寂靜默的閱覽時之專注意指在個人學問的尋找,是當今普遍的閱讀態度習慣。而發聲朗讀之舉則是欲與同伴共享著作中的學問啟示,與回教廟宇的小孩誦經所中之情景雷同,各自高聲朗讀《可蘭經》之諄諄教誨。根據奧古斯丁著述中對其恩師米蘭主教安布羅斯(Aurelius Ambrose)寡言而專注、旁若無人般默讀典籍卷軸之狀況的好奇而細緻的描寫,可以估計在羅馬帝國的歐洲「默讀」似乎並未普及,而正式之閱讀方式應是朗讀,學習的方式則是交流分享的討論。

此段歷史可在今日意大利米蘭的BibliotecaAmbrosiana (或 Ambrosian Library)讀到,而此館正是以安布羅斯主教(Ambrose)命名。不要以為圖書館一定如倫敦British Library般莊嚴肅穆或似港大Law Library般的冰冷死寂,此館的藏書閱讀室內的本地學人和我輩讀者仍然喃喃自語地念着手上書本,有的更跨桌對談即席討論,時而高聲道出一個命題等待旁人對解題的各項建議,一樣承載着拉丁文的熱情。

不難想像,昔日帝國的羅馬、君士坦丁堡、亞歷山大港和迦太基的圖書館內學人是於何等嘈雜熱鬧的氣氛中尋到學問的啟示。


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大陸客全球爭吸 港人宜親善包容

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A02 | 要聞社評 | 社評
2012-01-21

美國總統奧巴馬親自宣布,他已簽署一項促進美國旅遊業的行政命令,簡化和加速非移民簽證申請程式,旨在吸引更多中國和巴西等新興經濟體的遊客訪美。

自二○○一年「九一一」恐怖襲擊之後,美國政府收緊入境簽證申請,對外來遊客的要求從嚴,導致旅遊業萎縮;據估計,過去十年,由此造成的經濟損失達八千六百億美元,減少超過五十萬個就業機會。奧巴馬於大選年推出新的安排,自希望此舉有助創造與旅業相關的新職位,刺激經濟發展;而吸引來遊的主要目標,正是全球旅遊業界都「覬覦」的群體——中國人。

奧巴馬在佛羅里達州迪士尼樂園宣布上述決定,這不禁令人想起,香港迪士尼的訪客中,內地人就佔了半數。無可否認,隨着中國國力加強,民眾收入上升,外遊人數和消費能力都與日俱增,且幅度顯著,於此全球經濟低迷之秋,中國遊客自成為世界各國眼中的「金蛋」了。

最新數據顯示,中國內地的財政收入,去年突破十萬億元人民幣,即約一萬六千五百億美元,這數字相比美國的四萬五千億美元,無疑仍有差距,但已超越英、法、德、日等工業化國家,足躋身「富國」之列。然而,若以人均財政收入水平而言,中國大陸的世界排名尚在百名之後,「國富民窮」之說,依然非虛。

雖則如此,但畢竟中國人多勢眾,即使只有部分先富起來者,僅佔全民的較小比例,實際數量已經非同小可。看看世界奢侈品協會(WLA)昨日發表的報告:中國大陸奢侈品市場的年消費總額,達一百二十六億美元,高佔全球百分之二十六,已成舉世之冠。中國富人消費力之強,可見一斑。

況且,中國民眾的整體收入,近年明顯增長,也是不爭事實。據國家統計局公布的數字,二○一一年城鎮居民人均總收入近二萬四千元人民幣,比上年增加百分之十三點五;農村居民人均純收入近七千元,增幅百分之十七點九。民眾收入上漲,對外遊的需求隨之增添,加上人民幣升值,歐羅貶值,中國遊客在國外的購買力水漲船高,對環球旅業的貢獻自不待言。

中國遊客數量激增,樂於消費,當然受到重視和歡迎。可是,部分大陸遊客在外地一些不夠文明的表現,也廣受詬病,比較常見的諸如隨地吐痰、亂丟垃圾、肆意喧嘩、不守秩序、妄自塗鴉等等,往往令當地人側目,既有礙觀瞻,也有損國人形象。

近日,在香港流傳的一段網上短片,就是因為有內地遊客在地鐵車廂內違規進食,並與出言制止的港人發生罵戰。事件在中港兩地都引來強烈迴響,箇中反映的問題,值得各方反思。

大陸遊客一些引來爭議的舉措,部分是來自文化的差異、習慣的不同,但更多不啻牽涉個人的質素,包括公德與文明的程度,中國人在這方面,實有提升的必要,其中從教育做起,也是刻不容緩了。

其實,愈來愈多大陸民眾有機會出外旅遊,既開眼界之餘,亦可感受先進地區文明有禮,公德守序的氛圍,耳濡目染,默化潛移,對他們提高個人素養,應有裨益。

另一方面,香港近日似有滋長「仇內」(不滿內地人)情緒的迹象,也需要我們警惕。須知,面對內地遊客,不能一竹篙打一船人,港人宜表現出親善、包容的一面;對於不當行為,禮貌地提醒代替責備,好言相勸免卻相嗌唔好口,才是應有之義。


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台灣大選成示範 兩岸議題決高低

Hong Kong Economic Journal
A02 | 要聞社評 | 社評
2012-01-14

台灣大選今日投票,寶島將是藍天依舊,抑或換上綠裝,晚間便有分曉。由於選前戰情緊湊,國民黨與民進黨孰勝孰負,殊難逆料;只可以肯定的是,兩岸關係議題成為今次選戰主旋律,也是藍綠兩大陣營成敗的關鍵。

上屆二○○八年的選舉,民進黨因受陳水扁貪腐案拖累,國民黨的馬英九只打一張清廉牌,便足可以百分五十八點四五的得票率而大勝。可是,馬英九今屆對手,換了形象廉潔、具學者之風的蔡英文,反貪議題之效,自然大打折扣。縱使蔡英文因「宇昌案」而蒙上利益輸送之嫌,但藍營攻擊敵營貪腐,不斷重提扁貪,始終成效有限。

是故,馬英九極力推銷其於兩岸和解的貢獻,以「九二共識」作為催票主力法寶,強調「一中各表」、兩岸「不統、不獨、不武」之下,台灣始能得到安穩,並促進兩岸經貿,利於發展經濟,改善民生。

事實上,馬英九力撐的「九二共識」,明顯獲得台灣商界支持,除了在大陸投資的企業家,就連一直本是綠營支持者的富商巨賈,也紛紛挺馬。直至選前一天,還有宏達電董事長、王永慶的女兒王雪紅出面表態,聲稱「在九二共識之前,從來沒有這麼平和的兩岸社會和兩岸關係」;又說「對一個創業的人來說,一個平和、穩定的社會,是必要條件」,故她非常珍惜兩岸平和的關係,也非常珍惜九二共識。

誠然,在當前的政經環境之下,馬英九的兩岸牌,密切構連着經濟牌,更為民生所繫,故不論蔡英文頻以「台灣共識」和大聯合政府出招,馬英九依然「獨步單方」以對。

蔡英文方面,決戰前一周拋出的大聯合政府主張,並沒有得到發酵,發揮不出威力。到了選戰前夕,她還是被迫回歸兩岸議題,提出的五大承諾,其中明確表示,兩岸關係是其選後第一要務,她會跟各政黨與國會協商成立「兩岸對話工作小組」,邀請具公信力的社會領袖加入,建立溝通管道,讓兩岸進入理性互助、互信、長久穩定的新階段;目前的協議,新政府會概括接受;也希望藉由未來的「新共識」,達成互惠雙贏局面。

換言之,蔡英文也深明目前兩岸和平共處、交往頻繁,已是不可逆轉的大勢所趨,她要爭取更多中間選民,就不容全盤推翻兩岸和解政策,而是必須營造她也能維持兩岸良好互動關係的形象,以免民眾擔心一旦民進黨上台,兩岸關係又趨緊張。

眾所周知,在兩岸問題上,北京政府是絕不容許台灣獨立,而台灣民眾也絕難接受「一國兩制」的統一,正如國際上許多因歷史遺留、形成死結的爭端,都是用「擱置」的政治手段處置,令問題不致惡化,甚至兵戎相見。因此,「不統、不獨、不武」,無疑是在一段長時間內處理兩岸關係的較佳方案,也最能符合兩岸民眾的根本利益。

今日之後,究竟是國民黨繼續執政,還是民進黨上台,完成第三度政黨輪替,必將左右兩岸關係和經濟的發展;而不管今次台灣大選的結果如何,也必將對中國內地的政治生態產生深遠影響。

隨着兩岸接觸大增、資訊流通頻密,台灣民選領導人的消息和狀況,大陸民眾都可耳聞目睹,即如在上海的台式餐館,今天也將直播台灣大選實況;況且台灣的民主政治發展正日趨成熟,選民理性益添,在兩岸四地中堪成典範,這方面的箇中意義,實在不容小覷。