2006年11月24日

國章不下台 孩子冇未來

蘋論:國章不下台 孩子冇未來

不食人間煙火的教育沙皇,又怎會明白學券的意義?藍血貴族出身的李國章主理育,又怎會讓教育成為草根階層向上爬的梯級?一心只想將統一管死香港的統局長官,會真心真意推行學券制嗎?容我們借用佛利民的一句回答︰No he won't!

李國章令學券制胎死腹中,理由是學券制不應該讓人發達。就讓我們放大膽些吧!就算學券制讓人發達又如何?學券制將教育的力量釋放,讓草根市民的下一代,透過教育跟李國章般的藍血貴族競爭,最終有些令我們引以為傲的香港故事,說不定當中可以有幾個香港仔女成為諾貝爾獎得主,又有幾個幾個成為富商巨賈,究竟除了高高在上的不食人間煙火貴冑公子,又有誰會如此憎人富貴厭人貧?

據說,曾蔭權一直默默地希望見到學券制的出現。曾蔭權身體流的不是藍色血,要不是當年香港的育制度百花齊放,有耶穌會士以自由的理念來辦學,華仁書院可以有空間將曾蔭權般平民百姓的子弟,培養成領導香港的精英人才嗎?身為育自由的最大受惠者,曾蔭權應該最明白,育才是今天香港數以百萬草根階層的希望。有了曾蔭權如此這般的一個榜樣,香港人又怎會不知道教育自由的重要?所以當曾蔭權在施政報告中說會在幼兒教育引入學券的概念,一眾父母都期待真正的學券制得到落實,希望可以在本來已經沒有甚麼希望的香港育中找到一絲曙光。怎料細節從李國章口中說出來,卻是貨不對辦的偽學券,原來衙門一心只想借學券之名來一統幼兒教育,將這小片仍未被征服的自由教育,也收歸衙門的管轄。

幼稚園偽學券,可能差點就將香港的幼兒教育界分化。幸好,幼師們還清醒,明白到一旦幼稚園被統局統戰了,幼師就永永遠遠成為了官僚的棋子,要無日無之地服侍高高在上的統局欽差,為朝令夕改的所謂育政策疲於奔命。以偽學券收買育自由的動機敗露了,為官的便指鹿為馬,說幼兒育界得不到共識,所以要停止申請撥款。無論是家長和幼師,共識都明顯不過,那就是要真的學券,不要官僚插手破壞香港的教育自由。手握教育生死大權的李國章當然可以不認同市民的訴求,不過使蠻勁說是社會沒有共識,這又算是那甚麼貴族的君子風範?

平民出身的曾蔭權口既說福為民開,我們現在唯一希望,就是李國章搞出來的偽學券,根本不是特區政府的本意。當全港都在等待學券制的生機,問責官僚卻來阻礙學券制的落實,更將責任推卸到百姓和專業幼師的頭上。如此不設實際也全無承擔的官僚,特區政府豈能縱容?懇請特首當機立斷,要這個毫不稱職的教育沙皇為過失問責,還學子、家長和教育專業人員自由和公道。

當然,我們最希望曾經受惠教育自由的香港仔曾蔭權,本著良心出手,將真正的學券放在家長的手中,讓幼師們各自發揮愛心和專業精神,在自由教育的環境下培育下一代,讓我們的孩子可以跟含著銀匙的藍血貴族公平競爭,白手創新天。

李兆富

2006年11月19日

Milton Friedman - An enduring legacy

為甚麼英國人寫的悼文總是更有深度?

An enduring legacy
Nov 17th 2006
From Economist.com

One of the most influential economists of the 20th century has died

MILTON FRIEDMAN won the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to an outstanding American economist under the age of 40, in 1951. Many consider it harder to win than a Nobel Prize. One of the measures of his greatness is that when he got it, he still had not done any of the work for which he would become most famous. Still to come were the permanent-income hypothesis, his groundbreaking “A Monetary History of the United States” (co-written with Anna Schwartz) and the proposal of a natural rate of unemployment.

These works revolutionised the conduct of central banks around the world. But to non-economists Mr Friedman's great achievement is not his challenge to Keynesian demand management but the popular writings that challenged a consensus favouring ever-greater state intervention in the economy. This work, too, came long after his peers had recognised him as a leading light. At the time of his death on Thursday November 16th, the 94-year-old economist was still working to spread his ideas about free markets, this time through a documentary for American public television.

It is another mark of his greatness that so many of the ideas that seemed crazy when he came up with them—from blaming the Depression on bad central-bank policy, to school vouchers and the volunteer army—have gained mainstream acceptance. But Mr Friedman always recognised that his success was fragile; free markets and stable money have lots of enemies, particularly among politicians. He has left us a staggering legacy of economic theory and public-policy prescriptions—but is that inheritance growing or shrinking?

Certainly, on the monetary side, Mr Friedman remains a giant. His critics point out that central bankers no longer try to target the money supply directly, but to those who remember the inflationary 1970s it is perhaps more important that futile attempt to push unemployment to zero no longer trigger inflationary spirals. In developed countries politicians may talk like Keynesians, but they behave like monetarists, looking to the central bank, rather than fiscal policy, to stave off inflation and recession.

And what of his other crusades? His proposal of a volunteer military force, once rejected as impractical, is now so deeply ingrained in American culture that politicians who proposed bringing back the draft for the war in Iraq were dismissed as crackpots or worse. His quest to replace anti-poverty programmes with a "negative income tax" that would give cash to the working poor has come to fruition in the form of the earned-income tax credit. This is now the favoured policy prescription on both left and right for boosting incomes at the bottom. School vouchers, too, are making progress, albeit slowly. And where they are not, the idea that students should be able to choose between public schools is nonetheless bringing competition to America’s educational system.

Even outside his homeland, his ideas continue to make inroads. He was pilloried for briefly advising the Pinochet regime in Chile, where his students, "the Chicago boys", ran economic policy. Thirty years later that oppressive government is gone but his free-market reforms have made Chile the economic star of Latin America. The World Bank and IMF continue to push for stable financial systems and market-based reforms around the world. Proposals like the negative income tax were forerunners of the consensus growing in Europe (and elsewhere) that governments should provide safety nets through taxation and distribution of cash benefits rather than heavy regulation of markets.

But despite Mr Friedman's work, thickets of regulation thrive in most countries, particularly his homeland. Nor has he succeeded in trimming back the state, which is still growing in many places, including America. Ironically, another legacy may be to blame: income-tax withholding, which he helped to invent during the second world war. The fact that the tax is deducted from most peoples' pay before it reaches their pockets is perhaps the main reason why the state has been able to grow so large. Mr Friedman deeply regretted this contribution to economic science—but like his other inventions, it will long outlive him.

Ideas: What’s Wrong With Steroids?

Ideas: What's Wrong With Steroids?

大衛.佛利民 (佛老之子,物理學博士,不過正職是加州自由派掌門人之一) 提出這個問題,你們有答案嗎?

我的答案明白刊登。

Luke, may the force be with you!

Jedi Knights demand Britain's fourth largest 'religion' receives recognition
Daily Mail, UK

With their vast intergalactic knowledge and ability to harness the Force, the task of convincing UN officials to recognise their cause should be a walkover for a pair of Jedi Knights.
But self-proclaimed Jedis Umada and Yunyun, better known as John Wilkinson and Charlotte Law, have adopted a more conventional approach in their pursuit of recognition – delivering a protest letter.

The unconventional pair are calling for the UN to acknowlegde what has become Britain's fourth largest "religion" with 390,000 followers.

The UN International Day of Tolerance, which takes place annually on November 16, is aimed at emphasising the dangers of intolerance and promoting integration and cohesion across the globe.
Umada, 27, and Yunyun, 24, both from London, want the day to be renamed the "Interstellar Day of Tolerance" to reflect millions of people across the globe who have chosen to follow the Jedi code as a religion and truly reflect social diversity.

For the protest in Whitehall, the couple will wear full Jedi Knight robes and will be accompanied by a host of supporters including Star Wars favourite Chewbacca with a placard reading "Tolerance for Jedis".

Umada and Yunyun said: "For the last ten years the United Nations has marked the International Day of Tolerance. While we support this important work, we feel the UN needs to move with the times.

"Like the UN, the Jedi Knights are peacekeepers and we feel we have the basic right to express our religion through wearing our robes, and to be recognised by the national and international community.

"We therefore are calling upon the United Nations Association to change November 16 to the UN Interstellar Day of Tolerance, to reflect the religious make-up of our twenty-first century civilisation.

"Tolerance is about respecting difference where ever it lies, including other galaxies. Please don't exclude us from your important work. May the Force be with you."
In the 2001 UK Census 390,000 people listed their religion as Jedi Knight making it the fourth biggest belief in the country.

There are also an estimated 70,000 Jedi knights in Australia, 53,000 in New Zealand and 20,000 in Canada.

The United Nations Association of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the UK's leading independent authority on the UN and a UK-wide grassroots membership organisation.
Although the association is independent of the United Nations, Yunyun and Umada hope the organisation will take on the case with the global peace-keeping body.

There is a particularly insightful comment from Mail readers:

The obvious solution to this is for the government not to recognize ANY religion since it isn't the government's business. If they deign to recognize this religion and that religion but not THAT religion they're intolerant at best and tyrannical at worst. Solve the problem, break the shackles of government control on religions and, consequently, religion's control over government.

- Mr. Hargett, Indianpolis, US

2006年11月17日

願佛老在天國 跟郭伯偉爵士繼續談天

佛老在人生最後一段仍然記掛著香港,是我們的福份。

以下是FT的悼文,應該是寫得最好的一篇。

Milton Friedman, economist, dies aged 94
By Samuel Brittan
Published: November 16 2006 17:58 Last updated: November 16 2006 17:58

Milton Friedman, who has died aged 94, was the last of the great economists to combine possession of a household name with the highest professional credentials. In this respect he was often compared to John Maynard Keynes, whose work he always respected, even though he to some extent supplanted it.

Moreover, in contrast to many leading economists, Friedman maintained a continuity between his Nobel-Prize winning academic contributions and his current journalism. The columns he contributed to Newsweek every third week between 1966 and 1984 were a model of how to use economic analysis to illuminate events.

Both his admirers and his detractors have pointed out that his world view was essentially simple: a passionate belief in personal freedom combined with a conviction that free markets were the best way of co-ordinating the activities of dispersed individuals to their mutual enrichment. Where he shone was in his ability to derive interesting and unexpected consequences from simple ideas. As I knew from my postbag, part of his appeal lay in his willingness to come out with home truths which had occurred to many other people who had not dared to utter them. Friedman would then go on, however, to defend these maxims against the massed forces of economic correctness; and in the course of those defences he, almost unintentionally, added to knowledge.

Those who wanted to write him off as a right-wing Republican were disabused by the variety of radical causes he championed. I was not impressed in my own student years by the claims to a belief in personal freedom of the pro-market British economists whom I first encountered. It was not until I came across Friedman, and learned that he had spent more time in lobbying against the US “draft” than on any other policy issue, that I began to take seriously the wider philosophic protestations of the pro-market economists.

Friedman's iconoclasm endured. He regarded the anti-drugs laws as virtually a government subsidy for organised crime. Even in the financial sphere, he espoused causes such as indexed contracts and taxes as a way of mitigating the harm done by inflation which did not endear him to natural conservatives.

But there was no self-conscious balancing of the political ticket in these positions. He adopted them by following the argument wherever it led. Unlike his fellow exponent of free market capitalism, Friedrich Hayek, he had no great patience for hidden truths that might be embedded in inherited attitudes, rules and prejudices.

There was indeed nothing of the Herr Professor about Friedman. A small voluble figure, he preferred the spoken to the written word, and he took to television as a duck to water. He came to add a good many subtleties to the book Free to Choose, which he wrote with his wife Rose, which were not in the broadcast version. But there is no systematic treatise except some written-up lecture notes outlining Friedmanite economics or even Friedmanite monetary theory.
Those who were won over by his unexpected charm sometimes underestimated his resolve. He would not give a millimetre where his convictions were at stake. Although an unassuming and essentially democratic personality, he was human enough to be aware of, and enjoy, his reputation in the last decades of his life.

His professed attitude to the political process was that of the critical Public Choice theorists. The latter believe that legislators follow their self-interest in a highly defective political marketplace in which geographical and industrially-concentrated special interest groups gain at the general expense. But Friedman's ingrained belief in the power of reason and persuasion always got the better of any such theoretical misgivings. Although he occasionally professed gloom about the future of freedom, such forebodings were best left to the central Europeans whom he met at the Mont Pelerin Society. Friedman himself was an optimistic American to his fingertips.

Early Years

His own career was an archetypical American success story. He was born in New York in 1912 to poor immigrant parents and his father died when he was 15. He nevertheless studied at Rutgers and Chicago. In the 1930s he was on the staff of various research organisations and began an association with the National Bureau of Economic Research, which lasted until 1981 and which sponsored some of his most important work.

In 1938 he married Rose Director, herself an economist who was the co-author of some of his more general books. The closeness of his family life was an important clue to the man. His family circle included his wife's brother, Aaron Director, an economist who published little but whose wisdom was much cherished in the Friedman circle. His son David, in an attempt to avoid following in his father's footsteps, became at first a physicist, but eventually found the lure of socio-economic arguments too difficult to resist. His father was highly tolerant of David's excursions into anarchocapitalism preferring deviations in that direction to lapses towards the conventional left.

During World War Two Friedman not only worked for the US Treasury on tax, but had a spell in the statistical war research group at Columbia. He became professor of economics at Chicago in 1946, where he remained until his retirement. Friedman's own earliest work was in mathematical statistics, where he helped to pioneer some methods, for instance in sampling, which are still in use.

His first work of wider appeal was a study with Simon Kuznets, published in 1945, of income from independent professional practice. The authors found that state control of entry into the medical profession kept up the level of fees to the detriment of patients. These findings never ceased to get under the skin of the profession.

Friedman's next book, Essays in Positive Economics, published in 1953, contained a famous essay on method. While many other economists were embarrassed by the over-simplified view of human nature in much economic theory, he was characteristically non-apologetic. The fruitfulness of a theory, in both the physical and the social sciences, he declared, depended on the success of the predictions which could be made with it and not on the descriptive realism of the assumptions. One of his famous examples was the proposition that the leaves of a tree spread themselves to maximise the area of sunlight falling upon them. The value of the theory depended on whether the layout of the leaves corresponded to this prediction and not on whether the tree made any such conscious effort.

This essay generated a still-running controversy which has consumed many acres of forest. But Friedman, having issued his manifesto, left others to argue about it and was more concerned to apply it in practice. Similarly, in his later expositions of the case for capitalism, he stated his own values, and cited corroborative evidence, but resisted the temptation to argue about theories of freedom, justice, the state and so on.

Friedman's methods came as a breath of fresh air to many of the academic defenders of market capitalism who had previously felt themselves to be beleaguered armchair thinkers in contrast to the econometricians and other quantitative researchers who claimed to be the wave of the future and wanted to use their methods for planning and intervention. Here at last was somebody who could hold his own with the most advanced of whiz kids and was quicker on his feet than most of them, but who was on the side of the market indeed with far fewer reservations and qualifications than most of its other supporters.

Despite the unfashionable nature of his policy views, Friedman spoke the same language as the post-war Keynesians, fitted equations to time series and provided a new field for economists in the investigation of “demand for money” functions. Indeed, his contribution was essential. For if age-old verities about the relations between money and prices, or the futility of nations trying to spend themselves into full employment were to be rehabilitated, it had to be in modern statistical dress.

Friedman in Cambridge

I first met Friedman in the 1950's when I was a second-year undergraduate at Cambridge where he had come on a sabbatical. Unfortunately, I had to share supervisions with another student who had no difficulty in deflecting him into general political conversation. Friedman once arrived early and started to read a copy of Shaw's contribution to Fabian Essays which was lying on the table. “There are three mistakes in the first few pages,” he said, referring to Shaw's excursion into marginal productivity theory in which he thought he could instruct his less well-read fellow Fabians.

For all Friedman's charm, I received from him one of the best put-down remarks I have ever encountered. He mentioned to me a letter he had received from Arthur Burns (later chairman of the Fed) saying that Eisenhower was turning out well as President. I expressed surprise, to which Friedman responded: “First, Burns has much better knowledge of Eisenhower. Secondly, given equal knowledge, I would prefer his opinion to yours.”

In the 1950s, Friedman was much better known for his advocacy of floating exchange rates than for monetarism. The background was the widespread concern about a supposed dollar shortage, which Friedman believed entirely due to overvalued exchange rates in Europe and elsewhere. “Sure,” he would say, “there is a dollar shortage in Britain - in exactly the same way as there is a dollar shortage for every US citizen.” He had the last laugh, as within a few years the supposed dollar shortage had turned into an equally mythical dollar surplus.

What I did not discover until many years later was that Friedman had been spitefully frozen out of much of the intellectual life of the Cambridge Economics Faculty. For instance, there was an absurdly-named “secret seminar” that discussed capital theory, where Friedman could have helped very much by cutting through some of the mathematical problems and bringing out the essentials, but from which he was excluded.

What dismayed him most were the illiberal attitudes of some in the faculty who were theoretically on his side. An example was the late Professor Sir Denis Robertson, who always maintained reservations about Keynes and who advocated zero inflation decades before that became fashionable. But he shocked Friedman by defending vigorously the right of County Agricultural Committees to dispossess farmers they deemed inefficient. The Chicago professor's admiration for the founding fathers of British economics became tinged with perplexity at what so many contemporary English people were inclined to assert.

“Permanent Income” and Money

During the rest of his career, Friedman was largely occupied with the empirical testing of economic ideas. His major achievement was his Theory of the Consumption Function, published in 1957. which was the work most prominently mentioned in the citation for the Nobel Prize which he won in 1974. His investigation was touched off by a well known paradox. Cross-section data appeared to show that the percentage of income saved increased as income rose. On the other hand, time series data showed much less change in the savings proportion over the years. The resolution of the puzzle was that spending and savings decisions depended on people's views of their long-term (“permanent”) income; but they were much less inclined to adjust to transitory income variations in either direction.

These findings had at least two implications which Friedman cherished. One was that capitalism did not after all suffer from a long-term tendency to stagnate because of under-consumption. Another was that fiscal fine-tuning would be very difficult, as consumers would ignore temporary variations in disposable income due to government budgetary tightening or relaxation. Here indeed is the clue to why Chancellor Kenneth Clarke's 1994 tax increases did not have the recessionary effects so widely predicted. Friedman's Consumption Function was so thorough and convincing in its marriage of theory and data that it convinced many economists who far from relished the political implications.

It was in the late 1950 and 1960s that Friedman developed the monetarist doctrines by which he became best known. He treated money as an asset. The public desire to hold this asset depended on incomes, the rate of interest and expected inflation. If more money became available the effect would be initially to raise real output and incomes, but eventually just to raise prices more or less in proportion. Here was where the famous ‘long and variable lags' appeared: typically nine months before real output and income were affected and a further nine months before the main effects on prices came through. These time periods were much cited and much derided; but they were not the heart of Friedman's message.

The stock response of the anti-monetarists was to say that the money supply adjusted passively to events such as wage explosions or government deficits. Although this sometimes occurred it was important for Friedman to establish that this was not always the case. Sometimes money was the active agent, whether because of an inflow of gold, an official easy money policy, an attempt to maintain a particular exchange rate, or whatever.

Monetary History and Monetarism

The book in which he tried most fully to demonstrate money's active role was A Monetary History of the US, 1867-1960, published in 1963 and written jointly with Anna Schwartz it was one of Friedman's skills that he always found the right collaborator for a particular work. The Monetary History is Friedman's masterpiece. Containing hardly any equations, it has been read with profit and pleasure as history, even by people who have disagreed with, or been indifferent to, the doctrines it was designed to advance. Characteristically, it began as a by-product of an attempt to establish the factual record of the US money supply, which turned up so many problems and brought to light so much new material that the more ambitious volume more or less suggested itself.

A later attempt by the same two authors at a more formal equation-based approach, concentrating on cyclical averages and covering the UK as well, was not as successful. There were so many snags that the results did not appear until 1982; and the authors themselves admitted that they were hardly worth the effort. They particularly regretted the time spent on extending the analysis to the UK, which had not yielded much extra light. The scholarly debate on the new work was itself delayed for nearly another decade, partly because of the attempts of British anti-Thatcherites to harness the analysis of Friedman's critics for their own political purposes. One day the story will be told.

The policy conclusion Friedman drew was his famous money supply rule a stable growth of the money supply, year in year out. He accepted that this was not the only policy that could be derived from monetarist findings. But nearly all suggested monetarist strategies became embroiled in difficulties as financial assets proliferated and with them the number of rival definitions of money. In the early 1990s some monetarists were accusing the Fed of depressing the US economy with too tight a policy and at the same time as other monetarists were criticising it for expanding too much.

Friedman himself sometimes gave the impression that whatever a central bank did, it could do no right. To gain his favour it had not only to pursue monetary targets, but pursue them by a particular method known as monetary base control; and when the Fed attempted such a method in 1979-82 it was damned for getting the mechanics wrong.

No Inflation-Jobs Trade-off

Some economists would argue that Friedman's most important contribution to macroeconomics lay, not in his technical monetary work, but in his 1967 presidential address to the American Economic Association. Here he demonstrated that the idea of a stable trade-off between inflation and unemployment which held sway under the name of the Phillips curve and which seemed to give policymakers a menu of choices was invalid. Suppose that a Government or central bank tried to raise output and employment at the expense of accepting higher inflation. Once market participants started to take into account inflation in their behaviour, the economy would eventually end up with the same rate of unemployment as before but a higher rate of inflation. If the authorities none the less persisted in trying to achieve an over-ambitious target unemployment rate, the result would not be merely inflation, but accelerating inflation, with which no society could live for long.

This family of Friedman doctrines was sometimes called the vertical Phillips curve, sometimes the accelerationist hypothesis and sometimes the ‘natural rate' of unemployment.The latter was the level at which the economy would settle once any stable rate of inflation had been established. The name was later changed by some users to the Nairu the non-accelerating inflation rate of unemployment to banish the idea that there was anything natural or inevitable about it.

It was in fact these ideas related to the Nairu which caused my own conversion from post-war Keynesianism rather than any of Friedman's more technical monetary ideas. The basic propositions are now quite familiar. But at the time they were explosive stuff for the British economic establishment and also for many American economists on the Eastern seaboard.
Some economists treated the Nairu as a new technocratic concept which they set about estimating and using for still more sophisticated forms of demand management. This was contrary to the spirit of Friedman's address, where it was were obviously intended as a warning against government attempts to spend their way into pre-determined levels of employment. The Friedman ideas achieved popular currency in the UK amazingly enough as a result of prime minister Callaghan's address to the 1976 Labour Party conference when he warned against believing that governments could spend their way into full employment.

All the same it was a little disappointing to those who were interested in macroeconomics rather than monetary technicalities that Friedman did not make more use of the Nairu in his more popular writings. Indeed he sometimes seemed to stretch his own doctrines in attributing to short term variations in monetary growth the responsibility for recessions about which he could be as critical as any Keynesian.

Relations with Thatcher

Friedman's direct influence on Margaret Thatcher was much less than often supposed. Although they got on together at a private dinner before the 1979 election, the two did not know each other well and Friedman is only mentioned en passant in the former prime minister's memoirs. Her own inspiration, as she relates, came from Hayek.

Nevertheless, Friedman had an obvious, if indirect, effect on many of her advisers and ministers. The Medium Term Financial Strategy of the 1980s, with its target of a gradual reduction in the growth of the money supply and the abandonment of fine tuning, obviously stemmed at one remove or another from the Chicago economist.

But the master himself disowned the MTFS because the Bank of England continued to regulate the money supply through interest rates rather than via the monetary base. Moreover, he did not believe that reducing the Budget deficit would have much effect on interest rates or in any other way deserved the prominence given to it in the MTFS. On a broader front, however, without Friedman's writings and television expositions, the Thatcher government would not have enjoyed even that very limited degree of approval that it did among a minority of the intellectual elite.

A Working Retirement

From the late 1970s onwards Friedman lived in San Francisco. He obviously enjoyed his working retirement in this more clement climate, within easy reach of his office at the Hoover Institution in Stanford. Rose was even more obviously delighted with the move.

The very modernity of Friedman meant that he was vulnerable in his technical findings to new researchers claiming to refute his work by still more up to date statistical methods. Indeed, Friedman lived long enough to see a reaction against basing economics on discoverable numerical relationships and the revival of so-called Austrian methods which concentrated on predicting general features of interacting systems on the lines of biology and linguistics. But a methodological dialogue between different schools of free market economists would not have been possible without Friedman's initial dislodgment of the collectivists from the scientific high ground.

In the last couple of decades of his life, Friedman kept his distance from the New Classical Economics which was based on rational expectations and rapid market clearing. He feared that economists were being trapped into a search for mathematical rigour and elegance for their own sake instead of as tools for investigating what was happening.

Outside monetary affairs Friedman remained a mainstream economist. As he himself wrote in Capitalism and Freedom (a book published in 1962 which meant went much deeper than Free to Choose) he could offer no hard and fast line for the limits of government intervention. But he believed that an objective study of the facts, case by case, combined with an underlying belief in personal choice, would usually swing the argument in favour of private provision in the market place. His friend, Sir Alan Walters, has expressed regret, however, that he did not in his last decades devote more effort to scholarly work outside the monetary field.

Friedman himself attributed the spread of both free markets and monetarist ideas to belated recognition of the consequences of soaring government spending and high inflation in the 1970s. But so far as the reaction was coherent and rational, much of the credit must go to him. The very success of free market policies has, of course, led to fresh problems; and what would one not give for a reborn 30-year-old Milton Friedman to comment upon and analyse these new challenges?

2006年11月14日

Many memories

Liberty

Less than one game purchased for every PS3 sold in Japan

The Japanese Weekly Famitsu magazine reported that Sony sold 88,400 PS3s in the system's first two days. The best selling game over the period was Bandai Namco's Ridge Racer 7, which sold 30,300 copies. This was followed by Gundam Crossfire at 30,000 units and Resistance: Fall of Man, at 15,700 units. PS3 has a software-hardware tie ratio of 0.98.

read more digg story

More Rumsfeld (these are fake ones)

Rumsfeld Gets Cute At The Podium (extended version)


梁振英同Rumsfeld民望一樣咁低,不如《蘋果TV》都整番套咁搞野。

Real Rumsfeld

Rumsfeld flips off Kansas State student

Yes, many people hate him. That's why.

Google AdSense for Audio Coming

Google plans to release Google AdSense for Audio to monetize podcasts sometime this quarter, according to sources.

read more | digg story

YouTube Loses Speed after Google Buys Them

An Alexa graph showing a decline in traffic since THE DAY Google bought them.

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IBM's $100 Million Brainstorm

The blue elephant thinking and dancing?

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2006年11月13日

《孽愛姬管法》

《孽愛姬管法》
曲寄:《熱愛基本法》

作曲:招紙揚
填詞:不是王小明

P:以字眼 玩著色 數當天 亂追憶 
靠護法 釋就釋 不須解釋

C:維記笨伯 三字經 好高聲 多精警 
要罵到 死右派 都給肅清

R:共眾商家多勾結 博取功業 
誓要肅清所有背國媚外的港英餘孽

P:馬列志 不用數 
睇新聞 寫鱔稿 
稅盡耗 搞文宣 天天洗腦

C:為了利國 家被綁 
好北京 衰香港 
說為國 只為黨 極之堂皇

R:未理於這基本法 已寫的文字 
盡靠口講可作控制 人治得很本~事

合:國家偉大權力 法規嘴巴定
即使寫了律法 仍是不須認
誰若有雪亮眼睛 要抗命發聲
讓黨領導了的自治力 對這異見鏟平
這些偉大成就 你怎麼可敵?
高呼「左」派萬歲 重造思想價值

有這大法 Say No 你笨極
懶理後世 於46年的
香港有 孽愛姬管法

P:這大法 真擅隱 
想解釋 請等等
要度下 北大君 心中所諗

C:為了利國 家被綁
好北京 衰香港
說為國 只為黨 極之堂皇

R:未理於這基本法 已寫的文字
盡靠口講可作控制 人治得很本~事

合:國家偉大權力 法規嘴巴定
即使寫了律法 仍是不須認誰
若有雪亮眼睛 要抗命發聲
讓黨領導了的自治力 對這異見鏟平 
這些偉大成就 你怎麼可敵?

高呼「左」派萬歲 重造思想價值
有這大法 Say No 你笨極
懶理後世 於46年的
香港有 孽愛姬管法~~~~~~

2006年11月2日

Why a New York Dollar is Worth only 76.2 Cents

Based on a few scientifically imprecise calculations, a New York dollar would lag somewhere behind a Canadian buck. Here’s why...

[Simon's Note: This is actually about the cost of living and has nothing to do with purchasing power of dollar in a very strict sense. Anyway, it is an interesting read.]

read more | digg story

Halloween Is an Economist's Biggest Nightmare

In 2005 Halloween sales were $2.1 billion, easily making Halloween the biggest candy season. What percentage of those sales end up providing candy that individuals don't really like? If my own careful scientific study of Halloween bags is any guide, perhaps about 75 percent.

read more | digg story

2006年11月1日

香港搞錯了!

要發生的始終會發生。香港的積極不干預太美好,但太美好的事總難長久;這個政策理念違反天下政府官僚花費和干預成性的本質,所以當香港的領袖曾蔭權先生上個月宣佈這個讓香港繁榮起來的政策已經死亡,我不驚訝,但總令人感到哀傷。

曾蔭權的前輩在過去半個世紀,成功抗拒了徵稅和干預的誘惑,那是真正了難能可貴的成就。雖然當年宗主國英國信奉社會主義,幸得郭伯偉這位英國公務員,殖民地香港才追隨了自由市場的資本主義政策。郭伯偉最初在1945年被分派到香港主理財經事務,並於1961至71年擔當香港的財政司。今年1月21日逝世的郭伯偉,最為人津津樂道的事跡,是他拒絕收集經濟統計,怕數據只會讓官僚有更多藉口去作出更多干預,他的後任人夏鼎基創造的「積極不干預」一詞,所描述者正是郭伯偉的施政原則。

郭伯偉政策的確帶來卓越成果。第二次世界大戰後,香港只是一個極貧困的小島,當時香港的國民平均產值大約是英國的四分之一,到了1997年, 香港主權移交中國時,香港的國民平均產值已經大致相等於前殖民地宗主國,即使期間英國也有可觀的經濟成長。只要讓人民有空間去追求他們自己的利益,自由社會的生產力也可以得到彰顯。

香港自由社會的成功,鼓動了中國和其它國家擺脫中央指令計劃經濟,投向私人企業和自由市場。結果,這些國家都受惠於迅速的經濟增長。我相信中國的未來命運,將取決於她繼續隨香港的成功路向發展的速度,會否比香港向中國同化的步伐更快。

曾先生堅稱只會在「市場結構運作出現明顯缺陷時」,才讓政府出手干預,可是他忽略了現實上若真的出現了有任何「明顯的缺陷」,市場也會在曾先生出手之前把它消弭。更重要的是,所謂的「缺陷」無論是明顯還是不那麼明顯,都是由過於大有為的政府引申出來。

積極不干預在過去半個世紀使香港免於不少政府輕率干預的惡習,因而得以繁榮富足。傳統的慣性,雖然一定程度上可以限制政府的干預;政策上有所改變,香港仍可在未來的一段日子繼續繁榮富庶。儘管香港會繼續發展, 但將不再是自由經濟的一個光輝標記。

郭伯偉精神帶來的成就,也不會因此被忘記。無論日後香港發生什麼事情,過去五十年的香港經驗,將繼續指引和鼓勵信仰自由經濟的朋友,為世界各地希望造就繁榮的人士提供經濟政策的典範。

作者佛利民(Milton Friedman),是1976年諾貝爾經濟學獎得主,現任史丹福大學胡佛研究所資深研究員。

* 本文原刊於10月6日的亞洲華爾街日報,由佛利民先生同意翻譯轉載。