廷龍政經閱讀 (20120429):美國還有救嗎?

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of April 29, 2012

美利堅合眾國,這個夢想一般的國度,正遭遇前所未有的挑戰。撇開諸窮國崛起帶來的威脅不談,單就國內問題而論就已經令人絕望:槍支氾濫,暴力不斷升級,以至於整個國家形同戰地;基礎設施極度陳舊;龐大的醫療體系任意魚肉人民且毫無效率;愚蠢而貪婪的政客任利益集團擺佈卻無視普羅百姓的疾苦;大面積的道德崩壞及教育體系的墮落。因為這些,這周的閱讀就格外沉重。

Peggy Noonan: America’s Crisis of Character (The Wall Street Journal)

More and more people are worried about the American character—who we are and what kind of adults we are raising.  Every story that has broken through the past few weeks has been about who we are as a people. And they are all disturbing.

Thomas L. Friedman: Down with Everything (New York Times)

America today increasingly looks like the society that the political scientist Mancur Olson wrote about in his 1982 classic “The Rise and Decline of Nations.” He warned that when a country amasses too many highly focused special-interest lobbies — which have an inherent advantage over the broad majority, which is fixated on the well-being of the country as a whole — they can, like a multilimbed octopus, choke the life out of a political system, unless the majority truly mobilizes against them.

Jill Lepore: Battleground America: One Nation, Under the Gun (The New Yorker)

The United States is the country with the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world. (The second highest is Yemen, where the rate is nevertheless only half that of the U.S.) No civilian population is more powerfully armed. Most Americans do not, however, own guns, because three-quarters of people with guns own two or more.

Roni Rabin: The Confusion of Hospital Pricing (The New York Times)

Hospital charges are all over the map: according to the report published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, fees for a routine appendectomy in California can range from $1,500 to — in one extreme case — $182,955.

閻連科:喪家犬的一年 The Year of the Stray DogThe New York Times

As I drove, tears streamed down my face for no apparent reason. I just wanted to cry. Was it for my mother, my brother, my relatives and the strangers who forget about their dignity as long as they have enough to eat? Or for people like me who worship rights and dignity but live the life of a stray dog? I don’t know. I just wanted to cry out loud.

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廷龍政經閱讀 (20120415):人生賭局

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of April 15, 2012

同多數皖人一樣,我雖非中科大校友,但一直為這所學校驕傲,而方勵之是中科大皇冠上的明珠——今時今日,何曾有大學校長有勇氣和智慧和中共最高層做針鋒相對的對話?有風骨的方勵之,而不是媚態十足的郭沫若,才是這所學校的令人尊敬的所在。如今域外孤忠亦溘然長逝,祝福中科大,祝福中國。

下周末適逢會議,暫停一期。

方勵之(1989年):China’s Despair and China’s Hope (The New York Review of Books)

The road to Chinese democracy has already been long and difficult, and is likely to remain difficult for many years to come. It may last a decade, a generation, or even longer. But whatever the case, there can be no denying that the trend toward democracy is set. It would be very hard to turn it completely around now. Chinese history since the May Fourth period, including the forty years since 1949, makes it clear that democracy is not bestowed from on high, but must be fought for and won. We must not expect this fact to change in the decades to come. Yet it is precisely because democracy is generated from below that—despite the many frustrations and disappointments in our present situation—I still view our future with hope.

方勵之(1989年):Keeping the Faith (The New York Review of Books)

We are all disciples of nonviolence. And what power can nonviolence summon up by way of resistance against the armed violence of the world? Although there are many kinds of nonviolence, perhaps most basic is knowledge. Without knowledge, nonviolence can only degenerate into pleading for mercy, and history is unmoved by such pleading. It is only when we stand on the shoulders of the giant that is knowledge that we will change the course of history; only through knowledge will we be able to overcome the violence of ignorance at its very roots; and only through knowledge will we succeed in finding the compassion necessary to deliver those with superstitious faith in the omnipotence of violence from their folly.

Orville Schell (1988): China’s Andrei Sakharov (The Atlantic)

What made being with him strangely uncharacteristic of my experiences in China was his complete lack of the self-censorship that renders many other Chinese intellectuals of his generation incapable of speaking their minds. Never overriding his thoughts and feelings with the usual subtle (and frequently unconscious) genuflections to the official political line of the moment, Fang spoke so openly about what he was thinking and what he believed that one had to suppress the urge to warn him of the dangers of such candor.

WSJ Editorial: Fang Lizhi and Freedom (Wall Street Journal)

Cynicism about government is the rule today, and while many discuss the need for political reform in private, only a few activists and human-rights lawyers are willing to take personal risks to make it happen.

Mark Bowden: The Man Who Broke Atlantic City (The Atlantic)

Don Johnson won nearly $6 million playing blackjack in one night, single-handedly decimating the monthly revenue of Atlantic City’s Tropicana casino. Not long before that, he’d taken the Borgata for $5 million and Caesars for $4 million. Here’s how he did it.

Evan Osnos: The God of Gamblers (The New Yorker)

Night was falling, and Siu offered me a lift back to the station in his black Lexus S.U.V., parked in the dirt beside us. “There used to be a helicopter taking me to the Venetian anytime I wanted to go,” he said. “Now I’m getting my feet dirty. Real estate is even more lucrative. It’s better than gambling or drugs or anything.” He pointed out the new houses in progress. “It costs a few million to build one of these, and then I can sell it for ten million.”

廷龍政經閱讀 (20120408):科學管理之迷途

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of April 8, 2012

香港科技大學最年輕的正教授——工業工程與物流管理學系的洪流博士 (Dr. Jeff L. Hong)日前在Facebook發表了如下評論:

Recently, I am so fascinated by a school of thought that is strongly against the use of mathematics in social science, including economics and management. If we do not even believe that people are selfish and rational (i.e., maximizing their own utilities), why should we believe all the economics/finance/management science theories that are built upon them? I think it is time to read John Maynard Keynes, Friedrich Hayek, Karl Popper and some other great minds that were skeptical about the use of mathematics or other scientific approaches (i.e., physics approaches). After all, social sciences are not physics. In physics, there are rules (may be set by Gods) that do not change by us and physicists are trying to discover them; but in social science, rules are set by us and discoveries of these rules often lead to changes of these rules.

專注於仿真學及金融工程的洪教授著作等身,其學術論文以數學程度而論甚為艱深,非普羅大眾可以輕易閱讀。以其學術專長,做出這樣的深刻思考殊不尋常,需要強大的自信和勇氣。本週推薦New Yorker的一篇窮溯科學管理根源的文章。

Jill Lepore: Not So Fast—Scientific management started as a way to work. How did it become a way of life? (The New Yorker)

In “The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting It Wrong” (Norton; $27.95), Matthew Stewart points out what Taylor’s enemies and even some of his colleagues pointed out, nearly a century ago: Taylor fudged his data, lied to his clients, and inflated the record of his success. As it happens, Stewart did the same things during his seven years as a management consultant; fudging, lying, and inflating, he says, are the profession’s stock-in-trade.

Hans Ohanian: Gotcha, physics genius: Retelling Albert Einstein’s story by homing in on his blunders makes for good intellectual entertainment (Los Angeles Times)

We have all heard that math wasn’t Einstein’s strong point, and Ohanian ruthlessly lays out the details. A 12-page marathon calculation in Einstein’s doctoral dissertation, “A New Determination of the Molecular Size,” was “a comedy of errors” based on “zany” physical assumptions, such as treating sugar molecules dissolved in water as though they were tiny spheres sitting at rest instead of spinning like tops.

Maureen Tkacik: Omniscient Gentlemen of The Atlantic (The Baffler)

It is why the ideas, so-called, that inspire the omniscient gentlemen of The Atlantic are flat: their world is, literally, flat. Habitual “bipartisanship” has given way to a tendency to level the playing field between reality and fiction. And so in The Atlantic’s account of America’s present crisis,  James Fallows suspects America’s awareness of its own decline is merely “our era’s version of the ‘missile gap.’” It’s as though, in purging labor from the ranks of accredited Thought Leaders, they have eradicated thought itself.

John Cassidy: The Demand Doctor: What would John Maynard Keynes tell us to do now—and should we listen? (New Yorker)

Yet Keynes was anything but a spendthrift. When deficits and debts reached historically high levels, he believed, it was necessary to spell out how they would be reduced in the long term. As Backhouse and Bateman observe in their timely and provocative reappraisal, Keynes never said that deficits don’t matter (the lesson that Dick Cheney reportedly drew from President Reagan). He believed not only that large-scale deficit spending should be confined to recessions, when business investment was unusually curtailed, but that it should be directed mainly toward long-term capital projects that eventually would pay for themselves.

許知遠:香港的政治戲劇(亞洲週刊

這是世界上最富有與開放的城市之一,這裏有最勤奮與靈活的人民,他們卻發現自己始終無法掌握自己的命運。在英國人統治的時代,他們交出了政治權利,以換取經濟成功與個人安全。但回歸中國已經十五年,他們卻發現一切最終要來自北京的確認,而且這一切還日趨惡化。七百萬香港人的命運不僅被一千二百人的小圈子所代表,就連這一千二百人都讓人失望透頂,他們中的絕大多數連假裝的獨立意志都不願表現。北京的影響力則不加掩飾地滲透過來,它要把一位人們普遍認定的「地下黨員」推到權力中心。