廷龍政經美語(4): 上上下下

近期在居華美國人圈子裡洛陽紙貴的Poorly Made in China: An Insider’s Account of the Tactics behind China’s Production Game (by Paul Midler),是我2010年以來讀過的最過癮的書,我會專門寫一篇書評。此書對中國現狀的描述,讓我想起自己曾經干過的蠢事,比如這段:

It was easy to forget that China was still a developing economy. This painful fact was made clear even in the big cities like Guangzhou. In office buildings there, you had visitors who did not understand how elevators worked. Wanting to travel up, they would push the down button because they saw that the car was on an upper floor and they wanted the card to come down to them. And then there were impatient ones who pressed both the up and down buttons, figuring that this would double their chances of catching an elevator car.


本月1日出版的New Yorker有一篇題為The Deflationist: How Paul Krugman Found Politics的長文,值得細讀。我最感興趣的是文中記述很多Paul Krugman的專欄原來大多數都是經過其妻斧正的。對其出道初期的描述輕輕一句令人印象深刻:

For the first twenty years of Krugman’s adult life, his world was divided not into left and right but into smart and stupid.


鬼才Scott Adams著的舊書The Dilbert Principle: A Cubicle’s-Eye View of Bosses, Meetings, Management Fads & Other Workplace Afflictions在金融海嘯後的今天讀起來尤其有趣。全書主旨在於一句話:

Why is Business so Absurd?

換而言之,為什麼今天的商業世界如此荒謬愚蠢?比如,書中舉了一個真實的例子:

A vice president insists that the company’s new battery-powered product be equipped with a light that comes on to tell you when the power is off.

各位在北美工業界混的同學,不可不讀此書,因為這本書娛樂性和勸誡性兼具,不信請看下面兩段:

"You could earn more money under the new plan"

Is it likely that your company changed the entire compensation plan to give all of you more money? Are raises so rare these days that your company actually forgot about that options?

Or is it more likely that the new compensation system is a complicated maneuver to disguise the fact that from now on your health benefits will be administered by the Christian Scientists?

“We’re reorganizing to better serve our customers.”

Is it likely that the current organization—in stark contrast to all the ones that preceded it—will be the one that turns your company into a revenue-generating dynamo? And is it more likely that the main reason your customers hate you is that your organizational chart is suboptimal?

Or is it more likely that your management has no clue how to fix your fundamental problems and they think that rearranging the existing supply of nitwits will look like progress?

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廷龍政經美語(3): 大放異彩的騾子 & 世界購物冠軍

Radiating gene pool to mark its visit to the world

New Yorker的2月15日及22日合刊有一篇題為Riding High: Mules in the Military的長文,講述騾子如何在美國的軍事生活中大放異彩,這是一篇妙不可言的文章。文章開始部分提到騾子可能是人類最成功的發明之一,因為它結合了馬和驢的優點:

A horse will eat until it founders and dies; a mule will only snack, even if it happens upon an open bin of oats. A horse can be enticed to gallop, fatally, over a cliff… The mule’s commitment to survival is interesting in a Darwinian context, because mules–the hybrid result of mating a male donkey with a female horse–have an uneven number of chromosomes and are therefore sterile. Every mule, then, is sui generis; it leaves no legacy beyond itself, no radiating gene pool to mark its visit to this world.

World-Champion Shoppers

24日的Wall Street Journal頭版的Jittery Shoppers Dim Stores’ Hopes一文說:

Americans show little sign of regaining the confidence that once made them world-champion shoppers, and that caution has retailers leery about the prospects for the economy in 2010.

Obesity? Big Feet? Blame Darwin

23日出版的Wall Street Journal–Personal Journal上面有一張令人印象之深的圖,輔以長文講述進化論的種種謎團。這裡貼出圖片,想看清楚完整圖片的請到WSJ官網

"Don’t get your hopes up, honey, I call everybody ‘honey.’ "

這是2月15日出版的New Yorker上面的一幅漫畫,諸位仔細讀上面這句話,你會發現笑點(punchline)有點奇怪。

Let me guess — Your gas pedal stuck.

同一期的New Yorker還有下面的漫畫,相當應景:

廷龍政經美語(二): 風暴重臨 (The Return of Turbulence)

屋漏偏逢連夜雨。今天的Wall Street Journal頭版頭條題為Global Markets Shudder的報道說:

U.S. Stock investors, waking up to a turbulent European trading session, were further unnerved by an unexpected rise in the latest report on intial claims for jobless benefits. Ahead of a key January employment report due out Friday, the claims numbers revived on-again, off-again concerns about the strength of the U.S. economic recovery. The resulting selloff took the Dow below the psychologically important 10000 level in the final moments of trading.


金價亦同時大跌 ,C1版Dow Sinks to 3-Month Low Near 10000說:

James Steel, who follows the metals markets at HSBS Securities, said: "Historically a rise in sovereign risk is supportive of gold, but what appears to have happened is that risk aversion…went instead into U.S. Treasury and into the dollar."


儼然汽車界「一哥」的Toyota爆發質量危機,C10的"For Toyota, Problems Are Accelerating"結尾給出了「上車」建議:

Until Toyota puts the brakes on any new problems, investors should climb aboard with caution — as those who bought stock early in the week, thinking situation was under control, have already learned.


猶記得去年12月份Toyota總裁Akio Toyoda對傳媒透露,他正在閱讀Jim Collins的書How the Mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give in. 該書遠遠不及作者的From Good to Great及Level Five Leadership暢銷,撇開此書的質量,其話題可能也為人忌諱。

Jim Collins調查了十幾個歷史上的「東方不敗」最終落敗的案例,總結出它們衰亡的五個階段(Five Stages of Decline):

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success

  • Success entitlement, arrogance: Success is viewed as "deserved," rather than fortuitous, fleeting, or even hard earned in the face of daunting odds; people begin to believe that success will continue almost no matter what the organization decides to do, or not to do.
  • Neglect of a primary flywheel: Distracted by extraneous threats, adventures, and opportunities, leaders neglect a primary flywheel, failing to renew it with the same creative intensity that made it great in the first place.
  • "What" replaces "why": The rhetoric of success replaces understanding and insight.
  • Decline in learning orientation: leaders lose the inquisitiveness and learning orientation that mark those truly great individuals who, no matter how successful they become, maintain a learning curve as steep as when they first began their careers.

Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More

  • Unsustainable quest for growth, confusing big with great.
  • Undisciplined discontinuous leaps.
  • Declining proportion of right people in key seats.
  • Easy cash erodes cost discipline: the organization responds to increasing costs by increasing prices and revenues rather than increasing discipline.
  • Bureaucracy subverts discipline: A system of bureaucratic rule subverts the ethic of freedom and responsibility that marks a culture of discipline; people increasingly think in terms of "jobs" rather than responsibilities.
  • Problematic succession of power.
  • Personal interests placed above organizational interests.

Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril

  • Amplify the positive, discount the negative: There is a tendency to discount or explain away negative data rather than presume that something is wrong with the company; leaders highlight and amplify external praise and publicity.
  • Big bets and bold goals and/or make big bets that aren’t based on accumulated experience, or worse, that fly in the face of the facts.
  • Incurring huge downside risk based on ambiguous data.
  • Erosion of healthy team dynamics: a marked decline in the quality and amount of dialogue and debate; there is a shift toward either consensus or dictatorial management rather than a process of argument and disagreement followed by unified commitment to execute decisions.
  • Obsessive reorganizations.
  • Those in power become more imperious and detached.

Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation

  • A series of silver bullets: There is a tendency to make dramatic, big moves, such as a "game changing" acquisition or a discontinuous leap into a new strategy or an exciting innovation, in an attempt to quickly catalyze a breakthrough—and then to do it again and again, lurching about from program to program, goal to goal, strategy to strategy, in a pattern of chronic inconsistency.
  • Grasping for a leader-as-savior: The board responds to the threats and setbacks by searching for a charismatic leader and/or outside savior.
  • Panic and haste: instead of being calm, deliberate, and disciplined, people exhibit hasty, reactive behavior, bordering on panic.
  • Radical change and "revolution" with fanfare: Leaders engage in hoopla, spending a lot of energy trying to align and "motivate" people, engaging in buzzwords and taglines.
  • Hype precedes results: Instead of setting expectations low–underscoring the duration and difficulty of the turnaround—leaders hype their visions; they "sell the future" to compensate for the lack of current results, initiating a pattern of overpromising and underdelivering.
  • Initial upswing followed by disappointments: There is an initial burst of positive results, but they do not last; dashed hope follows dashed hope; the organization achieves no buildup, no cumulative momentum.
  • Confusion and cynicism: People cannot easily articulate what the organization stands for; core values have eroded to the point of irrelevance; the organization has become "just another place to work," a place to get a paycheck; people lose faith in their ability to triumph and prevail. Instead of passionately believing in the organization’s core values and purposes, people become distrustful, regarding visions and values as little more than PR and rhetoric.
  • Chronic restructuring and erosion of financial strength: Each failed initiatives drains resources; cash flow and financial liquidity begin to decline; the organization undergoes multiple restructurings; options narrow and strategic decisions are increasingly dictated by circumstance.

Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death

據說Toyota已經進入Step 4, 即Grasping for Salvation階段。對照一下,Microsoft也挺像的。

廷龍政經美語(一):客戶的游艇(The Customers’ Yachts)

自今日起,增設「廷龍政經美語」分類,為自己和各位提供每日閱讀所得的有趣的東西,原則為:

1. 側重政治經濟金融議題。

2. 中英夾雜。

3. 長短不一。

4. 純文字。除非必須,插圖、視頻、音頻及互聯網鏈接一概欠奉。

5. 主要來源於印刷媒體(而非輕松搜索到的東西),盡量回避網絡媒體(例如blog, tweet,網上新聞,BBS等)。

6. 排版因陋就簡。

7. 並非每天更新,但每周至少更新一次。

8. 每篇無固定主題。

歡迎各位評論、補充及推薦你看到的有趣的東西。


《客戶的游艇在哪裡?》(Where are the customers’ yachts? or, A good hard look at Wall Street) by Fred Schwed, Jr堪稱投資書籍中一版再版、長盛不衰的經典著作。我讀的版本是1955年版本(即"the 1955 Bull Market Edition"),書的扉頁寫著:

Once in the dear dead days beyond recall, an out-of-town visitors was being shown the wonders of the New York financial district. When the party arrived at the Battery, one of his guides indicated some handsome ships riding at anchor. He said,

"Look, those are the bankers’ and brokers’ yachts."
"Where are the customers’ yachts?" asked the naive vistor.

— Ancient story

奧國學派的第三代大師米塞斯(Ludwig von Mises, 讀作 /ˈluːtvɪç fɔn ˈmiːzəs/, 1881~1973)六十歲後移居美國,以英文寫作了六本重要著作,按時間順序依次為:

(一)Bureaucracy (1944),

(二)Ominipotent Government (1944),

(三)Human Action (1949;1963),

(四)The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality (1956),

(五)Theory and History (1957),

(六)The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science (1969)。

其中以The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality和Bureaucracy最易讀,Ominipotent Government其次,而The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science、Theory and History和Human Action三本書皆令人費盡思量。


米塞斯(Mises)在The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality(中文譯作《反資本主義的心境》)一書中認為,知識分子對資本主義仇視的原因之一在於他們認識的人比他們混得好:

They … feel frustrated because they are vexed by the ascendancy of their more successful colleagues, their former schoolfellows and cronies. Their resentment is deepened by precisely those codes of professional conduct and ethics that throw a veil of comradeship, and colleagueship over the reality of competition.

To understand the intellectual’s abhorrence of capitalism one must realize that in his mind this system is incarnated in a definite number of compeers whose success he resents and whom he makes responsible for the frustration of his own far-flung ambitions. His passionate dislike of capitalism is a mere blind for his hatred of some successful "colleagues".