廷龍政經閱讀 (20120527):謊言

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of May 27, 2012

據英國科學家統計——你沒看錯,是永遠的英國科學家——男性平均每天撒六次謊,女性三次。人為什麼有意無意地撒謊?WSJ本週的Saturday Essay值得一讀。

另外一篇,是龍應台教授的舊文了。龍教授近三十年前的吶喊,現在讀起來依然有趣。例如她的論斷「台北是我所見最缺乏氣質、最醜陋、最雜亂的都市」,最近在大陸因為一篇極度火爆的帖子《美麗富饒的台北》 天涯),再次被人提起。希望龍教授點起的野火,在所有華人聚居的地區再次燃起。

Dan Ariely: Why We Lie (Wall Street Journal)

We want to install locks to stop the next Bernie Madoff, the next Enron, the next steroid-enhanced all-star, the next serial plagiarist, the next self-dealing political miscreant. But locking our doors against the dishonest monsters will not keep them out; they will always cheat their way in. It is the woman down the hallway—the sweet one who could not even carry away your flat-screen TV if she wanted to—who needs to be reminded constantly that, even if the door is open, she cannot just walk in and “borrow” a cup of sugar without asking.

龍應台:生氣,沒有用嗎?(野火集

最近碰到一位來臺開學術會議的歐洲學者。他自1960年起,大概每5年來台灣考察或開會一次。台灣的繁榮蒸蒸日上,他說,可是台北,一年比一年難看。我微笑——你要我說什麼?我住過美國的紐約、西德的慕尼黑,到過歐洲的羅馬、雅典、歐亞交界的伊斯坦堡、非洲的卡薩布蘭卡、埃及的開羅、日本的東京;我知道:台北是我所見最缺乏氣質、最醜陋、最雜亂的都市。當我站在十字路口,看見紅燈未滅就在烏煙瘴氣中衝過街去的一張張殺氣騰騰的臉,我覺得驚駭:是什麼,使這個城市充滿著暴戾與怨氣?

Advertisements

廷龍政經閱讀 (20120520):大學之道

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of May 20, 2012

為什麼人人熱衷於談論大學?大學的魅力和真義究竟何在?香港八所風格及水平迥異的大學都有同樣的校監,此等荒謬絕倫的制度,何以甚少有人鞭撻?大學的任務是否如同很多人說的那樣,在於傳授思考方法而非知識?本週末又逢北美的畢業典禮的時刻,有幾篇輕鬆的文字供各位消遣。

Bret Stephens: To the Class of 2012 (Wall Street Journal)

Many of you have been reared on the cliché that the purpose of education isn’t to stuff your head with facts but to teach you how to think. Wrong. I routinely interview college students, mostly from top schools, and I notice that their brains are like old maps, with lots of blank spaces for the uncharted terrain. It’s not that they lack for motivation or IQ. It’s that they can’t connect the dots when they don’t know where the dots are in the first place.

Ken Auletta: Get Rich U. (The New Yorker)

Stanford University is so startlingly paradisial, so fragrant and sunny, it’s as if you could eat from the trees and live happily forever. Students ride their bikes through manicured quads, past blooming flowers and statues by Rodin, to buildings named for benefactors like Gates, Hewlett, and Packard. Everyone seems happy, though there is a well-known phenomenon called the “Stanford duck syndrome”: students seem cheerful, but all the while they are furiously paddling their legs to stay afloat.

冼麗婷訪丘成桐:我為何不做港大校長 (蘋果日報 )

徐[立之]不被留任,是港大一百年來聲譽最不好的事情,「港大舊生對醫學院改名氣憤,但對徐校長不獲留任不氣憤,是好奇怪的事情,是不是看不起徐校長?」百年樹仁,學術成就非一日之事,「起大樓容易,要有一個大師好難。中國建很多大樓,但真正學術不是這樣的,香港由做生意的人管事,看不到學問成就在那裏,才有徐立之被壓迫的現象」。

黎智英:鄉愁(壹週刊

這不是因為人窮而要豪氣萬千,擺闊以作補償,只因同是天涯淪落人,能夠聚在一起互相傾訴,甚至哭說鄉愁,彼此抒發愁緒、互相慰藉的機會不多,可是要保持心理平衡,這樣的聚會卻絕不可少。要是沒有一群這樣的好鄰居,孤寂而深沉的黑夜又怎樣過?

Maile Meloy: The Proxy Marriage (The New Yorker)

“If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” That was Auden. William had set the poem to music for a pretentious tenor at school. But what did Auden know, padding around in filthy carpet slippers, filling teacups with cigarette butts? Auden, by his nature, was always going to be the more loving one, so he’d tried to make the longing admirable and desirable.

廷龍政經閱讀 (20120506):走向封閉的美國精神

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of May 6, 2012

下週在倫敦開會,本欄再停一週。

本週的媒體熱鬧非凡,可惜沒有任何值得讀兩遍的文章。推薦閱讀Allan Bloom的書The Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students(走向封閉的美國精神:高等教育何以導致民主失敗且令莘莘學子心靈窮困)。這本上世紀八十年代在美國位居暢銷書榜首的書,相信很多讀者早已讀過。pdf版本可以在這裡下載。

如下乃是從Bloom的書裡隨機抄來的一些話:

On creativity:

The use of words like “creativity” and “personality” does not mean that those who use them understand the thought that made their use necessary, let alone agree with it. The language has been trivialized. Words that were meant to describe and encourage Beethoven and Goethe are now applied to every schoolchild. It is in the nature of democracy to deny no one access to good things. If those things are really not accessible to all, then the tendency is to deny the fact—simply to proclaim, for example, that what is not art is art. There is in American society a mad rush to distinguish oneself, and, as soon as something has been accepted as distinguishing, to package it in such a way that everyone can feel included. Creativity and personality were intended to be terms of distinction. They were, as a matter of fact, intended to be the distinctions appropriate to egalitarian society, in which all distinction is threatened. The leveling of these distinctions through familiarity merely encourages self-satisfaction. Now that they belong to everyone, they can be said to mean nothing, both in common parlance and in the social science disciplines that use them as “concepts.” They have no specific content, are a kind of opiate of the masses.

On openness:

There are two kinds of openness, the openness of indifference—promoted with the twin purposes of humbling our intellectual pride and letting us be whatever we want to be, just as long as we don’t want to be knowers—and the openness that invites us to the quest for knowledge and certitude, for which history and the various cultures provide a brilliant array of examples for examination. This second kind of openness encourages the desire that animates and makes interesting every serious student—”I want to know what is good for me, what will make me happy”—while the former stunts that desire. Openness, as currently conceived, is a way of making surrender to whatever is most powerful, or worship of vulgar success, look principled. It is historicism’s ruse to remove all resistance to history, which in our day means public opinion, a day when public opinion already rules.

On sexual liberation:

The immediate promise of sexual liberation was, simply, happiness understood as the release of energies that had been stored up over millennia during the dark night of repression, in a great continuous Bacchanalia. However, the lion roaring behind the door of the closet turned out, when the door was opened, to be a little, domesticated cat.

On technical education:

The impression that our general populace is better educated [than in the past] depends on an ambiguity in the meaning of the word education, or a fudging of the distinction between liberal and technical education. A highly trained computer specialist need not have had any more learning about morals, politics or religion than the most ignorant of persons. All to the contrary, his narrow education, with, the prejudices and the pride accompanying it, and its literature which comes to be and passes away in a day and uncritically accepts the premises of current wisdom, can cut him off from the liberal learning that simpler folk used to absorb from a variety of traditional sources.

On music and education:

Education is not sermonizing to children against their instincts and pleasures, but providing a natural continuity between what they feel and what they can and should be. But this is a last art.

On self:

Man … was supposed to long to be all virtue, to break free from the chains of bodily desire. Wholeness would be happiness. … Machiavelli turned things upside down. Happiness is indeed wholeness, so let’s try the wholeness available to us in this life. The tradition viewed man as the incomprehensible and self-contradictory union of two substances, body and soul. Man cannot be conceived as body only. But if the function of whatever is not body in him is to cooperate in the satisfaction of bodily desire, then man’s dividedness is overcome.

On philosophy:

The essence of philosophy is the abandonment of all authority in favor of individual human reason.

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.

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。

廷龍政經閱讀 (20120401):相信

廷龍政經閱讀: The Week of April 1, 2012

愚人節當日,你相信你聽到的東西嗎?不是愚人節的時候,你又能相信多少自己聽到的東西?你相信自己可以同上帝交流嗎?你相信自己的預言能力嗎?

本週所有的閱讀,皆與相信二字相關。尤其推薦Joan Acocella刊於New Yorker的書評,描述美國福音基督教會的見聞,非常發人深思。

Joan Acocella: SEEING AND BELIEVING: Experiences with evangelical congregations (The New Yorker)

Elaine, her “prayer partner”, had terrible problems: she couldn’t pay her rent, but neither could she get a job. She had interview after interview. Before each of them, she and Luhrmann prayed together vigorously, but she received no offer. Elaine said that she understood why: by refusing to grant her a job, Jesus was showing her that he wanted her to depend on him alone. In the end, Elaine decided that she was a prophet.

花總:怎樣在微博扮上流社會 (財新

曬人脈是門大學問,與名伶大導交遊更是雙刃劍:姜文可以有,但友誼必須上溯到十年前,陳道明就算了,以杜憲先生的身份可破例;Jacky Chan 可以不認識,Jet Lee 只局限於在慈善活動上偶遇;你要關心張元的近況,去崔健的《藍色骨頭》片場探過班;絕不要與國際章出現在同一畫面。

The Economist: Old Hands (The Economist)

The Economist rendered too kind a verdict upon Mao’s death in 1976. Among other accomplishments, he was credited with having built an “egalitarian state where nobody starves”; true, perhaps, that nobody was starving to death at the moment of writing, but the horrible fact that 20m to 30m of Mao’s subjects had perished in famine would emerge only years later.

Time Requarth and Meehan Crist: It’s All in Your Head: The Problems with Johah Lehrer’s Imagine (The Millions)

We need good translators of science to the general public, and Lehrer has the public’s ear and the public’s trust. He is at his best when putting his considerable talents to the task of telling a story that is true according to the facts as we know them, rather than telling a story people want to hear.

Richard Wolin: Dreaming in Chinese — On A Recent Trip to China (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Today, communist precepts live on as a type of ideological window-dressing, veiling the CCP’s authoritarian political rule. Ironically, whereas formerly “Mao Zedong Thought” was utilized to foment revolution, today, as the bedrock of CCP orthodoxy, it is used to deter the prospect of contestation from below as well as political radicalism of any and every stripe. As such, Maoist doctrine has been reduced to a conservative vehicle of state legitimation.