「華人戴明學院」是戴明哲學的學習共同體 ,致力於淵博型智識系統的研究、推廣和運用。 The purpose of this blog is to advance the ideas and ideals of W. Edwards Deming.

2013年1月31日 星期四

J. Richard Hackman, 1940-2013

J. Richard Hackman, an Expert in Team Dynamics, Dies at 72

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J. Richard Hackman, a Harvard psychology professor whose fieldwork sometimes took him to the cockpit of an airliner to observe the crew in a nearly five-decade quest to determine the dynamics of teamwork and effective leadership, died on Jan. 8 in Boston. He was 72.
Harvard University
J. Richard Hackman was a professor at Harvard and Yale.
The cause was lung cancer, his wife, Judith Dozier Hackman, said.
Dr. Hackman, the author or co-author of 10 books on group dynamics, was the Edgar Pierce professor of social and organizational psychology at Harvard.
In one of his best-known books, “Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances” (2002), he replaced the popular image of the powerful “I can do it all” team leader with that of someone who, as he wrote, had the subtle skills “to get a team established on a good trajectory, and then to make small adjustments along the way to help members succeed.”
The conditions for a successful team effort — among them “a compelling direction, an enabling team structure, a supportive organizational context and expert team coaching” — “are easy to remember,” Dr. Hackman wrote.
“The challenge,” he continued, “comes in developing an understanding of those conditions that is deep and nuanced enough to be useful in guiding action, and in devising strategies for creating them even in demanding or team-unfriendly organizational circumstances.”
Besides tracking the interplay of pilots, co-pilots and navigators aboard civilian and military planes, Dr. Hackman observed corporate boards, sports teams, orchestra players, telephone-line repair crews, hospital workers and restaurant kitchen staff members.
And in recent years, for his 2011 book, “Collaborative Intelligence,” he was allowed to observe interactions within the American intelligence, defense, law-enforcement and crisis-management communities.
“Although my main aspiration has been to provide guidance that will be useful to team leaders and members,” he wrote, “there are no ‘one-minute’ prescriptions here — creating, leading and serving on teams is not that simple.”
Anita Woolley, a professor of organizational behavior and theory at the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, said, “The key thing about Dr. Hackman’s work is that it stands in contrast to some of the more popular models of leadership that focused very much on style or how leaders behave, versus what they do.”
Rather than viewing pay as a prime motivator for good performance, she continued, “he focused on features of people’s jobs that made them more intrinsically satisfied: the freedom to determine how they conduct their work, having a variety of tasks, having knowledge of the ultimate outcomes of their work, knowing how their work affects or is received by other people.”
He also liked to overturn some of the received wisdom about teamwork. In a 2011 article for The Harvard Business Review, Dr. Hackman listed “Six Common Misperceptions About Teamwork.” Among them was this:
“Misperception No. 2: It’s good to mix it up. New members bring energy and fresh ideas to a team. Without them, members risk becoming complacent, inattentive to changes in the environment, and too forgiving of fellow members’ misbehavior.
“Actually: The longer members stay together as an intact group, the better they do. As unreasonable as this may seem, the research evidence is unambiguous. Whether it is a basketball team or a string quartet, teams that stay together longer play together better.”
John Richard Hackman was born in Joliet, Ill., on June 14, 1940, the only child of J. Edward and Helen Hackman. His father was an oil pipeline engineer, his mother a schoolteacher.
Dr. Hackman received a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill., in 1962, and a doctorate in psychology from the University of Illinois in 1966. He soon joined the psychology and administrative sciences department faculties at Yale, where he taught until 1986, when he moved to the psychology and business departments at Harvard.
Besides his wife, who is an associate dean at Yale, he is survived by two daughters, Julia Beth Proffitt and Laura Dianne Codeanne, and four grandchildren.
After Dr. Hackman died, The Harvard Crimson wrote that for years he had “devoted countless hours to improving one team in particular — the Harvard women’s basketball squad, for which he volunteered as an honorary coach.”

J. Richard Hackman is Edgar Pierce Professor of Social and Organizational Psychology. He received his bachelor's degree in mathematics from MacMurray College and his doctorate in social psychology from the University of Illinois. He taught at Yale for twenty years and then moved to his present position at Harvard.
Hackman teaches and conducts research on a variety of topics in social and organizational psychology, including team performance, leadership effectiveness, and the design of self-managing teams and organizations. His most recent books are Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances, which in 2004 won the Academy of Management’s Terry Award for the most outstanding management book of the year, and Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great (with Ruth Wageman, Debra Nunes, and James Burruss).
He has received the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association’s division on industrial and organizational psychology, and both the Distinguished Educator Award and the Distinguished Scholar Award of the Academy of Management. He serves on the Intelligence Science Board of the Director of National Intelligence and on the Board of Trustees of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

ABOUT THE PICTURE Members of the varsity basketball team of Virginia High School (Illinois) huddle with coach Harold Hillman during a 1958 tournament game. Crowded around Coach Hillman are (clockwise) Mikey Velton, Bobby Miller, Bob Turner, and Vern Herzberger. Standing slightly outside the huddle, a member of the group but not really in it, is the gangly player who went on to make a career studying teams.

Remembering Richard Hackman

I was scared when I entered my very first class in organizational behavior in the PhD program at the University of Michigan in September 1980. It wasn't only the class full of brilliant students who intimidated me but, much more so, it was the part-smiling part-snarling giant of a man who stood at the front of the room — six foot five or so, in his stocking feet (he often discarded his shoes in class). He asked us to pair off and introduce ourselves to each other and then all the pairs had to find another pair to whom we then introduced our first pair-mate. This simple procedure made us all feel connected; a part of something larger than ourselves.
I don't remember much of the details of what was said in that class that day, but what lingers clearly in memory is the rare and powerful sense of being inspired by a professor who believed passionately in what he studied and was committed to finding creative ways of sharing the knowledge he'd gained so that it would be of real, practical use to others.
Richard Hackman had arrived from Yale to spend that year launching a large-scale field study of work teams and many of my fellow graduate students at Michigan, along with a bunch from Yale, became his field researchers. He took his task very seriously and he showed us all how important it was to be both rigorous and practical in the pursuit of knowledge that could affect how well groups perform and how they can uplift people's lives.

His masterwork Leading Teams is the best exemplar in the general field of management of a great and useful theory described in clear, powerful prose through a voice both authoritative yet self-effacing — and hilariously funny. In it, he brings to bear the relevant literature to explain what a real team is and how it's possible create the foundations for a team's success with compelling direction, an enabling structure, a supportive organizational context, and expert coaching.
The examples he weaves in draw not only from research that he and others have done, they come from aspects of life that compelled his attention — music, flying, and the great outdoors. It was Richard's humanity and generosity that shaped his research ideas and his life as an educator, even if he was irascible on occasion. He cared so much about getting it right. If you missed the mark, he was unabashed about letting you know it, but always in a way that helped you understand things a bit more clearly.
Despite being an intimidating physical presence — I always thought of him as The Mountain Man — through his teaching and writing he has helped countless numbers of people to feel less afraid about their experience in groups because he demonstrated and explained how individual behavior was shaped by social forces. This knowledge is liberating. 
I have just finished teaching his book to a group of MBA students at Wharton. As one of them wrote to me, the day before I received the sad news of his passing, about how she was using what we'd learned in a group for which she was responsible, "I love Hackman!"
When I applied for my job teaching at Wharton, over 30 years ago, one of the questions I was asked by a faculty member was to identify my heroes. The two I chose were Bruce Springsteen and Richard Hackman. I'm not sure which one will ultimately have the greater impact.
With the passing of Richard Hackman we lose our greatest theoretician, researcher, and educator in the field of groups at work. As the scores of colleagues and former students who gathered in June 2011 for a celebration of Richard's life and work all said, in one way or another — thank you, Richard.
More blog posts by Stew Friedman
More on: Leading teams
Stew Friedman


Stewart D. Friedman is Practice Professor of Management at the Wharton School. The former head of Ford Motor's Leadership Development Center, he is the author of Total Leadership: Be a Better Leader, Have a Richer Life. For more, visitwww.totalleadership.org.

2013年1月30日 星期三

Association Française Edwards Deming

今天因為讀了它轉引日本科技連JUSE 的   關於參加W. Edwards Deming博士的喪禮的紀錄

Attending the Memorial Service of Dr. Deming

* Junji Noguchi is a past Managing Director of the JUSE (Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers). In January /Feb 1994


Jean-Marie Gogue
3:58 AM (5 hours ago)

to me
Dear Hanching,

I noticed with a great pleasure that your website has given the link to "The Deming Memorial Service" published by the JUSE journal "Societas Qualitatis" in January 1994. It's only in November 2012 that I had the idea to scan the journal and to put the file on our website.

I will suggest Jean-Luc Fournier, president of the French Deming Association, to strengthen the cooperation with the Taiwanese Deming Circle. I hope that he will write you soon. I am still active within the association as a "honorary life member".

My health is not too bad, with some inconveniences due to my age.

I wish you and your family a happy new year !

Association Française Edwards Deming
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2013年1月22日 星期二

Putting Statistics to Work in a Land of Illusions

anuary 18, 2013, 11:28 PM
Statistical Diplomacy in North Korea

By Carl Bialik
My print column examines an initiative to teach statistics to university students and government workers in North Korea, a country with an authoritarian government that many researchers in the region think issues the fewest, and least reliable, statistics in the world.
The Pyongyang Summer Institute in Survey Science and Quantitative Methodology began with about 250 students last summer, taught by 13 instructors from the U.S. and Europe. This summer organizers hope to have 30 instructors, about 250 university students and 100 North Korean government workers, taught in classes hosted by the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the country’s first private university, opened in 2010.
“Capacity building in the area of statistics is helpful to governments everywhere because quality data collection leads to informed policy decisions in all areas of development such as agriculture, education, etc.,” Justin Fisher, a PSI instructor last summer and chair of Statistics Without Borders, an international outreach group of the American Statistical Association that supports PSI, wrote in an email. “For example, how can you fund a country of hospitals efficiently if you don’t have data on morbidity and mortality? And while gathering the data seems like the first step, the step before that is for a country to have statisticians trained in sampling, survey methodology, and data analysis in order to gather this data.”
The institute, known as PSI, is attempting to boost the quality of statistical practices and survey research in a country with a poor track record in the field, researchers say. Nicholas Eberstadt, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank, said he once visited government statisticians in North Korea and they told him “they were producing rubber statistics that could be stretched or shrunk according to need.”
One sign of how hard it is to gather reliable statistics and conduct surveys in the country: Gallup has polled in 162 countries, including in Somaliland and Iran, but not North Korea — also known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK. “We’d sure like to add them to the list,” said Jon Clifton, a partner at Gallup. He added, “We’re just not sure at this point that it’s feasible.”
Daniel J. Schwekendiek, an economist at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, said the country is facing “a quantitative and qualitative deficit of statisticians and technical experts.” He added, in an email, “While other nations in the Eastern Bloc trained statisticians also because they arguably needed experts to ‘fine-tune’ these statistical publications for political reasons, North Korea simply ceased to publish data, thereby avoiding external and internal criticism on statistical inconsistencies and saving many resources to run statistical bureaus.”
This could create challenges for PSI’s mission, said Scott Snyder, senior fellow for Korea studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “With a centrally planned economy that seems to treat all numbers as top secret, one wonders whether trainees would have many opportunities to use these skills to their full potential,” Snyder said.
Still, on balance researchers — including skeptics of North Korean statistics — expect the institute to do more good than hard. “In theory, some skills could also be used to further unconstructive regime objectives, but the risk seems small compared to the upside of having some specialized capacity in North Korea that could be used for positive purposes, even including improving North Korean collection of useful statistics on basic population and demographic information in North Korea,” Snyder said.
Added Marcus Noland, director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., “It’s probably a good thing for reasons that have little to do with statistics. Greater interaction contributes to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance and questioning of the system.” Noland said that the statistical training could prove useful down the line. “If there were ever abrupt political change in North Korea, would be good to have a cadre of people who know what the bond market is, or what seasonal adjustment of statistics is. If you have people who have some familiarity with these concepts, you can start to build the new system much more rapidly.”
A man who answered the phone at North Korea’s mission to the United Nations in New York said, “We don’t accept any questions from the media,” and hung up when asked for his name.
The institute’s organizers steer well clear of politics. “PSI stays away from controversial courses,” said Yena Lee, co-founder of PSI. She added, “Through dialogue over these nonpolitical issues, we hope to pave the way to greater scholarly and professional engagement with DPRK and to long-term sustainable science diplomacy.”
“I had to change some of my ‘go-to’ examples about political polling, but discussion of politics and religion were off limits,” said Fisher, who in addition to — and unconnected to — his work in North Korea is a statistician at the U.S. Government Accountability Office. “Our purpose was one of science diplomacy and we all viewed it as an educational humanitarian mission.”
Governmental constraints extend to instructors while they’re in the program — for instance, barring them from leaving campus unaccompanied. Rules also kept students from PSI and PUST from being interviewed about the program. “That would not be allowed” by the North Korean government, said Norma H. Nichols, director of the International Academic Affairs Office at the institute’s host university, PUST. “If I were in Pyongyang and had the students nearby, it would still be a near impossibility to get permission even for one of them to participate with me in a Skype call.”
Instructors spoke positively about their students in the stats classes. The institute’s director, Asaph Young Chun, described how in one of his two classes last summer, students had to share textbooks because there weren’t enough to go around. “Most of the students now know by heart what survey is about, why pretest is essential and how data analysis should be planned in advance,” Chun said. And most, Chun said, “were so engaged, responsive, and interactive, I observed. They did not hesitate asking questions when in doubt or when I gave them opportunities to ask questions.”
Outside of class, students “wanted to sit and talk about our lives and who we were,” said René M. Paulson, founder of the statistical-consulting firm Elite Research LLC in Carrollton, Texas, and assistant director of PSI.
These sorts of positive interactions lead Fisher to believe that greater cross-cultural understanding and stronger bonds are the more likely outcome from the institute than are any misuses of statistical knowledge to produce faulty data. “What’s more probable is that North Koreans will meet Americans through this cultural exchange and say to themselves, ‘That American was really nice. He took the time to learn how to say “rice” in Korean and he likes soccer too and (despite what I read in my daily paper) he didn’t strike me as an aggressive imperialist.’ And maybe that future leader of DPRK uses the training to affect change in his country. I’m not a Korea expert or a political scientist or even a betting man. But I’d bet on optimism over pessimism in this case.”
Classes, and many of these out-of-class conversations — about soccer and other more leisurely topics than correlation and regression — were conducted in English. Schwekendiek had his doubts about how well that would work, saying, “In the past, North Koreans learned English by simply memorizing words in dictionaries, and not really through communication or extensive reading. Another problem is that North Koreans are not familiar with the relevant jargon.”
However, a member of the PUST faculty said, “We have been impressed with the standard of English which the majority of students have, when they arrive at PUST, and the level they are able to achieve through their hard work during our English-language courses.”
After one summer of work, the program remains a work in progress. It has many influential supporters and advisers, including members of the American Statistical Association. Several of the members of its advisory board said they had only recently learned of the institute and weren’t yet prepared to comment on its operations. “I agreed to provide advice about the challenges posed by North Korea but made it clear I have no expertise in their academic work,” said David Alton, a member of the U.K.’s House of Lords and chair of a group of British legislators who are promoting relations with North Korea.
Organizers say they have learned from the first summer of the program and will make some changes, including bringing in government workers to take some classes, and trying to bring instructors for longer periods so students don’t have to get used to too many instructors for one class.
“I tend to be an optimistic realist, so I am hoping that what was done with our students who should be the leaders of tomorrow will have an impact in the future,” Nichols said.
Lee also is optimistic. “Can statistics be misused?” she asked, then answered, “Yes, as can all data in any field by anyone. But development of statistical sampling methods in the early 20th century in the U.S. didn’t so much create a nation of damned liars as it did progress in fields in private, public, and academic sectors. We have no reason to believe our DPRK counterparts would act otherwise. Improving education or health programs simply requires evidence-based decisions, and twisting the numbers stands to benefit no one. The long-term gains in collecting accurate statistics through better statistical training far outweigh the possible short-term gain of lending legitimacy to falsified statistics.”
Schwekendiek worries about what happens if North Korea does achieve desired gains in statistical capacity. “Is North Korea really interested in opening up, or is it just a free-rider trying to benefit from foreign human capital to improve its economy and scientific knowledge?” he asked. “Training statisticians and businessmen in an international environment might also turn out counter-productive in the long run for the international community to get a foot in the currently open North Korean door. Once the DPRK acquires expertise and educates enough experts, the government might close down these programs and expel all foreign educators.”


Putting Statistics to Work in a Land of Illusions

Wanted: statisticians to teach their craft in what many experts call the country with the least reliable statistics in the world.
The Pyongyang Summer Institute in Survey Science and Quantitative Methodology last year began teaching students at North Korea's first private university about such topics as probability, correlation and survey methodology. More than 250 students, mostly in their 20s, learned from 13 instructors from the U.S. and Europe. This summer, the institute hopes to have 30 teachers instructing 250 students and 100 government workers.
Associated Press
Since North Korea's establishment in 1948, its authoritarian regimes have made it state policy to conceal many statistics from the outside world, say researchers. Here, North Koreans shown last month leaving the statues of late North Korean leaders Kim Il Sung, left, and Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.
Several students sought grants to apply the knowledge in year-long projects, such as using statistical techniques to create a plan for an ice-cream business in Pyongyang, or to study college students' television-watching behavior, according to the institute's director, Asaph Young Chun.
In the U.S., these could be the unremarkable activities of an introductory stats course at a college summer program. In North Korea, they are extraordinary events that could have positive effects, but also come with risks, North Korea researchers say. Since the country's establishment in 1948, its authoritarian regimes have made it state policy to conceal many statistics from the outside world, and to falsify some of the numbers they do release, according to researchers.
"Trying to describe North Korea statistically for a statistician is like [climbing] Mount Everest," said Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank. "It's the last place on earth where one can't find regular, reliable data on a national scale."
Organizers of the summer statistical institute, known as PSI, say their goal is education and promoting engagement between scientists from different countries, without any political intent. "We are there to serve them, to learn from them," Dr. Chun said of the institute's students, who last summer were drawn from the institute's host school, the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, which opened in 2010.
Some researchers familiar with North Korea's official statistics worry that training young people in proper statistical techniques won't achieve its goal, or will even backfire. Marcus Noland, director of studies at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C., who has experience in similar training programs in arbitration and economic policy in North Korea, said graduates of the program likely "will never be able to put their new skills to use," because the government isn't equipped or willing to let them do so.
There is also the risk graduates could be tapped by the government "to better disguise statistical fabrication," Dr. Noland said. Past statistics issued by the North Korean government looked, to Dr. Noland and others, like they were falsified. For instance, there were far more children born during the country's severe 1990s famine and counted in the 2008 census—just the second since the country was formed in 1948—than researchers would expect based on famine's typical effect on female fertility, Dr. Eberstadt said.
Many stats aren't released at all, leaving outside researchers to use whatever data they can find to make educated guesses. Estimates for the famine's death toll at the time varied from 220,000 to 3.5 million. Among the numbers the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook's North Korea page lists as not available are the unemployment rate, the inflation rate, military expenditures and education expenditures.
A man who answered the phone at North Korea's mission to the United Nations in New York said, "We don't accept any questions from the media," and hung up when asked for his name.
Other countries have statistical data that are incomplete, but "normally they fall into the category of extremely poor or failed states," Dr. Noland said. "Our statistical understanding of North Korea is very poor as a matter of state policy."
The country ceased publishing statistical yearbooks a half century ago, said Daniel J. Schwekendiek, an economist at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul. Dr. Schwekendiek said he generally finds what sparse North Korean data exist to be of good quality. What he finds lacking is any skilled analysis of the raw numbers, which the institute could help improve.
Instructors who taught last summer said students were engaged and open to learning.
"The biggest standout for me was the dedication of the students," said René M. Paulson, founder of the statistical consulting firm Elite Research LLC in Carrollton, Texas. They grasped mathematical concepts quickly and understood English well, she said, but needed more help learning how to apply the concepts to real-world statistical gathering and analysis.
Funded in part by the International Strategy and Reconciliation Foundation, a small Washington, D.C., nonprofit that focuses on North Korea, the institute has an annual budget of about half a million dollars, Dr. Chun said. The group sent an email this week to members of statistical organizations—including the American Statistical Association, which helps run the institute through its international outreach arm—soliciting instructors for the summer. The institute made clear it wouldn't be able to fund most travel costs. Dr. Chun expects 60 to 70 applications for 30 spots.
Even several skeptics of North Korean statistics think the institute is, on balance, a plus. "It seems to me there is nothing but good that can come out of statistical training, exposure to the outside world and all of that, in the long run," Dr. Eberstadt said.
—Learn more about this topic at WSJ.com/NumbersGuy. Email numbersguy@wsj.com.
A version of this article appeared January 19, 2013, on page A2 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Putting Statistics to Work in a Land of Illusions.

2013年1月12日 星期六


它假設政府刺激消費的效率是100%的. 其實它可能不到30% ( 請思考台灣的道路水利建設的種種弊病  以及消費券之無效率    它又不計可能的副作用)  且看這一輪的安倍Abe政府之刺激方案的長期效果

Gordon Tullock 和 James Buchanan


聖迭戈 /聖地牙哥
又到了這個時候:一年一度的美國經濟學會(American Economic Association)系列會議召開。它就像一個中世紀的集市,成為各種人才(那些找工作的應屆博士畢業生)、書籍和觀點交換的市場。而和往年一樣,今 年的會議也有一個討論主題:當前的經濟危機。
這個時候,各國政府應該介入,加大支出支持經濟振興,同時讓私營部門恢復元氣。在一定程度上,政府確實是這麼做的:在經濟衰退期,政府收入大幅下 降,但是隨着失業保險等項目的覆蓋範圍擴大以及臨時經濟刺激計劃生效,開支在實際上出現了增長。預算赤字增加了,但這實際上是件好事,它可能是大蕭條沒有 全面重演的最重要原因。
然而,2010年,一切都開始朝着錯誤的方向發展。希臘的危機被錯誤地當成所有政府都應該立即削減開支、降低赤字的信號。財政緊縮成為當下的要務, 那些本應有更好想法的所謂專家也推波助瀾;而一些(但不夠多)經濟學家發出的緊縮將斷送經濟復蘇的警告則遭到忽視。比如,歐洲央行(European Central Bank)行長就自以為是地斷言,“稱緊縮措施將引發經濟停滯的說法是錯誤的。”
在美國經濟學會會議上提交的所有論文中,最引人注目的可能就是來自國際貨幣基金組織(International Monetary Fund,簡稱IMF)的奧利維爾·布蘭乍得(Olivier Blanchard)和丹尼爾·利(Daniel Leigh)的文章。表面上,該文章僅帶代表作者的觀點;但是IMF的首席經濟學家布蘭乍得並非一個普通的研究者,人們普遍認為,該文章表明,IMF已認 真全面地對經濟政策進行了重新思考。
我看過一些報道,說那篇文章表明,IMF承認了它不知道自己在做什麼。這樣的說法沒有抓住重點;事實上,和其他主要機構相比,IMF對緊縮政策並沒 有那麼積極。儘管它承認自己錯了,它同時也指出,其他人(除了那些提出質疑的經濟學家)錯得更離譜。而且IMF願意在證據面前重新思考自己的立場,這一點 就值得肯定。
而真正的壞消息是,其他機構還沒有這麼做。歐洲的領導者在債務國國內製造了類似於大蕭條的經濟衰退,卻沒有恢復金融上的信心,他們仍堅稱,解決問題 的答案在於更加忍痛緊縮。現在的英國政府曾因轉向緊縮政策而扼殺了該國經濟復蘇的希望,現在它也完全拒不承認自己有可能犯了錯誤。

The Big Fail

San Diego
It’s that time again: the annual meeting of the American Economic Association and affiliates, a sort of medieval fair that serves as a marketplace for bodies (newly minted Ph.D.’s in search of jobs), books and ideas. And this year, as in past meetings, there is one theme dominating discussion: the ongoing economic crisis.

This isn’t how things were supposed to be. If you had polled the economists attending this meeting three years ago, most of them would surely have predicted that by now we’d be talking about how the great slump ended, not why it still continues.
So what went wrong? The answer, mainly, is the triumph of bad ideas.
It’s tempting to argue that the economic failures of recent years prove that economists don’t have the answers. But the truth is actually worse: in reality, standard economics offered good answers, but political leaders — and all too many economists — chose to forget or ignore what they should have known.
The story, at this point, is fairly straightforward. The financial crisis led, through several channels, to a sharp fall in private spending: residential investment plunged as the housing bubble burst; consumers began saving more as the illusory wealth created by the bubble vanished, while the mortgage debt remained. And this fall in private spending led, inevitably, to a global recession.
For an economy is not like a household. A family can decide to spend less and try to earn more. But in the economy as a whole, spending and earning go together: my spending is your income; your spending is my income. If everyone tries to slash spending at the same time, incomes will fall — and unemployment will soar.
So what can be done? A smaller financial shock, like the dot-com bust at the end of the 1990s, can be met by cutting interest rates. But the crisis of 2008 was far bigger, and even cutting rates all the way to zero wasn’t nearly enough.
At that point governments needed to step in, spending to support their economies while the private sector regained its balance. And to some extent that did happen: revenue dropped sharply in the slump, but spending actually rose as programs like unemployment insurance expanded and temporary economic stimulus went into effect. Budget deficits rose, but this was actually a good thing, probably the most important reason we didn’t have a full replay of the Great Depression.
But it all went wrong in 2010. The crisis in Greece was taken, wrongly, as a sign that all governments had better slash spending and deficits right away. Austerity became the order of the day, and supposed experts who should have known better cheered the process on, while the warnings of some (but not enough) economists that austerity would derail recovery were ignored. For example, the president of the European Central Bank confidently asserted that “the idea that austerity measures could trigger stagnation is incorrect.”
Well, someone was incorrect, all right.
Of the papers presented at this meeting, probably the biggest flash came from one by Olivier Blanchard and Daniel Leigh of the International Monetary Fund. Formally, the paper only represents the views of the authors; but Mr. Blanchard, the I.M.F.’s chief economist, isn’t an ordinary researcher, and the paper has been widely taken as a sign that the fund has had a major rethinking of economic policy.
For what the paper concludes is not just that austerity has a depressing effect on weak economies, but that the adverse effect is much stronger than previously believed. The premature turn to austerity, it turns out, was a terrible mistake.
I’ve seen some reporting describing the paper as an admission from the I.M.F. that it doesn’t know what it’s doing. That misses the point; the fund was actually less enthusiastic about austerity than other major players. To the extent that it says it was wrong, it’s also saying that everyone else (except those skeptical economists) was even more wrong. And it deserves credit for being willing to rethink its position in the light of evidence.
The really bad news is how few other players are doing the same. European leaders, having created Depression-level suffering in debtor countries without restoring financial confidence, still insist that the answer is even more pain. The current British government, which killed a promising recovery by turning to austerity, completely refuses to consider the possibility that it made a mistake.
And here in America, Republicans insist that they’ll use a confrontation over the debt ceiling — a deeply illegitimate action in itself — to demand spending cuts that would drive us back into recession.
The truth is that we’ve just experienced a colossal failure of economic policy — and far too many of those responsible for that failure both retain power and refuse to learn from experience.

2013年1月6日 星期日

“雙曲貼現”(hyperbolic discounting)

Hyperbolic discounting - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

作者:英國《金融時報》專欄作家 蒂姆•哈福德

運動我小時候兒童電視節目比較少:BBC兒童節目檔晚上六點就結束了。這也就意味著我父母不需要費多少勁來限制我看電視的時間。唯一的例外是耶誕節,鋪天蓋地的節日特別節目在寒冷的天氣裏對哈福德(Harford)家的孩子們是一種莫大的誘惑。為了應付這種情況,我的父母想出了一項策略:他們購買了電視節目列表(你相信嗎,《廣播時代》(Radio Times)和《電視時代》(TV Times)當時合法地壟斷了這項在當時十分賺錢的業務),然後請每個孩子細讀一遍,提前確定自己想看的節目。



這一天才之處涉及一個行為經濟學家概念——“雙曲貼現”(hyperbolic discounting)(儘管這一概念在日常生活中隨處可見)。很多人都有一種傾向,即:避免從事一些需要在短期內付出成本但需要較長時間才能體現其收益的活動,比如鍛煉。反過來說,我們都喜歡近在眼前的滿足感。
除反映出大多數人缺乏耐心以外,這種行為更值得關注的一點就是,雙曲貼現者對現在和未來的同一件事的判斷是不一致的。我們會計畫明天鍛煉、明天吃沙拉(而不是蛋糕)、明天開始存退休金。只要蛋糕的誘惑不是那麼近在眼前,我們就認為吃蛋糕帶來的快樂抵不過這種行為可能帶來血管堵塞的風險。問題是,一旦“明天的蛋糕”變成了“今天的蛋糕”,我們的計算方法就改變了——管他什麼血管阻塞,現在非吃蛋糕不可。如果我們今天能信守承諾,或許我們會做出更多明智的選擇。有一項退休金計畫名叫“明天存儲更多”(Save More Tomorrow),這項計畫在設計時就考慮到了這種策略,而目前看來這項計畫是成功的。

這種策略是否也有可能運用到看電視上呢?令人驚奇的是,有人對此做了一些研究。行為經濟學家丹尼爾•裏德(Daniel Read)、喬治•勒文施泰因( George Loewenstein)和肖巴納•卡利亞納拉曼(Shobana Kalyanaraman)做了一個實驗,讓實驗參與者從一個列表中選擇一些電影。這個列表中既有《羅生門》(Rashomon)、《藍色情挑》(Three Colours Blue,紅白藍三部曲之藍)、《辛德勒的名單》(Schindler's List)這樣的嚴肅電影,也有《窈窕奶爸》(Mrs Doubtfire)、《虎膽龍威》(Die Hard)這樣比較輕鬆的影片。當被要求選出一些電影供立即觀看時,實驗參與者們往往會選擇輕鬆的影片。但是當被要求選出一些電影供以後觀看時,實驗參與者的選擇則體現了他們內心中較為高雅的一面(或者說,至少體現了他們內心的電影品味)。

而如所有真正的“雙曲貼現”行為一樣,如果有機會真正實踐自己的選擇,人們往往會在最後一刻決定做相反的事。“是的,我知道《羅生門》再創了電影的基本模式,但我今天累了一天,現在就想看羅賓•威廉姆斯(Robin Williams)穿裙子的滑稽模樣。”

此外,我今年在經濟學領域發現的最令人沮喪的一份研究,是康士坦薩•埃斯特韋斯-索倫森(Constanca Esteves-Sorenson)和法布裏齊奧•佩里蒂(Fabrizio Perretti)發表在《經濟學期刊》(Economic Journal)的一篇文章。兩位元研究者從義大利觀眾追蹤系統中巧妙地獲得了資料,從而得出一個結論:儘管觀眾花很長時間看電視、換台的成本也幾乎為零,但人們觀看哪個電視節目取決於該節目是否與他們剛剛看過的節目在同一個頻道上。這種現象的解釋之一是,所有的電視頻道都同樣有趣。但資料顯示,事實並非如此。“雙曲貼現”似乎才是造成這種現象的主要原因。有那麼多頻道在等著我們,只要按一下遙控器按鈕就能看到,但按一下按鈕簡直太麻煩了。只要不需要思考或活動,看什麼我們都樂意。