Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Harold Demsetz's New Book

The book is due next month. Check out the table of contents here.

Best Line I Have Read Today

Spaghetti is undoubtedly a delicay. But better leave it to the restaurant.

No, it is not about food, it is actually about free trade agreements, read more here.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Alma Mater Ranks Above U of Southern California

No, no I do not make this up, that is according to the latest ranking of the US News and World Report. See it for yourself here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Disclaimer: All the following did not happen

At a press conference:

Reporter: What are your feelings now that 1.3 billion are sad that you could not compete the other day?

Mr Liu: You see, I do this stuff because I like it, I enjoy it, not because 1.3 billion people want me to do it. Make this fact clear, will you?

Tomorrow, if I decide to be a marathon runner, that is what I will do, and I won't do what people want me or expect me to do, or even what my country wants me to do, have I made myself crystal clear?

Reporter: Will you compete again in four years?

Will you marry in four years, who knows? And who would plan that far anyway. Again I might decide to compete in the marathon event in 2012.

Reporter: What is your future plan then?

No, I do not have a plan, the government has a plan, the police has a plan, I DON'T.

Next question please...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Thanks to Yeung Wai-hong at the Next Magazine for letting me publish his editorial in the next issue of the magazine here first! Enjoy!

說梁展文一案的癥結是他的「酌情權」,殆無異議。要是沒有「酌情」沽售(或不 沽售)紅灣半島的權力,他又何來輸送利益給新世界發展之嫌?可是「酌情權」這 問題核心又來自哪裡?那無疑是伴隨政府干預市場而來的孿生兄弟了。

政府不插手干預市場則已,一插手則必然賦與主責官僚若干酌情空間,(政策是死 的, 人才是活的;無權酌情,何以推行政策?)從而衍生私相授受的機會。故此 根絕貪污之道不是增加監管規條而是減少干預,否則擴大廉署編制一百倍、一萬倍 仍將歸於徒然。像太史公說的,利字當頭,「刀鋸之誅」又豈嚇得倒「舞文弄法」 之輩?

眾所周知,涉案的紅灣半島是個干預樓市的居屋項目 —— 以低於市價給中下家庭 提供居屋。這更不是一般的居屋,而是有私人發展商參與的計劃(新世界是政府的 拍檔);故此政府有責任在限期內為發展商提供買家,否則要賠償。

不巧,紅灣半島建成,為了救樓市,董建華先是判了八萬五突然死亡,進而停售居 屋。跟新世界訂定的合同又如何是好?按協議,要麼真金白銀賠償其損失;要麼便 按個公平價格出售紅灣半島給新世界;捨此之外,別無他途。當時梁展文為房屋及 規劃地政局的常任秘書長,率領地政總署、屋宇署及律政署的專家談判出賣物業; 事出突然,無先例可援,你說他的酌情空間又有多大?

事後孔明可能會說這是個不平等協議,然而不可不知者,引入私人發展商建造居 屋,其主旨乃在加快居屋供應以平抑樓價。居屋價格既然由官家訂定,利潤有限; 不加入多重保障,頭腦正常的發展商肯參與嗎?倘若買入紅灣半島新世界真的得享 「暴利」,關鍵是政策反覆,從壓抑樓價一百八十度轉為停售公屋救市,製造了上 下其手的酌情空間。

若然沒有政府干預樓市在先,若然干預沒有在壓抑樓價的洶湧群情下升級,引入私 人發展商參建居屋;若然政策一以貫之,沒有建華之亂炮製的反反覆覆,那麼高官們又何來混水摸魚的空間?
於此可見,要是梁展文確有濫用酌情權之嫌,問題的根源是干預政策不斷升級變 質,製造出愈來愈大私相授受的灰色地帶。不從減少(甚至廢除)干預市場入手對 付貪污,一味增加監管,疊床架屋,重重監管那又伊于胡底?

事實亦然。香港不是有個威名遠播、專門對付貪污的廉政公署嗎?爆發這般觸發公 眾關注的大案,廉政公署至今不吭一聲,難道我們的貪污??星沒有絲毫角色?再 者,防止貪污是廉署的主要職責之一。干預升級、政策反覆炮製出偌大的酌情貪污 空間,敢問廉署又可有治亂於源,從減少干預入手積極預防貪污?

尸位素餐,嚴格而言可能算不上是貪污,然而食公眾之祿而葬送公眾利益,那又與 貪污何異?

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Best Conclusion I Have So Far Today

And doesn't the fact that Hong Kong's made it this far without antitrust give you a moment's pause about the domestic benefits of these laws?

More here.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Best Line I Have Read Today

But the success of other nations should not be taken per se an indication that America is in decline.

That is Gary Becker talking, more here.

Needless to say I am in agreement with Becker on this one. That's why I do not subscribe to any of the views about Hong Kong being marginalized as China continues to grow or Hong Kong will be overtaken by Shanghai or other major cities in China very soon bla, bla, bla........

Now this is progress

According to a story reported in China's Caijing magazine, a tax firm (let's call it firm A) in the coastal Zhejiang province has filed a complaint to the court that a local government has violated the newly implemented antitrust law.

According to the story, firm A complains that another tax firm (let's call it B) has been allowed to have an office at the local government building while similar demand from firm A is denied. Apparently firm B has close government ties with the local government. Hence, the complaint. It will be very interesting to see how the court rules in this case. Stay tuned for more reporting on the case.

Here is the story, sorry folks in simplified Chinese only.

Now even if the mainland's antitrust law does allow cases against the government (some other jurisdictions as well like Australia), one wonders why in HK government's consultation paper on competition law, the government is exempted from the law.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Books I Plan On Getting

1. The Price of Everything: A Parable of Possibility and Prosperity The author Russ Roberts was a former student of Milton Friedman and the author of earlier economic novels like the Invisible Heart and the Choice.

2. Stealing from Each Other: How the Welfare State Robs Americans of Money and Spirit. Author Ed Browning is an expert in public finance.

3. The Subprime Solution: How Today's Global Financial Crisis Happened, and What to Do about It. No, this is not simply another I told you so kind of book, it is by Bob Shiller, who wrote the Irrational Exuberance a couple of years back.

4. The Best Book on the Market: How to stop worrying and love the free economy by E Butler.

5. Fixing Global Finance by Martin Wolf, the FT columnist.

6. Morals and Markets: An Evolutionary Account of the Modern World by Dan Friedman.

My friend Ming talked about his disappointment of the annual book fair in Hong Kong here. In general I am in total agreement with him. But this year it is a bit different, I got Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz's A Monetary History of the United States for HK$ 30. And the book is in EXCELLENT CONDITION.

The apparent missing of prestigious mainland publishers is what really upsets me at the bookfairs in recent years.

And also Ming, I do not know you are interested in learning more about economic history, otherwise I would recommend David Lande's Weath and Poverty of Nations, Eric Jones' European Miracle , Ken Pomeranz's the Great Divergence, Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel and Greg Clark's Farewell to Alms.

Oh My Go......

Three in every four Catholics agree on the need for a minimum wage law, according to a survey by the Hong Kong Catholic Commission For Labour Affairs...

So reported in today's edition of the HK Standard, more here.

If people are so eager to help out, here is a suggestion, how about setting the minimum wage at say HK$ 10,000 and and ask those staunch supporters of minimum wage to pay a special fee to top up the wages of workers who qualify for the minimum wage (the rate of the fee can say vary according to different income levels). My bet is the proportion of minimum wage supporters will drop dramatically if the fee were to be imposed.

Afterall spending other people's money (employer's) to do good is not quite the same as spending one's own eh?