Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Bad Day

An old friend called. He told me he was fired by his company. I was and am still in shock.

One is never prepared for such things in life. Think of it this way. As an free market economist, you talk about how a person's separation from his job only means that other jobs might be waiting for his application..bla bla bla....It may take some time, but he would find his match anyway if he or she searches hard enough. You say all this in a cool and almost cold-blooded manner.

But now imagine this. What if that person is your best pal? your spouse? your best graduate school room mate? your brother? Can you tell him straight in the face: no problem, what you are encountering is only a transitory phenomenon, and the labor market soon or later would come up with a job to match your skills.

No, I cannot. Hence, I did not say a word to my friend when I first heard the bad news.

My role, then, I realize, is not to be an economist. I am his friend. I am only a listener.

Then it hits home to me that, may be, just may be, every economist who does not believe in free market might have similar experiences of what I have just said above. It is thus not surprising to me at all that some economists hold such skeptic views on the market. They start blaming the free market for their loved ones' plight. Their personal experiences might have clouded their view.

Adam Smith, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments, did mention something like a person is more likely to care about his little finger than the sufferings of peoples thousand and thousands of miles away. But I don't know whether he went on to examine how this could affect peoples' perception of the free market.

But here is the real puzzle: Why others who share similar experiences of what I have encountered today stick to their original free market beliefs despite the bad experiences? How could they? Can they tell their loved ones what I did not dare to say to my friend. Answer is, I don't know. But do you?

This is a really bad day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Best Sentence I Have Read Today (and yes it is related to Superfreakonomics)

"Ancient Romans watched gladiators in much the same way that we read angry bloggers."

This is from Nathan Myhrvold former Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft.

The line refers to the controversies stirred up by Chapter Five of the sequel to Freakonomics, Superfreakonomics. Read more for yourself here.

I will soon write up a book review for a local paper here in Hong Kong (and yes it will be in English), hopefully soon. And yes I have read it already. My bottomline assessment: better than the last one.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Oliver Williamson, Elinor Ostrom and New Institutional Economcis

This is a piece I wrote for the Hong Kong Economic Journal. The piece would only appear on the website of the paper, not the hard copy. Tell me what you think.

And yes, I still think that Professor Steven N S Cheung has a shot at the prize.