2010.11.22 03:21 am
英國政府顯然準備測量我們的快樂程度。別偷笑—這是很嚴肅的事。快樂是大事一件，尤其是對經濟學家來說。心理學家兼諾貝爾經濟學獎得主卡尼曼（Daniel Kahneman）曾深入研究這個主題。另兩位諾貝爾經濟學獎得主沈恩（Amaryya Sen）和史提格里茲（Joseph Stiglitz），也為法國總統沙克吉研究衡量經濟幸福的標準。歐巴馬總統已任命快樂專家—桑斯坦（Cass Sunsten）、史蒂文森（Betsey Stevenson）和克魯格（Alan Krueger）擔任高級官員。(英國首相）卡麥隆就算沒帶頭衝鋒，也算跟上了潮流。
華威大學（Warwick Unviersity）經濟學家兼福祉專家歐斯華（Andrew Oswald）說，能詢問快樂各個面向的問題是好事。當然他說的對：在既有的調查上多問幾個問題的成本很低，而且這個主題顯然很重要。
不丹提供一個有用的教訓，告訴世人蒐集快樂資料和讓人民快樂是兩回事。不丹以其領先全球的「國民快樂毛額」（gross national happiness）而備受那些天真的快樂學究推崇。但根據人權觀察組織，不丹的少數族群尼泊爾人大部分被剝奪公民權，且多年來被脅迫驅離該國，這些人在尼泊爾難民營可能對快樂政策的發展有完全不同的看法。
Poster： Hurley at 11/22/2010 01:48:00 pm
Poster： Hurley at 11/22/2010 01:47:00 pm
英國作家羅琳 (J.K. Rowling）的哈利波特，10年來在大陸拿了9550萬人民幣的版稅收入，超過任何一個中國本土暢銷書作家的版稅。
Poster： Hurley at 11/22/2010 01:46:00 pm
撰稿‧編輯：吳寧康 新聞引據： 中央社
愛爾蘭總理柯文(Brian Cowen)(左)與財政部長雷尼罕(Brian Lenihan)21日在記者會中宣布，歐洲聯盟已經同意金援愛爾蘭抒困。(afp)
Poster： Hurley at 11/22/2010 01:45:00 pm
The inflation overshoot
The economic conditions are not ideal to launch a British version of QE2
Nov 18th 2010
THE routine has become familiar. Inflation surprises on the upside. It is high enough to warrant another note from Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, to George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, to explain what is going on. That note says, in essence, that the overshoot was caused by temporary factors and that inflation will eventually subside because of spare capacity opened up in the recession. But will it?
This week’s letter from Mr King was the fourth he has had to write this year as inflation has persistently strayed more than a percentage point above the 2% target. It was prompted by official figures showing that consumer prices rose by a higher-than-expected 3.2% in the year to October (see chart), up from 3.1% in September. Indeed, in nine letters since April 2007, Mr King has been obliged to explain why inflation has been above 3%.
That inflation has remained stubbornly high in the wake of the most severe recession since the second world war is odd. In this respect, Britain is unusual among advanced economies, as other figures also published this week highlighted. Inflation in the euro area in the year to October ran at 1.9%; in America it was 1.2%.
The main reason why Britain has been the exception is the steep fall in the pound, whose trade-weighted value slumped by some 25% between mid-2007 and early 2009. Even though the effects on inflation through higher import prices should be waning now, there have been other adverse temporary influences, such as past rises in oil prices and the return of the main rate of VAT, a consumption tax, to 17.5% at the start of 2010, after 13 months in which it was set at 15% as part of the previous government’s fiscal stimulus.
The difficulty for the bank’s monetary-policy committee (MPC) is that there will be yet more temporary factors pushing inflation up over the next year. In January VAT will rise again, to 20%, an increase that is expected to be passed through in full to prices, whereas only half of its preceding fall and rise are reckoned to have been passed on. Moreover, world food prices have been climbing steeply.
In January Mr King said that “in both of the past two years inflation picked up as a result of temporary price-level factors and then fell back, as the MPC had predicted.” But the bank’s own central forecast, published on November 10th, shows that inflation will reach 3.6% in the first quarter of next year and will not fall below 3% until early 2012. Just what “temporary” means in the bank’s lexicon is unclear.
The risk in this, as the governor acknowledged in his latest letter to Mr Osborne, is that people start to expect higher inflation. The bank argues that expectations remain consistent with hitting the inflation target in the medium term. However, two out of three household surveys show that expectations of inflation one year ahead have been moving up.
The big picture, as Mr King sees it, is that the slack in the economy following the steep recession will eventually pull down inflation. This remains plausible. Average earnings are growing at only 2% according to official figures out this week; the unemployment rate is a still-high 7.7%. But financial crises tend to inflict a lot of damage on capacity. That could mean that the margin of spare resources is not that large, which would chime with surveys of businesses.
Mr King is still being given the benefit of the doubt, but he must be chary of his stock of credibility. The inflation overshoots make it more difficult for the bank to follow the United States, where the Federal Reserve has launched another bout of quantitative easing nicknamed QE2. That lifeboat won’t be launched in Britain in the near future, unless there is very clear evidence that the recovery is foundering.
European leaders are blamed for exacerbating the euro crisis, but for the wrong reasons
Nov 18th 2010
IN MAY, when they rescued Greece from the bond markets at the 11th hour, the members of the euro zone vowed never to get into such a mess again. To keep the speculators at bay, they armed themselves with the biggest gun they could muster: a trillion-dollar loan fund. Many hoped the weapon would prove such a deterrent that, like the “bazooka” of Hank Paulson, America’s treasury secretary under George Bush, it would never have to be used. Yet, just as with Mr Paulson’s guarantee, the euro zone’s weapon barely deterred the barbarians.
Now Ireland is under assault and the euro zone has loaded the first bullet into the chamber. On November 16th euro-zone finance ministers said there would be a “short and focused consultation”, involving the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, to assess the best way of helping Ireland to salvage its collapsed banks (see article). There has been a curious role reversal between the Greek crisis in May and the Irish one now. In the spring everything was made worse by the hesitation of the main donor, Germany, over helping spendthrift Greeks. This time it is the would-be recipient, Ireland, that is prevaricating dangerously. Yet, like it or not, the rescue party is being saddled up. Will it succeed?
It would certainly help if the riders showed better order and learnt to shoot straight. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, is at the forefront, but she is also the subject of much mutinous talk since leading her colleagues into the badlands at last month’s EU summit. She persuaded them to reopen last year’s Lisbon treaty to create a bail-out system that would allow the restructuring of a country’s debts. No longer, she declared, would good European taxpayers have to bear the risk of protecting their financial system alone; she would exact a price from speculators too. Jean-Claude Trichet, the ECB president, warned the leaders that they risked stirring up restive markets, but was ignored.
Related itemsWithin days, the euro countries cantered into a new ambush. Yields on the bonds of weak countries broke new euro-zone records. A fortnight later, at the Seoul G20 summit, Mrs Merkel was still in combative mood. “Let me put it simply: in this regard there may be a contradiction between the interests of the financial world and the interests of the political world.” But a day later the EU sent out a peace party. The finance ministers of the five biggest countries explained that they had been misunderstood. The debts of euro-zone members were protected by their bail-out fund until 2013; any notion of imposing “haircuts” on bondholders would apply only to new debt issued thereafter.
- Ireland's economy: ThreadbareNov 18th 2010
For economists such as Jean Pisani-Ferry, director of Bruegel, a think-tank in Brussels, Mrs Merkel’s action was a good idea that went wrong. Investors should indeed bear some of the pain, but she would have done better to venture into this territory next year, once markets had calmed down, and with a proper map. Brian Cowen, Ireland’s prime minister, grumbled about the turmoil being an “unforeseen consequence” of the German move. His Greek colleague, George Papandreou, was less charitable. Germany, he said, risked creating “a self-fulfilling prophecy”. It was placing greater burdens on countries already in trouble. “This could break backs. This could force economies towards bankruptcy.” Wolfgang Schäuble, the German finance minister, made clear he thought the Greeks were being ungrateful for the help they received earlier this year.
Other politicians have exacerbated matters, too. Portuguese ministers spoke openly about needing a rescue or even having to leave the euro. Hours before the finance ministers’ meeting, Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, carelessly talked of Europe being “in a survival crisis”. It was left to Olli Rehn, the laconic Finnish economic commissioner, to call for “cool heads”. Plainly, the rescue of Ireland is not made any easier by all the political bickering. But in a union of 27 countries, decisions inevitably take longer and messages get more confused than markets would like. European politicians who delayed the Greek rescue and now seem to be making a dog’s dinner of the Irish one deserve blame for responding slowly and fitfully to the signals from financial markets—a charge that has much resonance when it comes to the Germans. Yet it would be wrongheaded to leap from this to blaming Germany for the euro’s crisis.
It was the Greeks, not the Germans, who lied about their deficit numbers (this week, the true Greek deficit for 2009 was pushed up again by the European statisticians, to 15.4% of GDP). It was Dublin (and Madrid), not Berlin, that presided cheerfully over a hugely inflated house-price bubble. It was Irish politicians, not German ones, who happily took plenty of campaign-finance contributions from their property-developer chums. Mrs Merkel has much to answer for when it comes to running a large current-account surplus and imparting a deflationary bias to the euro zone. But she is not to blame for the feckless failure of weaker euro-zone countries to push through reforms that might have made up for their loss of competitiveness.
The benefit of self-harm
If there is any silver lining at all to emerge from the turmoil of recent weeks, it is that the value of the euro has fallen, or at least that it has stopped rising. A euro crisis is certainly an expensive way to achieve this goal, but at least exporters will be grateful. According to the latest figures, the euro zone as a whole posted a larger-than-expected trade surplus in September. Many feared that the euro might get caught in the crossfire of the currency war between America and China. They were wrong. Ranged against the shotgun of America’s quantitative easing, and the shield of China’s capital controls, Europe does at least have leaders who are well drilled in shooting themselves in the foot.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s much-touted reshuffle proves to be a small one that keeps the prime minister in place
Nov 18th 2010 | PARIS
FOR six months, President Nicolas Sarkozy had been preparing the French for a new government. His advisers had floated the names of various possible successors to François Fillon, the prime minister, and these aspirants were jockeying frenziedly. Over the weekend, the president spun out the suspense, securing the resignation of the old government 24 hours before unveiling a new one. Yet in the end, a man who prides himself for his daring and decisiveness did nothing more than reappoint Mr Fillon, along with a clutch of others, including Christine Lagarde, the finance minister, and Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister.
If Mr Sarkozy was seeking to rebrand his government, he missed the mark. The reappointment of Mr Fillon, who is now expected to stay until the 2012 presidential election, is an almost unprecedented individual triumph. Under the Fifth Republic, French prime ministers have been treated as dispensable, to be sacked whenever things go badly. Just weeks ago, Mr Sarkozy argued in private that his old team was worn out and needed renewing. Mr Fillon, according to a friend, had even rented a new apartment in Paris. But Mr Sarkozy’s mistake was not to have a credible alternative. Given the prime minister’s greater popularity among voters and deputies, Mr Sarkozy risked trouble from having him outside the tent. By dithering, he has emerged weaker and Mr Fillon stronger.
Much of the rest of the new team is anything but. Out has gone the big-tent approach that embraced the left as well as the centre and lent Mr Sarkozy’s first government its originality. All but one of the six figures from the left have disappeared, including Bernard Kouchner, who was sacked as foreign minister. Out too went leading centrists, including Jean-Louis Borloo, the environment minister, and several liberals. Denied the prime minister’s job that he thought was within his grasp, Mr Borloo declined a lesser post and walked off in a huff.
The new government draws heavily on the old guard from the Gaullist RPR party founded by Jacques Chirac, which Mr Sarkozy broadened to the centre under the UMP umbrella for the 2007 presidential election. With the return of Alain Juppé, Mr Chirac’s prime minister in the mid-1990s, who takes over at defence, and the transfer of Michèle Alliot-Marie from justice to the foreign ministry, the new government has a chiraquien feel. François Baroin, another Chirac protégé, keeps his job as budget minister. Indeed, for a president who promised a rupture with the Chirac era, his new team would not look out of place under the old Gaullist. French satirists had a field day, as did the opposition. “So much fuss for so little!”, mocked Martine Aubry, the Socialist leader.
Mr Sarkozy, who appeared live on prime-time television this week, seems to want to accomplish three things with his narrower Gaullist line-up. One is to create a more cohesive team. Although the broad-based approach was arresting, it was blamed for confusing supporters on the right, as well as for personality clashes. One by one, left-wingers such as Jean-Pierre Jouyet, a former Europe minister, have quit. Most of the ethnic-minority faces have been dumped. Rachida Dati went last year; Rama Yade and Fadela Amara this time. Eric Woerth, a minister caught up in a party-financing judicial investigation linked to Liliane Bettencourt, the billionaire heiress to the L’Oréal cosmetics empire, has been fired. By tightening the team around his base, Mr Sarkozy may hope to thwart damaging scandals and rows and present a more unified front.
The second aim, which remains to be tested, is to return to a more traditional form of governing. Mr Sarkozy conceded that there should be a more balanced division of labour with his prime minister. His advisers are to appear less in public, leaving ministers to get on with their jobs. The president himself, studiously calm during his TV appearance, intends to stand back a bit. Jetting about during France’s presidency of the G20 will occupy a big chunk of his time. Laurent Joffrin, editor of Libération, a left-wing newspaper, called this a shift from baroque to classical: “sarkozysme without the excess”.
Third, and despite the chiraquien flavour of the new government, Mr Sarkozy wants to pursue structural reforms. Until recently, he was himself arguing for a pause. This week, by contrast, he said he wanted “to make all five years effective for France”. He announced a rethink of the tax system by next summer, based partly on Germany’s fiscal structure, and a new form of social security to finance care of the elderly. The idea is to make both budget-neutral. Mr Fillon is a good choice to make sure of this. He was a lone voice in 2007 when he declared that “France is bankrupt”. This week, he said that his “absolute priority” was still to trim the deficit.
Although the reappointment of Mr Fillon is popular, in the short run the reshuffle is unlikely to lift Mr Sarkozy’s approval ratings from their record lows. Voters do not seem to give him much credit for holding out through weeks of strikes and protests to lift the minimum retirement age from 60 to 62, although that may change in time. Some deputies still wonder, privately, if he is the best man to lead the French right into the 2012 election. One poll last week suggested that, in a presidential run-off, Mr Sarkozy would be beaten, albeit narrowly, by Ms Aubry—but that, if she faced Mr Fillon instead, he would be victorious.