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生活总是充满了艰难的权衡  

2009-05-06 17:37:45|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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中文博主按:我喜欢我的美女同事的文笔,以至于我都不想看英文原文。我怕英文不像她说得那样美。

Friday, May 11, 2007

Free Lunch Thinking at Harvard 

美女同事[译]



"Thereis no such thing as a free lunch" is as good a slogan as any I know.Whenever I hear someone propose a reform and suggest that it does notinvolve any costs, my first reaction is to think that they aren't beinghonest. Life is full of hard tradeoffs. If you think otherwise, youprobably haven't thought enough.

“天下没有免费的午餐”,这是一条精辟的谚语。无论什么时候,听到什么人提议一项改革,而且不需要任何成本,我的第一反应就是,这个人可没讲实话。生活总是充满了艰难的权衡。如果你不这样想,有可能是因为想得还不够多。

 

Isee some students being lulled into free lunch thinking when discussingraising wages of low-income workers at Harvard. Even putting aside anypossible adverse side effects of above-equilibrium wages, advocates ofhigher wages need to confront the real question of limited resources.If Harvard is to raise wages above the going market levels, the moneyto pay those wages has to come from somewhere, such as higher tuition,less financial aid, or fewer faculty. Saying "Harvard has a largeendowment" is not an answer--the endowment represents future spendingon items the university values.

我看到一些哈佛学生,在讨论提高低收入工人的工资时,受到了免费午餐的蛊惑。高于均衡水平的工资,即使不考虑它可能带来的负面效果,那些鼓吹提高工资的人,也需要面对资源有限这个问题。如果哈佛要将工资提高到市场水平之上,支付工资的钱需要找到其他来路,比如,更高的学费、更少的财务资助,或者更少的教职员工。如果以“哈佛有大量捐赠”来搪塞,这解决不了问题――捐款代表了对未来的支出,要花在那些大学认为有价值的项目上。

 

Harvard administrators are lulled into free lunch thinking when discussing teaching quality. An article in yesterday's NY Times offers this insight into the issue:

讨论教学质量的时候,哈佛管理层也有免费午餐的想法。昨天的纽约时报有篇文章,洞悉了这个问题。

 

Theaim of the report is not to de-emphasize research in any way, but tobring about a greater institutional focus on teaching, Professor Ulrichsaid. “This is not a report that says we’re going to hire teachers whoare not also scholars,” she said. “We want both.”

这篇报道的目的不是要否认研究的重要性,而是希望研究机构给教学以更多的关注。Ulrich教授谈到,“这个报告不是说,我们要聘用非学者型的教师,”她说,“我们要两者兼有的教师。”

 

Butbetter teaching is not a free lunch. If the university puts more weighton teaching in its hiring and promotion decisions, it must put lessweight on research. Sure, there are some scholars who are great at bothactivities, but those are not the marginal hires.

但是,更好的教学不是免费的午餐。如果大学在雇用与提拔的时候,给教学更多的权重,对于研究的权重就必然会少些。可以肯定的是,有一些学者,两者兼优,然而,他们可不是新手。

 

Youwill know the university is serious about increasing teaching qualitywhen it says it is willing to hire scholars with less distinguishedresearch records in order to get better teachers, or when it says itwill spend more money to compete more vigorously with Princetonand Yale for the best professors (and tells you where that money willcome from). But unless the university says it is willing to confrontthe hard tradeoffs, it is just posing.

你会知道,在如下一些情况,大学对提高教学质量是认真的:当它说,为了得到更好的教师,希望聘用一个学者,尽管没有多少优异的研究成果;或者当它说,为了得到更好的教授,会花更多的钱与普林斯顿和耶鲁进行有力的竞争(还会告诉你钱从何而来)。但是,除非大学明白它将面临一个艰难的权衡,否则的话,它仅仅是做做样子罢了。

-----

Update: Somecommenters point out that sometimes the world does offer Paretoimprovements, such as the gains from trade in a Ricardian trade model,and that these are free lunches. True enough. Slogans are more rules ofthumb than theorems. Experience suggests, however, that purported freelunches are vastly more numerous than actual free lunches.

更新:有评论指出,这个世界,有时确实存在怕累托改善,比如在李嘉图贸易模型中的贸易收益,这些就是免费的午餐。确实不错。谚语比理论更能说明经验。然而,实验表明,想象中的免费午餐比实际的免费午餐多得多。

 

Ishould note that purported free lunches are found on both sides of thepolitical divide. Politicians on the right like to claim that theirproposed tax cuts will completely pay for themselves with extraeconomic growth. Politicians on the left like to claim that theirproposed spending programs are investments that will yield returns sogreat that the spending becomes self-financing. Either outcome ispossible in theory, but skepticism is usually the best response inpractice.

应当注意到,假想的免费午餐,政治分歧的双方都有所描绘。右派的政治家喜欢宣称,他们提议的税收减免,将完全由额外的经济增长得到弥补。左派的政治家喜欢宣扬,他们提议的支出项目是一种投资,将产生高额的回报,以致于支出变成了自我融资。理论上,两种结果都是可能的,但是,实践中,怀疑往往是最好的回答。


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