Thursday, June 14, 2007

一微塵裡鬥英雄:論大學「名次」的虛幻 (五.附錄)

由於今次iTxxHK老版主向太歲頭上動土:質疑少部份被人視為「永不犯錯」的諾貝爾獎得主,尤其對「假諾貝爾獎」的批評頗為尖刻,為免斷章取義之嫌,故一反本blog一向避免全文照錄的做法,在此附上部份有關Peter Nobel及Myron Scholes的資料及評論。


(一) Peter Nobel相關報導

Hazel Henderson於「科學家群起支持廢除所謂諾貝爾經濟學獎」"Abolish the “Nobel”in Economic”Many Scientists Agree!"一文提到:

The widely-touted, so-called “Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics” isn’t a proper Nobel Prize at all. For many years, I and others have sought to correct this widespread error by reminding people of its actual name: The Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Science in Memory of Alfred Nobel. The Bank set up this $1 million prize in 1969, as I have held, in order to legitimize the economics profession as a science.

Since then, economists with their claims of knowing how to manage national economies, have wrought untold damage, from the “shock treatment” they advocated for Russia to their “Washington Consensus” formulas for economic growth (free trade, privatization, floating currencies, opening to global capital flows, etc), which contributed to financial instabilities and excessive debts. As I pointed out in “G-8 Economists in Retreat” (IPS, June 2003) economics is now being undermined by new research in many other scientific studies.

Now, in an exclusive interview with me, Peter Nobel, Alfred Nobel’s descendent, emphasized that “there is no mention in the letters of Alfred Nobel that he would appreciate a prize for economics. The Swedish Riksbank, like a cuckoo, has placed its egg in another very decent bird’s nest. What the Bank did was akin to trademark infringement – unacceptably robbing the real Nobel Prizes.” Nobel added, “Two thirds of these prizes in economics have gone to US economists, particularly of the Chicago School – to people speculating in stock markets and options. These have nothing to do with Alfred Nobel’s goal of improving the human condition and our survival – indeed they are the exact opposite.”

As this years Nobel Prizes were awarded last week, a number of scientists went public criticizing the mis-labeled “Nobel” Memorial Prize in Economics” as an embarrassment which is diminishing the value of all other Nobel Prizes. In an Op-Ed in Sweden’s main newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, December 10, 2004, Swedish mathematicians, Mans Lonnroth and Peter Jagers, a member of the Swedish Academy of Sciences, proposed that the prize in economics should either be broadened in scope or abolished. They reiterated similar criticisms of the economics prize by other mathematicians and physicists, because it is often given to economists who mis-use mathematics to claim that they have optimal ways of organizing societies. Lonnroth and Jagers cite this year’s economics prize, which was awarded to Finn E. Kydland and Edward C. Prescott as typical of this mis-use of mathematics.
Prescott and Kydland’s work in a 1977 paper, describes a mathematical model which purports to show that this model can be used for guiding whole economies (and therefore, societies). The implication is that such political guidance is best left to economists rather than trusted to elected politicians. The statement of Sweden’s Royal Academy of Science, which selected Kydland and Prescott, states that “Already, in their 1977 article, the Laureates …..work has had a far-reaching impact on reforms carried out in many places (such as New Zealand, Sweden, Great Britain and the Euro area) aimed at legislated delegation of monetary policy decisions to independent central bankers.”

This is exactly what many democratically-elected legislators oppose .The Swedish Central Bank’s Prize in Economic Science, in its continuing subtle campaign to legitimate the economics profession as a “science”, still hopes to portray economics as politically neutral. It is precisely these claims as a science, clothed in apparent “value-free” objectivity and mathematical precision that has given economists their mystique and predominant role in public policy-making worldwide.

In my Politics of the Solar Age, published in Swedish in 1982 as False Priests, I documented the evolution of the economics profession and how it came to colonize other disciplines and dominate public policy in Chapter 8, “Three Hundred Years of Snake Oil”. I showed how the theories of economists were largely unprovable hypotheses --- quite different from those in other hard sciences, which could be empirically verified or refuted. For example, the equations which guide spaceships to the moon or in constructing a bridge must be correct. Or the bridge will collapse and the spaceship self-destruct. On the other hand, economists’ so-called principles are mere concepts, which often conceal political or social ideologies behind smokescreens of fancy mathematics.

Other scientists joining the critical mass denouncing the Swedish Bank Prize include noted physicist, Prof. Dr. Hans Peter Durr, of the famed Max Planck Institute for Physics, who told me that “economics is not even bad science, it is incorrect in many of its basic assumptions”. I had previously asked Prof. Durr “how could such a scandalous mis-use of other sciences have continued unchallenged for over 40 years?” Durr replied that academic etiquette usually restrained scholars from other fields from straying into other disciplines, especially with such criticisms. Austrian physicist, systems theorist and best-selling author, Fritjof Capra told me that “The dimension of meaning, purpose, values and conflicts is critical to social reality. Any model of social organization that does not include this critical dimension is inadequate. Unfortunately, this is true for most theoretical models in economics today.”

Mathematician and chaos theorist, Prof. Ralph Abraham at the University of California, Santa Cruz adds, “The prize in economics should be broadened in line with the full spectrum of social sciences to which it belongs and it should be distanced from the Nobel awards, like the Fields Medals in mathematics.” Yet Peter Nobel maintains that economics is not a science. Riane Eisler, systems scientist and author of the best-seller, The Chalice and the Blade, agrees.

Psychologist, David Loye, author of Darwin’s Lost Theory of Love goes further and shows how Charles Darwin’s great work was co-opted in Victorian Britain to emphasize “the survival of the fittest” and justify class divisions and competition, which Darwin mentioned only briefly. This model of human nature was adopted by economists as their “rational economic man” who maximized his self-interest in competition with all others (still taught in economics). Darwin focused instead on the evolution of altruism, cooperation, bonding, sharing and trust as one of the bases of human success (for more, visit www.thedarwinproject.com)

It seems that a major scientific scandal is emerging, with historians of science including Robert Nadeau, author of The Non-Local Universe, and his devastating dismissal of economics as full of assumptions that have little basis in reality. Stay tuned!

(二) 林行止專欄

亦可參考林行止2005年3月16日於信報上有關介紹「經濟學家得獎 諾貝爾獎蒙污」:

諾貝爾獎創設者阿佛烈.諾貝爾的侄孫彼德.諾貝爾博士(瑞士聖嘉蘭大學商業法教授、諾獎學術委員),連同兩位仕而優則教的瑞典學者(一為前環境部長、現為科技高級講師,一為前國會議員、現為經濟學教授)及一名瑞典皇家科學院數學院士,去年十二月十日在斯德哥爾摩的《每日新聞》(Dagens Nyheter)發表長文,反對瑞典中央銀行從一九六九年開始,假借諾貝爾之名,頒發「瑞典銀行紀念諾貝爾的經濟學獎」。法國《世界外交月刊》(Le Monde Diplanatique,網上英文版)今年二月號摘要譯出諾貝爾等這篇大作的精要,不僅令人對經濟學的「科學性」再生疑慮,亦予人以諾貝爾經濟學獎會漸漸不受知識界重視不久後可能有疾而終的聯想。

彼德.諾貝爾指出在阿佛烈的眾多文件及日記中,從未提及經濟學遑論有設獎的意圖,「瑞典央行有如產卵於其他鳥巢的布榖鳥,侵犯了諾貝爾的聲譽;約三分之二的經濟學獎頒給美國芝加哥學派的學者,他們建立投機股票和期權的計量模型,與阿佛烈設獎的目的在提高人類生活素質風馬牛不相及」。這是意氣之言,卻亦說出一點事實。

更有甚者,諾貝爾經濟學獎得主的學術成就只有極少數人認同,而以普通常識的角度考量,可能很平庸。彼德以去年聯合得主普利斯各特及祈蘭德(見去年十月十二日本欄)為例,指出他們建立複雜計量模型的目的在證明中央銀行不應受民選議員(elected legislators)的影響,才有獨立的貨幣政策。彼德認為央行必須獨立於政治影響之外,固有先例可援,亦已是眾所周知的常識,經濟學家有充分資源(如獲得公、私慈善基金會的資助),可以做任何他們喜歡做的研究,但像上述的研究得大獎,只會沾污諾貝爾之名,令諾貝爾獎地位下降。

經濟學家特別是新古典學派(亦稱劍橋學派,其鼻祖馬歇爾的所謂「剪刀式價格理論」,指出價格決定於產品的市場供求)經濟學家根據與現實脫節的「假設」(inaccurate assumptions)撰成「空中樓閣」的經濟學理論,充塞在教科書之中;在研究成果必須不斷驗證才為學界接受的自然科學家眼裏,傳統經濟學以至近年漸成顯學的旁支如環保經濟學、行為經濟學、資源經濟學及生物經濟學,都不該貼上諾貝爾的標籤─諾貝爾獎應和經濟學劃清界線,經濟學獎應該取消。

現代經濟學建立於阿當.史密斯的「無形之手」和達爾文的「物競天擇、優勝劣敗」的基礎上;前者是先利己後利人(經濟增長社會進步)、後者是「自由放任」的理論根據。長期以來,經濟學家堅信讓「無形之手」引導「自由放任」的市場,經濟社會便會不斷創造財富,而且在所謂「社會達爾文主義」(Social Darwinism)的指引下,財富會由上而下(trickle down),令全民受惠。

這種理論衍生了眾多大家常見慣聞的「有效率市場」、經濟人的理性行為和理性預期、市場競爭可創造最大利潤以至無所不在的「華盛頓共識」(Washington Consensus─自由貿易、公開市場、私有化、撤銷管制、出口導向及浮動率),可是,世界並不如經濟學家的預期因此可達致長期沒有通脹的增長及全民就業。近年大家經歷的是金融危機、經濟泡沫、拖欠債務(最後要債權國債權人「一筆勾銷」或折成收款;請參閱三月十四日「財進才俊」版「原是物語」的〈大剪髮〉)及失業率居高不下(目前歐盟諸國的失業率仍企於百分之十水平)。在這種情況下,經濟學家卻認為他們的計量模型無懈可擊,經濟學成為科學,「無形之手」已從理論變成「科學原理」。諾貝爾獎令經濟學躋身科學之林 。

在經濟學如日中天的現在,行為經濟學家(本欄二月二十四日)和心理學家(本欄三月九日)均指出人類行為並不完全符合經濟人凡事理性地考慮利己的假設,人類的互信、合作、分享和人與人之間的親密關係,不一定與斤斤計較私利有關,而是由與生俱來的利他傾向促致(試想在原始社會人類怎會考慮私利?)。

事實上,不必行為經濟學家的實證,我們在日常生活特別是與友人交往中,不難發現人的行為與經濟學家的「模範理性經濟人」(rational-actor model)大有不同,人經常做出非理性的事,這即是說,人的行為並不純然受「無形之手」所牽引,凡事先考慮私利。筆者向來認同自利動機是重要的人類天性,但像有些經濟學家(如屠洛克〔G. Tullock〕)指「平均而言,人的行為百分之九十五出於自利動機」,則是言過其實。沒有宗教信仰的人會以無名氏的名義捐款做善事、當義工,有同情心的人會留小賬給他路過、肯定不會再光顧的鄉間餐廳侍應……。這類利他行為,都不在經濟學家計算之中。

人類非理性行為的普遍性,令那些假設理性行為而建立的計量經濟模型失卻分析及預測能力,然而,經濟學家不必為其錯判付出代價(預測百分之一點五增長結果增幅百分之一,誤差達百分之五十,預測者理應為此付出代價),這與醫生斷錯症開錯藥被病者控告招致名譽及金錢損失(現在連氣象學家錯誤預測天氣亦會受罰)不同。在這種情況下,諾貝爾的後人力說瑞典央行應該停止以諾貝爾之名頒發經濟學獎,便顯得大有道理且有公義了。

(三) Myron Scholes與LTCM

關於Myron Scholes定價模型(Black-Scholes Model)害死長期資本管理(Long-Term Capital Management, LTCM)的威水史可參考華爾街日報記者Roger Lowenstein所著When Genius Failed: The Rise and Fall of Long-Term Capital Management,在此附上該書的簡介:

On September 23, 1998, the boardroom of the New York Fed was a tense place. Around the table sat the heads of every major Wall Street bank, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and representatives from numerous European banks, each of whom had been summoned to discuss a highly unusual prospect: rescuing what had, until then, been the envy of them all, the extraordinarily successful bond-trading firm of Long-Term Capital Management. Roger Lowenstein's When Genius Failed is the gripping story of the Fed's unprecedented move, the incredible heights reached by LTCM, and the firm's eventual dramatic demise.
Lowenstein, a financial journalist and author of Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist, examines the personalities, academic experts, and professional relationships at LTCM and uncovers the layers of numbers behind its roller-coaster ride with the precision of a skilled surgeon. The fund's enigmatic founder, John Meriwether, spent almost 20 years at Salomon Brothers, where he formed its renowned Arbitrage Group by hiring academia's top financial economists. Though Meriwether left Salomon under a cloud of the SEC's wrath, he leapt into his next venture with ease and enticed most of his former Salomon hires--and eventually even David Mullins, the former vice chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve--to join him in starting a hedge fund that would beat all hedge funds.

LTCM began trading in 1994, after completing a road show that, despite the Ph.D.-touting partners' lack of social skills and their disdainful condescension of potential investors who couldn't rise to their intellectual level, netted a whopping $1.25 billion. The fund would seek to earn a tiny spread on thousands of trades, "as if it were vacuuming nickels that others couldn't see," in the words of one of its Nobel laureate partners, Myron Scholes. And nickels it found. In its first two years, LTCM earned $1.6 billion, profits that exceeded 40 percent even after the partners' hefty cuts. By the spring of 1996, it was holding $140 billion in assets. But the end was soon in sight, and Lowenstein's detailed account of each successively worse month of 1998, culminating in a disastrous August and the partners' subsequent panicked moves, is riveting.

The arbitrageur's world is a complicated one, and it might have served Lowenstein well to slow down and explain in greater detail the complex terms of the more exotic species of investment flora that cram the book's pages. However, much of the intrigue of the Long-Term story lies in its dizzying pace (not to mention the dizzying amounts of money won and lost in the fund's short lifespan). Lowenstein's smooth, conversational but equally urgent tone carries it along well. The book is a compelling read for those who've always wondered what lay behind the Fed's controversial involvement with the LTCM hedge-fund debacle. --S. Ketchum

註:此乃《西線無戰事》式文體:未必有其人,但內容全是事實。

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