豉油雞、炸薯條、經濟學

早前讀完老友Wallace 的文章 “加拿大存在「反分工」現象“,終於等到現在才找到時間回應一吓。

Wallace

“[*** < ] 假設要求閣下以一己之力,由無變有地製造一罐汽水,所花的時間與精力恐怕難以想象。[ > ***] 實情是一罐汽水在市場上購買只所費無幾—分工所發揮的效率可算大矣!

[… *** < ] 由於僱用工人成本偏高,因此不少本地人從小培養了十八般武藝,木工、電工、園藝甚至修理汽車都有板有眼。[ > ***] 可是從增加社會整體生產力的角度來看,這種「反分工」現象則弊多於利。加拿大要增強分工效應,深化勞工市場自由度乃重要一步。鼓吹分工之餘,我們不忘謙卑看待自己的建樹,並認真尊重別人的貢獻。始終相信「工作收入不同 生命價值相等」,你同意嗎?”

 

“豉油雞”與”炸薯條”

老友Wallace作為一位經濟學家,他的分析會向錢看是在所難免。很多人話,”To a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”。所以對一個經濟學家,把事情跟金錢拉上關係,也不是太奇怪。

我自己有時喜歡下廚,”豉油雞“與”炸薯條“是我愛吃及煮得好吃的東西,誇口的話,可以叫做煮得好過很多本地餐廳了。豉油雞自己做用的材料連電可能較街買的便宜一點,炸薯條則可能還要較街買的貴了一點。加上自己的時間的話,則買一定便宜得多了。

但是貴/便宜,錢的多小就是一切嗎?

以我自己為例,下廚是種樂趣,另外自己煮東西用料可以健健康康,不會用萬年油或味精等食材。自己一手一腳照顧打理的花園,見花草樹木漂亮的話是件樂事,更可以跟朋友講講心得,誇口吹牛一吓,也是樂事一件。

請不要誤會,我當然知道亦明白錢財的重要,但我相信有時”十八般武藝,木工、電工、園藝甚至修理汽車都有板有眼”應算是件好事。對加拿大人的”十八般武藝”磕上「反分工」的帽子,Wallace兄似乎重手了一點。

有時食物或木工、電工、園藝等等工作,不一定是只為了”結果”。有時”過程”可能一樣或更加重要。

有時間的話,我會試試寫篇關於Flow(心流)的文章。心理學家Mihály Csíkszentmihályi教授舉了些值得令人深思的好例子。其中一個案例談及一名工人花時間改進了自己的工廠生產工序,縮減了差不多十秒鐘時間,雖然不是件工,不會有人工加,亦不會加快生產線的速度,但已經令這位工人自得其樂了。

雖然世上有很多東西可以轉化為錢,但如果每事都從錢財和經濟學出發,生活和生命似乎可能會悶了一點,簡單化了一點。

4 Responses to 豉油雞、炸薯條、經濟學

  1. hevangel says:

    不知道你個朋友wallace是否住house。培養十八般武藝其實不難學﹐有自己間屋﹐基本上摸下摸下就識。反而住apartment或condo的人沒有十八般武藝。識唔識係同住house定唔住house有關﹐唔關分唔分工事。好多野叫得人黎整﹐等得黎都自己整左。

  2. kempton says:

    I see your points Horace but I think Wallace’s arguments are economical and not whether a person lives in a house or apartment/condo. His view is if the people’s time is more valuable than the price they pay to hire someone, why spend the time doing it yourself mowing the lawn? People should 「分工」and hire someone else.

  3. Wallace says:

    Dear Kempton:

    A very interesting reply. In fact, I do agree that economics is not the only angle to study our world and job satisfaction counts.

    That’s said, how may one interpret why Canadians tend to assemble the Ikea furnitures by themselves while HK people tend to ask for the assembly service to be delivered (if it’s culture, how comes a Canadian who lives in HK would change his/her behavior accordingly)? In Vancouver, many high income moms now tend to hire domestic helpers (from SE Asia) to take care of children and choose to work themselves (division of labor), which did not happen a few years ago. Why? Because the introduction of cheap labor allows.

    Economics is NOT the only tool to interpret phenomena but definitely is a POWERFUL TOOL.

    [Kempton’s note: I copied and pasted this comment from Wallace’s email with his permission.]

  4. kempton says:

    Hi Wallace,

    Interesting observations of Canadians living in Canada vs Canadians living in Hong Kong.

    I personally like the idea that Canadians and Americans living in North America are more self-reliant. Since assembly services are seldom used in Canada, there is usually a time lag, where as if we assembly the products ourselves, the handy-women/men can go ahead right away and put the new furniture (prized-purchase) together themselves. A sense of satisfaction.

    Alternatively, just for you Wallace, I did some Googling. And this economic explanation will make you happier because the observations and reasonings are based on price discrimination and money.

    In Hong Kong (reference IKEA HK website)

    For a product less than or equal to $1000, the delivery charge is $70

    “Assembly Service

    IKEA furnishings are flat-packed, with instructions and hardware packed together in the box so you can assemble them yourself. But if you would like your furniture professionally assembled in your home, just ask for our assembly service and the job will be done efficiently and inexpensively. The assembly charge is only 10% of the product price*.

    *Please note that this assembly service is strictly limited to IKEA product parts assembly and not applicable to kitchen areas. The maximum charge for this service is $1,200, except Outlying Islands.”

    ******

    In Canada (reference IKEA Canada website)

    “IKEA Calgary

    While some exceptions on Kitchens, flooring, and our great Pax Wardrobe systems, assembly charges are normally 15% of the value of the articles to be assembled, with a minimum charge of $55, and are independent from delivery charges.

    Assembly is not offered by IKEA directly. Instead, we can recommend assemblers to anyone requiring this service. Business cards for IKEA-recommended assembly services are available at the Delivery/Furniture Pick-Up counter in the store.”

    *******

    Additionally, here is an observation. In HK, assembly services is part of IKEA, whereas in Canada, IKEA will “recommend an independent in-home assembly service”.

    We are not comparing apples and apples here even the furnitures are both IKEA.

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