預算案500億推創科 怎用得其所?

特首林鄭月娥去年展望香港變成「新矽谷」。今年財政預算案出爐,港府將投放500億元大力推動科技創新業,遠遠超過去年的100億元。這投資值得嗎?怎樣投資才最有效益?

支柱產業放緩 未來產業又缺人

香港的繁榮起步於40、50年代期間。當年企業家和專業人士紛紛從內地來到香港,把高生產力工業的知識帶到本地,推動本地製造業。80年代改革開放後,製造廠商漸漸遷至廣東省,而香港的經濟引擎則轉型為專業服務性行業、金融、旅遊及物流。但這四大行業的增長率已經不如往日。

然而,香港吸納高技能人才的步伐很慢,甚至在97前引起移民潮因而流失人才。今天的香港,在高增長的「未來產業」方面,正面臨嚴重的人力資本短缺。

反之,與香港比鄰的深圳,無論在汽車、機械人學、能源、軟件工程或生物科技等範疇,均吸納大量高技能人才。首屈一指的高科技公司如:騰訊、華為、華大基因、比亞迪和中興,都不約而同在深圳設立總部。

黃金機會不持久 速吸人才科企

由於深圳與中國大陸人口流通,內地優秀的工程科畢業生皆蜂擁而至。因此,從2010年至今,深圳的國內生產總值激增10%,而香港僅微升3%。有分析家預料,在2018年深圳的國內生產總值將躍至3,500億美元,領先香港的3,450億美元。深圳產量超越香港的原因很簡單:創新企業和人才都集中在深圳而非香港。

高科技公司清楚知道成功的不二法門,是聘請能創新的科研人員。為了吸引人才,矽谷的公司不惜提供天價薪酬,且在世界各地開設辦公室。中國的科技公司也開始全球性爭取工程人才;阿里巴巴已在新加坡、以色列、美國和俄羅斯設立研發中心;騰訊和百度在美國西雅圖和加州亦設有辦公室。為迎合市場的急切需求,全球的大學都趕忙擴張其計算機科學、機械人學和數據科學課程。

香港擁有獨一無二的潛能足以吸納中國及全球的卓越人才。香港的優越之處很多,包括國際性文化、開放性、宜居的環境,也包括地理位置臨近廣東省的工廠網絡。世界頂尖的科研人員,特別是其中的海外華裔,只要遇上心儀的就業機會,都樂意來港定居並享受這裏豐富的生活。因此眾多高科技公司,尤其位於深圳的,都願意招募人才並將其帶到香港。隨着其他城市不斷進步,此黃金機會是不會持久;香港必須抓緊機遇。

把香港打造成一個創新樞紐,能帶來廣大市民能夠共享的經濟增長。根據加州柏克萊大學的經濟學者恩里克‧莫雷蒂(Enrico Moretti),在美國,每個新的高科技職位能同時創造5個當地的服務崗位。這些崗位包括律師、會計師、護士、侍應生、木工、髮型師等。錯過黃金機會,只會令香港的步伐更落後於別人。

莫雷蒂在其著作《就業機會的新布局》上寫道:「一少撮的城市擁有『對』的產業和堅固的人力資本根基,這些城市往往能持續吸引質素好的僱員和提供高薪。然而,另一極端是,擁有『錯』的產業和有限的人力資本根基的城市,則永遠困在毫無出路的職業和低薪酬的僵局。」

借鑑矽谷 星羅棋布人才網絡

要了解如何推動創新,可借鑑歷史。矽谷的故事緣於1956年,當年作為其中一位晶體管發明家威廉‧肖克利(William Shockley)被獲頒諾貝爾獎。同年,為了方便照顧病重的母親,他離開新澤西的貝爾實驗所,移居到加州的帕羅奧圖,並說服很多年輕的博士畢業生跟隨他。就這樣,他們創立全球首家矽基半導體公司。1957年,肖克利公司的8位中堅分子離巢,在鄰近創立仙童半導體公司(Fairchild Semiconductors)。隨後的20年,超過65家新企業的僱員網絡可追溯至仙童。仙童的「後裔」就包括世界著名的英特爾(Intel)和超微科技(AMD)這兩大微處理器製造商。肖克利為招募人才所付出的努力,就是矽谷科研人才網絡之起源,這星羅棋布的人才網絡,至今一直推動着三藩市灣區逾半世紀源源不斷的創新科研。

另一矽谷之父是40、50年代在史丹佛大學任職工程學院院長的弗雷德里克‧特曼(Frederick Terman)。特曼是一位傑出的無綫電工程師。在二次大戰時期,他在哈佛大學率領的研究團隊就有850人之多。戰後他回到史丹佛大學,並夢想成立一個創科園區,以作為東岸一眾研究機構的競爭對手。特曼開創性的構想,旨在鼓勵工業領航者和史丹佛大學的學者及其新興企業共謀合作。

特曼說服當時的工業老將包括通用電器(General Electric)、伊士曼柯達(Eastman Kodak)、洛克希德(Lockheed)等把研發團隊設在首個由大學擁有的產業園。同時,他也鼓勵他的老師和學生組織公司,並積極培育他們,當中就有不少企業是由他私人資助。首批矽谷企業如瓦里安聯合(Varian Associates)、利頓(Litton Industries)和惠普(Hewlett Packard)都曾受過他的扶植。憑着特曼鍥而不捨的精神,一個寂寂無聞的角落蛻變成帶領全球的頂尖創新基地。時至今日,史丹佛科研園區的162幢大樓容納140家不同的公司,一共僱用2.3萬名員工。

改善移民稅策 創造科研就業

過去20年來,香港為創科下了不少工夫。香港大灑金錢去興建創科園,政府機構和創投基金均致力於推廣創新。可惜香港還是匱乏創科最關鍵的元素。擬寫初創計劃書、登記公司、開辦公室、籌款等創業活動,並不等於真正的科技創新。誰人都能嘗試創業,但只是像特曼和肖克利這種高瞻遠矚的科研家才能成功創造新產業。

香港創科成敗的關鍵在於吸引創科人才和大企業。要讓香港成為創科樞紐,香港必須為世界頂級水平的科研人才創造就業機會,以吸引他們來港長期定居。若香港能夠吸引大規模的科研機構和企業來香港落戶,因而為高科技知識人士提供安定的職業,真正的創科自然能在本地茁壯成長,為經濟帶來推動力。

港府應積極與當今發展最迅速的高科技公司,例如騰訊、阿里巴巴等合作。政府要了解香港如何改良移民及稅務政策,以說服此等的科技公司前來建立重點研發中心,並藉此在港創造科研就業機會、吸納科研人才。香港得從內地以至世界各地的頂尖學府中招攬出色的專才,目標應是吸收數以萬計的科研人員來港發展。

政府亦應好好探究,怎樣的投資能協助大學吸引世界一流的高科技學術研究員,及怎樣的革新能鼓勵學術界把知識帶進市場。業界和學界的相互促進是創新的重要因素。創科中心往往與鄰近的頂尖研究學府並肩發展。為達至此目標,香港必須研究如何透過改革大學的教育資助及知識轉移政策。

預算算所提及的「科技平台」和落馬洲河套區科技園的發展,都應有助吸引頂尖科研機構與大企業落戶,滙聚頂尖科技人才。但撥錢容易落實難,唯獨當局還須不斷努力,方能令全球最優秀的人才紛至沓來,再創香港輝煌。

二零一八年三月七號刊登於經濟日報

My favorite reads in 2017

  1. Jack Kornfield — After the Ecstacy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path. A great book written by a Zen meditation teacher on what the spiritual journey is all about, drawing from the personal accounts of practitioners and literature from diverse traditions. 
  2. Will Johnson - The Posture of Meditation. A great little manual for how to meditate. 
  3. Jim Forest - The Ladder of the Beatitudes. A beautiful devotional book dissecting the Beatitudes and the spiritual path that Jesus taught. 
  4. Paulo Coehlo - The Alchemist. A classic tale about following one’s heart. For the first time I feel like I’m beginning to understand this simple spiritual story.  
  5. Thich Nhat Hanh - Fragrant Palm Leaves. The personal journals of a remarkable Zen monk during pivotal years in Vietnam and in his spiritual journey. 
  6. Tim Hartford - Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives. A brilliant defence of messiness and diversity as sources of resilience, creativity, and competitive advantage, drawing on history, sociology, and anthropology. 
  7. Richard Baldwin - The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalization. This book describes recent structural changes in world trade due to changes in technology. I think it's one of the best explanations for the rise of China in the late 20th century. 
  8. Michael Puett & Christine Gross-Loh - The PathA wonderfully easy-to-read book on the essence of what Chinese philosophers thought, with interesting comparisons to Western thought. It is both thought-provoking and very applicable to daily life. 
  9. James C Scott - Against the Grain: The Deep History of the Earliest States. An iconoclastic account of domestication and the rise of early states. Fascinating. 
  10. Leonard Mlodinow - Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior. A fascinating pop-science book summarising recent findings in neuroscience, a field rapidly advancing due to the power of fMRI technology to detect subconscious patterns. I was surprised to understand how much happens in our brains we are not aware of. 
  11. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz - The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook. Amazing accounts of how children can recover from trauma. 

从「天国八幅」理解耶稣的信息

耶稣是二千年前的犹太人。他花了一段时间一个人在荒野静修,受魔鬼试探。后来他当了老师,呼召门徒,教导人们关于天国的东西。耶稣亦医治病人,令死人复活。后来因为他的言论冲击政权,被判酷刑,被钉十架死了。圣经说他后来复活了,然后回到天家。

基督教有很多枝派,对于这故事各有类似但不同的理解。当代很多基督徒认为耶稣是神的儿子,被天父派来当救世主;世人充满罪恶性,耶稣钉十架是为了世人赎罪、是神恩的表现;基督徒只需信了耶稣是神,就得永生,死后就可以去天堂。 

但其实读读原本希腊文的圣经,就知道这个解释跟原文有点差异。耶稣是神还是人,其实我觉得不是重点。希腊古人说某人是神,意思大概就说他是人上人。因此我个人觉得基督徒的信仰不在于信耶稣是神,而是信赖和活用耶稣所教的圣灵生活。当基督徒最重要的使命就是模仿耶稣。

要了解耶稣的教导,可以看看「天国八幅」一段经文:

神貧的人是有福的,因为天国是他们的。
哀恸的人是有福的,因为他们要受安慰。
温良的人是有福的,因为他们要承受土地。
饥渴慕义的人是有福的,因为他们要得饱饫。
怜悯人的人是有福的,因为他们要受怜悯。
心裡潔淨的人是有福的,因为他们要看见天主。
締造和平的人是有福的,因为他们要称为天主的子女。
为义受迫害的人是有福的,因为天国是他们的。几时人为了我而辱骂迫害你们,捏造一切坏话毁谤你们,你们是有福的。你们欢喜踊跃罢!因为你们在天上的赏报是丰厚的,因为在你们以前的先知,人也曾这样迫害过他们。(马太福音5:3-12)

耶稣的这个信息是什么意思呢?耶稣当时当地的环境跟今天不一样,他所说的翻译了很多遍 ,翻译后可能失去原本的意思,所以需要细心研考。我就分享我自己最近阅读后的理解吧。

「神贫」是有福的。意思大概是虚心知道自己生命是神所赐,所以感受到生命的宝贵、神的恩典、自己的贫乏,而每逢意会到自己神贫时,就能进入天国。

「哀恸」是有福的。很多人遇到不畅快的事,就用各种方式去逃离痛苦,不想面对,不想哭。耶稣教导人去尽情地哭,哭完了就舒服点了。

「温良」是有福的。「温良」是于「热情」和「冷漠」之间的中庸之道。热情令人狂妄,可以成为一种自我。冷漠令人与世隔绝,也是一种自我。温柔的人才能放下自我,体会到万物的规律与美好。

「饥渴慕义」是有福的。饥渴的人一般都不会有福的。没饭吃、没水喝,多痛苦啊。很多人饥渴于金钱名利等,这些人感到满足吗?归根究底金钱名利没有永恒的意义。耶稣教导只有饥渴慕义得饱饫。 

「怜悯人」是有福的。怜悯就是原谅,放下自己与别人的过错,放下斤斤計較的欲望,意会到自己和别人的痛苦。原谅了自己、原谅了别人,不就舒服点了吗?

「心裡潔淨」是有福的。跟随耶稣就是时时培养与潔淨自己的心灵,这样才能亲近神、看到神。

「締造和平」是有福的。跟随耶稣,不单要灵修,更要接受締造和平的使命。和平包括一个人内心的和平,也包括人与人之间的和平。这不是一种消极的退隐 也不是表面的和谐。

「为义受迫害」是有福的。耶稣明明知道,他的言论挑战当权的宗教政治主流,但没有退缩,为拯救世人牺牲自己在十架上,因此十架就变成基督教的象征。

所以天国究竟是什么?就是凡亲有爱、有怜悯、有感恩的地方。天国里的人饥渴慕义、締造和平、愿意为义受迫害。

耶稣的教导当然还有很多。有兴趣的话,可以读读马太福音,或参考Jim Forest的“The Ladder of The Beatitudes"一书。

社會面對新挑戰 須3方面調整

香港地不少年輕人煩惱着買樓,但樓價卻節節上升,生活費用亦比工資漲得快,因而感受到很大的壓力。

學童讀書要面對緊張的家長和老師,服務業的朋友要面對不滿的老闆和客人,就連金融界的朋友也日夜擔憂將來如何競爭,大家都覺得生活變得乾燥無味。

面對內地衝擊 港困局猶如美國

回想13年前我出國留學之時,正值沙士年代,當年香港人的心態跟現在的差別很大。雖然當時經濟蕭條,但普遍市民還是覺得香港是一塊福地,認為中國的改革開放帶給了香港很多商機。可是香港經濟增長緩慢,再加上香港多次進入政治低壓帶,很多香港人對未來失去信心,甚至對我城不再感到自豪。看電視節目時,聽見藝員黃秋生說香港精神在於樂觀、能幹,感到有點詫異。13年前沙士時代的香港情懷是驚慌、恐懼,如今的情懷可能更是悲哀、憤怒。香港人哪裏樂觀?

我在美國專研經濟學,發現香港社會的狀況跟美國其實存在很多共同點。美國跟香港一樣,工資追不上時代,貧富懸殊日益嚴重,一般市民看不到向上流動的機會。兩地的社會亦分化和撕裂,泛起本土民粹思潮。而兩地的政經難題其中的一個重要因素,正是中國經濟急速現代化與全球化。身在香港和美國等已發展經濟體系的人民,突然要面對13億人口邁進現代國際勞工市場所帶來的競爭和文化衝突,並不是件簡單的事。

時移勢易 新生代拓視野創機遇

社會面對新挑戰,需要作出3方面的調整。第一,是個人心理上的調整,特別是對於自己人生預期的調整;我們要明白時勢的變遷並不是我們所能控制。驚慌、悲憤的情緒對大家都無補於事,我們必須要學會順水推舟。第二,是個人行動上的調整;世界潮流改變、科技發展一日千里,我們必須放眼世界,努力學習和改變自己。第三,是社會集體的調整:始終一個人的能力是有限,社會各界互相合作才能發揮出最大的效力。

先談談個人的調整吧。其實我覺得不少中產階層的香港人跟美國人十分相似,習慣了安逸穩定的生活,便喪失改變的慾望。現今世界的經濟形勢有所改變,內地的13億人口突然成了我們的競爭對手,同時更成了我們工作的服務對象。一份稱心如意的工作不再唾手可得,樓價高企亦令置業難於登天,以前所嚮往的理想生活忽然間好像變得望塵莫及,因而感到不快、甚至不忿,造就本土主義也不難理解。

香港人雖說是勤力務實,卻在新的大環境裏這麼苦惱,其中一個重要原因是廣及文化意識並沒有充分地為青年人在新經濟環境裏生活作出準備。我跟在國際和內地企業工作的朋友談話,往往說起企業需要具有國際語言能力和文化知識、適應力高、分析力強、能創新的員工,但在香港招聘時卻不見得順利,認為本地學生始終缺乏創新能力和國際視野世界知識,聘用的反而愈來愈多是內地大學的畢業生。時移勢易,若港人故步自封,思想及認知追不上市場需求,向上流動的機會恐怕只會愈來愈少。

與各地人交流 鞏國際都會地位

世界的科技發展和中國的日益強大都是改變不了的現實。年輕人要積極尋找工作機會和生活空間,眼光不能只放在香港這片彈丸之地,要懂得放下自己的恐懼、擔憂和偏見,敢於離開熟悉的環境去學習、去尋夢。家長為了孩子的未來,也要放心給孩子去闖一闖。這幾年來,小弟的童年朋友均到去了外地學習、工作,甚至創業,包括內地、東南亞地區、西方國家、印度、非洲等地。身處異鄉,他們的確遇上了許多考驗,尤其在文化衝擊及語言溝通上的挑戰特別大,但他們樂觀積極,勤於學習,把困難一一克服。經過幾年的磨練,他們的視野變得廣闊,累積的經驗也相對豐富,就業機會也隨之增加。

不跑到外地,留在香港,也可以多接觸在香港居住的外地人。最近跟本地大學生談話,發現香港學生一般都不跟內地留學生交往,對內地發展缺乏興趣,對於這現象我感到非常可惜。認識外地的文化及語言,跟外地的朋友交往,甚至到外地學習和實習,不是意味着被同化,也不代表離棄家鄉,而是從認識別人的觀點而加深自己的見解,建立跨文化互信與認知,創造跨邊界的合作機會。這不僅是個人事業的投資,更是貢獻香港社會、強化本地文化的重要事務。假如香港的年輕人對世界文化潮流一無所知,香港國際都會的地位能得以維持嗎?香港能繁榮地發展下去嗎?

政商攜手協力 創社會上流機會

培育人才不單是學校和家長的重任,各界精英亦責無旁貸。當美國經歷選舉風波以後,JPMorgan總裁Jamie Dimon跟股東發信,在討論美國社會問題時說:「面對今天社會的困局,商界和政府應攜手協力,推動人民能共享的經濟增長。這不能單靠政府或單靠企業來做。我們都必須共同努力,放棄我們『一切照舊』的做法。經濟機會短缺是社會道德危機,所有人都會受影響的。」

教育事務上,Dimon主張商界跟教育界合作,讓學校了解市場的需要,協助制定適當的課程及培訓教師,並作好準備僱用和栽培其學生。同時政府應推出良策,提高人口素質,推動經濟增長,創造向上流動的機會。適用於香港的政策,包括盡快解決房屋供應問題、廉價出售公屋扶貧、有效地培訓香港人才、促進香港與內地以及世界各地文化交流活動、大力吸收國內外的頂尖人才和積極提高各行各業的創新與競爭能力。

香港最重要的資本是人才。戰後的香港之所以能夠蓬勃發展,正是因為各地人才來港後,在這一個擁有開放的市場的社會裏找到發揮的機會。因此黃秋生將香港精神定義為樂觀、能幹,我其實非常認同。樂觀的人才會把握機會,勇敢嘗試、創新;能幹的人才會把生意、事業搞得好。沒有樂觀和能幹的人才,經濟活動就流走到別處去了。

摒棄舊思維冒險 投資人力資本

香港未來發展的關鍵因素依然是人才,特別是擁有中國、亞洲、甚至全球文化知識、賦有創新思維的人才。如果香港人敢於冒險,能作出恰當的人力資本投資,相信香港前途是無量的。但如果我們只眷戀過去的輝煌,用過時和狹窄的眼光看世界,不敢擺脫往日的行業和生活方式,就看不見未來輝煌的可能性,也作不出為未來發展所需的統籌。

面對逆境,我們這一代香港人,究竟會害怕和悲憤地往後看,還是會鼓起勇氣,重拾樂觀、能幹的香港精神,不怕艱難、無懼挫折地向前衝?

二零一七年九月十三號刊登於經濟日報

Jamie Dimon’s Centrist Agenda

I finally got around to reading JPMorgan Chase President & CEO Jamie Dimon’s 2017 annual letter to shareholders. It is required reading for anyone who is looking for hints as to where US politics is headed.

Dimon’s manifesto begins with an assessment of the strengths of American democracy today. He praises the US for having military and diplomatic strength, abundant resources, deep knowledge, rule of law, resilient democracy, work ethic, entrepreneurial spirit, as well as the world’s deepest and most well-functioning capital market.

He then points to various crises in the American polity. First, a dire need for educational investments. Second, infrastructural decay. Third, high corporate taxes reducing the competitiveness of the American economy. Fourth, dumb regulation damaging business formation.

Then something remarkable: He takes responsibility for the deep frustration expressed in the 2016 election, saying that the leaders of America’s institutions, including businesses, have not done a good enough job for our society. He writes: 

The lack of economic growth and opportunity has led to deep and understandable frustration among so many Americans. Low job growth, a lack of opportunity for many, declining wages, students and low-wage workers being left behind, economic and job uncertainty, high healthcare costs and growing income inequality all have created deep frustration. It is understandable why so many are angry at the leaders of America’s institutions, including businesses, schools and governments — they are right to expect us to do a better job. Collectively, we are the ones responsible. Additionally, this can understandably lead to disenchantment with trade, globalization and even our free enterprise system, which for so many people seems not to have worked. [Emphasis added.]

He proposes collaboration between the business sector and the public in fixing educational problems:

We need to work together to improve work skills. I cannot in this letter tackle the complex set of issues confronting our inner city schools, but I do know that if we don’t acknowledge these problems, we will never fix them… Businesses must be involved in this process. They need to partner with schools to let them know what skills are needed, help develop the appropriate curricula, help train teachers and be prepared to hire the students. In addition, this has to be done locally because that is where the actual jobs are. [Emphasis added.]

He advocates for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and demands sustained and improved management and corporate financing for infrastructural investments.

Infrastructure should not be a stop-start process but an ongoing endeavor whereby intelligent investments are made continuously. And the plan could also be sped up if necessary to help a weakening economy… Infrastructure, which could have a life of five to 50 years, should not be expensed as a government debt but should be accounted for as an investment that could be financed separately… It’s important to streamline the approval process, and approvals should run simultaneously and not sequentially…

Dimon then spends some time discussing need for better regulation and decrying how the business sector has become alienated in the public sphere.

Something has gone awry in the public’s understanding of business and free enterprise. Whether it is the current environment or the deficiency of education in general, the lack of understanding around free enterprise is astounding. When businesses or individuals in business do something wrong (problems that all institutions have, including schools, churches, governments, small businesses, etc.), they should be appropriately punished — but not demonized… A strong and vibrant private sector (including big companies) is good for the average American. Entrepreneurship and free enterprise, with strong ethics and high standards, are worth rooting for, not attacking.

The whole document is highly recommended: It is replete with references to credible research and interesting graphics on labor market and business trends. For instance, he includes this damning figure about the effect of regulation and litigation on the ease of starting a new business.

A Druckerian orthodoxy?

Dimon’s manifesto makes for interesting reading partly because of its ideological eclecticism. In one paragraph, Dimon sounds like a conservative emphasizing business formation and growth. In another, he sounds like a liberal demanding better inner-city schools and dignity for the workers. But this seeming eclecticism belies a unity to Dimon’s thinking. Throughout Dimon’s manifesto, one can hear echoes of the critique organizational thinker Peter Drucker posed against Milton Friedman’s libertarian worldview.

First, Dimon asserts that businesses are responsible to the greater community; and that what is good for America is good for business:

It is now more important than ever for the business community and government to come together and collaborate to find meaningful solutions and develop thoughtful policies that create economic growth and opportunity for all. This cannot be done by government alone or by business alone. We all must work together in ways that put aside our “business-as-usual” approaches. The lack of economic opportunity is a moral and economic crisis that affects everyone. There are too many people who are not getting a fair chance to get ahead and move up the economic ladder.

This assertion stands in opposition to the ideology that Milton Friedman propounded — that “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits.” In the past forty years, as financiers and politicians alike adopted Friedman’s unfettered market ideology, many business leaders have also retreated from engaging in civic life. In a break from this tradition, Dimon urges business leaders to get involved in tackling social problems. This follows Drucker’s belief that businesses have social responsibilities beyond their corporate mission. While Friedman assumed that social responsibilities should be taken up by the state, Drucker argued the state is too poorly organized to be able to take care of social responsibilities. Instead, the state’s work to solve social problems must be complemented by efforts by social enterprises, as well as business enterprises.

Second, unlike Reagan or Trump, Dimon does not seek to tear down or disable bureaucracy, but rather to streamline it, to reduce redundancies between the local and national levels, and to make fair and sensible rules and regulations that work for businesses and average Americans. This need and growing desire for “effective government” — an agenda item that Obama, Clinton, and Dimon share — was something Peter Drucker long ago noted in this remarkable 1995 essay:

By now it has become clear that a developed country can neither extend big government, as the (so-called) liberals want, nor abolish it and go back to nineteenth-century innocence, as the (so-called) conservatives want. The government we need will have to transcend both groups. The megastate that this century built is bankrupt, morally as well as financially. It has not delivered. But its successor cannot be “small government.” There are far too many tasks, domestically and internationally. We need effective government — and that is what the voters in all developed countries are actually clamoring for. [Emphasis added.]

Do Jamie Dimon's Ideas Stand a Chance?

As I have previously argued, today’s politics is pregnant for transformation and realignment. I believe these ideas that Jamie Dimon espouses stand a chance to become part of a new centrist governing orthodoxy.

Whereas both Bernie and Trump offered dystopian diagnoses and ideological panaceas, Dimon offers a clear-eyed, analysis-driven diagnosis of current national woes, along with a centrist vision and pragmatic policy solutions. By and large, I find myself agreeing with Dimon’s analysis of why small business owners are suffering and what forms of help should be given to the working poor. I can quibble with details, but overall, Dimon’s agenda makes the American economy fairer, more inclusive, more internationally competitive, and more dynamic. In my mind, Dimon’s shareholder letter may be the beginnings of a political platform that could command a broad-based coalition.

What’s more, I am hopeful that Dimon possesses both the intellect and the moral character to be a person to lead such efforts. His track record at JPMorgan Chase, a very well-run bank, illustrates his capability as an executive. But more than this, he has quite an attractive public persona, too. To see this, watch his interview with David Rubenstein:

The video is quite remarkable. Dimon has charisma and folksy appeal. He has an incredible ability to make incisive arguments about complex issues. In this aspect, he is very much like Bill Clinton or Barack Obama, other brainy political upstarts who seized the Democratic nomination. I imagine that, if Dimon chooses to enter the fray as a presidential candidate and spend sufficient hours talking at town halls and schools in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will have little trouble getting his points across to voters.

The major obstacle that Dimon faces is his identity as a banker. Many of my friends will be horrified at the prospect of a banker leading this country. In a sense, their concerns are valid: The “revolving door” between government and financiers among the “corporatist elite ruling class” seems very unfair in light of ordinary American being left behind. If we believe that bankers are corrupt and that they only look after their own, then a banker as president is surely yet another sign that the system is completely corrupt and rigged.

But the problem with excluding bankers from policy making is that dumb financial regulation stifles the economy and solidifies monopolies, making society even less fair. Designing a better, more equitable system requires a group of people who both deeply understand how the US economy works and are deeply committed to the public interest. This is precisely what Peter Drucker believed: that healthy societies require active private sector participation in public affairs. We do need moral and civic-minded bankers to help design good policy. My fear is that it is too late for any such Druckerian vision to prevail, given the anger and mistrust of elites in the wake of the Financial Crisis especially among those hard hit by globalization, both on the Right and the Left.

Having been selected as chairman of the Business Roundtable last year, a traditionally conservative pro-business lobby group representing CEOs of major corporations, Dimon has a perch using which he can seek to start building a coalition. He’s already used this perch to hire an experience Washington hand and reach out to labor unions, as reported by Business Insider. What else will come out of his effort remains to be seen. Whether Dimon succeeds depends on his ability to earn the trust of insiders through his coalition-building work on the Capitol Hill in these coming few years, as well as his ability to sell his vision to voters.

In any case, I think Jamie Dimon’s growing political involvement is probably a good thing. I hope he succeeds. It’s good to get a bunch of smart and capable people together to find and implement pragmatic solutions to America’s problem, and that’s exactly what he is trying to do.