最近看 iTunes U 裡面一堂 Yale University 的 Financial Theory 課程裡面說，他們的經濟系直到十年前才有像這門一樣的財務課程。他們的理由是覺得財務課太 "vocational"，言下之意是跟他們的教學目標不合。如果要唸財務，大學畢業後可以去唸 business school。Yale 的大學部教育看來重視的是張忠謀董事長所提的那後面兩點，不過他們的經濟系畢業生其實並不缺乏謀生能力。沒有人規定大學在培養學生的人文素養與科學精神的時候，就要同時扼殺他們的謀生能力。事實上，如果大學所教的只是讓學生去背誦準則與條文，甚至要學生熟悉考古題以考上證照，而不了解現行準則和條文背後的意義以及進一步思考各種可能的應用，學生的謀生能力只是短暫的，無法跟上時代的變遷。培養學生的邏輯思考能力和終生學習的興趣，他們一輩子都不會在職場上落伍。
首先是課徵資本利得稅 (capital gain tax) 跟財團的關係。一般對於資本利得稅的定義是針對非存貨的資產販賣所產生的利潤課稅，最常看到的是股票和債券等金融證券類的資產。台灣有不少老牌的傳統產業公司有早年留下來的土地、廠房資產，如果他們把這些財產處分掉，資本利得稅是可以課到他們頭上。除了這些情況以外，大部分正派經營的公司除了金融業以外不應該有太多股票和債券等的交易，所以資本利得稅與他們關係不大。公司生產產品或服務然後販售是不能算做資本利得的。資本利得主要課到的還是一般買賣金融商品的民眾和金融業，而且後者還有可能因為跟公司稅重疊而有相當程度減免，恐怕不能達到『濟貧』的效果。
目前資本利得稅這個話題因為立院新科立委總質詢，一直有人拿出來談。我對股票這部份不太確定怎麼做比較好，因為如果要實行證券所得稅，就應該要放棄證券交易稅，否則雙管齊下會讓台灣股市窒息。證券所得稅以現在的技術來講應該課徵本身沒有問題，但是衍生出來的資本減損抵稅 (capital loss credit) 要如何處理也很重要。如果採取減損退稅，在股市表現不好的時候，國家的稅收可能還會比現在收證交稅還低。從公平的角度來看不是問題，但如果因為這方面稅收減少而必須從其他地方來補，恐怕就不是大家所樂見的了。房地產課徵資本利得我比較沒有問題，這會讓資源不至於過度流向這個已經有泡沫化疑慮的市場。但是在技術上面問題比較大，因為我國過去一直沒有實價登錄的規定，現在才要開始。不要說這個稅立法八字都還沒有一撇，就算是真的要開始立法，最後也可能排除自用住宅、排除某個時間點以前買的，結果只能課徵到那些做房地產交易的『大戶』。對這些人課稅我也沒有問題，他們對社會的貢獻有限，沒有他們對經濟的影響也不大。不過要從這些人手上課稅，恐怕也課不到可以挽救高等教育的份量。
再來是跟『財團』課稅這一點。所有劫富濟貧的觀念都強調『公平』，但是有一百萬的人就有一百萬種不同的公平。推到一個極端是所有人不分賢愚不肖都課徵同等的金額。這當然不可行，要不然每到課稅季節就有許多人要申請破產去當遊民。所有的國家的做法都是有錢人多繳一些，沒錢人少繳甚至不繳，特別弱勢的還可以拿到一點補貼以滿足生活最基本的需求。多繳少繳到底繳多少要怎麼決定？如果採用相同的稅率，似乎也還可以說是某種平等，這樣做的地方不多，不過在經濟學這個領域裡有不少人認為應該這樣做。在美國總統共和黨初選早期，這個話題曾經搬上台面來過，目前領先的幾個人或早或晚都支持過單一稅率。在台灣以及美國目前的做法都還是使用累進稅率，只要稅法裡面漏洞少，大致上有錢人比沒錢人適用更高一些的邊際稅率 (前一陣子在吵的 Romney 的稅率過低那件事情是因為稅法的漏洞和資本利得稅率低於所得稅造成的，共和黨的意見是藉由單一稅率希望簡化稅法並減少各種各樣例外條款所產生的漏洞)。累進稅率其實說不上什麼公平與否的問題，只是能者多勞，而且扣完稅後有錢人的收入還是比收入低的人來的高一些。如果要有錢人再多繳一點，也許是反應社會上的需求，但是不要說什麼公平與否的問題。稅率提高往往會阻礙工作意願，千萬不能天真的以為稅基不會因為稅率而改變。順著這個方向一路推到另外一個極端就是人民公社，大家『各盡所能，各取所需』。在傳統的農業社會裡日子可能是這樣過的，不過在蘇聯和中國的實驗後，我們已經很清楚的看到這種做法不可行了。
台灣目前的就業問題其實跟美國類似。他們有許多製造業甚或依附著製造業的服務業因為工資水準和中國相差太遠所以整廠外移。台灣的薪資水準沒有差那麼多，不過因為離中國近，語言又相通，情況比美國只會更糟。在這次的美國總統大選裡我們看到不少人開藥方，有效無效姑且不論，只要有藥方總是可以看看是否合用。有一個方向是增加教育補貼（很抱歉，是『職訓化』或『商品化』的那種教育），這個在台灣可能用處不大，因為我們的教育成本比美國低，所以平均水準未必輸人。還有一個方向是對製造業提供稅務補貼。這部份爭議較多，Professor Christina Romer 在 New York Times 2/4/2012, "Do manufacturers need special treatment?" 裡認為不用，不過有不少不同意見，其中之一是認為製造業對於上下游甚至研發有外部性。群聚效果我們都知道，不過研發我希望能夠看到更多的證據再說。在選舉之前應該還會有更多的討論，我們都應該仔細想想。以台灣目前的情況來說，既然傳統的路不容易走，也應該思考一下如何引進資金幫助創業。
This is a really interesting topic and one that will have lasting impact for years to come. One quick question for CCLu:
Should an affordable and accessible higher education be a right or a privilege?
I don't think it is a right/privilege dichotomy, but I stand much closer to the privilege end.
It requires talent to participate in a program of higher education, any program. Some ask more, some take less, but we cannot get any random person to study in a college and expect she/he can graduate with ease or at all.
Money is a more complicated problem. We hate to see a talented but poor kid not be able to afford college. In such case, scholarships and student loans should step up.
I have little to say about scholarship. It is some sort of charity so the market plays a much smaller role in it, if any.
Student loan is a different story. It is a sort of business which disguises itself as a charity, but it is still business in essence. There are disciplines which are more difficult to make money than others. I'm sorry to say this but these fields are more suitable for people who are from money. That can also serve as redistribution of wealth.:p
Good thoughts as usual, CCLu. I am largely in agreement with you. However...
>>There are disciplines which are more difficult to make money than others. I'm sorry to say this but these fields are more suitable for people who are from money. That can also serve as redistribution of wealth.:p<<
I guess that you are referring to Liberal Arts majors here, no? As I get older and perhaps mellower(a big IF), I have come to appreciate the humanity disciplines more. Money is what puts food on the table and roof over the head, but it is the arts that feed the soul. Yes, I am fully aware that it is a rich man's/country's problem.
Full disclosure: I am married to a Liberal Arts major.
Well, just to chip in a little bit. I WAS a liberal arts major and I am in corporate finance now because I don't have a welloff family to support me after graduating from schools and I don't like academic jobs. (I guess working in academia is mostly the best job around if you are a liberal arts major.) I need to make both ends meet and surprisingly it turns out that I like finance :-) I found it very important to have different perspectives than the regular money business people and that helps me a lot.
Yes I agree.
My point is there are less people willing to buy a painting or even a duplicate than people who want to buy an iPhone. The total monetary value of iPhones sold is also higher than paintings each year. This fact tells us that we need more engineers than painters, but it didn't say we don't need any painter at all.
Where there is demand, there should be supply as long as it is profitable. I'm just saying those disciplines which are in lower demand should have properly adjusted their size.
As the next comment says, you don't match a student's major and her future job in a rigorous way. Someone can study liberal arts in college and still find a "real job" with or even without an advanced degree in business or law. Public and even some private schools have serious problems in allocating their resources, they need to do a better job to use scarce resources.
Thanks for your insight. Once upon a time, it only took a high school diploma to be a trader, now we have Ivy League B-School graduates competing for the same job. It is nice to see someone with different education and perspective in the fold. At the end of the day, finance is still about people, not equations or numbers. To have too many people in the similar mindset is not a good idea.
Just to clarify a little bit, I was a liberal art major but then decided to get a B-school degree after I moved to the US. I don't think I can get my current position without that business school degree. But my background in liberal arts did help me in the
b-school application because the school looks for applicants coming from different disciplines and backgrounds.
Thanks for your disclosure.
This makes me think about a decision my department made. Back in the days when derivatives were relatively new and hot in Taiwan, we (in fact, I was not included) tried to lure students with engineering or science background to get into the program. It was done with varying degrees of success over years.
A few years later, we found that it is very difficult to teach students with so different backgrounds in the same classroom and we changed the entrance exam to suit college grads from the finance related disciplines again. Starting this year.
We'll see how that works out. I will not bet on it.
The best career advice I got in B-school was from the CEO of a tech company during his recruiting visit. At the time, management consulting and investment banking jobs had the highest starting salaries, and this tech CEO told us: the reason that these guys pay you this much money is because their jobs suck!
While he certainly exaggerated a bit with his proclamation, his message was clear - do what you love and money will follow.
CCLu, I have a couple of derivative-related questions for you:
- How mature is Taiwan's derivative market?
- What kind of products are available in Taiwan?
I can only say we have derivatives here. The trading of futures/options on individual stocks is probably as thin as it possibly can. Futures and options on the market index are only products with significant trading volumes.
We have basic options and futures on the market index, important sectors and a limited amount of big firms. The liquidity of the market still heavily depends on individual investors. It is not easy to talk someone into investing things he doesn't understand. If we cannot describe the concept of options in a way that even our grandma can understand, there is not much chance in it.
There are always other kind of OTC derivatives. Most of them are used to hedge business risks (oil price, exchange rate, etc). I don't have precise figures in that, but I believe we don't have a lot of speculative investments in commodity derivatives. Most of these deals are not initiated by domestic banks anyway.
We have derivatives in our B-school as an elective course, but I think that's too much for me so I didn't pick it, although my focus was in accounting and finance too. Just curious why if the approach "was done with varying degrees of success over years" but then later on the department found it necessary to make changes? I am not quite getting this. Are you talking about grad school program for Econ degree?
We did attract some engineering school college graduates to our program (MS. in finance), which is the goal. Some of them did work on derivatives.
However, we don't really have a special program designed for derivatives. They still have to study different aspects in finance with other students. I don't know why but people who study derivatives in Taiwan tend to care only about the models. Some of them don't care about other things in the real world. A few years ago a student can only excel in calculus to get into our master program. He can know very little about economics or finance. It is very difficult to teach a class with students having so different backgrounds.
Thanks for the info, CCLu.
Not sure if you have read it but below is a good book(a bit dated, from 2007, but still a great read) from an insider on the derivative market.
Forgot to ask a couple follow-up question.
>>The liquidity of the market still heavily depends on individual investors<<
I have heard this comment about the Taiwanese market from others as well. My questions are:
- Are institutions strictly buy and hold type of investors?
- Do institutions mostly invest in bonds only?
Thanks for the information about the book. It was on my Amazon recommendation list for a while, but I didn't know if it is worth reading. I bought it now but I don't know when I'll start reading it. Frankly, I'm so behind on my reading list. There is always a work-related paper or textbook cutting into the line.
Individual investors once took 90% of the trading volume in Taiwan. I read it in an article a few years ago that it was down to somewhere around 50%. This is mainly equity, though.
Derivatives are a different story. Institutional investors probably do not like to make trades with the market maker because they usually are not equipped with savvy derivative traders as the market maker does. I don't see them making speculative bets. If they trade, I'd guess it's for hedging. The trading volume has to come from the market maker and individual investors. However, even plain vanilla derivatives are probably still too difficult for ordinary individual investors to understand. This market is pretty much dead on arrival in Taiwan. It made a fuss a few years ago because it was new and exciting, and that was that.
Institutional investors have their obligation to buy bonds (BASIL II is the key), they also hold a lot of equities. Holding foreign assets is not a bad idea either. Since we have a security transaction tax in Taiwan (0.3% of the trading price), it is not a good idea to conduct HFT here. Most of the trades will be held for more than a day, if not longer. I wouldn't call them buy and hold investors because they might not hold onto their position for longer than a month or even a week, but the average holding period is much longer than the one in the U.S..
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