第2課: 稀少性, 機會識别和資源分配

作為一門社會科學學科, 經濟學擁有自身的歷史、理論傳統、關注範疇、重點概念、主要數據以及研究方法。同樣地, 其他社會科學學科如心理學、社會學及政治學亦道如是。它們都有各自理解社會和世界的一套理論。在這世界裡, 人類與其行為的表現模式是主要的考慮。不過, 作為社會科學學科,它們都會著重量化分析及以實證作依據。當然,在各學科中也有持著以人文精神的角度來理解人性,不會單以科學的方法來解釋。

Economics is a social science discipline with her own history, theoretical traditions, subjects of interest, key concepts, major figures, and methodologies. Similarly, other social science disciplines such as psychology, sociology, and political science are more or less the same. Each has her own set of constructs used in understanding our social world, unlike the natural world, in which humans and their actions in different manifestations are of primary concerns. Nevertheless, as social science disciplines they all share the same approach to put heavy emphasis on the use of quantitative and empirical methods in the study of their subject matters, which means the construction and validation of their theories have to be mathematically formulated and falsifiable by observable and repeatable procedures. Certainly, there are always exceptions to this view of human nature within the different disciplines that would adopt a more humanistic perspective that underplays the scientific approach.

在經濟學裡, 我們主要考慮如何分配稀缺的資源來滿足人類的慾望和需要。 鑑於來源供應或生產有限, 資源是匱乏的。天然資源, 例如從土地或海洋底可獲得的礦物質及化石燃料, 並不是用之不竭的。環境污染也讓新鮮空氣及水源變得越來越難獲得和昂貴。

In economics, the primary concerns involve the allocation of scarce resources to meet human wants and needs. Resources are scarce because their origin or production are of limited supply. Natural resources that come from the ground or the sea such as minerals and fossil fuels are not inexhaustible. Due to environmental pollution, even fresh air and water has also become increasingly hard and costly to obtain.

除了天然資源, 我們也要整合生產資源來製造産品和服務。這些資源(即土地、勞動力、資金、 創業家精神)是生產要素, 而生產要素也是有限的。舉例而言, 很多年輕人會從偏遠的內地村落遷到城市工作。因此, 村子裡年青勞動力不足, 難以吸引外商設廠。

Besides natural resources, there are production resources that need to be harnessed and combined to produce goods and services. These resources are factors of production (i.e. land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship) which are also limited in supply. For example, a remote village in rural China where most young people may have gone to the cities to work will have a difficult time supplying fresh workforce to attract foreign investment to set up a factory there.

由於資源缺乏, 創業家需解決三個基本問題, 以確保有效的資源分配:

● 為誰生產
● 生產什麼
● 如何生產 



Due to scarcity in resources, three basic questions have to be answered to ensure effective and efficient allocation:

• For whom to produce
• What to produce
• How to produce

這三條問題可從經濟層次和創業家層次回答。對於中央計劃經濟而言, 這些答案是由中央政府或擁權者決定。對於由企業運營的自由經濟體, 卻是由個人決定。創業家要選擇用有限的資源去生產什麼物品。

These three questions can be answered at the economy level and also at the entrepreneur level. In a centrally planned economy, the three basic questions are determined by a central government or authority. In a free economy where the entrepreneurs operate, such decisions are done by individual choice. The entrepreneurs must choose what to produce given limited resources.

作為創業家, 他需要了解願意購買商品或服務的目標顧客(為誰生產商品或服務)。隨著目標顧客的不同, 商品可以是消費商品或資本商品。消費商品是供家庭使用的, 而資本商品是供應給企業生產其他物品及服務用的。牙刷是消費商品, 而工廠裝配線的機器和工具則是資本商品。所以, 創業家需決定公司到底是售賣消費商品的B­to­C(公司對消費者)還是售賣資本商品的B­to­B(公司對公司)。創業家要確保價錢對目標顧客是負担得來, 也要保證公司有足夠的訂單。

As an entrepreneur, one has to know the target customers (for whom the product or service should be produced) who are willing to buy one’s products or services. Depending on the target customers, the offering can be consumer goods or capital goods. Consumer goods are produced for personal use by households, whereas, capital goods are produced for the production of other goods and services by businesses. Our toothbrush is an example of consumer good and the heavy machineries and tools used in factory assembly lines are examples of capital goods. So an entrepreneur has to determine whether one is conducting a B-to-C (business to consumer) operation selling consumer goods or a B-to-B (business to business) operation selling capital goods. Either way, the entrepreneur has to ensure the price is acceptable to the target customers and there are enough orders from them to keep the business going.

新產品或服務的需求總是充滿未知數。作為創新的中介, 創業家需決定生產什麼產品或服務以收穫最高回報。由於資源稀少, 生產某樣物品就意味著放棄生產其他東西的機會。創業家會選擇生產帶來最大回報(相對放棄的機會成本而言)的物品或服務。

As there are always uncertainties in the demand for new product or service, being an agent of innovation, an entrepreneur has to decide what product or service to produce will yield the highest return on investment given equally high risk of failure. As a result of scarcity, every decision to produce something implies a decision to forgo the opportunity to produce other things. Preferably, an entrepreneur should choose to produce goods or services that yield the maximum return related to the opportunity cost forgone.

利潤是創業家面對風險的回報。

Profit is the return to the risk taken by entrepreneur.

創業家精神是一個生產要素。他決定了如何組合其他生產要素, 如土地、勞動力和資金,為現存市場引入創新或創造一個新市場。因為生產要素組合繁多, 創業家們需要有充足知識去列出他可有的選擇。

Entrepreneurship is a factor of production that determines how the other factors of production such as land, labour, and capital should be combined to bring innovation to an existing market or the creation of a new market. As there are many ways to combine the factors of production, an entrepreneur has to be knowledgeable to list all the alternatives.

公司應從網上眾籌平台集資、銀行信貸額度、天使投資還是親友獲得資金? 所有生產是否都在公司內部進行, 還是把部分外判給承包商? 那部分應被外判?生產應是高度自動化還是由人手操作? 生產應在香港或是在租金和工資較低的內地偏遠地區? 遙距生產是否可能? 要回答這些問題, 我們要知道可替代的選擇和相關費用以作直接比較。成本效益分析對決定總利潤是否超過總開支很有幫助。

Should the business obtain fund from crowd funding platform, a bank’s line of credit, angel investment, or money borrowed from friends and relatives? Should the production be totally performed in-house or partially outsourced to outside contractors? If yes, which part should be outsourced? Should production be highly automated or heavily manual? Where should production take place, Hong Kong or mainland where rent and labour are cheaper? Is it possible to produce remotely? To answer these questions, knowing the alternatives and the costs associated for direct comparison will give a better picture. Cost-Benefit analysis is a useful method for comparison to determine if the total benefits outweigh total costs.

盈虧平衡點在成本效益分析中非常重要。盈虧平衡點是指總收入和總開支的交匯點。我們要畫出總收入線和總開支線去找出重疊處。總收入線是按生產單位數量及不同定價繪製的, 而總支出線則按總開支(固定成本加可變成本)及生產數量畫出。平衡點以上的區域代表著總收入多於總開銷, 亦即有利潤。

Essential to cost-benefit analysis is the determination of the break-even point where total revenue intersects with total cost. To determine the break-even point, the total revenue line and total cost line have to be plotted to find out where they overlap. The total revenue line is plotted by corresponding the number of units produced at different price point. Whereas, the total cost line is plotted by associating the total cost (fixed cost + variable cost) of production with different quantity. The area above the break-even point where total revenue exceeds total cost shows the profit.

固定成本是生產招致的開支, 和生產數量無關。例如, 租金被視為一種固定成本, 因為它的金額與生產的數量並無關聯。另一方面, 可變成本是指每多生產一個單位所要花的成本。材料是它的其中一種。每增加一個生產單位都會消耗額外的材料。

Fixed cost is the cost incurred in production regardless of the number of units produced. For example, rent is considered a fixed cost because the amount paid for occupying the space is not dependent on quantity produced. On the other hand, variable cost is the cost incurred in producing each additional unit. For example, material is a variable cost. Each additional unit of production will consume additional unit of material.

沉沒成本是已經付出且不可收回的成本。技術一旦被對手申請專利, 科技的研發開支便會成為沈沒成本。這是因為專利會阻礙後來者把技術商品化。

Sunk cost is the cost that cannot be recovered once spent. The R&D expenditure into a technology that has already been patented by a competitor will incur a sunk cost that cannot be recovered. Because the competitor’s patent will prohibit the commercialization of the technology by the late comer.

邊際成本是指每一新增生產的産品為總成本所帶來的额外成本。但對資訊產品而言,固定成本很高,但變動及邊際成本很低,差點可以達到零的水平。所以用成本定價,會對如軟件及数碼內容等產品不管用,用對客户的價值來定價較為可取。

Marginal cost is the cost involved in making one additional unit. For information goods, the fixed costs are usually very high but the marginal costs are very low, almost close to zero. Therefore, the use of cost-based pricing with a percentage markup on unit cost to each item sold just does not work well with this kind of business such as software and any digital content. So the use of value-based pricing is more preferable in this circumstance.

扼要
1. 經濟學是一門社會科學學科。它主要探討匱乏資源的分配以滿足人類的慾望和需要。
2. 創業家需要決定如何組合生產資源, 如土地、勞動力及資金, 為市場迎來創新, 並滿足目標顧客的需要。
3. 創業家像經濟體一樣, 要回應三大經濟問題:為誰生產、生產什麼、如何生產。
4. 對創業家而言, 機會成本牽涉投資回報及其他放棄了的選項的比較。
5. 盈虧平衡點以上的區域對成本利潤分析非常重要, 因為它反映總收入多於總開支。
6. 總開支包括固定成本和可變成本。企業家也會在生產時考慮沉沒成本, 因為它不能被收回。

Major points to recap
1. Economics is a social science discipline that primarily concerns the allocation of scarce resources to meet human wants and needs.
2. An entrepreneur has to decide how production resources such as land, labour, and capital should be combined to bring innovation to the market to meet the needs of one’s target customers.
3. Like an economy, an entrepreneur has to respond to three basic economic questions: For whom to produce; What to produce; How to produce.
4. To an entrepreneur, opportunity cost involves comparing the return (profit) on investment relative to the other alternatives forgone under risk for maximum gain.
5. Essential to cost-benefit analysis is the determination of area above the break-even point where total revenue exceeds total cost.
6. Total cost includes fixed cost and variable cost. In addition to total cost, sunk cost is also a cost that entrepreneurs would consider in production because it can never be recovered.

問題
1. 網上的內容非常豐富, 那什麼資源變得稀少呢?
2. 社會創業家不會為利益最大化而放棄他們的社會任務。這對資源分配有什麼暗示?
3. 一個開發網上學習平台的創業家, 他的機會成本是什麼?
4. 網絡遊戲的固定成本和沈沒成本分別是什麼? 遊戲開發商在進入市場時要承擔什麼風
險?

Questions
1. Due to the abundant supply of free content on the network, what has become “scarce”?
2. Social entrepreneurs will not give up their social mission for profit maximization. What is the implication of this on resources allocation?
3. What is the opportunity cost of an entrepreneur who does e-learning?
4. What are the fixed costs and sunk costs of an online game? What are the risks of a game developer in entering this market?