Panda Economics – Lessons from 看熊猫 & 红烧熊猫

First off all ladies and gentlemen, this is a post about Panda Economics after reading the interesting “本博客管理员新春日记” and NOT an entry about Prada Economics (see entry here). Now, I hope you will have as much fun in reading it as I had in writing it. now, I have two panda economics observations.

First panda economics observation,

电视播放到一则新闻,是台湾人春节期间去动物园看熊猫,抱怨时间太短的事。教授看了一眼,道:“真是蠢到死。为什么不分开两个时段,一个时段收价三千台币,可看半个小时,并供应座位、茶水;一个时段免费开放,排队轮候,随他们去打架争抢?”

My comment here is that while extreme solution like this may solve the superficial problem of visiting time of panda but solutions like this may “hurt” the societal sense of “fairness” or “fair play”. While the allocation of resources may be best and most determined by people’s willingness to pay with money, I submit that impossible to measure sense of “fairness to all” may be equally or more important in a society. And Canada is, I believe and hope, one of the society that respect and have an innate sense of fairness and equality embedded in our beings (and legally our section 15 equality rights). Incidentally, in 2005, I had the pleasure to attend a lecture by leading Canadian constitutional expert Prof. Peter Hogg at U of Calgary. Prof. Hogg gave an engaging and insightful lecture about section 15 of the Charter. (If you are interested here are two articles written in this issue of U of A Faculty of Law Students’ Newspaper (PDF file).)

Anyway, Canadians’ universal health care coverage is the envy of many people of the world, including many Americans with insufficient or no health insurance coverage wish they were Canadians. Now, before you imagine I think the Canadian system is without flaws, I would like to point out I know we have problems. But then I will tell you to go ask those Americans that have insufficient or no health care coverage would they rather have theirs or our system? (smile)

In a very short handed way to touch upon the Canadian paradox, I want to say I enjoy the subversive humour in The Barbarian Invasions by Canadian director Denys Arcand. In the film, while the Remy is determined to fight his terminal cancer in a Canadian hospital (well, darn it, he paid taxes for years for medicare and he wants to use it), but the over crowding hospital rooms and hallways are horrible, so his option-trading rich-and-handsome American-citizen son proceeds to bribe, negotiate, pull strings to get his father the biggest room, best services, and prompt access to state of the art medical equipment (in the US) that he wants his father to have. (Yes, Arcand is subversive. And this is our we show we love our health care system! (smile))

So in short, I know some of the problems in the Canadian medical systems but I won’t trade it for anywhere else’s health care system and definitely not the HMOs in US. Plus, ah, I enjoy fairness. I enjoy the fact that former Prime Minister of Canada got the same access as every other Canadians do, no queue jumping, purely depending on equal access and our medical urgency on a case by case basis.

Now, second panda observation,

我们大笑之下,教授继续发挥:“有一次去四川,他们说这里有很多很多熊猫。我问:‘很多是多少?’他们说:‘多得不得了。’我再问:‘你们这里有红烧熊猫这道菜吗?’他们说没有。这就证明其实不多嘛。”

Now, from the creative fire of “你们这里有红烧熊猫这道菜吗?’”and pushing the idea one step further, I will change the question to “红烧熊猫这道菜多少錢一碟?”

The officials won’t have the answer to this one but some “bad” people may. You see, there are people in the world that will take the legal risk to eat endangered species (animals or plants). Correct me if I am wrong, but I remembering the new year’s favourite “髮菜” is an endangered dessert plant, so the harvesting of it has now been banned. But you see, there are still people selling and buying them for a price.

So the question of “红烧熊猫这道菜多少錢一碟?” has embedded in it the signal of the people’s willingness to take risk and be caught (and probably be executed) to make money. Blood money indeed. You see, for some years, the trading of tusk (象牙) has been banned by countries around the world via a UN convention (I think) but the harvesting and trading for the illegal tusks continued for some years with a price premium (I think).

As Steven had taught me through his articles, I see ‘你们这里有红烧熊猫这道菜吗?’ as a yes/no question. Whereas “红烧熊猫这道菜多少錢一碟?” is a question that has the additional details and hidden signal that a “price” is bringing me.

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