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经济学人:永无止境的欲望

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Books and Arts; Book Review;Money and the markets

文艺;书评;货币与市场

Insatiable longing

永无止境的欲望

Two new books probe the limits of capitalism

两本新书带领我们探索资本主义的底线

How Much Is Enough? Money and the Good Life. By Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky.

《多少钱才算够?钱财与好生活》 罗伯特?斯基德尔斯基与爱德华·斯基德尔斯基著。
And What Money Can't Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets. By Michael Sandel.
《钱财所不能买:市场的道德底线》 迈克尔·桑德尔著。

Most policymakers, and the economists who advise them, believe that the rich Western economies have suffered a mechanical malfunction. With the right monetary, fiscal and regulatory tools, the growth machine will eventually whirr into life. Others think the West's true malaise is not mechanical but moral: a love of money, markets and material things.

西方大国经济就像是一台机器。许多决策者,和作为顾问的经济学家认为这台机器运转出现问题。采用合适的货币,财政政策,配合上监管机制,问题才能得以解决,经济才会蒸蒸日上。其他人则认为西方国家并不是运转出现问题,而是道德出现问题:永无止境地追求财富,市场和物质,这才是问题。

“How Much Is Enough?” and “What Money Can't Buy” are well-argued versions of this second view. In the former, Robert and Edward Skidelsky, a father-and-son pair of British academics, take as their text an essay written in 1930 by John Maynard Keynes. Keynes (of whom the elder Skidelsky has written a three-volume biography) mused that within a century “the economic problem” would be solved: in rich countries people would be at least four times wealthier, on average, and have to work perhaps 15 hours a week. He looks right about living standards, but horribly wrong about working hours.

《多少钱才算够?》和《钱财所不能买》两本书对第二种观点进行很好的论证。罗伯特·斯基德尔斯基和爱德华·斯基德尔斯基两人是英国大学教师,父子二人合作共同写成《多少钱才算够?》此书。新书以约翰·梅纳德·凯恩斯于1930年写的一篇论文为背景(老斯基德尔斯基曾为凯恩斯写过一部三卷的传记)。凯恩斯猜想一百年以内“经济问题”将会得以解决,富国人民至少富裕四倍;平均下来,每周大概只需工作15个小时。对于生活水平,凯恩斯是猜对了,但是对于工作时间,凯恩斯却是大错特错。

In the rich world the modern economic problem, the Skidelskys say, is how to live well amid plenty, not how to survive amid scarcity. Yet the West still chases slavishly after ever-higher gross domestic product, a purely material measure that takes no account of the blessings of nature or leisure. Humanity has become insatiable, in short. It is time to stop and rediscover the “good life”. This they identify with a list of “basic goods”: health, security, respect, “personality” (autonomy, if you prefer), harmony with nature, and leisure.

斯基德尔斯基父子认为富国的现代经济问题是如何在富裕中更好生活,而非如何于贫瘠中生存。但是西方国家仍盲目追求更高的国内生产总值,他们完全以物质衡量一切,无视自然和放松为我们带来的益处。简而言之,人性变得贪得无厌。我们应该停下脚步,重新发掘“生活中的美好事物”。有人还列了一张表叫《生活必备的美好事物》,其中包括健康,安全保障,尊重,“自我个性”(如果你喜欢,可以称之为自我把握),与大自然的协调,还有身心放松的状态。

You might expect the Skidelskys to make common cause with those economists who believe that maximising “happiness” should be the goal of public policy. Not a bit of it. What makes people happy, they argue, is not necessarily good. They have little time for statistical measures of happiness—or the pursuit of any single metric. That would imply that the elements of the good life could be traded off against each other, which they deny. Nor do the Skidelskys ally themselves with environmentalists. Greens reject growth because they believe it cannot be sustained without wrecking the planet. But what if it can? Better, say the Skidelskys, to pursue the good life for its own sake.

一些经济学家认为公共政策的目标是将幸福最大化。你或许会以为斯基德尔斯基父子会与这些经济学家有所合作。那你们就想错了。父子提出理由说明使人们幸福的事物并不一定是美好的事物。他们没有时间进行数据统计衡量幸福,也没有时间衡量其他事物。那说明生活的美好元素是可以相互平衡协调,对此父子两人不以肯定。两人也没有与环保学家合作。环保人士否定经济增长的意义,因为他们认为经济要持续增长就必须破坏地球。但是如果不用破坏地球呢?斯基德尔斯基父子说,那最好只为生活而追求美好生活。

Capitalism, they note, has “made possible vast improvements in material conditions”, but it also fuels human insatiability. One way it does this is by “increasingly ‘monetising' the economy”. Monetisation is what vexes Michael Sandel, a Harvard political philosopher, in “What Money Can't Buy”. Mr Sandel poses a single question: has the role of markets spread too far?

他们指出资本主义已经“最大程度地改善物质生活”,但同时资本主义也使人的欲望变本加厉,其中的途径之一就是“以财富衡量经济。”哈佛大学政治哲学家,迈克尔·桑德尔在《钱财所不能买》中提到“一切向钱看齐”,这种思想让他很恼火。桑德尔先生提出一个问题:如今市场的作用是否过大?

He argues that it has, and packs his book with examples. Some, such as the sale of a poor man's kidney for transplanting into a rich man's body, will make many people squirm. Others, such as the sale of naming rights for sports stadiums, may yield only a resigned shrug. But almost all give pause for thought. Mr Sandel poses two objections consistently. One is inequality: the more things money can buy, the more the lack of it hurts. The other Mr Sandel calls “corruption”: buying and selling can change the way a good is perceived. Paying people to give blood does not work. Giving schoolchildren money as an incentive to read books may make reading a chore rather than a lifelong pleasure.

他认为是的,并且在书中提出大量论据。例如,贩卖穷人的肾,移植到富人体内,这样的例子让人心神不宁。又例如,出售体育馆的命名权,对此人们大概只会无奈的耸耸肩。但几乎所有人都会重新考虑市场的作用。桑德尔先生对两点不断提出异议。第一点是分配不公:钱的作用越大,没有钱就会越痛苦。桑德尔先生将第二点称为“人性扭曲”:买卖会改变美好事物的性质。人们不能付钱买血。但是以钱作为奖励,让孩子读书,会使阅读变得无聊乏味,可阅读应该是人生一大乐事。

Mr Sandel does not say precisely where he thinks the limit should lie. That should be left, he hopes, to public debate. The Skidelskys are bolder, proposing policies that would encourage the pursuit of the good life rather than endless growth: a basic income; a tax on consumption rather than income; and an end to the tax-deductibility of company spending on advertising. This would reduce the incentive to work and the temptation to consume.

桑德尔先生并没有明确指出他认为市场的底线应在何处。他希望这个问题留给大众决定。斯基德尔斯基父子则较为大胆,提出若干政策以鼓励追求美好生活,而不是一味追求永无止境的经济增长。这些措施包括基本收入,收取消费税,取消个人收入所得税,对公司的广告支出重新征税。这些措施会减少人们工作和消费的欲望。

Does the rat race always detract from the good life? Only a few years ago, it would have been hard to imagine that whole libraries of books, music and information could be summoned to a phone in your palm; yet the pursuit of profit has helped to put them there. Nevertheless, “How Much Is Enough?” is a good question. Even if just now the West could do with more, not less, GDP, the pursuit of wealth for its own sake is folly. Anyone who sets store by capitalism and markets will find both books uncomfortable reading. They should be read all the same.

市场竞争激烈是否会使好生活减分不少?若干年前,将全图书馆的书籍,所有音乐和信息集于手掌上的电话,这种事根本是无法想象的。但是逐利的思想使之成为现实。不过“多少钱才算够?”这个问题提得好。即使现在西方国家国内生产总值增长了不少,仅为财富而追求财富,这种做法仍是愚蠢的。信奉资本主义和市场的人会觉得这两本书读起来很不舒服。不管怎样,这两本书都值得一读。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
scarcity ['skɛəsiti]

想一想再看

n. 缺乏,不足,缺少

联想记忆
biography [bai'ɔgrəfi]

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n. 传记

联想记忆
domestic [də'mestik]

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adj. 国内的,家庭的,驯养的
n. 家仆,

 
uncomfortable [ʌn'kʌmftəbl]

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adj. 不舒服的,不自在的

 
insatiable [in'seiʃiəbl]

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adj. 不知足的,贪求无厌的

联想记忆
probe [prəub]

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n. 探针,探测器,调查,查究
v. 用探针测

联想记忆
planet ['plænit]

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n. 行星

 
spread [spred]

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v. 伸展,展开,传播,散布,铺开,涂撒
n.

 
monetary ['mʌnə.teri]

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adj. 货币的,金融的

 
temptation [temp'teiʃən]

想一想再看

n. 诱惑,引诱

 


关键字: 经济学人 货币 欲望

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