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经济学人:只为重建信心 For those who have lost faith

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Books and Arts; Book Review;Rehabilitating capitalism

文艺;书评;振兴资本主义
For those who have lost faith
只为重建信心
Why Capitalism? By Allan Meltzer.
《为何是资本主义?》作者:Allan Meltzer
A Capitalism for the People: Recapturing the Lost Genius of American Prosperity. By Luigi Zingales.
《为人民的资本主义:重拾美国繁荣时期消失的天才》作者:Luigi Zingales

The financial crisis has led some people to question the viability of America’s economic system. Socialism’s appeal has faded in Russia and China, and to a degree in other countries that once were its champions, such as India and Cuba. But American-style capitalism has not had an easy time of it either. Crashing financial markets, bank bail-outs and high unemployment have all added to a growing sense of unease about a system that is based on private ownership of resources.

当前这场金融危机让人不由得开始质疑美国经济体系的可行性。社会主义的光环在俄罗斯和中国已逐渐褪去,甚至在像印度和古巴这样一度全权拥护社会主义的国家,它也早已不再神圣无比。但美式资本主义过的也并不轻松。不断崩溃的金融市场,银行紧急财政援助,再加上居高不下的失业率,这都导致人们对这一建立在资源私有基础上的经济体制倍感不安。

“Why Capitalism?” by Allan Meltzer, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, is an extended response to some of the calls he has received in recent years. The most thought-provoking came from a woman in Germany who, after reading the New York Times, wondered if, only two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, she was actually witnessing the implosion of the system that brought it down.

《为何是资本主义?》的作者Allan Meltzer是匹兹堡的卡耐基·梅隆大学的一名经济学教授,该书主要是对他这几年收到的咨询电话做出的扩展回复。最发人深省的电话来自一名德国女士,她在看完纽约时报后,不由深思,当初正是资本主义推倒了柏林墙,如今柏林墙倒塌才20年,她是否就已经在亲临这一体制的逐渐崩溃。

Capitalism’s core defence, Mr Meltzer argues, is that it is the only system that leads to freedom and economic growth. It is less good at ensuring virtue or stability; failure is an inherent part. Indeed the author’s observation that “capitalism without failure is like religion without sin. It doesn’t work well,” has already been widely circulated. However, the sins attributed to capitalism—corruption, fraud and greed, to name but three—are not only pervasive in systems where the state controls production, but far more damaging and far less likely to be rectified.

Meltzer指出资本主义的最核心优势在于它是唯一能够带来自由和经济增长的制度。这一体系并不能保证道德常驻和社会稳定,所以失败崩溃是在所难免的。事实上,本书作者曾说过,“不失败的资本主义就好比没有原罪的宗教,发挥不了什么作用。”这一观点已广为流传。但是,资本主义带来的罪恶—腐败,欺诈和贪婪,在此仅列举这三样—不仅在政府控制生产的体制里蔚然成风,其危害性也非常大,并且并不好修正。

The main problem, he argues, is that even nominally capitalist systems have, for better and worse, elements of state control. These often begin with defence and the police, and go on to national transport systems, which leads, in America’s case, to an ever-expanding network of bureaus and agencies. Much of bureaucracy is adopted under the rationale of enhancing “fairness”. But, as Mr Meltzer notes, fairness often means providing present benefits using debt that must be repaid by taxpayers in the future (which is hardly fair) or through regulations and subsidies created by people in government who then go on to exploit them in private-sector jobs (which is also unfair).

Meltzer认为主要的问题在于即使是名义上的资本主义系统,无论好坏,统统都是有政府控制成分的。政府控制一般先从国家机器①着手,再扩展到交通运输系统,最后再像美国那样蔓延至不断扩大中的官僚机构网。很多官僚主义是在“增强公平”的正当理由下得以滋生。但是,Meltzer认为公平通常意味着用债务带来现时效益,但这些债务将来必须由纳税人偿还(其实这并不公平);或者是通过政府人员制定的规章和津贴带来现时效益,而这些人随后便在私营部门剥削纳税人(这也是不公平的)。

It is this last issue that forms the heart of “A Capitalism for the People” by Luigi Zingales, a professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. Mr Zingales has written an elegy to the America he found when he moved there 24 years ago from an Italy that was rife with nepotism. Italian businesses preferred to stay small and discreet. Growing bigger made them vulnerable to scrutiny and would require them to hire people on the basis of talent rather than loyalty; and loyalty was important because it, once again, helped protect the firm from scrutiny.

《为人民的资本主义》一书最后一个话题也正是该书的中心思想,书的作者是芝加哥大学布斯商学院的Luigi Zingales教授。24年前,Zingales从裙带关系泛滥的意大利来到美国,该书正是Zingales为当时他所见的美国写的一曲挽歌。在意大利,公司一般都喜欢小规模运作谨慎周密地运作。扩大公司规模会让他们更容易经不起监管,还要求他们得根据能力选人而非忠诚度,但是忠诚度又极其重要,因为正是员工的忠诚才让他们经得住详细盘查。

Arriving in America, Mr Zingales found an enthusiasm for capitalism. Americans believed that it was possible to become rich and that increasing wealth benefited the poor as well as the not so poor. They regarded their capitalist system as fair—or at least fair enough. All of those sentiments, says Mr Zingales, have been eroded.

刚到美国,Zingales看到的是对资本主义的狂热。美国人坚信,致富是可能的,并且财富的增加对穷对富都是有益无害的。他们认为自己的资本主义系统是公正的,不是绝对公正至少也是足够公正的。Zingales说到,所有的这种狂热情绪已消失殆尽。

Much of the change is a direct result of the vast expansion of the state through complex subsidies and anti-competitive regulations that invite the sort of cronyism that Mr Meltzer cites as well. When government favours the private sector, Mr Zingales argues, it is all too often by being “pro-business” rather than “pro-market”, meaning that favourable conditions are provided to particular institutions rather than to institutions broadly. This distorts the system, resulting in precisely the problem of select companies making profits while imposing costs on society that Mr Meltzer argues is at the core of what regulation should be designed to prevent.

大部分变化多是国家权力扩张的直接后果,国家通过复杂的津贴和反竞争规章来扩张权力的,而这种扩张带来的是任人唯亲的风气,这在Meltzer的书中也有提到。Meltzer认为,当政府说支持私营企业时,往往是支持“企业”而非支持“市场”,也就是说政府是为某些企业机构提供支持,而非广泛支持所有企业机构。这一行为扭曲了该系统,恰恰导致精英公司得利却让社会承担代价的后果,Meltzer认为这一问题正是制定出的规章应该避免的核心问题。

Mr Zingales makes three proposals. Protected sectors, notably education and health care, should be opened up to competition. Tax policy should be changed in two ways. First, it should be used to make subsidies and their costs more transparent. The deduction on mortgages, for example, should be termed a tax on renting; the lavish benefits provided for ethanol production should be regarded as a tax on petrol. Secondly it should be used as a substitute for complicated regulation and applied against areas that cost society, such as pollution and (because it creates instability) the use of short-term debt by banks.

Meltzer提出三个解决方案。受国家保护的部门,特别是教育和医疗,应该对外开放,接受竞争。税收政策应该在两方面做出改变。首先,应该利用税收政策来让津贴和津贴来源变得更透明。比如,按揭贷款扣除应该叫做租赁税;乙醇生产带来的丰厚利润应该被冠以汽油税。其次,税收政策该被用来代替复杂的规章,并且用在对让社会承受巨大代价的领域,比如环境污染和银行短期债务的使用(因为它会造成社会不稳)。

More broadly, Mr Zingales wants a closer, explicit, tie between capitalism and morality. He wants to extend the public shaming of corporate crooks to people who take actions that are legal, but damaging to society, such as borrowers who walk away from mortgages merely because their value exceeds the value of the underlying property. Business schools, Mr Zingales says, are ideally positioned to point out when an action that provides a benefit for an individual comes at a cost to society, but in reality they rarely bother. This, he believes, is part of the same malaise that has befallen the political debate on capitalism, which has been taken over by special interests and people who have no faith in a real market-based system. For all America’s success, he warns, Washington is on a trajectory that leads to Rome.

更广泛地说,Zingales期盼的是拉近并明确资本主义和道德之间的关系。他想要扩大舆论压力,要大家不仅耻于骗子企业,还要耻于行为合法但却危害社会的人,比如一些借款人,仅因为自身价值超越了作为基础产业的房地产的价值而逃避按揭付款。Zingales还指出,当个人以社会为代价获得利益时,商学院理念上要指出这样的行径,但在现实中,它们却对此不闻不问。Zingales相信,这和政治上对资本主义的争论都是一种病态,资本主义已不再是争论热点,取而代之的是对特别利益团体和那些根本就不相信真正市场导向体制的人的热议。尽管美国是成功的,但Zingales警告到,华盛顿正在重蹈罗马的覆辙。

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extend [iks'tend]

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v. 扩充,延伸,伸展,扩展

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genius ['dʒi:njəs]

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n. 天才,天赋

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appeal [ə'pi:l]

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n. 恳求,上诉,吸引力
n. 诉诸裁决

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particular [pə'tikjulə]

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adj. 特殊的,特别的,特定的,挑剔的
n.

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merely ['miəli]

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adv. 仅仅,只不过

 
complicated ['kɔmplikeitid]

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adj. 复杂的,难懂的
动词complica

 
vast [vɑ:st]

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adj. 巨大的,广阔的
n. 浩瀚的太

 
scrutiny ['skru:tini]

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n. 周密的调查,细看,监视

 
deduction [di'dʌkʃən]

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n. 减除(额), 推论

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unemployment ['ʌnim'plɔimənt]

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n. 失业,失业人数

 


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