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经济学人:法律与穷人 The law and the poor

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Finance and Economics;Free exchange;The law and the poor;

Courts in emerging markets are better for the poor than many assume;
In December India's cabinet approved a “right to food” bill that would give two-thirds of the population a right—supposedly enforceable in law—to cheap food. Parliament must still give its approval, but the idea is part of a trend. Indian law already promises the right to education, health and paid work. And India is one of many countries that incorporate social and economic rights into their constitutions, and use the courts to enforce those rights. Indonesia's Constitutional Court issued rulings in 2004-06 requiring the government to boost education spending. South Africa's highest court obliged a reluctant president, Thabo Mbeki, to launch various anti-HIV/AIDS programmes.


Using the law as an instrument of social policy might seem perverse. Until now the balance of academic opinion has been that the courts do little to help the poor. In theory, the law is not supposed to discriminate in anyone's favour. In practice, the rich tend to do well in the courts because the poor cannot afford to go to law themselves (they rely on cases brought by others); because the law is said to favour property owners; and because, as Anatole France, a French novelist, sardonically put it, “The majestic equality of the laws prohibits the rich and the poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing bread.”
将法律作为一种社会政策手段听起来似乎有些荒谬。到目前为止,学术界的主流看法是法院在帮助穷人方面几乎毫无建树。理论上,法律不应该区别对待不同的个人或者群体,但实际上,富人通常能在法庭上获得更有利的结果。究其原因,首先是穷人常常因为无力承担相关诉讼费用而不能主动地利用法律;其次,法律也被认为更有利于财产拥有者。法国小说家Anatole France不无讽刺地说道:“崇高的法律公平地禁止富人和穷人在桥下留宿、上街乞讨和偷窃面包。”
But a new study, by Daniel Brinks of the University of Texas at Austin and Varun Gauri of the World Bank, takes issue with this view. The law's record, they argue, is mixed: pro-poor in some countries, regressive in others. But on balance it is much better for the poor than conventional wisdom suggests.
但是,最近发表的一份研究报告提出了与主流看法不同的意见。报告的作者分别是来自德克萨斯大学奥斯汀分校的Daniel Brinks和世界银行的Varun Gauri。他们认为,穷人的法律境况因国而异,某些国家的法律更有利于穷人,另一些则不然。但就整体而言,穷人的法律境遇要比传统观点认为的好许多。
The authors argue there are three kinds of legal case. Some involve regulation, some obligation, some provision. Regulation cases force a government to change the rules to improve access to a basic right. Obligation cases change the behaviour of those obliged to give a rights-based service (for example, by spelling out what rights patients have to information about medical treatment). Provision cases demand some new good or service (for example, does the law require the state to give AIDS drugs to HIV-positive prisoners?). Regulation cases offer most hope for the poor, the authors reckon, because the benefits are universal. Obligation cases are least likely to help, because rulings usually affect only those who already receive a service. With provision cases, it depends on how broad a ruling's application may be.
Daniel Brinks和Varun Gauri将现实中的案件分为三种类型,分别涉及法规regulation、义务obligation和条款provision。法院通过审理涉及法规的案件,迫使政府改变规定,使之更有利于基本权利的行使。涉及义务的案件则可以要求义务人提供基于权利的服务(比如阐明患者对于自己所接受的哪些医疗服务信息具有知情权)。涉及条款的案件则是关于提供新的商品或者服务(比如法律是否规定政府必须为患有艾滋病的囚犯提供治疗药物?)。研究人员认为,涉及法规的案件对穷人帮助最大,因为这类案件的受益群体最为广泛。涉及义务的案件对穷人的帮助最小,因为这类案件的裁定通常只涉及已享有服务的群体。而涉及条款的案件对穷人的帮助则取决于裁定适用的范围。
The authors then look at five countries, all emerging markets but with different levels of income, different legal traditions (some common law, some civil code) and different histories of using the law for social policy. They calculate what proportion of the benefits resulting from legal judgments under rights-based laws go to the poorest 40% of the population in each country.
Daniel Brinks和Varun Gauri研究时将目光集中在五个有着不同收入水平和法律体系(习惯法和民法)的新兴市场国家,这些国家利用法律为社会政策服务的历史也各有千秋。他们对各个国家基于权利相关法律的裁定进行利益分析,计算其中属于最穷的40%人口的比例。
India, they find, has been most successful by this measure. Its courts are the most likely to take up regulation cases which raise broad policy issues. The authors reckon Indian rulings have pushed up first-grade enrolment of girls by 10% a year, bringing 7m children into school-feeding programmes. Despite serious problems with enforcement, 84% of the benefits of relevant rulings, they think, have gone to the poorest two–fifths. South Africa also uses regulation cases extensively. Here, the poor received three-quarters of the benefits of legal rulings on health and 100% of the gains from education rulings.
研究人员发现,印度在这项统计中的表现最为优异。印度法院最易于接受涉及法规的案件,这类案件通常都包含有影响广泛的社会议题。Daniel Brinks和Varun Gauri认为,印度通过制订法规将700万儿童纳入学校午餐计划,将该国女孩的基础教育入学率在一年内提高了10%。尽管实施过程依然包含着许多严重的问题,但他们认为84%的利益都分配给了最穷的40%人口。南非法院同样易于接受涉及法规的案件,根据统计,该国涉及健康政策的法律裁定使穷人获得了四分之三的利益,而与教育政策相关的裁定则为100%。
Brazilian courts, unlike their Indian and South African peers, rarely consider suits with broad implications. Instead, they take on individual provision cases. But they hear so many—40,000 claims a year about providing medicines, for example—that their rulings have sweeping implications. Experts have long assumed that such rulings seldom help the poor, because the benefits are restricted to the plaintiffs, who are likely to be well-off. But the authors point out that after a string of losses in court, the government bodies that deliver subsidised medicine changed their behaviour, making the stuff more easily available. By the authors' calculations, 36% of the benefits from medical cases in Brazil go to the poorest 40%—ie, they are marginally regressive.
巴西的法院和印度及南非不同,它很少关心那些有着广泛含义的案件,而是对涉及特定条款的案件更感兴趣。不过,由于巴西法院一年要处理大约4万件类似关于提供药品的涉及特定条款的案件,大量涉及特定条款的案件综合在一起,还是为该国的社会政策提供了广泛的指引。长期以来,专家们都认为这类案件帮不上穷人什么忙,因为利益都属于原告,而原告通常比较富裕。但是研究报告指出,提供补助药品的政府相关机构在遭受了一系列败诉后,会改变自己的行为,为穷人获得补助药品提供更多便利。Daniel Brinks和Varun Gauri估计,巴西的医疗案件判决中36%的利益由最穷的40%人口获得,略微不利于穷人。
Compared with India, Brazil and South Africa, Indonesia has had few court cases on broad social matters. Among those few are the rulings which pushed education spending up dramatically. But since state education in Indonesia tends to help the middle class most, the effect was still mildly regressive: 36% of the benefits went to the two poorest quintiles. Even that was better than in Nigeria where, the authors reckon, three-quarters of the benefits were captured by the rich. This was partly because many Nigerian cases concerned universities (one suit, for example, looked at whether people had a right to establish private ones).
Majestic results
So the empirical evidence is mixed. But it does not support the view that the law is an elite game, fixed to serve the interests of the rich and educated. When the authors aggregate their national studies, they conclude that 55% of the benefits that flow from the various legal decisions accrue to the poorest 40%. Such calculations are, inevitably, rough and ready. Ideally, one should compare the costs and benefits of going to law with those of pursuing the same policy objectives in parliament—which is hard to measure. It is also an open question whether a “right to food”—ie, an obligation for someone else to provide it—is the best way to help the poor. A targeted cash-transfer programme, which makes welfare payments conditional on recipients' actions, may work better. More broadly, it is far from clear that society as whole benefits when unelected judges mandate potentially costly social spending. That said, the study is still a revelation: courts are more majestic than decades of received wisdom have suggested.
实际的研究结果喜忧参半,但是足以反驳这样一种传统观点:法律是精英们掌控的游戏,服务于富人和接受过良好教育的人的利益。Daniel Brinks和Varun Gauri将各国的研究结果进行综合后发现,新兴市场国家中55%的法律利益由最穷的40%人口获得。当然,这样的计算方式不可避免地有些粗糙,更为理想的办法是对比诉诸法律和通过议会达成同样政策目标的成本、收益。然而,后者的相关成本收益很难进行衡量。另外,像“食物权”这类对其他人规定提供商品或服务义务的法案,是否是帮助穷人的最好办法?这也值得深入思考的问题。或许,根据接受者行为进行有条件福利支付的定向现金转移支付计划效果会更好。从更广泛的意义上讲,让并非通过选举产生的法官强制要求政府采用成本高昂的社会支出对社会整体来说是否有益,这一问题也没有明确的答案。即便如此,这项研究还是很好地说明了现实中法院的形象比长期以来人们传统思维中的更为崇高。

重点单词   查看全部解释    
restricted [ris'triktid]


vt. 限制,约束 adj. 受限制的,有限的,保密的

empirical [em'pirikəl]


adj. 经验主义的

assume [ə'sju:m]


vt. 假定,设想,承担; (想当然的)认为

enforce [in'fɔ:s]


vt. 实施,执行,强制,强迫,加强

conditional [kən'diʃənəl]


adj. 有条件的,假定的,假设的 n. [语]条件句

measure ['meʒə]


n. 措施,办法,量度,尺寸
v. 测量,量

emerging [i'mə:dʒ]


vi. 浮现,(由某种状态)脱出,(事实)显现出来

instrument ['instrumənt]


n. 乐器,工具,仪器,器械

extensively [ik'stensivli]


adv. 广泛地,广阔地

provision [prə'viʒən]


n. 规定,条款; 供应(品); 预备


关键字: 经济学人 法律 穷人



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