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掠夺性社会精英的问题

2012-04-21
掠夺性社会精英,历史研究
掠夺性社会精英的问题

2012.04.14.E3 梧桐树专栏——掠夺性社会精英的问题 By 许梅杰

[导读]:掠夺性经济与包容性经济谁好谁坏?银行部门/公共部门,社会精英何去何从?

Buttonwood

梧桐树专栏

The question of extractive elites

掠夺性社会精英的问题

Bankers and the public sector may both be enemies of growth

银行家和公共部门均可能阻碍经济增长

Apr 14th 2012 | from the print edition

THE developed world has a growth problem. Of 34 advanced economies, 28 had lower GDP per head in 2011 than they did in 2007. Forecasts for growth in the current year are anaemic. This sluggishness is generally perceived to be a hangover from the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. But might the problem be structural rather than cyclical?

发达国家存在一个经济增长问题。在34个发达国家中,有28个国家2011年的人均GDP低于其在2007年的水平。另外,关于今年经济增长的预测也不甚乐观。这种停滞被普遍认为是07、08年金融危机留下的后遗症。但有没有可能这是结构性问题而非周期性问题?

In their new book, “Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty”, Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, a pair of economists, suggest that many countries are bedevilled by economic institutions that “are structured to extract resources from the many by the few and that fail to protect property rights or provide incentives for economic activity.” In contrast, “inclusive” economies distribute power more widely, establish law and order, and have secure property rights and free-market systems.

在经济学家达隆·阿赛莫格鲁(Daron Acemoglu)和詹姆斯·罗宾森(James Robinson)合著的书《国家衰落的原因:权利、繁荣和贫穷的起源》中,他们认为许多国家都被那种“精心安排的、小部分人榨取大众资源的且未能保护贫困人口权益或是刺激经济活动的”的经济制度所困扰。相比之下,“包容性”经济可以更广泛地分散权力、制定法规、建立秩序并且成功地保障贫困人口的权益和维护自由市场体系。

In an extractive economy, such as the Belgian Congo and its successor state, Zaire, a narrow elite seizes power and uses its control of resources to prevent social change. Such economies can achieve growth for a while, particularly when (as with the Soviet Union in the mid-20th century and, the authors argue, China today) resources are being transferred from the unproductive agricultural sector into manufacturing. But they run out of steam eventually.

在像比属刚果(Belgian Congo)及其继承国扎伊尔(Zaire)这样的掠夺性经济体系中,一位目光短浅的社会精英会夺取权力并利用权力对资源的控制来阻止社会变迁。这样的经济在短期内可以实现增长,尤其是当资源从事倍功半的农业部门向制造业转移时(两位作者认为,正如20世纪中期的苏联和当代的中国),但最终他们会精疲力竭。

The authors place the developed world in the “inclusive” category since they have, by definition, achieved economic success. But their description of extractive economies should ring one or two alarm bells in the minds of Western readers. “Because elites dominating extractive institutions fear creative destruction”, the authors write, “they will resist it, and any growth that germinates under extractive institutions will be ultimately short-lived.”

该书的两位作者将发达国家划入“包容性经济”范畴,因为由定义来看发达国家实现了经济成功。但书中对掠夺性经济的描写还是应该在西方读者的脑海里敲响警钟。“因为左右掠夺性制度的社会精英们惧怕创造性破坏”,作者这样写道,“他们抗拒变革,但任何在掠夺性制度下萌发的经济增长终究是短暂的。”

There are two potential candidates for extractive elites in Western economies. The first is the banking sector. The wealth of the financial industry gives it enormous lobbying power, including as contributors to American presidential campaigns or to Britain’s ruling parties. By making themselves “too big to fail”, banks ensured that they had to be rescued in 2008.

西方经济界的掠夺性精英可选择两种去向。其一是银行部门。金融行业的财富给予银行部门巨大的游说能力,包括赞助美国总统竞选和英国执政党。银行部门通过让自己变成“大而不能倒”机构,确保自身能在2008年得到援助。

Much of current economic policy seems to be driven by the need to prop up banks, whether it is record-low interest rates across the developed world or the recent provision of virtually unlimited liquidity by the once-staid European Central Bank. The long-term effects of these policies, which may be hard to reverse, are difficult to assess.

当今许多经济政策的制定似乎都是受扶持银行业这一需求的驱动,比如发达国家下调利率至历史新低,或是一度刻板的欧洲央行最近制定的几近极限的资产流动性条款。这些政策造成的长期影响(很难彻底逆转)是难以评估的。

It is tougher to argue that the financial sector has inhibited growth in other areas of the economy. Indeed, both banks and venture-capital groups play a vital role in supporting new companies. Nevertheless, it is possible that the extremely high rewards in the financial industry might have diverted talented people away from other activities that could have helped rich economies to grow more sustainably. Furthermore, those high rewards could derive from “rent-seeking” by the financial sector, in the form of fees, charges and spreads, that have acted as a tax on the rest of the economy.

很难证明金融部门抑制了其他经济领域的增长。的确,银行业和风险资本在支持新企业方面发挥着至关重要的作用。然而,金融行业的极高回报很可能将人才从其他能帮助富庶国家可持续发展的行动中吸引过来。此外,这些高额回报是从金融部门的“寻租”中得到的,其费用形式包括租金及差价,其作用相当于针对其他经济领域征收税金。

A second candidate for the extractive-elite category is the public sector. In some countries, such as Greece, there has been a clear policy of “clientelism” in which political parties have rewarded their supporters with jobs and benefits that have been funded by the general taxpayer. In the Anglo-Saxon world, public-sector employees now have more generous pension rights than the majority of private-sector workers.

另外一个可供掠夺性精英选择的去向就是公共部门。在一些国家,比如希腊,有一项非常清楚的政策叫做“庇护主义”(clientelism),希腊的政党以提供工作和福利(由普通纳税人提供资金)作为对其支持者的回报;而在英国,公务员比大多数私企员工享有更丰厚的养老金。

An obvious objection to this line of reasoning is that there are too many public-sector employees for them to be regarded as an elite. Indeed, if you include the many recipients of social benefits, those dependent on the public purse comprise a majority of most rich-country populations. Such social policies are part of the inclusive model that Mr Acemoglu and Mr Robinson favour.

有人对这一推理表示明显反对:公务员数量太多,不能把所有人都认作社会精英。实际上,如果要把接受社会福利的人包括在内,那么靠政府资金生活的人在大多数发达国家的人口数量中都占有很大比例。这样的社会政策是阿赛莫格鲁先生和罗宾森先生偏爱的包容模型的一部分。

But it does seem likely that a high level of public-sector employment reduces the extent to which creative destruction occurs and new industries develop. Workers may prefer the security of government jobs to the riskiness of joining new businesses. As European governments are discovering, public-sector unions are often the most vocal in opposing the kind of labour-market reforms needed to reduce structural unemployment.

但是过高的公共部门就业数可能会阻碍创造性破坏的发生和新型产业的发展。相比加入新型行业需要面临的风险,工人们更青睐在政府工作的安全感。正如欧洲政府发现的那样,对那些因减少结构性失业的需要而进行的劳工市场改革持最强烈反对态度的,常常就是这些公共部门工会。

Just as a ship’s hull acquires barnacles, a government naturally attracts all kinds of supplicants and subsidy-seekers. If such behaviour is unchecked, then eventually the system may grind to a halt.

就像轮船的船体吸引藤壶一样,政府自然会吸引各种各样需要救济的人。如果不对这样的行为加以限制的话,这一体系最终会陷入瘫痪。

[附注]:

1.GDP per head:人均GDP

2.包容性发展:http://baike.baidu.com/view/4992042.htm

3.rent-seeking:寻租 http://baike.baidu.com/view/477.htm

4.Anglo-Saxon:指英国

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