Economics in One Lesson校译之6. Credit Diverts Production (3-2,3)

第6章 政府信贷扭曲生产

(接前面部分)

2

The case becomes even clearer if we turn from farming to other forms of business. The proposal is frequently made that the government ought to assume the risks that are “too great for private industry.” This means that bureaucrats should be permitted to take risks with the taxpayers’ money that no one is willing to take with his own.

要是我们不谈农业,而是谈其他的商业形式,上述道理还会更加明显。时常有人倡议政府应该承担起”私人产业承担不起”的那些风险。这意味着应该准许政府官僚拿纳税人的钱去冒险,做那些没有人会用自己的钱去冒险的投资。

Such a policy would lead to evils of many different kinds. It would lead to favoritism: to the making of loans to friends, or in return for bribes. It would inevitably lead to scandals. It would lead to recriminations whenever the taxpayers’ money was thrown away on enterprises that failed. It would increase the demand for socialism: for, it would properly be asked, if the government is going to bear the risks, why should it not also get the profits? What justification could there possibly be, in fact, for asking the taxpayers to take the risks while permitting private capitalists to keep the profits? (This is precisely, however, as we shall later see, what we already do in the case of “nonrecourse” government loans to farmers.)

这种政策会带来诸多弊端。它会导致徇私舞弊:借钱给亲朋好友,或者贷给贿赂者;它将不可避免地导致种种丑闻;只要投资项目运作失败,令纳税人的钱有去无回,必将导致互相指责推诿。它还会增加对社会主义的要求,因为,人们会很自然地问道:既然政府承担了风险,那为什么不应该取得所有的利润呢?让纳税人承担风险而事实上只有私人资本来获利,哪里有这样的道理?(然而,后面会谈到,政府对农民提供的”限抵无追偿”贷款,正是属于这种情况。)【Nonrecourse Loans,限抵无追偿贷款,指贷款追讨局限于抵押品价值,不额外向借贷者追讨超出抵押品价值的余额——译者注】

But we shall pass over all these evils for the moment, and concentrate on just one consequence of loans of this type. This is that they will waste capital and reduce production. They will throw the available capital into bad or at best dubious projects. They will throw it into the hands of persons who are less competent or less trustworthy than those who would otherwise have got it. For the amount of real capital at any moment (as distinguished from monetary tokens run off on a printing press) is limited. What is put into the hands of B cannot be put into the hands of A.

让我们暂且略过上述弊端,只关注政府贷款的一种后果。这就是,它会浪费资本和减少生产。政府信贷会把现有资本丢进糟糕,充其量也是效益不明的项目中。相对于没有此类信贷而将获得这样的资本的人,政府信贷会把资本交给能力更差、或者更不可靠的人,因为在任何时候,实体资本的数量都是有限的(有别于印钞机吐出来的货币数量),交到乙手中的东西,就不可能再交给甲。

People want to invest their own capital. But they are cautious. They want to get it back. Most lenders, therefore, investigate any proposal carefully before they risk their own money in it. They weigh the prospect of profits against the chances of loss. They may sometimes make mistakes. But for several reasons they are likely to make fewer mistakes than government lenders. In the first place, the money is either their own or has been voluntarily entrusted to them. In the case of government-lending the money is that of other people, and it has been taken from them, regardless of their personal wish, in taxes. The private money will be invested only where repayment with interest or profit is definitely expected. This is a sign that the persons to whom the money has been lent will be expected to produce things for the market that people actually want. The government money, on the other hand, is likely to be lent for some vague general purpose like “creating employment”; and the more inefficient the work—that is, the greater the volume of employment it requires in relation to the value of the product— the more highly thought of the investment is likely to be.

人们希望把自己资本用于投资增值,但投资一定要谨慎,放出去的贷款一定是想收回来。因此,大部分放贷者把钱投下去之前,都会预先仔细审查投资计划,仔细衡量获利的预期和亏损的几率。他们有时也会犯错误,但基于诸多原因,他们犯错的可能性小于政府放贷者。理由如下:首先,借出去的钱是他们自己的,或是别人自愿托付给他们的。而政府借出去的钱却是从纳税人那里强制征收来的,不需要顾及纳税人的个人意愿。私人放贷,只会放给明确地期望在将来能偿还本金与利息或红利的借方。这标志着他们期望借款人能生产市场上有需求的东西。反观政府投钱,则围绕着诸如”创造就业”之类的模糊目的,并且,项目效益越低越好——也就是说,相对于产出所雇用的人数越多,越有可能获得较高评价。

The private lenders, moreover, are selected by a cruel market test. If they make bad mistakes they lose their money and have no more money to lend. It is only if they have been successful in the past that they have more money to lend in the future. Thus private lenders (except the relatively small proportion that have got their funds through inheritance) are rigidly selected by a process of survival of the fittest. The government lenders, on the other hand, are either those who have passed civil service examinations, and know how to answer hypothetical questions hypothetically, or they are those who can give the most plausible reasons for making loans and the most plausible explanations of why it wasn’t their fault that the loans failed. But the net result remains: private loans will utilize existing resources and capital far better than government loans. Government loans will waste far more capital and resources than private loans. Government loans, in short, as compared with private loans, will reduce production, not increase it.

其次,私人放贷者是经过严酷的市场筛选胜出的。经营不善就会赔钱,再也拿不出钱借给别人。他们只有经营得很成功,才可能有更多的钱借出去。因此,私人放贷者(除去通过继承遗产获得资金的一小部分人)经过了优胜劣汰的考验。反观政府贷款业务人员,不少只通过公务员考试,只知道如何用假设的方式回答假设性的问题,或者只是善于找来最动听的理由把钱贷出去,以及在贷款出问题时,找来最合适的借口以推脱责任。不过最终结果却不会因此改变:私人贷款比政府贷款更能充分运用现有的资源和资本,政府贷款与私人贷款相比会浪费更多的资本和资源。简单说,与私人贷款比较来看,政府贷款会减少生产,而不是增进生产。

The proposal for government loans to private individuals or projects, in brief sees B and forgets A. It sees the people into whose hands the capital is put; it forgets those who would otherwise have had it. It sees the project to which capital is granted; it forgets the projects from which capital is thereby withheld. It sees the immediate benefit to one group; it overlooks the losses to other groups, and the net loss to the community as a whole.

总之,主张由政府向私人个体或是项目提供贷款的提案,只看到了乙而忘记了甲。它只关注从中获得资本的人,而忘记了那些本来应该得到而没有得到此项资本的人。它只看得到有政府贷款注入的项目,而遗忘了无法获得资本的其他项目。它只关心某个群体的眼前利益,而不管其他群体的损失,以及整个社会的净损失。

The case against government-guaranteed loans and mortgages to private businesses and persons is almost as strong as, though less obvious than, the case against direct government loans and mortgages. The advocates of government-guaranteed mortgages also forget that what is being lent is ultimately real capital, which is limited in supply, and that they are helping identified B at the expense of some unidentified A. Government-guaranteed home mortgages, especially when a negligible down payment or no down payment whatever is required, inevitably mean more bad loans than otherwise. They force the general taxpayer to subsidize the bad risks and to defray the losses. They encourage people to “buy” houses that they cannot really afford. They tend eventually to bring about an oversupply of houses as compared with other things. They temporarily overstimulate building, raise the cost of building for everybody (including the buyers of the homes with the guaranteed mortgages), and may mislead the building industry into an eventually costly overexpansion. In brief in the long run they do not increase overall national production but encourage malinvestment.

反对为私人企业或个人提供政府担保的贷款和政府担保的抵押贷款的理由差不多同政府直接贷款和提供抵押贷款一样强烈,尽管此类干预更加不明显。主张政府担保抵押贷款的人,同样忘记了实际借出的终究是有限的实体资本,如果扶助了看得到的乙,必然会牺牲看不到的甲。政府担保的住房抵押贷款(尤其是免首付款或首付款很少的住房抵押贷款)不可避免会发生更多的坏账。政府强迫全体纳税人去承担恶性风险与补偿损失。鼓励人们去“购买”自己其实负担不起的房子,最终造成住房供给相对于其它物品过剩。暂时过度刺激楼市,会使得每个人(包括以政府担保抵押贷款购买房子的人)负担的房价升高,甚至可能最终误导建筑业高成本地过度扩张。总的来说,从长期来看,政府信贷并没有提高国家整体的生产,却鼓励了不当的投资。

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We remarked at the beginning of this chapter that government “aid” to business is sometimes as much to be feared as government hostility. This applies as much to government subsidies as to government loans. The government never lends or gives anything to business that it does not take away from business. One often hears New Dealers and other statists boast about the way government “bailed business out” with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Home Owners Loan Corporation and other government agencies in 1932 and later. But the government can give no financial help to business that it does not first or finally take from business. The government’s funds all come from taxes. Even the much vaunted “government credit” rests on the assumption that its loans will ultimately be repaid out of the proceeds of taxes. When the government makes loans or subsidies to business, what it does is to tax successful private business in order to support unsuccessful private business. Under certain emergency circumstances there may be a plausible argument for this, the merits of which we need not examine here. But in the long run it does not sound like a paying proposition from the standpoint of the country as a whole. And experience has shown that it isn’t.

本章开篇处提到,政府拿钱“扶持”企业,有时跟政府征敛民财一样可怕。这个说法,除了适用于政府贷款,也同样适用于政府补贴。政府从来不会贷给或是赠予企业任何不是从企业拿走的东西。人们时常听得到,罗斯福新政的执行者和主张政府干涉经济体制的人吹嘘,在1932年及其后一段时间,政府通过复兴金融公司、住房业主贷款公司及其他政府机构,如何”帮助经济走出困境”。然而,倘若政府不是在事先或事后征敛民财的话,它没有钱给企业资金上的帮助。政府的全部资金都来自税收。即便是倍受吹捧的”政府信用贷款”,也是基于最终要由赋税支付其贷款这样一个前提。当政府向企业提供贷款或补贴的时候,它所做的就是向成功的私人企业征税,然后拿钱去扶持不成功的私人企业。在某些紧急状况下,或许有理由实行这样的政策,我们不准备在这里去考察其合理性。但是,长期这么下去,从国家整体的角度考虑,这似乎不是一个合算的机制,而且经验已经表明,这种做法的确得不偿失。

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