Economics in One Lesson校译之20. Do Unions Really Raise Wages? (4-3,4)

第20章 工会真的提高了工资吗?



This leads us to the heart of the question. It is usually assumed that an increase in wages is gained at the expense of the profits of employers. This may of course happen for short periods or in special circumstances. If wages are forced up in a particular firm, in such competition with others that it cannot raise its prices, the increase will come out of its profits. This is less likely to happen if the wage increase takes place throughout a whole industry. If the industry does not face foreign competition it may be able to increase its prices and pass the wage increase along to consumers. As these are likely to consist for the most part of workers, they will simply have their real wages reduced by having to pay more for a particular product. It is true that as a result of the increased prices, sales of that industry’s products may fall off, so that volume of profits in the industry will be reduced; but employment and total payrolls in the industry are likely to be reduced by a corresponding amount.

这就把我们带到了问题的核心。这里常用的假设是,调高工资会是以减低雇主的利润为代价的。这种情况在特定条件下或者短期当然有可能发生。例如,某家公司的工资被迫调高,但为了跟同行竞争,产品无法涨价,那么调增那部分工资,只好从利润中扣取。比较少见的是整个行业全部调增工资。如果那个行业不担心外国货的竞争,该行业就可以通过提高价格把调资负担转嫁给消费者。考虑到消费者大多是劳工,必须付更多的钱购买商品,也就等于所有 实际工资会因此下降。那么由于商品提价,那个行业的销量会减少,从而利润基数会减少,而该行业从业员工人数和总工资也会相应减少。

It is possible, no doubt, to conceive of a case in which the profits in a whole industry are reduced without any corresponding reduction in employment—a case, in other words, in which an increase in wage rates means a corresponding increase in payrolls, and in which the whole cost comes out of the industry’s profits without throwing any firm out of business. Such a result is not likely, but it is conceivable.


Suppose we take an industry like that of the railroads, for example, which cannot always pass increased wages along to the public in the form of higher rates, because government regulation will not permit it.


It is at least possible for unions to make their gains in the short run at the expense of employers and investors. The investors once had liquid funds. But they have put them, say, into the railroad business. They have turned them into rails and roadbeds, freight cars and locomotives. Once their capital might have been turned into any of a thousand forms, but today it is trapped, so to speak, in one specific form. The railway unions may force them to accept smaller returns on this capital already invested. It will pay the investors to continue running the railroad if they can earn anything at all above operating expenses, even if it is only one-tenth of one percent on their investment.

至少,工会有可能在短期内以牺牲雇主和投资人为代价,而获得工资调涨的利益。投资人曾经拥有很多流动资金,但是假设这些资金已经投资到铁路业了。他们的资金已经转变为了铁轨和路基、货车厢和火车机车。他们的资金曾经可以投到其他很多地方,现在却被套牢在一种特定形式上了。对于那些已经投资下去的资本, 铁路工会可以迫使投资人接受较低的投资回报。只要收入高于经营成本,投资人就会继续让铁路公司运转,即使投资回报率只有0.1%。

But there is an inevitable corollary of this. If the money that they have invested in railroads now yields less than money they can invest in other lines, the investors will not put a cent more into railroads. They may replace a few of the things that wear out first, to protect the small yield on their remaining capital; but in the long run they will not even bother to replace items that fall into obsolescence or decay. If capital invested at home pays them less than that invested abroad, they will invest abroad. If they cannot find sufficient return anywhere to compensate them for their risk, they will cease to invest at all.


Thus the exploitation of capital by labor can at best he merely temporary. It will quickly come to an end. It will come to an end, actually, not so much in the way indicated in our hypothetical illustration, as by the forcing of marginal firms out of business entirely, the growth of unemployment, and the forced readjustment of wages and profits to the point where the prospect of normal (or abnormal) profits leads to a resumption of employment and production. But in the meanwhile, as a result of the exploitation, unemployment and reduced production will have made everybody poorer. Even though labor for a time will have a greater relative share of the national income, the national income will fall absolutely; so that labor’s relative gains in these short periods may mean a Pyrrhic victory: they may mean that labor, too, is getting a lower total amount in terms of real purchasing power.

由此可见,劳动剥削资本至多不过是暂时现象。这一过程很快就会结束。实际上,它的结束并不会像我们假设性的说明那样结束,而是令所有的边际公司破产出局;令失业升高;迫使工资和利润重新调整,直到正常(或者非正常)的获利前景重现,就业和生产得以恢复。但是在此期间,由于劳动剥削资本,失业增加和生产减少会使每个人都更穷。尽管劳动者收入占国民收入的相对比率会一度提高,绝对要下降;劳工相对获益,不仅是短期胜利,甚至是得不偿失的 胜利,因为从实际购买力看,劳动力的收入总量同样降低了。


Thus we are driven to the conclusion that unions, though they may for a time be able to secure an increase in money wages for their members, partly at the expense of employers and more at the expense of nonunionized workers, cannot, in the long-run and for the whole body of workers, increase real wages at all.


The belief that they do so rests on a series of delusions. One of these is the fallacy of post hoc ergo propter hoc, which sees the enormous rise in wages in the last half century, due principally to the growth of capital investment and to scientific and technological advance, and ascribes it to the unions because the unions were also growing during this period. But the error most responsible for the delusion is that of considering merely what a rise of wages brought about by union demands means in the short run for the particular workers who retain their jobs, while failing to trace the effects of this advance on employment, production and the living costs of all workers, including those who forced the increase.

相信工会能够做到这一点的想法是以一系列错误认识为基础的。其中之一是“后发者因之而发” (post hoc ergo propter hoc)的巧合谬论。在过去的半个世纪以来,资本投资增长和科技进步工资大幅升高,因此工资稳步增长,但同期工会也不断成长,因此他们将工资增长归功于工会。但是造成错觉的根本谬误还是在于,只考虑工会要求提高工资之后,特定受聘劳工短期内受到的影响,却没有去追踪工资上涨对所有劳工(包括迫使工资调涨的劳工)的就业、对生产和生活费用所造成的影响。

One may go further than this conclusion, and raise the question whether unions have not, in the long run and for the whole body of workers, actually prevented real wages from rising to the extent to which they otherwise might have risen. They have certainly been a force working to hold down or to reduce wages if their effect, on net balance, has been to reduce labor productivity; and we may ask whether it has not been so.


With regard to productivity there is something to be said for union policies, it is true, on the credit side. In some trades they have insisted on standards to increase the level of skill and competence. And in their early history they did much to protect the health of their members. Where labor was plentiful, individual employers often stood to make short-run gains by speeding up workers and working them long hours in spite of ultimate ill effects upon their health, because they could easily be replaced with others. And sometimes ignorant or shortsighted employers might even reduce their own profits by overworking their employees. In all these cases the unions, by demanding decent standards, often increased the health and broader welfare of their members at the same time as they increased their real wages.


But in recent years, as their power has grown, and as much misdirected public sympathy has led to a tolerance or endorsement of antisocial practices, unions have gone beyond their legitimate goals. It was a gain, not only to health and welfare, but even in the long run to production, to reduce a seventy-hour week to a sixty-hour week. It was a gain to health and leisure to reduce a sixty-hour week to a forty-eight-hour week. It was a gain to leisure, but not necessarily to production and income, to reduce a forty-eight-hour week to a forty-four-hour week. The value to health and leisure of reducing the working week to forty hours is much less, the reduction in output and income more clear. But the unions now talk about, and sometimes enforce, thirty-five and thirty-hour weeks, and deny that these can or need reduce output or income.

但是近年来,随着工会权力的增长,以及民众的同情用错地方,工会的一些反社会的做法被民众容忍或支持,工会努力的目标已经超出了合理的限度。将每周的工作时间从70小时减少到60小时,不仅对保障劳工的健康和福利有益,长期而言对提高生产也有帮助。将每周工作时间从60小时减为48小时,对劳工的健康和休闲生活有帮助。再从48小时减为44小时,对劳工的休闲生活有好处,但不一定能增加生产和收入。将每周的工作时数缩减为40小时,对劳工的健康和休 闲生活不会增加多少好处,而产出和收入将明显减少。但是现在的工会讨论甚至有时还强制实行35小时乃至于30小时的周工时制度,否认这样做会或者需要减少产出或者收入。

But it is not only in reducing scheduled working hours that union policy has worked against productivity. That, in fact, is one of the least harmful ways in which it has done so; for the compensating gain, at least, has been clear. But many unions have insisted on rigid subdivisions of labor which have raised production costs and led to expensive and ridiculous “jurisdictional” disputes. They have opposed payment on the basis of output or efficiency, and insisted on the same hourly rates for all their members regardless of differences in productivity. They have insisted on promotion for seniority rather than for merit. They have initiated deliberate slowdowns under the pretense of fighting “speed-ups.” They have denounced, insisted upon the dismissal of, and sometimes cruelly beaten, men who turned out more work than their fellows. They have opposed the introduction or improvement of machinery. They have insisted that if any of their members have been laid off because of the installation of more efficient or more laborsaving machinery, the laid-off workers receive “guaranteed incomes” indefinitely. They have insisted on make-work rules to require more people or more time to perform a given task. They have even insisted, with the threat of ruining employers, on the hiring of people who are not needed at all.


Most of these policies have been followed under the assumption that there is just a fixed amount of work to be done, a definite “job fund” which has to be spread over as many people and hours as possible so as not to use it up too soon. This assumption is utterly false. There is actually no limit to the amount of work to be done. Work creates work. What A produces constitutes the demand for what B produces.

绝大部分类似的政策都是以这样一个假设为前提的,即只有一个固定量的工作可做,只有一个有限的“工作储量”,因此,我们就应当把它分摊给尽可能许多人去做、分散到更长的时间内去做,免得这个储量用得太快。这个假设是完全错误的。事实上,可做的工作并不存在数量上的限制。工作会创造出工作。甲所生产 的东西会产生对乙的产品的需求。

But because this false assumption exists, and because the policies of unions are based on it, their net effect has been to reduce productivity below what it would otherwise have been. Their net effect, therefore, in the long run and for all groups of workers, has been to reduce real wages—that is, wages in terms of the goods they will buy—below the level to which they would otherwise have risen. The real cause for the tremendous increase in real wages in the last century has been, to repeat, the accumulation of capital and the enormous technological advance made possible by it.

然而,正因为存在着这样一个错误的假设,由于工会的政策建立在这个假设之上,它们的净影响是使得劳动生产率降低到了它本可以达到的水平之下。从长期看来,工会政策的净影响对于所有工人来讲是减少了实际工资——也就是说,从他们能够购买的商品的角度来年的工资— —使之低于它们本可以提高到的水平。啰嗦一句,上半世纪中实际工资大幅增长的真正原因,是资本累积以及由此才有可能出现的巨大的科技进步。

But this process is not automatic. As a result not only of bad union but of bad governmental policies, it has, in fact, in the last decade, come to a halt. If we look only at the average of gross weekly earnings of private nonagricultural workers in terms of paper dollars, it is true that they have risen from $107.73 in 1968 to $189.36 in August 1977. But when the Bureau of Labor Statistics allows for inflation, when it translates these earnings into 1967 dollars, to take account of the increase in consumer prices, it finds that real weekly earnings actually fell from $103.39 in 1968 to $103.36 in August 1977.

但是这一进程不是自动实现的。不仅仅因为坏的工会政策,而且也同样因为坏的政府政策,在过去十年中,这种发展事实上已经停止了。如果我们仅仅考察以名义美元价值来衡量的私人非农业工人总的周平均收入的话,它的确从1968年的107.73美元,上涨到1977年8月的189.36美元。但是,劳动统计局扣除了其中的通货膨胀因素,考虑到消费者物价的上涨,以1967年底币值计算这些收入时,它指出,实际的周收入已从1968年的103.39美元下降到1977年8月的103.36美元。{书后注:《投资者财经日报》1996年1月4日刊载的资料显示:过去40年,薪酬占总产出的比重,一直保持在60%左右。经济学家肯尼斯·沃伊泰克(Kenneth P. Voytek)报告说,从1959~1972年,非农劳工每小时薪酬年均增长2.4%。从1973~1994年,这个增幅放缓至0.8%。这是因为,从1959~1972年的生产率年均增长2.4,而从1973~1994年生产率年均增长不到1%。整体而言,自1959年以来,薪酬收入在国民收入中的比重增加了4%,与此同时,工会会员人数是急剧下降。非工资薪酬,如保健和在职培训,不断增加。(《投资者财经日报》,1996年1月8日)}

This halt in the rise of real wages has not been a consequence inherent in the nature of unions. It has been the result of shortsighted union and government policies. There is still time to change both of them.


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