Economics in One Lesson校译之23. The Mirage of Inflation (6-1,2)

The Mirage of Inflation
第23章 通货膨胀的幻景

I have found it necessary to warn the reader from time to time that a certain result would necessarily follow from a certain policy “provided there is no inflation.” In the chapters on public works and on credit I said that a study of the complications introduced by inflation would have to be deferred. But money and monetary policy form so intimate and sometimes so inextricable a part of every economic process that this separation, even for expository purposes, was very difficult and in the chapters on the effect of various government or union wage policies on employment, profits and production, some of the effects of differing monetary policies had to be considered immediately.

我发现有必要时时提醒读者注意,特定的政策只有在“不存在通货膨胀”时,才会必然带来特定的结果。在公共工程和政府信贷的章节中,我说过将通货膨胀会引发的复杂状况挪到后面来讨论。其实,货币与货币政策联系非常紧密,以至于在每一种经济过程中都很难分开。即便是为了简化阐述,要将二者分开也是很困难的事,甚至根本分不开。例如,我们在探讨政府或工会的各种工资政策对就业、利润和生产的影响时,我们都只有把不同的货币政策产生的若干影响立即考虑进去才讲得通。

Before we consider what the consequences of inflation are in specific cases, we should consider what its consequences are in general. Even prior to that, it seems desirable to ask why inflation has been constantly resorted to, why it has had an immemorial popular appeal, and why its siren music has tempted one nation after another down the path to economic disaster.

在我们分析通货膨胀在特殊情况下的影响之前,我们应当首先考虑它通常的后果是什么。也许在此之前,我们最好先考虑些这样的问题,即为什么政府总是采取通货膨胀的手段、为什么它已经具有了某种古老的诱人的吸引力,为什么它那虚幻不实的论调,诱惑一个又一个国家走上经济灾难的不归路。

The most obvious and yet the oldest and most stubborn error on which the appeal of inflation rests is that of confusing “money” with wealth. “That wealth consists in money, or in gold and silver” wrote Adam Smith more than two centuries ago “is a popular notion which naturally arises from the double function of money, as the instrument of commerce, and as the measure of value…. To grow rich is to get money, and wealth and money, in short, are, in common language, considered as in every respect synonymous.

通货膨胀之所以吸引人,最明显、最古老、最顽固的错误,在于把“货币”与财富混为一谈。亚当·斯密两个多世纪前写道:“财富就是货币,或者说就是金钱,这是一个普遍为人接受的观念。很自然,它是因为货币具有双重功能——即作为流通的手段和作为价值的尺度——而产生的……成为富裕的人就是去得到货币。按照通俗的说法,财富和货币从各方面来看都是同义词。”

Real wealth, of course, consists in what is produced and consumed: the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the houses we live in. It is railways and roads and motor cars; ships and planes and factories; schools and churches and theaters; pianos, paintings and books. Yet so powerful is the verbal ambiguity that confuses money with wealth, that even those who at times recognize the confusion will slide back into it in the course of their reasoning. Each man sees that if he personally had more money he could buy more things from others. If he had twice as much money he could buy twice as many things; if he had three times as much money he would be “worth” three times as much. And to many the conclusion seems obvious that if the government merely issued more money and distributed it to everybody, we should all be that much richer.

当然,真正的财富存在于人们所生产和消费的东西之中。它是我们吃的食物、穿的衣服、住的房屋;它是铁路、公路和车辆;是轮船、飞机和工厂;是学校、教堂和剧场;是钢琴、绘画和书籍。然而,混淆货币与财富的语意含糊的作用是如此之大,以致于那些有时可以认识到这种混淆的人在他们的推理过程中也不知不觉地滑回这种错误中。每个人都懂得,如果自己更有钱,就能从其他人那里买到更多的东西;若手里的钱是先前的两倍,就能多买一倍的东西;有三倍的钱,自己的财富就会有原来“价值”的三倍。对于许多人来讲,结论再清楚不过:只要政府多发行货币并且分配给每一个人,那么我们就可以比原来富裕这么多,这一结论似乎是显而易见的。

These are the most naive inflationists. There is a second group, less naive, who see that if the whole thing were as easy as that the government could solve all our problems merely by printing money. They sense that there must be a catch somewhere; so they would limit in some way the amount of additional money they would have the government issue. They would have it print just enough to make up some alleged “deficiency,” or “gap.”

这些人就是最幼稚的通货膨胀支持者。还有另外一类不那么幼稚的人,他们知道,要是整件事真有那么简单,那么政府只要印钞票,岂不就可以解决我们所有的问题。他们意识到这么干肯定会出问题;所以他们希望通过某种方式限制政府发行新增货币的数量。他们提倡政府增印货币不多不少、刚好足够弥补所谓的“不足”或“缺口”。

Purchasing power is chronically deficient, they think, because industry somehow does not distribute enough money to producers to enable them to buy back, as consumers, the product that is made. There is a mysterious “leak” somewhere. One group “proves” it by equations. On one side of their equations they count an item only once; on the other side they unknowingly count the same item several times over. This produces an alarming gap between what they call “A payments” and what they call “A+B payments.” So they found a movement, put on green uniforms, and insist that the government issue money or “credits” to make good the missing B payments.

购买力是长期不足的,他们觉得,因为那些产业不知怎么回事,不让生产者分得足够的货币以使他们作为消费者可以购买回他们所生产的全部产品。在某个地方存在着一个神秘的“漏洞”。一些人用数学方程来“证明”了这一点。在方程式的一边,他们对某个项只计数一 次,而在方程式的另一边,他们却莫名其妙地把同样的项重复计数好几次。于是这在他们称之为“付款款项A”和他们所说的 “付款款项A+B”之间,制造出惊人的缺口。于是,他们发起一场运动,披上钞票马甲,坚持政府应该发行货币或 “信用”,以弥补失落的付款款项B。

The cruder apostles of “social credit” may seem ridiculous; but there are an indefinite number of schools of only slightly more sophisticated inflationists who have “scientific” plans to issue just enough additional money or credit to fill some alleged chronic or periodic deficiency, or gap, which they calculate in some other way.

那些头脑简单的“社会信用”宣传家看起来太过于荒谬可笑,但是有无数的稍胜一畴的通货膨胀支持者,他们有“科学”计划,能够发行刚好足够的额外货币或信用,弥补所谓的长期或定期发生的,他们以某种另外的方程式计算出来的,不足或缺口。

2

The more knowing inflationists recognize that any substantial increase in the quantity of money will reduce the purchasing power of each individual monetary unit—in other words, that it will lead to an increase in commodity prices. But this does not disturb them. On the contrary, it is precisely why they want the inflation. Some of them argue that this result will improve the position of poor debtors as compared with rich creditors. Others think it will stimulate exports and discourage imports. Still others think it is an essential measure to cure a depression, to “start industry going again, and to achieve “full employment.”[*]

更有见识的通货膨胀支持者意识到,货币的过量增加将使单位货币的购买力下降——换句话说,将导致物价上涨。但是这一点难不到他们。相反,这恰恰是他们想要通货膨胀的理由。其中一些人认为,达到这样的结果能改善贫穷债务人相对于富裕债权人的地位。另外一些人认为这可以刺激出口并抑制进口。还有一些人相信,要医治经济衰退、“让产业复苏”,以及达到“充分就业”,通货膨胀都是一项必要的措施。{脚注:这是凯恩斯学派的根本理论。对于这个理论,我在《“新经济学”的失败》(The Failure of the “New Economics”, New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1959)中做过详细分析。}

There are innumerable theories concerning the way in which increased quantities of money (including bank credit) affect prices. On the one hand, as we have just seen, are those who imagine that the quantity of money could be increased by almost any amount without affecting prices. They merely see this increased money as a means of increasing everyone’s “purchasing power,” in the sense of enabling everybody to buy more goods than before. Either they never stop to remind themselves that people collectively cannot buy twice as much goods as before unless twice as much goods are produced, or they imagine that the only thing that holds down an indefinite increase in production is not a shortage of manpower, working hours or productive capacity, but merely a shortage of monetary demand: if people want the goods, they assume, and have the money to pay for them, the goods will almost automatically be produced.

有关增发货币(以及增发银行信贷)如何影响价格的理论不计其数。一方面,就像我们刚刚谈过的,有人认为无论增发多少货币都不会影响价格。他们仅仅把增加的货币看作是提高每个人“购买力”的一种手段,使每个人都能买到比以前更多的东西。他们似乎没有静下心来想一想:从整体上看,不可能所有人都能买到比从前多两倍的东西,除非生产出来的东西比从前多两倍。他们也可能认为,阻碍生产长期增长的惟一因素是货币需求不足,而不是人力、工时或产能不足;他们认为,如果人们想要某些商品,只要付得起钱,那些商品几乎都会自动生产出来。

On the other hand is the group—and it has included some eminent economists—that holds a rigid mechanical theory of the effect of the supply of money on commodity prices. All the money in a nation, as these theorists picture the matter, will be offered against all the goods. Therefore the value of the total quantity of money multiplied by its “velocity of circulation” must always be equal to the value of the total quantity of goods bought. Therefore, further (assuming no change in velocity of circulation), the value of the monetary unit must vary exactly and inversely with the amount put into circulation. Double the quantity of money and bank credit and you exactly double the “price level”; triple it, and you exactly triple the price level. Multiply the quantity of money n times, in short, and you must multiply the prices of goods n times.

另外一个流派——其中不乏一些杰出的经济学家——则抱定僵化的机械论去考察货币供应量对商品价格的影响。在他们看来:一个国家的所有货币,是相对于所有的产品而发行的。因此,货币总量的价值乘以它的“流通速度”,一定等于交易商品总量的价值。所以,只要流通速度不变,单位货币的价值恰好与投入流通的货币数量成反比。货币和银行信贷的投放量翻一番,“价格水平”就会翻一番;增为三倍的话,价格水平也刚好增为三倍。总之,将货币数量乘以几倍,也就等于将商品的价格乘上了几倍。

There is not space here to explain all the fallacies in this plausible picture.[†] Instead we shall try to see just why and how an increase in the quantity of money raises prices.

由于篇幅关系,我们无法在这里一一剖析这种看似有理的说法的荒谬之处。{脚注:对其分析有兴趣的读者,请参考安德生(B. M. Anderson)《货币的价值》(The Value of Money,1917年;1936年新版);米塞斯《货币与信用理论》(The Theory of Money and Credit,美国版,1935年,1953年);也请参考本书作者的《通货膨胀危机,及其解决之道》(The Inflation Crisis, and How to Resolve It, New Rochelle, NY,: Arlington House, 1978年)。}不过,我们应该弄清楚,货币数量增加为什么会使价格提高,又是如何使价格提高的。

An increased quantity of money comes into existence in a specific way. Let us say that it comes into existence because the government makes larger expenditures than it can or wishes to meet out of the proceeds of taxes (or from the sale of bonds paid for by the people out of real savings). Suppose, for example, that the government prints money to pay war contractors. Then the first effect of these expenditures will be to raise the prices of supplies used in war and to put additional money into the hands of the war contractors and their employees. (As, in our chapter on price-fixing, we deferred for the sake of simplicity some complications introduced by an inflation, so, in now considering inflation, we may pass over the complications introduced by an attempt at government price-fixing. When these are considered it will be found that they do not change the essential analysis. They lead merely to a sort of backed—up or “repressed” inflation that reduces or conceals some of the earlier consequences at the expense of aggravating the later ones.)

货币数量的增长是以一种特殊的方式实现的。比如说,它是由于政府的支出超出了税收能够负担、或者可望负担的水平(假定也超过了政府靠发行国债获得的收入)。再比如说战争时期,政府印发货币来支付契约承包商。这笔支出首先会抬高军需品的价格,大量钞票因此流入到战时承包商和他们员工的手里。(在价格管制那一章,我们为简便起见没有考虑通货膨胀。现在讨论通货膨胀,我们同样忽略政府试图管制价格造成的复杂状况。即使都考虑进来,也不会改变分析的结果。价格管制会导致某种“堵塞”或“受压抑”的通货膨胀,其结果是减小或掩盖对经济运行的某些早期影响,但这是以更加恶化的后期影响为代价的。)

The war contractors and their employees, then, will have higher money incomes. They will spend them for the particular goods and services they want. The sellers of these goods and services will be able to raise their prices because of this increased demand. Those who have the increased money income will be willing to pay these higher prices rather than do without the goods; for they will have more money, and a dollar will have a smaller subjective value in the eyes of each of them.

这么一来,战时承包商和他们的员工便得到了更高的货币收入。他们会把这些钱拿去买自己想要的商品和服务。为他们提供产品和服务的商家,因为需求增加了,可以抬高价格。因为这些买主口袋里有更多的钱,他们不在乎增高的价格,而是要买到所需产品。因为在有钱人眼里,每一块钱的主观价值已经降低了。

Let us call the war contractors and their employees group A, and those from whom they directly buy their added goods and services group B. Group B, as a result of higher sales and prices, will now in turn buy more goods and services from a still further group, C. Group C in turn will be able to raise its prices and will have more income to spend on group D, and so on, until the rise in prices and money incomes has covered virtually the whole nation. When the process has been completed, nearly everybody will have a higher income measured in terms of money. But (assuming that production of goods and services has not increased) prices of goods and services will have increased correspondingly. The nation will be no richer than before.

我们把战时承包商和他们的员工称作A群体,把直接向A群体提供产品和服务的商家及其员工称作B群体。现在,B群体由于销量和价格大幅提高,会向C群体购买更多的产品和服务。C群体同样得以提高价格,获得更多收入,进而向D群体购买产品和服务。依此类推,直到价格上涨和货币收入增加覆盖整个国家。这个过程完成之后,几乎每个人的货币收入都有所增加。但是(假设产品和服务的生产并没有增加),产品和服务的价格也会相应上涨。整个国家并不比以前富有。

This does not mean, however, that everyone’s relative or absolute wealth and income will remain the same as before. On the contrary, the process of inflation is certain to affect the fortunes of one group differently from those of another. The first groups to receive the additional money will benefit the most. The money incomes of group A, for example, will have increased before prices have increased, so that they will be able to buy almost a proportionate increase in goods. The money incomes of group B will advance later, when prices have already increased somewhat; but group B will be better off in terms of goods. Meanwhile, however, the groups that have still had no advance whatever in their money incomes will find themselves compelled to pay higher prices for the things they buy, which means that they will be obliged to get along on a lower standard of living than before.

然而,这并不意味着每个人的相对或绝对财富和收入将保持在原来的水平。相反,通货膨胀是一种不公平的过程,它会对不同群体的命运造成不同的影响。最先获得新增货币的群体获利最大。例如,A群体的货币收入会在价格上涨之前增加,这样,他们商品购买量的增长几乎可以与货币收入量的增长保持相同的比率。B群体的货币收入会在价格刚开始上涨时增加,按照所能购买的商品的实际价值计算,B群体比原来更富裕了一些。当价格普遍上涨之后,货币收入还没有增加的群体,不得不以较高的价格来购买他们想要的东西。这意味着他们的生活水平比以前更差。

We may clarify the process further by a hypothetical set of figures. Suppose we divide the community arbitrarily into four main groups of producers, A, B, C and D, who get the money income benefit of the inflation in that order. Then when money incomes of group A have already increased 30 percent, the prices of the things they purchase have not yet increased at all. By the time money incomes of group B have increased 20 percent, prices have still increased an average of only 10 percent. When money incomes of group C have increased only 10 percent, however, prices have already gone up 15 percent. And when money incomes of group D have not yet increased at all, the average prices they have to pay for the things they buy have gone up 20 percent. In other words, the gains of the first groups of producers to benefit by higher prices or wages from the inflation are necessarily at the expense of the losses suffered (as consumers) by the last groups of producers that are able to raise their prices or wages.

我们可以用一组假设性的数字来更清楚地说明这一过程。假设我们把整个社会分成A、B、C、D四大类生产者,他们按顺序获得通货膨胀的货币收入利益。在A群体的货币收入已经增加30%的时候,他们所购买的商品价格还未上涨。到B群体的货币收入增加20%时,物价平均上涨仅为10%。但是当C群体的货币收入增加10%时,价格已经上涨了15%。当D群体还没有等到货币收入增加时,他们所购买产品的平均价格已经上涨了20%。换句话说,排在最前面的几类生产者可以享受到通货膨胀所导致的更高的物价和工资所带来的好处,而这又必然是以排在最后面的几类生产者(作为消费者)由于提高物价或工资所遭受到的损失为代价的。

It may be that, if the inflation is brought to a halt after a few years, the final result will be, say, an average increase of 25 percent in money incomes, and an average increase in prices of an equal amount, both of which are fairly distributed among all groups. But this will not cancel out the gains and losses of the transition period. Group D, for example, even though its own incomes and prices have at last advanced 25 percent, will be able to buy only as much goods and services as before the inflation started. It will never compensate for its losses during that period when its income and prices had not risen at all, though it had to pay up to 30 percent more for the goods and services it bought from the other producing groups in the community, A, B and C.

假设几年后通货膨胀被控制住了,最终结果是货币收入平均增加25%,价格平均涨幅也相同,每个群体的货币收入都增加了这么多,每个群体所生产的产品都上涨了这么多。但是,这并不能消除转变时期各个群体的各种收益和损失。以D群体为例,尽管在最后阶段该群体的收入和产品价格也上升了25%,而他们能买到的商品和服务,也只是和通货膨胀开始前完全相同。但在通货膨胀期间,在该群体的收入和产品价格还没有上涨时,该群体不得不多花30%的钱向A、B、C等其他的生产群体购买产品和服务,这些损失将永远得不到补偿。

(未完待续)

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