Economics in One Lesson校译之23. The Mirage of Inflation (6-3,4)

第23章 通货膨胀的幻景

(接前面部分)

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So inflation turns out to be merely one more example of our central lesson. It may indeed bring benefits for a short time to favored groups, but only at the expense of others. And in the long run it brings ruinous consequences to the whole community. Even a relatively mild inflation distorts the structure of production. It leads to the overexpansion of some industries at the expense of others. This involves a misapplication and waste of capital. When the inflation collapses, or is brought to a halt, the misdirected capital investment—whether in the form of machines, factories or office buildings—cannot yield an adequate return and loses the greater part of its value.

因此,通货膨胀只不过是我们的核心课程的又一例子。在短时期内,通货膨胀的确可以为某些集团带来好处,但这不过是建立在其余人的代价之上的。而且就长期而言,它会给整个社会造成破坏性后果。即便是一次相对缓和的通货膨胀,也会扭曲生产结构。它牺牲掉其他产业的利益以带来某些产业过度扩张。这是资本的错误运用和浪费。当通货膨胀被消除,或是被抑制住时,这种不恰当的资本投放(形式可能是机器、工厂或写字楼)都不可能产生出充分的收益,并很有可能损失大部分的价值。

Nor is it possible to bring inflation to a smooth and gentle stop, and so avert a subsequent depression. It is not even possible to halt an inflation once embarked upon, at some preconceived point, or when prices have achieved a previously agreed upon level; for both political and economic forces will have got out of hand. You cannot make an argument for a 25 percent advance in prices by inflation without someone’s contending that the argument is twice as good for an advance of 50 percent, and someone else’s adding that it is four times as good for an advance of 100 percent. The political pressure groups that have benefited from the inflation will insist upon its continuance.

我们同样不可能使通货膨胀顺利而缓和地停止下来,从而避免一场随之而来的衰退。甚至不可能在预先设定的时点,或在价格上涨到预先设定的水平而让通货膨胀终止。因为,到了那时,政治和经济两方面的力量都无法控制住局面。当有人主张让价格上涨并固定在25%最好,就有人进一步主张,提价50%的效果会比此好一倍,也许还有人会补充说提价100%的好处会翻上两番。政治上的压力集团则会坚持主张使通货膨胀继续下去。

It is impossible, moreover, to control the value of money under inflation. For, as we have seen, the causation is never a merely mechanical one. You cannot, for example, say in advance that a 100 percent increase in the quantity of money will mean a 50 percent fall in the value of the monetary unit. The value of money, as we have seen, depends upon the subjective valuations of the people who hold it. And those valuations do not depend solely on the quantity of it that each person holds. They depend also on the quality of the money. In wartime the value of a nation’s monetary unit, not on the gold standard, will rise on the foreign exchanges with victory and fall with defeat, regardless of changes in its quantity. The present valuation will often depend upon what people expect the future quantity of money to be. And, as with commodities on the speculative exchanges, each person’s valuation of money is affected not only by what he thinks its value is but by what he thinks is going to be eveiybody else’s valuation of money.

此外,我们不可能控制通货膨胀下的货币价值。前面谈过,因果关系绝不是机械性的。比方说,你不可能事先计算出,货币数量增加100%,则单位货币价值下跌50%。我们也说过,货币的价值是由持有者的主观价值认定的。而价值的认定,不仅取决于每个人持有的量,而且也取决于货币的。在非金本位制度下,战争的胜败将决定参战国货币汇率的涨跌,这与货币数量关系不大。货币的当前价值往往取决于人们对未来的货币数量的预期。而且,由于投机交易的存在和发展,每一个人对于货币价值的认识也不仅仅取决于他自己的判断,而且同样受到他认为其余的每一个人对货币价值会做出怎样的判断这种考虑的影响。

All this explains why, when hyperinflation has once set in, the value of the monetary unit drops at a far faster rate than the quantity of money either is or can be increased. When this stage is reached, the disaster is nearly complete; and the scheme is bankrupt.

所有这些,可以解释为什么恶性通货膨胀一旦发生,单位货币价值下跌的速度将远远超过比货币数量正在增加或者能够增加的速度。到这个地步,那就是经济的灭顶之灾,整个通货膨胀的计划就此宣告破产。

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Yet the ardor for inflation never dies. It would almost seem as if no country is capable of profiting from the experience of another and no generation of learning from the sufferings of its forebears. Each generation and country follows the same mirage. Each grasps for the same Dead Sea fruit that turns to dust and ashes in its mouth. For it is the nature of inflation to give birth to a thousand illusions.

然而,人们对通货膨胀的热情从未消退过。几乎没有任何国家能以别国的失败为前车之鉴,也没有哪代人能从前人的苦难中吸取教训。每一个国家,每一代人,都沉迷于相同的幻景。每次都伸手去摘死海的苹果,一到嘴里便化为一团灰烬。通货膨胀的特质让人们幻化出千百种错觉。

In our own day the most persistent argument put forward for inflation is that it will “get the wheels of industry turning,” that it will save us from the irretrievable losses of stagnation and idleness and bring “full employment.” This argument in its cruder form rests on the immemorial confusion between money and real wealth. It assumes that new “purchasing power” is being brought into existence, and that the effects of this new purchasing power multiply themselves in ever-widening circles, like the ripples caused by a stone thrown into a pond. The real purchasing power for goods, however, as we have seen, consists of other goods. It cannot be wondrously increased merely by printing more pieces of paper called dollars. Fundamentally what happens in an exchange economy is that the things that A produces are exchanged for the things that B produces. 

当今社会主张实施通货膨胀最顽固的论调,是认为它能“使产业之轮运转起来”,能把我们从产业停滞和资产闲置的白白损失中拯救出来,进而带来“充分就业”。这套说法的原型仍就是混淆货币与财富。它假设通货膨胀能带来新的“购买力 ”,而且这一新购买力将在良性循环中使其自身成倍的增加,好比一颗石头丢到池塘里,掀起层层扩散的涟漪那样。然而,我们已经知道,对特 定产品的实质购买力是由其他许多产品组成的,它不可能只靠印刷更多我们称之为美元的纸张来使其神奇地增加。交易经济的基本运作方式,是甲拿自己生产的东西交换乙生产的东西。{脚注:参照:穆勒的《政治经济原理》(Principles of Political Economy; Book 3, Chap. 14, par.2);马歇尔的《经济学原理》(Principles of Economics; Book VI, Chap. XIII, sec. 10);安德森的〈反驳凯恩斯对总体供给创造总体需求学说的抨击〉(A Refutation of Keynes’ Attack on the Doctrine that Aggregate Supply Creates Aggregate Demand),该文刊于经济学家论文集《资助美国繁荣》(Financing American Prosperity)。也请参照:本书作者主编的论文集《凯恩斯经济学批判》(The Critics of Keynesian Economics; New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House, 1960)。}

What inflation really does is to change the relationships of prices and costs. The most important change it is designed to bring about is to raise commodity prices in relation to wage rates, and so to restore business profits, and encourage a resumption of output at the points where idle resources exist, by restoring a workable relationship between prices and costs of production.

通货膨胀的真正作用是改变价格和成本之间的关系。它所带来的最大改变,是提高相对于工资率的商品价格,借此来恢复价格和生产成本之间可以持续经营的关系,进而恢复商业利润,鼓励资源闲置的企业重新达到某一种产出水平。

It should be immediately clear that this could be brought about more directly and honestly by a reduction in unworkable wage rates. But the more sophisticated proponents of inflation believe that this is now politically impossible. Sometimes they go further, and charge that all proposals under any circumstances to reduce particular wage rates directly in order to reduce unemployment are “antilabor.” But what they are themselves proposing, stated in bald terms, is to deceive labor by reducing real wage rates (that is, wage rates in terms of purchasing power) through an increase in prices.

整个事情已经摆明:把难以为继的工资率降低,是更直接和更诚实的做法。但是久经世故的通货膨胀支持者声称这种做法在政治上行不通。那些通过直接调降工资率来降低失业率的提案,甚至被他们指控为 “反劳工”。然而,坦率地讲,他们自己所主张的就是通过提高价格来减少实际工资率(即以购买力水平表示的工资率),以此欺瞒劳工。

What they forget is that labor has itself become sophisticated; that the big unions employ labor economists who know about index numbers, and that labor is not deceived. The policy, therefore, under present conditions, seems unlikely to accomplish either its economic or its political aims. For it is precisely the most powerful unions, whose wage rates are most likely to be in need of correction, that will insist that their wage rates be raised at least in proportion to any increase in the cost-of-living index. The unworkable relationships between prices and key wage rates, if the insistence of the powerful unions prevails, will remain. The wage rate structure, in fact, may become even more distorted; for the great mass of unorganized workers, whose wage rates even before the inflation were not out of line (and may even have been unduly depressed through union exclusionism), will be penalized further during the transition by the rise in prices.

他们小看了经过千锤百炼的劳工;大工会都聘有懂得指数数字的专业劳动力经济学家,所以劳工不容易被蒙骗。鉴于此,通货膨胀政策似乎既无法达到其经济目标,也无法实现其政治目的。那些最强势的工会的工资水平往往最有待修正,而也正是他们坚持主张说,至少应当使他们工资率与生活费用指数保持同比例的提高。如果各大工会的这一要求取得了优势,那么物价和主要工资水平间不切实际的关系就会继续存在。事实上,工资率的结构甚至可能变得更不公平——众多没有参加工会的工人,他们的工资水平甚至在通货膨胀之前就不大符合他们应得的标准(甚至可能因为遭受工会排挤,而被压得过低),而在物价上涨的过渡期间,他们的处境将进一步恶化。

(未完待续)

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