Economics in One Lesson校译之26. The Lesson After Thirty Years (2-1)

The Lesson after Thirty Years

第三篇 三十年后的这堂课
第26章 三十年后的这堂课

The first edition of this book appeared in 1946. It is now, as I write this, thirty-two years later. How much of the lesson expounded in the previous pages has been learned in this period?


If we are referring to the politicians—to all those responsible for formulating and imposing government policies—practically none of it has been learned. On the contrary, the policies analyzed in the preceding chapters are far more deeply established and widespread, not only in the United States, but in practically every country in the world, than they were when this book first appeared.


We may take, as the outstanding example, inflation. This is not only a policy imposed for its own sake, but an inevitable result of most of the other interventionist policies. It stands today as the universal symbol of government intervention everywhere.


The 1946 edition explained the consequences of inflation, but the inflation then was comparatively mild. True, though federal government expenditures in 1926 had been less than $3 billion and there was a surplus, by fiscal year 1946 expenditures had risen to $55 billion and there was a deficit of $16 billion. Yet in fiscal year 1947, with the war ended, expenditures fell to $35 billion and there was an actual surplus of nearly $4 billion. By fiscal year 1978, however, expenditures had soared to $45’ billion and the deficit to $49 billion.


All this has been accompanied by an enormous increase in the stock of money—from $113 billion of demand deposits plus currency outside of banks in 1947, to $357 billion in August 1978. In other words, the active money supply has been more than tripled in the period.


The effect of this increase in money has been a dramatic increase in prices. The consumer price index in 1946 stood at In September1978 it was 199.3. Prices, in short, more than tripled.


The policy of inflation, as I have said, is partly imposed for its own sake. More than forty years after the publication of John Maynard Keynes’ General Theory, and more than twenty years after that book has been thoroughly discredited by analysis and experience, a great number of our politicians are still unceasingly recommending more deficit spending in order to cure or reduce existing unemployment. An appalling irony is that they are making these recommendations when the federal government has already been running a deficit for forty-one out of the last forty-eight years and when that deficit has been reaching dimensions of $50 billion a year. 

我已经指出通货膨胀政策的实施部分是由于其自身的缘故。凯恩斯的《就业、利息与货币通论》发表已经是40年前的事情,那本书被各种理论分析和实践经验所彻底质疑也已经有20年,时至今日,无数政治人物仍在不断主张实行大量的赤字支出,以对付和减少失业。极具讽刺的是,过去48年,联邦政府已有41年出现财政赤字,年均赤字高达500亿美元,程度如此严重,那些政治人物仍旧不断提出这种建议。{书后注:到1992年,财政预算赤字已达到2 900亿美元。此后,1995年的预算赤字下降到“只有”1 650亿美元。(《投资者财经日报》,1995年10月5日)}

An even greater irony is that, not satisfied with following such disastrous policies at home, our officials have been scolding other countries, notably Germany and Japan, for not following these “expansionary” policies themselves. This reminds one of nothing so much as Aesop’s fox, who, when he had lost his tail, urged all his fellow foxes to cut off theirs.


One of the worst results of the retention of the Keynesian myths is that it not only promotes greater and greater inflation, but that it systematically diverts attention from the real causes of our unemployment, such as excessive union wage-rates, minimum wage laws, excessive and prolonged unemployment insurance, and overgenerous relief payments.


But the inflation, though in part often deliberate, is today mainly the consequence of other government economic interventions. It is the consequence, in brief, of the Redistributive State—of all the policies of expropriating money from Peter in order to lavish it on Paul.


This process would be easier to trace, and its ruinous effects easier to expose, if it were all done in some single measure—like the guaranteed annual income actually proposed and seriously considered by committees of Congress in the early 1970s. This was a proposal to tax still more ruthlessly all incomes above average and turn the proceeds over to all those living below a so-called minimum poverty line, in order to guarantee them an income— whether they were willing to work or not—”to enable them to live with dignity.” It would be hard to imagine a plan more clearly calculated to discourage work and production and eventually to impoverish everybody.


But instead of passing any such single measure, and bringing on ruin in a single swoop, our government has preferred to enact a hundred laws that effect such a redistribution on a partial and selective basis. These measures may miss some needy groups entirely; but on the other hand they may shower upon other groups a dozen different varieties of benefits, subsidies, and other handouts. These include, to give a random list: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, veterans’ benefits, farm subsidies, subsidized housing, rent subsidies, school lunches, public employment on make-work jobs, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and direct relief of all kinds, including aid to the aged, the blind, and the disabled. The federal government has estimated that under these last categories it has been handing federal aid benefits to more than 4 million people—not to count what the states and cities are doing.

但是,我们的政府并没有采用这样一种单一的方法,它也不是在某个个别的干预中损害公众利益的。相反,政府更喜欢制定无数律令,并通过这些律令片面地、有选择性地实现再分配,这样的措施可能完全忽略了某些贫困群体的存在。同时,在另一方面,它又将使其它某些集团享受各种各样的好处,比如津贴、补助、以及其他优待。这些措施,随便列举一些:社保、老年医保、医疗补助、失业保险、食品券、退伍补助、农业补贴、住房补贴、租金补贴、学校午餐、创造工作机会的再就业计划、抚养子女的家庭援助,以及针对老人、盲人、残疾人等实施的各种直接救助。联邦政府统计表明,单单最后这类人,联邦财政救助对象超过400万,这还不 包括接受各州、市财政救助的人数。

One author has recently counted and examined no fewer than forty-four welfare programs. Government expenditures for these in 1976 totaled $187 billion. The combined average growth of these programs between 1971 and 1976 was 25 percent a year—2.5 times the rate of growth of estimated gross national product for the same period. Projected expenditures for 1979 are more than $250 billion. Coincident with the extraordinary growth of these welfare expenditures has been the development of a “national welfare industry,” now composed of 5 million public and private workers distributing payments and services to 50 million beneficiaries.

有位作者最近对至少44种福利方案进行了统计和详细调查。1976年,政府在这些计划上的总支出高达1,870亿美元。把这些计划合起来看,1971年到1976年,年均增长率为25%,是同期国民生产总值增长率的2.5倍。1979年的支出金额预计超过2,500亿美元。与这些福利支出急剧增长相一致的,是“国家福利产业”的发展。目前在这一产业公共部门和私人部门中的就业人数为500万,而从中获得报酬和服务好处的则有5 000万人。{脚注:霍布斯,《福利产业》Charles D. Hobbs, The Welfare Industry (Washington, D.C.: Heritage Foundation, 1978)}

Nearly every other Western country has been administering a similar assortment of aid programs—though sometimes a more integrated and less haphazard collection. And in order to do this they have been resorting to more and more Draconian taxation.


We need merely point to Great Britain as one example. Its government has been taxing personal income from work (“earned” income) up to 83 percent, and personal income from investment (“unearned” income) up to 98 percent. Should it be surprising that it has discouraged work and investment and so profoundly discouraged production and employment? There is no more certain way to deter employment than to harass and penalize employers. There is no more certain way to keep wages low than to destroy every incentive to investment in new and more efficient machines and equipment. But this is becoming more and more the policy of governments everywhere. 

我们只需以英国为例来进行说明。英国政府对个人从工作中得到的收入(称为“劳动”所得)征收的所得税,税率最高达83%;从投资中得到的收入(称为“非劳动”所得)征收的所得税,税率最高达98%。这种税率直接打击工作和投资的积极性,如此全面地抑制了生产和就业,有什么令人吃惊呢?干扰和惩罚雇主是阻碍就业最明显的手段。同样,打击投资积极性,令人们不愿投资效率更高的新机器设备,是压低工资最明显的手段。然而越来越多这样的政策正被各国政府采用。{endnotes:在英国,所得税税率最高达40%,增值税税率为17.5%,资本利得税税率为33%。(1996年的《经济自由指数》(Index of Economic Freedom),布赖恩·约翰逊(Brian T. Johnson)和托马斯·希伊(Thomas P. Sheehy), The Heritage Foundation, 1996.)在1994年,各项税赋刮走了国民生产总值的34%。(《经济学人》(The Economist),1995年2月9日,第99页)}

Yet this Draconian taxation has not brought revenues to keep pace with ever more reckless government spending and schemes for redistributing wealth. The result has been to bring chronic and growing government budget deficits, and therefore chronic and mounting inflation, in nearly every country in the world.


For the last thirty years or so, Citibank of New York has been keeping a record of this inflation over ten-year periods. Its calculations are based on the cost-of-living estimates published by the individual governments themselves. In its economic letter of October 1977 it published a survey of inflation in fifty countries. These figures show that in 1976, for example, the West German mark, with the best record, had lost 35 percent of its purchasing power over the preceding ten years; that the Swiss franc had lost 40 percent, the American dollar 43 percent, the French franc 50 percent, the Japanese yen 57 percent, the Swedish krone 47 percent, the Italian lira 56 percent, and the British pound 61 percent. When we get to Latin America, the Brazilian cruzeiro had lost 89 percent of its value, and the Uruguayan, Chilean, and Argentine pesos more than 99 percent.


Though when compared with the record of a year or two before, the overall record of world currency depreciations was more moderate; the American dollar in 1977 was depreciating at an annual rate of 6 percent, the French franc of 8.6 percent, the Japanese yen of 9.1 percent, the Swedish krone of percent, the British pound of 14.5 percent, the Italian lira of 15.7 percent, and the Spanish peseta at an annual rate of 17.5 percent. As for Latin American experience, the Brazilian currency unit in 1977 was depreciating at an annual rate of 30.8 percent, the Uruguayan of 35.5, the Chilean of 53.9, and the Argentinean of 65.7.

尽管与一两年前的情况相比,世界通货贬值的总体状况有所缓和,但1977年的贬值率分别是,美元6%,法国法郎8.6%,日元9.1%,瑞典克朗9.5%,英镑14.5%,意大利里拉15.7%,西班牙比塞塔则达17.5%。至于拉美国家,巴西货币单位1977年贬值30.8%,乌拉圭比索35.5%,智利比索53.9%,阿根廷比索则高达65.7%。{endnotes:1994年各国货币的年通货膨胀率为:美国2.8%,法国1.7%,日本-2%,瑞典4.5%,英国2.4%,意大利4%,西班牙45%,巴西2 500%,乌拉圭40%,智利11%,阿根廷5%。(1996年的《经济自由指数》,布赖恩·约翰逊和托马斯·希伊, The Heritage Foundation, 1996.)}

I leave it to the reader to picture the chaos that these rates of depreciation of money were producing in the economies of these countries and the suffering in the lives of millions of their inhabitants.


As I have pointed out, these inflations, themselves the cause of so much human misery, were in turn in large part the consequence of other policies of government economic intervention. Practically all these interventions unintentionally illustrate and underline the basic lesson of this book. All were enacted on the assumption that they would confer some immediate benefit on some special group. Those who enacted them failed to take heed of their secondary consequences—failed to consider what their effect would be in the long run on all groups.


In sum, so far as the politicians are concerned, the lesson that this book tried to instill more than thirty years ago does not seem to have been learned anywhere.



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