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

第三篇 三十年后的这堂课
第26章 三十年后的这堂课

(接前面部分)

If we go through the chapters of this book seriatim, we find practically no form of government intervention deprecated in the first edition that is not still being pursued, usually with increased obstinacy. Governments everywhere are still trying to cure by public works the unemployment brought about by their own policies. They are imposing heavier and more expropriatory taxes than ever. They still recommend credit expansion. Most of them still make “full employment” their overriding goal. They continue to impose import quotas and protective tariffs. They try to increase exports by depreciating their currencies even further. Farmers are still “striking” for “parity prices.” Governments still provide special encouragements to unprofitable industries. They still make efforts to “stabilize” special commodity prices.

如果我们逐一阅读本书的章节,我们就会发现,在第一版中我们所责难的各类政府干预形式,无一例外不是正在被各国顽固采用。各国政府都在努力用公共工程来解决政策性失业问题。他们变本加厉地增加税负,推行信用扩张。大多数政府仍以“充分就业”为压倒一切的目标。他们继续实行进口配额和保护性关税。他们设法通过让货币贬值来达到出口增加。农民仍旧在为“等位价格”而努力。 政府则继续帮扶那些无利可图的行业。他们还在努力“稳定”个别商品的价格。

Governments, pushing up commodity prices by inflating their currencies, continue to blame the higher prices on private producers, sellers, and “profiteers.” They impose price ceilings on oil and natural gas, to discourage new exploration precisely when it is in most need of encouragement, or resort to general price and wage fixing or “monitoring.” They continue rent control in the face of the obvious devastation it has caused. They not only retain minimum wage laws but keep increasing their level, in face of the chronic unemployment they so clearly bring about. They continue to pass laws granting special privileges and immunities to labor unions; to oblige workers to become members; to tolerate mass picketing and other forms of coercion; and to compel employers to “bargain collectively in good faith” with such unions— i.e., to make at least some concessions to their demands. The intention of all these measures is to “help labor.” But the result is once more to create and prolong unemployment, and to lower total wage payments compared with what they might have been.

随着通货膨胀抬高了商品价格,各国政府不断将物价上涨的原因,怪罪到私人生产者、销售者以及所谓“奸商”头上。他们规定了石油和天然气的最高限价,在这些产品的生产恰恰是最需要得到鼓励的时候,政府阻碍了新的开发;或者,政府将全面地固定或是“监督”价格和工资;他们仍继续实施租金管制,尽管后者事实上已经造成了明显的灾难。他们不仅保留最低工资法令,而且面对法令所带来的明显的延续的失业,仍然不断提高最低工资标准。他们不断通过制定各种法律,给工会以各种特权和豁免权的支持;硬性要求劳工加入工会;容忍大规模的罢工纠察和其他形式的胁迫;强迫雇主和这些工会进行“集体的真诚的劳资谈判”——也就是说,对他们的要求至少要做出某种让步。所以这些措施的目的都是为了“帮助劳工”,但结果却是又一次制造和延续了失业,同时还减少了总体工资支付,使劳工工资达不到应有的水平。

Most politicians continue to ignore the necessity of profits, to overestimate their average or total net amount, to denounce unusual profits anywhere, to tax them excessively, and sometimes even to deplore the very existence of profits.

大多数政治人物仍在忽视利润的必要性,夸大雇主们的平均利润或净收入总量,反对任何非正常利润,并对它们课以重税。有的时侯,他们甚至对利润本身的存在感到深恶痛绝。

The anticapitalistic mentality seems more deeply embedded than ever. Whenever there is any slowdown in business, the politicians now see the main cause as “insufficient consumer spending.” At the same time that they encourage more consumer spending they pile up further disincentives and penalties in the way of saving and investment. Their chief method of doing this today, as we have already seen, is to embark on or accelerate inflation. The result is that today, for the first time in history, no nation is on a metallic standard, and practically every nation is swindling its own people by printing a chronically depreciating paper currency.

在人们的观念中,反资本主义的思想渗透得比以往更深了。每当经济不景气,政治人物就认为“消费者支出不足”是主要原因。于是,它们一方面鼓励消费者增加支出,另一方面制定更多的妨碍性和惩罚性措施去限制储蓄和投资。我们说过,当今各国政府的主要做法,是制造或加速通货膨胀。结果是,经济发展到今天已经没有一个国家是金属本位的货币政策了,几乎每个国家都通过印制长期贬值的纸币来讹诈它们的人民。

To pile one more item on this heap, let us examine the recent tendency, not only in the United States but abroad, for almost every “social” program, once launched upon, to get completely out of hand. We have already glanced at the overall picture, but let us now look more closely at one outstanding example — Social Security in the United States.

最后,让我们看看最近的一种趋势。政府一旦推行带有“社会”二字的计划,就会完全失控,不仅在美国是如此,在其他所有国家都是如此。对于政府干预,我们已经看了个大概,现在让我们来细看一个当今尤为突出的例子——美国的社保制度。

The original federal Social Security Act was passed in 1935. The theory behind it was that the greater part of the relief problem was that people did not save in their working years, and so, when they were too old to work, they found themselves without resources. This problem could be solved, it was thought, if they were compelled to insure themselves, with employers also compelled to contribute half the necessary premiums, so that they would have a pension sufficient to retire on at age sixty-five or over. Social Security was to be entirely a self-financed insurance plan based on strict actuarial principles. A reserve fund was to be set up sufficient to meet future claims and payments as they fell due.

最早的联邦社会保险法案是1935年通过的。这个法案背后的理论是:大部分社会救济问题,在于人们有工作收入时没把钱存下来,到上了年纪才发现自己没有积蓄安度晚年。立法者认为这个问题可以解决,如果劳工被强制性地给自己保险,同时雇主也被强制性地为劳工负担一半的保费,这样一来,等劳工在65岁或更高年龄退休时,他们就会有足够的退休金安度晚年。社会保障基于严格的精算原则,被设计成完全自偿性保险。设立的社保基金足以应对将来的理赔申请和到期的社保支领。

It never worked out that way. The reserve fund existed mainly on paper. The government spent the Social Security tax receipts, as they came in, either to meet its ordinary expenses or to pay out benefits. Since 1975, current benefit payments have exceeded the system’s tax receipts.

但是实际的运作从来都没有依照这种设计执行过。社保基金只是账面数字。社保金收缴上来之后就被政府挪作它用,用于满足其经常性开支,或者向某些人提供津贴。自1975年以来,当期的社保发放金额已经超过这套制度的社保金缴入金额。

It also turned out that in practically every session Congress found ways to increase the benefits paid, broaden the coverage, and add new forms of “social insurance.” As one commentator pointed out in 1965, a few weeks after Medicare insurance was added: “Social Security sweeteners have been enacted in each of the past seven general election years.

这很自然地产生了每届国会都要寻求增加社保名目的局面,例如增加社保支付、扩大社保覆盖面、增加新形式的“社会保障”。就像在1965年加进医保计划之后不久,一位评论家所指出的那样:“过去七次大选之年,社保名目每次都有增加。”

As inflation developed and progressed, Social Security benefits were increased not only in proportion, but much more. The typical political ploy was to load up benefits in the present and push costs into the future. Yet that future always arrived; and each few years later Congress would again have to increase payroll taxes levied on both workers and employers.

随着通货膨胀的发展和推进,社保金额也必然有所增加。然而,其增长率并不与通货膨胀的发展幅度相同,而是比后者要大得多。典型的政治手段是在眼前积聚起大量的保险费,而将成本推到未来去消化。然而,未来总是要到来的,每过几年,国会将不得不再次提高劳工和雇主缴纳的社保金。

Not only were the tax rates continuously increased, but there was a constant rise in the amount of salary taxed. In the original 1935 bill the salary taxed was only the first $3,000. The early tax rates were very low. But between 1965 and 1977, for example, the Social Security tax shot up from 4.4 percent on the first $6,600 of earned income (levied on employer and employee alike) to a combined 11.7 percent on the first $16,500 (Between 1960 and 1977, the total annual tax increased by 572 percent, or about 12 percent a year compounded. It is scheduled to go much higher.) At the beginning of 1977, unfunded liabilities of the Social Security system were officially estimated at $4.1 trillion.

除了社保金提留比率不断增加,纳入社保缴纳基数的薪金也在不断增加。最早的1935年社保法案中,规定薪金收入的前3,000美元作为社保缴纳基数,并且提留比率很低。1965年规定薪金收入的前6,600美元作为社保缴纳基数,提留比率4.4%(雇主和员工都必须缴纳),到1977年基数激增为前16,500美元,提留比率11.7%。(从1960年到1977年,年度总社保入账增加了572%,按复利计算平均每年增长12%。来年计划中的涨幅比这更高。)

根据官方统计,1977年初,社会保险系统的无资金准备的负债高达4.1万亿美元。{endnotes:现在的社保提留比率是15.3%。据估计,到2010年,美国的社保体系将破产。}

No one can say today whether Social Security is really an insurance program or just a complicated and lopsided relief system. The bulk of the present benefit recipients are being assured that they “earned” and “paid for” their benefits. Yet no private insurance company could have afforded to pay existing benefit scales out of the “premiums” actually received. As of early 1978, when low-paid workers retire, their monthly benefits generally represent about 60 percent of what they earned on the job. Middle-income workers receive about 45 percent. For those with exceptionally high salaries, the ratio can fall to or 10 percent. If Social Security is thought of as a relief system, however, it is a very strange one, for those who have already been getting the highest salaries receive the highest dollar benefits.

如今,谁也无法说明社保制度真的是一个保险计划呢,还是只是一种复杂而不平衡的救济制度。政府总是设法证明,那些众多的受益者所领取的社保金是他们“挣得的”、是他们“出了钱的”。可是,还没有哪家私人保险公司,有能力从实际收取的“保费”中支付现有规模的社保金。1978年初,低收入劳工退休的时候,每月领取的社保相当于工作收入的60%左右。中等收入劳工领取的社保约为原来收入的45%。薪资特别高的人领取的社保约为原来收入的5%或10%。如果我们把社保制度看作是一种救济制度,那它就是一种很奇怪的救济制度。因为,那些已经领取最高工资的人得到了最高水平的保险收益。

Yet Social Security today is still sacrosanct. It is considered political suicide for any congressman to suggest cutting down or cutting back not only present but promised future benefits. The American Social Security system must stand today as a frightening symbol of the almost inevitable tendency of any national relief, redistribution, or “insurance scheme, once established, to run completely out of control.

然而,今天的社会保险制度仍然神圣不可侵犯。如果哪位国会议员胆敢提议取消或削减现在或未来的社保支付,那无异于政治自杀。如今,美国社会保险制度是一种令人畏惧的象征,它代表了一种近乎必然的趋势,即,在任何国家中救济、再分配或是“保险计划”,一旦形成,它们就会不可避免地发展到一种完全无法收拾的地步。

In brief, the main problem we face today is not economic, but political. Sound economists are in substantial agreement concerning what ought to be done. Practically all government attempts to redistribute wealth and income tend to smother productive incentives and lead toward general impoverishment. It is the proper sphere of government to create and enforce a framework of law that prohibits force and fraud. But it must refrain from specific economic interventions. Government’s main economic function is to encourage and preserve a free market. When Alexander the Great visited the philosopher Diogenes and asked whether he could do anything for him, Diogenes is said to have replied: ‘Yes, stand a little less between me and the sun.” It is what every citizen is entitled to ask of his government.

简单地说,我们今天面对的主要问题,不是经济上的,而是政治上的。著名的经济学家们已经就怎么做达成了共识。实际上,政府为重分配财富和收入所做的种种努力,只会扼杀生产积极性,并导致普遍贫困化。政府真正该做的事,是建立和执行一套法律架构,禁止暴力和欺诈。政府一定不要去干预个别的经济活动。政府的主要经济职能是鼓励并保障一个自由的市场。当亚历山大大帝去拜访哲学家第欧根尼,居高临下地问哲人有什么请求时,据说,第欧根尼回答道:“是的。请挪尊步,不要挡着我晒太阳。”每位公民都有权对政府这么要求。

The outlook is dark, but it is not entirely without hope. Here and there one can detect a break in the clouds. More and more people are becoming aware that government has nothing to give them without first taking it away from somebody else—or from themselves. Increased handouts to selected groups mean merely increased taxes, or increased deficits and increased inflation. And inflation, in the end, misdirects and disorganizes production. Even a few politicians are beginning to recognize this, and some of them even to state it clearly.

举目阴云蔽日,但并不是完全没有希望。总有某些地方,阳光会破云而出。越来越多人开始意识到,政府不会无中生有给他们什么东西,而不需要把那些东西从别人——或者他们自已——手中抢过来。特定群体享受更多优待,只能是意味着税负加重、赤字增加、通货膨胀加剧。而最终,通货膨胀将把生产引上错误的轨道,并破坏生产的组织。有些政治人物也开始认清这一点,其中有的人甚至清楚明白地把它讲出来。

In addition, there are marked signs of a shift in the intellectual winds of doctrine. Keynesians and New Dealers seem to be in a slow retreat. Conservatives, libertarians, and other defenders of free enterprise are becoming more outspoken and more articulate. And there are many more of them. Among the young, there is a rapid growth of a disciplined school of “Austrian” economists.

此外,人们的信条也存在着明显的变化趋势。凯恩斯学派和新政实行者们逐渐退场。保守派、自由派和其它自由企业的支持者们更加坦率清晰地表达着自己的观点。而且,这样的人越来越多。在年轻一辈中,由一些受到良好教育和训练的经济学者形成的“奥地利学派”快速崛起。

There is a real promise that public policy may be reversed before the damage from existing measures and trends has become irreparable.

真正的出路在于,趁目前的各种措施造成伤害还没有达到不可收拾之前,公共政策干预经济的局面必须扭转。

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