Economics in One Lesson校译之24. The Assault on Saving (4-1,2)

The Assault on Saving
第24章 抨击储蓄

From time immemorial proverbial wisdom has taught the virtues of saving, and warned against the consequences of prodigality and waste. This proverbial wisdom has reflected the common ethical as well as the merely prudential judgments of mankind. But there have always been squanderers, and there have apparently always been theorists to rationalize their squandering.


The classical economists, refuting the fallacies of their own day, showed that the saving policy that was in the best interests of the individual was also in the best interests of the nation. They showed that the rational saver, in ma king provision for his future, was not hurting, but helping, the whole community. But today the ancient virtue of thrift, as well as its defense by the classical economists, is once more under attack, for allegedly new reasons, while the opposite doctrine of spending is in fashion.

正统经济学家勇于驳斥他们那个时代的种种谬论,证明了符合个人最佳利益的储蓄政策,也符合国家的最佳利益。他们指出,懂得长远打算的理性储蓄者, 对整个社会不会有害,反而有益。但当今社会,古老的节俭美德连同正统经济学家的证明再次受到了抨击,许多人搬出反对节俭的新理由,提倡支出的论调蔚然成风。

In order to make the fundamental issue as clear as possible, we cannot do better, I think, than to start with the classic example used by Bastiat. Let us imagine two brothers, then, one a spendthrift and the other a prudent man, each of whom has inherited a sum to yield him an income of $50,000 a year. We shall disregard the income tax, and the question whether both brothers really ought to work for a living or give most of their income to charity, because such questions are irrelevant to our present purpose.

为了把这个基本的问题尽可能讲清楚,我想我们最好从经济学家巴斯夏所用的经典例子开始着手进行说明。假设有两兄弟各继承了一笔财富,因此每年都能各得50 000美元的收入,但是其中一人挥金如土,另一人谨慎节俭。我们在这里忽略掉所得税、以及两兄弟是否应该去工作赚钱,是否该把大部分钱捐给慈善机构,因为这些问题和我们接下来要谈的主题无关。

Alvin, then, the first brother, is a lavish spender. He spends not only by temperament, but on principle. He is a disciple (to go no further back) of Rodbertus, who declared in the middle of the nineteenth century that capitalists “must expend their income to the last penny in comforts and luxuries,” for if they “determine to save… goods accumulate, and part of the workmen will have no work.” Alvin is always seen at the night clubs; he tips handsomely; he maintains a pretentious establishment, with plenty of servants; he has a couple of chauffeurs, and doesn’t stint himself in the number of cars he owns; he keeps a racing stable; he runs a yacht; he travels; he loads his wife down with diamond bracelets and fur coats; he gives expensive and useless presents to his friends.

哥哥阿尔文是个挥霍者,他不仅有挥霍的性情,而且有挥霍的信念。他是卡尔•洛贝图斯(Karl Rodbertus)(我想不用再往前回溯得更远了)的忠实信徒。在19世纪中叶,洛贝图斯宣称资本家“必须将他们的最后一便士收入都花在享乐和奢靡上”,因为如果他们“决定储蓄,……那么商品将积压,部分工人将失业”。{脚注: 洛贝图斯,《生产过剩与恐慌》Karl Rodbertus, Overproduction and Crises (1850), p. 51.}阿尔文常出入夜总会;小费出手十分大方;他拥有一处豪宅,养了很多仆从;他有两三个私家司机,车子买了一辆又一辆;他有一个赛马场;他喜欢架游艇出航;喜欢去各地观光;他给太太买钻石项链和皮裘大衣;送朋友贵重却派不上用场的礼物。

To do all this he has to dig into his capital. But what of it? If saving is a sin, dissaving must be a virtue; and in any case he is simply making up for the harm being done by the saving of his pinchpenny brother Benjamin.


It need hardly be said that Alvin is a great favorite with the hat check girls, the waiters, the restaurateurs, the furriers, the jewelers, the luxury establishments of all kinds. They regard him as a public benefactor. Certainly it is obvious to everyone that he is giving employment and spreading his money around.


Compared with him brother Benjamin is much less popular. He is seldom seen at the jewelers, the furriers or the night clubs, and he does not call the head waiters by their first names. Whereas Alvin spends not only the full $50,000 income each year but is digging into capital besides, Benjamin lives much more modestly and spends only about $25,000 Obviously, think the people who see only what hits them in the eye, he is providing less than half as much employment as Alvin, and the other $25,000 is as useless as if it did not exist.

与他相比,弟弟本杰明可就远不如他受人欢迎。他很少光顾珠宝店、皮货店和夜总会,也不会亲昵地直呼那些领班侍者的名字。与阿尔文年年吃老本不同,本杰明要节俭得多。他一年的花销在25 000美元左右。在那些目光短浅的人看来,他提供的工作机会显然不到阿尔文的一半,另外25 000美元则丝毫没有派上用场,就跟那笔钱不存在一样。

But let us see what Benjamin actually does with this other $25,000 He does not let it pile up in his pocketbook, his bureau drawers, or in his safe. He either deposits it in a bank or he invests it. If he puts it either into a commercial or a savings bank, the bank either lends it to going businesses on short term for working capital, or uses it to buy securities. In other words, Benjamin invests his money either directly or indirectly. But when money is invested it is used to buy or build capital goods—houses or office buildings or factories or ships or trucks or machines. Any one of these projects puts as much money into circulation and gives as much employment as the same amount of money spent directly on consumption.

且慢!让我们来看看本杰明究竟是如何支配那另外25 000美元的。那笔钱,他并没有放在钱袋子、书桌抽屉和保险箱里面。他把钱存到银行,或者拿去投资。如果他是存到商业银行或储蓄银行,银行会贷给企业用作周转金,或用于购买证券。换句话说,本杰明的钱用于直接或间接投资。而一旦这笔钱以一种资本投资的形式出现时,人们就会把它用来购买或是生产资本类产品 ——房屋、写字楼、工厂、轮船、卡车、机器。通过这些项目,货币同样被投入了流通领域,而且它们也提供了同样多的就业机会。促进就业这种作用与把钱直接用来消费的结果是一样的。

“Saving,” in short, in the modem world, is only another form of spending. The usual difference is that the money is turned over to someone else to spend on means to increase production. So far as giving employment is concerned, Benjamin’s “saving” and spending combined give as much as Alvin’s spending alone, and put as much money in circulation. The chief difference is that the employment provided by Alvin’s spending can be seen by anyone with one eye; but it is necessary to look a little more carefully, and to think a moment, to recognize that every dollar of Benjamin’s saving gives as much employment as every dollar that Alvin throws around.


A dozen years roll by. Alvin is broke. He is no longer seen in the night clubs and at the fashionable shops; and those whom he formerly patronized, when they speak of him, refer to him as something of a fool. He writes begging letters to Benjamin. And Benjamin, who continues about the same ratio of spending to saving, not only provides more jobs than ever, because his income, through investment, has grown, but through his investment he has helped to provide better-paying and more productive jobs. His capital wealth and income are greater. He has, in brief, added to the nation’s productive capacity; Alvin has not.



So many fallacies have grown up about saving in recent years that they cannot all be answered by our example of the two brothers. It is necessary to devote some further space to them. Many stem from confusions so elementary as to seem incredible, particularly when found in the works of economic writers of wide repute. The word saving, for example, is used sometimes to mean mere hoarding of money, and sometimes to mean investment, with no clear distinction, consistently maintained, between the two uses.


Mere hoarding of hand-to-hand money, if it takes place irrationally, causelessly, and on a large scale, is in most economic situations harmful. But this sort of hoarding is extremely rare. Something that looks like this, but should be carefully distinguished from it, often occurs after a downturn in business has got under way. Consumptive spending and investment are then both contracted. Consumers reduce their buying. They do this partly, indeed, because they fear they may lose their jobs, and they wish to conserve their resources: they have contracted their buying not because they wish to consume less but because they wish to make sure that their power to consume will be extended over a longer period if they do lose their jobs.


But consumers reduce their buying for another reason. Prices of goods have probably fallen, and they fear a further fall. If they defer spending, they believe they will get more for their money. They do not wish to have their resources in goods that are falling in value, but in money which they expect (relatively) to rise in value.


The same expectation prevents them from investing. They have lost their confidence in the profitability of business; or at least they believe that if they wait a few months they can buy stocks or bonds cheaper. We may think of them either as refusing to hold goods that may fall in value on their hands, or as holding money itself for a rise.


It is a misnomer to call this temporary refusal to buy “saving.” It does not spring from the same motives as normal saving. And it is a still more serious error to say that this sort of “saving” is the cause of depressions. It is, on the contrary, the consequence of depressions.


It is true that this refusal to buy may intensify and prolong a depression. At times when there is capricious government intervention in business, and when business does not know what the government is going to do next, uncertainty is created. Profits are not reinvested. Firms and individuals allow cash balances to accumulate in their banks. They keep larger reserves against contingencies. This hoarding of cash may seem like a cause of a subsequent slowdown in business activity. The real cause, however, is the uncertainty brought about by the government policies. The larger cash balances of firms and individuals are merely one link in the chain of consequences from that uncertainty. To blame “excessive saving” for the business decline would be like blaming a fall in the price of apples not on a bumper crop but on the people who refuse to pay more for apples.


But when once people have decided to deride a practice or an institution, any argument against it, no matter how illogical, is considered good enough. It is said that the various consumers goods industries are built on the expectation of a certain demand, and that if people take to saving they will disappoint this expectation and start a depression. This assertion rests primarily on the error we have already examined—that of forgetting that what is saved on consumers’ goods is spent on capital goods, and that “saving” does not necessarily mean even a dollar’s contraction in total spending. The only element of truth in the contention is that any change that is sudden may be unsettling. It would be just as unsettling if consumers suddenly switched their demand from one consumers’ good to another. It would be even more unsettling if former savers suddenly switched their demand from capital goods to consumers’ goods

然而,一旦有人存心要贬低某种做法或机制的时候,任何帮腔的言论,不论多么不合逻辑,他么都会为之叫好。有人帮腔说,各种消费品工业,是预期有某种需求存在而建立起来的,如果人们只知道把钱存起来,这种预期就会落空,并且导致一场衰退。这一论断主要是以我们已经分析过的错误为出发点的,即忘记了我们在消费品支出上所减少的部分是被用在资本品上了,而“储蓄”并不一定意味着总支出的缩减。他们惟一说对的一点是:任何突然的变化都可能是引起混乱,就象消费者突然把他们的需求从一种商品转向另一种商品时所表现出的混乱一样,而倘若原来的储蓄者将他们对资本品的需求一下子转向了 对消费品的需求,那么由此而来的经济生活的混乱则会更为严重。

Still another objection is made against saving. It is said to be just downright silly. The nineteenth century is derided for its supposed inculcation of the doctrine that mankind through saving should go on baking itself a larger and larger cake without ever eating the cake. This picture of the process is itself naive and childish. It can best be disposed of, perhaps, by putting before ourselves a somewhat more realistic picture of what actually takes place.


Let us picture to ourselves, then, a nation that collectively saves every year about 20 percent of all it produces in that year. This figure greatly overstates the amount of net saving that has occurred historically in the United States, but it is a round figure that is easily handled, and it gives the benefit of every doubt to those who believe that we have been “oversaving.”

那么,让我们自己想象一下。假设国家每年的储蓄占国民生产总值的20%左右。{脚注:历史上,20%近似地表示国民生产总值每年投入资本形成(不包括消费资料)的总值。但是如果扣除资本消耗,则每年的净储蓄接近12%。参照:特伯格,《经济成熟的歪理》George Terborgh, The Bogey of Economic Maturity (1945)。1977年官方估计的私人国内投资总额,占国民生产总值的16%。}这个数字已远远超过美国历年来的净储蓄水平,我们取个偏大的整数,一来便于计算,二来好让那些指责“储蓄过度”的人服气。

Now as a result of this annual saving and investment, the total annual production of the country will increase each year. (To isolate the problem we are ignoring for the moment booms, slumps, or other fluctuations.) Let us say that this annual increase in production is 2.5 percentage points. (Percentage points are taken instead of a compounded percentage merely to simplify the arithmetic.) The picture that we get for an eleven-year period, say, would then run something like this in terms of index numbers:

现在,由于这样的年储蓄和投资水平,该国每年的总产出水平将逐年增加。(为了单独讨论这个问题,我们忽略影响增长不均衡的所有因素。)假设生产每年 增加2.5个百分点(为了简化计算,我们用百分点,不用百分增长率)。这样,我们可以用下列指数数字来表示我们所要考察的11年间的大致情况。如下表所示:

年份 总产量 消费品产量 资本品产量
第1年 100 80 20[†]
第2年 102.5 82 20.5
第3年 105 84 21
第4年 107.5 86 21.5
第5年 110 88 22
第6年 112.5 90 22.5
第7年 115 92 23
第8年 117.5 94 23.5
第9年 120 96 24
第10年 122.5 98 24.5
第11年 125 100 25


The first thing to be noticed about this table is that total production increases each year because of the saving, and would not have increased without it. (It is possible no doubt to imagine that improvements and new inventions merely in replaced machinery and other capital goods of a value no greater than the old would increase the national productivity; but this increase would amount to very little and the argument in any case assumes enough prior investment to have made the existing machinery possible.) The saving has been used year after year to increase the quantity or improve the quality of existing machinery, and so to increase the nation’s output of goods. There is, it is true (if that for some strange reason is considered an objection), a larger and larger “cake” each year. Each year, it is true, not all of the currently produced cake is consumed. But there is no irrational or cumulative restraint. For each year a larger and larger cake is in fact consumed; until, at the end of eleven years (in our illustration), the annual consumers’ cake alone is equal to the combined consumers’ and producers’ cakes of the first year. Moreover, the capital equipment, the ability to produce goods, is itself 25 percent greater than in the first year.

关于这张表格,我们需要首先注意的是,总产量每年的增长是由于储蓄所引起的,没有储蓄就没有总产量的增长。(你也可以想象,不花什么钱,单靠改良和新发明去提高生产力的情况,但是这方面的增幅非常小;并且,真要靠新工艺新设备,还得要有足够的投资才行。)这种储蓄年复一年被用于增加现有机器的数量和改进其品质,从而提高全国的产品产量。不错,“蛋糕”会越做越大(很奇怪,这也成其为反对的理由);每一年做出来的蛋糕,的确不会全部吃掉。然而,这里并不存在什么不合理的或是累加的限制。其实,每年吃掉的蛋糕越来越多;到了第11年 底,该年单单消费者吃掉的蛋糕,就等于第一年消费者吃掉的蛋糕和生产者吃掉的蛋糕的总合。而且,资本设备和生产产品的能力本身与第一年相比也已增加了25%。

Let us observe a few other points. The fact that 20 percent of the national income goes each year for saving does not upset the consumers’ goods industries in the least. If they sold only the 80 units they produced in the first year (and there were no rise in prices caused by unsatisfied demand) they would certainly not be foolish enough to build their production plans on the assumption that they were going to sell 100 units in the second year. The consumers’ goods industries, in other words, are already geared to the assumption that the past situation in regard to the rate of savings will continue. Only an unexpected sudden and substantial increase in savings would unsettle them and leave them with unsold goods.


But the same unsettlement, as we have already observed, would be caused in the capital goods industries by a sudden and substantial decrease in savings. If money that would previously have been used for savings were thrown into the purchase of consumers goods, it would not increase employment but merely lead to an increase in the price of consumption goods and to a decrease in the price of capital goods. Its first effect on net balance would be to force shifts in employment and temporarily to decrease employment by its effect on the capital goods industries. And its long-run effect would be to reduce production below the level that would otherwise have been achieved.



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