小政府不等於好政府

有很多人每天大吵大嚷要求小政府,但這些人根本不知道政府爲什麽之所以大與小。小政府是19世紀最原始一代資本主義之思想,那時候以工業爲主的經濟體系還在萌芽階段,只有英國有較成熟的工業規模,而其他歐洲大陸國家正逐漸從農業與傳統手工業轉過渡到工業經濟。在這背景之下,從事政治經濟學的思想家並不可能想到完全自由市場的禍害,因爲他們缺乏大規模、能用於比較數據與解釋數據的思想框架:他們不可能知道什麽是外部性,而能解釋人類之非理性的心理學在當時壓根就不存在。直到1930年代後才出現John Maynard Keynes與 Karl Polanyi的系統分析,指出自由市場本身有其不穩定的因素。

Keynes提出「動物的精神」(animal spirits)–人類做事並不會考慮整體的綜合後果,而Polanyi則指出放任自由市場「自我調節」,它所帶來的不平等會破壞社會的一致性,當損害到達一定程度,另一極端就會受到廣泛支持。他們都提出自由市場需要修正,需要受約束。同時,社會需要用非市場方法去減少不平等。二戰結束的布雷頓森林系統 (Bretton Woods) 因此而起,形成所謂的大政府。它之所以大事因爲為保障經濟、金融與社會的持續發展,它要動用大量資源去建立各種制度:政府投資、金融監管、社會保障。此制度製造世界歷史中唯一沒有經濟危機的時段–黃金三十年,直到七十年代石油危機中才在去監管浪潮中結束。發達國家之所以「發達」,受人嚮往,正是由於它們的大政府所建立的制度:教育、醫療、福利、科技。沒有大政府就不會有今天的互聯網。

20世紀末其的去監管化先後引發數次危機:亞洲金融風暴、南美危機、俄羅斯危機。2007-8年的「大衰退」至今依然持續。以小政府作爲現代社會的治世指標就好像中國明清王朝固執的使用儒家《四書》、《五經》做為治國的最高指導一樣,不切實際之餘更會為活於當時的人製造不必要的痛楚。

Paul Krugman:

So why is Britain doing exactly what it shouldn’t?…

Over the past few days, I’ve posed that question to a number of supporters of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, sometimes in private, sometimes on TV. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives.

The bad metaphor — which you’ve surely heard many times — equates the debt problems of a national economy with the debt problems of an individual family. A family that has run up too much debt, the story goes, must tighten its belt…

The answer is that an economy is not like an indebted family. Our debt is mostly money we owe to each other; even more important, our income mostly comes from selling things to each other. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.

So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone’s income falls — my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better…

Well, that’s where it gets interesting. For when you push “austerians” on the badness of their metaphor, they almost always retreat to assertions along the lines of: “But it’s essential that we shrink the size of the state.”

Now, these assertions often go along with claims that the economic crisis itself demonstrates the need to shrink government. But that’s manifestly not true. Look at the countries in Europe that have weathered the storm best, and near the top of the list you’ll find big-government nations like Sweden and Austria…

So the austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America…

The big question here is whether the evident failure of austerity to produce an economic recovery will lead to a “Plan B.” Maybe. But my guess is that even if such a plan is announced, it won’t amount to much. For economic recovery was never the point; the drive for austerity was about using the crisis, not solving it. And it still is.

http://wp.me/pXZbk-JU

This entry was posted in 社會心理, 經濟學, 政治與經濟, 歷史 and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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