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斯蒂格利茨:1%有,1%治,1%享

czy, vanity fair
斯蒂格利茨挪用了林肯的名句--民有民治民享:”美国民主中1%的人获取将近1/4的收入--这种不平等是富有者也将会感到后悔的。“

斯蒂格利茨:1%的人所有、1%的人治理、1%的人享用

对已经发生的事视而不见,那是没有用的。现在,身居美国财富金字塔顶端的1%人口每年收入占全国总收入将近四分之一。若以所拥有的财富而论,这1%人口所控制比例达40%。而在25年前,这两个数字分别为12%和33%。对此有人表示,是独创性和干劲给这些人带来了财富,并主张说二十多年来所有人的生活都已水涨船高。

这种观点是具有误导性的。过去10年来,上层1%人群的收入激增18%,中产阶层的收入却在下降。而对于只有高中文化程度的人来说,收入的下降尤其明显--光是在过去25年里,就下降了12%。最近几十年来所有的经济增长,还有其他好处,都流向了金字塔顶端的人群。在收入平等方面,美国落后于小布什曾经嘲笑过的"老旧"、"僵化"的欧洲国家,这方面可与美国比肩的是存在寡头政治的俄罗斯,还有伊朗。拉丁美洲许多过去以收入不平等著称的国家--如巴西--最近几年都急速发展,成功地改善了穷人的困境,缩小了收入差距,而美国却让不平等状况加剧。很久以前,经济学家就试图证明巨大的收入不平等是正当的。19世纪中期,美国深为这种情况困扰时(虽然与现在相比,那时的差距只是小菜一碟),他们就提出了"边际生产力理论",将高收入者与更高的生产力、对社会有更大贡献联系在一起。富人一直深爱这种理论。

然而,没有多少证据表明这种理论站得住脚。过去三年来,造成经济危机的那些公司高管对社会及自己公司的贡献主要是负面的,然而他们至今仍领取着大笔"绩效奖金"。有时连他们所属的公司也觉得"绩效奖金"之名令人尴尬,改称"留才红利",虽然它们唯一留住的是这些人糟糕的业绩。与这些把全球经济拖到毁灭边缘的人相比,那些给社会真正做出贡献的人--包括遗传研究先锋和信息时代领航者--所获取的报酬简直是微不足道。

对于这种状况,一些人耸耸肩,一笑了之。这个人赚了,那个人亏了,那又怎么样呢?他们说,现在重要的不是如何分配蛋糕,而是蛋糕的尺寸有多大。这种观点从根本上就是错误的。一个大部分市民年复一年境况越来越糟糕的经济体--亦即美国这样的经济体--长期来说也不可能表现得很好。理由如下:

首先,日益扩大的收入不平等其实是另外一件事的外部表现,那就是机遇的减少。无论何时,只要机遇的平等在减少,这就意味着我们未能以最有效方式使用最有价值的资产--人;其次,很多导致收入不平等的不当做法--比如鼓励垄断、偏向特殊利益集体的税收政策--都会降低经济效益。而新的不平等还导致新的错误,使经济效益进一步降低。仅举一例:许多才华横溢的年轻人受丰厚收入吸引进入金融行业,而不是进入更符合他们兴趣、更有利于发挥他们的才华、更能塑造健康经济的领域工作;第三点,可能也是最重要的一点,就是现代经济要求"集体行动"--它需要政府投资于基础设施、教育和技术。政府资助的研究引领了互联网时代的到来,促进了公共健康等领域的飞速发展,美国和世界各国都从中受益匪浅。但长期以来,美国便饱受基础设施、基础研究、各级教育投资不足之苦(看看我们的高速公路、桥梁、铁路和机场吧),接下来这些领域的预算还要被大幅削减。

 这些现象的发生丝毫不足为奇--当一个社会的财富分配极为不平衡时,这一切就会自然而然地出现。一个社会在财富分配方面差距越大,用于公共需要的财富数量就会越少。富人无须依靠政府建的公园,政府办的教育、医疗和个人安保机构,他们可以用钱买到这一切。在此过程中,他们离普通人越来越远,对于普通人曾有的同情也随之淡化。他们也不喜欢大政府--因为大政府可以利用自己的力量来调整这种不平衡,拿走他们部分财富,以投资于公共需求。他们可能会对美国现有政府颇有怨言,但事实上他们还是挺喜欢它的:囿于条条框框无法实现再分配,各部门意见分歧,除了减税,什么事也做不成。

经济学家不知如何充分解释美国出现的收入日益不平等现象。普通的供需原理肯定在其中扮演了一定角色:可以节省劳力的技术令很多蓝领、中产劳动者失去工作机会,全球化浪潮则创造了一个世界性的劳动力市场,迫使昂贵的美国非熟练工与廉价的海外非熟练工竞争。社会变化也起到一定作用--比如说工会的衰退,过去美国三分之一的工人加入工会,现在只有大约12%。

但是,之所以出现这样大的收入不平等,一个主要原因是:金字塔顶端的1%人群希望事情变成这样。最明显的例证就是税收政策。
富人们很大一部分财富来自资本收益,而降低资本收益税率让最富有的美国人几乎可以坐享其成。垄断和类垄断经营一直是大亨们的收入来源之一,从20世纪初的洛克菲勒到20世纪末的比尔•盖茨,莫不如此。而反托拉斯法规执行不力(特别是在共和党执政时期),对金字塔顶端人群来说是天赐之福。今日之收入不平等还有很大一部分来自金融系统的操纵,辅以监管规则的变化(均由金融业出资推动,这是他们最好的投资之一)。政府以近乎为零的利率,将钱借给金融机构,当他们失败时又提供慷慨的救市资金,条款极为优厚。对于该行业的不透明和利益冲突,监管者则视而不见。

细看美国上层1%人群所控制的财富规模,简直可以说扩大收入差距乃现代美国一大成就--当初我们在这方面远远落后,可是现在位居世界前列。目前看来,未来数年中,我们还将继续巩固这种"优势",因为财富会带来权力,而权力则将带来更多财富。在不久前的联合公民诉联邦选举委员会案中,最高法院取消了对公司使用自有资金影响选举结果的限制,为企业出钱收买政府大开方便之门。在今日之美国,富豪与政治完美地结合在一起。几乎所有美国参议员,以及大部分众议员,以金字塔顶成员身份出任,靠金字塔顶的财富支持留任,在任时会卖力为这一人群服务,以便卸任后得到相应犒赏。行政部门贸易与经济政策方面的重要决策者亦基本来自这一人群。他们通过立法,禁止最大药品采购方--政府--在采购药品时议价,相当于给制药公司奉上价值万亿美元的大礼。除非为富人大幅减税,否则对穷人有利的税法就无法出台,对此你也不要大跌眼镜。鉴于塔尖人群所拥有的能量,政府这样运作,我们一点也不该感到惊奇。

收入不平等正扭曲着社会。大量事实证明,不少普通大众效仿塔尖1%人群的生活方式,消费超出自身承受能力。先富带动后富的"滴入式经济"也许只是一种狂想,但塔尖人群的行为方式倒是真的成功渗透到了下面。收入不平等极大地扭曲了我们的外交政策。塔尖1%人群很少去服兵役--志愿兵那点收入根本不能吸引有钱人的儿女,他们的爱国主义仅止于此。国家参战时,他们亦不会受到高税额的"勒索":因为国家全用借来的钱支付这些费用。外交政策的定义本是平衡国家利益和国家资源。但掌权的1%人群因为从不付出任何代价,所谓平衡和限制的概念有时和实际差得很远。于是美国经常冒不必要的风险,企业和合同商则跟着逐利。同样,经济全球化规则也是为富人而设计的:它们鼓励国家之间的商业竞争,这会导致对企业降税,减少健康和环保方面的投入,破坏过去被视为核心价值的劳工权利。
假如这些规则鼓励国家之间的劳动力竞争,结果将会怎样?各国政府会争着保障经济环境稳定,降低对普通工薪阶层的征税,提供好的教育和清洁的环境,这些都是劳动者关心的,塔尖的1%人群才不在乎这些。

或者,更准确地说,他们以为自己不需要关心这些。塔尖1%人群给社会带来诸多负面影响,最大后果就是侵蚀了人们对美国公民身份感的认同,让普通人不再相信公平竞争、机会平等和社区意识。美国向来以社会高度公平为傲,宣扬人人都有机会,但统计学数据却证明了另外一个事实:美国穷人,甚至是中产阶级,挤进上流社会的机会远比许多欧洲国家要小。现实的牌局对他们不利。最近中东动荡,正是因为人们不满于体制不公,认为没有出头的希望,食品价格上涨和年轻人失业率高企只是导火线。眼下美国年轻人失业率达到将近20%(在一些地方和族群中甚至达到40%),六分之一的美国人想得到一份全职工作而不能,七分之一的美国人要靠食品券生活,大量证据表明,好处全部留在上层,并未"滴流"到下面,惠及其他人群。这不可避免地导致疏离感--上次大选中,二十多岁人群的参选率约在21%,与失业率相当。

最近数周,在中东一些国家,数百万人涌上街头,抗议糟糕的政治、经济和社会状况,一些政权被推翻。该地区其他统治家族也正紧张地躲在空调房里,观望形势--下一个会是自己吗?他们的担心是对的。这些社会有一些共同点:一小部分人群--不到1%--控制了绝大部分的财富,而且财富是权力的决定性力量,种种腐败已成痼疾,渗入日常生活,此外富人常常极力阻挠有利民生的政策的实施。

看着别国街头的乱象,我们该扪心自问:什么时候会轮到美国?在很多重要的方面,美国正变得跟这些遥远的、动荡的国家一样。

亚历西斯

  • 德托克维尔在《论美国的民主》中曾经阐述过他眼中美国社会的主要优势,他称之为"适度的利己"。重点在于"适度"二字。

每个人都有狭义上的利己思想,"适度的利己"是不同的。它认为关注别人的利益--换句话说,关注公共福利--是实现个人最终利益的先决条件。托克维尔并不认为这种想法有多么高贵。事实恰恰相反,他认为这是一种美国实用主义的标志。精明的美国人理解一个基本的事实:关心别人不仅对灵魂有益,对生意也有好处。

 

塔尖1%的人群住着最好的房子,享受最好的教育、医疗和最美妙的生活方式,但是有一样东西钱是买不来的:那就是意识到自己的命运取决于其他99%的人生活得如何。纵观历史,无数1%的人群最终都明白了这一点,但往往为时已晚。

 

Inequality

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%
 
Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.
By Joseph E. Stiglitz
Illustration by Stephen Doyle
May 2011

THE FAT AND THE FURIOUS The top 1 percent may have the best houses, educations, and lifestyles, says the author, but “their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live.”
It’s no use pretending that what has obviously happened has not in fact happened. The upper 1 percent of Americans are now taking in nearly a quarter of the nation’s income every year. In terms of wealth rather than income, the top 1 percent control 40 percent. Their lot in life has improved considerably. Twenty-five years ago, the corresponding figures were 12 percent and 33 percent. One response might be to celebrate the ingenuity and drive that brought good fortune to these people, and to contend that a rising tide lifts all boats. That response would be misguided. While the top 1 percent have seen their incomes rise 18 percent over the past decade, those in the middle have actually seen their incomes fall. For men with only high-school degrees, the decline has been precipitous—12 percent in the last quarter-century alone. All the growth in recent decades—and more—has gone to those at the top. In terms of income equality, America lags behind any country in the old, ossified Europe that President George W. Bush used to deride. Among our closest counterparts are Russia with its oligarchs and Iran. While many of the old centers of inequality in Latin America, such as Brazil, have been striving in recent years, rather successfully, to improve the plight of the poor and reduce gaps in income, America has allowed inequality to grow.
Economists long ago tried to justify the vast inequalities that seemed so troubling in the mid-19th century—inequalities that are but a pale shadow of what we are seeing in America today. The justification they came up with was called “marginal-productivity theory.” In a nutshell, this theory associated higher incomes with higher productivity and a greater contribution to society. It is a theory that has always been cherished by the rich. Evidence for its validity, however, remains thin. The corporate executives who helped bring on the recession of the past three years—whose contribution to our society, and to their own companies, has been massively negative—went on to receive large bonuses. In some cases, companies were so embarrassed about calling such rewards “performance bonuses” that they felt compelled to change the name to “retention bonuses” (even if the only thing being retained was bad performance). Those who have contributed great positive innovations to our society, from the pioneers of genetic understanding to the pioneers of the Information Age, have received a pittance compared with those responsible for the financial innovations that brought our global economy to the brink of ruin.
Some people look at income inequality and shrug their shoulders. So what if this person gains and that person loses? What matters, they argue, is not how the pie is divided but the size of the pie. That argument is fundamentally wrong. An economy in which most citizens are doing worse year after year—an economy like America’s—is not likely to do well over the long haul. There are several reasons for this.
First, growing inequality is the flip side of something else: shrinking opportunity. Whenever we diminish equality of opportunity, it means that we are not using some of our most valuable assets—our people—in the most productive way possible. Second, many of the distortions that lead to inequality—such as those associated with monopoly power and preferential tax treatment for special interests—undermine the efficiency of the economy. This new inequality goes on to create new distortions, undermining efficiency even further. To give just one example, far too many of our most talented young people, seeing the astronomical rewards, have gone into finance rather than into fields that would lead to a more productive and healthy economy.
Third, and perhaps most important, a modern economy requires “collective action”—it needs government to invest in infrastructure, education, and technology. The United States and the world have benefited greatly from government-sponsored research that led to the Internet, to advances in public health, and so on. But America has long suffered from an under-investment in infrastructure (look at the condition of our highways and bridges, our railroads and airports), in basic research, and in education at all levels. Further cutbacks in these areas lie ahead.
None of this should come as a surprise—it is simply what happens when a society’s wealth distribution becomes lopsided. The more divided a society becomes in terms of wealth, the more reluctant the wealthy become to spend money on common needs. The rich don’t need to rely on government for parks or education or medical care or personal security—they can buy all these things for themselves. In the process, they become more distant from ordinary people, losing whatever empathy they may once have had. They also worry about strong government—one that could use its powers to adjust the balance, take some of their wealth, and invest it for the common good. The top 1 percent may complain about the kind of government we have in America, but in truth they like it just fine: too gridlocked to re-distribute, too divided to do anything but lower taxes.
Economists are not sure how to fully explain the growing inequality in America. The ordinary dynamics of supply and demand have certainly played a role: laborsaving technologies have reduced the demand for many “good” middle-class, blue-collar jobs. Globalization has created a worldwide marketplace, pitting expensive unskilled workers in America against cheap unskilled workers overseas. Social changes have also played a role—for instance, the decline of unions, which once represented a third of American workers and now represent about 12 percent.
But one big part of the reason we have so much inequality is that the top 1 percent want it that way. The most obvious example involves tax policy. Lowering tax rates on capital gains, which is how the rich receive a large portion of their income, has given the wealthiest Americans close to a free ride. Monopolies and near monopolies have always been a source of economic power—from John D. Rockefeller at the beginning of the last century to Bill Gates at the end. Lax enforcement of anti-trust laws, especially during Republican administrations, has been a godsend to the top 1 percent. Much of today’s inequality is due to manipulation of the financial system, enabled by changes in the rules that have been bought and paid for by the financial industry itself—one of its best investments ever. The government lent money to financial institutions at close to 0 percent interest and provided generous bailouts on favorable terms when all else failed. Regulators turned a blind eye to a lack of transparency and to conflicts of interest.
When you look at the sheer volume of wealth controlled by the top 1 percent in this country, it’s tempting to see our growing inequality as a quintessentially American achievement—we started way behind the pack, but now we’re doing inequality on a world-class level. And it looks as if we’ll be building on this achievement for years to come, because what made it possible is self-reinforcing. Wealth begets power, which begets more wealth. During the savings-and-loan scandal of the 1980s—a scandal whose dimensions, by today’s standards, seem almost quaint—the banker Charles Keating was asked by a congressional committee whether the $1.5 million he had spread among a few key elected officials could actually buy influence. “I certainly hope so,” he replied. The Supreme Court, in its recent Citizens United case, has enshrined the right of corporations to buy government, by removing limitations on campaign spending. The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift—through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price—it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
America’s inequality distorts our society in every conceivable way. There is, for one thing, a well-documented lifestyle effect—people outside the top 1 percent increasingly live beyond their means. Trickle-down economics may be a chimera, but trickle-down behaviorism is very real. Inequality massively distorts our foreign policy. The top 1 percent rarely serve in the military—the reality is that the “all-volunteer” army does not pay enough to attract their sons and daughters, and patriotism goes only so far. Plus, the wealthiest class feels no pinch from higher taxes when the nation goes to war: borrowed money will pay for all that. Foreign policy, by definition, is about the balancing of national interests and national resources. With the top 1 percent in charge, and paying no price, the notion of balance and restraint goes out the window. There is no limit to the adventures we can undertake; corporations and contractors stand only to gain. The rules of economic globalization are likewise designed to benefit the rich: they encourage competition among countries for business, which drives down taxes on corporations, weakens health and environmental protections, and undermines what used to be viewed as the “core” labor rights, which include the right to collective bargaining. Imagine what the world might look like if the rules were designed instead to encourage competition among countries for workers. Governments would compete in providing economic security, low taxes on ordinary wage earners, good education, and a clean environment—things workers care about. But the top 1 percent don’t need to care.
Or, more accurately, they think they don’t. Of all the costs imposed on our society by the top 1 percent, perhaps the greatest is this: the erosion of our sense of identity, in which fair play, equality of opportunity, and a sense of community are so important. America has long prided itself on being a fair society, where everyone has an equal chance of getting ahead, but the statistics suggest otherwise: the chances of a poor citizen, or even a middle-class citizen, making it to the top in America are smaller than in many countries of Europe. The cards are stacked against them. It is this sense of an unjust system without opportunity that has given rise to the conflagrations in the Middle East: rising food prices and growing and persistent youth unemployment simply served as kindling. With youth unemployment in America at around 20 percent (and in some locations, and among some socio-demographic groups, at twice that); with one out of six Americans desiring a full-time job not able to get one; with one out of seven Americans on food stamps (and about the same number suffering from “food insecurity”)—given all this, there is ample evidence that something has blocked the vaunted “trickling down” from the top 1 percent to everyone else. All of this is having the predictable effect of creating alienation—voter turnout among those in their 20s in the last election stood at 21 percent, comparable to the unemployment rate.
In recent weeks we have watched people taking to the streets by the millions to protest political, economic, and social conditions in the oppressive societies they inhabit. Governments have been toppled in Egypt and Tunisia. Protests have erupted in Libya, Yemen, and Bahrain. The ruling families elsewhere in the region look on nervously from their air-conditioned penthouses—will they be next? They are right to worry. These are societies where a minuscule fraction of the population—less than 1 percent—controls the lion’s share of the wealth; where wealth is a main determinant of power; where entrenched corruption of one sort or another is a way of life; and where the wealthiest often stand actively in the way of policies that would improve life for people in general.
As we gaze out at the popular fervor in the streets, one question to ask ourselves is this: When will it come to America? In important ways, our own country has become like one of these distant, troubled places.
Alexis de Tocqueville once described what he saw as a chief part of the peculiar genius of American society—something he called “self-interest properly understood.” The last two words were the key. Everyone possesses self-interest in a narrow sense: I want what’s good for me right now! Self-interest “properly understood” is different. It means appreciating that paying attention to everyone else’s self-interest—in other words, the common welfare—is in fact a precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being. Tocqueville was not suggesting that there was anything noble or idealistic about this outlook—in fact, he was suggesting the opposite. It was a mark of American pragmatism. Those canny Americans understood a basic fact: looking out for the other guy isn’t just good for the soul—it’s good for business.
The top 1 percent have the best houses, the best educations, the best doctors, and the best lifestyles, but there is one thing that money doesn’t seem to have bought: an understanding that their fate is bound up with how the other 99 percent live. Throughout history, this is something that the top 1 percent eventually do learn. Too late.
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