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The Russian Revolution: what economic lessons does it reveal?

来源:FT中文网    2017-11-08 07:02

        It remains one of the greatest experiments in economic and political history. A bloody civil war, the abolition of private property, the creation of a command economy with near full state ownership, price regulation and the elimination of markets.        它仍是经济和政治史上最伟大的实验之一。一场血腥的内战,废除私有制,建立几乎完全是国有的计划经济,实行价格管制,取缔市场。
        One hundred years on from the Russian Revolution, three main lessons emerge from the 75-year Great Soviet Experiment. They are not rocket science but worth re-stating. First, industrialisation through terror is inefficient. Second, without terror the command economy eventually flags and goes bankrupt. Third, lack of political competition creates a rigid governance system unable to make necessary reforms.         俄国革命已过去100年,这场75年的“苏维埃大实验”告诉了我们3条主要教训。它们并非尖端科学,但值得重新述说。首先,通过恐怖统治实现工业化是低效的。其次,如果没有恐怖统治,计划经济将最终萎靡并破产。第三,缺乏政治竞争造成了僵化的治理体系,无法实行必要的改革。
        The first is probably the least obvious. Stalin accomplished industrialisation and eventually led the Soviet Union to victory in the second world war. His method was top-down and, in the words of the writers Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, “brutal but effective”.         第一个可能是最不明显的。斯大林(Stalin)实现了工业化,并最终领导苏联在二战中获胜。他的方法是自上而下的,用作家达龙•阿杰姆奥卢(Daron Acemoglu)和詹姆斯•罗宾逊(James Robinson)的话来说,“残酷但有效”。
        The benefit of centralised economic control is that it allows you to move 25-30 per cent of the labour force from farm to factory within just one decade. However, a recent study I co-authored found this did not work as planned: the gains from moving resources to industry did not make up for destroying productivity within both agriculture and industry. Terror is brutal and effective in moving resources, but it is not productive in organising them efficiently.        中央控制经济的好处在于它让苏联得以在仅仅10年的时间内就让25%至30%的劳动力从农场转移到工厂。然而,最近我作为联合作者所做的一项研究发现,其效果没有达到计划:将资源转向工业的好处没有弥补农业和工业生产率都遭到破坏的影响。在转移资源方面,恐怖统治是残酷但有效的,但在高效组织资源方面它成果低下。
        The net economic benefits of Stalin’s policies were trivial — and this is not to mention millions who perished due to repression and famine. Also, the Soviet Union could not win the war alone — resources and equipment provided by the US were essential in beating Hitler.        斯大林政策给经济带来的净好处微乎其微,这还不包括数百万人因为被镇压和饥饿而死。另外,苏联是不可能依靠自己赢得战争胜利的,美国提供的资源和装备在击败希特勒(Hitler)方面起到了关键作用。
        After the war, the Soviet economy recovered, Sputnik was launched and nuclear parity with the US maintained. Yet, it failed to deliver growth and innovation — proving that competitive markets are needed for efficient incentives. Also, as shown by the economist János Kornai, a collectivised system is inherently vulnerable to “soft budget constraints”. In a socialist economy, all inefficient enterprises are bailed out by the state — hence managers have no incentives to avoid bankruptcy.        二战后,苏联经济复苏,发射了斯普特尼克号(Sputnik)卫星,并在核领域与美国保持了势均力敌。然而,苏联未能实现经济增长和创新,这证明,有效激励需要竞争性市场。另外,就像经济学家雅诺什•科尔奈(János Kornai)所说的,集体制从本质上来说在“软性预算约束”下很脆弱。在社会主义经济中,所有低效的企业都会由政府纾困,因此管理者没有避免破产的激励。
        Soft budget constraints also feature in market economies — as the massive bailouts since the financial crisis show. But there is a major difference: if a capitalist firm goes bankrupt, private shareholders lose their equity. If a socialist one cannot pay its debts they are taken over by the state — and eventually the whole state goes bankrupt. When Mr Kornai was writing in the late 1970s it was unthinkable that a superpower like the Soviet Union could go bankrupt. In fact its bankruptcy was not just plausible — it turned out to be inevitable.        “软性预算约束”也出现在市场经济中,就像金融危机之后出现的大规模纾困所显示的那样。但其中存在一个巨大区别:如果资本主义企业破产,私人股东会血本无归。如果社会主义企业无法偿还债务,政府可以为其买单,最终整个国家破产。在科尔奈在上世纪70年代末撰文时,人们难以想象苏联这种超级大国会破产。实际上,苏联的破产不仅是合理的,而且事实证明是不可避免的。
        With the end of Stalinist terror the government could no longer resist pressures to raise living standards. To pay for this, Moscow resorted to petrodollars and later loans. By the late 1980s the Soviet budget deficit went into double-digit percentages of gross domestic product. In its last year it was 30 per cent of GDP. Creditors stopped lending and the Soviet Union was no more.        随着斯大林式的恐怖统治结束,苏联政府无法再抵抗提高生活水平的压力。要为此买单,苏联政府求助于石油美元以及后来的贷款。到上世纪80年代末,苏联的预算赤字与国内生产总值(GDP)之比达到两位数。在苏联解体前的最后一年,这个比例达到30%。债权人停止贷款,苏联不复存在。
        As bankruptcy loomed, why were Soviet leaders unable to recognise the problem and launch radical reforms? The answer points to the third, most painful lesson. In the absence of political competition and free debate, the USSR ended up with a leadership that was neither competent nor decisive. This was not a coincidence — it was how that system selected and promoted its leaders.        在破产逼近之际,苏联领导人为何无法意识到这个问题并推行彻底的改革呢?答案指向第三个也是最痛苦的教训。在缺乏政治竞争和自由辩论的情况下,苏联的领导层最后既无能又无决断。这并非巧合,它是这个体制遴选和提拔领导人的方式造成的。
        The Great Soviet Experiment demonstrated the deficiencies and unsustainability of the non-market model. Yet still every now and then proposals emerge for a new version of socialism — from “Bolivarian” to market varieties, from state capitalism to a new “digital Gosplan” matching algorithms to economic planning. In decades of socialist experimenting, communists tried many alternatives to the market. None of them worked. That is what we should remember 100 years later.        “苏维埃大实验”显示了非市场模式的缺陷和不可持续。然而,时常会出现社会主义新版本的提议,从“玻利瓦尔主义”(Bolivarianism)到各种市场经济变体,从国家资本主义到把算法与经济规划匹配的新的“数字国家计划委员会”(digital Gosplan)。在几十年的社会主义实验中,共产主义者尝试了很多替代市场的方案。其中没有一个成功。这就是我们在100年后应该记住的事情。
        The writer is chief economist, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development        本文作者是欧洲复兴开发银行(European Bank for Reconstruction and Development)首席经济学家

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