Free exchange

National treasure


Expanded state ownership is a risky solution to economic ills


Translated by 嘉玥

Proofread by ffff😊zzzz, YL

Edited by 夭夭

When Jeremy Corbyn unveiled his Labour manifesto ahead of the recent British election, opponents gawked at pledges to renationalize the postal and rail systems. Such enthusiasm for state ownership smacks ofa philosophy long since abandoned by leaders on both left and right. Despite Labour’s decent electoral performance, nationalization is not everywhere on the march; on June 5th Donald Trump made public his desire to privatize air-traffic control. But the rise of Mr Corbyn and Bernie Sanders hints at a weakening of the rich-world consensus that the less of the economy owned by government, the better. That is a pity. Expanded state ownership is a poor way to cure economic ailments.

杰瑞米·科宾(Jeremy Corbyn)议员在英国大选前夕公布了工党宣言,反对党被宣言里要将邮政和铁路系统重新收归国有的承诺唬得一愣。对国有化的热衷带有一种哲学意味,尽管很久以前左右翼政党就打消了这一念头。且不论工党近日选举战绩如何(虽然工党在大选中表现得相当不错),国有化的风潮并没有四处扩散开去:6月5日,唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump)将他私有化航空交通管制的愿景公之于众。然而杰瑞米·科宾(Jeremy Corbyn)和伯尼.桑德斯(Bernie Sanders)势力的崛起暗示着发达国家对“经济体中的国有成分越少,经济运行越好”这一观点的认同度越来越低。这很令人遗憾,因为提高国有化程度并不是一个应对经济症疾的良方。

1.gawk at sb/sth 无礼地瞪眼看;呆头呆脑地盯着

Gawk - is often used to show disapproval and means to look at someone or something in a foolish way especially with your mouth open.


Interested customers could gawk at it, but they couldn't climb in to pose for photo ops or to check out the upholstery.


2.smack of:带有……的味道,有某味道,有…气味

Even if official American outrage may smack of domestic political posturing, that of the victims' relatives does not.


Such hopes for housing would smack of an effort to reanimate a corpse, had the bust not so far outpaced the boom.


For much of the 20th century, economists were open to a bit of dirigisme. Maurice Allais, an (admittedly French) economist who won the Nobel prize in 1988, recommended that the government run a few firms in each industry, the better to observe the relative merits of public and private ownership. Economists often embrace state control as a solution to market failure. Since there is no way to provide national security only to citizens who sign up to pay for it while denying it to the rest, it requires a government with the power to tax to provide defence. In cases of natural monopoly, in transport and telecommunications, nationalization is an alternative to allowing a dominant firm to use its market power to overcharge for subparservice. And state control looks attractive when private markets are bad at providing universal access to critical services. Private schools or health insurers have an incentive to skim offthe best-prepared students and healthiest patients, and to deny services to harder cases, creating a large pool of people that cannot profitably be served.

20世纪里大部分时间里,经济学家都赞同适度的国家干预。曾获1988年诺贝尔奖的法国著名经济学家莫里斯·阿莱斯(Maurice Allais)认为,如果政府在各行各业都经营几家公司的话,就能更好地观测出公有制和私有制的优缺点。经济学家通常将政府控制视为应对市场失灵的良药。由于没办法让少数有意付费的公民享受国家安全保障的同时,排除其他不愿付费的公民也享受同等服务,这就需要一个有着税收支持的政府来建设国防事业。在交通运输和电信这样的自然垄断行业,国有化是一种备选方案,可以防止一家主导企业利用市场支配力提供高价低质服务。另外,当私营市场难以一视同仁地为一群人提供关键性服务时,国有制便凸显优势。私立学校总是倾向于录取那些作了充分准备的学生,正如私营保险公司总是为更健康的患者提供保险,甚至拒绝为情况极为糟糕的患者提供保险,这就使得有一大批人没能享受到有益的服务。

1.dirigisme: 干预或统制;统制政策;统制经济

If "the largest financial crisis in human history" had been caused by too much laisser-faire, perhaps we now needed a little more dirigisme.


His thinking is a curious melange of leftism, dirigisme and liberalism whose Cartesian logic sometimes seemed crystalline only to himself.


2.subpar: 不到一般(或预期)水平的;低于标准的

I guess Chris has to take some credit here, because in years past, I guess there's been some sort of subpar speakers at TED.


The trick is to not feel subpar when a travel snob overshadows your story with one of their own.


3. skim off:全部,刮削,撇去,撇下,撇去之漂浮物:,撇取

General Logistics, which oversees much of the military's assets, is notorious for offering rich opportunities to "skim off" .


He tried to skim off the best players for the school team.




But in the 1970s economists came to see state ownership as a costly fix to such problems. Owners of private firms benefit directly when innovation reduces costs and boosts profits; bureaucrats usually lack such a clear financial incentive to improve performance. Firms with the backing of the state are less vulnerable to competition; as they lumber on they hoard resources that could be better used elsewhere. Inattention to cost-cutting is not always a flaw. Oliver Hart, co-winner of last year’s Nobel prize for economics, pointed to private prisons as a case in which profit-focused managers might accept a cost-efficient decline in the welfare of prisoners that society would prefer not to have. Yet economists saw in the productivity slowdown of the 1970s evidence that an overreaching state was throttlingeconomic dynamism. Mr Corbyn first won election to parliament when the Tory govbusily selling off bits of state firms like British Leyland (the nationalized carmaker), British Airways and what was then called British Petroleum. Other governments followed suit although public assets in most countries remain large (see right-hand chart).

然而在20世纪70年代,经济学家逐渐意识到,企业国有化这一解决方案将付出十分高昂的代价。如果私营企业通过创新缩减成本提升利润,其所有者能直接从中获利,而国企的管理者通常缺少诸如此类的明确财务动机来提升绩效。有国家撑腰的公司不太容易受到竞争的影响,因为他们囤积的资源可以在其他地方更好地利用。对削减成本的忽视未必是一件坏事:去年诺贝尔经济学奖的共同受奖者之一的奥利弗·哈特(Oliver Hart)在私立监狱这个例子中指出,讲求利润最大化的管理者也许会采取高效措施以减少犯人们的福利,然而民众的意见或许与之相左。不过,经济学家们从20世纪70年代生产率下降的证据中发现,出售国有资产等过火的行为会抑制经济活力。杰瑞米·科宾(Jeremy Corbyn)首次赢得议会选举,是在保守党出售诸如英国利兰集团(British Leyland), 英国航空公司(British Airways)和当时的英国石油公司(British Petroleum)等国有企业的小分支企业之时。其他政府也纷纷效仿英国,尽管大部分国家国有资产的规模仍然十分庞大。

1.throttling: 抑制(讨论,贸易等);使窒息;【机】(用节汽阀等)调节;使节流

More than a year ago, President Obama signed into law a series of sweeping sanctions cumulatively aimed at throttling Iran's energy sector.


The invention provides a throttling connection pipe of air-conditioner which embeds a throttling device into a connection pipe.


State-owned firms pose risks beyond that to dynamism. Government-run companies may prioritize swollen payrolls over customer satisfaction. More worryingly, state firms can become vehicles for corruption, used to dole outthe largesse of the state to favored backers or to funnel social wealth into the pockets of the powerful. As state control over the economy grows, political connections become a surer route to business success than entrepreneurialism. Even botchedprivatizations can improve governance in corruption-plagued emerging economies.


1.dole out: 少量地分给,发放

he bank claims that this profit-making activity helps it to dole out money to the poorest countries.


And if I dole out all my possessions to feed others, and if I deliver up my body that I may boast, but do not have love, I profit nothing.


2. botched: 笨活;粗拙的补缀;〔英方〕疮;〔医〕(皮肤上的)疖


Hamilton was hospitalised with severe burns after a botched explosion in a take of the moment in which she disappears into a cloud of smoke.


At every meeting I made a complaint the rest of the committee did not want to hear: botched fire drills, filing cabinets toppling over.


If antipathyto nationalization is fading, however, that has less to do with newfound confidence in state competence and more with disappointment in private business. Although studies typically find that countries with more of the economy under state control grow more slowly than those with less, much of the rich world—including enthusiastic privatizers like America and Britain—is limping through productivity doldrums. High corporate profits suggest that private markets are not hotbeds of cut-throat competition. Recent economic growth has done more to enrich shareholders and a small set of highly skilled workers than the public as a whole. Tech dynamos like Google and Facebook delight consumers, but these companies increasingly wield unsettling economic and social power. Both the financial crisis and growing suspicion of Silicon Valley fan suspicion that private ownership is not a sure way to advance the public good.


1.antipathy: 反感,厌恶

his antipathy to ideas is often expressed as anti-elitism.


Some of his antipathy to banks might be traced to this time, when his job seemed at risk.


2.limp through: 步履维艰,蹒跚

hey're going to have problems with field-grade officers -- big shortages. They're going to have to limp through.


Why else would it take so long for legislation to allow gay soldiers to serve openly in the army to limp through Congress?


3. doldrum: 经济无生气,衰退

Modern forms of public ownership are designed to look more benign than the old models. The new nationalization might involve governments sitting quietly in the boardroom, grabbing a share of profits for the public purse and reminding firms not to neglect their social responsibilities, while leaving enough shares in private hands to harness the benefits ofred-bloodedcapitalism.


1. red-blooded: 健壮的,精神好的,有勇气的,情节紧张的,精力充沛的

India's companies are refreshingly red-blooded, but more than other firms in the world they carry a giant responsibility.


Innovation gave a kind of brand-new brand image new appearance, appear red-blooded , young and rich and modern contemporary feeling.


Hire, not fire


Even this modest version of state capitalism could disappoint. Shared ownership, even at small scales, has the potential to blunt competition in ways that harm consumers. The rise of large asset managers, like BlackRock and Vanguard, means that huge stakes in firms representing much of the stockmarket are controlled by a few passive investors running money for private savers. Recent research suggests that this concentrated ownership may be bad for competition. As a result of common ownership of airlines by asset managers, for instance, fares are estimated to be 3% to 5% higher than if ownership were more dispersed.

即使是此类温和的国有资本主义,其表现也不尽如人意。合作制企业,不论规模多小,都有可能妨害竞争,从而损害消费者的利益。诸如贝莱德资产管理公司 (BlackRock) 和先锋基金等大型资产管理公司的崛起,意味着为私人投资者打理财富的少数消极投资者,控制了代表股票市场的公司的大部分股份。近期的研究表明,高度集中的所有权也许会危及竞争。例如,资产管理公司拥有共同所有权的航空公司,相较于处在更为分散化的所有权控制下的航空公司,其机票价格大概要高出3%到5%。

Some on the left might see higher prices as an acceptable cost for a reduction in corporate power (and it is hard to imagine service at some airlines getting worse in public hands). Yet there are other risks to consider. China’s state-owned sector is proving difficult to shrink in part because it accounts for so much employment. Governments trying to deliver good jobs may be tempted to lean on state-controlled firms to hire more staff, particularly in countries with powerful public-sector unions. Consumers and taxpayers would bear the costs of such bloating. Corporate power, inequality and underemployment are all real worries. Expanding state ownership is the wrong way to tackle such ills.








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