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资本主义国家是真民主吗?

2014-05-30    来源:网络    【      美国外教 在线口语培训

The only thing more fallacious than damn lies are statistics, or so the saying goes.
俗话说,统计数据比赤裸裸的谎言更不靠谱。

This notion was on full display this weekend, after Financial Times economics editor Chris Giles published a blog post calling into question data used by economist Thomas Piketty in his best-selling work Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Giles' analysis found several mistakes in Piketty's data, mistakes which put to doubt whether there has been an observable increase in wealth inequality in Europe and the United States over the past 30 years.
上周末就出现了这样一幕:英国《金融时报》(Financial Times)的经济编辑克里斯•盖斯发表了一篇博文,质疑经济学家托马斯•皮凯蒂在畅销书《21世纪资本论》(Capital in the Twenty-First Century)中使用的数据。盖斯从皮凯蒂的数据中找出了几个错,由此质疑过去30年欧美财富不平等程度到底是否出现了明显可见的加剧。

Piketty's book asserts that the concentration of wealth in capitalist societies naturally grows more extreme, especially in times of low population and economic growth, so the possibility that wealth concentration hasn't really increased in the past 30 years does throw some cold water on the economist's overarching theory.
皮凯蒂在书中认为,资本主义的社会财富会天然地变得更加集中,特别是在人口和经济低增长时期。因此,如果过去30年财富集中度根本没有上升的话,等于给这位经济学家的中心理论泼上了一盆冷水。

Many of Piketty and Giles' disagreements come down to interpretation of incomplete data. One of the parts of the book that impressed economists so much was Piketty's painstaking assemblage and exploitation of years of wealth data across countries and time periods. It is not surprising, given the fact that wealth data is much less plentiful and uniform than other statistics, that there would be disagreements over what exactly these data say.
皮凯蒂和盖斯的很多分歧源于对不完全数据的阐释。皮凯蒂的书有很多地方都给人们留下了深刻印象,其中之一就是皮凯蒂不厌其烦地搜罗、分析各个国家、各个时期多年的财富数据。由于财富数据不像其他统计数据那样丰富和标准化,围绕“这些数据究竟意味着什么”存在分歧也毫不奇怪。

But when you take a step back and look at all the evidence, from much more reliable data on income inequality, to stagnant median wage growth, to a lack of economic mobility in America, to evidence of huge discrepancies in the quality of education offered to the rich and poor, it's quite clear that modern capitalism is failing to offer a level playing field and that there are cultural and public policy changes we could work toward to make the economy better at providing for everyone.
但如果大家退后一步,看看所有这些证据:从可靠度较高的收入不平等数据,到停滞的中值工资增长率,美国缺乏经济流动性,再到富人和穷人所获教育质量的天壤之别。有一点很清楚,现代资本主义并不能提供一个公平竞争的舞台,我们应该推动文化和公共政策变化,让经济能更好地服务于每个人。

After all, Americans have not been particularly swayed by arguments concerning inequality. If anything is clear from reading Piketty's book, it's that capitalist economies tend to be deeply unequal societies, even following World War II, when income inequality was at its lowest levels. But only in recent years, after it became clear that the average family hasn't gotten richer over the past generation (and that the housing bubble hit hardest those families leaning on rising home prices to compensate for this fact) that Americans started to grow dissatisfied with the distribution of wealth and income.
不过,美国人并没有特别被这些不平等讨论所左右。皮凯蒂的书中有一点非常清楚,资本主义经济往往是一个高度不平等的社会,即使是在收入不平等处于最低水平的二战后也是如此。直到近年来,美国人才开始不满财富和收入的分配:过去整整一代人,普通家庭没有变得更富裕(房地产泡沫冲击最严重的是那些依赖房价上涨来弥补收入的家庭)。

The above Gallup poll shows a clear trend of growing pessimism among Americans about the economy.
上述盖勒普(Gallup)调查显示,美国人对于经济的悲观情绪清楚地显示为上升趋势。

Debates over whether or not capitalism leads to increasing inequality, as Piketty asserts in his book, or leads to decreasing inequality, as economists had once thought, are worthwhile. But most Americans are simply concerned with whether they can feel themselves getting richer and if they have a fair shot at prosperity and security. The data clearly show that economic growth right now is being captured by the very rich, while the rest of the country is struggling to figure out how to pay for education, healthcare, and retirement.
争论的一方认为资本主义导致不平等加剧,正如皮凯蒂在书中声称的那样。而另一方则认为,资本主义导致不平等减弱,正如经济学家们一度认为的那样。这样的争论自有其意义。但大多数美国人考虑的是,他们能否感觉到自己变得更富裕,是否有公平的机会获得财富和保障。数据清楚地显示,当前经济增长的好处被最富有的人占尽,其他美国人还在为支付教育、医疗和养老费用发愁。

It's against this backdrop that policy makers need to decide how to make entitlement programs sustainable going forward, that the wealthy must decide how much of their money to give to charity, and that business leaders must decide how much to pay their workers. It's difficult to see how small disagreements over trends in wealth concentration could affect these decisions.
在这样的背景下,决策者们需要决定如何制定未来可持续的财富分配制度,富人必须决定将多少钱交给慈善,企业领导人必须决定给工人付多少工资。关于财富集中趋势的小小分歧,很难影响到这些决定。



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