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物质社会

THE WEST RE-EXAMINES THE RAT RACE
反思“物质的社会”

拉赫曼:无止境地追逐财富是否真能带来幸福?

If somebody loses their job, they sometimes also lose their bearings. A decision is made to take an entirely new direction in life: get out of the rat race, downsize, learn a language, take up ballroom-dancing.

人要是失业了,有时就会变得茫然失措,于是就会生出寻找全新人生方向的决心:如跳出竞争激烈的环境、缩减开支、学习一门语言,或者喜欢上交际舞。

The economic crisis that began in 2008 seems to have unleashed a similar search for meaning among some western intellectuals and economists. But the fundamental assumptions they are questioning are not personal, but political.

2008年爆发的经济危机似乎也促使一些西方知识分子和经济学家开始探寻某些东西的意义,不过,他们所怀疑的根本理念不是个人层面上的,而是属于政治范畴。

Last week, I found myself moderating a grandly-titled seminar on the “Future of Capitalism” at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in Paris. The star turn on the panel was Robert Skidelsky, the biographer of John Maynard Keynes, who has been much in demand over the past two years, as Keynes has come back into fashion.

上周,我在巴黎主持经合组织(OECD)召开的一次主题宏伟的有关“资本主义未来”的研讨会。会上的风头人物是约翰•梅纳德•凯恩斯(John Maynard Keynes)的传记作者罗伯特•斯基德尔斯基(Robert Skidelsky)。这两年来,随着凯恩斯主义再度风行,斯基德尔斯基也颇受欢迎。

Lord Skidelsky has started work on a book to be called How Much is Enough: The Economics of the Good Life. He argues that, over the past 30 years, the western world has become unhealthily pre-occupied with the pursuit of wealth. Lord Skidelsky says that “in almost all religions and moral philosophies, wealth is a means to an end – to live decently and agreeably. After a while the quest for more and more wealth becomes irrational, but our societies are all organised around the pursuit of wealth beyond limit.”

斯基德尔斯基勋爵在着手撰写新书《多少才够:美好生活经济学》(How Much is Enough: The Economics of the Good Life)。他认为,过去30年来,西方社会过度沉迷于追逐财富,已成为一种病态。他说:“在几乎所有宗教和道德哲学里,财富是达到目的——愉快和体面地生活——的一种手段。后来,对财富的追逐变得无理性,整个社会都奉行无止境追逐财富的信念。”

Paris is a good place to try out this sort of argument. Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has sponsored a commission, featuring two Nobel prize-winning economists, to re-examine ideas of human well-being. The Stiglitz report, published last September, questioned the idea that gross domestic product is an adequate measure of human well-being. It insisted that other aspects of life, such as health, education, family life and the environment, must also be given due weight.

巴黎是检验这类论点的好地方。法国总统尼古拉斯•萨科奇(Nicolas Sarkozy)曾成立一个委员会,委员中包括两名得过诺贝尔奖的经济学家,宗旨是重新审视有关人类福祉的各种思想。去年9月发布的斯蒂格利茨(Stiglitz)报告,对国内生产总值(GDP)这一指标足以衡量人类福祉的理念提出了质疑。报告强调,生活中的其它方面,如健康、教育、家庭生活以及环境状况,也必须得到应有的重视。

A similar school of thought is gaining strength in Britain. Lord Layard, another titled British economist, has long pushed the idea that public policy should concentrate on the promotion of happiness, rather than the creation of wealth. This sounds mushy but can have some surprisingly practical implications: Lord Layard, for example, has been a driving force behind the British government's goal of making cognitive behaviour therapy more widely available as a treatment for mental illness. More recently, The Spirit Level – a book arguing that more equal societies are happier and more successful – has made a splash in Britain.

在英国,一个类似的思想流派正在发展壮大。另一位拥有爵位的英国经济学家——莱亚德勋爵(Lord Layard)长期倡导以下观点:公共政策应着重于增加人们的幸福,而非创造财富。这种说法听起来软绵绵的,却能够产生某些出人意料的实际影响。例如,莱亚德勋爵是推动英国政府制定以下目标的人物之一:推广认知行为疗法在治疗精神病上的应用。更近些时候,一本叫做《精神层面》(The Spirit Level)的书在英国引起反响,书中提出,越公平的社会,人们越幸福,这个社会也就越成功。

In some ways, lords Skidelsky, Layard and the other happy warriors are obviously right. Research suggests that, once a certain level of comfort has been attained, there is no connection between greater wealth and greater happiness. It is also hard to think of a moral philosopher – not even Adam Smith – who argued that the pursuit of wealth should be an end in itself. Slogans such as “Poverty sucks” and “The one who dies with the most toys wins” are bumper stickers favoured by junior investment bankers, rather than quotes from the great philosophers.

在某些方面,斯基德尔斯基和莱亚德勋爵等人对幸福的倡导显然是正确的。研究表明,一旦生活达到一定的安逸程度,财富增加和幸福增加之间就再无关联。此外,很难想象某个道德哲学家会说出追逐财富本身应成为人生目标这样的观点,即便是亚当•斯密(Adam Smith)也不会这样断言。诸如“贫穷可耻”、“死时玩具最多的人是赢者”这样的口号,只可能是低级投资银行家的信条,而不会是出自伟大哲学家的格言。

But while taking a more relaxed attitude towards the pursuit of wealth may make sense as a personal philosophy, it is an uncertain guide to public policy. It is relatively easy for the comfortable middle classes to play down the need for economic growth. But absolute poverty still exists, even in western societies, and adjusting to a stagnant national income can be a painful process, as many European countries may soon discover.

但是,虽说放宽逐富心态作为一种个人哲学有其意义,在公共政策上却不足取。贬低经济增长必要性,对生活安逸的中产阶级来说相对容易。可当今社会依然存在绝对贫困,即使是在西方社会。而且,要适应国民收入增长停滞的状况将是一个痛苦的过程,许多欧洲国家可能很快就会发现这一点。

It is also clear that for China, now the world's second-largest economy, high rates of growth remain an absolute imperative – both to buy social peace and to drag hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. Even among Indian intellectuals, the Gandhian disdain for materialism is becoming less common, as economists, politicians and a burgeoning middle class embrace the pursuit of wealth as both a personal and a national goal.

还有一点也是显而易见的:对已成为全球第二大经济体的中国来说,高增长率仍是绝对必要的——这既是为了保障社会和平,也是为了让数亿人脱贫。即便是在印度知识分子当中,甘地对物质主义的鄙弃也越来越不流行,经济学家、政界人士和新兴中产阶级都把追逐财富奉为个人及国家目标。

It would be a curious irony if the spiritual east embraced the ruthless pursuit of wealth just as the western nations that invented modern capitalism went for a Zen-like repudiation of materialism. If the pursuit of rapid economic growth became a largely Asian passtime, the global balance of power would also change in ways that might make life in the west considerably less comfortable.

假如注重精神追求的东方开始冷酷追逐财富,而作为现代资本主义发源地的西方国家转而奉行与禅宗相类的道理,抛弃物质主义,那将是异乎寻常的讽刺。假如快速经济增长成为亚洲社会最主要追求目标,那么全球势力平衡的变动可能还将大大降低西方生活的安逸程度。

For better or worse, it seems unlikely that many western politicians, outside the environmental movement, will repudiate the pursuit of economic growth as one of the goals of public policy. Some have occasionally toyed with this thought. In 1979, US president Jimmy Carter made a speech in which he argued that “owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning”. A year later, he went down to defeat to Ronald Reagan, whose most effective electoral tactic was repeatedly to ask Americans if they felt better off than four years previously.

不论是好是坏,西方政界人士——抛开投身环保运动的人士不谈——大多不太可能否定追求经济增长是公共政策的目标之一。有的人偶尔会玩一把这种思想。1979年,当时的美国总统吉米•卡特(Jimmy Carter)在一次演讲中说:“物质的拥有和使用,不会满足我们追求(人生)意义的渴望。”一年后,他败在了罗纳德•里根(Ronald Reagan)手下,后者最有效的竞选策略是反复问美国人,他们觉得自己的境况比4年前好了吗。

The fact is that people like piling up material goods. Mr Sarkozy may argue that there is more to life than economic growth – but, on a personal level, he seems to be quite fond of flashy watches and holidays on millionaires' yachts.

事实是,人们就爱添置物质用品。萨科奇可能会说,影响民生的不止是经济增长。但是,从个人情况来看,他似乎相当钟爱奢华的手表和在富人游艇上度假。

I, myself, find Lord Skidelsky's arguments fairly persuasive. On the other hand, I am also thinking of buying a 42-inch plasma television to watch this month's World Cup. Doubtless my giant TV will not bring me lasting happiness or spiritual fulfilment. But I think I might buy it all the same.

我个人一方面认为斯基德尔斯基勋爵的观点相当有说服力,一方面也在考虑买一台42英寸的等离子电视,以便收看本月的世界杯比赛。毫无疑问,大电视不会带给我持久的幸福感或者精神满足,但我想我可能还是会买一台。

译者/杨远

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