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吉迪恩·拉赫曼:西方正在对自己的未来丧失信心

更新时间:2013-12-11 12:31:48
作者: 吉迪恩·拉赫曼  

    

   “西方”如何界定?美国和欧洲的政客们爱谈价值观和体制。但对于世界数十亿人来说,问题要简单得多。所谓“西方世界”,就是连普通人都能过上好日子的地方。这是驱动非法移民甘愿冒着生命危险偷渡欧美的终极梦想。

   西方的这种“诱惑”还在,但西方世界自身已经失去了对未来的信心。上周,奥巴马做了他任内最悲观的一次演讲。他毫不掩饰地历数道,美国社会不平等状况正在加重,流动性下降,“对美国梦、美国人的生活方式和美国的世界地位提出了根本性的挑战。”

   今春,皮尤研究中心在全球39个国家进行民调,其中一个问题是:“在贵国,下一代会比上一代生活得好吗?”只有33%的美国人给出了肯定的回答,而62%的美国人说下一代会比上一代活得更糟糕。欧洲人更加悲观。仅28%的德国人、17%的英国人、14%的意大利人、9%的法国人认为下一代会生活得更好。西方的这种悲观情绪与发展中国家形成鲜明对比:82%的中国人、59%的印度人、65%的尼日利亚人相信未来会更好。

   有人认为,西方生活水平下降乃是言过其实的谈资,也许这是善意的猜测。但遗憾的是,数据显示,公众有所认同。据布鲁金斯学会研究团队的报告,美国工人工资——去除通货膨胀因素——自1970年代以来下降19%。乔?埃弗里奇(Joe Average,虚构的名字,代指普通美国人——观察者网译注)一度是美国梦的象征,如今他的工资已经回落,虽然最富有的5%美国人收入飙涨。甚至连保守派也在担忧。参议员卢比奥(Marco Rubio)是预备2016年美国总统大选的共和党新星,他指出,自己的父母从酒吧招待和女佣这些相对卑微的工作做起,一步步“挤入中产阶级行列”,而如今,他承认这已经不可能实现。

   欧洲的悲观情绪和不安定感也有其现实根源——尤其是人们预期,未来的福利和退休金将越来越少。发展压力在欧债危机最严重的地区最为明显,例如希腊和葡萄牙都下调了工资和退休金。

   但即使是状况较为良好的欧洲国家,要维持现在的生活水平也压力颇大。《金融时报》的研究显示,1985年出生的英国人,其生活水平比不上早10年出生的那一代人;这是英国百年来前所未有之事。

   甚至在被誉为西方最成功的庞大经济体的德国,“默克尔奇迹”的成果也主要是高收入人群在享受。奠定了德国的出口导向经济体制的经济改革,要求控制工资上涨、削减社会福利、鼓励雇佣临时工。

   发展中国家的乐观情绪和西方国家的悲观情绪都在逐渐上升,两者不无联系。奥巴马上周的演讲提到,“自1970年代起,社会契约开始解体。”无巧不成书,恰恰是1970年代末,中国开始改革开放。

   连那些全球化的捍卫者们都承认,日益增长的全球劳动力数量维持着西方的低水平工资。我的一些欧洲朋友幻想保护主义——甚至发动亚洲战争——能够帮助西方抢回高收入工作。但现实是,技术进步、经济发展、政治力量都裹挟其中,全球化趋势大概不可逆转。全球化帮助发展中国家数亿人摆脱贫困,要想通过破坏这种趋势来维持西方生活水平,这不是什么道德的想法。

   即使西方国家真的关闭市场,他们的雇员——包括白领——会渐渐发现,计算机、机器人能以更廉价的方式替代他们的工作。实际上,机器人大军即将对中国的流水线工人产生威胁。

   如果生活水平持续下降,西方国家的选民会作何反应?目前已有一些政治激进主义的苗头,美国和欧洲都兴起了民粹主义右翼。但目前迹象表明,美国的茶党或欧洲的民族主义势力还无法上台执政。全球化仍具有凝聚共识的力量。本周,世界贸易组织在达成新一轮全球贸易规则的道路上显然获得了重大突破。

   但在西方,新的政治运动还不足以打破既有的各个政党。主流政治家们必须对新的经济环境做出回应。不断加剧的不平等状况,正在对大西洋两岸各国施加压力,去提升二次分配税率、调整最低工资标准的呼声渐高。下一个十年的世界经济衰退——或另一场金融危机——可能会产生更多的激进思潮和政客。

   (本文载于《金融时报》网站12月9日,原标题The west is losing faith in its own future;朱新伟/译。来源:观察者)

   The west is losing faith in its own future

   By Gideon Rachman

   December 9, 2013 5:13 pm

   What defines the west? American and European politicians like to talk about values and institutions. But for billions of people around the world, the crucial point is simpler and easier to grasp. The west is the part of the world where even ordinary people live comfortably. That is the dream that makes illegal immigrants risk their lives, trying to get into Europe or the US.

   Yet, even though the lure of the west remains intense, the western world itself is losing faith in its future. Last week Barack Obama gave one of the bleakest speeches of his presidency. In unsparing terms, the US president chronicled the increasing inequality and declining social mobility that, he says, “pose a fundamental threat to the American dream, our way of life and what we stand for around the world”.

   A Pew Research Center opinion survey, conducted in 39 countries this spring, asked: “Will children in your country be better off than their parents?” Only 33 per cent of Americans believed their children would live better, while 62 per cent said they would live worse. Europeans were even gloomier. Just 28 per cent of Germans, 17 per cent of Brits, 14 per cent of Italians and 9 per cent of French thought their children would be better off than previous generations. This western pessimism contrasts strongly with optimism in the developing world: 82 per cent of Chinese, 59 per cent of Indians and 65 per cent of Nigerians believe in a more prosperous future.

   It would be nice to believe that talk of a decline in western living standards is simply hype. But, unfortunately, the numbers suggest that the public are on to something. According to researchers at the Brookings Institution, the wages of working-age men in the US – adjusted for inflation – have fallen by 19 per cent since 1970. Joe Average – once the epitome of the American dream – has fallen back, even as gains for the top 5 per cent of incomes have soared. Even conservative politicians are worried. Senator Marco Rubio, a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, points out that his parents were able to “make it into the middle class” from relatively humble jobs, as a bartender and a maid. These days, he acknowledges, that would no longer be possible.

   The sense of gloom and insecurity in Europe is also grounded in reality – in particular the knowledge that welfare and retirement benefits are likely to be less generous in future. The pressure on prosperity is most intense in countries that have suffered worst in the debt-crisis – places such as Greece and Portugal have seen actual cuts in wages and pensions.

   But living standards are even under pressure in European countries that have done relatively well. Research by the Financial Times has shown that Britons born in 1985 are the first cohort for 100 years not to be experiencing better living standards than those born 10 years previously.

Even in Germany, often lauded as the most successful big economy in the western world,(点击此处阅读下一页)


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