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Prosperity Without Growth (1)

20 July 2010
 

Like biologists, economists in the West are not a group regarded highly by the general population. Quite opposite, in fact. The reputations of the people in these professions are even worse in China, since the former are trying to push the government to force Chinese people into consuming GM rice before any credible evidence to prove it is save for long-term use being presented for public scrutiny, while the latter keep promoting full privatisation and market economy which are blamed by the dissatisfied in the community as the cause for the increased gap between the rich and the poor.

When some Chinese economists perching on important key positions, such as the head of a school for management at one of China's leading universities, are still lobbying for China to develop an unchecked free market and unrestricted consumerism, as which are what they learned in the West decades ago, and as they don't seem to know anything else, in the Western world, the general consensus in the fields of economics and of the general public has already shifted away from this economic model that is considered as being unsustainable. And some pioneering economists have joined the movement to search for new ways of living our lives in the new century.

Here we present one of such brave attempts made by Professor Tim Jackson, the head of UK Government's Sustainable Development Commission (英国的'可发委' - 可持续发展委员会 - 跟中国的‘发改委’反其道而行之。这究竟唱的是锡剧呢还是京剧呢?是可喜呢还是可惊呢?). The following is the excerpt from his book titled Prosperity Without Growth and our Chinese translation:

The Transition to a Sustainable Economy

Growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally. A fifth of the world’s population earns just 2% of global income. Inequality is higher in the OECD nations than it was 20 years ago. Far from raising the living standard for those who most needed it, growth let much of the world’s population down. Wealth trickled up to the lucky few.

Fairness (or the lack of it) is just one of several reasons to question the conventional formula for achieving prosperity. As the economy expands, so do the resource implications associated with it.

A world in which things simply go on as usual is already inconceivable.

This report sets out a critical examination of the relationship between prosperity and growth. It acknowledges at the outset that poorer nations stand in urgent need of economic development. But it also questions whether ever-rising incomes for the already-rich are an appropriate goal for policy in a world constrained by ecological limits. In short, this report challenges the assumption of continued economic expansion in rich countries and asks: is it possible to achieve prosperity without growth?

向可持续经济的过度

经济增长为人类带来的利益是不均衡的。五分之一的世界人口的收入只占全球总收入的2%。经过20年的发展,经合组织国家的贫富差距变得更大了。经济发展并没有让那些最需要受益的人群受益。财富集中到了一小撮人的手中。

财富分配的不公平只是对传统发展模式的诸多质疑之一。随着经济规模的扩展,与之相关的资源开发和分配上的问题也暴露出来了。

我们的世界已不能再依照目前的经济模式继续发展下去了。

当然那些贫穷国家仍然应该继续发展经济,这个没有问题。问题是那些发达的富国是不是还应该期待在地球资源有限的情况下进一步富起来。这份研究的目的就是挑战那种认为富国要进一步繁荣就必须进一步增长经济发展的观点。

The Age of Irresponsibility

The banking crisis of 2008 led the world to the brink of financial disaster and shook the dominant economic model to its foundations. It redefined the boundaries between market and state and forced us to confront our inability to manage the financial sustainability – let alone the ecological sustainability – of the global economy.

The market was not undone by rogue individuals or the turning of a blind eye by incompetent regulators. It was undone by growth itself.

This model was always unstable ecologically. It has now proven itself unstable economically. The age of irresponsibility is not about casual oversight or individual greed. If there was irresponsibility it was systematic, sanctioned widely and with one clear aim in mind: the continuation and protection of economic growth.

一个不负责任的时代

2008年的全球性金融危机从根本上动摇了主流经济模式的基础。市场和政府的权限被迫重新界定。我们不得不面对这样一个现实:市场经济体制在保证金融业经济的可持续性上根本无能为力,更别提靠它来保障全球经济的可持续性了。

市场经济的崩溃并非源于个别从业者的违法乱纪或个别行政机构的监管不力。市场经济的崩溃是由市场经济的增长本身引起的。

这个经济模式从生态上来说从来就不是可持续的。现在事实已证明它在经济上也是不可持续的。造就我们这个不负责任的时代的原因不在于某个人的短见或贪心。根源在于大家长期地有组织地坚定不移地追求同一个目标:经济的不断增长。

Redefining Prosperity

Prosperity has undeniable material dimensions. It’s perverse to talk about things going well where there is inadequate food and shelter (as is the case for billions in the developing world). But it is also plain to see that the simple equation of quantity with quality, of more with better, is false in general. When you’ve had no food for months and the harvest has failed again, any food at all is a blessing. When the American-style fridge freezer is already stuffed with overwhelming choice, even a little extra might be considered a burden, particularly if you’re tempted to eat it.

Prosperity has vital social and psychological dimensions. To do well is in part about the ability to give and receive love, to enjoy the respect of your peers, to contribute useful work, and to have a sense of belonging and trust in the community. In short, an important component of prosperity is the ability to participate meaningfully in the life of society.

对社会繁荣的重新定义

社会繁荣无疑需要物质基础。饿着肚子无家可归绝无繁荣可言(比如对于那些千千万万发展中国家中的民众来说)。但若认为数量就是质量、多就是比少好也是够扯淡的。对于那些几个月没饭吃的饥民来说,任何能充饥的食物都能救命。但对一个拥有塞满食物的超大冰柜的美国人来说,他在决定是否要添加食物时考虑的就肯定不是数量而是质量了。

所谓繁荣又有着重要的社会和人文内涵。离开了家人的亲情、同事的尊敬、有意义的工作、社团的信任和社会的归属感便谈不上快乐和幸福。简言之,社会繁荣的一个重要指标是社会成员都能有效地参与社会的运作。

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红灯亮


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