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衰落的21世纪

更新时间:2017-2-22 20:06:11 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

This Century Is Broken
衰落的21世纪

Most of us came of age in the last half of the 20th century and had our perceptions of “normal” formed in that era. It was, all things considered, an unusually happy period. No world wars, no Great Depressions, fewer civil wars, fewer plagues.

我们大多数人都是在20世纪后半叶成长起来的,对于何谓“正常”的看法也在那个时期形成。总体而言,那是一个异常愉快的阶段。没有世界大战,没有大萧条,内战与灾害都比较少。

It’s looking like we’re not going to get to enjoy one of those times again. The 21st century is looking much nastier and bumpier: rising ethnic nationalism, falling faith in democracy, a dissolving world order.

我们似乎难以再次享受到那样一个时代了。二十一世纪看起来更加棘手、更加艰难:民族国家主义抬头、对民主的信心下降,世界秩序面临破灭。

At the bottom of all this, perhaps, is declining economic growth. As Nicholas Eberstadt points out in his powerful essay “Our Miserable 21st Century,” in the current issue of Commentary, between 1948 and 2000 the U.S. economy grew at a per-capita rate of about 2.3 percent a year.

在所有这些问题之下,或许是经济增长的下降。尼古拉斯·埃伯施塔特(Nicholas Eberstadt)于本期《评论》(Commentary)杂志上发表的论文《我们可悲的21世纪》(Our Miserable 21st Century)颇具说服力,正如文中指出,在1948年到2000年间,美国经济以人均约2.3%的速度增长。

But then around 2000, something shifted. In this century, per-capita growth has been less than 1 percent a year on average, and even since 2009 it’s been only 1.1 percent a year. If the U.S. had been able to maintain postwar 20th-century growth rates into this century, U.S. per-capita G.D.P. would be over 20 percent higher than it is today.

但是到了2000年左右,事情发生了变化。在本世纪,人均增长率平均每年不到1%,即便自2009年以来(有所上升),每年也只有1.1%。如果美国在本世纪里能够保持20世纪战后的增长率,那么美国的人均GDP将比今天高出20%以上。

Slow growth strains everything else — meaning less opportunity, less optimism and more of the sort of zero-sum, grab-what-you-can thinking that Donald Trump specializes in. The slowdown has devastated American workers. Between 1985 and 2000, the total hours of paid work in America increased by 35 percent. Over the next 15 years, they increased by only 4 percent.

缓慢的增长限制了一切——它意味着机会更少,人们更不乐观,唐纳德·特朗普擅长的那种零和博弈、能抓住什么就抓住什么的想法也越来越盛行。经济减速已经对美国工人造成了极大损害。在1985年到2000年间,美国的有偿工作总时间增加了35%。在其后的15年里只增长了4%。

For every one American man aged 25 to 55 looking for work, there are three who have dropped out of the labor force. If Americans were working at the same rates they were when this century started, over 10 million more people would have jobs. As Eberstadt puts it, “The plain fact is that 21st-century America has witnessed a dreadful collapse of work.”

年龄在25至55岁、已经退出劳动力市场的美国男性是正在寻找工作的同龄美国男性的三倍。如果美国的这一增速保持在世纪之初的水平,那么逾1000万的额外劳动力都能实现就业。正如埃伯施塔特所说,“事实很明显,21世纪的美国经历了可怕的就业崩溃。”

That means there’s an army of Americans semi-attached to their communities, who struggle to contribute, to realize their capacities and find their dignity. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics time-use studies, these labor force dropouts spend on average 2,000 hours a year watching some screen. That’s about the number of hours that usually go to a full-time job.

这意味着有大批美国人不能完整地与自己所在的社区连接在一起,他们很难做出贡献,无法实现自己的能力、发现自己的尊严。根据劳动统计局(Bureau of Labor Statistics)对时间使用所做的一项研究,这些主流社会之外的劳动力每年平均花费2000小时观看某种屏幕。这样多的小时数通常足以满足一份全职工作。

Fifty-seven percent of white males who have dropped out get by on some form of government disability check. About half of the men who have dropped out take pain medication on a daily basis. A survey in Ohio found that over one three-month period, 11 percent of Ohioans were prescribed opiates. One in eight American men now has a felony conviction on his record.

57%的白人男性失业者依靠某种形式的政府残疾补助勉强度日。大约一半的失业男性每天服用止痛药。俄亥俄州的一项调查发现,在为期三个月的一段时间内,11%的俄亥俄州人使用处方鸦片制剂。每八个美国男性当中,就有一个有重罪罪行纪录在案。

This is no way for our fellow citizens to live. The Eberstadt piece confirms one thought: The central task for many of us now is not to resist Donald Trump. He’ll seal his own fate. It’s to figure out how to replace him — how to respond to the slow growth and social disaffection that gave rise to him with some radically different policy mix.

我们的一些同胞没有办法生存下去。埃伯施塔特的文章证实了一个想法:对于我们当中的许多人来说,现在的核心任务不是对抗唐纳德·特朗普。他自会决定自己的命运。我们的任务是要找出替代他的方案——如何以一些极为不同的政策组合来应对经济缓慢增长与社会不满情绪,正是这二者导致了特朗普的崛起。

The hard part is that America has to become more dynamic and more protective — both at the same time. In the past, American reformers could at least count on the fact that they were working with a dynamic society that was always generating the energy required to solve the nation’s woes. But as Tyler Cowen demonstrates in his compelling new book, “The Complacent Class,” contemporary Americans have lost their mojo.

困难的是,美国必须变得更具活力,并且提供更多保护——二者还必需在同时发生。在过去,美国的改革者至少可以相信,他们是在一个充满活力的社会中工作,这个社会总能产生解决国家种种问题所需的能量。但是,正如泰勒·考恩(Tyler Cowen)在他那本引人注目的新书《安于现状的阶级》(The Complacent Class)中所展示的,当代美国人失去了他们神奇的力量。

Cowen shows that in sphere after sphere, Americans have become less adventurous and more static. For example, Americans used to move a lot to seize opportunities and transform their lives. But the rate of Americans who are migrating across state lines has plummeted by 51 percent from the levels of the 1950s and 1960s.

考恩写道,在每一个领域内,美国人都已经变得更加倾向于保持静态,不那么愿意冒险。比如,美国人曾经惯于经常搬迁,以此抓住机会并改变自己的生活。但是,搬到另一个州去生活的美国人的比例比起1950年代和1960年代的水平下降了51%。

Americans used to be entrepreneurial, but there has been a decline in start-ups as a share of all business activity over the last generation. Millennials may be the least entrepreneurial generation in American history. The share of Americans under 30 who own a business has fallen 65 percent since the 1980s.

美国人曾经极具创业精神,但是在过去一代人的时间里,初创企业的比例在所有行业活动中都有所下降。千禧一代可能是美国历史上最缺乏创业精神的一代。自20世纪80年代以来, 30岁以下便拥有企业的美国人的比例下降了65%。

Americans tell themselves the old job-for-life model is over. But in fact Americans are switching jobs less than a generation ago, not more. The job reallocation rate — which measures employment turnover — is down by more than a quarter since 1990.

美国人告诉自己,终生从事一份工作的旧有模式已经结束。但事实上,美国人换工作的频率比上代人更少,而不是更多。工作重新分配率——一个用来衡量就业流动率的数值——自1990年以来下降了1/4以上。

There are signs that America is less innovative. Accounting for population growth, Americans create 25 percent fewer major international patents than in 1999. There’s even less hunger to hit the open road. In 1983, 69 percent of 17-year-olds had driver’s licenses. Now only half of Americans get a license by age 18.

有迹象表明,美国的创新性在下降。考虑到人口增长因素,美国人获得的重要国际专利比1999年减少了25%。甚至连开车上路的欲望也在减少。在1983年,69%的17岁人口拥有驾驶执照。现在只有一半的美国人在18岁之前获得执照。

In different ways Eberstadt and Cowen are describing a country that is decelerating, detaching, losing hope, getting sadder. Economic slowdown, social disaffection and risk aversion reinforce one another.

埃伯施塔特和考恩以不同的方式描绘了一个正在减速、变得疏离、失去希望,愈发悲伤的国家。经济衰退、社会不满和风险规避这三者相互促进。

Of course nothing is foreordained. But where is the social movement that is thinking about the fundamentals of this century’s bad start and envisions an alternate path? Who has a compelling plan to boost economic growth? If Trump is not the answer, what is?

当然没有什么是命中注定的。但是,思考本世纪糟糕开端的基本点,并设想另一条替代道路的社会运动在哪里?谁能提出令人信服的计划以促进经济增长?如果特朗普不是答案,那什么才是?

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