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别再假装你不是有钱人

更新时间:2017-6-13 11:05:13 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich
别再假装你不是有钱人

When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes threaten my brother and me with elocution lessons. It is no secret that how you talk matters a lot in a class-saturated society like the United Kingdom. Peterborough, our increasingly diverse hometown, was prosperous enough, but not upscale. Six in 10 of the city’s residents voted for Brexit — a useful inverse poshness indicator. (In Thursday’s general election, Peterborough returned a Labour MP for the first time since 2001.)

小时候,母亲有时会威胁说,要我和兄弟去上演讲课。在英国这样充斥着阶级意识的社会里,一个人的言谈方式很重要,已经不是什么秘密。我们的家乡在彼得伯勒,这里越来越多元化,相当繁荣,但还不够上档次。这个城市的居民中有60%投票赞成脱欧——这是个有用的反上流社会指标。(在周四的大选中,彼得伯勒自2001年以来首次选出了一位工党议员。)

Our mother, from a rural working-class background herself, wanted us to be able to rise up the class ladder, unencumbered by the wrong accent. The elocution lessons never materialized, but we did have to attend ballroom dancing lessons on Saturday mornings. She didn’t want us to put a foot wrong there, either.

我们的母亲出身乡村工薪阶层,她希望我们能在阶级的台阶上攀登,别让不体面的口音拖了后腿。演讲课未能成真,但是我们周六早上必须去上交际舞课。她也不希望我们在这方面行差走错。

As it turned out, my brother and I did just fine, in no small part because of the stable, loving, middle-class home in which we were raised. Any lingering working-class traces in my own accent were wiped away by three disinfectant years at Oxford. My wife claims they resurface when I drink, but she doesn’t know what she’s talking about — she’s American.

后来,我们兄弟俩干得不错,主要是因为我们出身于一个稳定、有爱心的中产阶级家庭。在牛津度过了脱胎换骨般的三年之后,我口音中任何残留的工薪阶层痕迹都被抹去了。妻子说它们在我喝酒之后还会重新浮现出来,但她不知道自己在说什么——她是美国人。

I always found the class consciousness of Britain depressing. It is one of the reasons we brought our British-born sons to America. Here, class is quaint, something to observe in wonder through imported TV shows like “Downton Abbey” or “The Crown.”

我总觉得英国的阶级意识令人沮丧。这也是我们带着英国出生的儿子们来到美国的原因之一。在美国,阶级是一种陈旧老式的东西,是《唐顿庄园》(Downton Abbey)或《王冠》(The Crown)这样的进口电视剧里才能看到的奇观。

So imagine my horror at discovering that the United States is more calcified by class than Britain, especially toward the top. The big difference is that most of the people on the highest rung in America are in denial about their privilege. The American myth of meritocracy allows them to attribute their position to their brilliance and diligence, rather than to luck or a rigged system. At least posh people in England have the decency to feel guilty.

所以,试想当我发现美国的阶层固化比英国还要严重时有多么惊恐吧,在美国,顶层的固化尤为严重。这里和英国最大的区别是,美国处于顶层的大多数人都否认自己有特权。美国唯才是举的鬼话令他们将自己所处的位置归功于他们的优秀和勤勉,而非运气或者受到操纵的制度。英国的上流社会人士最起码还会感到内疚。

In Britain, it is politically impossible to be prime minister and send your children to the equivalent of a private high school. Even Old Etonian David Cameron couldn’t do it. In the United States, the most liberal politician can pay for a lavish education in the private sector. Some of my most progressive friends send their children to $30,000-a-year high schools. The surprise is not that they do it. It is that they do it without so much as a murmur of moral disquiet.

在英国,首相把子女送进相当于美国私立高中水准的学校,这在政治上是不可能的。即使是伊顿老校友戴维·卡梅隆(David Cameron)也不能这样做。在美国,最铁杆的自由派政治家也支付奢侈的教育费用,把子女送去私立学校。我的一些最进步的朋友把他们的孩子送到每年3万美元学费的高中。让人惊讶的不是他们这样做,而是他们这样做了,却没有任何一丝道德上的不安。

Beneath a veneer of classlessness, the American class reproduction machine operates with ruthless efficiency. In particular, the upper middle class is solidifying. This favored fifth at the top of the income distribution, with an average annual household income of $200,000, has been separating from the 80 percent below. Collectively, this top fifth has seen a $4 trillion-plus increase in pretax income since 1979, compared to just over $3 trillion for everyone else. Some of those gains went to the top 1 percent. But most went to the 19 percent just beneath them.

在无阶级的虚饰之下,美国的阶级复制机器以无情的效率高速运转。中上阶层固化的情况尤为严重。在收入分配中居于顶端的五分之一人口的平均家庭年收入达到20万美元,他们同其后80%的人完全隔绝开来。总体而言,自从1979年以来,这前五分之一人口的税前收入增加了4万亿美元以上,而其他所有人的税前收入却只增长了3万亿美元多一点。在这4万亿美元中,其中一些收益落入顶端1%的人群。但是大多数都由其下的19%得到。

The rhetoric of “We are the 99 percent” has in fact been dangerously self-serving, allowing people with healthy six-figure incomes to convince themselves that they are somehow in the same economic boat as ordinary Americans, and that it is just the so-called super rich who are to blame for inequality.

“我们都是99%”这种说辞实际上是危险而自私的,让拥有不低的六位数收入的人可以说服自己,某种程度上,他们在经济方面和普通美国人是同处一条船上的,而且只有那些所谓的超级富豪才需要为不平等现象担责。

Politicians and policy wonks worry about the persistence of poverty across generations, but affluence is inherited more strongly. Most disturbing, we now know how firmly class positions are being transmitted across generations. Most of the children born into households in the top 20 percent will stay there or drop only as far as the next quintile. As Gary Solon, one of the leading scholars of social mobility, put it recently, “Rather than a poverty trap, there seems instead to be more stickiness at the other end: a ‘wealth trap,’ if you will.”

政治人物和政策专家担心,贫困会持续代代相传,但是富裕的遗传因子要更加强大。最令人不安的是,我们现在知道,阶级位置正在稳固地传递给下一代。处于顶端20%的家庭中的大多数孩子会继续留在这个位置,至多下降到前40%的位置。正如研究社会流动问题的重要学者之一加里·索伦(Gary Solon)最近提出的:“与其说存在贫困陷阱,不如说另一端变得更有黏性:一个‘财富陷阱’,如果你愿意这样说的话。”

There’s a kind of class double-think going on here. On the one hand, upper-middle-class Americans believe they are operating in a meritocracy (a belief that allows them to feel entitled to their winnings); on the other hand, they constantly engage in antimeritocratic behavior in order to give their own children a leg up. To the extent that there is any ethical deliberation, it usually results in a justification along the lines of “Well, maybe it’s wrong, but everyone’s doing it.”

这里存在一种关于阶级的双重思想。一方面,中上阶层的美国人认为他们是在实行唯才是举的制度(这种信念让他们相信,他们有权得到自己所赢得的一切);另一方面,他们不断反对着唯才是举的做法,以便让自己的子女享有优势。这种双重思想已经到了这样的地步,如果说存在任何道德思考的话,最后通常会出现这样的辩解:“好吧,这可能是错的,但所有人都在这么干。”

The United States is the only nation in the world, for example, where it is easier to get into college if one of your parents happened to go there. Oxford and Cambridge ditched legacy preferences in the middle of the last century. The existence of such an unfair hereditary practice in 21st-century America is startling in itself. But I have been more shocked by the way that even supposedly liberal members of the upper middle class seem to have no qualms about benefiting from it.

比如说,在美国,如果你的父母碰巧上过某所大学,那么你上这个大学就更容易,在全世界,美国是唯一一个有这种做法的国家。牛津和剑桥在上世纪中叶就已抛弃了对校友子女的喜好。21世纪的美国存在这种不公平的世袭现象本身就很令人吃惊了。但是,中上阶层那些本应是自由派的人士在从中受益之时,对此似乎也是完全心安理得,这一点令我更为惊讶。

The upper middle class is also doing lots right, not least when it comes to creating a stable family environment and being engaged parents. These are behaviors we want to spread, not stop. Nobody should feel bad for working hard to raise their kids well.

中上阶层在很多方面做得很好,特别是在创造稳定的家庭环境与成为负责任的家长方面。这种行为我们需要发扬,而不是去制止。努力工作,好好养育子女,没有人应当为此感到愧疚。

Things turn ugly, however, when the upper middle class starts to rig markets in its own favor, to the detriment of others. Take housing, perhaps the most significant example. Exclusionary zoning practices allow the upper middle class to live in enclaves. Gated communities, in effect, even if the gates are not visible. Since schools typically draw from their surrounding area, the physical separation of upper-middle-class neighborhoods is replicated in the classroom. Good schools make the area more desirable, further inflating the value of our houses. The federal tax system gives us a handout, through the mortgage-interest deduction, to help us purchase these pricey homes. For the upper middle classes, regardless of their professed political preferences, zoning, wealth, tax deductions and educational opportunity reinforce one another in a virtuous cycle.

但是,当中上阶层开始为了自身利益操纵市场并损害他人利益的时候,事情就变得丑陋。住房或许是最重要的例子。排外的分区制度允许中上阶层生活在一个封闭的小区域内。这个小区域实际上相当于一个门禁森严的社区,就算看不到门的存在。由于学校通常是从周边地区收取生源,所以中上阶层社区的物理隔离也被复制到了教室里。好学校令这个地段更加炙手可热,进一步增加了房屋的价值。联邦税收制度又给了我们不劳而获之财,可以通过减免按揭利率来购买这些昂贵的房屋。对于中上阶层而言,无论他们自诩的政治偏好如何,分区制度、财富、扣税与教育机会一环一环地相互加强,形成了对他们有利的良性循环。

It takes a brave politician to question the privileges enjoyed by the upper middle class. Recently, there have been failed attempts to make zoning laws more inclusive in supposedly liberal cities like Seattle and states like California and Massachusetts. The handout on mortgage interest appears to be an indestructible deduction (unlike in Britain, where the equivalent tax break was phased out under both Conservative and Labour governments by 2000).

要质疑中上阶层所享有的特权,需要政界人士的勇气。最近,在西雅图这样的自由派城市,以及像加利福尼亚和马萨诸塞这样的州里,试图令分区法变得更具包容性的努力都遭到了失败。减免按揭利率这笔不劳而获之财似乎是一项不可动摇的优惠(不同于英国,到2000年,保守党和工党政府都已逐步淘汰了类似的税收减免政策)。

Or look at 529 college savings plans, another boondoggle. These are tax-exempt vehicles for putting money aside for educational expenses. Thanks to legislation signed by George W. Bush in 2001, any capital gains in these plans are free of all federal taxes. Most states also allow savings up to a certain level to be deducted from state income tax. Almost all the benefits of 529 plans go to upper-middle-class families. But when President Obama proposed to end the federal tax break in 2015, uproar ensued, and not just from Republicans. Liberal democrats representing affluent districts killed the idea stone dead.

或者看看529大学储蓄计划,这也是一项毫无意义的措施。它是一组为储备教育经费而制定的免税措施。由于乔治·W·布什在2001年签署的法律,这些计划的任何资本收益都不必缴纳联邦税款。大多数州还对一定金额以下的储蓄减免州所得税。 529计划的所有收益几乎都流向中上阶层家庭。但是2015年奥巴马总统提议结束联邦税收减免时激起了一片骚动,它们不仅仅来自共和党人。最后是代表富裕地区的自由派民主党人士彻底毙掉了这个提议。

Progressive policies, whether on zoning or school admissions or tax reform, all too often run into the wall of upper-middle-class opposition. Self-interest is natural enough. But the people who make up the American upper middle class don’t just want to keep their advantages; armed with their faith in a classless, meritocratic society, they think they deserve them. The strong whiff of entitlement coming from the top 20 percent has not been lost on everyone else.

无论是分区制度、入学规则,抑或税收改革,进步政策常常遭到中上阶层的反对。自利原则是非常自然的。但是,构成美国中上阶层的人不仅要保持自己的优势,他们还坚信自己生活在一个无阶级的、唯才是举的社会,他们认为一切都是他们应得的。收入位于前20%的阶层那种理所当然的强烈感觉也是其他一些人能够感受到的。

I see now that English class consciousness has an important silver lining. At least there we know that class is a real fact of social life. Posh Brits are more likely to see that their position is at least in part the result of good fortune. For Americans to solve the problem of their deepening class divisions, we will have to start by admitting their existence and our complicity in maintaining them. We need to raise our consciousness about class. And yes, I am looking at you.

我现在看到,在英国,强烈的阶级意识中还存在一线希望,这一点是非常重要的。至少我们知道阶级是社会生活中的现实。英国上流社会人士更有可能认识到,他们的位置至少部分是源自幸运。对于美国人来说,要解决阶级鸿沟不断深化的问题,我们必须首先承认这些鸿沟的存在,以及我们都是维护这些鸿沟的共谋者。我们需要提升自己的阶级意识。是的,我说的就是你。

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