The unlikely revolutionary

Radical Britain

The unlikely revolutionary

David Cameron’s Britain has embarked on the toughest fiscal tightening and most drastic decentralisation of any big, rich country. The stakes are high. So are the risks

ALEXIS DE TOCQUEVILLE’S chronicles of the Anglo-Saxon world did not stop with America. On a tour of Britain, he was taken with its liberal vigour, decentralised government and “spirit of association”. It came as a relief from the stultifying uniformity that he knew at home in France.

Under Gordon Brown Britain arguably became Europe’s truly Napoleonic state, the real home of dirigisme. More of its public spending now comes from central government than in any OECD country bar New Zealand. Its local government is weaker than nearly any comparable country, including France. The state finances and provides most health care. It bossily decrees where schools can be opened, and how they must be run. Then there is the sheer size of the beast: on OECD figures, public spending made up 51% of GDP in 2009, putting Britain into the same league as continental countries that deplore Anglo-Saxon laissez-faire.
It would have been understandable, if not forgivable, had David Cameron ducked a showdown with Leviathan. The Conservative prime minister failed to win May’s general election outright and governs precariously in coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Yet as it approaches its 100th day, the government is turning out to be searingly ambitious in taming the state. It wants to cut public spending more steeply than almost anyone expected. And it intends to make sure that whatever state is left is more local, flexible and responsive to the people who pay for it.

The first of these missions is the more obviously radical, out of necessity. The government inherited an economy only starting to climb out of a ruinous recession that had been among the deepest in the G7 and had lasted the longest. Even that tentative upturn relied on unparalleled looseness in fiscal and monetary policy. A debt-laden economy emerging from a banking crisis looked vulnerable to a Japanese-style “lost decade” of faltering recovery.
Even worse was the budgetary mess the new government inherited. Labour ran a deficit even during the boom years, and stuck to its expansive three-year spending plans after recession hit. Fiscal stimulus on top of this took the deficit to a record high of 11% of GDP in 2009-10; the IMF forecast in May that it would be the biggest this year among G20 economies. Whoever won the election would sooner or later have to slash the deficit.
The new government decided to do it sooner. After a few days in office, George Osborne, the Conservative chancellor of the exchequer, announced cuts to take effect in 2010-11. His coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, had opposed an early start during the campaign. But against the background of Greece’s sovereign-debt crisis, they agreed to endorse them.
These first cuts trimmed the deficit by only £6 billion ($9.4 billion), or 0.4% of GDP. But they showed the new government meant business. They also hinted at the pain that lay ahead: spending cuts equal to less than 1% of total expenditure involved reductions of over 5% for some departments. The National Health Service, which makes up nearly a fifth of total spending, was to be “ring-fenced” for a full parliament, and defence and schools protected in the first year. Overseas aid would rise until it reached 0.7% of GDP in 2013.

The budget on June 22nd set out fuller plans through to 2014-15. Mr Osborne was surprisingly bold in two ways. He decided to clip the deficit at a brisk pace. And he plumped for doing it mainly through spending cuts.

Mr Osborne plans to get the job essentially done by 2014-15. If all goes to plan, the deficit will fall from 11% of GDP in 2009-10 to 2.1% in 2014-15. The structural deficit, which strips out the effects of the economic cycle, will drop from 8.7% of GDP to 0.8% (see chart). On a similar basis, the government will by then be running a small surplus on the current budget, which excludes net investment (due to be slashed anyway over the next couple of years). This is a much faster retrenchment than the previous Labour government envisaged. It planned to return the cyclically-adjusted current budget to balance in 2016-17. Labour’s fiscal consolidation would have amounted to 4% of GDP by 2014-15; Mr Osborne is aiming at 6.3%.

The fiscal squeeze in Britain is less intense than in some smaller European economies, such as Greece. But it is much the biggest and fastest among the G7 economies. The retrenchment planned by America and Japan, the two big economies running deficits comparable to Britain’s, is nowhere near as significant, says Ben Broadbent, an economist at Goldman Sachs, a bank.

Mr Osborne has also nailed his radical colours to the mast by relying on spending cuts for three-quarters of the squeeze by 2014-15, leaving relatively little work for tax rises. In the ten biggest consolidations among rich countries from the late 1970s to the mid-2000s, just two countries—Canada in the 1990s and Ireland in the 1980s—leaned more heavily on spending cuts, according to a study by the OECD in 2007.

Daring or daredevil?
If boldness is the test, then the strategy for cutting the deficit cannot be faulted. But though fortune may favour the brave, it can trip up the headstrong. Debate rages—not only in Britain—over whether it makes economic sense to tighten fiscal policy so much, so fast. And austerity plans may not be achievable without ripping vital public services to shreds.
The independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which now oversees Treasury forecasts, delivered an encouraging verdict in June on the probable economic impact of the budget. Though it trimmed GDP growth forecasts made on the basis of Labour’s policies, from 1.3% to 1.2% in 2010 and from 2.6% to 2.3% in 2011, the downward adjustment was surprisingly small given Mr Osborne’s accelerated fiscal consolidation.

By moving decisively the government has gained credibility with investors worried about Britain’s huge deficit, and yields on government debt have fallen. Moreover, growth was surprisingly strong in the second quarter of this year, with GDP rising by 1.1% compared with its level in the first three months. The worry, however, is that firms and households burdened by debt are in no mood to invest or spend more, and the extra budgetary restraint could choke off recovery. Confidence indicators for both businesses and consumers have dropped since the budget, spurring fears of a double-dip recession.

In its quarterly take on the economy on August 11th, the Bank of England lowered its growth forecast, but still expects a respectable recovery. Presenting its Inflation Report, Mervyn King, the bank’s governor, played down the importance of Mr Osborne’s extra austerity in the downward revision to growth. The government thinks its harsh fiscal policies will permit more monetary balm, whether through resuming the policy of quantitative easing or keeping interest rates lower for longer. Judging by this week’s report, the central bank is in no mood to tighten policy and takes the view that the rise in inflation will eventually be doused by spare capacity.
Even if loose monetary policy can ensure recovery in the teeth of fiscal consolidation, the Treasury’s spending plans may simply not be feasible. With interest payments rising because of huge borrowing, and the NHS ring-fenced from real cuts, the departments responsible for other public services face cuts of 25% by 2014-15. If defence and schools are to be spared such harsh treatment—by limiting cuts to 10%, say—the others face a real squeeze of 33%.
Cuts on this scale would be fiercer than any since the second world war. The precise allocation will be announced on October 20th, and ministers will be at each other’s throats until then. The row over defence has been especially fierce: a document leaked this month suggested that all three armed forces would shrink dramatically, the RAF to its smallest for a century.

One way to alleviate the squeeze on public services is to intensify it on the welfare budget, which accounts for 28% of all spending. In June Mr Osborne announced savings of £11 billion by 2014-15 (half of it from switching the inflation measure used to uprate benefits). If the government were able to save an additional £14 billion on welfare, unprotected departmental budgets could fall by only 20%, calculates Rowena Crawford of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a think-tank.

But there are limits, it seems, to the new government’s radicalism. It could raise close to £10 billion by 2014-15 by means-testing payments such as child benefit that go to the better off as well as the poor and by scrapping winter-fuel payments and free bus travel for people over 60 (pensioners are anyway gaining from more generous uprating of the basic pension). Or if it dropped ring-fencing of the NHS and postponed its commitment to meet the overseas-aid target, that would reduce overall departmental cuts to 14%, according to the IFS. Both, however, would mean reneging on election pledges.

And this highlights a big concern about the coalition’s fiscal plans: they may be both too bold and too timid. On the economic front, it would be wise to have a plan B in case Keynesian fears about overstringent cuts turn out to be right. And as to spending, a government that preaches radicalism should be ready to tear up election pledges that make little sense.

The centrifuge
There is more to Mr Cameron’s radical vision than number-crunching. The other part of this revolution is an agenda for devolving power from the centre.

Britain is one of the most centralised countries in the rich world (see chart 2). The central planning that made sense when it was fighting for survival in the second world war was giddily retained in peacetime. Many European countries, traumatised by defeat or collaboration, remade their states from first principles, often pushing power away from the tainted centre. In Britain, victory sanctified and strengthened Westminster and Whitehall.
Then came Margaret Thatcher, who centralised the country still more politically in order to emancipate it economically. Tony Blair went further, micro-managing public services from the centre through performance targets. When he eventually recanted, his political stock was too low for him to get far. His successor, Mr Brown, was an unenthusiastic devolver, at best.
But decentralisation has now found a home. Blairite reforms, such as state-funded but self-run “foundation” hospitals and “academy” schools, appeal to an ancient Tory reverence for the local, the small and the independent. Giving power away was the theme of the Conservatives’ manifesto for this year’s general election. It flopped politically. Many Tories think they would have won a majority in Parliament with a more bread-and-butter campaign.
But that indecisive result has helped the centrifugal cause. Mr Cameron was able to forge a coalition with the Lib Dems precisely because both parties saw the state as overcentralised and overbearing. When they hammered out a joint programme for government, the main theme other than austerity was decentralisation. Three areas are in for particularly deep change: education, policing and health care.

In an approach partly inherited from Labour, the new government aims to allow parents more choice in their children’s education. Existing schools are encouraged to switch to academy status, and newly created “free schools”, set up and run by not-for-profit businesses, charities, faith groups, universities, private schools or parents themselves, will be in operation. These will be able to set pay and conditions for staff, deviate from the national curriculum, decide the length of school days and terms, and so forth. The state will pay for premises and provide funding per pupil; poorer children will attract more, so that schools are keen to take them on.

Opponents fret that school quality will vary and middle-class students will benefit most. They complain that supply-side reforms are sucking money from the physical upgrade of existing schools. Even reformers have quibbles. The ban on school providers making a profit seems politically motivated. The education secretary is ultimately to decide which new schools are approved, which seems unlocalist.

Still, the injection of choice and competition into an unusually rigid school system could transform it. Schools will compete for pupils, not the other way around. So far around 160 schools have applied to become academies, and there have been over 60 bids to set up new free schools. The numbers may well increase as the policies take hold.

Of all the public services, the police have until now been least exposed to people power. Chief constables are essentially accountable to home secretaries. The public complain that officers sit at their desks rather than patrolling trouble spots, direct victims to support phone lines rather than going after offenders, and show a particular indifference to the supposedly low-level blight of anti-social behaviour.

Quis custodiet?
The government’s answer to all this is directly elected “police and crime commissioners” for every constabulary in England and Wales (bar London, where an elected mayor effectively exercises democratic oversight already). Starting in 2012 they will determine priorities for their local force, appoint and remove chief constables and set the budget. The police authorities that purportedly hold constabularies to account now will be scrapped.

Civil libertarians worry that elections will lead to populism in policing. But the commissioners will not be able to create new offences or relax basic rules of conduct for officers. A more likely outcome is that even a democratic mandate will not be enough for commissioners to prevail over police chiefs, most of whom loathe the idea of taking orders from outsiders.
As radical as free schools or police commissioners, but less trailed than either, is the government’s plan for the NHS. Mr Cameron promised obliquely to “trust the professionals”. This has turned out to mean something profound. General practitioners (GPs), grouped in consortia, are to commission most secondary care. Strategic health authorities and primary-care trusts, which currently do that job, will be ditched, and patients will have greater freedom to choose their GP. The aim is efficiency as well as flexibility: GPs will be given incentives to keep their patients away from costly and unnecessary hospital care.

This may be the riskiest of all the coalition’s plans to shake up the public sector. GP “fund-holding” was pioneered by John Major’s Conservative government, but it was voluntary. Many family doctors lack the desire or the aptitude to manage large budgets. The stakes are enormous: commissioning involves most of the NHS’s roughly £100 billion annual budget in England. It is also another wrenching reform to the NHS, and comes from a party that deplored such disruptions under Labour.

The government’s drive to give power away does not stop at these three public services. Welfare is also being overhauled: paying firms and charities to help the unemployed into work will continue, and a fundamental benefits reform is mooted. There will be more elected mayors, fewer MPs and more citizen initiatives. The government will help to train and fund community organisers. And, in a glasnost to complement the perestroika of decentralisation, more data is being put online.

Where does this radicalism come from? Ruddy-faced and shire-bred, Mr Cameron looks and sounds like the stolid, middle-of-the-road High Tory he is often thought to be. Part of the answer lies in the company he keeps. Among the most evangelical of the Tocquevillian Tories is Steve Hilton, Mr Cameron’s strategist. A former advertising man who grew intrigued by the potential of businesses and other non-state organisations to bring about social change, he joined his old friend’s campaign to remake the Conservative Party.

Mr Hilton works closely with Oliver Letwin, a cabinet-office minister no less eager to strip power from the centre. Downing Street’s policy unit is run by James O’Shaughnessy, who came up with much of what is now the new schools policy in his previous life as a think-tanker. His colleague, Rohan Silva, is perhaps the most ardent centrifugalist of the policy advisers. In opposition Mr Hilton, Mr O’Shaughnessy and Mr Silva travelled the world (and especially America) to study decentralised government and social innovation in action (see article). The fruits of this shuttle wonkery are strewn through the coalition’s programme.
There are, of course, problems with the programme. Many of the boldest ideas have not been adequately tested. The Tories’ faith that civil society can take on the burdens of the state may be more touching than realistic. And even if the policies are sound, resistance to them will be ferocious. Britons dislike public services that vary in quality according to a “postcode lottery”. Unions will test the government’s resolve. Many civil servants will fight the transfer of power from Whitehall.

Giving up power also means different things to different parts of the coalition. David Miliband, the favourite to become the next leader of the Labour Party, once spoke of “double devolution”. Power, he said, should be given from central to local government, and where possible from government of any kind to ordinary people. The Tories are keen on the second half of this transfer; the Lib Dems prefer the first (and have a strong presence on many local councils). This could cause clashes. There is also a difference of emphasis between those Tories who yearn to shrink the state, such as Mr Osborne, and those focused on decentralising it, such as Mr Hilton. Reform often costs money in the short run.

Yet with all these caveats, the new government’s vision of a looser state, and its determination to reform virtually all the public services at once, is boldly outlined. Add in the even more daring plan to cut the fiscal deficit, and Britain is in for a breathless and convulsive few years. Now and then, British elections are epochal, setting the tone for other countries, too. One such took place in 1945, when the modern welfare state got going. Another, in 1979, loosed Margaret Thatcher on a waiting world. By producing a ruling coalition that is as radical in redefining government as it is in cutting it, the election of 2010 may prove another turning point.

Let's hear those ideas

Social innovation

Let's hear those ideas

In America and Britain governments hope that a partnership with “social entrepreneurs” can solve some of society’s most intractable problems

POLICYMAKERS on both sides of the Atlantic are keen on a new approach to alleviating society’s troubles. On July 22nd Barack Obama’s administration listed the first 11 investments by its new Social Innovation Fund (SIF). About $50m of public money, more than matched by $74m from philanthropic foundations, will be given to some of America’s most successful non-profit organisations, in order to expand their work in health care, in creating jobs and in supporting young people (see table).

Although the SIF accounts for a tiny fraction of the federal budget, the fund embodies an approach that the administration plans to spread throughout government. The fund is one of several efforts to promote new partnerships of government, private capital, social entrepreneurs and the public, pushed by the White House’s Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation (OSICP), which Mr Obama created soon after taking office. These initiatives include another fund, i3 (for “investing in innovation”), in the Department of Education and cash prizes for novel answers to social problems.

Three days earlier David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister, gave a speech in Liverpool outlining his vision of a “Big Society”. At its heart, he sees a similar partnership to Mr Obama’s. A Big Society Bank will “help finance social enterprises, charities and voluntary groups through intermediaries”, which sounds very like the task of the SIF. The government, said Mr Cameron, urgently needs to “open up public services to new providers like charities, social enterprises and private companies so we get more innovation, diversity and responsiveness to public need” and to “create communities with oomph”.

A new name for brains and money
“Social innovation” is the increasingly common shorthand for this approach to public-private partnerships. It differs from the fashion in the past couple of decades for contracting out the delivery of public services to businesses and non-profit groups in order to cut costs, in that it aims to do more than save a few dollars or pounds—although that is part of its attraction. The idea is to transform the way public services are provided, by tapping the ingenuity of people in the private sector, especially social entrepreneurs.

A social entrepreneur is, in essence, someone who develops an innovative answer to a social problem (for instance, a business model for helping to tackle poverty). A decade ago the term was scarcely heard; today everyone from London to Lagos wants to be one. Social-entrepreneurship conferences are invariably the best attended events for students at leading business schools.

The idea behind social entrepreneurship is that fresh, businesslike ideas will bring about a productivity miracle in the “social sector” (public services plus charity) similar to the one that began in business in the 1990s. Already, a growing number of social entrepreneurs have made a mark. The best known is probably Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi founder of Grameen, a microfinance bank, and winner of a Nobel peace prize. Another prominent example is Wendy Kopp, the founder of Teach for America, which puts thousands of recent graduates from leading universities to work as teachers in some of the country’s worst schools.

However, so far the enthusiasm for social entrepreneurship has run ahead of its effects. The problem has not been a lack of good ideas (even if plenty of people who call themselves social entrepreneurs are in truth conventional charity workers). Innovative projects have ameliorated seemingly hopeless social troubles, for instance by reducing rates of reoffending by former prisoners or by helping children from the rougher parts of American cities to graduate from college.

The problem is instead one of speed and scale. Successful innovations have spread only slowly, if at all. In business, entrepreneurial firms that do well grow fast; but social entrepreneurship does not yet have a Microsoft or a Google. Policymakers hope that with encouragement from the state social entrepreneurs’ best ideas can be spread faster and wider.

Politicians’ interest in social innovation has been sharpened by the rapid deterioration of governments’ finances. Even sustaining today’s public services out of taxes alone looks impossible. Fresh ideas that promise as much, or more, for less are welcome. “The silver lining in any economic crisis is that it can force government to take necessary steps that, in more comfortable times, would fall victim to inertia,” explains New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg in a foreword to a new book, “The Power of Social Innovation”.

This book is a sort of bible of social innovation, full of examples of social entrepreneurs’ successes. It sets out both the potential of the partnership approach and the huge difficulties it will have to overcome. Its author, Stephen Goldsmith, is a Harvard professor, but his insights come from experience. As Republican mayor of Indianapolis, he won a reputation as a leader of a new breed of reform-minded American city bosses. His obsession with value for public money led him to fire 40% of the city’s non-uniform workers. He improved quality and cut costs by letting private firms compete with the public sector to supply many of the city’s services.

After the presidential election of 2000 he joined the administration, helping to shape George Bush’s plan to hand provision of some services to faith-based groups. He became chairman of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which now oversees the SIF.

Mr Goldsmith says that society is on the threshold of the fourth stage of how it addresses its thorniest problems. In stage one, at the start of the 20th century, caring for people was largely left to families and charities. In the second stage, marked by the welfare state in Britain and the Great Society in America, the government took on the job of ending poverty.

Private efforts were largely crowded out. In stage three the state tried to foster partnerships with the private sector through competitive outsourcing, but although this sometimes made a big difference (as in Indianapolis), too often the partnerships were too prescriptive and highly focused on cost-cutting. In the fourth stage government will tap the ability of the private sector, for-profit and non-profit, to deliver “disruptive, transformative innovation”.

Now Mr Goldsmith is getting his hands dirty again: Mr Bloomberg “made me an offer I couldn’t refuse” to be New York’s deputy mayor for operations. His task is to build on the mayor’s work in social innovation, which has clearly influenced the Obama administration.

Mr Bloomberg took office in 2002 thinking he could run the city much as he had run the media company that bears his name. He even had all his senior staff sit in an open-plan office with himself in the middle. But the mayor was soon frustrated by a system hostile to innovation.

So, among other things, he bypassed that system by creating the Centre for Economic Opportunity (CEO), which invests a mixture of public and philanthropic money in social entrepreneurs’ ideas to help lift people out of poverty, particularly by emphasising personal responsibility.

Projects are selected by competition. The winners get some public money—their merits having been proven to the city’s risk-averse bureaucrats. For instance, they have backed a controversial set of experiments to encourage the poor to be vaccinated or to pass exams by rewarding them with cash. The CEO, with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, received one of the first grants awarded by the SIF: $5.7m to replicate five anti-poverty programmes in seven other cities, including Memphis, Newark and Tulsa.

Indeed, the CEO inspired the SIF, says Mr Goldsmith, who influenced the SIF’s design. There is, however, a difference. New York’s scheme emphasises taking risks, with the expectation of the high failure-rate typical in a venture-capital fund. The SIF, despite its name, focuses less on risky innovation than on imitation. Its purpose is to find social innovations that have succeeded on a small scale and to help them have a far bigger impact. Officials call this “investing in what works”.

Working out what works
But how do you know that an innovation works? Businesses have profit; the social sector lacks a similarly simple yardstick. Often the things that are easiest to measure—say the number of people coming through the door of a community centre—tell you nothing about an activity’s effects. Finding better ways to measure the social impact of public spending is one of the goals of the OSICP, which has been working on this with the Office of Management of the Budget. Officials say progress has been made. One continuing challenge will be “to figure out what types of evaluation work at which stage of the scaling-up process”, says Sonal Shah, head of the OSICP.

Requiring private capital is another way to bring rigour: its suppliers are used to weighing up the returns from competing uses. That more than half of the money allocated in July by the SIF came from philanthropic foundations was an important vote of confidence. For similar reasons, the SIF is relying on non-profit intermediaries to scale up promising ideas. These bodies are less likely to fall foul of political pressure and risk-aversion when choosing which social entrepreneurs to back.

As well as the CEO, the fund chose Venture Philanthropy Partners and New Profit, two of the leading intermediaries created by a new generation of philanthropists. These people take a businesslike approach to giving that The Economist christened “philanthrocapitalism” in 2006. Both organisations invest donors’ money in a portfolio of non-profit groups. They take a close interest in the growth of these groups and measure their performance obsessively.
In building his Big Society, Mr Cameron also expects to rely on such intermediaries, of which the Big Society Bank is likely to be foremost. Indeed, in some respects Britain may be ahead of America in using public funds to drive social entrepreneurship and innovation. “Unlike America,” notes Mr Goldsmith, “Britain has benefited from a decade of deliberate thinking about how government should work with the social sector.” A new corporate form, the public-interest company, has given British social entrepreneurs greater flexibility in using the profit motive to scale up social innovations. America is starting to follow suit, with the B-corp, a hybrid of for-profit company and non-profit organisation.

Britain created a special government office to work with non-profit groups several years ago, when Tony Blair was prime minister. However, the Office of the Third Sector often seemed more concerned with giving voice to the concerns of the charity establishment than with tapping the ideas of social entrepreneurs. Whether its rebranding as the Office of Civil Society by Mr Cameron heralds a departure from such staid ways remains to be seen.

The British have also experimented with social-innovation funds. In 2000 Mr Blair established a Social Investment Taskforce, many of whose proposals to build up the private social sector were adopted. However, as Sir Ronald Cohen, a private-equity tycoon and philanthropist who led the taskforce, now concedes ruefully, “a disappointment was that the Labour government accepted policies but never implemented them as they should have done.” For instance, it did not use money in long-dormant bank accounts to capitalise a “social investment bank”. Mr Cameron has promised to use about £250m ($390m) of this to set up the Big Society Bank.
The details of what the bank will do, though, remain unclear. Sir Ronald’s plan was to use public funding to draw in lots of private capital, both for-profit and philanthropic, to scale up successful social-entrepreneurial ideas. At his taskforce’s recommendation, tax breaks were created for funds investing in poorer districts, which inspired among other things the creation of Bridges, a (for-profit) venture fund.

A potentially even more important British innovation appeared recently: the social-impact bond. This is a derivative tied to the performance of a non-profit organisation that is trying to tackle a difficult social problem—in the first instance, reducing the rate of reoffending by young prisoners. Private investors hand money to the selected organisation (including, in this case, a charity, St Giles) which then has the long-term capital to scale up its model without having to spend a lot of time raising funds. Depending on the recidivism rate, the government will pay investors in the first bond a return of 7.5-13%—or nothing, if the promised improvement is not achieved. In many ways the social-impact bond epitomises the new approach to social ills. It provides long-term funds for promising ideas; it transfers risk to private capital markets; and it costs public money only if the scheme provides specific social benefits.

Sir Ronald was a founding investor with David Blood, a business partner of Al Gore, and Stanley Fink, a big donor to Mr Cameron’s Conservative Party, in Social Finance, which aspires to become the Big Society Bank and which developed the social-impact bond. He believes that financial innovation of this sort has great potential in both rich and poor countries. “How about a social impact bond to fund literacy programmes in Africa?” he suggests.

Whether such bonds can attract enough profit-seeking money to make a real difference remains to be seen, says Geoff Mulgan, an adviser to Mr Blair who now runs the Young Foundation, a London think-tank. The money for the first bond came largely from philanthropists, who will be delighted if they make money but not too upset if they don’t. But there is not enough philanthropic capital around to create a big enough market for the bonds, so the true test is to attract for-profit capital, says Mr Mulgan. One useful change would be for regulators to make it clear to trustees of foundations and pension funds that “social-impact investments” are a legitimate asset class, says Sir Ronald.

In America the OSICP also has high hopes that government will be able to use cash prizes to encourage social innovation. Until recently, the only arms of government allowed to create such “incentive prizes” were NASA, the space agency, and DARPA, a research arm of the defence department. Legal changes pushed by the Obama administration should allow every department to do the same. The difficult bit is to define the contest precisely enough to reward genuine innovation that is truly useful—which is easier for scientific innovations than for social ones.

The OSICP also hope to ginger up social innovation through two things usually seen as more worthy than effective: open government and volunteering. The administration is releasing lots of once-restricted data, which OSICP says is allowing it to tap into the same crowdsourcing movement that gave birth to Wikipedia. And Patrick Covington, the new chief executive of the Corporation for National and Community Service, said recently that his agency would no longer judge its own performance by the number of volunteers or the hours they put in but by their effect.

Tea and company in Southwark
In Britain too, Mr Cameron has high hopes for volunteers. Participle, a business formed by two social entrepreneurs, Hilary Cottam and Charles Ledbeater, is trying to redesign the welfare state “bottom up”. A successful pilot, Southwark Circle, built social networks of helpful neighbours for old people living on their own in inner London. “We have seen that using limited resources to enable a social life has the effect of expanding the resources available; the time and talent of friends, neighbours and family can more than meet material needs,” says Ms Cottam.

Wanted: civic entrepreneurs
Within five years, says Ms Shah of the OSICP, the administration aims to prove the worth of the innovation-fund model, to develop good measures of performance and to have every part of the government thinking about this new approach to social innovation. Mr Cameron’s coalition government is at least as ambitious.

The biggest obstacle in both America and Britain is likely to be the inertia of the bureaucratic, rule-bound public sector. “I can think of 1,000 innovations,” said Mr Goldsmith soon after starting his new job in New York. “I have not yet had an innovative idea in any meeting that was legal.” Governments seem particularly bad at shifting money from old budgets to new ones, which is one reason why the SIF has started with a paltry $50m. Every government agency should be required to put 1% of its budget into innovation funds, argues the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank with strong ties to the Obama administration. The Young Foundation has proposed the same policy in Britain.

There are also powerful political pressures in favour of the status quo to be outmanoeuvred. For instance, America’s teaching unions have been fiercely opposed to many education innovations pushed by social entrepreneurs, including charter schools, and to the billionaire philanthrocapitalists who help finance them, such as Bill Gates and Eli Broad. There have been criticisms of the grant to New Profit because its founder, Vanessa Kirsch, once hired Michelle Obama.

Success may depend on the emergence of a subgroup of social entrepreneur that Mr Goldsmith calls “civic entrepreneurs”, who can navigate the treacherous waters of bureaucracy. Candidates should apply for a government job at once.

Radical Britain

Reforming the state

Radical Britain

Britain has embarked on a great gamble. Sooner or later, many other rich-world countries will have to take it too

OF ALL the politicians elected to high office in the West in the past few years, David Cameron seemed the least revolutionary. There was certainly none of the thrill of Barack Obama’s elevation. Even set against his peers in Europe, Mr Cameron seemed to offer less disruptive élan than Nicolas Sarkozy and a less intriguingly ruthless career than Angela Merkel. Here was a pragmatic toff, claiming the centre ground back from a Labour Party that had lost its vim. When Mr Cameron failed to win the election outright in May and had to share power with Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats, many feared a government as underwhelming as his election campaign.

Yet within its first 100 days the Con-Lib coalition has emerged as a radical force. For the first time since Margaret Thatcher handbagged the world in 1979, Britain looks like the West’s test-tube (see article). It is daring again—not always in a good way but in one that is likely to be instructive to more timid souls, not least Mr Obama and his Republican foes.

The most obvious audacity of hope lies in the budget, unveiled by George Osborne, the new chancellor of the exchequer, in June. To balance the books, he raised some taxes, notably VAT, but three-quarters of the savings will come from spending cuts. Most government departments will shrink by a quarter, though Mr Osborne excluded the National Health Service from his savagery. In the heated debate between Keynesian economists (who worry that a weak world economy needs more government spending) and fiscal hawks (who believe deficits must be tackled now to stave off Grecian disaster), Britain is the prime exhibit for tough love.
Meanwhile, the Con-Lib coalition is pushing ahead fast with plans to overhaul the British state: schools, the health service, the police and welfare all face dramatic change. A lot more government data are being made public. Unusually for the Tories, there is talk of increasing civil liberties and imprisoning fewer people; and in another sop to the Liberals, Britons next year will vote on a change to their voting system.

London calling to the faraway towns
Inside Westminster people like to point out that none of this is entirely novel. For instance, other countries—notably Canada and Sweden—have slashed budgets sharply, though they did so at a time when the rest of the world economy could pull them along; the school reforms are based on Blairite ideas (blocked by Gordon Brown). But there is a danger of missing the wood for the trees. The onrush of so many projects at one time is certainly daring: not since Mrs Thatcher has a British politician seemed in quite so much of a hurry to do a lot. And, again as with Thatcherism, there is a hint of a big idea.

For some time Mr Cameron, prompted by his closest domestic adviser, Steve Hilton, has talked about creating a Big Society, with more citizen volunteers taking on the state’s work. In office this vague idea has formalised into radical decentralisation: handing power to parents to run schools, to general practitioners to run the NHS, to local voters to pick police commissioners. In many cases, rather than just reduce the supply of the state, the Tories want to reduce the demand for it, changing a culture in which Britons have looked to government for services and answers they could provide themselves.

Why has Britain suddenly become audacious? Ideology has something to do with it. The Tories retain a Thatcherite edge—and one of the (few) beliefs they share with their new Liberal allies is a fear that the state has got too strong. Another factor is the country’s overcentralisation—arguably the greatest in the West. So much power has been grabbed by Whitehall that it is much easier than elsewhere to identify bureaucracy to hack at.

Meanwhile, the lack of checks and balances in Britain gives even a coalition prime minister near-dictatorial powers to get laws passed quickly—something Presidents Obama and Sarkozy must envy.

Yet the main prompt has been necessity. The Tories inherited such a massive budget deficit (11% of GDP) that there was little political upside in postponing the pain. Indeed, if there is a spiritual godfather of Britain’s punk politicians, it is that old Celtic headbanger, Gordon Brown. If he had not trashed the government’s finances before the recession, Mr Cameron, who back then was muttering about “sharing the proceeds of growth”, might have had a “muddling through” alternative.

There could be a row going on, down near Slough
As with all gambles, it could go wrong. The biggest danger is that fiscal tightening throttles the recovery: Mr Cameron may need a less hasty plan B. Similarly, many Tory bets, such as the elected police chiefs, could have done with a pilot project. There are possible rifts, even over the Big Society. Mr Osborne’s focus is slimming the state, Mr Hilton’s is decentralising it, which may need cash to lure in “social entrepreneurs” (see article) and local volunteers. And opposition will grow. Teachers and doctors (many of whom supported Mr Clegg) seldom welcome change. In swathes of Britain, including Scotland, the state accounts for the bulk of the economy.

Two of the Tories’ obstinacies look especially worrying. First, they should have used their disastrous inheritance as an excuse to break their promise to maintain NHS spending: even a 5% cut in that bloated department would have eased pressure elsewhere. And second, their redesign of the state is limited by their mistrust of local councils, often a more logical place to devolve political power to than unelected busybodies.

So a gamble it remains. But it is one that in general this newspaper supports. Throughout the rich world, government has simply got too big and Mr Cameron’s crew currently have the most promising approach to trimming it. Others—and not just the tottering likes of Greece and Spain—will surely follow. That includes America. At present, unlike in the 1980s, there is no Reaganesque echo from the other side of the Atlantic: despite the Tea Partiers’ zeal, the Republicans seem as clueless as Mr Obama in producing a credible medium-term plan to balance America’s budget. But pretty soon, as in Europe, somebody will have to come up with one—and Britain, for better or worse, is likely to be the place they will come to for ideas.

專家論壇-ECFA 是台灣經濟轉型的契機(上)

  • 2010-08-13
  • 工商時報
  • 【杜英宗】
     從世界經濟發展的脈絡,我們更能看出ECFA能扮演的時代意義。回首近十年全球的發展,經濟已出現種種斷層現象,近幾年的風暴更只是這些 斷層所引發的地震。例如,美國試圖透過低利率與大量貸款給市井小民以緩解收入與貧富差距、歐洲的社會福利財政負擔衍生成國家債務危機、以及亞洲過度倚賴出 口與歐美市場帶動經濟,造成的種種經濟失衡。這些表象的病徵看似逐漸淡去,但是肇致危機的根源仍存,如果不針對這些斷層對症下藥,仍無法挽救深層的結構性 問題。
     顯然,這些地區的經濟都需要轉型,台灣也面臨類似的經濟斷層難題。我們過去的發展軌跡以促進製造業出口為主,使得整個經濟體系出現不均衡 的病徵,也同時面臨貧富差距的難題。近日各方熱切討論的工安、環保等抗爭與政策困境,實際上也反映出經濟弱勢族群、或是因工業發展而受害體系的一種反制。
     經濟與企業的大幅成長,多半要靠創新、或是擴大市場。因此,這不只是兩岸貿易關稅的降低,而是我們對進入對方市場障礙的廢除。所有的產業 和基本市場,都能進一步延伸到對岸、甚至全球。這也不只是生計飯碗的保衛戰,而是我們利用自身優勢創造更多市場與就業的機會,修補我們目前遇到的貧富差距 斷層。
     過去各界普遍認為服務業因為具在地化性質、不易進行經驗與文化的轉移,加以各國多半保護國內產業,而難以參與這個市場。但是兩岸的語言與 相對近似的文化與生活,使得我們有機會透過ECFA,重新詮釋、展現產業優勢。就筆者的觀察,在以下三大服務產業,因為中國有需求、但是品質不夠,台灣又 已發展臻至成熟,而大有可為。
     事實上,這是很狹隘的認知。金融服務並非只有貨幣的借貸,它其實泛指與金錢往來所有的相關服務。例如,企業需要營運資金調度與管理、籌 資、以及金融市場避險;一般消費者有用借記卡或是信用卡的需要,甚至保險、財富管理。這些都是台灣金融業已經純熟,中國也急切需要的金流服務,而且不會動 用到貸款。
     另外是醫療保健。相信許多往返各國的民眾都認同,台灣的醫療品質、就醫方便與相關服務,即使許多先進國家也望塵莫及。經常在兩岸奔波的國 人,也應該都了解中國對此需求孔急。目前金磚四國的醫療保健支出僅佔GDP的4%左右,大幅低於英國的10%左右、美國的16%。我們有足夠的理由相信, 以台灣醫藥相關服務的品質與生物科技的水準,在中國將大有可為。







19世紀40年代至50年代中期,是馬克思經濟危機理論的萌芽時期。在《哲學的貧困》一書中,馬克思在談到資本主義生產週期的特點時指出,"由於自然規律 的必然性。生產一定要經過繁榮、衰退、危機、停滯、新的繁榮等周而復始的更替。"在探索危機的根源時他指出:"生產的無政府狀態是災難叢生的根源。"一年 之後,馬克思在另一篇政治經濟學著作《關於自由貿易的演說》裏,對危機問題又作了探索,將資本主義生產週期的階段表述為"繁榮、生產、過剩,停滯、危機" 階段,並且指出這是一種反復迴圈的週期。可見,在這一著作中,馬克思已經看到生產過剩是經濟危機的主要現象和特徵。

在布魯塞爾德意志工人協會所作的演講《雇傭勞動與資本》中,馬克思對危機問題作了進一步研究,他分析了危機和資本積累需要擴大市場,使世界市場變得越來越 狹窄,也使危機來得愈益劇烈,並且指出危機對財富、產品和生產力的破壞,不僅破壞了生產力,而且使大批工人死亡,成為危機中的資本陪葬。在科學社會主義的 第一個綱領性檔《共產黨宣言》中,他和恩格斯明確指出,經濟危機這一生產過剩的瘟疫,其根源來自生產力的發展。從生產力和資本主義生產關係的矛盾中揭示了 危機產生的根本原因,把危機與資本主義制度的崩潰聯繫起來,使危機問題的研究有了進一步發展。

在1850年寫的《1848年至1850年的法蘭西階級鬥爭》一文中,馬克思分析了危機和革命之間的關係,指出"加速了革命爆發的第二個重大經濟事件,就 是英國的工商業總危機。""新的革命,只有在新的危機之後才有可能。但新的革命來臨,象新的危機的來臨一樣,是不可避免的。"從而闡述了危機和革命的發生 有其客觀必然性。所以,在這個時期,馬克思在一些著作中已開始對危機問題進行研究和探索,是馬克思危機理論建立過程中的萌芽時期。馬克思在這個階段的研究 工作和革命實踐活動為50年代後期的危機理論的產生奠定了基礎。




(1)馬克思分析了在簡單商品流通中就存在著危機的抽象形式即危機的可能性。他在手稿中指出,在簡單商品流通中,包含著經濟危機的兩種可能性。在《貨幣 章》裏,分析作為流通手段職能的貨幣時,他闡述了第一種可能性。在《政治經濟學批判》第一分冊第二章的初稿中,他在分析貨幣的支付手段職能時,闡述了危機 的第二種可能性。







第一,馬克思深入分析了經濟危機的抽象形式,即經濟危機的可能性。在《1857-1858年經濟學手稿》研究的基礎上,在對經濟危機的可能性作進一步研究 時指出,在簡單商品生產條件下,"這兩種形式都還十分抽象,雖然第二種形式比第一種形式具體些。"所以,這兩種形式只是經濟危機的抽象的形式,又可稱之為 元素形式。因此這二者只是經濟危機的可能性。馬克思在手稿中對這兩種形式作了深入分析。

第二,在手稿裏,馬克思不僅對危機的可能性作了深入的分析,而且對危機由可能性轉化為現實性作了更詳盡的研究。他在分析危機可能性的基礎上進一步指出,作 為危機的可能性早在資本主義產生以前就存在了,但並沒有引起經濟危機。所以危機的可能性並不等於現實的危機,商品形態變化本身只不過是危機的抽象形式,沒 有危機的現實內容,也不存在危機的原因。只有到資本主義生產方式發展到一定程度,危機的可能性才發展為現實性,即可能性變成現實性有了基礎。

在手稿裏馬克思分三步來分析資本主義生產方式的發展,使危機從可能變為現實。第一步,先分析資本主義生產是高度發達的商品生產,資本在其運動中要採取商品 形式和貨幣形式。第二步,馬克思指出:"現實危機只能從資本主義生產的現實運動、競爭和信用中引出。"他對危機的研究沒有停留在對資本作為商品和貨幣形態 包含的危機可能性的分析,而是從資本所特有的各種形式規定出發,來考察潛在危機是如何進一步發展的。第三步,馬克思從資本生產總過程出發,具體分析危機的 可能性如何轉化為現實性,即分析經濟危機的原因。馬克思具體從兩方面進行分析:一方面是貨幣轉化為資本,另一方面是商品貨幣的轉化。總之,這兩個轉化過程 一旦出現阻礙都可能發生危機。



第一,馬克思分析了經濟危機的本質特徵和普遍現象--生產相對過剩。他以棉布為例,指出:由於資本主義生產目的決定了資本不顧市場的限制而生產,造成棉布 充斥市場,賣不出去,使再生產遭到破壞。這種破壞首先影響到他的工人,由於開工不足,影響了工人的收入,工人對自己的棉布以及其他生活用品現在成了較小程 度上的消費者,或者不是消費者。他們需要棉布,但他們無錢購買,而無錢的原因是他們不能繼續生產,因為他們生產的棉布太多了,因而棉布過剩造成工人過剩。 這種主要消費品生產過剩會發展成普遍的生產過剩。棉布行業的生產,直接影響到紡紗行業,棉花種植業,紗錠和織機行業,鋼鐵業和煤炭業等等,而這些行業又會 影響到其他一系列行業,使他們的再生產同樣遭到破壞,因為棉布的再生產是他們進行再生產的條件。另外,以上的結果造成工人消費的壓縮,從而對其他消費品的 需求也會減少,造成普遍的生產過剩。

馬克思在對生產過剩分析的基礎上,進一步闡明了這種生產過剩不是生產的絕對過剩,不是生產的發展超過了人民群眾的絕對需要,它只是同勞動人民的購買力相比 較而言的過剩。在生產過剩的時候,正是那些商品的真正生產者缺乏這些商品,所以對於廣大工人的實際需要來講,資本主義經常是生產不足。所以資本主義的這種 生產過剩是相對生產過剩,就是用來購買商品的錢減少了,從而對商品的需求減少了,商品的過剩總是相對的,就是說都是在一定價格條件下的商品過剩,即是同支 付能力有關的生產過剩。

與此同時,馬克思又分析了這種相對生產過剩是資本主義所特有的現象,指出在資本主義社會以前"古代人那裏沒有發生生產過剩",那時有的只是"富人的消費過 度",也就是在資本主義社會以前的封建社會,由於廣大生產者的消費只限於必需品的範圍,而資本家的利潤成為生產的界限,這種生產的無限制發展和支付能力的 相對縮小的矛盾,導致了生產相對過剩的危機。所以生產相對過剩是資本主義特有的普遍現象,也是資本主義危機的本質特徵。

第二,馬克思在手稿中還分析了經濟危機發生的根本原因。他指出:資本主義經濟危機的基礎或根本原因在於資本主義生產方式本身,在於資本主義生產方式的基本 矛盾。"至於專門談到生產過剩,那它是以資本的一般生產規律為條件:按照生產力的發展程度(也就是按照用一定量資本剝削最大量勞動的可能性)進行生產,而 不考慮市場現有界限或有支付能力的需要的現有界限。而這是通過再生產和積累的不斷擴大,因而也通過收入不斷再轉化為資本來進行的,另一方面,廣大生產者的 需要卻被限制在需要的平均水準,而且根據資本主義生產的性質,必須限制在需要的平均水準。"所以,資本主義生產過剩危機的根本原因在於資本主義生產的本 質,在於其基本矛盾。馬克思對這個基本矛盾作了表述:"而構成現代生產過剩的基礎,正是生產力的不可遏止的發展和由此產生的大規模的生產,這種大規模的生 產是在這樣的條件下進行的:一方面,廣大的生產者的消費只限於必需品的範圍,另一方面,資本家的利潤成為生產的界限。"而資本主義生產的本質和特定的基本 矛盾是通過一系列的經濟規律(包括資本主義經濟規律,即剩餘價值規律,資本主義積累的一般規律,資本主義生產的無政府狀態的規律,資本主義競爭規律,資本 主義人口規律和商品的價格規律等等)來發生作用,從而導致經濟危機的。

第三,馬克思在手稿中還闡述了危機的週期性的基礎、危機的形式、危機的後果等等一系列經濟危機的理論問題。馬克思在《1857-1858年經濟學手稿》的 基礎上對經濟危機週期性的物質基礎又作了進一步研究,指出生產過剩危機的重要特點是它的以固定資本更新為基礎的週期性,永久的危機是沒有的。固定資本與危 機有著密切的關係,它們相互之間的關係以及對資本主義經濟的影響。他談到:"它們[危機]是以固定資本的生產過剩,因而,是以流動資本的相對的生產不足為 基礎的。"這裏進一步分析了固定資本生產過剩會引起危機的發生。


馬克思還在手稿中多次闡明了危機的後果。首先,他分析了危機對資本的破壞,有兩個方面。一方面是由於危機引起生產過程停滯,這樣"實際資本就會被消滅。" 因為資本停止了運動也就沒有了生命。另一方面是資本的"價值量的貶低",這就使得現存資本的交換價值有很大的一部分被消滅了。其次,馬克思談到危機給廣大 工人階級和勞動人民帶來了巨大的災難。他們在危機時被拋向街頭,或在更惡劣的環境下艱難地勞動,"工人群眾忍饑挨餓一貧如洗。"再次,馬克思也分析了資本 主義社會的一切矛盾在經濟危機中集中地暴露出來,並且更加深了這些矛盾。

馬克思在手稿中對危機的後果進行了辯證分析,指出危機對資本主義生產有著兩方面的影響,一方面是對生產力的極大破壞,另一方面又給予資本主義生產以強大刺 激。他不僅指出永久的危機是沒有的,危機有週期性,而且談到危機是資產階級經濟一切矛盾的現實綜合和強制平衡。"危機的本身可能成為平衡的一種形式",危 機對資本的破壞,使資本的交換價值有一部分被消滅了,但是"這種消滅正好可以大大促進新的再生產"。從而又刺激資本主義生產的發展,危機促使資本主義生產 突破自己的界限,迫使資本主義生產飛速地達到--就生產力的發展來說--它在自己的界限內只能非常緩慢地達到的水準。以上的科學分析,說明了危機是生產力 與資本主義生產關係矛盾的結果,是資本主義基本矛盾作用的產物。但是它的存在並不說明資本主義生產關係使生產力已經沒有發展的餘地,在資本主義生產關係所 能容納的生產力發揮出來之前,它還不會滅亡,生產力還會有一定的發展,這也是資本主義生產週期地螺旋形向前發展的原因。


目前,學術界針對美國次貸危機產生的原因展開了深入的剖析。概而言之,主要有以下四種觀點:一是擴張性貨幣政策的後果;二是低儲蓄率的制約;三是金融機構 的過度投機;四是金融監管缺失。但這些觀點較多地停留於技術層面。隨著危機迅速地由美國蔓延至全球,由金融產品危機演變為金融機構危機、金融市場危機,甚 至已經惡化為經濟危機,其影響的廣度和深度都在不斷加劇。為何金融危機會愈演愈烈?造成這一後果的根本原因是什麼?我們還是需要運用馬克思的經濟危機理 論,結合當代資本主義的實際情況,作進一步地剖析。


馬克思最早提出了虛擬資本概念,在《資本論》第三卷第五篇中對虛擬資本進行了詳盡的分析。他認為虛擬資本是在借貸資本(生息資本)和發達的銀行信用制度的 基礎上產生的,"信用也是這樣的一種形式,在這種形式中資本極力使自己區別於個別資本,或者說,個別資本極力使自己表現為區別於自己的數量界限的資本。資 本在這上面能夠取得的最高成就……是虛擬資本。"它包括股票、債券、銀行借貸等。虛擬資本本身並不具備價值,是現實資本的"紙制複製品"。但是它卻可以通 過迴圈運動帶來某種形式的剩餘價值,"股票只是對這個資本所實現的剩餘價值的相應部分的所有權證書。"馬克思以虛擬資本的主要組成部分借貸資本為例,闡述 了虛擬資本和現實資本的關係。"借貸貨幣資本的積累,--它雖然是現實積累的產物,但和現實的積累不同,"一方面,"借貸資本的這種迅速發展是現實積累的 結果,因為它是再生產過程發展的後果,而構成這種貨幣資本家的積累源泉的利潤,只是從事再生產的資本家榨取的剩餘價值的一種扣除。"。可見,現實資本的積 累是借貸資本積累的基礎,沒有現實資本就沒有虛擬資本;另一方面,借貸資本的積累,"可以按極不同于現實積累的方向進行,不過在任何場合下都證明,他們握 有現實積累的很大一部分。""借貸貨幣資本的增加,並不是每次都表示現實的資本積累或再生產過程的擴大。這種情況,在產業週期的緊接著危機過後的那個階段 中,表現得最為明顯,這時,借貸資本大量閒置不用。"由此可見,獨立于現實資本之外的虛擬資本,具有獨特的運行規律。虛擬資本具有投機性,"因為財產在這 裏是以股票的形式存在的,所以它的運動和轉移就純粹變成了交易所賭博的結果;在這種賭博中,小魚為鯊魚所吞掉,羊為交易所的狼所吞掉。"虛擬資本還具有價 格回歸性這一獨特的運動特點,"一旦風暴過去,這種證券就會回升到它們以前的水準,除非它們代表的是一個破產的或欺詐性質的企業。"馬克思還詳細闡述了經 濟週期的不同階段的情況,認為"有一個階段,低的但是高於最低限度的利息率,與危機以後的'好轉'和信任的增強結合在一起;特別是另一個階段,利息率達到 了它的平均水準,也就是離它的最低限度和最高限度等距的中點,--只是在這兩個階段,充裕的借貸資本才和產業資本的顯著擴大結合在一起。但是,在產業週期 的開端,低利息率和產業資本的收縮結合在一起,而在週期的末尾,則是高利息率和產業資本的過多結合在一起。伴隨'好轉'而來的低利息率,則表示商業信用對 銀行信用的需要是微不足道的,商業信用還是立足於自身。"概而言之,現實資本決定著虛擬資本的規模和速度,但虛擬資本與現實資本的運動並不總是一致,虛擬 資本總是試圖超越現實資本對它的束縛,但如果偏離太遠,就會爆發危機。虛擬資本與現實資本的矛盾運動,孕育並最終產生了信用危機,而危機又是強制二者重新 統一的形式。

本次金融危機不是傳統意義上的經濟危機,而是一次因虛擬資本嚴重偏離現實資本而最終引發泡沫破滅的危機。虛擬經濟高度膨脹,是近年來美國經濟的一大特點。 2001年,因為互聯網泡沫的破滅,美國經濟陷入衰退。為了刺激經濟,美聯儲連續14次降低再貼現利率、13次降低聯邦基金利率,低利率政策促使美國房地 產業持續繁榮,但也為日後房地產泡沫的破滅留下了隱患。1999年,美國政府正式廢除1933年頒佈的金融管制法《格拉斯-斯蒂格爾法》,取而代之的是以 金融混業經營為核心內容的《金融服務現代化法案》,使得商業銀行涉足證券業和保險業最終獲得了法律上的支持。由於金融管制的放鬆,與房地產相關的金融衍生 產品也開始不斷氾濫。在房地產次級抵押貸款的基礎上,又產生了資產抵押債券(ABS)、擔保債務憑證(CDO)。根據美國財政部對CDO市場的統 計:2004年CDO市場總值為1000億美元,2005年為1510億美元,2006年為3100億美元,2007年僅第一季度就達2000億美元。 2007年,美國GDP總量為13.84萬億美元,證券市場總規模卻高達49.8萬億美元,是GDP總量的3.6倍。虛擬經濟嚴重偏離實體經濟。在這種情 況下,金融危機的爆發只是遲早的事情。


金融危機實質上是經濟危機的表現形式,其發生的原因,應當從經濟危機的原因中去尋找。"在再生產過程的全部聯繫都是以信用為基礎的生產制度中,只要信用突 然停止,只有現金支付才有效,危機顯然就會發生,對支付手段的激烈追求必然會出現。所以乍看起來,好象整個危機只表現為信用危機和貨幣危機。而且,事實上 問題只是在於匯票能否兌換為貨幣。但是這種匯票多數是代表現實買賣的,而這種現實買賣的擴大遠遠超過社會需要的限度這一事實,歸根到底是整個危機的基 礎。"作為資本主義基本矛盾表現形式的生產和消費之間的矛盾才是金融危機爆發的真正原因。虛擬資本過度膨脹只是對金融危機的產生起了推波助瀾的作用。過度 投機並不是金融危機的原因,而只是危機的表現。馬克思曾說:"那些企圖用投機來解釋的政治經濟學家,就好象那個如今已經絕種的把發寒當做產生一切疾病的真 正原因的自然哲學派一樣。""一切真正的危機的最根本的原因,總不外乎群眾的貧困和他們的有限的消費,資本主義生產卻不顧這種情況而力圖發展生產力。"

據美國人口普查局2006年8月29日公佈的資料,2005年美國有3700萬貧困人口,占總人口的12.6%,有770萬個家庭生活在貧困線以下,平均 每8個美國人中就有1個生活在貧困線以下。美國經濟的發展並沒有惠及全體國民,而是主要向富裕階層傾斜。一邊是大量財富集中在少數人手裏,一邊是急於改善 住房、無力消費的貧困家庭。財富高度集中導致有效需求嚴重不足。為了刺激消費不斷地進行金融創新,產生了次級抵押貸款和嚴重超過真實收入支撐的過度消費, 宏觀經濟的失衡又進一步加劇了金融風險。

2006年底出現的美國房價下跌、次級抵押貸款客戶償付能力下降是當今世界金融危機的一個重要誘因。在資本主義生產中,"再生產過程的全部聯繫都是以信用 為基礎的","而在和資本一同發展起來的信用制度由此崩潰時,會更加嚴重起來,由此引起強烈的嚴重危機,突然的強制貶值,以及再生產過程的實際的停滯和混 亂,從而引起再生產的實際的縮小。"金融危機導致大量金融機構倒閉、流動性短缺,企業的正常生產經營由於資金鏈的突然斷裂而陷入,大批工人失業,消費能力 進一步降低。這樣就造成了資本主義商品市場的崩潰和銷售上的一系列困難。"由於借貸資本的絕對不足導致的閒置產業資本的過剩與失業的勞動人口的過剩,不可 避免地同時並存。資本主義生產關係與其增長的生產力之間的矛盾明顯地暴露出來,導致危機的產生。"



對於危機的國際傳遞性,馬克思早在《資本論》中展開了精闢地分析。如果馬克思以英國為例,指出:"關於進口和出口,應當指出,一切國家都會先後捲入危機, 那時就會發現,一切國家,除了少數例外,出口和進口過多,以致支付差額對一切國家來說都是逆差。"對於順差國家,在危機中支付期限縮短了或者被要求立即支 付,儘管總的貿易差額是順差,但支付差額卻是逆差。"在普遍危機的時刻,支付差額對每個國家來說,至少對每個商業發達國家來說,都是逆差,不過這種情況, 總是像排炮一樣,按著支付的序列,先後在這些國家裏發生;並且,在一個國家比如英國爆發的危機,會把這個支付期限的序列壓縮到一個非常短的期間內。這時就 會清楚地看到,這一切國家同時出口過剩(也就是生產過剩)和進口過剩(也就是貿易過剩),物價在一切國家發生同樣的總崩潰。"當今世界,發達國家與發展中 國家的經濟因進出口而緊密聯繫在一起。美國等發達國家發生金融危機、出現經濟衰退,發展中國家就遭遇了出口下滑、經濟增速放緩的困境,於是,金融危機、經 濟危機就席捲了全球。這也提醒我們,只有擴大內需才能更好地應對金融危機帶來的挑戰。

綜上所述,馬克思的經濟危機理論在19世紀60年代初期已經創立。在這以後,馬克思對危機理論繼續進行了深入地研究和考察,到19世紀60年代以後,《資 本論》第一、二、三卷中,馬克思的危機理論才得到進一步的發展。馬克思的經濟危機理論經歷了萌芽時期、產生時期、創立時期和發展時期,馬克思為之付出了艱 巨的勞動,是馬克思主義政治經濟學的重要組成部分。這一理論揭示了資本主義生產方式的歷史暫時性,給無產階級進行革命鬥爭提供了有力的思想武器和理論武 器,一百多年來的歷史證明了馬克思經濟危機理論具有重大的科學理論意義和革命實踐意義。










失落的一代 8100萬青年沒頭路

  • 2010-08-13
  • 中國時報
  • 【鍾玉玨/綜合十二日外電報導】
      八月十二日是聯合國訂定的「國際青年日」,聯合國「國際勞工組織」(International Labour Organisation,ILO)十一日發表《二○一○年全球青年就業趨勢》報告指出,受經濟危機衝擊,去年全球青年的失業率達一三%,廿四歲以下適齡 就業青年約有八一○○萬人未能就業,創下歷史紀錄。

     《二○一○年全球青年就業趨勢》說,去年全球十五歲至廿四歲青年勞動人口約六.二億,其中八一○○萬人失業,失業率達一三%,寫下該數據 廿年來的新高,而且增長速度是廿五歲以上成年失業人口的兩倍。ILO預估,由於今年經濟仍疲軟,全球青年失業率可能持續增至一三.一%,到了二○一一年才 會降至一二.七%。









英國數萬名退休老人難享清福 返崗工作還債養家

2010年 08月 12日 16:19    中國窗

環球時報特約記者李雪報道 英國《每日電訊報》網站8月12日發表文章稱,由于面臨沉重經濟負擔,英國許多老年人在過了退休年齡以後仍然選擇繼續工作,官方公布的統計數據顯示,65歲以上工作人口數量增長速度創出歷史新高。

    統計顯示,過去3個月裏有超過4萬名65歲以上的老人加入勞動者大軍,使老人從業總數達到82.3萬,這是英國國家統計局自1992年開始 進行相關統計以來的最高水平,以往每季度增加數量不會超過2.6萬人。專家認爲,這些變化表明成千上萬的退休老人重新開始工作以增加收入,或者說他們的退 休金不足以維持現有生活。

    這些最新數據從一個側面反映了經濟衰退對英國勞動力市場造成的影響,兼職工人和老年工人數量增加,而很多年輕人却失業長達兩年時間。政府養 老金政策顧問羅斯•阿爾特曼表示,“這反映出一些東西,對部分人來說延長工作年限幷不可怕,但如果他們是被迫這麽做,或者說他們沒錢享受退休生活,那顯然 就有問題了。明年情况會更嚴重,第一次嬰兒潮出生的人們將年滿65歲,這之後將有一批批的老人退休,我們迫切需要解决這一問題。”

    獨立財務顧問公司分析師蘭斯•卡拉夫表示,“我們大多數人都想儘快退休,但許多人發現自己經濟上根本無法負擔。國家退休金少的可憐,而私人 退休金也不足以彌補缺口”。經濟衰退是導致退休人員財政狀况不佳的重要原因。就業基金會高級研究員威爾遜表示,“自2008年秋天以來,許多人退休金的實 際購買力都下降了20-30%,所以人們認爲這些錢不够,還得繼續工作。”很多老人繼續工作是爲了幫助子女或家裏的第三代。雜志編輯艾瑪•索姆斯表示,“ 許多人到了60或65歲時還要還貸,他們要麽是借貸太多,要麽是離异或爲了孩子再行借貸”。據統計,65至74歲的老人當中有12%仍有貸款要還。

    英國老年慈善機構主管米歇爾表示,“即使處在經濟衰退期,65歲以上工作人口數量仍在穩步上升。他們中有些人選擇繼續工作是爲了一種滿足 感,而很多人則是爲了解决因經濟衰退受影響的收入問題。對于這些人來說,65歲退休的規定是一個威脅,政府應從明年起取消該規定”。英國就業和養老金部門 發言人表示,“許多老人希望在65歲以後繼續工作,他們擁有豐富的工作經驗和技術。我們希望解除規定退休年齡對他們的束縛,使想要工作的人們可以工作。通 過延長工作年限,他們能在退休後拿到更多的養老金。”
    就業研究所負責人吉姆•希拉吉則指出,公共部門工作人員已經感受到職位稀缺帶來的壓力,“我們開始看到公共部門空餘職位急劇减少,如果這種 趨勢在未來數月裏繼續發展,整體失業率可能會上升,除非私營部門的經濟復蘇能够彌補公共部門嚴重的失業現象”。英國商會首席經濟師大衛•克恩表示,“雖然 最近勞動力市場趨勢良好,但要記住我們還沒有看到嚴厲的預算削减措施所帶來的負面影響”。英國商會認爲明年失業人數將達到265萬。

英下修經濟成長 將推刺激政策

010-08-12 22:55:50


英國央行指出,通貨膨脹率在兩年以內將達到1.5%,低於2%的目標,經濟成長可能放緩到3%,低於5月預測的3.6%。英國央行表示,雖然受到銷售稅調 高的影響,明年的通膨可能加速,但是因為產能閒置,衝擊企業成本和價格,後年的通膨可能大跌到目標以下。這也意味著一旦經濟惡化,英國陷入通縮的風險加 大。






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