「華人戴明學院」是戴明哲學的學習共同體 ,致力於淵博型智識系統的研究、推廣和運用。 The purpose of this blog is to advance the ideas and ideals of W. Edwards Deming.

2010年10月20日 星期三

Models for growth

2010年10月20日 06:35 AM

Models for growth

Is the world like Play-Doh or like Lego? That might seem like an odd question for an economist, but there were some provocative characters present at a recent “Growth Week” at the London School of Economics, organised by a new joint venture between Oxford, LSE and the Department for International Development.

世界更像培乐多(Play-Doh)泥胶还是更像乐高(Lego)积木?经济学家问出 这个问题可能有些奇怪。最近在伦敦政治经济学院(LSE)举行的“增长周”(Growth Week)活动中,有几位颇具争议性的人物参加。这次活动是由牛津大学(Oxford)、伦敦政治经济学院和英国国际发展部(Department for International Development)共同组织的。

Growth Week assembled policymakers from developing countries alongside development economists, and my attention was grabbed by Paul Romer, Ricardo Hausmann and John Sutton, all three of them, in different ways, economic iconoclasts.

在“增长周”中,来自发展中国家的政策制定者与发展经济学家齐聚一堂,而我的注意力却 集中在保罗•罗默(Paul Romer)、里卡多•豪斯曼(Ricardo Hausmann)和约翰•萨顿(John Sutton)身上。这三人都以自己的方式成为了经济学的离经叛道者。

Romer created endogenous growth theory – thus memorably giving Michael Heseltine the chance to remark that the idea “wasn’t Brown’s – it was Balls!” He quit academia, founded a successful online education company, and now travels the world campaigning for the foundation of “charter cities”, modern versions of Hong Kong. More of him in a future column.

罗默提出了内生增长理论,由此也给了迈克尔•赫塞尔廷(Michael Heseltine)机会嘲讽这种观点“不是布朗的,而是(鲍尔斯的)胡扯!”(wasn’t Brown’s – it was Balls!译者注:鲍尔斯曾为英国前首相布朗提出该理论,而Balls在口语里有胡扯之意,此处为双关)罗默退出学术界后成立了一家成功的在线教育公 司,现在则穿梭在世界各国宣扬建立“特许城市”(charter city),即现代版的香港。我将来在专栏中还会对他作更多介绍。

It was Hausmann – once a Venezuelan minister, now a professor at Harvard – who was asking about Play-Doh and Lego. Hausmann, in joint work with the physicist Cesar Hidalgo (I’ve written about their work before), has been trying to puzzle out the relationship between the sophistication of a country’s economy and the kinds of products it makes.

提出“像培乐多还是像乐高”问题的是豪斯曼,他曾在委内瑞拉担任部长,现在是哈佛(Harvard)教授。豪斯曼与物理学家塞萨尔•伊达尔戈(Cesar Hidalgo)(此前我已经有过介绍)合作,试图解开一国经济复杂性与该国所生产产品之间关系的谜团。

Economists have tended to view the economy as a Play-Doh affair: products are produced by a few undifferentiated inputs of “stuff”, which we call capital and labour. More sophisticated accounts might introduce land, education (“human capital”) and institutions (“social capital”). Even then, that’s just five types of stuff, and economic growth just means getting more stuff and using it more efficiently.

经济学家倾向于把经济看成是培乐多泥胶:不加区分地输入少许几种的“东西”就能生产出 产品——我们称这些东西为资本和劳动。更复杂的诠释可能会引入土地、教育(“人力资本”)和制度(“社会资本”)等概念。即便如此,也只有五样东西,而经 济增长也只意味着获取更多东西、并更有效地加以利用。

Hausmann argues, convincingly, that this isn’t a helpful way to think about the capabilities needed to produce a sophisticated product or service. Amazon, for instance, offers a service that requires widespread access to the internet, credit cards, physical addresses and a trustworthy post office. An orchid business would require the right kind of land, water and electricity, along with appropriate customs regulations to allow shipping. Some countries might have the preconditions to allow internet shopping; others might be fertile territory for orchid production. What’s needed is not “more human capital” but some rather specific, and sometimes subtle, requirements: different Lego bricks, not lumps of Play-Doh.

豪斯曼令人信服地辩称,这种观点无助于理解生产复杂产品或提供复杂服务所需的能力。例 如,亚马逊(Amazon)提供的服务需要普及互联网接入、信用卡、真实地址和可靠的邮政系统。经营兰花的企业则需要合适的土壤、水和电,还需要相应的海 关法规允许其运货。一些国家可能具备网络购物所需的前提条件,另一些国家可能具备种植兰花所需的肥沃土壤。这种能力所需的不是“更多人力资本”,而是某些 具体而细微的必备条件:就像是形状不同的乐高积木,而非一大团培乐多泥胶。

Hausmann’s Lego analogy is probably too optimistic. In fact, these elusive economic capabilities are probably more like the components of your computer: the keyboard, mouse, screen, internet connection, processor. You can assemble them in various ways, but you don’t have to remove many components before your computer is far less useful, and some components, such as the processor, are indispensable. Hausmann worries about the fact that until a country has a critical mass of capabilities, there’s little point in acquiring more. There is no point in going to the trouble of getting a keyboard for your computer if you have no software.

豪斯曼的“乐高积木”比喻可能把问题考虑得过于简单。实际上,这些难以理解的经济能力 可能更像电脑配件:键盘、鼠标、显示屏、网络连接、处理器。你能以不同的方式组装,但只消取下少许几个配件,你电脑的功能就会大打折扣。而且,一些配件是 不可或缺的,例如处理器。豪斯曼担忧的是这样一个事实:如果一个国家尚未具备某些关键的能力,获得再多其他能力也没有帮助。如果电脑没有软件,装上键盘也 没有用处。

The LSE’s John Sutton has been trying to figure out how companies acquire the capabilities that they have. His research reveals that in Ethiopia, for instance, many of the key manufacturing companies start not as small manufacturers but as traders. They have the know-how to run an organisation of 50 people and real expertise about the market. One unfortunate matchbox manufacturer was undercut by Chinese imports at one-fifth of the price, including shipping. A wilier company with a background in trading went into steel wire because it understood the Chinese supply chain and knew how to compete.

伦敦政治经济学院的约翰•萨顿一直在试图理解企业是如何获得现有能力的。举例来说,他 的研究显示,在埃塞俄比亚,许多关键的制造企业并不是从小型制造企业发展而来的,而是从干贸易公司起家。它们懂得如何去管理一家拥有50名员工的企业,还 对市场有着切实的专业认识。一家走背字的火柴盒制造商受到从中国进口火柴盒的严重冲击,中国火柴盒包括运费也仅有其价格的五分之一。另一家有着贸易背景的 公司则更加聪明地投身钢丝业务,因为它了解中国的供应链、懂得如何竞争。

Sutton and Hausmann have very different research strategies, but a shared question: if “capabilities” are the Lego bricks of economic growth, where do they come from and how can we make more?