「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.

2013年6月25日 星期二

Profits Without Production By PAUL KRUGMAN J

Op-Ed Columnist

Profits Without Production

By PAUL KRUGMAN June 24, 2013



保羅·克魯格曼 20130624
One lesson from recent economic troubles has been the usefulness of history. Just as the crisis was unfolding, the Harvard economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff — who unfortunately became famous for their worst work — published a brilliant book with the sarcastic title “This Time Is Different.” Their point, of course, was that there is a strong family resemblance among crises. Indeed, historical parallels — not just to the 1930s, but to Japan in the 1990s, Britain in the 1920s, and more — have been vital guides to the present.
從最近的經濟問題中可以學到的一點是歷史 的用處。就在危機逐步擴大之時,哈佛大學(Harvard)經濟學家卡門·萊因哈特(Carmen Reinhart)和肯尼斯·羅格夫(Kenneth Rogoff)出版了一本出色的書,書名充滿諷刺,叫做《這次不一樣》(This Time Is Different)。(很可惜這兩位作者卻是因為他們最糟糕的作品出的名。)當然,他們在書中的觀點是歷次危機之間有很強的家族相似性。的確,歷史上的 歷次危機,不只是20世紀30年代的危機,還有20世紀90年代的日本,20世紀20年代的英國等等,對當下的危機都是關鍵的借鑒。
Yet economies do change over time, and sometimes in fundamental ways. So what’s really different about America in the 21st century?
The most significant answer, I’d suggest, is the growing importance of monopoly rents: profits that don’t represent returns on investment, but instead reflect the value of market dominance. Sometimes that dominance seems deserved, sometimes not; but, either way, the growing importance of rents is producing a new disconnect between profits and production and may be a factor prolonging the slump.
我想說,最重要的一個就是壟斷租金 (monopoly rent)的重要性越來越高。壟斷租金這種收益並不反映投資回報,而是反映市場支配地位的價值。有時候這種支配地位似乎是應得的,有時候則不是。但無論怎 樣,壟斷租金的重要性越來越高,反映了利潤與生產環節之間新的脫節現象,或許也是經濟持續低迷的一個原因。
To see what I’m talking about, consider the differences between the iconic companies of two different eras: General Motors in the 1950s and 1960s, and Apple today.
要想知道我說的意思,請思考一下兩個不同時代的標誌性企業,它們之間的不同:20世紀5060年代的通用汽車(General Motors),以及當下的蘋果公司(Apple)
Obviously, G.M. in its heyday had a lot of market power. Nonetheless, the company’s value came largely from its productive capacity: it owned hundreds of factories and employed around 1 percent of the total nonfarm work force.
Apple, by contrast, seems barely tethered to the material world. Depending on the vagaries of its stock price, it’s either the highest-valued or the second-highest-valued company in America, but it employs less than 0.05 percent of our workers. To some extent, that’s because it has outsourced almost all its production overseas. But the truth is that the Chinese aren’t making that much money from Apple sales either. To a large extent, the price you pay for an iWhatever is disconnected from the cost of producing the gadget. Apple simply charges what the traffic will bear, and given the strength of its market position, the traffic will bear a lot.
Again, I’m not making a moral judgment here. You can argue that Apple earned its special position — although I’m not sure how many would make a similar claim for Microsoft, which made huge profits for many years, let alone for the financial industry, which is also marked by a lot of what look like monopoly rents, and these days accounts for roughly 30 percent of total corporate profits. Anyway, whether corporations deserve their privileged status or not, the economy is affected, and not in a good way, when profits increasingly reflect market power rather than production.
重申一下,我在這裏可不是在做道德評價。 你可以認為蘋果現在的特殊地位是它贏得的,不過我可不確定有多少人會對微軟公司(Microsoft)作出同樣的評價,微軟在很多年時間裏賺到了巨額的利 潤;更不用問會有多少人這樣評價金融業了,後者賺到的很多錢也類似壟斷租金,而且目前金融業的利潤約占企業總利潤的30%。無論企業的特權地位是不是應得 的,當利潤越來越多地反映市場勢力,而非生產力時,整體經濟都會受到影響,而且是負面的影響。
Here’s an example. As many economists have lately been pointing out, these days the old story about rising inequality, in which it was driven by a growing premium on skill, has lost whatever relevance it may have had. Since around 2000, the big story has, instead, been one of a sharp shift in the distribution of income away from wages in general, and toward profits. But here’s the puzzle: Since profits are high while borrowing costs are low, why aren’t we seeing a boom in business investment? And, no, investment isn’t depressed because President Obama has hurt the feelings of business leaders or because they’re terrified by the prospect of universal health insurance.
我來舉一個例子。過去解釋不平等加劇的老 說法是,越來越高的技能價值加劇了不平等。但就像許多經濟學家最近指出的,無論這種解釋過去有過多大的意義,現在都已經失去了其相關性。從2000年左右 開始,最重要的問題就已經成了,收入分配發生了某種劇烈的轉變,從工資轉向了利潤。但蹊蹺的是,既然利潤很高,而借貸成本很低,我們為什麼沒有看到企業投 資的巨大增長?而且,投資之所以受到了抑制,並不是因為奧巴馬總統傷害了商界領袖的感情,也不是因為普遍醫保的前景嚇到了他們。
Well, there’s no puzzle here if rising profits reflect rents, not returns on investment. A monopolist can, after all, be highly profitable yet see no good reason to expand its productive capacity. And Apple again provides a case in point: It is hugely profitable, yet it’s sitting on a giant pile of cash, which it evidently sees no need to reinvest in its business.
Or to put it differently, rising monopoly rents can and arguably have had the effect of simultaneously depressing both wages and the perceived return on investment.
You might suspect that this can’t be good for the broader economy, and you’d be right. If household income and hence household spending is held down because labor gets an ever-smaller share of national income, while corporations, despite soaring profits, have little incentive to invest, you have a recipe for persistently depressed demand. I don’t think this is the only reason our recovery has been so weak — weak recoveries are normal after financial crises — but it’s probably a contributory factor.
如果你認為這對宏觀經濟不好,那麼你就說 對了。如果由於勞動力在國民收入中分得的份額不斷變小,家庭收入受到抑制,進而家庭開支也受到抑制,而與此同時企業儘管利潤高漲,但卻沒有投資的動力,那 麼這就會使需求長期受到抑制。我不認為這是美國經濟復蘇如此乏力的唯一原因,畢竟在金融危機後復蘇乏力是正常的,但它很可能是一個因素。
Just to be clear, nothing I’ve said here makes the lessons of history irrelevant. In particular, the widening disconnect between profits and production does nothing to weaken the case for expansionary monetary and fiscal policy as long as the economy stays depressed. But the economy is changing, and in future columns I’ll try to say something about what that means for policy.