Saturday, October 25, 2014
7

成功之路雄关漫道

纽约—在未来几个月中,选举和政治接班日程表惊人地满。拒不完全统计,俄罗斯、中国、法国、美国、埃及、墨西哥和韩国都将发生权力交接。

乍一看,这些国家基本没有共同点,它们中有的是老牌民主国家,有的是独裁制度,还有的介于两者之间。但是,尽管差别万万千,这些国家的政府——以及它们所领导的人民——面临着许多同样的挑战。尤为显著者有三。

首先,这些国家都不能完全掌握自己的命运。当今世界,没有哪个国家可以享受完全的自治和独立。各国或多或少都依赖外国市场出售或提供制造品、农产品、资源和服务。没有人可以在不和其他国家竞争的情况下独享第三国市场。许多国家需要资本流入来为投资和官方债务融资。全球供给和需求决定了原油和天然气的价格。经济上的相互依赖及其伴生的脆弱性是现代生活中无可躲避的宿命。

但经济上依赖他国并不是各国政府所需面临的唯一国际现实。想要免于恐怖主义、武器、大范围流行病和气候变化困扰同样十分困难(如果不是不可能的话)。

毕竟,边境线并不是滴水不漏的。相反,全球化——人口、思想、温室气体、商品、服务、货币、商品、电视和广播信号、毒品、武器、电子邮件、电脑和生物病毒和其他种种的大面积跨境流动——是当今世界的显著特征。上述挑战没有哪个可以由某国单枪匹马地解决,合作、妥协以及一定程度的多边主义至关重要,这与其说是特例,不如说是常态。

第二大普遍存在的挑战是技术。从这一点来说,奥威尔(George Orwell)的《1984》大错特错了,因为现代技术的标志绝非老大哥(Big Brother),而是分散化。一代人之前需要用大如房间的计算机才能实现的计算能力,现在在一台桌面电脑或个人手持设备上就能实现了。

结果,如今各国人民所能获得信息源前所未有地丰富,政府想要控制信息源越来越困难,知识流的垄断程度越来越低。公民通过手机和社交网络进行直接、私密的沟通越来越容易。

这一趋势的一大结果是独裁政府越来越难以向从前那样将公民玩弄于股掌之间。毫无疑问,技术是我们现在所看到的阿拉伯世界起义爆发的原因之一。但现代技术对老牌民主国家同样具有影响。获得社会一致更加困难了,治理一个公民可以选择读什么、看什么、听什么、和谁说的世界难于上青天。

等待未来领导人的第三大广泛挑战是公民之所欲远远超过满足能力这一无可避免的现实。这一点在所谓的发展中(通常也是相对贫困)国家中是永恒的真理。但如今,境况相对较佳的成熟民主国家也在日渐面临这一问题,增长最快的国家亦然。

从诸多方面看,如今经济增长不如历史正常水平。欧洲大部、日本和美国的颓势相当明显。但人口总和相当于世界总数三分之一强的中国和印度也在减速。失业率高企,特别是美国和西欧,而年轻人和接近退休年龄(但还有几十年寿命)者又是重灾区。更令人担心的是,许多失业者会沦为长期失业者。

这些经济和人口变迁的净结果是,国民收入中越来越多的部分被用于提供卫生、养老和其他形式的基本支持;几乎在所有国家,勉力工作供养数量与日俱增的同胞的公民比例正在下降。赡养比的上升之势因经济不平等性的加剧而恶化;由于更多的财富集中在更少的人手中,因此大多数人生活水平持续改善的承诺可能将无法实现。

总而言之,这三大趋势——经济和实体独立性的丧失、信息技术的扩散以及人口增长和老化背景下的增长减速——将在几乎所有国家造成重大政治挑战。需求在不断增长,而政府满足需求的能力却在降低。即将在明年掌权的领导人将不得不面对这一基本现实。

领导人还必须面对民族主义、民粹主义以及(在某些国家)极端主义的抬头。抵制移民和经济保护主义苗头已经清晰可见,而且可以预见将会愈演愈烈。

这些国家内部的发展形势将使形成关于如何面对跨境威胁的全球共识变得难上加难:既然安内都在日益艰难,更遑论攘外了。不管对公民还是对领导人,艰苦时代正在前方等着。

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  1. CommentedKir Komrik

    Thank you for the useful article,

    I'd like to nominate two other nations of great interest in terms of inchoate change:

    1. Cuba
    2. Venezuela

    Of course, these are wildcards with less certainty about which way they will go, and that is what makes them particularly interesting. It looks like there is a non-negligible possibility that they might even go in a truly novel direction, which would be refreshing since, imo, no political and economic system we've seen so far is going to serve us sufficiently for the future we have coming to us.

    - kk

    http://federalism.jux.com
    http://kirkomrik.wordpress.com

  2. CommentedFriedrich Böllhoff

    I think leaders in the mature democracies make a mistake by not openly addressing the problem “that the citizens' demands increasingly overwhelm the capacity to satisfy them”. By trying to maintain the impression that there will not be severe problems with the welfare state within the next one or two decades they undermine the citizens' trust in their leadership and maybe also their governing system.

    I'm convinced that many more citizens see the problems than their leaders believe.

  3. CommentedMatthew Roman

    George Orwell was wrong? Major cities are blanketed with security cameras, and there are cameras to catch and fine you should you speed or run a red light. Police cars are outfitted with license plate readers supplying databases with the locations of our cars, day and night, in real time. Our cellphones can be used to track our whereabouts, whether or not we are using them. Our online communications are stored, sold, and used to track our preferences, and to sell us goods and services. If we are arrested for any crime, not convicted, mind you, just arrested, we must submit a DNA sample into a national database so that law enforcement can easily access our DNA signature, without a warrant, in the investigation of crime.

    Orwell may not have got all the details precisely right, he may not have envisioned how people today, with their usage of cellphones and Facebook and Google, would actually seem to relish their lack of privacy, but he sure wasn't wrong. Big Brother is here, and he has only just begun.

  4. Commentedjohn werneken

    It would seem that the solution and likely future are the same: less reliance on government and more private action and diversity between expectations and realities, like these things or not.

  5. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    Two generations ago governments in advanced countries made large on-going investments in physical infrastructure and social investments in education. These two investment flows created opportunities to put young people to work at highly productive tasks that resulted in rising national incomes. Private investment almost always stands on the broad shoulders of public investment. Build a highway and a harbor and private money will build a plant.

    Today, governments in the advanced countries have radically downsized their investment functions while flowing huge amounts into public consumption and retirement benefits for individuals who no longer make an incremental contribution to either productivity or output.

    Public employee unions, in particular, have made the public sector wooden, unresponsive and quite expensive. Public productivity must walk hand-in-hand with private sector productivity.

    So, when people ask where is the growth, my answer is where is the equity to drive the growth-giving investment? Endless central bank monetary creation will not get an economy from here to a prosperous future. At some point people have to put their shoulders to the tasks.

  6. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    It is a very good overview article touching on all the challenges, traps and deadlocks we are globally facing today.
    In truth humanity is facing a historical challenge since we never had such a convergence of different factors forcing us to make fundamental changes in our lives.
    So far our evolution has been quantitative, we always wanted more, bigger, better, faster.
    Our whole socio-economic model with its constant growth, expansive structure is a good reflexion of this attitude.
    But today this quantitative evolution has stopped, and we are regressing instead of progressing, since with our global, interconnected world, with the finite natural resources, growing social inequalities, reached a tipping point and now our system started self destructing.
    We have only one solution, to transform ourselves from quantitative evolution to qualitative one, instead of simply instinctively satisfying our basic desire for more pleasures, profit, fulfillment for ourselves regardless of the consequences, like children in a toyshop, we have to realize what our new, 21st century global and integral conditions mean, what it means to be totally dependent on everybody else even for our basic necessities, we have to understand the basic, natural laws governing living, natural systems apart from human societies, and then start applying all that knowledge on ourselves.
    Paradoxically in this new system prosperity, health, sustainable future means that instead of myself, first of all I have to consider the integrity and optimal function of the system.
    We are a species facing an evolutionary challenge. Can we adapt to the new conditions we find ourselves in, can we rise above our inherent selfish nature to create a mutually responsible, cooperating global society?
    The answer goes way beyond the forthcoming elections.

      CommentedShan Jun Chang

      I concur with Friedrich; the demands we are making on our governments are becoming increasingly irrational. "We want public sector jobs" "We want to pay less tax". " We want better public services, we want subsidised education, healthcare etc." We can't possibly expect the government to do all these things; there are trade-offs involved. Well actually, the government may be able to in the short-run, but that necessitates borrowing and accumulating public debt, and this is what they are incentivized to do, precisely because they want to win the next election. When this becomes unsustainable, the response is always protest and indignation. I think that's a bit self-righteous, because to put it into perspective, sustained economic growth and peace are, judging from history, the exception rather than norm, so there is already plenty to be grateful for.

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