民主国家的烧船

芝加哥—自20世纪70年代以来,博弈论在学术上的流行使得宏观经济学家开始强调“承诺”的重要性。承诺本是意在通过限制决策者自由裁量权改善长期经济结果的策略。这一观点是反直觉的:更少怎么会产生更多?

尽管从历史上看并不精确,但策略性承诺的最佳例子是寇蒂斯(Hernán Cortés)的传奇故事:在征服墨西哥的过程中,他决定烧掉西班牙远征队的船。乍一看,这是个疯狂举动:为什么自己毁掉万一失败唯一可能的退路?据说寇蒂斯这样做是为了激发士气。断了退路,士兵就会有强大动力去大胜仗。亚历山大大帝据说在征服波斯的过程中也用了同样的计谋。

为了产生效果,承诺战略必须是可信的——也就是说,不能马上食言。从这个角度看,寇蒂斯的策略是完美的:一旦打了败仗,西班牙人根本没时间重新造船。要想起作用,承诺策略还必须具有万一失败代价沉重的特点:如果寇蒂斯失败,就没有一个西班牙士兵能够生还。正是这样的成本帮助激发了他的士兵的士气。

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