摇摇欲坠的社会契约

伦敦—“让你自己富起来”,当邓小平在中国开始废除毛泽东的社会主义模式时(这一模式已经失败),他这样告诉自己的同胞。实际上,各地的精英都靠这样的信条过活,而普通人也并不怎么介意,条件是精英履行了他们在交易里的责任:在敌人面前保护国家,并且改善生活条件。正是这条暗含的社会契约现在因为经济崩溃而被置于危险之中。

当然,这一契约的条款因时因地而异。在19世纪的欧洲,人们期望富人节俭,铺张浪费是要避免的。人们认为有钱人应该节约收入里的大头,因为施行节约既为投资准备了经费,也是一种道德上的美德。而且,在福利国家出现之前,人们还指望富人担任慈善家。

相反,美国的机会平等文化对铺张浪费的容忍度要高一些。高消费是成功的标志:美国人对本国富人的要求是高度进取。

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