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双语翻译:疑心重重


Suspicious minds

翻译:疑心重重

 

The economic consequences of Americans’ distrust

美国人 缺乏信任的经济后果

 

AMERICA is a grumpy and confused place. For an overarching explanation of what has gone wrong, a decline in trust is a good place to start. Trust can be defined as the expectation that other people, or organisations, will act in ways that are fair to you. In the White House and beyond there is precious little of it about. People increasingly view institutions as corrupt, strangers as suspicious, rivals as illegitimate and facts as negotiable.

美国是 一个暴躁而又迷茫的地方。要整体 把握到底什么地方出了问题,我们不 妨从信任度的下降入手。信任可以定义为“预期其 他人或组织将公平地对待自己”。在白宫内外,这一点弥足珍贵。人们越 来越认为机构腐败,陌生人可疑,对手非法,而事实也可以商量。

 

 

The share of Americans who say “most people can be trusted” fell from 44% in 1976 to 32% in 2016, according to a survey from the University of Chicago. In a new book, “The Retreat of Western Liberalism”, Edward Luce, a commentator for the Financial Times in Washington, argues that distrust will contribute to America’s decline and eventually, even, to autocracy. Lack of faith is chewed over in boardrooms, too. In his latest letter to shareholders, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s boss, describes trust as America’s “secret sauce” and worries that the bottle is running dry.

根据芝 加哥大学的一项调查,认为“大多数人可以信任”的美国人比例从1976年的44%下降到2016年的32%。《金融时报》驻华盛 顿评论员爱德华·卢斯(Edward Luce)在新书《西方自由主义的退却》(The Retreat of Western Liberalism)中指出,不信任 将加速美国的衰落,甚至最终导致独裁。公司董 事会也在琢磨缺乏信任的问题。摩根大通的老板杰米·戴蒙(Jamie Dimon)在最近 给股东的信中将信任称为美国的“秘方”,并担心 装秘方的瓶子快要空了。

 

The tricky bit is reconciling this distrust with the rosy business outlook. The S&P 500 index is near an all-time high, even though many economists say that distrust is toxic for prosperity because transactions become dearer and riskier. An OECD study of 30 economies shows that those with low levels of trust, such as Turkey and Mexico, are far poorer. Three scholars, Luigi Guiso, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, have shown that pairs of countries (such as Britain and France) whose populations say they distrust each other, have less bilateral trade and investment.

这种不 信任与美妙的商业前景放在一起似乎很不协调。标准普尔500指数目 前接近历史高点——尽管许 多经济学家认为不信任会扼杀繁荣,因为交 易的成本会更高,风险会更大。经合组织对30个经济体的研究表明,信任水平较低的国家,比如土 耳其和墨西哥等,要比美国贫穷得多。路易吉·圭索(Luigi Guiso)、佩奥拉·萨皮恩扎(Paola Sapienza)和路易吉·津加雷斯(Luigi Zingales)等三位学者证明,如果两 个国家的民众对彼此都表示不信任,它们之 间的双边贸易和投资也较少,比如英国和法国。

 

America’s mistrust outbreak can be split into two parts: what consumers think, and what firms think. The share of folk who have “little or no confidence” in big business has risen from 26% in 1976 to 39% in June, according to Gallup. For banks it has risen from 10% in 1979 to 28% today. Over decades big firms have broken implicit promises to their employees, such as providing a job for life and paying generous pensions. That has probably soured the public’s view. And the financial crisis of 2007-08 blew a giant hole in the reputation of big business and finance.

不信任 在美国的爆发可以分为两部分:消费者 的想法和企业的想法。根据盖洛普的数据,对大企业“几乎或完全不信任”者的比例从1976年的26%上升到了今年6月份的39%。对于银行,这一比例则从1979年的10%上升到今天的28%。几十年来,大公司 已经打破了对员工的隐性承诺,如提供 终身职位和慷慨的养老金。这可能 已令公众心怀怨恨。2007至2008年的金 融危机则让大企业和金融业名誉扫地。

 

Yet despite their customers’ distaste, big firms mint huge profits. One explanation is declining competition over the past 20 years. If markets are working, firms that are perceived to behave badly lose market share. In concentrated industries this discipline is lacking. Two recent scandals in oligopolistic bits of the economy illustrate the point. Wells Fargo, a bank, created millions of fake accounts, yet in the three months to June its year-on-year profits rose by 5%. In April a United Airlines passenger was assaulted, causing an outcry. Its underlying profits later rose by 5%, too. In such industries Americans are inured to mistreatment.

然而,尽管不受消费者认同,大公司 还是创造了巨大的利润。一个解释是过去20年来竞争越来越少。如果市 场正常发挥作用,公众眼 中行为不良的公司将失去市场份额。这个规 律不适用于集中的行业。最近在 寡头垄断行业中发生的两桩丑闻就说明了这一点。富国银 行虚开了数百万个账户,但在截至6月份的三个月中,其利润同比增长了5%。4月一名 美联航乘客遭到殴打,引发强烈抗议。然而自 此之后公司的潜在利润上涨了5%。在这样的行业里,美国人 已经逆来顺受惯了。

 

Trust between firms, and between firms and investors, is more resilient, but there is evidence of greater wariness. Banks charge corporate borrowers a spread of 2.6 percentage points above the federal-funds rate, compared with 2.0 points in the 20 years before the crisis. The equity-risk premium, or the annual excess return that investors demand to hold shares rather than bonds, is 5.03 points, against a pre-crisis average of 3.45 points, notes Aswath Damodaran of the Stern School of Business at NYU.

公司之 间以及公司与投资者之间的信任更为坚挺,但证据 表明它们也变得更加谨慎了。银行向 贷款企业收取高于联邦基金利率2.6个百分点的差价,而危机前20年这个差价只有2.0个百分点。纽约大 学斯特恩商学院的阿斯沃斯·达摩达兰(Aswath Damodaran)指出,股票风险溢价(投资者 持有股票而非债券时要求的年度超额收益)为5.03个百分点,而危机 前的平均水平为3.45个百分点。

 

The median firm in the S&P 500 holds 62 cents of cash on its balance-sheet per dollar of gross operating profit, up from 45 cents in 2006 (this yardstick excludes America’s giant technology companies, which hoard money). In a sign that more corporate deals end in tears, litigation costs are rising. The revenues of legal firms rose by 103% in 1997-2012, according to the Census Bureau, more quickly than nominal GDP growth, of 85%. And spending on corporate lobbying, a signal that firms think politicians are corruptible, has risen faster than GDP, too.

标准普尔500指数的 中位数公司每产生1美元毛营业利润,就会在 资产负债表上持有62美分的现金,高于2006年的45美分(这个标 准不包括囤积现金的美国技术巨头)。面对越 来越多的企业交易惨淡收场的迹象,诉讼费用正在上升。根据美 国人口调查局的统计,1997至 2012年律所收入增长了103%,高于85%的名义GDP增长率。企业游说支出(体现企 业认为政客可收买的程度)也比GDP增长更快。

 

In the long term it is possible that firms could become as mistrustful as consumers. Though individual companies can gain from cronyism, overall confidence will fall if there is sustained political meddling in the courts and regulatory system. And companies as well as people can be trapped into doing business with monopolies that are inept or shifty. In 2016 Facebook said that for the past two years it had overstated how long its users watched videos for, but advertisers have little choice but to stick with the social-media firm. Its profits rose by 71% in the latest quarter.

长此以往,企业有 可能变得和消费者一样多疑。虽然个 别公司可以从裙带主义中获益,但如果 法院和监管体系中持续存在政治干预,整体信心会下降。公司以 及人们都可能不得不和无能或是诡诈的垄断公司打交道。2016年,Facebook称它在 过去两年中夸大了用户观看视频的时间,但广告客户别无选择,只能继 续使用这家社交媒体公司。最近一 季度它的利润增长了71%。

 

If the bleak predictions of observers such as Mr Luce come true, how might America Inc adjust? One guide is the work of Ronald Coase, an economist who theorised that the boundary of a firm is set according to whether an activity is best done in-house or can be outsourced to the market. If counterparties are less reliable, and contracts expensive to enforce, firms will become “vertically integrated”, bringing their supply chain in-house.

如果卢 斯等观察家的晦暗预测成真,美国公 司可能如何做出调整呢?一个指 导方针是经济学家罗纳德·科斯(Ronald Coase)的研究成果,他提出了一个理论,称企业 的边界取决于某项活动是该内部完成还是外包给市场。如果交 易对手不再可靠,执行合同的费用高昂,企业将“垂直一体化”,将供应链收进内部。

 

If there is deeper decay of America’s legal system and greater political corruption, then firms would go further and spread “horizontally” too, expanding into new industries where their political contacts, and access to favours and capital can be used. This is how business works in much of the emerging world.

如果美 国的法律体系腐烂更深,政治腐败更甚,企业也会进一步“横向拓展”,进入新 的行业以利用其政治联系和可以获得的照顾和资本。这正是 大部分新兴市场的经营方式。

 

Gotta have faith

须有信心

 

America is nowhere near such an outcome, at least not yet. Still, a concerted effort to shore up trust between consumers and firms, and between firms, would be healthy. If you subscribe to Silicon Valley’s Utopianism, technology can fill the gap, manufacturing mutual faith where none existed before. Uber’s system of scoring drivers and passengers allows strangers to have confidence in each other. E-commerce sites such as eBay and Alibaba work by creating networks of trust between merchants and customers.

美国还远没到这一步,至少现在还没有。然而,通过共 同的努力来增强消费者与企业之间以及企业和企业之间的信任会大有好处。如果您 认同硅谷的乌托邦主义,那么技 术可以弥补缺失,制造出 以前不存在的相互信任。优步的 司机和乘客打分系统让陌生人相互信任。电子商务网站,如eBay和阿里巴巴,都靠建 立商家和客户之间的信任网络而存在。

 

In the end, however, government has a vital role. By enforcing competition rules, it can ensure that poor conduct is punished. And by observing the independence of courts and regulators, it can demonstrate that contracts are sacred and that firms operate on a level playing-field. Suspicion is not about to bring American capitalism to its knees. But the country’s vast stock of trust, built up over a century or more, is being depleted quickly.

然而归根结底,政府起 着至关重要的作用。通过执行竞争规则,它可以 确保恶劣行为受到惩罚。通过确 保法院和监管机构的独立性,它可以 证明合同是神圣的,公司的 竞争环境是公平的。怀疑的 影响还没到让美国资本主义瘫痪的程度。但是,这个国 家用一个多世纪建立起来的庞大信任库存如今消耗得十分迅速。




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