魔鬼经济学随感

郑磊 原创 | 2009-11-15 20:09 | 收藏 | 投票 编辑推荐
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魔鬼经济学》曾经是一本畅销书,也许是因为炒作得太厉害了,虽然出版社早就送来了样书,但直到最近我才翻出来看。2005年,美国的经济学家和出版家们发现自己完全陷入了一个“魔鬼的世界”。在长达半年的时间里,谈论“魔鬼”成为一种时尚,它频频现身于各种电视新闻、专题片、脱口秀、访谈、书评中,人们讨论《魔鬼经济学》的热情甚至超过了他们对《哈利·波特6》的关注,甚至平头百姓在平常聊天的时候也会扯上几句“魔鬼”里面 
的经典字句,据说这样可以让对方觉得他们比较“有深度”…… 

       看完这本没有明确主题的通俗经济学小书,仍没有特别欣赏的感觉,但作者在书中谈到的一些主题,还是引起了我的思索。

1、中国人口结构与社会发展

      魔鬼经济学中着墨最多的主题之一是“犯罪”,作者虽然被认为是经济学家,但对美国社会犯罪问题的研究较深入,被视为这一领域的专家。书中论证了“容许堕胎”的政策是降低美国犯罪率的要因的观点,其大意是说,母亲选择堕胎而不是将孩子生下来总是有其原因的,基于母性的原因,如果不是因为无法给孩子提供良好的抚育条件,母亲通常是不会选择堕胎这条路的。因此,堕胎避免了一批无法受到良好教育的儿童的出生,也就减少了因这部分人带来的犯罪行为。单亲母亲、较贫穷阶层在怀孕后往往会选择堕胎。

      在中国,情况正好相反。从平均数上看,城市的生育率低于农村,富裕地区的出生率低于农村,甚至有“越穷越生,越生越穷”的恶性循环。对于城里人来说,并不是生不起孩子,而是考虑到城镇生活水平较高,为孩子提供良好的成长环境所需费用很高;而农村人则少有这种顾虑,采用“放养”的方式,越穷的地方,生活费用越低,养育成本也越低。同时,在农村,计划生育和堕胎也不容易实施。

       我们不能必然得出结论,认为这些人的出生会增加社会犯罪率,但有一个结论是明显的,即必然增加社会负担,造成人口平均素质下降,人均资源占有率下降。从经济发展角度看,中国也和世界其他地区一样,进入了知识经济时代,人口红利效应不再是只体现在提供简单劳动力(蓝领工人),而是逐步过渡到知识型劳动力(技术工人和知识分子)才能为经济提供较大贡献的阶段。贫穷地区人口的快速增加,需要更大的公益性教育投入,这将是很大的社会负担,拖累整个经济发展速度。

2、高等教育改革

       本书作者

 

史蒂芬·列维特,1994年在麻省理工大学取得经济学博士学位,1997年进入芝加哥大学执教短短两年时间列维特就成为芝加哥大学经济学院终身教授。在西方经济学重镇芝加哥大学获得经济学终身教职的难度要远超过在中国最好的大学受聘为教授。列维特是个奇迹,而他并不是一个循规蹈矩的传统经济学学者,他的离经叛道的研究方法和研究领域体现在这本书和许多跨学科的文章中。如果以传统的学术标准来看,列维特至今并没有发表特别“惊天动地”的学术著作,如果他身在中国,以这样年轻的岁数,恐怕也只能是个讲师。这就是美国高等教育体系与中国的巨大反差。其实他还不是唯一的幸运儿。在本书中,列维特提到了另一个出身卑微的黑人经济学家小罗兰德佛里叶,其景遇更令人叹为观止:

 

Fryer's own life story is illustrative of many of the negative factors that intersect in the lives of children in impoverished communities—but it is also the tale of impressive triumph over such hurdles. He grew up believing that his mother, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, abandoned him as an infant. His father, a former math teacher turned copier salesperson, raised him somewhat carelessly in the Texas town of Lewisville, near Dallas. He was close to his strict, formidable grandmother in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he spent summers, but at least eight close relatives were either jailed or died young. When he stayed with his grandmother, whom everyone called "Fat," he liked to visit his great-aunt's house, out of which she and family ran a profitable crack-cocaine operation. One day, Fryer dawdled on his way there, and arrived to see the house surrounded by law-enforcement officials; nearly everyone in the household went to prison for their involvement in the illegal dealings.

Fryer's life back in Texas was spiraling downward as well by the time he reached his teens. His father began drinking more heavily, and was abusive to him and others. When Fryer was in high school, his father was convicted of sexual assault. During this period, the future economist found his niche not in academics but as a standout athlete. The long football and basketball practice hours kept him out of the house, and later helped him win a college athletic scholarship. But he also led a double life, selling marijuana and carrying a gun. "I didn't care if I lived or died," he said in the interview with Dubner in the New York Times Magazine. "I always think I'm supposed to be dead, not alive, much less at Harvard."

Fryer's turning point came when he was pulled over by the police, who ordered him out of his car and on the ground, and drew their guns on him. They let him go, but later that day he was invited to come along with some friends who were planning a burglary. He turned them down, and they were caught and jailed for the crime. Fryer tried to keep out of trouble until he left Lewisville for the University of Texas at Arlington. Though he had not been an outstanding student in high school, he was forced to study to keep up, and discovered that not only did he like to learn, but he also seemed to have an aptitude for it. Less than three years later, he earned his undergraduate degree in economics.

From there Fryer went on to Penn State University for a doctorate in economics. At a conference he met Glenn Loury, a prominent black economist who became a mentor. Fryer began writing academic papers based on research studies he conducted with others in his field. After fellowships with the National Science Foundation and the National Bureau of Economic Research, Fryer earned his Ph.D. and was invited to join the Harvard faculty. He was just 25 years old and the post, moreover, was with the Society of Fellows, one of the most coveted jobs in American academia.

这位学者的出身和童年简直可以用“悲惨”两字形容,但仍能够在25岁时因在种族经济问题方面的出色研究而受聘担任哈佛大学的经济学教授,创造了比列维特更“辉煌”的学术认可记录。

中国的高等教育体系的博士培养数量位列全世界第一,论文发表数量也是全世界第一,但鲜有真正值得称道的学术成果,更缺乏真正具有独立思考和创新精神的思想家。中国的高等教育被西方教育界视为一个大笑话,培养出的学生高分低能,无法适应社会需求,造成教育投资和人才严重浪费,加重了就业负担。高等教育的改革,已经不只是一个教育领域的事,而是影响和决定中国发展和国家前途的根本因素。改革已迫在眉睫。

3、经济学研究的方向

西方经济学在反思和寻找突破。

       西方经济学研究与中国不同在于,从六七十年代整体进入了数学化和定量分析阶段,变得离社会生活越来越远,越来越模型化、抽象化、理论化,被公众看作是枯燥乏味的学科。但是,经济学的这种科学化方向并没有提升分析和解决现实经济问题的能力,只是越来越像象牙塔里的学术游戏,对于这种研究方法的质疑越来越强。从诺贝尔经济学奖近几年颁奖情况来看,拓展经济学以及交叉学科的研究正在得到主流经济学界的认同。芝加哥大学聘请加里贝克尔担任经济学和社会学联合教授,也是一个明确的信号。

       中国的经济学研究正好相反,是一个从通俗化不断提升到模型化的过程中,基本上是借用西方经济学现成的理论模型加以检验和应用的过程。中国经济学研究尽管需要提高科学化水平,但应看清经济学方法论发展的方向,不要过分强调数学化和形式化的研究,以免陷入同样的陷阱。西方经济学逐渐走出象牙塔,以求解释和解决更多的社会问题,而中国经济学应提高理论研究水平,脱离简单、直观、定性和随意地解释经济现象,借鉴和应用西方经济学中较规范的研究方法。我们可以预见,西方经济学和中国经济学正在从两个端点向一个共同的方向趋近。

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