爱思英语编者按:地心引力(Gravity):一切有质量的物体之间产生的互相吸引的作用力。地球对其他物体的这种作用力,叫做地心引力。其他物体所受到的地心引力方向向着任何方向。 根据牛顿的万有引力定律,任何有质量的两种物质之间都有引力。
 
American economic history
美国经济史
G force
地心引力
 
Why economic growth soared in America in the early 20th century, and why it won't be soaring again any time soon
为什么经济增长曾在20世纪初期的美国狂飙突进?为什么它不会在今后短时间内的任何时候再次大涨?
 
Jan 9th 2016 | From the print edition
引力.jpg
 
 
The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The US Standard of Living since the Civil War. By Robert Gordon. Princeton University Press; 762 pages; $39.95 and £27.95.
《美国增长的兴衰:内战以来的美国生活标准》作者:罗伯特•戈登 普林斯顿大学出版社 762页 
 
ON JANUARY 20th those who see themselves as the global elite will gather in the Alpine resort town of Davos to contemplate the “fourth industrial revolution”, the theme chosen by Klaus Schwab, the ringmaster of the circus known as the World Economic Forum. This revolution will be bigger than anything the world has seen before, he says. It will be a tsunami compared with previous squalls. It will be more disruptive. It will be more interconnected; indeed, the revolution will take place “inside a complex ecosystem”. Not only will it change what people do, it will change who they are.
 
1月20日,自视为全球精英的人将齐聚阿尔卑斯山的旅游城镇达沃斯,探讨“第四次工业革命”,这个由克劳斯•施瓦布——名为“世界经济论坛”的马戏团导演——所选定的主题。他说,这场革命将比这个世界之前曾经见过的任何事情都更为重大。与以前之狂风暴雨相比,它将是一场海啸,更具毁灭性,更具内在关联性;事实上,这场革命将发生在“一个复杂的生态系统内部”。它不仅会改变人们做什么,还将改变人们是谁。
 
Anybody who is tempted by this argument should read Robert Gordon's magnificent new book. An American economist who teaches at Northwestern University, Mr Gordon has long been famous in academic circles for advancing three iconoclastic arguments. The first is that the internet revolution is hyped. The second is that the best way to appreciate the extent of the hype is to look at the decades after the civil war, when America was transformed by inventions such as the motor car and electricity. The third is that the golden age of American growth may be over.
 
任何被这种观点所打动的人都应当阅读罗伯特•戈登的大手笔新书。戈登是一位在西北大学执教的美国经济学家,他因为提出了3个打破常规的观点而在学术圈久负盛名。第一个观点是,互联网革命是被炒作出来的。第二个观点是,理解这种炒作程度的最好的办法就是观察美国被汽车和电力这些发明所彻底改变的内战后的那几十年。第三种观点是,美国增长的黄金时代可能已经结束了。
 
In “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” Mr Gordon presents his case for a general audience—and he does so with great style and panache, supporting his argument with vivid examples as well as econometric data, while keeping a watchful eye on what economic change means for ordinary Americans. Even if history changes direction, and Mr Gordon's rise-and-fall thesis proves to be wrong, this book will survive as a superb reconstruction of material life in America in the heyday of industrial capitalism.
 
在《美国增长的兴衰》一书中,戈登给大众呈现了他的观察——而且气势恢宏,不仅使用了大量的经济数据,还使用了各种各样生动的例子,来为支撑他的论点,同时还时刻关注于经济变革之于普通美国人的意义。纵然历史改变方向,而且戈登的兴衰理论也被证明是错误的,这本书也将作为对美国在工业资本主义黄金时代的物质生活的一次宏大重构而流传下去。
 
The technological revolutions of the late 19th century transformed the world. The life that Americans led before that is unrecognisable. Their idea of speed was defined by horses. The rhythm of their days was dictated by the rise and fall of the sun. The most basic daily tasks—getting water for a bath or washing clothes—were back-breaking chores. As Mr Gordon shows, a succession of revolutions transformed every aspect of life. The invention of electricity brought light in the evenings. The invention of the telephone killed distance. The invention of what General Electric called “electric servants” liberated women from domestic slavery. The speed of change was also remarkable. In the 30 years from 1870 to 1900 railway companies added 20 miles of track each day. By the turn of the century, Sears Roebuck, a mail-order company that was founded in 1893, was fulfilling 100,000 orders a day from a catalogue of 1,162 pages. The price of cars plummeted by 63% between 1912 and 1930, while the proportion of American households that had access to a car increased from just over 2% to 89.8%.
 
19世纪的技术革命彻底改变了这个世界。美国人在那之前所过的生活已经变得陌生了。他们的速度概念曾被马所定义,他们那个时代的节奏曾被日出日落所支配。日常最基本的任务——取水洗澡和洗衣服——曾经是累死累活的苦差事。正如戈登所展示的那样,一连串的革命彻底改变了生活的每一个方面。电的发明带来了夜晚的光明,电话的发明消灭了距离。通用电气称之为“电动仆人”的发明将女性从繁重的家务活中解放了出来。改变的速度也是惊人的。在从1870年到1900年的30年间,铁路公司曾经每天都要将轨道延长20公里。至19世纪和20世纪之交,创建于1893年的邮购公司西尔斯罗巴,每天都要从其1162页的分类目录中完成10000个订单。在1912年到1930年间,汽车的价格大跌了63%,而拥有一辆汽车的美国家庭的占比则从2%多一点增长到了89.8%。
 
America quickly pulled ahead of the rest of the world in almost every new technology—a locomotive to Europe's snail, as Andrew Carnegie put it. In 1900 Americans had four times as many telephones per person as the British, six times as many as the Germans and 20 times as many as the French. Almost one-sixth of the world's railway traffic passed through a single American city, Chicago. Thirty years later Americans owned more than 78% of the world's motor cars. It took the French until 1948 to have the same access to cars and electricity that America had in 1912.
 
美国人在几乎每一项新技术上都迅速地跑到了世界其他地区的前面——正如安德鲁•卡内基所指出的那样,美国曾经是欧洲蜗牛的火车头。1900年,美国拥有了人均4倍于英国、6倍于德国、20倍于法国的电话。全世界将近六分之一的铁路交通都曾经通过一个美国城市——芝加哥。30年后,美国人拥有了全世界78%以上的汽车。法国人直到1948年才拥有了与美国人在1912年相同数量的汽车和电力。
 
The Great Depression did a little to slow America's momentum. But the private sector continued to innovate. By some measures, the 1930s were the most productive decade in terms of the numbers of inventions and patents granted relative to the size of the economy. Franklin Roosevelt's government invested in productive capacity with the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Hoover Dam.
 
大衰退曾经大大地减缓了美国的势头。但是,私营部门把创新继续了下去。从某种程度上讲,以相对于经济体规模的发明和专利的数量而言,上世纪30年代曾经是最具生产力的十年。富兰克林•罗斯福的政府曾经以田纳西河谷管理局和胡佛大坝作为生产力的投资。
 
The second world war demonstrated the astonishing power of America's production machine. After 1945 America consolidated its global pre-eminence by constructing a new global order, with the Marshall Plan and the Bretton Woods institutions, and by pouring money into higher education. The 1950s and 1960s were a golden age of prosperity in which even people with no more than a high-school education could enjoy a steady job, a house in the suburbs and a safe retirement.
 
第二次世界大战展现了美国生产机器的惊人力量。1945年后,美国通过用马歇尔计划和布雷顿森林体系来构建一种全新的全球秩序并将大量资金投入高等教育的方式巩固了它的全球主宰地位。上世纪50年代和60年代曾经是一个即便是只有高中学历的人也能够享有一个稳定的工作、一套郊区的住房和一个有保障的退休的繁荣的一个黄金时代。
 
But Mr Gordon's tone grows gloomy when he turns to the 1970s. Economic turbulence increased as well-known American companies were shaken by foreign competition, particularly from Japan, and as fuel prices surged thanks to the OPEC oil-price rise. Economic inequality surged as the rich pulled ahead of the rest. Productivity growth fell: having reached an average of 2.82% a year between 1920 and 1970, output per hour between 1970 and 2014 grew by an annual rate of no more than 1.62%. America today faces powerful headwinds: an ageing population, rising health-care and education costs, soaring inequality and festering social ills.
 
但是,戈登的调门在转向上世纪70年代时变得忧伤起来。随着知名美国企业被来自国外,尤其是日本的竞争所动摇,随着燃料价格因为欧佩克油价的上涨而飙升,经济动荡多了起来;随着富人走到了其他人的前面,经济不平等急剧上升了。生产力增长降了下来:每小时产出的年均增长率,在1920年到1970年之间达到2.82%之后,在1970年到2014年间一直低于1.62%。今天的美国正面临着强大的逆风:日益老龄化的人口,不断增加的医疗和教育开支,急剧上升的不平等以及日渐溃烂的社会弊病。
 
What chance does the country have of restoring its lost dynamism? Mr Gordon has no time for the techno-Utopians who think that the information revolution will rescue America from such “secular stagnation”. His attitude to the IT revolution is much the same as that of Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist, who famously said: “We wanted flying cars but instead we got 140 characters.” America has already harvested the fruits of the IT revolution. The growth rate increased each year in the decade after 1994, but the spurt did not last and it has since fallen back since.
 
这个国家恢复这种已经失去了的活力的概率有多大?戈登压根就不看好认为信息革命将把美国从这种“长期停滞”中拯救出来的技术乌托邦者。他对IT革命的态度同曾经说过“我们想要会飞的汽车,却得到了140个人物”这句名言的风投资本家皮特•泰尔是一模一样的。美国已经收获了IT革命的果实。增长率曾在1994年后的那个10年中的每一年都在提高,但是,这种迸发并没有持续下去,并且自那以后又回到了原点。
 
Now Mr Gordon thinks that Moore's law is beginning to fade and the new economy is turning into a mirage. He can be forgiven for giving such short shrift to Davos types who have no sense of history: driverless cars will change the world less than the invention of cars in the first place. He is also surely right that America faces unusually heavy challenges in future.
 
如今,戈登认为,摩尔定律正在开始退潮,新经济正在变成海市蜃楼。他可以因为对没有历史感的达沃斯类型给予如下的轻视而得到原谅:无人驾驶汽车之于世界的改变将比不上一开始的汽车的发明。他在美国将来会面临非同寻常的沉重压力这个论断上也肯定是正确的。
 
But he goes too far in downplaying the current IT revolution. Where the first half of the book is brilliant, the second can be frustrating. Mr Gordon understates how IT has transformed people's lives and he has little to say about the extent to which artificial intelligence will intensify this. He also fails to come to terms with the extent to which, thanks to 3D printing and the internet of things, the information revolution is spreading from the virtual world to the physical world. Mr Gordon may be right that the IT revolution will not restore economic growth rates to the level America once enjoyed. Only time will tell. But he is definitely wrong to underplay the extent to which the revolution is changing every aspect of our daily lives.
 
但是,他在看低当前的IT革命方面走得太远了。相比前半部分的才华横溢,该书的后半部分可能令人丧气。戈登低估了IT之于人们生活方式的具体改变,并且几乎没有提及人工智能会将这种改变强化到何种程度。他也没能认识到信息革命正由于3D打印和物联网而从虚拟世界向现实世界传播的程度。在IT革命不会将经济增长率恢复到美国曾经享有的水平这个方面,戈登可能是对的。只有时间能够证明。但是,在低估这场革命会把我们日常生活的每一个方面改变到何种程度这个问题上,他肯定错了。