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埃里克·马斯金:M型结构的中国经济运行评估更易

I would like to offer my very warm congratulations to Yingyi Qian and Chenggang Xu for winning this important research prize. I’m particularly happy about this event because Yingyi and Chenggang were students of mine here at Harvard. In fact, they were a couple of my very first Chinese students. And I’m extremely proud of them. They have gone on to do great things and this prize is just one manifestation of their accomplishments. I’d like to say a little bit about their work and some of their contributions to economics.


Yingyi, in his PHD thesis, wrote on hierarchies. That is tree structures in organizations. And he is particularly interested in the question of which structures would optimize the net payoff for the hierarchy, that is output minus the wages that have to be paid the workers on the hierarchy. And he came up with some sharp answers to those questions and his work is important for understanding corporate structure and also structure of hierarchy in governments.


He also had an early paper on shortages, which was very important. So a long-standing question about centrally planned economies, is why they were plagued by shortages of consumer goods. And Yingyi was able to show that the answer to this question is tied to an important phenomenon called the soft budget constraint. The soft budget constraint was developed by Janos Kornai, a very distinguished scholar of centrally planned economies. And actually Janos was here at Harvard at the time that Yingyi was, and had a profound influence on Yingyi’s thinking and also had a profound influence on my thinking. Anyway, Yingyi took this idea of the soft budget constraint to explain shortages and the idea is that in a centrally planned economy, there would be enterprises which are inefficient, but they are kept going anyway because once they started, it’s not always optimal to shut them down. These inefficient enterprises absorb a lot of goods in the process of production, and that diverts these goods away from consumers. The government, to make sure the consumers can compete effectively against these inefficient firms, deliberately keeps prices low. But those low prices create shortages, and Yingyi made a compelling argument that this helps explain, say, shortages in the former Soviet Union and also shortages in China, at the time that economy was still heavily under government control.


Another paper that Yingyi contributed, which I regard as important, is his work with Bai, Li and Huang on government predation. The idea here is that in a country without an independent judiciary, it’s very difficult for the government to commit itself not to expropriate private wealth. And that inability to commit leads to the deliberate creation of institutions for masking wealth. Of course these institutions are inefficient, but they are the only reasonable responds to a government that would take the wealth away, if it could. And I think this work sheds a great deal of aid on the Chinese experience.


Now, Yingyi and Chenggang have had a long and fruitful collaboration. And one of their important papers is on innovation, and the contrast between innovation in centrally planned and market economies, or put it another way, in economies with budget constraints soft versus when they are hard. What they started with this observation, that the centrally planned economies, such as the Soviet Union, have not historically been as good at innovation as market economies. And the question is why they should be. And once again, they make an important connection with the soft budget constraint. The problem with innovation in centrally planned economies is that once you start an enterprise, an innovated enterprise, it’s very hard to shut it down later on. And so there are too many false starts, there are too many false directions that are pursued in the centrally planned economy.


Another important collaboration between Chenggang and Yingyi, together with Gérard Roland, is their work on M-forms versus U-forms in comparative economics. So there’s a famous distinction going back to the industrial organization literature between firms that have U-forms, which means that they are centrally organized, and they’ll have their sales division, they’ll have their body division and they’ll have their marketing division, but there’s a central executive overseeing all this. And a classic example of a U-form organization was the Ford Motor Company in the United States. And by contrasts, there’s the M-form, where instead of having one sales department and one marketing department and one manufacturing department, there are divisions as in General Motors. So General Motors had the Chevrolet Division, had the Pontiac Division and they had the Oldsmobile Division, and each of those was a little company within a bigger company. This was an important distinction that the economic historian Chandler made. But Yingyi and Chengang and Gérard understood that this contrast between the U-form and the M-form was also useful for understanding economies. And they were particularly interested in the contrast between the Soviet Union which they thought of as a U-form and the Chinese economy which they thought of as an M-form. The Chinese economy is an M-form form because within the Chinese economy there are all of the provincial economies, which are, in a sense, freestanding or autonomous within the larger Chinese structure. And these provinces could operate more or less independently in the same way as Chevrolet and Oldsmobile could operate independently. And they argue that one reason why the Chinese economy proved to be so much more robust than the Soviet Union was because of this M-form structure. And in particular, you could try out a new idea, you could experiment with a new idea in one of the provinces to see whether it worked before introducing it in the country as a whole, so that if it didn’t work, you weren’t committing the whole economy to a big mistake. That was an important insight.


I have to say that I had the pleasure of collaborating with Chenggang and Yingyi on an M-form versus U-form project myself and we were interested in how in M-forms, it turns out to be easier to evaluate economic performance than in U-form, because you can compare one province’s economic output, the GDP, if you like, with another, and in that way you can gauge how well each province is doing. You couldn’t do that in the Soviet Union, because how do you compare the coal ministry with the steel ministry, not so easy to do. So I enjoy that collaboration a lot with Yingyi and Chenggang, although I have to give them most of the credits for that project. Chenggang has also done a great deal of important work, not in collaboration with Yingyi. For example, there’s his collaboration with Huang, which helps us understand how in investment projects there’s often advantages to have investors with conflicting interests making capital infusions into the projects. That sounds paradoxical but it’s not paradoxical, again if you remember the soft budget constraint, because the conflicting interests mean if the project turns out not to work, they won’t have the incentive to keep the project going on beyond its useful life. So conflicting interest is a commitment device to shut down a project which is not turning out well.


Well, this is just a small sample of the wonderful work that Yingyi and Chenggang have been doing. As I say, I am extremely proud of them and extremely proud of their careers, and I offer my warm congratulations.


I would like to offer my warm congratulations to Yingyi Qian and Chenggang Xu for winning the first China Economic Prize. I think it’s a very well deserved prize for them. Their work has been fundamental within economics and also for understanding the Chinese reforms over the last 35 years. I also have to say that I’m very proud of them as their old teacher. Chenggang and Yingyi were among the first students that I had the privilege to supervise here at Harvard many years ago. Yingyi arrived in the late 80s and Chenggang a little bit after that. Working with them and then later collaborating with them was a lot of fun and a great opportunity for me to learn some economics dos. So many many congratulations to them both.


I wanted to mention that I have a connection with the National Economics Foundation myself. I have been a councilor for the Foundation for some time now, and I had the opportunity in the spring of 2016 to visit China and give a couple of lectures, one at Nankai university and the other at Zhejiang University on behalf of the Foundation. There were intended to be educational events and I enjoyed them very much.


One of the notable features of Yingyi and Chenggang’s work is how they take important concepts from theory and use them to illuminate and to help us understand the Chinese economy. And they started doting this very early in their career when they were still PHD students. So they took a fundamental idea called the soft budget constraint formulated by Janos Kornai, one of my Harvard colleagues and someone they worked with while here at Harvard, and they used this to very great effects to understand how the Chinese economy works and sometimes doesn't work.

 

 

热烈祝贺钱颖一与许成钢获得这一重要的研究奖项。对此我感到非常高兴,因为颖一和成钢是我在哈佛的学生,也是我最早教过的中国学生。我为他们感到骄傲。他们一直致力于伟大的研究,而这一奖项也只是他们诸多成就的一小部分展示。下面我来简单谈一谈他们的研究工作和对经济学的贡献。


早年,他还有一篇关于短缺的重要著作。长久以来一个有关中央计划经济的问题就是,为什么这些经济体都被消费商品短缺的苦恼所困扰着。颖一给出的答案,与一种重要的现象有关,也就是软预算约束。这一概念是由杰出的中央计划经济学者雅诺什·科尔奈所提出。雅诺什与颖一同期在哈佛,他对颖一的想法和我的想法都有着深远的影响。颖一结合软预算约束的概念,解释了短缺的问题,即在中央计划经济中,有一些企业是低效运营的,但仍要运营下去,因为这些企业一旦成立,将其关闭并不是最佳的做法。这些低效企业在生产过程中吸纳了大量商品,造成这些商品从消费者处流失掉。而政府为了确保消费者可以有效地与这些低效企业竞争,则会故意维持商品低价。但这些低价格会造成短缺。颖一做出了有力的论述,证明这一概念可以解释在过去的前苏联以及中国,经济很大程度上由政府控制时所存在的短缺问题。


颖一的另一篇著作,就是与白重恩,李稻葵李和黄海洲共同所作的关于政府掠夺的研究,我认为也十分重要。如果一个国家没有独立的司法制度,政府就很难做到不去没收私有财富,这种很难做到就会导致故意成立一些机构来掩饰财富。当然这些机构是低效的,但这是对政府掠夺财富最为合理的应对措施了。我认为这篇文献对中国的此类经验有很大帮助作用。


现在,颖一和成钢已经合作了很久,且颇富成效。他们的合著研究中有一篇是有关于创新,以及中央计划经济和市场经济中创新的对比,或者说是软预算约束和硬预算约束经济的对比。他们研究的起点在于,像前苏联这样的中央计划经济体从历史角度来讲并不像市场经济那么具有创新性。问题就是为什么会出现这种情况。这又一次与软预算约束联系在一起。中央计划经济的问题在于一旦成立了一家企业,之后就很难去关闭它。因此,在中央计划经济中有很多的开始是错误的,所追求的方向也是错误的。


成钢,颖一,以及热若尔·罗兰另外一个重要的合作研究是有关比较经济学中的M型结构和U型结构。这里有一个显著的对比,就是有关行业组织相关文献中的U型结构公司,也就是集中组织的形式,有自己的销售部门,主体部门和市场部门,但会有一个中央执行机构来进行集中监管。U型结构组织的一个典型例子就是美国福特汽车公司。对比而言,M型结构则拥有一个销售部,市场部和制造部,比如在通用汽车就有这些部门。所以通用汽车有雪佛兰部门,庞蒂克部门和奥兹莫比尔部门,每个部门都相当于大公司内部成立的一个小公司。这是著名经济历史学家钱德勒所提出的对比。但颖一、成钢和热若尔认为U型结构和M型结构间的对比对于理解经济学来说也很有帮助。他们认为前苏联是U型经济而中国是M型经济,他们对两者之间的比较也很感兴趣。中国经济之所以为M型,是因为中国每个省也都是一个经济体,这些省级经济体在中国这个大市场中是独立且自治的。这些省份在某种程度上和雪佛兰与奥兹莫比尔一样,可以独立运营。他们认为中国经济之所以比前苏联要强劲许多,原因之一就是因为其经济为M型结构。而且,如果有新的想法和政策,可以在一个省份先进行试验,之后再推广到全国。所以如果政策不奏效,也不会导致在全国经济中犯下大错。这是非常重要的一个启示。


我要说,我非常荣幸能够与成钢和颖一合作进行了M型结构和U型结构的对比研究,我们对M型结构比U型更易进行经济运行评估这一点很感兴趣,因为你可以比较不同省份的经济产出,比如GDP指标,从而来衡量每个省的经济情况。但在前苏联是做不到这样的,因为煤炭部与钢铁部之间是很难去比较的。所以我非常享受与颖一和成钢的合作,当然这个研究项目更多还是要归功于他们。成钢在不与颖一合作的情况下也完成了许多研究,比如他与黄海洲合作的研究,帮我们了解了在投资项目时,有时投资者之间具有冲突利益,形成不同的投资组合,会更有优势。这听起来有些矛盾,但如果你还记得软预算约束的话,就知道这并不矛盾,因为冲突利益意味着如果项目不成功,他们就会失去让项目超出期限继续运营的激励。所以冲突利益其实是终止运营失败项目的一种承诺工具。


这只是颖一和成钢杰出的研究工作中的一小部分。正如我所说,我为他们感到骄傲,为他们的事业感到自豪,再次表示衷心的祝贺。


衷心祝贺钱颖一和许成钢获得首届中国经济学奖,这一奖项的颁发实至名归。他们的研究著作不仅对经济学有着杰出贡献,也帮助人们更好地了解了过去35年中国的改革情况。作为他们的早年教师,我也感到十分自豪,成钢和颖一是多年前我作为导师有幸指导的首批学生。颖一80年代晚期来到哈佛,之后不久成钢也加入了我们。与他们的合作非常愉快,对我也是一个学习经济学知识的绝佳机会。所以,再次向二位表示衷心的祝贺。


我本人与当代经济学基金会也有合作关系。我已经担任了一段时间的基金会顾问,并在2016年春季有幸访问中国,代表当代经济学基金会在南开大学和浙江大学做了讲座。这些都是很有意义的教育活动,我也乐于参与其中。


颖一和成钢的研究著作中最显著的特点之一就是他们会利用重要的理论概念来启迪我们,帮助我们理解中国经济。他们很早在哈佛读博士的时候就开始了此项研究,运用了雅诺什·科尔奈提出的软预算约束概念。科尔奈是我在哈佛的同事,也是他们二位在哈佛时共同合作过的学者。他们运用这一概念取得了很好的研究结果,来理解中国经济为何能取得成功,以及为什么有时又不奏效。


 

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转载需注明出处:北京当代经济学基金会