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波斯纳《管锥编》(7):“理性的恐惧”,不是“无理性的”  

2009-04-08 18:31:57|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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中文博主按:阿克洛夫,作为诺奖得主,显然熟识经济学的“理性模型”。他敢于挑战这个“理性模型”,无论对错,都说明了这位伟大的经济学家强悍的思维能力。波斯纳是我的另一位美女同事的偶像。



七、“理性的恐惧”,不是“无理性的”

 

A weakness of Akerlof's and Shiller's book is a failure todefine their target: the rational model of human behavior. If rationality meansomniscience, then it is indeed an unsound premise for economic reasoning. If itmeans reasoning unaffected by emotion, then it misunderstands emotion. The word"emotional" has overtones of irrationality, but actually emotion isat once a form of telescoped thinking (it is not irrational to step around anopen manhole "instinctively" without first analyzing the costs andbenefits of falling into it) and a prompt to action that often, as in the caseof investment under uncertainty, cannot be based on complete or even goodinformation and is therefore unavoidably a shot in the dark. We could notsurvive if we were afraid to act in the face of uncertainty.

阿克洛夫和希勒的这本书,有一个缺点,那就是:没有界定他们的那个靶子——“人类行为的理性模型”。如果“理性”指的就是“全知全能”,那么,它确实不是经济推理的合理前提。如果它指的是“不受情绪干扰所进行的推理”,那么,这又误解了“情绪”。“情绪”这个词是隐含着“无理性”的意思,但是,本质上,情绪还是一种即时性的“远见思考”,(当人们“直觉性”绕开下水道口时,一开始并没有先分析一下掉下去所造成的成本和收益,这种行为当然也不是“无理性的”。)它让人们马上采取行动。这种行动与不确定性下的投资,是一样的,人们不能根据完全信息(或者好信息)来采取行动,因而,就只能无可奈何地碰碰运气。如果我们在面对不确定性时,害怕行动,那么,肯定是不能生存下去的。

 

Irrationality is not the courage to act. Irrationality is to befound in the cognitive quirks that we owe to the human brain having evolved ina very different environment from our present one. We are poor at evaluatinglow-probability events because in the ancestral environment (as evolutionarybiologists call it) there was little that could be done about such events. Thesense of the irrational that merchants exploit--that a price of $5.99 ismeaningfully less than $6.00--is a trace of the limited value in thatenvironment of being able to evaluate fine differences. These quirks do notexplain depressions.

无理性,不是指“行动的勇气”。在“认知突变”(cognitive quirks)中,可以找到“无理性”的情形。之所以发生认识突变,是因为人脑在一个极异于当前环境的环境中发生了进化。我们之所以对小概率事件的评估能力较差,那是因为在古代环境(这是进化生物学家的说法)中,人们对此类事件无能为力。商人盘剥——5.99元的价格,低于6.00元,是有意义的——这种无理性感,在“微小差异评估能力”的环境里,价值并不大。这样的突变,解释不了萧条。

 

As one reads this book, one has the sense that deep downAkerlof and Shiller believe that being rational is the same as being right.That is a mistake. It prevents them from entertaining the possibility that whathas now plunged the world into depression is a cascade of mistakes by rationalbusinessmen, government officials, academic economists, consumers, andhomebuyers, operating in an unexpectedly fragile economic environment, and thatwhat is retarding recovery is not the "unreasoning fear" of whichFranklin Roosevelt famously spoke but the rational fears--the reasoning fear,to use Roosevelt's idiom--of businesspeople, consumers, and officials whoconfront economic uncertainties for which no one had prepared them.

读了这本书的读者,一定认为:阿克洛夫和希勒根本就是相信“有理性,即指做对事”。这种看法是错误的。这使他们不能轻松地认识到,正是理性的商人、理性的政府官员、理性的经济学家、理性的消费者、理性的购房者,他们行走于一个有着“意料不到脆弱”性质的经济环境之中,他们铸成了无穷的错误,从而使得当前世界深陷萧条。也使他们不能认识到:妨碍复苏的原因,并不是罗斯福的那个著名的“令人费解的恐惧”,而是理性的恐惧,是商人、消费者和官员们的“可以理解的恐惧”。他们遇上了经济不确定性,却没有一个人为此进行过准备。


(待续)

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