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无知的仲裁  

2009-07-03 08:21:57|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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在一份有关卫生保健的简短博文中,保罗·克格曼谈到乔治·威尔和我“若非极度无知,就是毫不坦诚。”乔治的情况我不好说,不过就我自身而言,我坚信自己是完全坦诚的,所以二者选一,我肯定是极度无知了。

近来,此类情况多次出现。在一份较早的、有关宏观经济学状况的博文中,保罗认为:布兰德·德龙和我好像在进行“无知”摔跤赛,比比到底谁更无知,赛事本身早已脱离经济学本身。

撰写这些博文时,保罗到底在想些什么呢?我猜想可能是后文的这三件事:

1. 在宏观经济学的问题上,我自认为理解保罗的观点。当他还在耶鲁大学读本科时,曾跟随吉姆·托宾等人第一次学习了凯恩斯经济学----1970年代是凯恩斯经济学流行的时期,保罗接受了这些理念。像托宾和鲍勃·索罗(麻省理工学院的一位教师)一样,保罗认为现代宏观经济学的发展方向完全错误。在一篇早期论文(印刷版)中,我讲到了现代宏观经济学,并提到目前有众多的凯恩斯信徒正极力诋毁现代宏观经济学,而不是从理性上来学习它,了解它;而保罗,恰好就是众多凯恩斯信徒中的一员。

2. 在卫生保健的问题上,我也认为理解保罗的观点。他欣赏单一付费制度,把公共选择比作特洛伊木马,将会阻碍上述制度的实现。我在自己的著作中写道“若公众选择纳税人基金来倾斜竞技场,对支持单一付费的人而言,未尝不是一个诱人的次优选择。若补贴数额足够大,随时间流转,越来越多的消费者将受到吸引,发生转变。”在我心目中,保罗就是这样的人之一(参看他的早期博文)。

在他最新的博文中,保罗写道:“标准竞争市场模型不适用于卫生保健领域,毕竟企业更关心逆向选择和道德风险的问题,因此,没人敢保证自由市场原则足够有效。”

在我看来,这些评论偏离主题。奥巴马政府希望一个公共保险计划,以期能与私人计划(即:没有纳税人资助)公平竞争。是否存在有说服力的经济学分析,表明上述政策解决了逆向选择和道德风险的问题?据我所知,没有。若仅仅依靠自身财力,公共计划实在没有解决上述二问题的过人之处。

任何情况下,我都不认为我们仅有的选择是:或者是政府运营的健康保险计划,或者是不受约束的私人计划。当前的政策讨论中,最富吸引力的是维迪—伯恩特法案(参考戴维·布鲁克斯专栏,或者国会预算局对提议法案的答复函)。这一法案应该是最有希望的、两党都能接受的卫生健康改革方案。当若将立法权交付国会领导层,希望就变得十分渺小了。

在风格的问题上,我还认为自己理解保罗的观点。他好像认为斯文是多余的。或许他觉得:在博客领域中,进一步说,在公共讨论的领域中,只要侮辱竞争对手,就能获得更多的喝彩。不幸的是,在这一点上他可能是正确的。

(翻译纠错。读者发现任何翻译错误请发邮件给我们,谢谢:caijingblog#126.com 将#改为@)


英文原文(地址:http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2009/06/arbiter-of-ignorance.html):

The Arbiter of Ignorance

In a brief blog post on healthcare, Paul Krugman says that George Will and I are "either remarkably ignorant or simply disingenuous." I cannot speak for George, but I can attest that I am completely ingenuous. So I suppose I must be remarkably ignorant.

There is a lot of that going around lately. In an earlier post on the state of macroeconomics, Paul says, "Brad DeLong and I have been sort of tag-teaming the Great Ignorance which seems to have overtaken much of the economics profession."

What is going through Paul's head as he writes these posts? I suspect three things:

1. On the issue of macroeconomics, I think I understand Paul's point of view. He accepts the 1970-vintage Keynesian economics he first learned from, say, Jim Tobin when Paul was an undergraduate at Yale. Like Tobin and Bob Solow, one of his teachers at MIT, Paul thinks a lot of modern macroeconomics was an unfortunate turn in the wrong direction. In this old paper (published version), I tell the story of modern macro and describe how many old Keynesians were more likely to denigrate modern macroeconomics than to engage it intellectually. Paul is following in that tradition.

2. On the issue of health care, I also think I understand Paul's point of view. He would like a single-payer system, and he views a public option as a Trojan horse to achieve that goal. In my column, I wrote, "for those who see single-payer as the ideal, a public option that uses taxpayer funds to tilt the playing field may be an attractive second best. If the subsidies are big enough, over time more and more consumers will be induced to switch." Paul was one of the people I had in mind (see this old post of his).

In his latest post, Paul writes, "the standard competitive market model just doesn’t work for health care: adverse selection and moral hazard are so central to the enterprise that nobody, nobody expects free-market principles to be enough."

In my view, these comments are just off point. The Obama administration says it wants a public insurance plan that will compete on a level playing field with private plans (that is, without taxpayer subsidies). Is there any cogent economic analysis that suggests that such a policy addresses problems of adverse selection and moral hazard? None that I know. If it has to stand on its own financially, the public plan has no special advantage in addressing these issues.

In any event, it is not like the only alternatives available to us are a government-run health insurance plan or unregulated laissez faire. The most intriguing proposal in the current policy debate is the Wyden-Bennett bill (see this David Brooks column or this letter from CBO on the proposed legislation). That seems to be the best hope for truly bipartisan healthcare reform. At this point, given the legislative strategy of Congressional leadership, the hope is slim at best.

3. On the issue of tone, I again think I understand Paul's point of view. He likely believes that civility is overrated. He seems to think that in the blogosphere, and perhaps in the public debate more generally, you score points simply by insulting your intellectual adversaries. Sadly, I am afraid he may be right.
 
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