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应该拒签气候法案(含克鲁格曼评论)  

2009-08-10 22:55:20|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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A Missed Opportunity on Climate Change

 

By N. GREGORY MANKIW

 

Qianlaoda[]

 

DURING the presidential campaign of 2008, Barack Obama distinguished himself on the economics of climate change, speaking far more sensibly about the issue than most of his rivals. Unfortunately, now that he is president, Mr. Obama may sign a climate bill that falls far short of his aspirations. Indeed, the legislation making its way to his desk could well be worse than nothing at all.

2008年总统竞选活动中,奥巴马把自己树立为一位关注“气候变化经济学”的出色领袖,在讨论这个问题时,他的言论,要比其对手,来得远为通情达理得多。事有不幸,现在他已经大权在握了,可是,他所签署的气候法案,却远远不能满足他的雄心大愿。实际上,送上他案头的那份法案,比什么法案都没有,还要来得更加糟糕一些。

 

Let’s start with the basics. The essential problem of climate change, scientists tell us, is that humans are emitting too much carbon into the atmosphere, which tends to raise world temperatures. Emitting carbon is what economists call a “negative externality”— an adverse side effect of certain market activities on bystanders.

我们先来讲点基础知识吧。科学家们说,气候变化问题的本质在于:人们向大气中排放的二氧化碳,超量了,它会导致全球气温上升。排放二氧化碳这个事,就是经济学家们所说的“负外部性”——即:某种经济活动,对局外人产生了不利的负面影响。

 

The textbook solution for dealing with negative externalities is to use the tax system to align private incentives with social costs and benefits. Suppose the government imposed a tax on carbon-based products and used the proceeds to cut other taxes. People would have an incentive to shift their consumption toward less carbon-intensive products. A carbon tax is the remedy for climate change that wins overwhelming support among economists and policy wonks.

对于所有的“负外部性”,经济学教科书中给出了相应的解决方案,即:利用税收体系,来协调私人激励与社会成本(和社会收益)。假设政府对二氧化碳的产品以及生产过程收税,并用新增收入来减少其它的税收。人们就有消费激励,转而消费那些二氧化碳较少的产品。二氧化碳税,就是对气候变化的一个补救方法,经济学家和政治家们都给予了极大的拥护。

 

When he was still a candidate, Mr. Obama did not exactly endorse a carbon tax. He wanted to be elected, and embracing any tax that hits millions of middle-class voters is not a recipe for electoral success. But he did come tantalizingly close.

当奥巴马还是总统候选人时,他确实没有为二氧化碳税背书。他想的是当选,所以,他知道,绝不能支持那些影响数百万中产阶级选民的税收,那可不是竞争成功的法宝。但是,他所提出的法案,也与“税收”差不离。

 

What Mr. Obama proposed was a cap-and-trade system for carbon, with all the allowances sold at auction. In short, the system would put a ceiling on the amount of carbon released, and companies would bid on the right to emit carbon into the atmosphere.

奥巴马所提出的方案,是二氧化碳的“定额排放与交易系统”,所有的配额都以拍卖的形式出售。简言之,这个系统,对二氧化碳的排放量,设置了一个上限,那些获得配额排放权的公司,可以向大气中排放二氧化碳。

 

Such a system is tantamount to a carbon tax. The auction price of an emission right is effectively a tax on carbon. The revenue raised by the auction gives the government the resources to cut other taxes that distort behavior, like income or payroll taxes.

这个系统等价于二氧化碳税。排放权的拍卖价格,等同于对二氧化碳进行征税的效果。由拍卖所获得的收入,使政府获得了资源,可以来削减像收入税或工资税这种扭曲人们行为的其他税收。

 

So far, so good. The problem occurred as this sensible idea made the trip from the campaign trail through the legislative process. Rather than auctioning the carbon allowances, the bill that recently passed the House would give most of them away to powerful special interests.

故事到这里,还是不错的。当这样的一个合情合理的观念,从竞选轨道,进入到立法过程时,问题就出现了。国会最近通过的这个法案,并没有对二氧化碳配额进行拍卖,大部分内容都屈从于有权有势的特殊利益团体。

 

The numbers involved are not trivial. From Congressional Budget Office estimates, one can calculate that if all the allowances were auctioned, the government could raise $989 billion in proceeds over 10 years. But in the bill as written, the auction proceeds are only $276 billion.

这里所涉及的数字,不能等闲视之。从国会预算办公室的估计可以算出,如果进行了配额拍卖,那么,政府在10年中,可以获得9890亿美元的收入。但是,现在的书面法案中,拍卖收入仅为2760亿美元。

 

Mr. Obama understood these risks. When asked about a carbon tax in an interview in July 2007, he said: “I believe that, depending on how it is designed, a carbon tax accomplishes much of the same thing that a cap-and-trade program accomplishes. The danger in a cap-and-trade system is that the permits to emit greenhouse gases are given away for free as opposed to priced at auction. One of the mistakes the Europeans made in setting up a cap-and-trade system was to give too many of those permits away.”

奥巴马是知道这些风险的。在20077月的一次讨论二氧化碳税的访谈中,他说道:“我认为,二氧化碳税,如果设计得不错,那么,它可以实现定额排放和交易系统所实现的大部分工作。定额排放和交易系统的危险在于:温室气体的排放许可证是无偿给予的,这是截然不同于拍卖定价的地方。欧洲在设计定额排放和交易系统的时候,所犯的一个错误,就是无偿排放许可证给得太多了。”

 

Congress is now in the process of sending President Obama a bill that makes exactly this mistake.

国会现在报送给奥巴马总统的这个法案,所犯的错误,与欧洲是一模一样的。

 

How much does it matter? For the purpose of efficiently allocating the carbon rights, it doesn’t. Even if these rights are handed out on political rather than economic grounds, the “trade” part of “cap and trade” will take care of the rest. Those companies with the most need to emit carbon will buy carbon allowances on newly formed exchanges. Those without such pressing needs will sell whatever allowances they are given and enjoy the profits that resulted from Congress’s largess.

事关重大,那么,重大到何种程度呢?就有效分配二氧化碳权的目标而言,它是不行的。即使这些权利是按照政治基础进行分配,而不是按照经济基础来分配,“定额与交易”的“交易”部分,也要管剩余的部分。那些最需要二氧化碳排放的企业,就会按照新形成的交易方式来购买二氧化碳配额。那些没有如此紧迫需求的企业,就会出售它们所获得的配额,从而享受国会这份大礼所带来的利润。

 

The problem arises in how the climate policy interacts with the overall tax system. As the president pointed out, a cap-and-trade system is like a carbon tax. The price of carbon allowances will eventually be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices for carbon-intensive products. But if most of those allowances are handed out rather than auctioned, the government won’t have the resources to cut other taxes and offset that price increase. The result is an increase in the effective tax rates facing most Americans, leading to lower real take-home wages, reduced work incentives and depressed economic activity.

 

气候政策与税收的整体体系之间的相互作用,也存在问题。正如奥巴马总统所指出的,定额排放与交易系统,与二氧化碳税是相似的。二氧化碳配额的价格,最终都将在消费者消费“二氧化碳相关的产品”时以更高的价格,转嫁给消费者。但是,如果那些配额的大部分是以“配给”而非“拍卖”的形式,给予企业,那么,政府也就不能获得收入,来削减其他税收了,也就不能抵偿价格增长。其结果就是:美国人的有效税率将会上升,实际装进口袋的工资就会降低,工作激励也会降低,从而压抑经济活动。

 

The hard question is whether, on net, such a policy is good or bad. Here you can find policy wonks on both sides. To those who view climate change as an impending catastrophe and the distorting effects of the tax system as a mere annoyance, an imperfect bill is better than none at all. To those not fully convinced of the enormity of global warming but deeply worried about the adverse effects of high current and prospective tax rates, the bill is a step in the wrong direction.

最困难的问题在于:正负抵消之后,这个法案是好还是坏?你会发现存在两种观点的政治家。一类政治家,他们觉得气候变化是一个迫在眉睫的大灾难,而税收体系的扭曲效应只是不痛不痒的小麻烦,那么,一个不完美的法案,总是聊胜于无的。对于那些并不全信“全球变暖罪恶”、但却深深担心当前及以后高税率的负面效应的政治家们来说,这个法案是迈向错误方向的一步。

 

What everyone should agree on is that the legislation making its way through Congress is a missed opportunity. President Obama knows what a good climate bill would look like. But despite his immense popularity and personal charisma, he appears unable to persuade Congress to go along.

每一个人都应该认识到的,就是:国会所进行的立法,是一个错失的良机。奥巴马总统知道一个好的气候法案究竟是什么样子。但是,虽然他受到了广泛的民众欢迎,虽然他有着个人魅力,但是,他似乎还不能说服国会按照“好法案”的样子去做。

 

As for me, I hope the president refuses to sign a bill that fails to auction most of the allowances. Some might say a veto would make the best the enemy of the good. But sometimes good is not good enough.

就我个人而言,我希望奥巴马拒绝签署那个“不能对大部分配额进行拍卖”的法案。也许有人会说否决这个方案,就是使至善者成为善之敌,好高骛远反而成就有限。但是,有时,行善者的善行还不够。

 

 

注释

1.《纽约时报》August 8, 2009

2.对此文章的回应,出现了克鲁格曼的博客上.concern trolls(以貌似支持的态度进入对方阵营,却试图改变对方总体目标的一种论坛现象。见wiki)

Concern trolls

试图诱使政府放弃决策的两个经济学家

克鲁格曼

A brief thought, linking two people: Robert Samuelson and Greg Mankiw.

一个简单的想法,将两个人联系在一起:Robert SamuelsonGreg Mankiw.

Both enjoy lecturing us on the need to take strong action — Samuelson demanding that we do something about rising health care spending, Mankiw that we join the “Pigou club” by taxing oil consumption.

这二位都喜欢教导我们,说我们需要采取更强劲的行动——Samuelson说“我们要采取行动来提高健康保障支出”,Mankiw说“我们要加入庇古社,要对燃油消费进行征税”。

But both can reliably be counted on to reject any actual proposal along these lines that either (a) has any chance whatsoever of becoming legislation or (b) is proposed by Democrats.

但是,可以确定的是,他们二位都一定会在有任何一丝立法机会以及由民主党提出的任何方案上,持坚定的反对态度。

Just saying.

我也就是说说而已。


编辑手记


* 在注释里补充了克鲁格曼的一个评论.(8月13日)




 

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