What Is the Invisible Hand?
什么是看不见的手?

There are few concepts in the history of economics that have been misunderstood, and misused, more often than the "invisible hand." For this, we can mostly thank the person who coined this phrase: the 18th-century Scottish e conomist Adam Smith, in his influential books The Theory of Moral Sentiments and (much more importantly) The Wealth of Nations.
在经济学史上,很少有概念比“看不见的手”更容易被误解和误用。为此,我们要感谢创造这个短语的人:18世纪苏格兰经济学家亚当·斯密,他在其颇具影响力的著作《道德情操论》和更为重要的《国富论》中提出了这个词。

By the time he wrote The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776, Smith had vastly generalized his conception of the "invisible hand":?
当史密斯于1776年发表《国富论》时,他就广泛地概括了“看不见的手”的概念:

People who pursue their own selfish ends in the market (charging top prices for their goods, for example, or paying as little as possible to their workers) actually and unknowingly contribute to a larger economic pattern in which everybody benefits, poor as well as rich.“
那些在市场上追求自己私利的人(例如,对他们的商品收取最高价格,或者尽可能少地支付给他们的工人)实际上在不知不觉中促成了一种更大的经济模式,在这种模式中,无论穷人还是富人都受益。”

You can probably see where we're going with this. Taken naively, at face value, the "invisible hand" is an all-purpose argument against the regulation of free markets.?
你们可以看到我们要做什么。从表面上看,“看不见的手”是反对监管自由市场的万能理由。

Is a factory owner underpaying his employees, making them work long hours, and compelling them to live in substandard housing? The "invisible hand" will eventually redress this injustice, as the market corrects itself and the employer has no choice but to provide better wages and benefits, or go out of business.?
工厂老板是否给员工少发了工资,让他们长时间工作,迫使他们住在不达标的房子里?“看不见的手”最终将纠正这种不公,因为市场会自我纠正,雇主别无选择,只能提供更好的工资和福利,否则就会破产。

And not only will the invisible hand come to the rescue, but it will do so much more rationally, fairly and efficiently than any "top-down" regulations imposed by government (say, a law mandating time-and-a-half pay for overtime work).
此外,“看不见的手”不仅会出手相救,而且会比政府制定的任何“自上而下”的法规(比如,一项规定加班工资1.5倍的法律)更加理性、公平和高效。

Does the "Invisible Hand" Really Work?
“看不见的手”真的有效吗?

To answer this question, we have to look at the era in which Adam Smith came up with it.
要回答这个问题,我们必须看看亚当·斯密提出这个问题时所处的时代。

At the time Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, England was on the brink of the greatest economic expansion in the history of the world, the "industrial revolution" that resulted in ?widespread wealth.
亚当?斯密撰写《国富论》时,英国正处于世界历史上最大规模经济扩张的边缘,即“工业革命”,它带来了广泛的财富。

In the 18th and 19th centuries England had some natural advantages not enjoyed by other countries, which also contributed to its economic success. An island nation with a powerful navy, fueled by a Protestant work ethic, with a constitutional monarchy gradually yielding ground to a parliamentary democracy, England existed in a unique set of circumstances, none of which are easily accounted for by "invisible hand" economics. Taken uncharitably, then, Smith's "invisible hand" often seems more like a rationalization for the successes (and failures) of capitalism than a genuine explanation.
在18世纪和19世纪,英国有一些其他国家没有的自然优势,这也促进了它经济上的成功。英国是一个拥有强大海军的岛国,在新教工作道德的推动下,君主立宪制逐渐让位于议会民主制,英国处于独特的环境之中,这些环境都不容易被“看不见的手”这一经济学原理所解释。如此看来,史密斯的“看不见的手”似乎更像是资本主义成功(和失败)的合理解释,而非真正的解释。

The "Invisible Hand" in the Modern Era
现代的“看不见的手”

Today, there is only one country in the world that has taken the concept of the "invisible hand" and run with it, and that's the United States.?
今天,世界上只有一个国家接受并采用了“看不见的手”的概念,那就是美国。

As Mitt Romney said during his 2012 campaign, "the invisible hand of the market always moves faster and better than the heavy hand of government," and that is one of the basic tenets of the Republican party.?
正如米特?罗姆尼在2012年竞选时所说,“市场这只看不见的手总是比政府这只沉重的手走得更快、更好”,这是共和党的基本原则之一。

For the most extreme conservatives (and some libertarians), any form of regulation is unnatural, since any inequalities in the market can be counted on to sort themselves out, sooner or later. (England, meanwhile, even though it has separated from the European Union, still maintains fairly high levels of regulation.)
对于最极端的保守主义者(以及一些自由主义者)来说,任何形式的监管都是不自然的,因为市场中的任何不平等现象迟早都可以指望自己解决。(与此同时,尽管英国已脱离欧盟,但仍保持着相当高的监管水平。)

But does the "invisible hand" really work in a modern economy? For a telling example, you need look no further than the health-care system. There are many healthy young people in the U.S. who, acting out of sheer self-interest, choose not to purchase health insurance—thus saving themselves hundreds, and possibly thousands, of dollars per month. This results in a higher standard of living for them, but also higher premiums for comparably healthy people who choose to protect themselves with health insurance, and extremely high (and often unaffordable) premiums for elderly and unwell people for whom insurance is literally a matter of life and death.
但“看不见的手”在现代经济中真的有用吗?举一个很好的例子,你只需看看医疗保健系统就可以了。在美国有很多健康的年轻人出于纯粹的自身利益,选择不购买健康保险——这样每个月可以节省数百甚至数千美元。这会给他们带来更高的生活水平,同时对于那些选择用健康保险来保护自己的同样健康的人来说,保费会更高,对于老年人和身体不好的人来说,保险简直就是生死攸关的事,保费也极高(而且往往难以承受)。

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(翻译:雅兰)