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导航●领航汇聚众多全国一流名师。长春导航和哈尔滨领航是唯一一家同时拥有“考研哲学第一人”张俊芳。“金牌教练”徐之明的考研辅导班,更有史春林、梁致远,王文轲,郑景婷,庄延君、李勇全,冯敬海,李林、赵萍、于吉人等大批执考研辅导之牛的明星级师资。

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2010-08-20 16:01:47|  分类: 考研英语 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

  下载LOFTER 我的照片书  |

 

THIRTY years ago, Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich entered into a famous bet. Mr Simon, a libertarian, was sceptical of the gloomy claims made by Mr Ehrlich, an ecologist best known for his predictions of environmental chaos and human suffering that would result from the supposed “population bomb”. Thumbing his nose at such notions as resource scarcity, Mr Simon wagered that the price of any five commodities chosen by Mr Ehrlich would go down over the following decade. The population bomb was defused, and Mr Simon handily won the bet.

 

三十年前,朱利安·西蒙和保罗·埃利希打过一个很出名的赌。作为古典自由主义者,西蒙对生态学家埃利希提出的那些令人沮丧的说法表示怀疑。后者曾因预言所谓的“人口炸弹”将要引发环境紊乱与人类痛苦而知名。西蒙对其强调资源稀缺性的观点嗤之以鼻,他打赌说,在随后到来的十年中,埃氏挑选的那五种商品价格必会下跌。结果,投来的“人口炸弹”成为哑弹,西蒙轻松获胜。

 

Now, Matt Ridley has a similarly audacious bet in mind. A well-known British science writer (and former Economist journalist), Mr Ridley has taken on the mantle of rational optimism from the late Mr Simon. In his new book, he challenges those nabobs of negativity who argue that the world cannot possibly feed 9 billion mouths, that Africa is destined to fail and that the planet is heading for a climate disaster. He boldly predicts that in 2110, a much bigger world population could enjoy more and better food produced on less land than is used by farming today—and even return lots of farmland to wilderness.

 

而今,英国著名科普作家马特·里德利(曾做过《经济学人》记者)亦欲大胆下注。他从已故的西蒙先生那儿接过理性乐观主义的衣钵。里氏在新书中不免质疑那些权贵们为何态度这般消极,后者认为世界根本无法养活九十亿人口,非洲则注定要衰亡解体,而地球似乎走上了气候灾害爆发频仍的不归路。里德利则大胆预言,到2110年,全球人口虽然更为庞大,但食品供应届时将会更加充足和完善,且粮食生产所占据的耕地面积也比如今要大为减少———甚至还可能使大批农田退耕还林。

 

However, mankind cannot hope to achieve this if it turns its back on innovation. Feeding another 2 billion people or more will, of course, mean producing much more food. Genetically modified (GM) agriculture could play an important role, as this technology can greatly increase yields while using smaller inputs of fertiliser, insecticide and water. Many years of field experience in the Americas and Asia have shown GM crops to be safe, but, Mr Ridley rightly complains, the Luddites of the green and organic movements continue to obstruct progress.

 

然而,如果人们的创新步伐停滞不前,这美好蓝图就会化为泡影。解决另外二十亿抑或更多人口的温饱,自然意味着粮食产量要大幅提高。由于转基因农业技术在降低化肥、杀虫剂和水利灌溉等投入的同时可使产量剧增,因而它能在未来扮演重要角色。美国和亚洲多年的田野试验表明,转基因农作物是安全的,不过,里氏理所当然地抱怨了那些崇尚绿色有机生产方式的勒德派人士(Luddite一词原指英国1811至1812年期间参与捣毁新机器的手工业生产者,现引申为那些反对机械化和自动化大生产的人或组织———译者)仍在不断阻挠着技术革新。

 

The progress (and occasional retardation) of innovation is the central theme of Mr Ridley’s sweeping work. He starts by observing that humans are the only species capable of innovation. Other animals use tools, and some ants, for example, do specialise at certain tasks. But these skills are not cumulative, and the animals in question do not improve their technologies from generation to generation. Only man innovates continuously.

 

在这部包罗万象的作品中,著者关注于“创新进步”(时而进展缓慢)这样的主题。里氏开篇便认为,人类乃是自然界具备创新能力的唯一物种。诚然,其他动物也使用工具;而如蚂蚁那样的动物亦懂分工协作,擅于某些工种的专业化。但这些技能并未有所积聚乃至发展,他所提及的那些动物均世世代代重复着既有的技术,未见些许改良。唯有人能够走在持续创新的路上。

 

Why should that be? Some have suggested that perhaps it is the chemistry of big brains that leads us to tinker. Others that man’s mastery of language or his capacity for imitation and social learning hold the key. Mr Ridley, a zoologist by training, weighs up these arguments but insists, in the end, that the explanation lies not within man’s brain but outside: innovation is a collective phenomenon. The way man’s collective brain grows, he says cheekily, is by “ideas having sex”.

 

原因何在?一些人以为,或许是大脑中的化学物质使得我们可在技改上小修小补,另有人则认为答案在于人类对于语言的掌控或是其擅于模仿以及运用社交学习的能力。受过训练的动物学家里德利对这些观点斟酌再三,最后他坚称,单纯研究人脑内部是无法获得合理解释的,真相,应该去外部世界寻找:创新本是一种集体现象。用他较为露骨的话来说,人类集体式思维的发展途径乃是借力于“思想性交”完成的。

 

His own theory is, in a way, the glorious offspring that would result if Charles Darwin’s ideas were mated with those of Adam Smith. Trade, Mr Ridley insists, is the spark that lit the fire of human imagination, as it made possible not only the exchange of goods, but also the exchange of ideas. Trade also encouraged specialisation, since it rewarded individuals and communities who focus on areas of comparative advantage. Such specialists, in contrast with their generalist rivals or ancestors, had the time and the incentive to develop better methods and technologies to do their tasks.

 

某种程度上,他的理论可谓是查尔斯·达尔文与亚当·斯密两大家的思想交配过后所孕育的“丰硕瑰丽的果实”。里氏坚称,贸易恰似点燃人类想象力之火的打火石,因为通过它,不仅商品互换成为可能,思想交流亦能得到实现。此外,贸易还鼓励专业化分工,毕竟它为那些专注于比较优势领域的个人和团队提供了收益。这些信奉术业有专攻的人们相较他们四面出击的竞争对手或先人来说,有时间也有动力去寻觅更好的方法和技术以达成所愿。

 

It is this culture of continuous improvement, which was only accelerated by the industrial revolution, that explains the astonishing improvements in the human condition over time. Through most of history, most people lived lives of quiet desperation, humiliating servitude and grinding poverty. And yet, despite the pessimistic proclamations of Mr Ehrlich and many other pundits, economic growth and technological progress have come to the rescue over and over again.

 

恰是这种昔日仅受工业革命推动发展的连续性改良文化解释了那些难以置信的技术创新缘何会在人类社会中层出不穷的现象。回望悠悠历史,似乎芸芸众生皆挣扎于平静的绝望中,其备受奴役的生活不免打上屈辱和极度贫困的烙印。许多像埃利希先生那样的专家已对前景表示悲观,尽管如此,经济增长和技术进步反复扮演着社会救援角色却是不争的事实。

 

The visible hand 看得见的手

 

As Mr Simon did in his classic work, “It’s Getting Better all the Time” (2000), Mr Ridley provides ample statistical evidence here to show that life has indeed got better for most people in most places on most measures. Whether one counts air and water pollution in California or vaccination rates in Bangladesh or life expectancy in Japan, his conclusion is indisputable. It does, however, highlight one of the book’s minor flaws: an over-anxious cramming in of too many obscure statistics and calculations that should have been relegated to footnotes or an annex.

 

如同西蒙先生于2000年出版的名著《总会好起来》那般,此书亦提供了丰富的统计数据。里氏试图表明,按多数标准衡量,世界上多数地区的多数人的确过上了更好的生活。不管你的评估是否考虑了美国加州的空气和水污染,抑或孟加拉国的疫苗接种率以及日本人口的平均寿命等因素,他的结论都是无可辩驳的。不过,书中原有的一处瑕疵也因而放大了:作者急于塞入过多晦涩的统计数据和估算,而这些原本应该整合成脚注或附录。

 

Another is the author’s slightly unfair attitude towards government. Mr Ridley makes it abundantly clear that he is a free marketeer, and he provides ample evidence from history that governments are often incompetent and anti-innovation: “The list of innovations achieved by the pharaohs is as thin as the list of innovations achieved by British Rail or the US Postal Service.” He is particularly suspicious of strong governments, which he equates with monopolies—and those, he insists, “always grow complacent, stagnant and self-serving.”

 

另一处弊病则是作者对政府的态度似有稍许的不公。无疑,里氏主张自由贸易,亦提供充足的历史证据以表明政府时常扮演着无能和反创新的角色:“古埃及法老手上的新技术清单和英国铁路公司或美国邮电总局的一样,薄的可怜”。他尤为质疑强政府,称其与垄断无异,并坚持说,它们“常会陷入夜郎自大、固步自封和自私自利的境地。”

 

He is right that the leaden hand of the state has often suppressed individual freedom and creativity. However, he does not fully acknowledge that some problems do, in fact, require government intervention—especially because markets themselves can sometimes fail spectacularly. Mr Ridley surely knows this, as he was forced to resign as non-executive chairman of Northern Rock, the first British bank to be rescued by the government during the financial crisis. Yet the most he will say about that affair is that he is now mistrustful of markets in capital and assets, but unflinchingly in favour of markets in goods and services.

 

有关政府那只呆滞之手往往压制个人自由和创造力的表述是正确的。然而,作者未能完全承认一些问题的解决事实上需要政府干预———尤其是在市场失灵表现得过于“离谱”之际。当里氏被迫辞去金融危机期间政府救助的首家英国银行———北岩银行非执行主席一职时,他对此想必心知肚明。或许里氏会为自己的矛盾如此解释:眼下确是对资本和资产市场疑虑重重,但他依旧青睐(或捍卫自由的———译者)商品和劳务市场。

 

Mr Ridley is also generally sceptical about global warming, and worries that government policies advocated by greens today will be like treating a nosebleed by putting a tourniquet around one’s neck. He argues that the problem, if it exists, will be solved by bottom-up innovation in energy technologies. But to accomplish that, he wants governments to “enact a heavy carbon tax, and cut payroll taxes.”

 

里氏对全球变暖大体上也持怀疑态度,他担心绿色组织今天所倡导的政府政策有朝一日会因噎废食,好比为治疗流鼻血而将止血带缠在人的脖子上。里氏认为, 假如全球变暖确是存在,也应由能源技术领域里自下而上(bottom-up)的科技创新来解决。不过,讽刺的是,要实现这个目标,他又不免希望政府“对碳排放课以重税,并削减工资税。”

 

That is a sensible prescription (often advocated by this newspaper), but surely a “heavy” tax suggests there is a role for government in fixing market failures? He glosses too over the vital role that air-quality regulations played in cleaning up smog in California, choosing to focus instead on the inventions—like the catalytic converter and low-sulphur fuel—that arose as a result of those technology-forcing measures.

 

此药方固然堪称妥当(《经济学人》亦深表赞同),但作者明确建言征缴“重”税的主张是否就暗示了在矫正市场失灵方面政府理应有所作为呢?很大程度上,他亦掩盖或弱化了空气质量管制条例在治理加州烟尘问题上所发挥的关键作用。书中表述有些避重就轻,对于像催化转换器和低含硫燃料这样的新发明,里氏不免着墨甚多,而究其源头,这些发明的涌现无一不是强制性技术升级措施(technology-forcing measures)所带来的结果。

 

Still, he is on the mark with the big things. “The bottom-up world is to be the great theme of this century,” declares Mr Ridley in the closing pages of this sunny book. He is surely right. Thanks to the liberating forces of globalisation and Googlisation, innovation is no longer the preserve of technocratic elites in ivory towers. It is increasingly an open, networked and democratic endeavour.

 

对于大趋势的把控,作者却表现出良好的嗅觉。“这个倒置(bottom-up)的世界将成为本世纪的伟大主题”,里氏这部阳光普照的作品在结尾时如此宣告。这点他很正确。由于全球化和谷歌化(此处Googlisation似喻指自由、开放和共享的互联网精神借助谷歌搜索而得到广泛传播———译者)摧枯拉朽的示范效应,创新已不再是那些身居象牙塔内的科技精英所能垄断的“专利”了。它正日渐衍变为一种海纳百川、无孔不入而又深具民主情怀的探索潮。

 

If man really can find a way of harnessing the innovative capacity of 9 billion bright sparks, then the audacious prediction about feeding the much hungrier world of 2110 using less land than today may very well be proven right too. After all, man’s greatest asset is his ability to harness that one natural resource that remains infinite in quantity: human ingenuity.

 

倘若那九十亿颗脑袋的创意灵感悉数迸发开来,涓涓细流汇成江海,曾预言至2110年将以比今日耗费更少耕地资源而养活更庞大人口的那份狂妄或许并非是“痴心妄想”。毕竟,人类最伟大的资产莫过于他利用某项取之不尽用之不竭的自然资源的能力。我们将这资源叫做———人的智慧。

 

New American fiction

美国当代小说

 

Give or give up

依然故我 抑或作别往昔

 

The biography of a loser

屡败者传

 

Mar 25th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

 

 

 

The Ask. By Sam Lipsyte. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 296 pages; $25. Buy from Amazon.com

《期盼》,山姆?里普斯特因著,法勒?斯特劳斯和吉罗出版社出版,296页,25美元。可从Amazon.com购买

 

NARRATORS of comic novels tend to fall into two categories. Either they are jaded insiders in a world they see is a sham, or they are hapless outsiders who long to be insiders, even though they sense it is all a sham. Outsiders are harder to pull off. It takes some convincing to empathise with a true loser.

 

喜剧小说的主人公一般分为两类。他们要么是已感厌腻的圈内人,要么是倒霉不幸、渴望成为圈内人的圈外人。前者认为其所处的圈子充满了虚情假意,后者虽然已经意识到那圈子整个儿是虚情假意,但仍盼成为圈内人。圈外人越是想成为圈内人,就越难成功。要想读者对一个完全失败者产生共鸣的话,那是需要作者拿出些有说服力的东西的。

 

Sam Lipsyte made his name with “Home Land” (2005), a darkly funny book written as letters to an alumni newsletter. The hero was a washout—loveless, nearly friendless and all but jobless (“It’s time you knew the cold soft facts of me. I did not pan out.”). But he was also hilarious, with the incisive cruelty of a true underdog. Like “Portnoy’s Complaint”, Philip Roth’s 1969 novel, “Home Land” was less a story than a voice, vital, irrepressible and sexually perverted, just without the exploits.

 

山姆?里普斯特因其作品《故园》(2005年)而成名,这是一部带有灰暗和幽默色彩、以校友通讯信函构成的书信体作品。作品中的主人公是一位彻头彻尾的失败者,没有爱情、几无朋友、几无工作(“该是你知道我那凄冷无助、胸无大志的人生真相的时候了。我是个失败者”)。不过,因这种真正失败者所具有的尖刻言辞,使得主人公也具有了喜剧性。与菲利普?罗斯1969年出版小说《波特诺的怨诉》相类似,《故园》与其说是故事小说,倒不如说是一种没有扣人心弦的行为相随的内心独白——活龙活现、按捺不住和性欲反常的内心独白。

 

“The Ask”, Mr Lipsyte’s new novel, is more ambitious. Again the narrator, Milo Burke, is a sad, cynical sack. Raised in the New Jersey suburbs and trained as a painter, he once believed that his artistic genius would make him famous. Now in his 40s, with the slovenly build of a “half-melted block of Muenster cheese”, he is embittered,  occasionally mawkish and complacent; a “man with many privileges and zero skills. What used to be called an American.”

 

山姆?里普斯特新小说《期盼》更具表现力。小说的主人公米洛?伯克是又一个集悲惨无助、愤世嫉俗之大成的人物形象。他生活在新泽西州郊区,为成为一位画家而接受训练,他曾经认为,他的艺术才华会使他名扬天下。而今,40多岁的他,体型邋遢,像一个“明斯特半软干酪”,他怨恨满怀、偶尔伤感、间或自满;他是一个“拥有诸多特权而又别无长技的人——曾经一向被称作美国人的人”。

 

But Milo makes do. He bumbles through his job fund-raising for an art school, and spends his nights watching television with his wife and son. His life is as reassuringly bland as his daily turkey-wrap lunch. But then he is sacked from his job and exiled to the unemployed wilds of doughnut shops and internet porn. His luck seems to change when a rich old college buddy involves him in an important potential donation to the school. Milo’s challenge is to secure the funding (the titular “ask”) without getting tied up in all the strings attached.

 

不过,米洛?伯克的日子还得如此一天天凑合着过。他踉踉跄跄地做着为一所艺术学校募集资金的工作,他靠与其妻子和儿子一起看电视打发夜间时光。他的人生就像他每日的火鸡卷午餐一样,安适自然却又索然无味。可是后来,他被解雇了,他的人生被放逐到无拘无束的自然状态,在甜甜圈店和互联色情网消磨时日。当一位发达了的昔日大学好友带他参与为学校争取一笔重要的潜在捐赠资金时,他的运气似乎有了转机。米洛面临的挑战就是要在不利用任何外在条件的情况下,把那笔捐赠资金(这也是本书书名《期盼》的由来)募集成功。

 

Like “Home Land”, this is a brutally witty novel told from the perspective of a pitiable misfit. “For heaven’s sake,” Milo’s mother marvels, “the system’s rigged for white men and you still can’t tap in.” Though he fails to make sense of his own life, Milo’s observations of the world around him (academia, semi-suburbia, his marriage, his son, his own hands—like “lovingly shaved gerbils”) glisten with insight and humour.

 

与《故园》相类似,《期盼》是一部既残酷又诙谐的小说,它向读者讲述了游离于主流社会边缘的、令人同情的人们的生存图景。米洛的母亲惊叹:“承蒙上帝照顾,这个世界由你们白人操纵,而你在这个白人操纵的世界里,居然一无所获”。虽然米洛没能究明他自己的人生意义,但他对自己周遭的生活境遇——学术界、城郊结合带、他的婚姻状况、他的儿子、他的喜欢“深情地为沙鼠剃毛”的双手——的观察,于深刻顿悟和诙谐幽默中闪耀着光芒。

 

Despite its class-clown antics, “The Ask” is darker and more humane than the author’s earlier work. Milo may be a disaster, but he is drawn with tenderness. Mr Lipsyte has written a surprisingly meaningful book about the freshly minted grown-ups of his own generation (he was born in 1968), raised on dreams and sitcoms, who now find themselves in cubicles, growing chubby, having children, and wondering what life is meant to feel like

 

尽管小说中主角的举动如小丑般傻里傻气,但《期盼》比作者早期的作品更加悲观和仁慈。虽然主人公米洛也许是个失败者,但他却被刻画得温和亲切。山姆?里普斯特先生创作了一部出人意料而又意义深刻的作品,这部作品表现了与他同时代(他出生于1968年)的、生活在梦想和喜剧中的、刚刚成年的人们的生活——而今在斗室中找寻自我、身体不断发胖、有了孩子,而且不知道什么样的人生才是真正想要的。

 

Bedside table

床头柜

 

The best books on language

关于语言的经典书籍

 

The Economist's international correspondent on books about language

《经济学人》的国际通讯员对于有关语言的书籍的评论

 

May 4th 2010 | From The Economist online

 

 

 

 

Robert Lane Greene is an international correspondent for The Economist, currently covering American politics and foreign policy online. His book on the politics of language around the world, “You Are What You Speak”, will be published by Bantam (Random House) in the spring of 2011.

 

罗伯特?莱恩?格林是一名《经济学人》的国际通讯员,目前负责的是网络版的美国政治和外交政策这一块。他的那本论述世界各地政治语言的书,《你的语言造就了你》将于2011年春天由矮脚鸡集团(兰登书屋旗下)出版。

 

 

Monitors of language-usage are often seen as either scolds or geeks. Which book do you recommend to convey what is fascinating about language?

 

那些时刻想着纠正语言用法的人们经常被人看成不是讨人嫌就是神经病。又有那本书是你能推荐说它把语言论述得很迷人呢?

 

After years of reading about language for pleasure and then researching for my own book, I'd still refer anyone who asks back to the book that lit a fire for me a decade or so ago: Steven Pinker's “The Language Instinct” (written about by The Economist here). You can take or leave Mr Pinker's case that all human languages share a few common features, and that those features are wired into our grey matter (rather than, say, an extension of our general intelligence). But whatever your views on this subject, it's hard to read the book and then happily go back to seeing language as a set of iron-bound rules that are constantly being broken by the morons around you. Instead, you start seeing this human behaviour as something to be enjoyed in its fascinating variability.

 

几年来为了乐趣,我读过不少探讨语言的作品,然后也在为了自己的书而做着研究,如果有人要反问我这个问题的话,我仍会推荐那本在十年前左右点燃我心中火焰的书,史蒂文?平克的《语言本能》(此处有《经济学人》的相关书评)。平克先生看到,有一些特点是所有人类语言所共有的,那些特点已经融入了我们的大脑灰质(或者说是我们总体智力的一种外延)。他这个观点你接不接受随你。但是不管你对这个问题的看法是怎么样的,这都是一本难读的书,而且后来你会不愉快地发现,那一套刻板的语言条例不断地在被你周围的猪头们打破着。转而,你会用另一种方式来看待这种人类行为,你会去欣赏它那种曼妙的变化。

 

Linguists study the way language works in the brain, and tend to leave condemnations of usage to grammarians. But is there a single English-language rulebook that you would prescribe?

 

语言学家研究的是语言在脑内工作的方式,他们倾向于把那些肃正用法的工作留给语法学家。那么你能开出一本英语语言规范的万宝全书么?

 

Absolutely. It's a bit of a myth that linguists don't believe in rules (although “condemnation”, it's true, isn't really their style). But they believe in rules that are obeyed by the vast majority of speakers, writing or speaking naturally, not those invented by random rulebook writers in the 1700s. The best usage book in this spirit is Merriam-Webster's “Dictionary of English Usage”. This book is not merely an array of editorial hunches, but an empirical study of a wide range of common (and even a few uncommon) usage questions. Where there is a controversy the book is at its best, as it talks readers through the history of these rules. One learns, for example, that John Dryden used Latin as a guide when he condemned ending sentences with prepositions. But often these rules don't bear up under scrutiny; Merriam-Webster tends to cite great writers who break this or that “rule”. When ignoring the bans outlined by some cranky grammarians, it can be reassuring to be in the company of Shakespeare, the King James and George Bernard Shaw.

 

当然了。说语言学家们不相信规则就有点神话色彩了(尽管事实上,“肃正”确实不是他们的风格)。但他们相信的是为那些说这门语言的绝大多数人所遵循的规则,而不是某个十八世纪规则书作者随机发明出来的东西,他们要的是自然地书写和说话。对于这种气质的人来说,最好的工具书就是梅里亚姆-韦伯斯特的《英语用法词典》。这本书不是简单的编辑直觉的堆砌,它是一次对一个广大范围内常见(甚至也包括一些不常见的)用法问题的实证研究。在它向读者们讲述着这些规则的历史过往的时候,他们会看到当时的争议,这正是书中最出彩的地方。比如说,人们从中了解到,约翰?德莱顿用拉丁语来指导他批评那些拿介词来结束句子的用法。然而很多时候这些规则细看之下便不再撑得住了。梅里亚姆-韦伯斯特倾向于去引用那些打破了这条或那条“规则”的伟大作家。虽然它无视了某些古怪的语法学家所制定出来的条条框框,但是你可以欣慰地发现,在这方面,它恰好成为了莎士比亚,钦定版圣经和萧伯纳的同伴。

 

For a more traditional guide, try H.W. Fowler's “Dictionary of Modern English Usage”. Fowler was convincing and entertaining rather than authoritarian and angry, and a lifetime's lonely erudition (he was painfully shy) shows through on every page. Modern editions are more useful, having had some particularly grey-bearded entries removed and some additions made by subsequent editors. But older editions are fun; they show what raised the hackles a hundred years ago. For example Fowler condemned as “clichés” many phrases I'd never heard: “a curate's egg”, “neither fish, flesh nor good red herring”, and so on. I like to imagine a world in which “neither fish, flesh nor good red herring” was irritatingly common.

 

如果你想要寻求更传统的指导,不妨去试试 H.W.福勒的《现代英语用法词典》。福勒不像有些人一脸的权威和愠怒,写起书来循循善诱,引人入胜,字里行间所流露出的都是一个孤独了一辈子的人的博学(他腼腆得可怕)。这本书的现代版本更有用,在他之后的编辑删除了一些老人特别挑选的词条,并做了一些自己的添加。但老的版本更有趣,你可以从中目睹到那些一百年前触怒了老人家的东西。比如说福勒拿来批评“循词”的许多短语我听都没听说过:“一只牧师助理的鸡蛋”,“非鱼,非肉,也不是标致的红鲱鱼”,诸如此类。我喜欢来想象这个“非鱼,非肉,也不是标致的红鲱鱼”多到让人上火的世界。

 

Half of today’s languages may be gone in a century. Is there a book that explains why we should care?

 

今天的语言有半数可能在一个世纪里消失。有书来解释为什么我们要在乎这件事吗?

 

Unfortunately, I've tried and failed to find a utilitarian argument for preserving tiny languages. Daniel Nettle and Suzanne Romaine failed to convince me with “Vanishing Voices”, which tied biodiversity to the preservation of endangered languages. They're right in that small groups that speak threatened languages often know things about plant and animal species that are lost when their lands are “developed” and they are absorbed into the larger community. But that knowledge isn't lost because the language is lost. It's lost because the way of life is lost. If a modest tribe moved to the city and took urban jobs, their knowledge of rare plants and so on would disappear even if they kept their language. By contrast, if their traditional way of life were preserved, they could start speaking the bigger metropolitan language and keep their knowledge. (Contrary to a common belief, most things are perfectly translatable.)

 

很不幸,我尝试过,但最终没有找到一个具有实用主义意义的论点去保留那些微小语种。丹尼尔?内特尔和苏珊?罗马伊所写的《消失的语音》也未能说服我,书中将生物多样性和这些濒危语言的留存联系在了一起。有一点他们说的是对的,那些使用濒危语言的小集体常常对一些动植物物种有着了解,而当他们的土地被人“开发”,他们自己被更大的社团吸收掉,这些知识也就丢失了。但这些知识之所以会丢失并不是因为语言丢失了。知识的丢失来源于生活方式的丢失。当一个谦恭的部族搬进了都市,干上了城里的活儿,即便他们还保留着原来的语言,他们对于那些珍稀植物和诸如此类的知识还是会消失。反过来说,如果他们的传统生活方式得以保留,他们说着那些更通用的大都市语言也可以把他们的知识传承下去。

 

So the reason to keep languages alive is really just because they are an irreplaceable part of our common human heritage. Mark Abley's “Spoken Here” takes the reader on an enjoyable tour of threatened languages. It's a bit wide-eyed at times, but it's written by someone who just loves that there are so many ways to say things. The thought of a planet a thousand years from now where everyone speaks just a few languages, or just one, depresses me. It would be like replacing Angkor Wat with some new condos.

 

所以让人继续去说那些语言的真正原因只是因为它们是我们人类共同遗产中不可替代的一部分。马克?阿贝的《这儿的人说》能够带领读者们对这些濒危语言进行了一次愉快的旅行。可能有时会让你瞠目结舌,但写这本书的人自己就是喜欢这世界上能有这么多说话的方式的。想到这个星球在从现在起一千年前,每个人才说着少数几种语言,或者仅仅一种,让我沮丧。这就像铲平了吴哥窟,只为了敷上了一群复式公寓。

 

What’s next on your reading list?

 

你阅读书单中的下一本会是什么?

 

I've just begun Nicholas Ostler's “Empires of the Word”. It's an omnivorous history of language and the rise and fall of civilisations. Rather than the traditional tour from Sumerian cuneiform to the Phoenician alphabet to the Greeks to the Romans to modern French and so on, it's filled with the detours and great languages of the past, now barely remembered. It reminds us that Aramaic was once the official language of the Persian empire; that Spain was once Celtic; that Cleopatra was really a Greek (though she also learned Egyptian, which was unusual), and so on. The Goths and Vandals make a mess of the Roman Empire next, but the last laugh is on them—most of them will become Romanized, eventually speaking Spanish, Italian and so on. As with any well-written history, I almost wish I didn't know how it turns out.

 

我正开始读尼古拉斯?奥斯特勒的《词语帝国》。它记录了语言包罗万象的历史和文明的兴衰。尼古拉斯并没有沿袭从闪族的楔形文字到腓尼基人的字母表,到希腊人,到罗马人,到现代法国人再到其后这样的传统脉络,书中充满了迂回的线索和那些现在已经鲜为人知的存在于过去的伟大语言。它提醒我们亚拉姆语一度曾是波斯帝国的官方语言;伊比利亚半岛上曾经流行的是凯尔特语;克里奥佩特拉说的是地道的希腊语(尽管她也学过埃及语,只是不常说),以及其他种种。接着哥特人和汪达尔人把罗马帝国折腾得支离破碎,但被笑到最后的却是他们自己,他们中的大多数都罗马化了,最终说的是西班牙语,意大利语这类的语言。和每一段被绝妙地描写出来的历史一样,我几乎想着但愿我不知道后来的结果才好。

 

 

Information theory

信息论

 

A quantum calculation

量子计算器

 

 

Apr 22nd 2010 | From The Economist print edition

 

Decoding Reality: The Universe as Quantum Information. By Vlatko Vedral. Oxford University Press; 256 pages; $29.95 and ?16.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

《解译真实:量子信息的世界》Vlatko Vedral著,牛津大学出版社,全书共256页,售价:$29.95 或 ?16.99,购书网站:Amazon.com,Amazon.co.uk。

 

ONE of the most elusive goals in modern physics has turned out to be the creation of a grand unified theory combining general relativity and quantum mechanics, the two pillars of 20th-century physics. General relativity deals with gravity and time and space; quantum mechanics with the microscopic workings of matter. Both are incredibly successful in their own domains, but they are inconsistent with one another.

 

现代物理学中最大的难题之一便是创立一个能够包容广义相对论和量子力学,20世纪物理学两大支柱的终极理论。广义相对论,描述引力与时空的关系;量子力学,研究微观粒子运动规律。二者在各自领域都取得了难以置信的成功,但他们之间却又相互矛盾。

 

For decades physicists have tried to put the two together. At the heart of the quest lies the question, of what is the universe made? Is it atoms of matter, as most people learned in school? Or some sort of energy? String theory, currently a popular idea, holds that the universe is made up of tiny vibrating strings. Other equally esoteric candidates abound. Indeed, cynics claim that there are as many grand unified theories as there are theoretical physicists attempting unification.

 

几十年来,物理学家们努力想把二者统一到一起。而这种探寻的核心归结到了一个问题:宇宙是由什么组成的。宇宙是如大多数人在学校所学的那样由粒子构成的吗?抑或者,是某种……能量?最近流行的弦理论就认为,宇宙的最基本单位是一小段一小段的震颤弦线。这个问题同样存在着许许多多其他同样深奥的理论。有人戏称,每个试图建立统一理论的物理学家都有一套自己的终极理论。

 

Now Vlatko Vedral, an Oxford physicist, examines the claim that bits of information are the universe’s basic units, and the universe as a whole is a giant quantum computer. He argues that all of reality can be explained if readers accept that information is at the root of everything.

 

近期,牛津大学物理学家Vlatko Vedral审慎地论证了认为信息是组成宇宙的最基本单位,而宇宙本身就是个巨大的量子计算器的理论。他认为,如果读者们能够接受信息是万物根本的理论,那么所有实际存在的事物都能找到解释。

 

So what is information? Mr Vedral’s notion of information is not the somewhat fuzzy concept most people have of it, but a precise mathematical definition that owes itself to Claude Shannon, an American mathematician considered to be the father of “information theory”. Shannon worked at Bell Labs, at the time the research arm of AT&T, a telephone giant, and in the 1940s became interested in how much information could be sent over a noisy telephone connection. This led him to calculate that the information content of any event was proportional to the logarithm of its inverse probability of occurrence. (Unlike many popular-science books that eschew equations, Mr Vedral includes a couple and tries his best to explain them to the reader.) What does the equation mean? As Mr Vedral points out, it says that an unexpected, infrequent event contains much more information than a more regular happening.

 

那么,什么是信息呢?Vedral先生提出的信息的概念不是大多数人心中的那种模糊的概念,而是一个严谨精确的数学定义。而这又得归功于美国数学家、“信息学之父”Claude Shannon。Shannon曾就职于贝尔实验室,那时候,贝尔实验室是电信巨头AT&T(美国电话电报公司)的重要科研机构。1940年,他对通过一条繁杂的电话线能传输多大的信息量产生了兴趣。这使他提出了这样的推论:事件的信息容量与事件发生逆概率的对数成正比。(不像其它科普读物回避等式,Vedral的书中包括了一些等式并且Vedral还尽力向读者说明这些等式。)这个关系式有什么意义呢?Vedral指出,这表示意外稀有事件包含这比一般事件更多的信息。

 

Once he has defined information, Mr Vedral proceeds to show how information theory can be applied to biology, physics, economics, sociology and philosophy. These are the most interesting parts of the book. Of particular note is the chapter on placing bets. Mr Vedral gives a good description of how Shannon’s information theory can be applied to winning at blackjack or in buying shares (Shannon and his friends made fortunes in Las Vegas as well as on the stockmarket). And his exposition of climate change and how to outwit the CIA make entertaining reading. One quibble: Mr Vedral often digresses from the point at hand, so the overall effect tends to be a bit meandering.

 

给出信息的定义后,书中进一步说明了信息论在生物学、物理学、经济学、社会学和哲学的应用。这些内容是全书最有趣的部分。最有趣的是下赌注的那个章节。书中详细描写了怎样运用Shannon的信息论来赢得21点扑克或炒股赚钱(Shannon和他的朋友便在都城及股票市场发了大财)。书中关于气候变化的演示及与CIA(中央情报局)斗智的故事也妙趣横生。有一点,书中常会偏离主题,致使全书的中心显得有点漫无边际。

 

Mr Vedral’s professional interests lie in quantum computing and quantum information science, which use the laws of quantum mechanics respectively to build powerful computers and render codes unbreakable. There is a lot of discussion of both, which is very welcome because there are not many popular science books that cover these relatively young fields. Quantum computers, as Mr Vedral points out, “are not a distant dream”. Though still rudimentary, “they can solve some important problems for us that conventional computers cannot.”

 

Vedral先生的专业领域是量子计算和量子信息学,分别应用量子力学的定律建立超级计算机和创造不可破解的密码。这两方面多还有很多争议,所幸现在很少有科普读物涉及到这个相对年轻的领域。量子计算机,正如Vedral先生所说,并不是个遥远的梦。尽管刚刚起步,“将来它们能为我们解决一些重要的常规计算机无法胜任的难题。”

 

Unusually for a physicist, Mr Vedral spends a fair bit of time talking about religious views, such as how God created the universe. He asks whether something can come out of nothing. Throughout the ages philosophers and theologians have debated this question with respect to Judeo-Christian faiths, in which dogma holds that the world was created from the void, creation ex nihilo. Others side with King Lear who tells Cordelia that “Nothing can come of nothing.” Mr Vedral makes a persuasive argument for a third option: information can be created out of nothing.

 

作为一个物理学家,Vedral先生却不同寻常地在谈论宗教问题上花了不少时间,比如说,上帝怎样创造宇宙。他问究事物是否是凭空产生的。经年累月,哲学家和神学家在是否应该尊奉基督信仰争执不休。创世论认为,世界是从虚无中创造的。反对者的观点则一如李尔王对Cordelia所说的“没有东西能凭空产生”。而Vedral在书中试图推出第三个令人信服的选项:信息却能凭空产生。

 

The death penalty

死刑

 

Theirs but to do and die

唯尽人事,死以为期Apr 29th 2010 | From The Economist print edition

 

The Autobiography of an Execution. By David Dow. Twelve; 271 pages; $24.99. Buy fromAmazon.com

 

《一场死刑的前前后后》 大卫·道 著;Twelve出版社; 271页; $24.99。点击购买Amazon.com

 

Last Words of the Executed. By Robert Elder. University of Chicago Press; 304 pages; $22.50 and ?14.50. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

《临刑遗言》 罗伯特·埃尔德 著; 芝加哥大学出版社; 304页; $22.50/?14.50。点击购买Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk

 

AMERICA’S fondness for the death penalty is disconcerting—and to no one more than David Dow, whose job is to defend death-row inmates in the most kill-happy state, Texas. Mr Dow’s frank account, “The Autobiography of an Execution”, weaves tales from his often-futile efforts—in which stalling, rather than stopping, his clients’ execution is frequently the only feasible goal—with scenes from his own family life. “We planned the execution around our vacations,” he writes of one of his clients, Henry Quaker.

 

美国对死刑制度的偏爱让人倍受困扰,而大卫·道最是不胜其扰。他在全美最为嗜杀的德克萨斯州担任死囚的辩护律师。在他的工作中,通常撤销死刑判决是不可能的,只有拖延当事人行刑的时间才是可行的目标,还常常连这也做不到。他在《一场死刑的前前后后》一书中坦言了工作经历的故事,期间穿插了他和家人的生活片段。关于他的一个当事人亨利·贵格,他写道:“我们尽量让行刑日期避开我们的休假日。”

 

Quaker’s grim case forms the core of the book. The beneficiary of a life-insurance policy on his family, the jurors are told, he was arrested for shooting his wife, from whom he had recently separated, and two children. Mr Dow is unable to save Quaker, largely because the case was badly mishandled by his initial lawyer, a common predicament for death-row inmates. Mr Dow attends the execution. Of the roughly 100 people on death row he has represented over his career, Mr Dow believes seven were innocent. (To protect his clients’ confidentiality, Mr Dow not only altered names but mixed up the circumstances of many cases that he has worked on. So Quaker’s tale, along with everything else in the book, is a composite of true circumstances, he explains.)

 

贵格生死案是这本书的核心内容。庭上陪审团获知,贵格是家人的一份人寿保险的受益人,因射杀新近分居的妻子和他的两个孩子被捕。大卫·道救不了贵格,主要是因为该案的前律师处理得很糟。对死囚区的犯人来说,这种困境司空见惯。行刑时大卫·道在场。他执业以来辩护的死囚约有一百人,其中他认为有七人是无辜的。(为维护当事人的隐秘性,大卫·道不但改了他们的名字,还把他经手的许多案子混合起来。所以,他解释道,贵格的故事还有书中的一切,都是真人真事的杂糅。)

 

Mr Dow is angry. “I used to support the death penalty. I changed my mind when I learned how lawless the system is,” he writes. His world is full of public defenders who fail to perform even the most basic duties in court, indifferent judges, cowardly public officials, and an absurdly rigid system which honours the letter of the rules over actual justice.

 

大卫·道语带愤慨。他写道:“以前我是支持死刑的。当我了解到这个制度是多么无法无天时,我改变了想法。”他的周围满是连最基本的责任都做不到的公设辩护律师,冷漠的法官,胆小怯弱的官员,以及死板荒谬、置法律条文于真正的正义之上的制度。

 

Mr Dow does not actually like many of his clients. And he points out some sorry truths of the American justice system. As in the Quaker case, Mr Dow generally gets to his clients too late, because the federal courts are loth to go back over the problematic trials of the state courts. His work is gruelling and awful—and then the client dies and the process starts all over again with somebody new.

 

事实上,大卫·道并不喜欢他的很多当事人。他指出了美国司法制度的一些让人难过的真相。由于联邦法院不愿重新审理州法院判决存在问题的案件,很多案子和贵格案一样,大卫·道找到他的当事人时已然太迟。他的工作让人精疲力竭,痛苦不堪。接着,他的当事人死了,换一个当时人后,整个过程又重头来一遍。

 

Knowing something of the deficiencies of the American justice system is useful for leafing through “Last Words of the Executed”, the final statements of hundreds of Americans who have been condemned through the centuries. Robert Elder has organised his book according to the manner of death. There are chapters on hanging; the firing-squad (Utah is due to execute a prisoner in June this way—America’s first such execution since 1996); the gas chamber; the electric chair; and lethal injection (the most common method used, though it once took so long to find a beefy Ohio inmate’s vein that he was granted a break to go to the toilet).

 

了解美国司法系统的弊端后,再来读《临刑遗言》一书就容易多了。该书是美国数百年来备受鞑伐的几百个死刑犯人最后的话。作者罗伯特·埃尔德按死刑的种类组织书的内容:绞死,枪毙(犹他州六月将会以此方式处决一名犯人——这是1996年以来美国第一例枪毙死刑),毒气室,电椅,还有注射毒素(这是最常用的方式,尽管一次处决一名肌肉发达的俄亥俄州犯人时,花了很长时间都找不到他的静脉,中间他还被允许上了一趟厕所)。

 

The last words are remarkable for their remorse, humour, hatred, resignation, fear and bravado. “I wish you’d hurry up. I want to get to hell in time for dinner,” a 19th-century Wyoming murderer told his hangman. Some rambled; others were concise. Several blamed the drink; others reasserted innocence, or (especially in recent years) railed against the death penalty. Some accepted their fate. “If I was y’all, I would have killed me. You know?” said a Texan, who had murdered his son’s former girlfriend and her sister, as he readied himself for lethal injection. America’s diverse heritage is stamped even onto its killers’ final moments.

 

这些遗言别具一格,或表示忏悔,或故作幽默,或叫嚣仇恨,或充满无奈,或恐惧不已,或强装无畏。19世纪怀俄明州的一名杀人犯对刽子手如是说:“我希望你能快点。我还想赶上地狱的晚餐呢。”有人絮絮叨叨,有人寥寥数语。其中几个人归罪于喝酒误事。有人重申自己无辜,还有人(特别是近年来)痛骂死刑制度。一些人则接受了自己的命运。一名德州犯人谋杀了儿子的前女友和她姐姐。他在预备接受注射毒素时说:“我要是你们的话,早就杀了我了。”美国社会历来五花八门,多彩纷呈,这一点在杀人犯临终前也不例外。

 

The Lake District

湖区

 

The heart with pleasure fills

满心欢喜

 

Mar 31st 2010 | From The Economist print edition

 

The English Lakes: A History. By Ian Thompson. Bloomsbury; 343 pages; ?25. Buy from Amazon.co.uk

《英国湖》伊恩?汤普森  布卢姆茨伯里出版,343页,Amazon.co.uk售价25英镑

 

ENGLAND’S Lake District was “discovered” in the 18th and 19th centuries by a succession of brilliantly manic visionaries. Since then its blameless fells and lakes have served as a backdrop on which English sensibilities have been fervidly projected. Native idiosyncrasies such as Picturesque and Romantic ideals, the National Trust and National Parks are organically bound to the area. Ian Thompson gently deconstructs the myth that William Wordsworth invented this repository of the English soul, but he attempts only half a debunking: the Lakes still begin and end with the poet.

 

      自从18世纪、19世纪一连串聪明又狂热的幻想家“发现”了英格兰的湖区,它便跃入了世人眼中,于是,湖区那无懈可击的瀑布和湖泊就成了英国人灼热情感宣泄的地方,于是像画意,罗曼蒂克的理想,这里的国家公园,这些具有本土特质的东西就与湖区有机的结合在一起,和,以及保护名胜古迹的民间组织——国民托管组织,有机的组织在一起。在本书中,伊恩?汤普森轻轻地解构了华兹华斯使湖区成为英国灵魂之地的神话,但是他仍然认为湖区自始至终都与这位伟大的诗人有着莫大的联系。

 

Mr Thompson’s approach deals summarily with geology, Herdwick sheep, mining and the Celts and Norse-Irish who bequeathed many of the place names to the eight valleys that, according to Wordsworth’s description, radiate “from the nave of a wheel”, a nub of rock formed by volcanoes as powerful as Vesuvius.

 

      汤普森概要地讲述了湖区的地质状况,湖区特有的赫德威克绵羊,采矿业,凯尔特人和古斯堪的纳维亚—爱尔兰人,以及他们遗留下来的八个河谷的名字,这些名字,华兹华斯描述道,“从轮子的中心发射出来”,像一块由维苏威那样强大的火山形成的溶岩石块。

 

The thrust of the narrative, aided with illustrations including Mr Thompson’s pleasant photographs, hangs on a series of introductory and diverting potted histories of the Lake poets, writers, artists, climbers and charlatans who gave a remarkable profile to this relatively low-lying group of mountains in England’s north-west.

 

      通过清冽的文字、赏心悦目的照片和插图,汤普森给我们展现了一系列关于湖区诗人、作者、艺术家、登山者和吹牛的人们的历史故事,这些人的事迹使这片位于英格兰西北部的低山区显得那么不平凡。

 

From the 18th century onwards outsiders, or “off-comers”, were harbingers of revolutions in taste who shaped the area with their competing views of it as either an Arcadia, a playground or a source of commerce. In 1724 Daniel Defoe recorded only “horrid mountains” in the district. But the chance combination of Georgian England’s fascination with the Alps, a passion fed by paintings by Nicolas Poussin and sightings on the Grand Tour, and the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars, which curtailed Englishmen’s travels to the Continent, spawned a national obsession with the “English Alps”.

 

      从18世纪起,外来人影响了这片土地的特质,使它有了不同的特点,它既是世外桃源,又是一个运动场,同时还是商业地带。1724年丹尼尔?笛福只记录了这里 “骇人的山头”,受尼古拉斯?普桑绘画和遍游欧洲大陆的风气影响,乔治亚时代的英国人迷恋阿尔卑斯,拿破仑战争的爆发使得英国人减少了往欧洲大陆的旅行,迷恋的方向转回到 “英国阿尔卑斯”。

 

In 1769 the first of the timorous poets, Thomas Gray, was on the scene shuddering pleasurably at the mountains’ “dreadful bulk”. A Jesuit priest wrote the first guidebook in 1778. And another cleric, William Gilpin, the father of the Picturesque movement, drew up a list of pedantic instructions on how to view the landscape. He quickly became the subject of satire.

 

      1769年,胆小的诗人汤姆斯?格雷,第一次站在湖区的深山里,满心愉悦,震憾于这“可怕庞大的高山”。1778年,一位耶稣会士的牧师写了第一本湖区旅行指南。另一位牧师,画意风格运动的先驱威廉?吉尔平就如何观赏这里的风景写了一串书生气十足的说明,他很快成了人们讽刺的对象。

 

But it is the legacy of Wordsworth, who became a tourist attraction himself, as Romantic, ecologist, guidebook writer, landscape gardener (of particular appeal to Mr Thompson, a landscape architect) and arbiter of taste that continues to inspire and provoke controversy.

 

      但是,唯有华兹华斯留下来的诗篇和他的品味,还在激发人们去辩论。华兹华斯如今已经是这片地区吸引游人的原因之人,他是一位浪漫派诗人,是生态学者,旅游指南书的作者,同时也是一位风景园林师(他作为风景园林师这一方面尤其吸引身为造园师的作者汤普森)。

 

Wordsworth’s Arcadia stood on the doorstep of a billowing menace—industrial Manchester. The poet was opposed to hordes of the city’s factory workers arriving at the Lakes by rail. His writings inspired other figures, such as John Ruskin and Beatrix Potter, to take up the role of defender and to protest against reservoirs, afforestation and, more recently, wind farms.

 

      华兹华斯的世外桃源面临着翻腾而来的危险,那就是工业化的曼彻斯特,城市的工厂工人乘火车蜂拥而来,这是华兹华斯所担心和反对的,他就此写下的著作,激励了其它一些人,比如约翰?路斯金和比阿特丽克斯?波特,站出来保卫这里的水库、林地,以及后来的的风电农场。

 

Mr Thompson treads an already crowded field. But he has raked up much engaging historic detail that runs from the mutton suet applied to Samuel Coleridge’s leather walking-boots to descriptions of mock sea-battles staged on the lakes. Moreover, in unstuffy if occasionally plodding style, he conjures the pungent cultural atmosphere with which the English, from elitists to the “proto-socialist” ramblers, have cosseted their most beloved scrap of wilderness.

 

      汤普森本书的课题已经为许多人所写过,本书的独特之处,在那一系列历史细节之中,比如塞缪尔?柯勒律治皮靴上擦的羊肉板油,以及对湖区舞台上表演的海战的描述,等等。在他并不乏味、偶尔稍有罗嗦的描述中,他写出了湖区苦痛的文化气氛,那些英国人,有精英,有空想社会主义者,他们是怎样宠爱这片未被工业文明摧毁的荒野。

 

 

Central bankers

各国央行的总裁

 

Lords of finance

主宰金融的人

 

The central bankers of the Great Depression were obsessed with a single idea, rather like their successors today

在经济大萧条时,各国央行总裁偏执于单一的意念,正如今日他们的接班人一样。

 

Jan 8th 2009 | From The Economist print edition

 

 

 

《Lords of Finance》;作者:艾哈迈德(Liaquat Ahamed);企鹅出版社(Penguin Press);564页。

 

CENTRAL bankers were compelling figures in the 1920s, not least because they preferred to operate in secret. The cloak was peculiarly attractive to Sir Montagu Norman, governor of the Bank of England (pictured above, right), who adopted a false identity when he travelled, though this sometimes attracted attention rather than deflecting it. Asked for his reasons for promoting a policy, Norman replied: “I don’t have reasons. I have instincts.” Benjamin Strong, Norman’s principal collaborator, ran the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which was responsible for America’s international financial relationships. In the mid-1920s, Strong decided the American economy was sufficiently prosperous that he could widen his brief to promote economic stability. Liaquat Ahamed suggests that Strong more than anyone else “invented the modern central banker”.

 

央行总裁在20年代是让人敬畏的人物,不只是因为他们偏好黑箱作业。英国银行总裁,蒙塔古˙诺曼爵士(Sir Montagu Norman) (上方照片右侧),似乎有着遮掩的特殊癖好。他旅行时喜欢用假名,不过不但未能避开眼线,却反而因之招惹嫌疑。问他因何鼓吹某项政策,诺曼会答以,”我没有理由,只有直觉”。班杰明˙史强(Benjamin Strong),是纽约联储银行的总裁,负责美国对外的金融关系,也是诺曼的主要合作伙伴。在20年代中期,史强认为美国已有足够的经济实力,因而决定要扩展其影响力来促进经济稳定。艾哈迈德(Liaquat Ahamed)认为,史强在”确立现代央行总裁的职权”上,比任何其他人都更有贡献。

 

Norman and Strong were wedded to the gold standard. Emile Moreau, the less clubable governor of the Banque de France, was an obsessive hoarder of gold and tended to do his nation’s own thing. The arrogant Hjalmar Schacht (above left), a spiky German nationalist who headed the Reichsbank, had, by a remarkable sleight of hand, ended Germany’s hyperinflation in 1923, but he was unable to persuade his fellow central bankers to forget reparations, even though they all appreciated that heavy post-war payments were “bleeding Germany white”.

 

诺曼和史强当年彻底服膺金本位的货币制度。较不擅长社交的法国银行总裁艾米˙蒙若(Emile Moreau),也坚持囤积黄金,不过倾向于自行其道。德国国立银行的总裁耶马尔˙沙赫特(Hjalmar Schacht)(上方照片左侧),是一个傲慢、尖锐的国家主义者,他在1923年时曾经施展高超的技巧弥平德国失控的通胀危机。不过尽管其他央行总裁能理解第一次大战后的赔款”正吸干德国的血”,他却无法说服他们解除这个负担。

 

The quartet, united by a belief that they knew best, had persuaded the great powers to leave the fate of their economies to the antique workings of the gold standard—“a barbarous relic” in the view of John Maynard Keynes. They had the power, in a legendary phrase, to “crucify mankind upon a cross of gold”, and they did so. The problem was that there was not enough gold to finance world trade. Stocks were concentrated in America and France, and countries like Britain, where it was scarce, had to borrow heavily, and to adjust interest rates and government spending at the expense of employment in order to replenish gold reserves.

 

这四个因自以为是而联合的人,说服了当时四个强权将其国家的经济命脉交在一个古董级,被凯因斯(John Maynard Keynes)称为”野蛮时代残余”,的金本位制度上。在凯因斯著名的句中说,他们有这个权力,可以”将人类钉到黄金的十字架上”,而他们也的确这么做了。问题出在没有足够的黄金可提供世界贸易所需的资金。黄金库存主要集中在美国和法国。像英国这样缺少黄金的国家就得大量的借入黄金。不只如此,为了回补黄金准备,只好调高利率和减少政府开支而牺牲就业人口。

 

A loan organised by Strong enabled Norman to get Britain back onto the gold standard in 1926 (it had slipped off during the first world war). Norman’s advice helped persuade Strong to lower interest rates in 1927, which only increased irrational exuberance on Wall Street.

 

在得到史强所安排的借款之后,诺曼在1926年将英国的货币重新与黄金挂勾(在一次大战时,英镑和黄金脱钩了一阵子)。在诺曼的推波助澜下,史强在1927年将利率调低,而更助长了华尔街非理性的繁荣。

 

These early central bankers were an odd lot. Norman, who dabbled with spiritualism, apparently informed a colleague that he could walk through walls. He suffered regular nervous breakdowns, and was actually on sick leave when Britain left the gold standard again in 1931. Strong suffered from permanent ill health and was often affected by the generous use of morphine to control pain. He died in October 1928 before the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression, but Mr Ahamed does not appear to believe that things would have turned out any differently had he lived: in a crushing conclusion, he writes that the Great Depression was “the direct result of a series of misjudgments by economic policymakers…by any measure the most dramatic series of collective blunders ever made by financial officials.” Looking back in 1948, Norman’s judgment was no less harsh. “We achieved absolutely nothing,” he said, “except that we collected a lot of money from a lot of poor devils and gave it to the four winds.”

 

这些早期的央行总裁是一群怪异的人。诺曼有涉猎通灵论,据传他向同事说他可以穿越墙壁。他经常精神崩溃。当1931年英镑再次与黄金脱钩时,他事实上是病假在外的。史强有长期的健康问题,因使用太多吗啡来减轻疼痛而神智经常受到影响。他在1928年10月去世,那时华尔街崩盘和大萧条还未发生。不过艾哈迈德先生似乎不认为,如果那时史强还活着,事情会有所不同: 在他有力的结论中,他写道,经济大萧条是”经济政策拟定者一连串错误判断的直接结果...不论如何看都是金融官员有史以来最严重的一系列集体失策”。在1948年时,诺曼的自我回顾也一样严厉,”我们完全没有成就任何事情”,”我们只从一些可怜的家伙那里收了很多钱,然后任由金融风暴将之卷走”。

 

Politicians were left to clear up the mess they left. One of them was Hitler, who readily instigated a series of measures to combat German unemployment which were similar to those Gordon Brown is adopting today. (Schacht later joined the anti-Hitler resistance.) Britain’s prospects brightened as soon as the gold standard was dropped. The French, less troubled, remained loyal to gold until 1936.

 

这烂摊最后是留给政客来收拾。其中之一是希特勒,他毫不犹豫的策动了一系列措施来提高德国的就业状况,和今天戈登˙布朗采用的措施没太大差别。(沙赫特之后加入了反希特勒的阵营)。英国的状况在与黄金脱勾后就立刻开始好转。法国由于状况较佳,一直与黄金挂勾到1936年。

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