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经济学人社论 || 一道艰难的计算题

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A grim calculus

一道艰难的计算题

英文部分选自经济学人 20200404 期 Leaders 版块

经济学人社论 || 一道艰难的计算题

A grim calculus

一道艰难的计算题

The Covid-19 presents stark choices between life, death and the economy

疫情之下,生存、死亡与经济间的艰难抉择

The trade-offs required by the pandemic will get even harder

全球性疫情所要求作出的取舍将更加困难

Imagine having two critically ill patients but just one ventilator. That is the choice which could confront hospital staff in New York, Paris and London in the coming weeks, just as it has in Lombardy and Madrid. Triage demands agonising decisions . Medics have to say who will be treated and who must go without: who might live and who will probably die.

想象一下这样一个场景:两个危重病人却只有一台呼吸机。这已经在伦巴第和马德里发生,而且在未来几周纽约、巴黎和伦敦的医院员工医务人员也可能会面临这样的选择。患者鉴别分类需要经历痛苦的抉择。医务人员必须决定谁将接受治疗,谁不能接受治疗,即谁可能存活,谁可能死亡。

注:triage:患者鉴别分类 / 伤病员鉴别分类 / 治疗类选法,即根据紧迫性和救活的可能性等决定哪些人优先治疗的方法。

The pandemic that is raging across the world heaps one such miserable choice upon another. Should medical resources go to covid-19 patients or those suffering from other diseases? Some unemployment and bankruptcy is a price worth paying, but how much? If extreme social distancing fails to stop the disease, how long should it persist?

疫情肆虐全球,这样的痛苦抉择也将接踵而至。医疗资源应该提供给新冠肺炎患者还是其他疾病患者 ? 一些员工失业以及企业破产是值得付出的代价,但要付出多少?如果极端的社交隔离都不能阻止这种疾病,那它还会持续多久 ?

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, has declared that “We’re not going to put a dollar figure on human life.” It was meant as a rallying-cry from a courageous man whose state is overwhelmed. Yet by brushing trade-offs aside, Mr Cuomo was in fact advocating a choice—one that does not begin to reckon with the litany of consequences among his wider community. It sounds hard-hearted but a dollar figure on life, or at least some way of thinking systematically, is precisely what leaders will need if they are to see their way through the harrowing months to come. As in that hospital ward, trade-offs are unavoidable.

纽约州州长安德鲁·科莫 (Andrew Cuomo) 宣称,“我们不会用金钱来衡量人的生命。”这不过是这位勇敢的人发出的口号,而纽约州已然不堪重负。然而置取舍于不顾,科莫先生实际上是在支持另一种选择——这种选择并没有考虑他所处的更大群体会面临的一系列后果。这听起来很无情,但如果领导者们想要熬过接下来痛苦的几个月,他们需要的正是这种以金钱衡量生命的观念,或者至少是一种系统化的思维方式。就像在医院病房里一样,取舍是不可避免的。

Their complexity is growing as more countries are stricken by covid-19. In the week to April 1st the tally of reported cases doubled: it is now nearing 1m. America has logged well over 200,000 cases and has seen 55% more deaths than China. On March 30th President Donald Trump warned of “three weeks like we’ve never seen before”. The strain on America’s health system may not peak for some weeks. The presidential task-force has predicted that the pandemic will cost at least 100,000-240,000 American lives.

随着更多国家遭受新冠肺炎的侵袭,权衡取舍变得越来越复杂。4 月 1 日前的一周内报告病例数翻了一番:现在已经接近 100 万人。美国记录的病例数已经远远超过 20 万,而且死亡人数比中国多 55%。美国总统唐纳德·特朗普 3 月 30 日警告称,“未来三周的情况将是我们前所未见的”。美国医疗系统所面临的负担在几周内可能还不会达到顶峰。总统的工作小组(即白宫冠状病毒应对工作组)预测,这场疫情大流行将至少夺去 10 万至 24 万美国人的生命。

Just now the effort to fight the virus seems all-consuming. India declared a 21-day lockdown starting on March 24th. Having insisted that it was all but immune to a covid-19 outbreak, Russia has ordered a severe lockdown, with the threat of seven years’ prison for gross violations of the quarantine. Some 250m Americans have been told to stay at home. Each country is striking a different trade-off—and not all of them make sense.

目前,这场抗击病毒的斗争似乎是费时费力的。印度宣布从 3 月 24 日起实行为期 21 天的封锁。俄罗斯之前坚称新冠肺炎爆发对其几乎没有任何影响,但如今也下达了严格的封锁令,并威胁要对那些严重违反隔离禁令的人判处 7 年监禁。大约 2.5 亿美国人被告知呆在家里。每个国家都在进行不同的权衡取舍,但不是所有的权衡取舍都是合理的。

In India the Modi government decided that its priority was speed. Perhaps as a result it has fatally bungled the shutdown. It did not think about migrant workers who have streamed out of the cities, spreading the disease among themselves and carrying it back to their villages (see article 2). In addition, the lockdown will be harder to pull off than in rich countries, because the state’s capacity is more limited. India is aiming to slow its epidemic, delaying cases to when new treatments are available and its health-care system is better prepared. But hundreds of millions of Indians have few or no savings to fall back on and the state cannot afford to support them month after month. India has a young population, which may help. But it also has crowded slums where distancing and handwashing are hard. If the lockdown cannot be sustained, the disease will start to spread again.

在印度,莫迪政府认为他们的当务之急是加快应对疫情的速度。或许正因如此,政府才把封锁搞得一团糟。政府没有考虑到,那些从城市中涌出的农民工会互相传播疫情,并将病毒带回他们的村庄。此外,与富裕的国家相比,印度的封锁将更难成功,因为其能力更加有限。印度旨在减缓疫情的蔓延,将疫情延缓至新的治疗方法出现以及卫生保健系统准备更为充分的时候。但数亿印度人几乎或根本没有储蓄来维持生计,而国家也无法负担一个月又一个月的开销。印度的人口较为年轻化,这可能会有所帮助。但它也有拥挤的贫民窟,在那里社交隔离和洗手都十分困难。如果封锁无法持续,疫情将再次开始传播。

Russia’s trade-off is different. Clear, trusted communications have helped ensure that people comply with health measures in countries like Singapore and Taiwan. But Vladimir Putin has been preoccupied with extending his rule and using covid-19 in his propaganda campaign against the West. Now that the virus has struck, he is more concerned with minimising political damage and suppressing information than leading his country out of a crisis. That trade-off suits Mr Putin, but not his people.

俄罗斯的取舍则不同。清晰可信的沟通有助于确保新加坡和中国 TW 的民众践行卫生措施。然而,普京总统一直专注于扩大自己的政治影响,并且利用疫情进行对抗西方的政治宣传。现在病毒已经侵入,他更关心如何最大化减少政治损害和封锁信息,而不是带领国家走出危机。这种权衡方式适合普京个人,但并不适合他的人民。

America is different, too. Like India, it has shut down its economy, but it is spending heavily to help save businesses from bankruptcy and to support the income of workers who are being laid off in devastating numbers .

美国的权衡也不尽相同。它像印度一样封锁了经济,但它正斥巨资帮助企业免于破产,并给大量的失业工人派发工资。

For two weeks Mr Trump speculated that the cure might be worse than the “problem itself”. Putting a dollar figure on life shows he was wrong. Shutting the economy will cause huge economic damage. Models suggest that letting covid-19 burn through the population would do less, but lead to perhaps 1m extra deaths. You can make a full accounting, using the age-adjusted official value of each life saved. This suggests that attempting to mitigate the disease is worth $60,000 to each American household. Some see Mr Trump’s formulation itself as mistaken. But that is a comforting delusion. There really is a trade-off, and for America today the cost of a shutdown is far outweighed by the lives saved. However, America is fortunate to be rich. If India’s lockdown fails to stop the spread of the disease its choice will, tragically, point the other way.

两周来,特朗普一直认为这种应对方法可能比“问题本身”更糟糕。把生命用金钱加以衡量就能发现他的错误。诚然,封锁经济将会造成巨大损失——数据模型显示,任由新冠肺炎在人群中爆发带来的经济损失更小,但是可能导致额外的 100 万人死亡。你可以用每个被挽救的生命经年龄调整后的官方价值做一次全面的核算。核算结果是,疫情缓解对每个美国家庭来说意味着 6 万美元的收益。一些人认为特朗普的应对之策有误,这种想法不过是一种安慰人心的错觉。政策的制定的确是一种权衡,而且对今天的美国来说,拯救生命的意义远远超过了停产的代价。然而,幸运的是,美国的财力雄厚。不幸的是,如果印度封锁经济不能够阻止疾病的传播,它的这种选择将指向另一个方向。

注:Age adjustment:In epidemiology and demography, age adjustment, also called age standardization, is a technique used to allow populations to be compared when the age profiles of the populations are quite different.

https://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Age+adjustment

Wherever you look, covid-19 throws up a miasma of such trade-offs. When Florida and New York take different approaches, that favours innovation and programmes matched to local preferences. But it also risks the mistakes of one state spilling over into others (see Lexington). When China shuts its borders to foreigners almost completely, it stops imported infections but it also hobbles foreign businesses. A huge effort to make and distribute covid-19 vaccines will save lives, but it may affect programmes that protect children against measles and polio.

无论你看向哪个国家,新冠肺炎都营造了一种需要取舍的不良氛围。佛罗里达州和纽约州的应对方案迥然不同,这有利于创新和制定出因地制宜的方案。但它也带来了风险,一个州的错误可能会波及其他州(见莱克星顿)。此处省略 ......,努力研发和分发新冠疫苗将挽救生命,但这可能会影响到儿童麻疹和脊髓灰质炎的免疫项目。

How should you think about these trade-offs? The first principle is to be systematic. The $60,000 benefit to American households, as in all cost-of-life calculations, is not real cash but an accounting measure that helps compare very different things such as lives, jobs and contending moral and social values in a complex society. The bigger the crisis, the more important such measurements are. When one child is stuck down a well the desire to help without limits will prevail—and so it should. But in a war or a pandemic, leaders cannot escape the fact that every course of action will impose vast social and economic costs. To be responsible, you have to stack each against the other.

你应该如何看待这些权衡利弊之说?第一条原则是系统评价。和所有对生命价值几何的计量一样,美国每户家庭 6 万美元的收益,并不是实实在在的钞票,而是一种会计计量。它权衡了一个复杂的社会中的各种因素,比如生活、工作、不同的道德价值和社会价值观。危机越大,这种衡量就越重要。一个孩子困于井里时,人们会不惜一切代价地施救——理应如此。但在一场战争或一场流行病中,领导人无法逃避这样一个事实,即每一项行动都将带来巨大的社会和经济代价。要想负责任,你就得有所取舍。

注 :

stack (something) against (someone or something)

1. Literally, to build and lean a pile of something against something.

Investigators found that someone had stacked large crates against the emergency exit, blocking everyone's egress once the fire broke out.

2. To manipulate some situation or circumstances to make it harder for someone or something to succeed. Typically "the deck," "the cards," or "the odds" is used between "stack" and "against." Often used in passive constructions.

The Olympic committed is facing criminal charges for stacking the odds against athletes from particular countries.

Of course, simply by virtue of his being the boss's son, Jeremy has stacked the cards against the rest of us for an early promotion.

These big corporations stack the deck against any small business that might stand in their way by hiring huge, high-level legal firms to drown them in litigation.

Hard-headed is not hard-hearted

冷静沉着,而不是冷酷无情

A second principle is to help those on the losing side of sensible trade-offs. Workers sacked in forced shutdowns deserve extra help; children who no longer get meals at schools need to be given food. Likewise, society must help the young after the pandemic has abated. Although the disease threatens them less severely, most of the burden will fall on them, both today and in the future, as countries pay off their extra borrowing.

第二条原则是要帮助取舍权衡中处于劣势的一方。由于被迫停工而遭到解雇的工作者理应得到额外的帮助;由于停课而无法得到校餐的学生也应收到食物。同样,整个社会也必须在疫情退去后帮助年轻一代。尽管新冠病毒本身对他们的威胁并没有那么严重,但当下和未来的大部分负担还是会落到他们肩上,就好比各国要在疫情过后偿还额外的借款。

A third principle is that countries must adapt. The balance of costs and benefits will change as the pandemic unfolds. Lockdowns buy time, an invaluable commodity. When they are lifted, covid-19 will spread again among people who are still susceptible. But societies can prepare in a way that they never did for the first wave, by equipping health systems with more beds, ventilators and staff. They can study new ways to treat the disease and recruit an army of testing and tracing teams to snuff out new clusters. All that lowers the cost of opening up the economy.

第三条原则是各国必须适应。随着疫情扩散,成本收益平衡也会改变。封锁会争取到价值连城的商品——时间。封闭解除后,新冠病毒会再次在易感染人群中传播。然而,各国能够以第一波疫情爆发时从未有过的方式进行准备,比如为医疗体系添置更多床位、呼吸机和医护人员。此外,还可以研究新方法来治疗新冠肺炎,并组建大批测试和追踪队伍来遏制新的聚集性疫情。所有这些措施都会降低经济重启的成本。

注:Snuff out: to snuff out something such as a disagreement means to stop it, usually in a forceful or sudden way.

Perhaps, though, no new treatments will be found and test-and-trace will fail. By the summer, economies will have suffered double-digit drops in quarterly GDP. People will have endured months indoors, hurting both social cohesion and their mental health. Year-long lockdowns would cost America and the euro zone a third or so of GDP. Markets would tumble and investments be delayed. The capacity of the economy would wither as innovation stalled and skills decayed. Eventually, even if many people are dying, the cost of distancing could outweigh the benefits. That is a side to the trade-offs that nobody is yet ready to admit.

但是,也许最终并没有新的治疗方法,测试追踪的方法也会失效。步入夏季之前,全球经济体季度 GDP 将会遭受两位数锐减。那时,人们也已经忍受了长达数月的封闭生活,这不仅会对社会凝聚力造成伤害,也会给人们的心理健康带来打击。一整年的封锁会让美国和欧元区损失三分之一左右的 GDP。股市会暴跌,投资活动也会延迟。随着创新停滞和人们技能的退化,经济产能也会萎缩。最终,即使很多人会生命垂危,隔离的代价仍会大于所带来的成效。而取舍权衡中的这一点,大家都没有准备好去承认。

翻译组:

Rachel,女,翻硕菜鸡,元气少女

Aileen,女,研究僧,经济学人粉丝

Yo,女,种下过流星,立志不做大鸵鸟

Rex,男,口译研究生,立志成为同传 经学钢粉

Mai,男,经济学博士,世界那么大,我想活得久一点

校对组:

Neil, 男,外贸民工,经济学人铁粉

Stephanie,女,翻译系小狮子一只

Hannah,女,英语教书匠,经济学人粉丝

Desmond,男,即将读研,悬疑剧、恐怖片和三国杀爱好者

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观点 | 评论 | 思考

本次感想

Samantha,女,不吃米饭,邓伦未婚妻

“人死了,就像水消失在水中。”博尔赫斯的这句话值得在今天被重提。疫情的世界大流行让一开始的“水花四溅”,变成现在的水漫遍野,谁也别想幸免。本文中提到生命与经济价值的权衡,其实由来已久,只不过当下的紧张事态无限放大了经济因素在人命中的比重。一位颇具争议的经济学家曾说过,这世上根本没有所谓的刚性需求,为了活下去,人总能找到替代方案,哪怕多么不得已:吃不到馒头就吃窝头,喝不到纯净水可以喝脏水,买不起药就得等死。面对抉择我们有“犹豫”的机会,就意味着还有选择的余地。

同样有选择余地的,是在面对“无知“的时候。关于他国负面新闻的热评常是幸灾乐祸和抖机灵,坦白讲,很乏味。大部分人的民众素质要远远高于那些言论所代表的水平,这是一定的。但给那些可笑擦边球言论点赞的人,又是谁呢?罗翔说每个人心里都有一个张三,但每个人并不一定会成为张三。在信息过载成为常态的今天,被放大的无知不仅来自发言者,更来自那群鼓掌的人。

这段时间不是让我们无聊致死,而是让我们活的明白。在我们被感动的红了眼眶的同时,也最好常警醒自己别又跌进“一边倒“的怪圈。如果正确便必须全部正确,错误便从此彻底错误,一种职业被推到至高地位,该职业的从业者被当作神仙圣人,那抗疫英雄们受过的委屈就都白费了。越是深处历史节点的漩涡,越要谨守一颗平常心。我们常常因为拥有得太多而忘记能贡献什么给别人。有位很敬重的经济学前辈,开在线会议时要求大家不用任何虚拟背景,更不可以选择搞笑的头像,理由是因为疫情严重到太多人死去,才不得不把人们关在家里以缓解蔓延,这不应该是值得开心的事。经济活动终究是为人服务的,影视作品说做人最重要的就是开心,现在提就不太合适了。在疫情面前的人,最首先应该善良,其次要诚实,再其次是以后永远不要互相遗忘。

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