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莫志宏

北京工业大学副教授,九鼎公共事务研究所研究员,华人哈耶克学会会员,从事宪政经济学和制度经济学研究。

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观念、利益与行动 Idea,interest and action  

2010-08-03 22:15:51|  分类: 规则、自我约束与 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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What makes human being different from animals? In my mind, it is the ability of human being to form idea. This ability makes it possible that individuals form among themselves some sort of cooperative rather than antagonisic relationship, thus also makes possible human society.  

What is idea? I understaood it as someting abstract, something human forms in his mind abstractly. With it, it is possible for individual to go beyond instaneous interest or impetus in making decision.  Without it, the individual can only react to instaneous interests, and the long run interests would never be in his horizon. As an empirical fact, individuals have different degree of capability in forming abstract ideas. For example, in comparison with adult, children are more prone to act instinctively, and it is more difficult for them to constrain their behavior for the purpose of acheving bigger gain in the future. Among adult, it is an empirical rule that overal speaking, the longer-visioned people is more likely to success, if they can also consistently impose the necessary self-constraint on himself.         

According to above understanding, idea is not in direct conflict with one's self-interest. The reason why human beings would form ideas, from the perspective of evolution, is because that ideas, as effective weapon for directing human action, can help individuals better resolve problems or can bring with them larger interests. Ideas, from this perspective, is the viable device of intelligent acting subjects formed in the process of their interaction. The more intelligent the actor is, the more likely that he is innovator of ideas, and the more likely that he would choose to act in line with his own interest.

In neoclassical economics, the individuals have long been assumed as directly maximizing subject, and this makes us almost forget such commonsense, that is, human being acts according to ideas (or "theory" or "theoretical paradigm", using a Popperian expression). Actually, a variety of observed human behaviors (they are instrumental in understanding human society), e.g. rule-following behavior, moral behavior, courteous actions, anyway, all kinds of behavior that look like being the nature of self-sacrificing, if they are to be explained, have to be based on the notion that human acts according to ideas.  Not only so. That human being acts accoridng to ideas as an undenable fact, it also alerts us that, individuals acting according to ideas is not inviable, or else what we observed in reality must be maximizing automat, as is assumed in neoclassical economics.

Theoretically,  it is not impossible that individuals behave like a maximizing automat. Under certain social conditions, it is imaginable that such mode of behavior may become the dominant mode of behavior. But if that is the case, we could predict that the individuals in a society behave opportunistically, and the potential opportunity for cooperation among individuals would be seriously diminished. The social mechanism emphasized by Adam Smith, that is, labor division among members of a society, would be stifled. Such a society, from the perspective of evolution, is a society where the vitality and diversity are abating, thus is a degenerating society.  

Staring from the notion that individuals act according to ideas, our thinking could be innovated from several dimensions. On one hand, as a proposition with academic significance, it would stimulate us to reflect upon the foundation upon which the whole neoclassical economics has been erected, and hope for a new, logically consistent theoretic paradigm that fits better with those nomally observed phenomena in reality, on the other hand, it shows another way to those economists who attempt to apply what they have learnt to address the problems of the world, and to improve its workings,  that economists do not necessarily need to tell people (be it private actor or government) how to do, instead, he could make people "automatically" do thoses things good to their interests by clarifing the ideas behind some problems.

In brief, idea is important; the history of the progress of human society is essentially a history of the progress of ideas. Economists as a professionalized group of people, if they can play any positive, not negative role in a society, they should have something to do in this respect.   

人区别于动物的最大之处是什么?我认为,是人具有形成观念的能力。这种能力使得人与人之间总体上形成合作而不是对抗的关系成为可能,也因此使得人类社会成为可能。

观念是什么?我把它理解成一种抽象的思维能力,它使得个体能够超越于即时利益的视野而行动。相反,如果个体不具有这种能力,那么他的行动模式就是,永远都只针对即时的利益作出反应,而根本不考虑远期的利益问题。经验地看,个体所具有的这种能力程度是不同的。例如,小孩子与大人相比,更多地是根据本能行事而不太能够为了获得长期中更大的利益而约束自己的行为。成人中间,我们可以观察到,总体来讲,越是能够进行长期考虑的人、并将必要的自我行为约束一贯地实施下去的人,越是有可能取得成功。

观念按照上面的理解,与个体的自我利益并不存在直接的冲突。人之所以会形成观念,从演化的角度看,是因为它作为一种指导人们有效行动的武器,能够更好地帮助个体解决有关问题或者带给个体更大的利益。观念从这个角度讲,是有智慧的行动主体在互动中形成的一种生存适应性装置。越是智慧的行动者,越是观念上的革新者,越是能够采取有利于己的行动。

在主流的新古典经济学中,人们长期以来是把个体假定为直接的利益最大化的行动主体,这使得我们几乎忘记了这样的常识,那就是,人是基于观念(如果用波普尔式的表述,就是“理论范式”)而行动的。实际上,我们观察到的许多人类行为(它们对于理解人类社会至关重要),如规则遵循行为、道德行为、人与人之间的礼让行为,总之,各种各样的看起来牺牲短期利益,或者与个体从本能相悖的行为,如果要能够得到解释,都必须把人理解成基于观念的行动者才有可能。不仅如此。“人是基于观念的行动者”作为客观存在的事实,它同时也在提示我们,个体在现实的社会生活中作为基于观念的行动者并不是没有生存适应性的——否则,我们观察到的主导性的人类行为模式就一定是新古典经济学中的利益反应机器。

理论上讲,个体并不是不可以作为利益的反应机器而存在。在一定的社会条件下,利益反应机器的个体行为模式也是有可能成为主导性的、具有生存适应性的个体行为模式。不过,在那种情况下,社会中的个体以机会主义的方式行事,个体之间潜在的、有利可图的合作机会将大大缩减,亚当·斯密所强调的、对于财富创造来说最为重要的机制——分工深化,将受到极大的抑制。从演化的角度讲,这样的社会是一个多样性和活力都在减退的社会,是一个退化的社会。

从个体是基于观念的行动者出发,可以在多个维度上革新我们的思维。一方面,它作为具有极强的学术意义的命题,可以让我们反思整个新古典经济学的理论大厦所立足的基座,并展望一个新的、逻辑一贯的、对于社会经济现象更具有解释力的理论范式,另一方面,它对于试图将自己所学到的知识运用于认识这个社会、改善这个社会的运作的经济学家们来说,也指引了另外一条道路——经济学家不一定非得要告诉人们(不管是市场中的决策主体还是政府)要怎么做,他可以通过对一些问题予以澄清来使得人们“自动地”认识到怎样做才是更符合自己的利益的,而这,就是观念的事情。

总之,还是那句话,观念是重要的;人类社会的进步史其实就是一部观念的进步史。经济学家作为一个职业化的群体,如果能够对社会有任何积极的、而不是负面的价值的话,应该是在这个方向上发挥点儿作用。

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