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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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Three different levels of choice: do you drink? can you resist the temptation of alcohol? do you support the law prohibiting the sale of alcohol?  

2010-08-17 20:46:14|  分类: 规则、自我约束与 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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A person may adopt a personal rule that dictates abstinence;  he may pre-grogramme his behavior to incorporate a disposition to turn down offers of drinks; and he may try to effect a change in future incentives, e.g., by publicly announcing his intentions.

When a drink is offered, however, this person faces a compliance choice concerning adherence to, or violation of, the previously selected personal rule.

The same person may or may not agree on a proposal that would impose a social rule of prohibition on all members of the community, himself included.

-------------Vanberg, Viktor.

 In constitutional economics, logically there are problems of choice laying at three different levels: maximizing choice under constrained conditions, the choice of disposition ( or, choosing to be rule-following), and the choice of social rules. In neoclassical economics, there is only choice on level 1, that is, choice under constrained conditions. The core idea in constitutional economics is “rule-centered”, which is somewhat not as straightforward as the neoclassical economics’ core idea of “constrained maximization”, which is easy to understand. To understand the “rule-centered” idea of constitutional economics, it needs to begin with the idea that “individual is rational rule-follower”.

The cover page of Constitutional Political Economy is the picture of Ulysses tied to the mast, a story in ancient Greek mythology. The message this picture is used to send is, sometimes one has to impose self-constraint on himself if he wants to achieve what he wants. The word “constitutional” in constitutional economics has the connotation of rationally imposed self-constraint that conforms to one’s nature.

To choose being constrained by one’s self-choice constraint is also a choice. Only human can make such kind of choice. The reason why individual would sometime choose to be self-constrained, is that he realized this would be conducive to his long-run interests.

In neoclassical economics, due to the limitation set by its analytic tool, individual’s rational choice, or say, choice based on self-interest, or self-regard, is always modeled as maximizing on a case-by-case basis. The above mentioned choice, that is, the choice of self-imposed constraint, is thus never within neoclassical economists’ horizon.

Individual choosing to self-impose constraint on himself is an ubiquitous phenomenon, which is reflected as individual’s rule-following behavior, consciously shaping one’s habit or disposition. Denying such fact and treating individual as maximizing automat, to paraphrase Buchanan’s words, would make economics as a human behavioral science methodologically indistinguishable from that applicable to any animal species.

Admitting that individual has the capacity of self-imposing constraint, this is instrumental in helping us to understand the formation of a workable social order. For example, in many cases interactions among people would lead to the situation of prisoner’s dilemma. But once people involved understand the nature of the situation, and agree to be bounded by some rules of action, then, the pattern of outcome that is beneficial to all people involved would emerge. Most of the institutions, rules and organizations in our factual world would be rendered intelligible if perceived from this angle, that is, by agreeing upon some rules applied to all people concerned, everyone could be better-off.   .         

In reality, not all rules are formed deliberately in some way or other, typically e.g., property rules. Logically, how the rules are factually formed, and the rationale behind the rules (i.e. the people concerned would like to live under such rules, so that although rules looks like externally imposed constraints on individuals, they have strong elements of self-enforcing) are two different things. No matter how the rules are factually formed, be it spontaneously evolved out, or deliberately designed, for economists, the most important thing is, to understand the rationale behind them.

From individual self-imposing constraint upon himself, to people in a society agreeing upon universally applicable rules, there is no logic gap between them; both of which can be understood as choosing rules that are conducive to one’s own self-interests. Of course, there is problem of practical operation that divides the two: in respect of self-imposing constraint, there is no operational difficulty, but when comes to imposing such constraint in social sphere, operational difficulty would become a real problem, a problem that facing constitutional economics and economists.

 

After reading this, dear reader, can you now differentiate among different levels of choice in facing such questions as "do you drink? can you resist the temptation of alcohol? will you support the law prohibiting alcohol selling?" 

Those who know only the first level of choice (choice within constraints) generally cannot be as successful as those who know the second level of choice (choice of self-imposing constraint), and people not only know the second level of choice but also the third level of choice (choice of social rules) in my mind, are the genuine elites of human kind.   

 在宪政经济学里,逻辑上区分了三个层次的选择问题:个体在约束条件下的最大化选择;个体对行为倾向性、习惯或要遵循的规则的选择;个体对社会规则的选择。在新古典经济学里,只有一个层次的选择问题,那就是个体在约束条件下的最大化选择。宪政经济学的核心理念是“规则中心”,它理解起来比较麻烦,新古典的核心理念是“约束条件下最大化”,它理解起来比较简单。理解宪政经济学“规则中心”的理念需要从“个体是理性的规则遵循者”出发。

《宪政政治经济学》杂志的封面是古希腊尤利西斯被绑在帆船的桅杆上的画面。这个画面要传递的意思是:个体为了获得想要的东西,有时需要一些自我强加的束缚。宪政经济学中的“宪政”一词,在英文里蕴涵了这么个意思,那就是,出于内在需要而自我实施的约束。

自我强加的束缚也是一种选择,这种选择能力为人、能够理解抽象观念的人所特有。之所以个体有时会自我强加某种约束,是因为,他认识到,这样做对其长远利益是有好处的。

在新古典经济学中,受分析工具所限,个体的理性选择、或者说自利选择,总是在个案最大化的基础上予以阐释的,因此,上述性质的个体选择——也就是(针对一类问题的反应)选择自我设限是不在经济学家的视野之中的。

个体的自我设限现象在现实中表现为个体对规则的遵循、有意识地塑造良好的行为习惯或行为倾向性等。个体的自我设限是一种普遍的现象,而如果否认这一点,把个体当作个案中的最大化反应机器,那么,用布坎南的话,“这种关于人的行为的科学与动物的科学有什么两样呢?”

承认个体具有自我设限的能力,这一点对于理解良好的社会秩序的形成非常有用。例如,大量的人与人之间相互作用会形成囚徒困境的局面,但是,如果人们认识了这个“局”的性质、并且同意采取一致行动、承诺相互都不采取那个占优策略,那么,对所有人都好的结果模式就会出现。现实中,大量的制度、规则,包括有目的的组织,都可以从这个角度得到理解,那就是,通过就某种对大家都适用的约束规则达成一致,每个人都能够更好地实现自己的利益。

现实中,不是所有的规则都是人们有意识地达成的,典型的如产权规则。逻辑上讲,规则如何形成和规则本身的内在合理性(即:有关的主体都愿意生活在这样的规则之下、因此,虽然已经存在的规则看起来是对个体的外在约束,但这种约束具有很强的自我实施的成分。)是不同的两件事情。自发演化出来的规则也好,还是有意识地采纳的规则也罢,对于经济学家而言,重要的问题在于,理解规则内在合理性——不过,这个恰恰是诸多号称产权经济学家、产权经济学大师的人没有做到的(这些人受新古典经济学的影响,永远只能在个案最大化的层次思考问题),这个,以后再细说。

从个体的自我设限,到社会中的人们就普遍适用的规则达成一致统一,这中间没有逻辑的鸿沟,都可以理解成“与自我利益相一致的规则层次的选择”。当然,操作层次的鸿沟是存在的:个体设限不存在操作问题,但,到了社会层次,操作问题就凸显了出来。这也是宪政经济学、宪政经济学家面临的难题。

 

读完之后,不知道读者是否能够回答“你喝酒吗?你能够经得住美酒的诱惑吗?你同意关于酒类销售的政府法规吗?”这三个问题各自对应哪个选择层次,即:个体的最大化选择(第一层次)、个体对于行为倾向性的选择(第二层次)、个体对于社会规则的选择(第三层次)?

只懂得第一层次的选择的人,不如懂得第二个层次的选择的人更容易取得成功,不仅懂得第二个层次的选择、而且还懂得第三个层次的选择的人,我认为是更像人的人。

 

  

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