Schumpeter，888真人赌博：Suspicious minds,The economic consequences of Americans’ distrust
AMERICA is a grumpy and confused place. For an overarching explanation of what has gone wrong, a decline in trust is a good place to start. Trust can be defined as the expectation that other people, or organizations, will act in ways that are fair to you. In the White House and beyond there is precious little of it about. People increasingly view institutions as corrupt, strangers as suspicious, rivals as illegitimate and facts as negotiable.
The share of Americans who say “most people can be trusted” fell from 44% in 1976 to 32% in 2016, according to a survey from the University of Chicago. In a new book, “The Retreat of Western Liberalism”, Edward Luce, a commentator for the Financial Times in Washington, argues that distrust will contribute to America’s decline and eventually, even, to autocracy. Lack of faith is chewed over in boardrooms, too. In his latest letter to shareholders, Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase’s boss, describes trust as America’s “secret sauce” and worries that the bottle is running dry.
根据芝加哥大学的一项调查，认为“大多数人可以信任”的美国人比例从1976年的44%下降到2016年的32%。《金融时报》驻华盛顿评论员爱德华·卢斯(Edward Luce)在新书《西方自由主义的退却》(The Retreat of Western Liberalism)中指出，不信任将加速美国的衰落，甚至最终导致独裁。公司董事会也在琢磨缺乏信任的问题。摩根大通的老板杰米·戴蒙(Jamie Dimon)在最近给股东的信中将信任称为美国的“秘方”，并担心装秘方的瓶子快要空了。
The tricky bit is reconciling this distrust with the rosy business outlook. The S&P 500 index is near an all-time high, even though many economists say that distrust is toxic for prosperity because transactions become dearer and riskier. An OECD study of 30 economies shows that those with low levels of trust, such as Turkey and Mexico, are far poorer. Three scholars, Luigi Guiso, Paola Sapienza and Luigi Zingales, have shown that pairs of countries (such as Britain and France) whose populations say they distrust each other, have less bilateral trade and investment.
这种不信任与美妙的商业前景放在一起似乎很不协调。标准普尔500指数目前接近历史高点——尽管许多经济学家认为不信任会扼杀繁荣，因为交易的成本会更高，风险会更大。经合组织对30个经济体的研究表明，信任水平较低的国家，比如土耳其和墨西哥等，要比美国贫穷得多。路易吉·圭索(Luigi Guiso)、佩奥拉·萨皮恩扎(Paola Sapienza)和路易吉·津加雷斯(Luigi Zingales)等三位学者证明，如果两个国家的民众对彼此都表示不信任，它们之间的双边贸易和投资也较少，比如英国和法国。
America’s mistrust outbreak can be split into two parts: what consumers think, and what firms think. The share of folk who have “little or no confidence” in big business has risen from 26% in 1976 to 39% in June, according to Gallup. For banks it has risen from 10% in 1979 to 28% today. Over decades big firms have broken implicit promises to their employees, such as providing a job for life and paying generous pensions. That has probably soured the public’s view. And the financial crisis of 2007-08 blew a giant hole in the reputation of big business and finance.
Yet despite their customers’ distaste, big firms mint huge profits. One explanation is declining competition over the past 20 years. If markets are working, firms that are perceived to behave badly lose market share. In concentrated industries this discipline is lacking. Two recent scandals in oligopolistic bits of the economy illustrate the point. Wells Fargo, a bank, created millions of fake accounts, yet in the three months to June its year-on-year profits rose by 5%. In April a United Airlines passenger was assaulted, causing an outcry. Its underlying profits later rose by 5%, too. In such industries Americans are inured to mistreatment.
Trust between firms, and between firms and investors, is more resilient, but there is evidence of greater wariness. Banks charge corporate borrowers a spread of 2.6 percentage points above the federal-funds rate, compared with 2.0 points in the 20 years before the crisis. The equity-risk premium, or the annual excess return that investors demand to hold shares rather than bonds, is 5.03 points, against a pre-crisis average of 3.45 points, notes Aswath Damodaran of the Stern School of Business at NYU.
The median firm in the S&P 500 holds 62 cents of cash on its balance-sheet per dollar of gross operating profit, up from 45 cents in 2006 (this yardstick excludes America’s giant technology companies, which hoard money). In a sign that more corporate deals end in tears, litigation costs are rising. The revenues of legal firms rose by 103% in 1997-2012, according to the Census Bureau, more quickly than nominal GDP growth, of 85%. And spending on corporate lobbying, a signal that firms think politicians are corruptible, has risen faster than GDP, too.
In the long term it is possible that firms could become as mistrustful as consumers. Though individual companies can gain from cronyism, overall confidence will fall if there is sustained political meddling in the courts and regulatory system. And companies as well as people can be trapped into doing business with monopolies that are inept or shifty. In 2016 Facebook said that for the past two years it had overstated how long its users watched videos for, but advertisers have little choice but to stick with the social-media firm. Its profits rose by 71% in the latest quarter.
If the bleak predictions of observers such as Mr Luce come true, how might America Inc adjust? One guide is the work of Ronald Coase, an economist who theorized that the boundary of a firm is set according to whether an activity is best done in-house or can be outsourced to the market. If counterparties are less reliable, and contracts expensive to enforce, firms will become “vertically integrated”, bringing their supply chain in-house.
If there is deeper decay of America’s legal system and greater political corruption, then firms would go further and spread “horizontally” too, expanding into new industries where their political contacts, and access to favors and capital can be used. This is how business works in much of the emerging world.
Gotta have faith 须有信心
America is nowhere near such an outcome, at least not yet. Still, a concerted effort to shore up trust between consumers and firms, and between firms, would be healthy. If you subscribe to Silicon Valley’s Utopianism, technology can fill the gap, manufacturing mutual faith where none existed before. Uber’s system of scoring drivers and passengers allows strangers to have confidence in each other. E-commerce sites such as eBay and Alibaba work by creating networks of trust between merchants and customers.
In the end, however, government has a vital role. By enforcing competition rules, it can ensure that poor conduct is punished. And by observing the independence of courts and regulators, it can demonstrate that contracts are sacred and that firms operate on a level playing-field. Suspicion is not about to bring American capitalism to its knees. But the country’s vast stock of trust, built up over a century or more, is being depleted quickly.
vertically integrated 垂直整合
supply chain 供应链
financial crisis 金融危机
chewed over 嚼了