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《财富》经典回顾:黄金大辩论 (《财富》杂志,1931年)

《财富》 2011年08月22日

编者按:每周,《财富》网站(Fortune.com)将从往期《财富》杂志文章中精选出一篇最受读者欢迎的文章。本文摘自1931年2月刊,文章讨论了今天依然存在激烈争论的话题——黄金的真正价值何在?当时,美国正在经济大萧条中苦苦挣扎,黄金是当时的货币本位,交易价格仅为每盎司20美元。

    本文共分两部分。第一部分,通过分析金元与汽车轮胎之间的关系,简要概述黄金——货币——信贷机制;第二部分,对该机制的问题进行大胆总结。整篇文章可被当做是专为外行管理人员提供的入门级文章,使他们对当时引发最激烈讨论的经济问题有一个初步的了解。

    在英格兰银行(Bank of England,位于英国伦敦市针线街)的地下金库里,工人们正在往卡车上搬运黄金。某个国家购买了这批黄金,正在安排发货。而在亨利•福特(位于美国密歇根州迪尔伯恩)的工厂里,工人们正在汽车底盘生产线上拧紧螺栓。不久之后,他们生产的汽车就将投放市场,开始销售。4,000英里之外的金库里,工人们每取走一块金条,是否会改变亨利•福特的工人们所组装的“汽车”的价值?如果是,影响又是如何产生的呢?而反过来,福特公司(Ford)的生产线每一辆新车下线,又是否会改变英格兰银行地下金库中那些重量不差毫分的金条的价值?在本文中,《财富》杂志(Fortune)将用一个工作图示,呈现关联二者的机制。这种机制无比复杂,对这一机制的研究,肯定需要依靠大量的假设、趋势、理论、模糊的概括和相互矛盾的解释。而可悲的是,对于这一机制的性质、运行原理、存在的问题,以及在出现故障时如何纠正等问题上,负责监督这一机制的工程师们却众说纷纭。

    但有一点是可以确定的:世界上的商品首先要以商品出产国的货币进行定价。而文明国家纷纷将货币与黄金挂钩(实际上,只有中国是个例外)。因此归根结底,根据现行法律,黄金才是公认的计价货币,也就是说,世界上生产的任何东西,都可以用黄金来衡量它的价值。从原理来看,这一机制涉及:

    I. – 世界上实际存在大量的黄金。

    II. – 根据黄金供应发行的货币,它们扩大和促进了黄金的日常应用。

    III. – 信贷机制的建立,它超出了黄金兑货币比率的严格限制。

    货币与信贷背后的基本事实是:(1)按照当前的价格,世界上没有充足的黄金可以满足1,906,000,000人的日常使用;(2)即便有充足的黄金来满足人们的日常使用需要,这种金属也不便于流通。

    在这一机制的演化过程中,人们认定黄金可以作为一个有效的本位货币,并且存在一定的储备,之后,人们所做的第一件事就是生产便利的黄金替代品——硬币和纸币——于是,黄金有了更便利的交易媒介,因此,它们便可以被存放在安全的地方。而随着经济的飞速发展,人们发现,即使最便利的纸币也不够充足,于是便产生了发行信贷的想法。给某人一张纸,然后告诉他这就代表黄金,这其中的关键是信心;信贷的扩张其实是信心的提高。因此,在最初研究福特公司的汽车与伦敦的黄金之间的关系时,我们发现在两者的平衡关系中出现了一个模糊不清的因素——公众信心,而随着对这一机制的深入剖析,我们发现公众信心的影响越来越大;最后,我们意识到,整个机制都需要以公众信心为基础进行运转,大众心理的重要性甚至可以与大量黄金相媲美。

    In two parts, hereunder. Part one, a free-hand sketch of the gold-money-credit machine which links gold dollars to doughnuts. Part two, bold summaries on what's said to be the matter with that mechanism. The whole, a primer designed to give the lay executive a running familiarity with the most bitterly discussed economic question of the day.

    In the vaults of the Bank of England (Threadneedle Street, London), men are piling gold on a truck. The gold they lift has been bought and paid for by a foreign country and is about to be delivered. In the factory of Henry Ford (Dearborn, Michigan), men are tightening bolts on a moving automobile chassis. The car they are building will presently roll away and be offered for sale. Does every bar which is lifted from the vaults, 4,000 miles away, change the value of "the automobile Henry Ford's men are bolting together? If so, how? Conversely, will every new Ford which rolls from the line change the value of those so-accurately weighed bars under Threadneedle Street? FORTUNE here presents a working drawing of the machine which links them, an inconceivably complex machine in the study of which a known fact is something to cling to in a whirling eddy of hypotheses, trends, theories, nebulous generalizations, and conflicting interpretations. For the lamentable fact is that the engineers who watch over this machine disagree on its nature, about how to operate it, about what, if anything, is the matter with it, and, if it is malfunctioning, about how to fix it.

    This much is certain: the commodities of the world are priced, first, in the money of the country in which they are produced. The nations of the civilized world (China is practically the only exception) relate their moneys to gold. Thus in the last analysis, according to the laws of today, gold is the common denominator in whose terms everything the world produces may be measured. Mechanically this involves:

    I.-The physical existence of a supply of gold somewhere in the world.

    II.-The issuance of currency against this supply of gold, extending and facilitating its everyday use.

    III.-The establishment of credit beyond the limits imposed by any strict ratio of gold to currency.

    The fundamental facts behind the ideas of currency and credit are (1) that there isn't, today, enough gold in the world for the everyday use, at current prices, of 1,906,000,000 people; and (2) that even if there were, the metal would be too unhandy.

    In the evolution of the machine, then, the first thing the peoples of the world did, after deciding that gold was a good standard and getting a supply of it, was to manufacture a convenient substitute for it -- a coin, a piece of paper -- so that, the gold stored in some secure place, they might have handy mediums for exchange. Growing apace, the world found even the most convenient paper not wholly adequate, and developed the idea of credit. The basic idea of giving a man a piece of paper and telling him it represents gold involves confidence; the extension of credit is merely an extension of confidence. Thus, early in the game of weighing Ford (F) cars with gold in London, we find so nebulous a factor as public confidence entering the balance, and, as the machine is taken apart, you'll find this factor becoming larger and larger until you realize that the whole machine runs on it and that mass psychology is as important a cogwheel as a ton of gold.

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