西方超载,跌入“赫尔德陷阱”

作者丨王文     

2021年01月06日 13:56  

本文6109字,约9分钟

编者按:在《环球时报英文版》1月5日刊发的第66篇“变局”专栏中,中国人民大学重阳金融研究院执行院长王文认为欧美各国已跌入了“赫尔德陷阱”。他表示,个人过多的权利主张,组织过散的权限归属,社会过杂的权衡考量,政府过弱的权力运行,使得欧美国家抗疫总是在原地打转,像是一辆负重过多的老爷车。下文为专栏的中英文版。

2020年最后一周,北京继2月、5月后第三次发现了本土新冠病例,病例发现地就在我家2公里外。我所在街道一下子紧张起来:30万人,两天内,全部完成核酸检测。所有接触者被锁定隔离。社区、大厦进入要求变得更严格。街上行人明显减少。

10天后,北京市政府宣布,基本控制住了新一轮本土疫情。又一轮的病毒袭击,再次在政府、社会、组织与个人的密切配合下被打退,诠释了人类演进的又一个典型瞬间。

其实,人类的演进就像一辆负重前行的大车,必须不断适应疾病、猛兽、天灾的侵袭。只有个人、组织、政府与社会在同一个方向付出努力,进步才有可能。否则,将会面临“超载”而止步不前的困境,甚至爆发更大灾难。

面对同一种病毒,中国、越南、日本、韩国等东亚国家的应对明显要好于欧美国家,最重要的原因就在于,东亚各国的政府、社会、组织、个人已达成了“生命重于自由”的价值共识,往一个方向推动“大车”的前行。

相反,欧美国家则是分裂的。个人过多的权利主张,组织过散的权限归属,社会过杂的权衡考量,政府过弱的权力运行,使得欧美国家抗疫总是在原地打转,像是一辆负重过多的老爷车。

30多年前,英国学者戴维·赫尔德在《民主的模式》一书中就曾警示过“国家超载”的难题。这本被称为“民主理论的必读书”后来出了修订本,增加了对中国式协商民主的研究与认识,但对欧美国家超载式的批判仍然不变。

这种批判或许可称之为“赫尔德陷阱”。我对“赫尔德陷阱“的理解是,随着生活水平提升,人们的期望过高,政党组织的政策主张过于强化票仓群体的利益,政府权力无法覆盖全民,社会不断出现价值观的分裂,导致经济、社会事务赖以运行的制度失灵,国家陷入止步不前的停滞深渊。

这次疫情典型地证明了欧美各国已跌入了“赫尔德陷阱”。对于中国人而言,很难想像,疫情大规模爆发已一年,欧美国家竟还有那么多民众缺乏自律,反复强调个人自由,不愿意戴口罩,不相信医学;也很难想像,在欧美国家还存在那么多政党、社会组织之间的无谓争吵;更难以想象,一些政客还以意识形态之由,无端地把脏水往其他国家去泼。

截至2020年底,拥有世界最发达医疗设备与公共卫生治理体系的30多个欧美国家总计竟超70万死于新冠,很可能在2021年春季将超过100万。难怪已有人断言,新冠疫情已沦为西方危机、民主危机。

跳出“赫尔德陷阱”的关键是,在危机时,必须依赖于能充分配置所有资源的“强大国家”。政府要有自上而下的执行,社会要有从里到外的配合,民众则要有发自内心的遵从。这是超载理论对于当下民主国家危机的真诚启示。

换句话说,任何一个向前发展的国家,都应该讲求秩序与自由、权利与责任、个人与集体之间的平衡。平衡得好,国家则能持续发展;否则,就会跌入“超载陷阱”。在大危机中,天平则必须有所倾斜。程序须让位于效率,自由须让位于生命,争论须让位于合作。

正如二战时美国与英国出现了罗斯福、丘吉尔,应对这场新冠疫情,欧美国家的确需要大英雄。我不知道,拜登会不会是,但拯救生命应该是他的首要任务。

这又令我想起弗兰西斯·福山在《政治秩序与政治衰败》中的话,无论是新兴国家,还是老牌民主国家,恐怕都需要面临着一个重大任务,即提供国民所期待的实质性功能:“人身安全、共享的经济增长和优质的基本公共服务,即实现个人机会所必需的教育、卫生和基础设施。”

这些国民所期待的实质性功能的提供,不只是源于政府一方,也来源于社会。希望欧美国家的所有人能够从中汲取这种变化的观念。

以下为英文版:

Overloaded West faces crisis of democracy

By Wang Wen

In the last week of 2020, Beijing reported a new local case of COVID-19 infection for the third time after outbreaks in February and May. The case was found two kilometers away from my home. The community where I live suddenly became nervous. Over 300,000 people in the neighborhood all got nucleic acid tests within two days, and those who contacted with positive tests were all tracked and isolated. It has become more stringent to enter the community and buildings here. The number of people on the streets has decreased significantly too.

About 10 days later, the Beijing municipal government announced that the city had basically controlled the new round of the epidemic. The new wave was once again defeated under the close cooperation of the government, society, organizations and individuals. This reflects another poignant moment of human evolution.

Actually, the evolution of human beings can be compared to an overloaded cart moving forward. Humans must constantly adapt to the invasion of diseases, beasts and natural disasters. Only when individuals, organizations, governments and societies work together in the same direction can progress be possible. Otherwise, we all face the predicament of being "overloaded" and stagnating - as well as greater catastrophes.

East Asian nations such as China, Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea have dealt with COVID-19 better than states in Europe and the US. Governments, societies, organizations and individuals in East Asian countries have reached a value consensus: "life is more important than freedom." We are now pushing forward the "cart" in unified direction.

By the contrast, European and American societies are divided at present. Too many personal and inflamed ideological claims are now weakening efforts to contain the virus. This bureaucratic and social crisis has been mounting for years, making Europe and the US look like an overloaded old car.

British scholar David Held warned about the problem of the "overloaded state" in his 1987 book Models of Democracy. This book, known as a must read about democratic theory, was later revised to increase research and understanding of deliberative democracy with Chinese characteristics. But the criticism of the overloading of European countries and the US remains unchanged.

This criticism can be called the "Held Trap." My understanding of the term is that with the improvement of living standards, people's expectations have become too high. But the policies of political parties have concentrated too much on the so-called interests of their voters.

Government's power cannot cover all their people. As such, social values continue to split, leading to the failure of the system on which economic and social affairs depend. Many Western countries are falling in a stagnant abyss.

The pandemic is proof that European countries and the US have been stuck in the "Held Trap." For Chinese people, it is unthinkable that so many people in Europe and the US lack self-discipline and repeatedly emphasize their so-called individual freedoms. It is also inconceivable to see so many quarrels between politicians and social organizations in Europe and the US - let alone many politicians stigmatize other countries due to ideological reasons.

By the end of 2020, over 700,000 people had died due to COVID-19 in Europe and the US where the most advanced healthcare systems in the world reside. The death toll is likely to surpass 1 million by the spring of 2021. It is no wonder that some people have asserted that the COVID-19 pandemic has become a crisis of the West and democracy.

To get rid of the "Held trap," the powerful role of government in allocating resources is now clearly indispensable. Governments should make and implement orders. People need to fully cooperate with them as responsible citizens. This is the enlightenment of "overload theory" for the current crisis of democratic countries.

In other words, any country that is moving forward should find a balance between order and freedom, between power and responsibility, and between individual and collective interests. A good balance can sustain a country's development. In a major crisis, the libra zodiac symbol of balanced weights needs to tilt toward one side. A properly chosen program should give way to effectiveness. Also, freedom should give way to lives. And arguments should give way to cooperation.

This reminds me of American political scientist Francis Fukuyama's words in his book Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Present Day. He said that both emerging countries and established democracies need to face a major task: to provide the substance of what people want from government.

These include "personal security, shared economic growth and the basic public services [especially education, health care and infrastructure] that are needed to achieve individual opportunity."

Government and society should provide the substance of what people want, as mentioned above. There is hope that the people Europe and US can perceive this ever-evolving concept.

(The author is professor and executive dean of Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China.)

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