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内容摘要:【大西洋月刊】金钱是如何成为一切的衡量标准的How Money Became the Measure of EverythingTwo centuries ago, America pioneered a way of thinking that puts human well-...
How Money Became the Measure of Everything


Two centuries ago, America pioneered a way of thinking that puts human well-being in economic terms.
两个世纪以前, 美国开创了一种将人类福祉置于经济层面的思维方式。

Money and markets have been around for thousands of years. Yet as central as currency has been to so many civilizations, people in societies as different as ancient Greece, imperial China, medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure residents’ well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.


In the mid-19th century, the United States—and to a lesser extent other industrializing nations such as England and Germany—departed from this historical pattern. It was then that American businesspeople and policymakers started to measure progress in dollar amounts, tabulating social welfare based on people’s capacity to generate income. This fundamental shift, in time, transformed the way Americans appraised not only investments and businesses but also their communities, their environment, and even themselves.

在 19 世纪中叶, 美国以及其它较小程度上的工业化国家, 如英国和德国——已经脱离了这一历史模式。就在那时, 美国的商人和政策制定者开始衡量美元数量的进步, 根据人们创造收入的能力来计算社会福利。这种根本的转变, 随着时间的推移, 改变了美国人评价投资和企业的方式, 也改变了他们的社区, 环境, 甚至他们自己。

Reimagining Money

Today, well-being may seem hard to quantify in a nonmonetary way, but indeed other metrics—from incarceration rates to life expectancy—have held sway in the course of the country’s history. The turn away from these statistics, and toward financial ones, means that rather than considering how economic developments could meet Americans’ needs, the default stance—in policy, business, and everyday life—is to assess whether individuals are meeting the exigencies of the economy.

如今, 幸福似乎很难用非货币的方式来量化, 但实际上其他衡量标准——从监禁率到预期寿命——在国家历史进程中占据了主导地位。从这些统计数据转向金融统计, 意味着, 与其考虑经济发展如何能够满足美国人的需求, 而是在政策、商业和日常生活方面的默认立场是评估个人是否满足了经济的需要。

At the turn of the 19th century, it did not appear that financial metrics were going to define Americans’ concept of progress. In 1791, then-Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton wrote to various Americans across the country, asking them to calculate the moneymaking capacities of their farms, workshops, and families so that he could use that data to create economic indicators for his famous Report on Manufactures. Hamilton was greatly disappointed by the paltry responses he received and had to give up on adding price statistics to his report. Apparently, most Americans in the early republic did not see, count, or put a price on the world as he did.

在19世纪之交, 金融指标似乎并没有定义美国人的进步观念。1791年, 时任财政部长的亚历山大·汉密尔顿写信给全国各地的美国人, 要求他们计算他们农场、工厂和家庭的赚钱能力, 这样他就可以利用这些数据为他著名的制造业报告制定经济指标。汉密尔顿对他所收到的微不足道的回复感到非常失望, 他不得不放弃在他的报告中添加价格统计数据。显然, 早期共和国的大多数美国人并没有像他那样看待、计算或者给世界定价。

Until the 1850s, in fact, by far the most popular and dominant form of social measurement in 19th-century America (as in Europe) were a collection of social indicators known then as “moral statistics,” which quantified such phenomena as prostitution, incarceration, literacy, crime, education, insanity, pauperism, life expectancy, and disease. While these moral statistics were laden with paternalism, they nevertheless focused squarely on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental condition of the American people. For better or for worse, they placed human beings at the center of their calculating vision. Their unit of measure was bodies and minds, never dollars and cents.

直到19世纪50年代, 在19世纪的美国(就像欧洲一样) , 社会测量的最流行和主导形式是一系列社会指标, 这些指标被称为"道德统计", 它将卖淫、监禁、识字、犯罪、教育、精神错乱、贫民主义、预期寿命和疾病等现象。尽管这些道德统计数据充满了父爱主义, 但是他们仍然将注意力完全集中在美国人民的身体、社会、精神和精神状态。无论好坏, 他们把人类放在他们计算愿景的中心。他们的衡量单位是身体和思想, 绝不是美元和美分。(2)


Yet around the middle of the century, money-based economic indicators began to gain prominence, eventually supplanting moral statistics as the leading benchmarks of American prosperity. This epochal shift can be seen in the national debates over slavery. In the earlier parts of the 19th century, Americans in the North and South wielded moral statistics in order to prove that their society was the more advanced and successful one. In the North, abolitionist newspapers like the Liberty Almanac pointed to the fact that the North had far more students, scholars, libraries, and colleges. In the South, politicians like John Calhoun used dubious data to argue that freedom was bad for black people. The proportion of Northern blacks “who are deaf and dumb, blind, idiots, insane, paupers and in prison,” Calhoun claimed in 1844, was “one out of every six,” while in the South it was “one of every one hundred and fifty-four.”

然而, 在本世纪中叶, 以金钱为基础的经济指标开始获得重视, 最终取代道德统计作为美国繁荣的主要基准。这种划时代的转变, 可以从关于奴隶制的全国性辩论中看到。在 19 世纪早期, 南方的美国人使用道德统计数据来证明他们的社会更先进更成功。在北方, 像 Almanac 这样废奴主义的报纸指出, 北方有更多的学生、学者、图书馆和学院。在南方, 像 John Calhoun 这样的政治家使用可疑的数据认为自由对黑人有害。1844年 Calhoun 声称, 北方黑人"聋子、哑巴、瞎子、白痴、疯子、乞丐和在监狱里"的比例是"六分之一", 而在南方则是"154%"

By the late 1850s, however, most Northern and Southern politicians and businessmen had abandoned such moral statistics in favor of economic metrics. In the opening chapter of his best-selling 1857 book against slavery, the author Hinton Helper measured the “progress and prosperity” of the North and the South by tabulating the cash value of agricultural produce that both regions had extracted from the earth. In so doing, he calculated that in 1850 the North was clearly the more advanced society, for it had produced $351,709,703 of goods and the South only $306,927,067. Speaking the language of productivity, Helper’s book became a hit with Northern businessmen, turning many men of capital to the antislavery cause.

然而, 到了19世纪50年代末, 大多数北方和南方的政客和商人已经放弃了这样的道德统计数据, 转而采用经济指标。在他最畅销的1857年反对奴隶制的书的开篇章节中, 作者 Hinton Helper 通过对两个地区从地球上提取的农产品的现金价值进行了衡量, 以衡量北方和南方的"进步和繁荣"。根据他这样的计算方式, 在1850年, 北方显然是一个更为先进的社会, 因为它生产了351,709,703美元的商品, 而南方只生产了306,927,067美元。说到生产力的解读, Helper 的书成为北方商人的热门话题, 使许多资本家转向反奴隶制的事业。

The Southern planter class, meanwhile, underwent a similar shift. When South Carolina’s governor, the planter and enslaver James Henry Hammond, sought to legitimize slavery in his famous 1858 “Cotton Is King” speech, he did so in part by declaring that “there is not a nation on the face of the earth, with any numerous population, that can compete with us in produce per capita … It amounts to $16.66 per head.”

与此同时, 南方种植园主阶层也发生了类似的变化。1858年, 当南卡罗来纳州长、种植园主、奴隶主詹姆斯。亨利。哈蒙德(James Henry Hammond)在1858年发表的著名的"棉花为王"的演讲中, 试图使奴隶制合法化, 他这样做的部分原因在于宣称"地球表面没有一个人口众多的国家, 人均产量可与我们竞争... ... 这个数字为每人16.66美元。"

What happened in the mid-19th century that led to this historically unprecedented pricing of progress? The short answer is straightforward enough: Capitalism happened. In the first few decades of the Republic, the United States developed into a commercial society, but not yet a fully capitalist one. One of the main elements that distinguishes capitalism from other forms of social and cultural organization is not just the existence of markets but also of capitalized investment, the act through which basic elements of society and life—including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educational institutions, human beings, and nations—are transformed (or “capitalized”) into income-generating assets that are valued and allocated in accordance with their capacity to make money and yield future returns. Save for a smattering of government-issued bonds and insurance companies, such a capitalization of everyday life was mostly absent until the mid-19th century. There existed few assets in early America through which one could invest wealth and earn an annual return.

19世纪中期发生了什么, 导致了这个史无前例的进步定价?简短的答案很简单: 资本主义的发生。在共和国的头几十年里, 美国发展成为一个商业社会, 但还不是一个完全资本主义的社会。将资本主义与其他形式的社会和文化组织区分开来的主要因素之一, 不仅是市场的存在, 而且也是资本化投资的存在, 通过这种行为, 社会和生活的基本要素——包括自然资源、技术发现、艺术作品、城市空间、教育机构、人类和国家——变成了按照其赚钱能力和未来回报能力对其进行估价和分配的创收资产。除了一些政府发行的债券和保险公司, 这样的日常生活资本主要在19世纪中期才出现。在美国的早期, 很少有资产可以用来投资财富并获得年度回报。

By the Progressive Era, the logic of money could be found everywhere. 到了进步时代, 金钱的逻辑随处可见

Capitalization, then, was crucial to the rise of economic indicators. As upper-class Americans in both the North and South began to plow their wealth into novel financial assets, they began to imagine not only their portfolio but their entire society as a capitalized investment and its inhabitants (free or enslaved) as inputs of human capital that could be plugged into output-maximizing equations of monetized growth.

然后, 资本化对于经济指标的上升至关重要。作为北方和南方的上层阶级美国人开始将他们的财富投入新的金融资产, 他们开始不仅把自己的投资组合, 而且把整个社会想象成资本化投资, 其居民(自由或被奴役)是人力资本的投入, 这些资本可以插入到货币化增长的产出最大化方程式中。

In the North, such investments mostly took the form of urban real estate and companies that were building railroads. As capital flowed into these new channels, investors were putting money—via loans, bonds, stocks, banks, trusts, mortgages, and other financial instruments—into communities they might never even set foot in. As local businesspeople and producers lost significant power to these distant East Coast investors, a national business class came into being that cared less about moral statistics—say, the number of prostitutes in Peoria or drunks in Detroit—than about a town’s industrial output, population growth, real-estate prices, labor costs, railway traffic, and per-capita productivity.

在北方, 这些投资大多采取城市房地产和修建铁路公司的形式。随着资金流入这些新渠道, 投资者将资金(通过贷款、债券、股票、银行、信托、抵押贷款和其他金融工具ーー投资于他们可能从未涉足的社区。由于当地商人和生产商对这些遥远的东海岸投资者丧失了巨大的权力, 一个全国性的商业阶层诞生了, 他们不太关心道德统计——比如说, 在皮奥里亚的妓女人数或底特律的醉汉人数——而是关于一个城镇的工业产出、人口增长、房地产价格、劳动力成本、铁路交通以及人均生产率。

Capitalization was also behind the statistical shift in the South, only there it was less about investment in railroad stocks or urban real estate than in human bodies. Enslaved people had long been seen as pieces of property in the United States, but only in the antebellum Deep South did they truly become pieces of capital that could be mortgaged, rented, insured, and sold in highly liquid markets. Viewing enslaved people first and foremost as income-yielding investments, planters began to keep careful track of their market output and value. Hammond, in his speech, had chosen to measure American prosperity in the same way that he valued, monitored, and disciplined those forced to work on his own cotton plantation.

资本化也是南方统计变化的背后, 只是在南方, 投资铁路股票或者城市房地产的投资比人体的投资少。长期以来, 被奴役的人们一直被视为美国的财产的一部分, 但只有在南方腹地, 他们才真正成为可以抵押、出租、投保和在高度流动的市场上出售的资本。将被奴役的人首先视为收益投资, 种植园主开始仔细追踪他们的市场产出和价值。哈蒙德在他的演讲中, 选择以同样的方式衡量美国的繁荣, 就像他重视、监督那些被迫在自己的棉花种植园工作的人。

As corporate consolidation and factories’ technological capabilities ramped up in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, additional techniques of capitalist quantification seeped from the business world into other facets of American society. By the Progressive Era, the logic of money could be found everywhere. “An eight-pound baby is worth, at birth, $362 a pound,” declared The New York Times on January 30th, 1910. “That is a child’s value as a potential wealth-producer. If he lives out the normal term of years, he can produce $2900 more wealth than it costs to rear him and maintain him as an adult.” The title of this article was “What the Baby Is Worth as a National Asset: Last Year’s Crop Reached a Value Estimated at $6,960,000,000.” During this era, an array of Progressive reformers priced not only babies but the annual social cost of everything from intemperance ($2 billion), the common cold ($21 a month per employee), typhoid ($271 million), and housewife labor ($7.5 billion), as well as the annual social benefit of skunks ($3 million), Niagara Falls ($122.5 million), and government health insurance ($3 billion).

随着企业整合和工厂的技术能力在镀金时代和进步时代时期增强, 资本主义量化的额外技术从商业世界渗透到美国社会的其他方面。根据进步时代, 钱的逻辑到处都能找到。1910年1月30日, 纽约时报宣称:"一个8磅重的婴儿出生时价值362美元一磅。"这是一个孩子作为潜在的财富生产者的价值。如果他的寿命超过正常年份, 那么他的财富价值就能比抚养他长大成人时多出2900美元。这篇文章的标题是“婴儿作为一项国家资产的价值:去年的作物价值达到了696000万美元。” 在这个时代,一系列的进步改革者不仅为婴儿定价,还为每件事物的年度社会成本定价, 从过度放纵(20亿美元)到普通感冒(每个人每月21美元)、伤寒(2.71亿美元)、家庭主妇劳动力(75亿美元) , 以及流浪汉的年度社会福利(300万美元)、尼亚加拉大瀑布(1.225亿美元)和政府医疗保险(30亿美元)。

This particular way of thinking is still around, and hard to miss today in reports from the government, research organizations, and the media. For instance, researchers in this century have calculated the annual cost of excessive alcohol consumption ($223.5 billion) and of mental disorders ($467 billion), as well as the value of the average American life ($9.1 million according to one Obama-era government estimate, up from $6.8 million at one point during George W. Bush’s presidency).

这种特殊的思维方式仍然存在, 今天政府、研究机构和媒体的报道很难忽视。例如, 本世纪的研究人员计算了年度过量饮酒(2235亿美元)和精神障碍(4670亿美元) , 以及美国人平均寿命的价值(根据奥巴马时代的政府估计, 这个数字是910万美元, 高于布什总统任期内的680万美元。

A century ago, money-based ideas of progress resonated most with business executives, most of whom were well-to-do white men. Measuring prosperity according to the Dow Jones Industrial Average (invented in 1896), manufacturing output, or per-capita wealth made a good deal of sense for America’s upper classes, since they were usually the ones who possessed the stocks, owned the factories, and held the wealth. As recognized by the Yale economist Irving Fisher, a man who rarely met a social problem he did not put a price on, economic statistics could be potent in early-20th-century political debates. In arguing for why people needed to be treated as “money-making machines,” Fisher explained how “newspapers showed a strong aversion to the harrowing side of the tuberculosis campaign but were always ready to ‘sit up and take notice’ when the cost of tuberculosis in dollars and cents was mentioned.”


John Rockefeller Jr., J.P. Morgan, and other millionaire capitalists also came to recognize the power of financial metrics in their era. They began to plan for a private research bureau that would focus on the pricing of everyday life. Those plans came to fruition in the 1920s with the formation of the corporate-funded National Bureau of Economic Research. The private institution would go on to play a major role in the invention of Gross Net Product in the 1930s (and continues to operate today).

约翰 · 洛克菲勒、 j.p. 摩根和其他百万富翁资本家也开始认识到金融指标在他们的时代的力量。他们开始计划成立一个私人研究机构, 专注于日常生活的定价。这些计划在20世纪20年代取得了成果, 成立了由企业资助的国家经济研究局。在20世纪30年代, 私人机构将在净产品的发明中扮演重要角色(并将今天继续运作)

Many working-class Americans, though, were not as enthusiastic about the rise of economic indicators. This was largely because they believed the human experience to be “priceless” (a word that took off just as progress became conceptualized in terms of money) and because they (astutely) viewed such figures as tools that could be used to justify increased production quotas, more control over workers, or reduced wages. Massachusetts labor activists fighting for the eight-hour workday spoke for many American workers when they said, in 1870, that “the true prosperity and abiding good of the commonwealth can only be learned, by placing money [on] one scale, and man [on another].”

然而, 许多工薪阶层的美国人对经济指标的提高并不热衷。这很大程度上是因为他们认为人类的经验是"无价的"(这个词在金钱概念化的过程中起步) , 而且他们(敏锐地)将这些数据视为工具, 可以用来证明增加生产配额、更多控制工人或降低工资的工具。马萨诸塞州劳工积极分子争取在工作日工作8个小时, 他们在1870年说,"只有把金钱放在一个尺度,把人放到另一个尺度上,才能让联邦真正繁荣和并获得持久的好处。"

The assignment of prices to features of daily life, therefore, was never a foregone conclusion but rather a highly contested development. In the Gilded Age, some labor unions and Populist farmers succeeded in pushing state bureaus of labor statistics to offer up a series of alternative metrics that measured not economic growth or market output, but rather urban poverty, gender discrimination, leisure time, indebtedness, class mobility, rent-seeking behavior, and exploitation of workers. The interests of businessmen, though, won the day more often than not, and by the mid-20th century economic indicators that focused on monetary output came to be seen as apolitical and objective.

因此, 将价格分配给日常生活的特点, 从来不是一个必然的结论, 而是一个争议很大的发展。在镀金时代, 一些工会和民粹主义农民成功地推动国家劳工统计局提供了一系列替代指标, 这些指标不是衡量经济增长或市场产出, 而是衡量城市贫困、性别歧视、休闲时间、负债、阶级流动性、寻租行为和剥削工人。然而, 然而,商人们的利益往往更容易赢得胜利,而20世纪中期,以货币产出为重点的经济指标被视为非政治性的和客观的。

That shift carried tremendous social ramifications: The necessary conditions for economic growth were frequently placed before the necessary conditions for individuals’ well-being. In 1911, Frederick Winslow Taylor, the efficiency expert who dreamed of measuring every human movement in terms of its cost to employers, bluntly articulated this reversal of ends and means: “In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first.”

这种转变带来了巨大的社会影响: 经济增长的必要条件常常被置于个人福祉的必要条件之前。1911年,,效率专家弗雷德里克.温斯洛.泰勒(Frederick Winslow Taylor)曾梦想通过对雇主的成本来衡量每个人的运动。他直言不讳地指出了这一逆转的结果,他的意思是:“在过去,个人是第一位的;在未来,体制必须是第一位。

In the end, men like Taylor got their wish. Since the mid-20th century—whether in the Keynesian 1950s or the neoliberal 1980s—economic indicators have promoted an idea of American society as a capital investment whose main goal, like that of any investment, is ever-increasing monetary growth. Americans have surely benefited materially from the remarkable economic growth over this period of time, an expansion wholly unique to capitalist societies. Nevertheless, by making capital accumulation synonymous with progress, money-based metrics have turned human betterment into a secondary concern. By the early 21st century, American society’s top priority became its bottom line, net worth became synonymous with self-worth, and a billionaire businessman who repeatedly pointed to his own wealth as proof of his fitness for office was elected president.

像泰勒这样的人, 最终实现了他们的愿望。自20世纪中叶以来——无论是凯恩斯主义的1950年代还是新自由主义的1980年代, 经济指标促进了美国社会作为资本投资的理念, 其主要目标, 如同任何投资一样, 是不断提升的货币增长。在这段时间里,美国人确实从显著的经济增长中获得了物质上的好处,这是资本主义社会特有的扩张。然而,通过将资本积累与进步等同起来,基于货币的衡量标准已经将人类的改善变成了次要的问题。到了第二十一世纪初,美国社会的第一要务变成了它的底线,净资产成为自我价值的代名词,一位身家亿万的商人反复指出自己的财富是他适合担任总统的证明。



I was wondering where Eli was going with this story, then he let us know in the very last sentence, asserting Trump was elected for his alleged business acumen.

Except that he wasn't. He was elected over (1) social issues, (2) paying attention to constituencies who felt ignored.



We can't ignore the influence of Hillary on Trump's victory.


Alec Santanach
People voted for this "Republican" due to the binary choice and what her party proposed in a few key subjects.


To further bolster your excellent point, a recent poll of Trump supporters indicated that they tend to be Left of the average voter on economic and fiscal issues.


I actually think that the mention of Trump is gratuitous. The article did not need Trump to demonstrate its point.


Trump supporters are closet socialists. They only care about 1) THEIR social security, 2) THEIR healthcare, 3) THEIR economic wellbeing and 4) THEIR security
I asked a Trump supporting friend, what beef do you have with immigration (legal or illegal)? And his reply was:
"Oh, you don't know? They are stealing from OUR safety nets! They are STEALING our food stamps, our social security, our healthcare, and (Federal!) college grants (a.k.a FREE college!) On top of that, we give TRILLIONS (not true) to other countries when the government ought to be giving (giving!) US that money."



And egregious lying about so many things, from the Obama Birth Certificate Canard to making Mexicans pay for a wall to cheaper and better healthcare for everybody to bringing jobs back to America from overseas to Trump Univ. being great and on and on. The majority of the American voting public rejected him because they know him as a buffoon and con man thanks to 40 years of just such public behavior.

还有许多惊人的谎言,从奥巴马的出生证明卡纳德到让墨西哥人为墙买单,为每个人提供更便宜和更好的医疗保健,从海外把工作岗位带回美国,再到特朗普大学(Trump Univ),都很棒,没完没了。大多数美国投票公众都拒绝他,因为他们知道他是个小丑和骗子,多亏了40年来公众的这种行为。

Well, considering many of his supporters listed that as their number one reason for voting for him was his business acumen, of course those other issues play a part as well. But it was certainly a major reason as to how they justify their vote.


Hmph. Most of his adherents, when asked, say it's because he's a great negotiator or dealmaker.


Foolish myopia. Business people came for his business success. Rubes came for his wealth and his anti-pose . Fools came for social issues and a misplaced notion that he would heroically save the toothless junky union workers of middle America.
They sure showed Hillary though, right?


We have all, or most of us anyway, gotten trapped into this. I studied "Environmental Economics" in graduate school. Its the branch of economics that attempts to place a monetary value on things that are not "traded" in the economy, like for example songbirds. What is the value to society of having songbirds sing to us in the morning?

And before you laugh, consider that our economy has no good way to measure this. Nor can it realistically measure the value of a view of the Grand Canyon. It can add up how much people spend to go visit the canyon, but that is not really a measure of its value to us.

We need to stop being slaves to money. We have to figure something better out so that money becomes a tool, but not a purpose.








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