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Edmund Phelps Wins Nobel Prize

(2006-10-18 13:33:41)
分类: 翻译杂谈
US Economist Edmund Phelps Wins Nobel Prize
By Mark Whitehouse
Edmund <wbr>Phelps <wbr>Wins <wbr>Nobel <wbr>Prize
IF THE FEDERAL RESERVE manages to pilot the nation's economy safely through the current period of heightened inflation, it will owe some of its success to this year's winner of the Nobel Prize in economics. Big-spending consumers and government officials could also find some words of wisdom in his work.
  The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences yesterday awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science to Edmund Phelps, a 73-year-old Columbia University economist whose research has focused on the relationship between unemployment and inflation, as well as on how the spending habits of current generations can affect the well-being of future ones. The economics prize comes with a purse of 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.4 million.
  Fellow economists have viewed Mr. Phelps as a Nobel candidate for at least a decade, though his name didn't appear in this year's polls and betting pools. 'It's a bit strange,' Mr. Phelps said in a brief interview. 'Because you've thought about it for such a long time as a possibility in the future, it's hard to adjust to it now being in the past.'
  Mr. Phelps's work on inflation has played a significant role in the way central bankers do their jobs. In the 1960s, policy makers saw a direct trade-off between inflation and unemployment: If they were willing to accept higher inflation, some thought, they could achieve a permanently lower unemployment rate by stimulating the economy with lower interest rates. That trade-off was encapsulated in a concept familiar to students of economics world-wide: the Phillips curve, named after economist Alban Phillips.
  In the late 1960s, Mr. Phelps and University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, who won a Nobel in 1976, challenged the conventional wisdom. They suggested that if inflation rose faster than expected, people and companies would adjust their expectations, prompting wages and prices to rise at the new, faster rate. As a result, economic stimulus aimed at reducing unemployment could keep pushing inflation higher and higher, as new price rises compounded on expected price rises.
  Mr. Phelps's message got through to U.S. policy makers in the early 1980s, after years of loose monetary policy led to unacceptably high levels of inflation. The Fed, under then-Chairman Paul Volcker, had to implement draconian measures and tip the U.S. economy into recession to get expectations back under control. To this day, central bankers such as Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke watch expectations closely in deciding what to do with interest rates.
  'I think that the Fed has fully assimilated' the importance of keeping expectations in check, Mr. Phelps said.
  Mr. Bernanke, in a textbook he co-wrote with fellow economist Andrew Abel while still a professor at Princeton, referred to Mr. Phelps's work as 'one example of economic theorists predicting an important development in the economy that policy makers and the public didn't anticipate.'
  The Nobel committee also cited Mr. Phelps's work establishing a 'golden rule' of capital formation, which states that any given generation should save and invest a certain amount so that future generations will be able to enjoy a similar standard of living. The rule carries particular significance today, when a negative household saving rate and large budget deficits suggest that U.S. consumers and the government are spending beyond their means -- at a time when an aging population will be putting more stress on the nation's resources.
  Mr. Phelps, however, said it is hard to know whether or not the U.S. is getting into trouble because important pieces of information -- such as how productive the U.S. economy will be -- are lacking. 'The question is not as simple as it might look,' he said. 'Maybe productivity will rise so rapidly as to dwarf the demographic overhang, so we won't understand why it was that we were ever worried about it when we get there.'
  Born in Chicago at the depth of the Great Depression, Mr. Phelps developed an early interest in research. During childhood in New York, 'I liked to spend the late afternoon by the main road recording the distribution by state of the license plates of the cars passing by,' he wrote in an autobiography. He said he entered economics at the urging of his father, after toying briefly with philosophy. Mr. Phelps earned his doctorate at Yale University in 1959 and joined the Columbia faculty in 1971.
  Mr. Phelps's prize brings to four the tally of economics Nobels awarded to Columbia professors. That is equal to Harvard University, but still well behind the University of Chicago, which has nine.
  The economics prize, officially called 'the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel,' is the only Nobel not established in the will of Mr. Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. The Swedish central bank set up the prize in 1968 to commemorate its 300th anniversary.
Edmund <wbr>Phelps <wbr>Wins <wbr>Nobel <wbr>Prize
  瑞典皇家科学院(Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences)周一将诺贝尔经济学奖授予给73岁的哥伦比亚大学经济学家埃德蒙·菲尔普斯(Edmund Phelps)。他主要的研究方向是失业与通货膨胀的关系,以及当代人的支出习惯将对后代的福利产生何种影响。诺贝尔经济学奖的奖金为1,000万瑞典克朗,约合140万美元。
  菲尔普斯在通货膨胀方面的研究对央行官员的工作产生了巨大作用。在上世纪60年代,政策制定者认为通货膨胀和失业存在直接的此消彼长关系:一些人称,如果愿意接受通货膨胀率的上升,就可以通过低利率刺激经济实现失业率的长期下降。这种相机抉择包裹在一个概念中,为全球的经济学学生所熟悉:即以经济学家阿尔班·菲利普斯(Alban Phillips)命名的“菲利普斯曲线”。
  在上世纪60年代末,菲尔普斯和芝加哥大学经济学家米尔顿·弗里德曼(Milton Friedman)对这个论点提出了挑战。他们认为,如果通货膨胀率增长快于预期,个人和公司将调整他们的预期,促使工资和物价按新的更快的速度增长。因此,随着新的物价上涨同预计的价格上涨结合起来,旨在降低失业率的经济刺激措施可能会推动通货膨胀率越走越高。弗里德曼在1976年获得了诺贝尔经济学奖。
  菲尔普斯的研究成果在80年代初引起了美国决策者的注意,在此之前,美国实行了多年的宽松货币政策,导致通货膨胀率位于难以接受的高水平。时任Fed主席的保罗·沃尔克(Paul Volcker)采取了严厉手段,使美国经济陷入衰退,预期也回到了控制范围内。时至今日,Fed主席本·贝南克(Ben Bernanke)等央行官员都在密切关注预期,以此决定利率政策。
  贝南克在他同普林斯顿大学教授安德鲁·埃布尔(Andrew Abel)合著的教科书中称,菲尔普斯的研究是经济理论学家预测被决策者及大众忽视的一个重要经济进展的范例。


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