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Why governments are broken and how to fix them

为何政府出现问题,如何加以解决

Governments are inefficient, but no big society has functioned well without one. Much of the problem is that many of them address 19th-Century concerns – making an upxe long overdue.

政府效率低下,但大社会的良好运行离不开政府。问题主要在于政府解决19世纪的担忧:早该与时俱进。



Most governments are woefully outdated. They reflect concerns of the late 19th Century, when many of them came into being: communication was expensive and data difficult to come by, so they were organised into tightly structured, hierarchal silos lixed to specific functions, such as security or justice.

大多数政府都可悲的落伍了。19世纪建立的许多政府反映出当时的隐忧:通讯昂贵,数据难得,因此建立了组织严密、等级森严的政府,并承担安全或司法等特殊职能。

Today, the world is radically more interlixed, fast-moving and information-rich. But our governments aren’t.

当今世界互联性更强、节奏更快、信息更丰富,但我们的政府并非如此。

“It’s very anachronistic, in many ways,” says Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of innovation foundation Nesta and one of the co-chairs of the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “It’s our bad luck that modern governments crystallised in a particular moment in time that’s increasingly distant to where we are now.”

杰夫·莫尔根是Nesta创新基金会总裁,也是世界经济论坛-创新与创业世界未来理事会联合主席。他指出:“政府在多方面都很落伍。不幸的是,现代政府的形成时期离现在越来越久远”。

Take political participation. Even as technology and communication mean more ways for citizens to make their voices heard, democratic participation remains largely limited to casting a vote between parties once every few years.
Many experts believe that a radical reform to this system is not only desirable but absolutely necessary.

以政治参与为例。科技与通信使公民有更多的表达渠道,但民主参与仍局限于每隔几年给政党投票。许多专家认为彻底变革这一制度不仅值得而且是必要的。

“Democracy is an evolving creature, and it needs to get better with time,” says Oxford University fellow Nayef Al-Rodhan, head of the geopolitics and global futures programme at the Geneva Center for Security Policy. If governments do not change with the times, they become less and less capable of addressing people’s needs, and citizens grow more dissatisfied and disenfranchised.

纳伊夫·奥罗丹是牛津大学研究员,也是日内瓦安全政策中心-地缘政治与全球未来项目负责人。他指出:“民主是不断进化的生命体,它需要与时俱进”。否则政府越来越无法满足人的需求,民怨加深,公民权利被剥夺。

This is already happening in even seemingly stable democracies. In the US, for example, 43 million people live in poverty – or about 14% of the population, compared to just 11% in 1973.

在看似稳定的民主国家,这种情况已经发生。例如:美国有4300贫困人口,约占人口14%,这一比例在1973年为11%。

“That’s neither morally nor socially acceptable,” Al-Rodhan says. It may also be dangerous: “In time, those people will rebel and cause problems, because they have nothing to lose.”

“这在社会和道德上都无法接受”,奥罗丹说道。这可能是危险的:“这群人迟早造反,并引发诸多问题,因为他们一无所有”。

Elections-based political systems already operate with short-term mentalities, with officials often thinking only a few years ahead. Now, as societies around the world have become more complex, diverse, demanding and connected, governments have become even more incentivised to implement superficial patchwork fixes. But sacrificing the long term for the short term – for example, allowing infrastructure to deteriorate, as in Germany; adding $1tn (£740 billion) in national debt to enable tax cuts, as in the US; or felling and burning old growth forests in favour of plantations, as in Indonesia – will eventually catch up to us. “You can go on like that for a long time, but when the system breaks, it’ll break big,” says Angela Wilkinson, senior director of the World Energy Council and an associate fellow at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

当前选举政治制度以短期心态运作,官员一般只考虑未来几年的事情。如今各国社会变得更加复杂、多样、苛刻、互联,所以政府更愿意做表面的修补。但为了短期目标牺牲长远利益最终会使我们受害,例如:德国坐视基础设施老化;美国为减税增加1万亿美元(7400亿英镑)国债;印度尼西亚偏爱种植园而砍伐和烧掉原始森林。威尔金森.安琪拉是世界能源委员会资深总监,也是牛津大学赛德商学院的副研究员。她指出:“你可以继续这样做很长时间,但体制出问题就是大问题”。

In Indonesia, it's common to see forest fires used to clear the land for plantations

在印度尼西亚,人们普遍利用山火为种植园腾出空地。

This doesn’t mean that we should abolish government altogether. Mulgan points out that no significantly-sized society has ever functioned well without government.

这并不是说我们应该彻底废除政府。莫尔根指出:大社会的良好运行离不开政府。

Nor should we tear down existing systems and start entirely from scratch. South Sudan recently attempted this and has since been called the world’s youngest failed nation. “Like almost any complicated task in life, government depends on capacity, experience, knowledge and capability – things that build up over many years,” Mulgan says.

我们也不应对现行制度推倒重来。不久前南苏丹打算这么做,从此被称为世界上最年轻的失败国家。莫尔根指出:“正如生活中的复杂任务,政府依靠的能力、经验、知识需要多年积累而成”。

Shape up
Instead, the goal should be to reshape current governments into forms more suitable for modern life: technologically savvy, data-driven and fully globalised.
But while some governments have begun to take that approach, others, Wilkinson says, “are not doing well at all”.

成形

相反,目标应该是改造现有政府,使其更适合现代生活:精通技术、以数据为源泉、彻底全球化的政府。威尔金森指出:“有些政府开始采取这种办法,但其他政府做的很不到位”。

The contrasts can be stark. In Sweden, for example, elementary students learn to code and to spot fake news, whereas in the US, the president routinely promotes falsehoods. Meanwhile, Taiwan, Spain and Iceland are exploring new methods of democracy that tap collective intelligence, but Russia and Turkey are moving toward autocracy and totalitarianism. 

这种差距十分明显。例如:瑞典小学生学习编程和辨别假新闻,而美国总统宣传谎言是家常便饭。与此同时,台湾、西班牙、冰岛在探索新的民主方式来汇聚集体智慧,而俄罗斯和土耳其在走向独裁和极权政治。

But while there are some promising examples of progress, Al-Rodhan adds that most governments today, including in Europe and North America, are not good enough.

虽然有些充满希望的进步例子,但奥罗丹补充道:当今多数政府做的不够好,包括欧洲和北美洲。

“Despite ensuring political freedoms for their citizens, many people remain disenfranchised due to unacceptable and widening inequality,” he says.

“这些政府确保了公民的政治自由,但不能接受的不平等现象不断扩大,许多人的权利仍受到剥削”,奥罗丹说道。

Even if a particular leader or entire society wishes to change for the better, they often fall short of their goals. Egypt’s Arab Spring failed to break the gridlock and restructure government, for example, and South Africa never became the ‘rainbow nation’ that Nelson Mandela envisioned.

就算某位领导人或全社会愿意向好的方向转变,却总是达不到目标。例如:埃及的“阿拉伯之春”没能打破僵局和重组政府,南非根本没能成为曼德拉憧憬的“彩虹国家”。

Government structure tends to be the primary obstacle to reinvention, Wilkinson says. The private sector has been floating some ideas for how this could change: entries are being uated in a competition launched by a Swedish billionaire to design a better system for world governance, for example.

政府构架往往是改造政府所面临的最大障碍,威尔金森说道。私营领域一直在提出如何变革政府构架的想法:例如一位瑞典富豪举办了一场竞赛,为全球治理设计更好的制度,目前正在审核参赛者名单。

But as Wilkinson points out, “We need political entrepreneurs, too.”

但正如威尔金森所言:“我们还需要政治企业家”。

Governments, however, tend to be innovation-averse. They wait for the market to lead the way and then scramble to catch up. When they are made, decisions are implemented across the whole of society, without prototyping or testing ideas on smaller populations first. “You can’t use the word ‘experiment’ in government: it’s a nasty word, because it means you can fail,” Wilkinson says.
“But we can’t wait for things to be perfect, and we can’t keep using yesterday’s solutions.”

然而,政府通常厌恶创新。它们等待市场先行,再奋起直追。当政府做出决策时,未在试点树立样板或经过检验,就在全社会加以实行。“你不能跟政府讲试验:这是个糟糕的字眼,因为试验意味着你有可能失败”,威尔金森说道。“但我们不能等待事情自我完善,不能一直用老办法解决问题”。

Experimentation nation

试验的国家

Some countries are beginning to break the mould. In Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that experimentation will be the norm for making data-based decisions. France’s President Emmanuel Macron has carved out a budget for conducting research on how to better run the government, and the United Arab Emirates has also committed 1% of all public spending to innovation.

有些国家开始不再因循守旧。加拿大总理贾斯汀·特鲁多宣布将试验作为数据决策的准则。法国总统埃曼努尔·马克龙拨出专项资金用于研究如何更好的管理政府,阿拉伯联合酋长国的创新投入占所有公共总支出的1%。

“It’s a completely different way of doing things than having people in the capital writing a law and then implementing it across millions, just like that,” Mulgan says. “It’s applying the scientific method to the whole of government.”

“这完全不同于立法者制定法律,然后在全社会实行的模式”,莫尔根说道。“而是用科学方法武装整个政府”。

Slovenia, however, may be leading the world in this approach thanks to its Vision of Slovenia programme, launched in 2015. “The world is interconnected, people’s expectations are rising and governing is getting harder and harder,” says government minister Alenka Smerkolj, responsible for development, strategic projects and cohesion. “Business-as-usual just doesn’t function anymore, and we realised we needed to start changing things.”

斯洛文尼亚在这方面可能正在引领世界,这得益于2015年制定的“斯洛文尼亚愿景规划”。负责发展、团结、战略项目的政府部长Alenka Smerkolj指出:“世界变得互联化,人民的期待不断提高,管理难度日益增加”。“因循守旧已经不管用了,我们意识到需要开始变革”。

Smerkolj and her colleagues quickly found that more than a one-off project or policy, this required a long-term plan of many small steps and goals. They set a date – 2050 – and then went about defining where Slovenia would like to be by then.

Smerkolj和她的同事很快发现一次性项目或政策还不够,需要一个由许多小的步骤和目标组成的长远规划。他们将时间设定为2050年,描绘那时的斯洛文尼亚将是何种景象。

Rather than determine this themselves, they spent a year surveying more than 1,000 Slovenians from all walks of life and holding numerous workshops. “It’s not easy, but we found that it’s crucial to start talking to the people and regaining their trust if you want to change anything in government,” Smerkolj says.

这并非一厢情愿,他们用了一年时间对各行各业1000多名斯洛文尼亚人展开调查,举办了许多研讨会。“这并非易事,但我们发现要想变革政府,通过交流重新得到人民的信任至关重要”,Smerkolj说道。

Pairing that feedback with analyses of wider trends and evidence-based predictions, Smerkolkj and her colleagues developed 12 initial development goals for 2030. All contribute to one core obxtive: quality of life for everyone. Interventions will range from small legislative tweaks (making it easier for employers to hire foreign employees, for example) to solutions for complex issues, including structural reforms and major climate change mitigation.

Smerkolkj和同事结合调查反馈、大势分析、循证预测,为2030年设立了12项初期发展目标。它们服务于一个核心目标:提高所有人的生活质量。这些干预措施包括小幅立法改革(使雇主更容易雇佣外国人)以及解决复杂问题的办法,包括结构性改革和大幅减缓气候变化。

“The project forced people to start talking to each other, and it forced policy makers to start thinking about more agile policies,” Smerkolj says. “The broader context, of course, is that this approach is not just relevant for Slovenia but for everyone, for all countries in this world.”

Smerkolj指出:“在这一项目的强力推动下,人们开始相互交流,决策者开始思考更加灵活的政策”。“从大环境来看,此方法关乎斯洛文尼亚,以及所有的人和国家的利益”。

World order

Wilkinson and others at Govern-Mentality, an association of public servants, experts and entrepreneurs, are trying to get people to think about their own governments with the same creative mindset. “The ultimate goal is literally to create a change-making movement from within government,” she says.

世界秩序

威尔金森与Govern-Mentality协会(由公务员、专家、企业家组成)正在想方设法使人们以同样的创造性心态思考自己的政府。“最终目标是从政府内部发起变革运动”,她说道。

South Sudan, which has been called the world's youngest failed nation, is a study in the dangers of tearing down and starting from scratch

南苏丹被称为世界上最年轻的失败国家,是将现行制度推倒重来的风险研究对象。

One way to improve governance, Wilkinson says, may be shifting from state-centric government to polycentrism – a lack of central control. That would require common guiding principles to assure cooperation and prevent one force from dominating, she says, and joint efforts toward common goals like cutting greenhouse gases or combatting poverty. The resulting system, Wilkinson says, would be “vibrant, dynamic, diverse and imperfect” – but ultimately would unite everyone under a shared vision, much as Slovenia is attempting to do.

威尔金森指出,改善治理的一种方式可能是将“国家中心型政府”转变为取消中央控制的“多中心型政府”。这需要一般性指导原则来确保合作,避免一方势力坐大,共同努力实现共同目标,例如:减少温室气体排放或脱贫。威尔金森指出,最终形成的是“充满生机与活力、多元化、不完美”的制度,但最终会在共同愿景下团结每一个人,这正是斯洛文尼亚打算做的。

When designing an ideal government, another key is championing dignity as an essential part of reform, says Al-Rodhan. As he describes in his book Sustainable History and the Dignity of Man, this means making sure that human emotion, amorality and egotism never outweigh nine core criteria: reason, security, human rights, accountability, transparency, justice, opportunity, innovation and inclusiveness. If some or all of these things are missing, the system will likely perform poorly or fail entirely.

在设计理想政府的过程中,另一个要点是将尊严作为改革中不可或缺的一部分。,奥罗丹说道。他在《可持续历史与人的尊严》一书中写道,这意味着确保人类的情感、超道德、利己主义永远不能逾越9大核心标准:理性、安全、人权、责任、透明、正义、机遇、创新、包容。如果丢弃某个或所有标准,政治制度可能会表现糟糕乃至彻底失败。

Human dignity must be an essential part of government reform

人类尊严必须成为政府改革中不可或缺的一部分。

That theory has been evidenced in real-world case studies. Finland, for example, is renowned for its exceptional welfare system. But a lack of opportunity and innovation has led to a decades-long brain drain. “If someone has an idea, the system must allow that person to realise it, otherwise there’s no growth and people aren’t happy,” Al-Rodhan says. “It’s an ‘American Dream’ kind of thing.”

这一理论已得到实证。例如:芬兰的福利体系是出了名的优越,但缺少机遇和创新导致数十年的人才流失。“如果一个人有创意,制度必须允许他实现这个创意,否则就没有发展,人民不会幸福”,奥罗丹说道。“正如美国梦一样”。

But other solutions may be out there. Launched earlier this winter Nesta has brought together 30 governments – including Singapore, Canada, Chile and Australia – into its ‘states of change’ collective to help improve innovation. Together, politicians, entrepreneurs and other global leaders will brainstorm and test new ways of using data and technology to improve governance and the overall state of the world.

但也许还有其他的解决办法。今年初冬,Nesta创新基金会召集30国政府加入“变革国家”阵营来推动创新,包括新加坡、加拿大、智利、澳大利亚。届时政客、企业家及其他全球领袖将集思广益,检验可否利用数据与科技的新方式来改善治理和世界整体状况。

“There is a way of creating governments that are really adept at learning, improving and thinking,” Mulgan says. “In 20 or 30 years, the best ones will be doing things we couldn’t imagine now.”

“我们有办法创造出擅于学习、自我完善、会思考的政府”,莫尔根说道。“再过二三十年,最优秀的政府将做出今天意想不到的事情”。