JOSEPH SCHUMPETER thought capitalism was doomed. Incumbent firms would grow too powerful, leading to corruption and, eventually, socialism. His mid-20 th-century pessimism has become fashionable today, as societies grapple with inequality, climate change and tech giants. Yet some of Schumpeter’s professional heirs are optimists. In“The Power of Creative Destruction”Philippe Aghion, Céline Antonin and Simon Bunel, three economists, apply his most powerful idea to contemporary debates in their discipline. The result is sweeping, authoritative and—for the times—strikingly upbeat.
约瑟夫・熊彼特（Joseph Schumpeter）认为资本主义在劫难逃。老牌公司会变得过于强大，导致腐败，最终令社会走向社会主义。今天，在社会努力应对不平等、气候变化和科技巨头之际，他在 20 世纪中期的那种悲观主义成为了一种风尚。不过，一些继承了熊彼特衣钵的经济学家是乐观主义者。在《创造性破坏的力量》一书中，菲利普・阿吉翁（Philippe Aghion）、席琳・安东尼（Céline Antonin）和西蒙・布内尔（Simon Bunel）将熊彼特最有力的思想应用于经济学的当代辩论中。其成果是一本全面而具权威性的著作，而且对如今这个时代来说乐观得出人意料。
Elementary models of growth focus on the accumulation of capital, with technological progress and advances in productivity assumed but poorly explained. The Schumpeterian paradigm of creative destruction, of which Mr Aghion is a modern champion, puts innovation at its core. In this view, ideas drive long-term growth. People are motivated to innovate by the prospect of monopoly rents (an aberration in simplistic economics). But innovation also destroys rents by displacing the previous generation of entrepreneurs.
Take development. Critics of free markets like to argue that the fast growth of Asian economies such as South Korea in the late 20 th century proves the desirability of state intervention, given that these places often sheltered firms from competition and subsidised their exports. The Schumpeterian paradigm emphasises knowledge. When countries are far from the frontier of innovation, the important thing is to learn how to imitate the best, which the government and businesses might manage ARM-in-ARM. But economies must later become innovative themselves. In South Korea this was achieved fortuitously. In the late 1990 s the Asian financial crisis bankrupted some chaebols (industrial conglomerates) and exposed others to competition in part because of policies imposed as a condition of an IMF bail-out. The happy result was an economy that produces ideas.
以发展为例。自由市场的批评者喜欢主张说，20 世纪末韩国等亚洲经济体的快速增长证明了国家干预的可取性，因为这些地方的政府经常保护企业免于竞争，还会补贴其出口。熊彼特范式强调的是知识。当国家远离创新前沿时，学习如何效仿最佳范例就变得很重要，而政府和企业可能会合力成就此事。但是，这之后经济体本身必须成为创新者。韩国做到了，但纯属偶然。上世纪 90 年代末，亚洲金融危机导致一些财阀（工业企业集团）破产，而另一些必须直面竞争——在一定程度上是因为韩国为获得国际货币基金组织的援助，作为条件而实施了某些政策。这带来了可喜的结果：一个创意迸发的经济体。
The authors are not market fundamentalists. They emphasise that innovation is self-perpetuating. Advances in one area, such as internal-combustion engines, will naturally lead to more—and the state can nudge firms down the right path. To tackle climate change, they recommend subsidies for green innovation alongside taxing carbon emissions. They are unafraid of calling for industrial policy in sectors such as aerospace, where the initial costs of entry are high and demand is uncertain (meaning the private sector has an incentive to wait for someone else to innovate first). It is crucial, they urge, that governments always encourage new entrants rather than impeding them.
What about labour markets and inequality? The authors are sceptical about some contemporary doom and gloom. Automation creates more jobs than it eliminates, they reckon. Innovation yields fortunes at the very top but does not seem to boost overall inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient—a subtle rejoinder to those who think that the success of billionaires is America’s biggest problem. Creative destruction is a force for social mobility: California’s elites have higher incomes than Alabama’s, but its poorest have more opportunities too. Tax cuts on capital income, like Sweden’s in the early 1990 s, stimulate innovation and growth.
那么劳动力市场和不平等问题呢？作者们对眼下的一些悲观论调持怀疑态度。他们认为自动化创造的工作岗位比它淘汰的多。正如基尼系数的衡量结果所示，创新在最高层产生了财富，但似乎并未增加整体的不平等——这对那些认为亿万富翁的成功是美国最大的问题的人来说，是个微妙的反驳。创造性破坏是一股推动社会流动性的力量：加州的精英比阿拉巴马州的精英收入高，但加州最贫穷的人拥有的机会也更多。对资本收入的减税，如上世纪 90 年代初瑞典的做法，刺激了创新和增长。
Inequality resulting from lobbying and regulatory capture, however, is cancerous: it brings slower growth and Less social mobility. The authors also call for an“insurer state”to redistribute wealth and protect workers against the vicissitudes of a dynamic economy. And they worry about the runaway success of technology giants stifling ingenuity, arguing that competition regulators should be as concerned with the incentive to produce ideas as with companies’market shares.
Schumpeter was an outsider among the Keynesian economists of his day. His ideas were rooted in the real world of business, not the ivory tower. This book, by contrast, is in part a defence of economics (and of third-way liberalism). Its brevity relative to its ambition means that it is not always convincing; sometimes the evidence adduced is thin. But the overall argument is compelling and, with creative destruction falling out of political favour, it carries a trace of Schumpeterian subversion.