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何谓public good?
[雅健翻译]  2013-05-03 16:22:10  

 

我曾看到一家翻译机构的画册,中英文版本的。画册的内容有公益活动一栏,相应的英译文为public good。关于公益的翻译,我在另一篇文章中已经谈过了,在此不赘述。
公益活动翻译为public good不对,那么public good到底是什么呢?要回答清楚,实在有追本溯源的必要。
先请看看下面的英文。
 
What is a public good?
By Inge Kaul
 
What is a public good? This question can best be answered by looking at the counterpart, a private good. Private goods are typically traded in markets. Buyers and sellers meet through the price mechanism. If they agree on a price, the ownership or use of the good (or service) can be transferred. Thus private goods tend to be excludable. They have clearly identified owners; and they tend to be rival. For example, others cannot enjoy a piece of cake, once consumed.
Public goods have just the opposite qualities. They are non-excludable and non-rival in consumption. An example is a street sign. It will not wear out, even if large numbers of people are looking at it; and it would be extremely difficult, costly and highly inefficient to limit its use to only one or a few persons and try to prevent others from looking at it, too. A traffic light or clean air is a further example.
This poses immediately the question of who, then, provides public goods. Once they exist, they are there for all to enjoy. So it is often the most rational strategy for private actors to let others go first and seek to enjoy the good without contributing to its production. This is a dilemma, that public goods face. Without some sort of collective-action mechanism, they risk being under-provided. Conversely, without collective action, public bads - such as pollution, noise, street crime, risky bank lending, and so on - would be over-provided.
Global public goods are public goods whose benefits reach across borders, generations and population groups. They form part of the broader group of international public goods, which include as another sub-group, regional public goods.
To make the notion of a global public good more concrete, consider, for example, the eradication of small pox. Once accomplished, the whole of humanity benefits - people in all parts of the globe, present as well as future generations, rich and poor. Similarly, if the international community were to succeed in ensuring peace, everyone would be able to enjoy it. Much the same holds true for well-functioning international markets. And averting the risk of global climate change would secure inter-generational as well as geographically widespread benefits, although people in various parts of the world might benefit in different ways. Similarly, international regimes such as those for civil aviation, postal services, and telecommunications, or those recognising a document such as a passport, all have significant properties of “global publicness”.
At the national level, states often step in to facilitate the collective action needed to avoid over-production of public bads, or under-provision of public goods. Internationally, there is no such institution. Yet as history has shown, if global public goods do correspond to national needs and self-interest, states do manage to reach agreement on coordinated action. But as shown in this article, international cooperation so far has primarily been concerned with relations between countries and at-the-border issues. Now the challenge is to motivate countries not to let public bads spill across their borders and turn from national public bads into global public bads. This requires behind-the-border policy harmonisation, and places added demands on states’ willingness to cooperate. International cooperation is increasingly a global give and take, and so probably a harder bargain than previously.
Therefore, it is essential to recognise that the publicness of a good does not automatically imply that all people value it in the same way. Poor people, who cannot afford to travel, may not place the highest value on an international passport regime. They may give preference to ensuring global health or to truly free trade so that their goods can also find new markets. Other people may rank the control of international terrorism or stability of international financial markets highest. In establishing a global public goods agenda, it is, therefore, important to ensure that the top priorities of different population groups are being considered equitably.
Also, global public goods must not be allowed to further exacerbate existing inequities. Although public, some may not be accessible to the poor. The internet poses this challenge. And others, such as a free trade regime in an unequal world, may give rise to a winner-take-all situation. If these concerns are neglected, people’s and states’ willingness to cooperate will suffer - and so will global public goods. Equity is an important element of an effective global public goods strategy.
But beyond its instrumental value, equity is itself is a global public good. It is non-rival, in the sense that if one person is being treated equitably that does not diminish the chance of another person also to be treated in the same way. On the contrary, the more accepted the principle and practice of equity is, the more confident can other persons be that they will also benefit from fairness and justice. And once accepted as a norm like other global norms and principles such as human rights, equity is non-excludable. Once accepted as a norm, it must, by definition, apply to all peoples in all places. Otherwise, the norm would falter and injustice rear its ugly head again. Therefore, equity is best - and most predictably - ensured globally, as a universal principle.
Nonstate actors, both civil society and business, contribute to the provision of public goods, including global public goods, from human rights to technical norms. Interestingly, non-state actors also were often the ones, who have drawn attention to the importance of balancing the globalisation of private activities with that of public goods. State actors seem to be more constrained, maybe due to the territorial definition of nation states. An added reason to link global public goods closely to national interests. And also a reason to consider the need for more tripartite international forums in which state actors as well as non-state, transnational actors could jointly debate how to balance private goods with public goods. People’s well-being depends on this balance. Even the wealthiest person cannot do without public goods, including global public goods. Neither can markets. To function efficiently, they need property rights, legal institutions, nomenclature, educated people, peace and security
看完这篇英文后,我们对public good 有了很全面的了解。接下来,public good翻译成中文该如何表达?
有人将其译为公用品,对此,一位经济学者表示不同意,他说应该改译为共用品才对。我们看看他的观点:
天才米尔一八四八年提出的灯塔例子,触发了百多年不断的不大不小的辩论,没有谁分析得对,是辩论到今天还是余波未了的原因。六十年前森穆逊称灯塔的服务为public good,误导,后者中译「公用品」,不对,再误导。我改译为「共用品」,那才对。
一个公厕任何人都可以用,说是公用是对的,但不可以共享,因为甲用时乙不能用。一个public beach译作「公众海滩」或「公共海滩」,都对,但严格来说不能共享:我躺在滩上,你不能躺在我身上;你的孩子在滩上游戏,干扰着我。米尔的灯塔,是无数船只可以一起用,在黑夜中避开礁石,互不干扰。这才是共用品的特征…..
共用品的特征是无数人可以一起用,英语称concurrent usage,互不干扰。一个电台节目是好例子:各人在自家收看或收听,互不干扰。
         这位经济学者分析的很有道理,符合上面英文第二段中关于public good non-excludable and non-rival in consumption的释义。而street sign(路牌标识)、 traffic light(红绿灯)、clean air(洁净空气)是典型的public good。
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