The End of Economics？经济学的终结
Fareed Zakaria 法里德·扎卡里亚
In 1998， as the Asian financial crisis was ravaging what had been some of the fastest-growing economies in the world， the New Yorker ran an article describing the international rescue efforts. It profiled the super-diplomat of the day， a big-idea man the Economist had recently likened to Henry Kissinger. The New Yorker went further， noting that when he arrived in Japan in June， this American official was treated “as if he were General MacArthur.” In retrospect， such reverence seems surprising， given that the man in question， Larry Summers， was a disheveled， somewhat awkward nerd then serving as the U.S. deputy treasury secretary. His extraordinary status owed， in part， to the fact that the United States was then （and still is） the world's sole superpower. But the biggest reason for Summers's welcome was the widespread perception that he possessed a special knowledge that would save Asia from collapse. Summers was an economist.
During the Cold War， the tensions that defined the world were ideological and geopolitical. As a result， the superstar experts of that era were those with special expertise in those areas. And policymakers who could combine an understanding of both， such as Kissinger， George Kennan， and Zbigniew Brzezinski， ascended to the top of the heap， winning the admiration of both politicians and the public. Once the Cold War ended， however， all of a sudden， the most valuable intellectual training and practical experience became economics，which was seen as the secret sauce that could make and unmake nations.
In the three decades since the end of the Cold War， economics has enjoyed a kind of intellectual hegemony. It has become first among equals in the social sciences and has dominated most policy agendas as well. Economists have been much sought after by businesses， governments， and society at large， their insights seen as useful in every sphere of life. At the root of all this influence is the notion that economics provides the most powerful lens through which to understand the modern world.
That hegemony is now over. Things started to change during the 2008 global financial crisis， which had a far greater impact on the discipline of economics than is commonly understood. As Paul Krugman noted in a September 2009 essay in the New York Times Magazine， “Few economists saw our current crisis coming， but this predictive failure was the least of the field's problems. More important was the profession's blindness to the very possibility of catastrophic failures in a market economy.” The left-wing Krugman was not the only one to make this observation. In October 2008， Greenspan， a lifelong libertarian， admitted that“the whole intellectual edifice … collapsed in the summer of last year.”
These days， the quest to maximize profit does not seem like a helpful way to understand why states act the way they do. Many European countries， for example， have higher labor productivity than the United States. Yet citizens there choose to work fewer hours and take longer vacations， decreasing their output—because， they might argue， they prioritize contentment or happiness over economic output. Bhutan has explicitly decided to pursue “gross national happiness”rather than gross domestic product. Many countries have replaced purely GDP-oriented goals with strategies that also stress environmental sustainability.
Let me be clear: Economics remains a vital discipline， one of the most powerful ways we have to understand the world. As we try to understand the world of the next three decades， we will desperately need economics but also political science， sociology，psychology， and perhaps even literature and philosophy. Students of each should retain some element of humility. As Immanuel Kant said， “Out of the crooked timber of humanity， no straight thing was ever made.”