我们需要IMF来监管互联网吗?

作者:英国《金融时报》专栏作家 吉莲•邰蒂
2019.04.19 12:00

75年前,第二次世界大战接近尾声时,来自同盟国(Allied nations)的代表们相聚美国新罕布什尔州的布雷顿森林(Bretton Woods),商讨创建一个监管国际货币体系的框架。

当时他们认为,监督货币对于促进和平、缔造增长至关重要。这可能并不令人意外:二战后迫切需要通过世界银行(World Bank)和国际货币基金组织(IMF)等机构重启全球经济。而且,尽管接下来几十年里经历了不少波折,这件事也实现了。当IMF和世界银行本月召开春季会议时,华盛顿市中心到处张贴着庆祝“75年合作”的标语。

但在庆祝活动中,有个问题值得一问:现在是IMF超越货币范畴来思考其他问题的时候了吗?黑莓(BlackBerry)背后的加拿大公司RIM(Research In Motion)前联席首席执行官吉姆•巴尔斯利(Jim Balsillie)认为是这样的。

去年,IMF举办了一个研讨会,讨论新的数字经济。在讨论期间(我也在会上发了言),巴尔斯利提出了一个新颖的呼吁:他称,现在IMF是时候帮助协调全球数据规则并制定应对技术影响的联合国际战略了。

对于习惯关注货币的经济学家来说,这个想法听起来可能有些奇怪。但巴尔斯利认为,如今数据的流动对全球经济的推动作用不亚于金融对经济的推动作用,以至于就创造价值而言,数据往往被描述为新的石油。他指出:“1976年,标普500指数(S&P 500) 16%的市值是无形资产,(但)今天,无形资产几乎占标普总市值的90%。”

这使得数据治理成为了一个关键的政策问题。但美国、欧洲和中国在这方面似乎存在顽固的分歧,这有可能撕裂互联网。事实上,风险如此之高,以至于谷歌前首席执行官埃里克•施密特(Eric Schmidt)等硅谷知名人士警告称,我们可能正在走向一个“分裂网”(splinternet),即被各国壁垒割裂的网络。

因此,正如IMF等机构试图为货币制定促进发展的规则一样,它们现在也应该为数据制定类似规则。巴尔斯利向IMF总裁克里斯蒂娜•拉加德(Christine Lagarde)表示:“只有关键决策者召开一次历史性会议,才能为数据推动型经济……建立一套全新的全球框架。”他呼吁创造“一个新的布雷顿森林体系时刻”。

我对该想法是否会成为现实表示怀疑(尽管拉加德本人太过圆滑而没有在当时直接这么说)。处理传统金融和经济问题已经够IMF忙的了,而且其工作人员都是经济学家,而非技术专家。

此外,目前尚不清楚,老谋深算的拉加德是否能够把人们团结到一起打造一项数据协议——即使她有意如此。现在的布雷顿森林体系倡议是由在战场上并肩作战过的44个同盟国共同发起的。如今,地缘政治对抗——尤其是中美对抗——更有可能压倒任何共同目标。

然而,我认为若忽视巴尔斯利的呼吁将是一个错误,原因至少有两点。第一,我们都需要认识到数字革命如何正在从根本上改变我们对经济的看法——以及在这个数据几乎与金钱同等重要的时代,价值是如何被创造出来的。

IMF在本月发布的最新《世界经济展望》(World Economic Outlook)报告中表示,对大型科技公司的垄断权力感到担忧,因为它担心这可能会破坏未来的增长和创新。

第二,巴尔斯利的建议暴露了有关全球治理的更大问题。或许,想象IMF设定全球数据标准,似乎有些奇怪。但更奇怪——也更令人担忧——的是,其他机构其实都不具备做这件事的条件。

理论上,联合国(UN)应该对互联网有所监管。但在实践中,该机构相当没有实权、又盛行官僚主义,其主要目的是促进政策讨论。虽然也有一些较小规模的组织勇敢地捍卫着互联网的基本架构(比如互联网名称与数字地址分配机构(internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers)),但它们往往聚焦于某些比较偏门的领域。

换句话说,互联网缺少的是类似于由各国央行或布雷顿森林体系机构组成的网络,该网络可以努力使数据不受地缘政治紧张因素的阻碍、在全世界自由流动,就像那些机构为货币所做的那样。在某种程度上,这是有意安排的:互联网背后的技术人员一开始就打算建立一个去中心化的网络,而且他们当时对政府控制心存疑虑。

但这也是因为我们的数字经济仍然相当年轻;到目前为止,还没有出现过可能迫使相互竞争的国家携手合作的灾难性冲击(比方说,网络彻底崩溃,或大规模网络攻击)。毕竟,布雷顿森林体系是在二战后建立的:美联储(Fed)亦是在金融恐慌中诞生。

政策制定者能否从金融历史中汲取教训,在冲击发生之前(而非事后)创建数字世界的全球协调机制?历史表明,答案是否定的。但除非这种情况能够发生,否则问题仍然是:数据像货币一样让我们的世界运转起来——但与货币不同的是,数据领域目前几乎没有全球合作机制。IMF可能不像是适合牵头的机构;但如果IMF不适合,那有谁适合呢?

译者/马柯斯

以下为此文英文原文:Do we need an IMF to regulate the internet?

By Gillian Tett

Seventy-five years ago, as the second world war was drawing to a close, delegates from the Allied nations met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to create a framework for regulating the international monetary system.

They assumed back then that monitoring money was crucial for fostering peace and building growth. No surprise there, perhaps: after the war there was an urgent need to restart the global economy, via institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And, for all the bumps in subsequent decades, that is what happened. When the IMF and World Bank held their spring meetings this month, downtown Washington was adorned with posters hailing “75 years of co-operation”.

But amid the celebrations, it is worth asking: is it time for the IMF to think beyond money? Jim Balsillie, the former co-chief executive of Research In Motion, the Canadian company behind BlackBerry, thinks it is.

Last year, the IMF hosted a seminar to talk about the new digital economy. During the discussions (at which I also spoke), Balsillie made a novel appeal: he said it was time for the IMF to help co-ordinate global data rules and to forge a joint international strategy for dealing with the impact of technology.

That idea may sound odd to economists, who are used to focusing on money. But today, Balsillie argued, the movement of data drives the global economy as much as finance — so much so that data is often described as the new oil, in terms of creating value. “In 1976, 16 per cent of the value of the S&P 500 was intangibles [but] today intangibles comprise almost 90 per cent of the S&P’s total value,” he noted.

That makes data governance a key policy issue. But the seemingly intractable splits between the US, Europe and China in this respect have the potential to rip the internet apart. Indeed, the risks are so high that Silicon Valley luminaries such as Eric Schmidt, former Google chief, have warned that we could be heading for a “ splinternet”, a network fragmented by national barriers.

So just as bodies such as the IMF tried to create growth-promoting rules for money, they should now do likewise for data. “Nothing less than a historic gathering of key decision makers will forge a new global framework . . . for the data-driven economy,” Balsillie told IMF head Christine Lagarde as he called for “a new Bretton Woods moment”.

I doubt that this idea will ever fly (although Lagarde herself was too tactful to say so at the time). The IMF already has its hands full with traditional financial and economic problems, and is staffed by economists rather than tech experts.

Also, it’s not clear whether even the wily Lagarde would be able to bang heads together to forge a data accord — even if she wanted to. The original Bretton Woods initiative was created by 44 allies who were fighting a war together. Today, geopolitical rivalries, notably between China and the US, are more likely to outweigh any sense of common purpose.

Nevertheless, I think it would be a mistake to dismiss Balsillie’s appeal, for at least two reasons. First, we all need to recognise just how radically the digital revolution is changing our idea of what an economy is — and how value is created in an era where data is almost as important as money.

In its latest World Economic Outlook report, published this month, the IMF said it was alarmed about the monopoly power of big tech companies, since it feared this could undermine growth and innovation in the future.

Second, Balsillie’s suggestion exposes much bigger questions about global governance. Maybe it seems weird to imagine the IMF setting global data standards. But what is even stranger — and more alarming — is that no other institution is really in a position to do this.

In theory, the UN is supposed to have some oversight of the web. But, in practice, it is fairly toothless and bureaucratic, aiming primarily to foster policy discussions. While there are smaller organisations valiantly fighting to preserve the underlying architecture of the internet — such as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — these tend to focus on niche areas.

What the internet lacks, in other words, is anything like a network of central banks, or the Bretton Woods institutions, which might do for data what those bodies do for money — namely, fight to keep it flowing around the world in the face of geopolitical tensions. In part, this is by design: the techies behind the internet set out to build a decentralised network and were suspicious of government control.

But it is also because our digital economy is still pretty young; thus far, there has not been the type of catastrophic shock (a complete collapse of the web, say, or a massive cyber hack) that might force competing countries to co-operate. Bretton Woods, after all, was a response to the second world war; the US Federal Reserve was born out of financial panics.

Can policy makers learn the lessons from financial history and create mechanisms for global co-ordination for the digital world before — not after — a shock hits? History suggests not. But unless that happens, the issue remains that data, like money, makes our world go round — but unlike with money, there are few global mechanisms for co-operation. The IMF might not be the obvious body for this; but if not it, then who?


发帖时间: news

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