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斯蒂格利茨 :人为因素造成的经济停滞
2014/2/14 16:03:44 | 浏览:1351 | 评论:0

  2008年全球金融危机爆发不久,我便警告说,除非采取正确的政策,否则将会出现日本式的萎靡——未来多年的缓慢经济增长和收入近乎停滞。尽管大西洋两岸的领导人纷纷表示已吸取了日本的教训,却几乎立刻便重复了一些相同的错误。如今,连美国前高级官员、经济学家萨默斯(Larry Summers)也对出现长期停滞提出警告。

  我在五年前所提出的基本观点是,从根本上说,美国经济在危机之前便已出现毛病:它只是一个宽松的监管和低利率制造的资产价格泡沫,经济看起来强健,但表面之下却有诸多问题正在发酵:不平等性日益增加、结构性改革(从基于制造业的经济转向服务业并适应全球比较优势的变化)的需要得不到满足、持续的全球失衡、及金融体系更倾向于投机而不是可以创造就业岗位、提高生产率和利用盈余实现社会回报最大化的投资。

  决策者对危机的反应并不能纠正这些问题;更糟糕的,是反而加剧了其中一些,并创造另外一些新的问题——而这不局限于美国。结果是,随着国内生产总值(GDP)暴降影响了政府收入,许多国家的负债水平激增。此外,公共和私人部门的投资不足,让一代的年轻人在应该打磨技能、提高生产力的时期,多年来成为无业游民,疏离感也日益增加。

  在大西洋两岸,今年GDP增长有望大大快于2013年。但是,在采取紧缩政策领导人开香槟庆祝之前,他们应该检视一下现状,并看看这些政策所导致的几乎不可挽回的伤害。

  任何衰退终究有结束的一天。好政策的特点是它能让衰退期变得更浅、更短。然而,许多政府所采取的紧缩政策,却让衰退变得远比必要的更深、更长久,并且造成了长期后果。

  大部分北大西洋国家的实际(经通胀调整)人均GDP低于2007年;在希腊,经济估计收缩了约23%。表现最出色的欧洲国家德国在过去六年的平均年增长率也只有0.7%。美国的经济规模仍比危机前,增长若维持温和水平的情况小15%。

  但这些数字也不能充分说明情况到底有多坏,因为GDP不是衡量成功的好指标。更相关的指标是家庭收入。美国中位数实际收入比1989年(即25年前)的水平还要低;全职男性员工的中位数收入还不如40多年前的水平。

  经济学家戈登(Robert Gordon)等人指出,我们应该对新的现实做出调整,长期生产力增长将远低于过去一个世纪。经济学家的预测向来靠不住,这次危机便尽显无疑,哪怕只是预测短短三年。因此,对于未来几十年的发展,我们不能对他们水晶球式的预测抱有多大信心。但有一点是显而易见的:除非政府政策有所改变,否则我们将长期感到失望。

  市场不是自我纠正的。我早前所列举的根本问题可能会进一步恶化,而其中许多确实恶化了。不平等性让需求萎靡不振;加剧的不平等性让需求更加萎靡不振;而在包括美国在内的许多国家,危机让了不平等性进一步恶化。

  中国的贸易盈余放缓了,北欧的贸易盈余却有所增加。最重要的,是市场从不擅长自动快速实现结构转型;比如,从农业到制造业的转型非常不平稳的;随着出现的是巨大的社会动荡和大萧条。

  这次也不会不一样,但在某种形式上可能更糟糕:应该出现增长的领域是教育和保健等服务领域,它们反映了人民的需求和渴望。传统上,这些部门都是由公共资金支撑的,其中的道理不言自明。但是,政府不但没有协助,还通过紧缩制约了开支。

  萎靡比衰退好,衰退又比萧条好。但我们目前所面临的困难不是不可阻挡的经济定律,这我们只能做出反应,就像对地震和海啸等自然灾难那样。我们目前所面临的困境甚至也算不上是因为过去的罪恶而不得不付出的自我惩罚,尽管平心而论,过去30年所盛行的新自由主义政策与当前困境关系很大。

  相反的,我们当前的困境是有缺陷的政策造成的。我们有不同的政策选项。但自我满足与自鸣得意的精英却视若无睹,他们的收入和股票组合又开始飙涨了。看来,只有一部分人必须作出调整以适应永久的较低生活水平。不幸的是,这些人正好是大部分人。

  作者Joseph E. Stiglitz是诺贝尔经济学奖获得者,哥伦比亚大学大学教授。

  英文原题:Stagnation by Design
  版权所有:Project Syndicate, 2014


人为因素造成的经济停滞

(Stagnation by Design)

Soon after the global financial crisis erupted in 2008, I warned that unless the right policies were adopted, Japanese-style malaise – slow growth and near-stagnant incomes for years to come – could set in. While leaders on both sides of the Atlantic claimed that they had learned the lessons of Japan, they promptly proceeded to repeat some of the same mistakes. Now, even a key former United States official, the economist Larry Summers, is warning of secular stagnation.

The basic point that I raised a half-decade ago was that, in a fundamental sense, the US economy was sick even before the crisis:it was only an asset-price bubble, created through lax regulation and low interest rates, that had made the economy seem robust. Beneath the surface, numerous problems were festering:growing inequality; an unmet need for structural reform(moving from a manufacturing-based economy to services and adapting to changing global comparative advantages); persistent global imbalances; and a financial system more attuned to speculating than to making investments that would create jobs, increase productivity, and redeploy surpluses to maximize social returns.

Policymakers’ response to the crisis failed to address these issues; worse, it exacerbated some of them and created new ones – and not just in the US. The result has been increased indebtedness in many countries, as the collapse of GDP undermined government revenues. Moreover, underinvestment in both the public and private sector has created a generation of young people who have spent years idle and increasingly alienated at a point in their lives when they should have been honing their skills and increasing their productivity.

On both sides of the Atlantic, GDP is likely to grow considerably faster this year than in 2013. But, before leaders who embraced austerity policies open the champagne and toast themselves, they should examine where we are and consider the near-irreparable damage that these policies have caused.

Every downturn eventually comes to an end. The mark of a good policy is that it succeeds in making the downturn shallower and shorter than it otherwise would have been. The mark of the austerity policies that many governments embraced is that they made the downturn far deeper and longer than was necessary, with long-lasting consequences.

Real(inflation-adjusted)GDP per capita is lower in most of the North Atlantic than it was in 2007; in Greece, the economy has shrunk by an estimated 23%. Germany, the top-performing European country, has recorded miserly 0.7% average annual growth over the last six years. The US economy is still roughly 15% smaller than it would have been had growth continued even on the moderate pre-crisis trajectory.

But even these numbers do not tell the full story of how bad things are, because GDP is not a good measure of success. Far more relevant is what is happening to household incomes. Median real income in the US is below its level in 1989, a quarter-century ago; median income for full-time male workers is lower now than it was more than 40 years ago.

Some, like the economist Robert Gordon, have suggested that we should adjust to a new reality in which long-term productivity growth will be significantly below what it has been over the past century. Given economists’ miserable record – reflected in the run-up to the crisis – for even three-year predictions, no one should have much confidence in a crystal ball that forecasts decades into the future. But this much seems clear:unless government policies change, we are in for a long period of disappointment.

Markets are not self-correcting. The underlying fundamental problems that I outlined earlier could get worse – and many are. Inequality leads to weak demand; widening inequality weakens demand even more; and, in most countries, including the US, the crisis has only worsened inequality.

The trade surpluses of northern Europe have increased, even as China’s have moderated. Most important, markets have never been very good at achieving structural transformations quickly on their own; the transition from agriculture to manufacturing, for example, was anything but smooth; on the contrary, it was accompanied by significant social dislocation and the Great Depression.

This time is no different, but in some ways it could be worse:the sectors that should be growing, reflecting the needs and desires of citizens, are services like education and health, which traditionally have been publicly financed, and for good reason. But, rather than government facilitating the transition, austerity is inhibiting it.

Malaise is better than a recession, and a recession is better than a depression. But the difficulties that we are facing now are not the result of the inexorable laws of economics, to which we simply must adjust, as we would to a natural disaster, like an earthquake or tsunami. They are not even a kind of penance that we have to pay for past sins – though, to be sure, the neoliberal policies that have prevailed for the past three decades have much to do with our current predicament.

Instead, our current difficulties are the result of flawed policies. There are alternatives. But we will not find them in the self-satisfied complacency of the elites, whose incomes and stock portfolios are once again soaring. Only some people, it seems, must adjust to a permanently lower standard of living. Unfortunately, those people happen to be most people.

(Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, was Chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank.)

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