Thursday, April 24, 2014
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审计美联储?

发自伯克利——本次共和党全国代表大会上通过的党纲中包含了若干引人注目的条款。例如在一个货币经济学家看来,该党关于恢复某种金属货币本位制度的提议就诡异得就像一个几乎无法抗拒的(批判)目标。

更严重的是共和党人还提议对美联储进行年度审计。这跟重回金本位的条款一样,在某种程度上是为了吸引罗恩·保罗(Ron Paul)的自由论追随者——这位德克萨斯州参议员以及多年总统候选人如今成为了共和党“茶党”系的宠儿。虽然保罗可能会更进一步完全撤销美联储,但美国国会已经有几个法案对年度审计给予了授权;今年早些时候,众议院就通过了这样一个法案(但并未获参议院批准)。

共和党人对这个审计理念的采纳其实源自于自由论者对政府总体上的不信任。但对美联储的不信任还基于某些更具体的原因——这种不信任远远超越茶党的层次。美联储的批评者抱怨它利用其巨大的权力实施一系列史无前例的经济干预来支持大型金融机构。因此他们认定金融当局必定是银行界权贵的囊中之物。

无可否认,中央银行家们的行为应当接受民主问责。但通过审计来问责的做法可能存在巨大的风险。因为这些由政客承担的审计可能会被他们视为赚取政治分数或让政策为自身利益服务的机会,其手段则是刻意泄露信息来向政策制定者施压。既然由独立官员来执行货币政策都难言完美,那么把实际控制交付给总想着下届选举的议员肯定会极其糟糕。

共和党党纲提到说审计要“谨慎实施”以确保美联储不会受到政治压力影响。但事实上,影响肯定会有的。

审计也会揭露更多关于金融市场干预行动的细节,比如2008年美联储从贝尔斯登公司和美国国际集团(AIG)处购买抵押贷款证券的情况。此处的风险在于实时提供过多关于美联储购买受助机构证券的信息会影响市场稳定。

这种危险并不是凭空想象的。上一次政府大规模干预美国金融市场时——换句话说就是大萧条的时候——就能发现这样的例子。1932年,美联储不愿出手稳定即将崩溃的银行系统。但总得有人出来做点什么。所以时任总统的赫伯特·胡佛(Herbert Hoover)创立了一个名为复兴金融公司(Reconstruction Finance Corporation)的独立政府机构,用以援助缺乏流动资金但基础良好的银行。

1932年夏复兴金融公司数额最大的一笔贷款就是给前副总统查尔斯·道斯(Charles Dawes)经营的银行。但道斯不仅和胡佛一样是名杰出的共和党人;他还是复兴金融公司的前任官员。即使道斯在自家银行濒临绝境时仍然拒绝利用其政治人脉,复兴金融公司依然遭到了偏袒的指控。国会的民粹派议员不出所料地暴跳如雷,要求实施审计,并坚持要该公司公布所有受援银行名录。

这份名单在1933年1月一经发布,公众立刻对那些被披露曾向政府借款的银行爆发了信任危机。各银行当即出现挤兑并顷刻席卷全国,结果出现了1933年的银行休假日——也就是强制关闭整个美国银行系统。

因此审计不仅仅要避免政治压力,还必须避免影响金融市场和机构的稳定。这就要求能将信息汇总起来综合处理并允许在发布前存在适当的延迟。我们能够相信政治家们(尤其是在选举年)去理解并遵守这一点吗?国会在1932年——也是一个总统选举年——要求复兴金融公司公布接受贷款的银行名录,这可绝非巧合。

美联储的官员明白只有在公众舆论的法庭上为自身行为承担责任,它才能保持独立。这也是美联储采取措施增加透明度的原因:它发布了美国联邦公开市场委员会会议记录以及在适当延迟后发布了会议的文字记录同时委员会成员纷纷发言对自身观点进行了详细阐述。此外,近期的革新则是美联储发布了委员会成员以及储备银行各总裁对通货膨胀和利率的预测

美联储肯定会在提高透明度上走得更远。其他中央银行也在做同样的事情。要在一个民主社会实现独立和问责的协调一致就必须做到这些。但由政治家来监督的审计可不是一个正确的方法。

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  1. CommentedEsp Ghia

    I wonder if you're unwittingly misrepresenting the view of Ron Paul. He doesn't call for a gold standard, rather for free market money. He doesn't know exactly what form that would take. Instead, he conjectures that this would possibly take the form of a gold standard as gold has been used in this way for thousands of years. I welcome any response you may have to this. Kind regards, and thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  2. CommentedJeremy Sobotta

    Interesting point, but the authors makes a couple of flawed assumptions. First, he seems to imply that auditors have a degree of power much higher that what would occur in reality. Performance of an audit is far from "handing over effective control". Auditors could simply opine on the Fed's performance towards achievement of it stated dual mandate - something there is currently no shortage of from politically charged, agenda pushing Nobel laureates. Much like Chairman Bernanke and the rest of the Fed do not have to take the advice from all of the other Monday morning quarterbacks in the media, they, likewise would not need to implement auditor recommendations. Next, he seems to believe that the Fed is currently "insulated from political pressures". Although somewhat subtle, the pressures and distorted incentives are rampant in the current setup. A read of Neil Barofsky's book will help to shed some light on these.
    Libertarians may accept an audit as a sub-optimal, slight step in the right direction, but short of abolishing the Fed, what is really needed is transparency and accountability. It is only with sufficient information that the public can hold central bankers "democratically accountable".

  3. CommentedMarc Laventurier

    A little thought experiment: Disaggregated Fed data is published online in real time, in the most forthright & flexible format (XML) and surrounded by tools explanatory and analytic making it as accessible and useful to as many purposes as humanly possible. After the rending of garments on Wall & K streets, what would happen?

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