Tuesday, October 21, 2014
20

打倒债务重压

伦敦—全球金融危机爆发已近四年,许多人感到奇怪,为何经济复苏需要如此之长的时间。事实上,甚至连专家都对此不得其解。按IMF的预计,世界经济应该在2011年增长4.4%,在2012年增长4.5%。而事实上,世界银行的最新数据表明,2011年的增长率只有2.7%,今年则将减缓至2.5%——就是这个数字也可能被向下修正。

预测和实际结果不符,可能的原因有二。要么是金融危机所造成的损害比人们意识到的更严重,要么经济药方的疗效比政客所认为的更低。

事实上,人们很快就抓住了银行危机的重心。2008—2009年期间,在美国和中国的领导、英国的协作以及德国不太情愿的支持下,巨量刺激得以实施。利率大幅下降,资不抵债的银行得到了援助,印钞机开足马力,税收被削减,公共支出则大增。一些国家还贬值了本国货币。

结果,形势得到了控制,并出现了比预期更猛的反弹。但刺激措施将银行危机转换为了财政和主权债务危机。2010年以降,为了应对人们对主权违约的担心,各国政府开始增税减支。从那时开始,复苏之势被逆转了。

正如莱因哈特(Carmen Reinhart)和罗格夫(Kenneth Rogoff)在他们的《这次不同了》(This Time is Different)中所言,对付深度银行危机,没有包管用的灵药。危机起源于“债务的过度积累”,债务过度积累导致经济“易受信心危机打击”。政府不得不出售援助商业银行;接着,又不得不等着商业银行来救。最后,政府和商业银行都不得不靠中央银行施以援手。

在莱因哈特和罗格夫看来,所有这些都包括在“漫长而严重的经济活动收缩”中。他们指出,二战以来,如若危机爆发,则在信心危机结束、经济恢复增长后还将平均持续4.4年——这是必须的“去杠杆化”所需要的时间。

但是,这并不是故事的全部。大萧条之后的复苏持续了10年,比二战后的平均复苏长度长一倍有余。莱因哈特和罗格夫给出了一些大萧条后复苏增长缓慢的原因:一是政策反应速度太慢,而是金本位(金本位意味着各国无法通过出口走出萧条)。换句话说,财政政策和货币政策机制在崩溃的深度和经济复苏所经历的时间长度上均具有决定性的影响。

同样显著的是,20世纪五六十年代期间,凯恩斯主义主宰着经济治理,同时布雷顿森林体系管理着汇率,在此期间基本没有发生危机,而在20世纪70年代,金融崩溃卷土重来。莱因哈特和罗格夫所考察的战后危机均发生在1977—2001年间。这些危机之所以发生,是因为银行监管和资本管制被取消;而它们的持续时间之所以短于20世纪30年代,是因为政策反应不再那么呆板。

印尼总统苏西洛在本月早些时候强调也强调了这一点,他不无得意地对英国首相卡梅伦说,印尼在1998年危机后的成功复苏是受了凯恩斯的启发。“我们必须保证人们能够买东西;我们必须保证工业能够生产东西……”

如今,不少国家,特别是欧元区国家,似乎已无多少政策选择。在财政紧缩成为时尚的当下,它们实际上放弃了“人们能够买东西”和“工业能够生产东西”的策略。各中央银行已经接过了维持经济增长的重任,但它们印出来的钞票大部分被截留在了银行体系中,无法刺激停滞的消费和萎靡的投资。

此外,欧元区本身是一个迷你金本位区,重债成员国无法贬值货币,因为没有货币可贬。因此,在中国增长也开始放缓的情况下,世界经济似乎注定要走一段时间触底之路,一些国家的失业率正在攀向或超过了20%。

财政、货币和汇率方面皆已无计可施,还有什么办法走出漫长的衰退?耶鲁大学的吉安纳科普洛斯(John Geanakoplos)提出了大规模债务减记的办法。政府不应该坐等破产来摆脱债务,而应该“强行免除债务”。它们可以从贷款人手中购买不良贷款,并免除部分可偿还本金,同时降低贷款人的抵押品要求和借款人的债务积压。在美国,定期资产抵押政权贷款便利(Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility,TALF)和公私投资计划(Public-Private Investment Program,PPIP)便是事实上的以次级按揭贷款持有者为目标的债务免除机制,但规模实在太小。

但债务豁免的原则显然同样适用于公债,特别是欧元区公债。担心公债过剩的是持有公债的银行。对它们来说,垃圾公债并不比垃圾私债更安全。贷款人和借款人都能从全面的债务豁免中获益。生活因政府急不可耐地实行去杠杆化而大受困扰的公民的境况也可以得到改善。

从原理上说,债务豁免方法的基础是人们相信债权人将和债务人分担违约责任,因为当初给出不良贷款的乃是债权人。只要借款人在获得贷款时没有糊弄贷款人,那么贷款人就至少要为贷款交易负一定的责任。

1918年时,凯恩斯敦促豁免协约国内部因一战而产生的债务。“我们根本无法前进,除非我们的四肢可以从纸镣铐中解放出来,”凯恩斯写道。1923年,他的呼吁变成了警告,当下的决策者们想必会认真留心到:“契约绝对论者……才是真正的革命孕育者。”

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  1. CommentedGary Marshall

    By the way, here is a solution to the Greek problem. If anyone can find the flaw, I shall be more than happy to give him or her $50,000. I am just tired of doing this.

    ####

    The costs of borrowing for a nation to fund public expenditures, if it borrows solely from its resident citizens and in the nation's currency, is nil.

    Why? Because if, in adding a financial debt to a community, one adds an equivalent financial asset, the aggregate finances of the community will not in any way be altered. This is simple reasoning confirmed by
    simple arithmetic.

    The community is the source of the government's funds. The government taxes the community to pay for public services provided by the government.

    Cost of public services is $10 million.

    Scenario 1: The government taxes $10 million.

    Community finances: minus $10 million from community bank accounts for government expenditures.
    No community government debt, no community
    government IOU.

    Scenario 2: The government borrows $10 million from solely community lenders at a certain interest rate.

    Community finances: minus $10 million from community bank accounts for government expenditures.
    Community government debt: $10 million;
    Community government bond: $10 million.

    At x years in the future: the asset held by the community (lenders) will be $10 million + y interest. The deferred liability claimed against the community (taxpayers) will be $10 million + y interest.

    The value of all community government debts when combined with all community government IOUs or bonds is zero for the community. It is the same $0 combined worth whether the community pays its taxes immediately or never pays them at all.

    So if a community borrows from its own citizens to fund worthy public expenditures rather than taxes those citizens, it will not alter the aggregate finances of the community or the wealth of the community any
    more than taxation would have. Adding a financial debt and an equivalent financial asset to a community will cause the elimination of both when summed.

    Whatever financial benefit taxation possesses is nullified by the fact that borrowing instead of taxation places no greater financial burden on the community.

    However, the costs of Taxation are immense. By ridding the nation of Taxation and instituting borrowing to fund public expenditures, the nation will shed all those costs of Taxation for the negligible fee of borrowing in the financial markets and the administration of public
    debt.

    Regards,
    Gary Marshall

  2. CommentedGary Marshall

    Hello Robert,

    How about a third option. All that increased government expenditure and borrowing doesn't work. How about that one?

    People to buy and industries to produce is the aim. The means so far have failed. How about tax cuts, for individuals and businesses. Wouldn't that do the trick? Businesses will have more money and incentive with which to invest. Individuals will have more money with which to save, retire debt, invest, and consume.

    GM

  3. CommentedJohn Doe

    It will do no good to cancel debts until the Euro is ended. As long as " the eurozone itself is a mini-gold standard," nothing can be done.

    One has to understand that the present crisis came about because of the deflationary pressures of this "gold standard," which in effect and operation has been no different than when everyone returned to the Gold Standard after WWI.

    End the Euro and the problem will solve itself

  4. CommentedJonathan Lam

    Gamesmith94134: Down with debt weight
    At first, I would doubt that excessive debt accumulation which makes economies “vulnerable to crisis of confidence”; crisis of confidence may show more of its external than internal, perhaps, it is only for those purchase of the bonds. In term of the austerity program to shrink its economies, growth is not. As for eradicate debts, it helps the liquidity and sustainability, but it is nothing to the competitiveness or affordability for the debtor nations. Perhaps, it helps to stability of pricing on the durables but the lack of adjustment internally could hurt more in affordability on the populace to strive especially when unemployment is high like 20%, even the cut on repayment of debts can relieve the budgetary constraints to expand job market.
    Since I learned the cycle of growth that complies investment or debit/credit to the sovereignty accountable, adjustments to growth or debt bound to sustainability, modifies through inflation or deflation to yield affordability, then, competitiveness makes each recession to adjust, depression to modify, reform to correct in order to growth. It sound too conservative as a cycle of business, perhaps, it is just my mindset for my uncomfortableness.
    However, if the economy is not under kind of reform to adjust and the pricing adjustment like deflation, the level of affordability or competitiveness would remain as the hurdle for its populace to jump. Eventually it would suffer high inflation caused by the external elements like oil, and imports; it is just another austerity program by external force, and growth is not within its strength to revive if reform or deflation is not complied.
    I am not sure of the consequence of the “Twist” of the short term to longer term debts after the forgiveness of the debts; since the jump of 20 folds in monetary in the last ten years or the next ten years. I see the 2014 is where the counterforce of the growth if it is not inflationary for the developed nations through their external elements.
    May the Buddha bless you?

  5. CommentedVesa T

    Some thoughts. Firstly, it seems that so called intellectual elite is proposing two solutions for the current debt problems, either through stimulus (more debt) or now through debt-forgiveness. I will now comment only the latter one.

    I have some mortgages left for my house. Who decides whose debt will be forgiven? I’m sure that this debt forgiveness wouldn't help me and others like me; instead there would be some debt forgiveness for the big ones; banks, large investors, countries.

    Further, what would be the lesson for this? Simply, buy assets with too much leverage, and the bigger the better since if you are TBTF, your debts will be forgiven but you can keep the assets.

    In my opinion, if you have overly leveraged and made some bad investments, you ought to be suffered loss and go even bankruptcy. How do we ever learn anything if the lesson is that don't save, instead borrow and gamble.

    I, as a prudent individual, I'm very saddened about these kind of suggestions. I don’t want to be the one whose savings will be used to bail out others reckless behavior.

  6. CommentedJohn Hawkins

    To forgive or not to forgive, that is the question. The answer may be in the Merchant of Venice, a pound of flesh!

    But who`s flesh is the question now, a bankers or a workers?



  7. CommentedAndres Jaime

    Stimulus measures after the crisis just added debt to a problem that began years ago... it was just the straw that broke the camel´s back

  8. CommentedJennifer Ruddock

    Is it possible that the forecasts couldn't predict that dampened "animal spirits," as Keynes would say, would have as much of an effect as they are having on growth? Maybe the forecasts are flawed to begin with. It has almost become "fashionable" to talk about how gloomy things are these days...just take a look at the papers.

  9. CommentedJ. C.

    Sarchis, Lucky me that don´t have no "frustations" on this matters so I can post with your approval...

    We are not just talking about property market and greedy bankers here We are talking about emerging markets and other bondholders of such called "developed world". Why should chinese people pay for US excesses for example???

    Contracts are agreements between two parties based available information and trust.. and what if the borrower "lied" to about his numbers...

    If I buy a car and then I´m fired: 1 I give the car back to the bank 2 I make an effort and keep paying, since I gave my word...

    There is no much to understand in Mr. Skidelsky^s article, at the end it´s all about who will pay for the party... because someone will certainly pay for it. And it´s easier for politicians to justify haircuts to bondholders that to tell people to change their ways (and even more if "everybody does it")... but not allways the easy solution is the best solution or the right solution.

      CommentedA. T.

      M.F.,

      Creditors, be they Chinese paying the Americans or whoever else, are on the hook because they freely decided to loan their money to someone, and charged interest for the privilege. With interest being the compensation for bearing the risk of potential default, they can hardly complain when a debtor actually decides to stop paying. No one forced them to do anything – they just figured that giving out a loan would be a nice way to make a profit.

      Economies function best when they function on contracts, not on moral principles. Contracts are shared and explicit while moral principles are fuzzy and vary from person to person. "One's word" is valuable when you are doing a favour for a friend, but not for a market-mediated debt transaction.

  10. CommentedArthur Doohan

    This para' glosses over the issues of the lenders (banks) gaming property markets to drive prices up, of encouraging abnormal gearing by borrowers and of abandoning any pretense of 'fiduciary care' to borrowers and to the depositors....

  11. CommentedSarchis Dolmanian

    This thing called Internet is such a teriffic tool.
    It bridges distances magnificently and enables us to find out what other people think about current developments.
    Unfortunately it is us, the users, that cannot rise to meet the challenges. Maybe we should try harder to understand what others have to say before venting our own frustrations and even more so when the points we want to raise are raisonable.
    Mr. Skidelsky makes a perfectly valid observation when he says that "creditors share culpability for defaults with debtors, since they made the bad loans in the first place". It makes no difference if the creditor was a 'savvy' investment banker in the City or a nice 'old lady that has her savings in sovereign "safe" european....'. They both made loans that turned sour. Even citizens that find their public pension funds being driven into red had made bad investments: they invested too much trust into incapable politicians and very well paid public officials.
    Nowhere in this article has Mr. Skidelsky mentioned debtors being forgiven of their entire debts or keeping 'the spoils' yet people are acusing him of doing so. Some others speak about moral hasard.
    Yet nobody in his right mind would let someone retain ownership of an unpaid house and moral hazard also appears when lenders who squandered resources are kept afloat using tax money, specially so when those tax money are raised in a different country.
    And yes, we should change our ways. But we'd do a better job of it if we start with a clean plate than with one full of recriminations about who did what. History lessons should be well understood so that we wouldn't need to live them a second time but we shouldn't let the past overcome the future.

  12. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    The prescription for increasing moral hazard has one weakness undeniably that we entrench ourselves in a perpetual state of dilemma that frugality and austerity would aggravate that gluttony would have done in any case; the power of global finance which has increased four folds after the crisis would now be as comprehensive as to engulf every aspect of our being. What Paul Myers has written is a new line of thought, one of shared value or sacrifice, but it has seeds of construction that the article has completely missed.
    I am attracted to the movement of funds, both public and private, and I am yet to see a deployment that gives confidence that it is moving to spur demand or create investments in innovation, infrastructure which has long term dividends for the economy. Funds seem to be moving at almost zero interest rate towards creation of the next bubble as stocks near their peak, while buy back arrangements gets the better of their intrinsic value.

    Procyon Mukherjee

  13. CommentedJ. C.

    "creditors share culpability for defaults with debtors..." you mean an old lady that has her savings in sovereign "safe" european debt (or pension funds) shares the culpability of incompetent rulers and bankers??? come on...

  14. CommentedJ. C.

    great idea! lets forgive all the debtors and keep living in a big lie until when?? until the next crisis??... Please...

    so who will lend again once you do that...?? and who will stop borrowers to borrow if they know they will be forgiven the next time...?? you are prescribing a medicine based on the assumtion that people is stupid...

  15. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I honestly find the article scary.
    It completely ignores the main problem.
    We have in front us a terribly overweight patient, so obese from the excessive eating and drinking that he cannot live much longer.
    What is the modern day solution? Let him have stomach reducing surgery, thus he can lose the extra weight dramatically, but then as a result he could continue the same excessive eating and drinking. What will be the result?
    Why do not we think why we got in the debt accumulation in the first place?
    We get the answer in the article itself: “We must ensure that the people can buy; we must ensure that industries can produce…”
    We are under this mass hypnosis that people have to keep buying, the industry has to keep producing...
    But we are producing and consuming over 90% unnecessary, useless, harmful goods, simply in order to make profit for a handful or people, people have to keep buying on credit since they have no means to buy, and most importantly they would not even buy if they would not be tricked into consuming by receiving artificial desires from a very sophisticated, scientific marketing machinery which works better than the "Matrix" in the movie.
    The solution for all our problem lies in tackling the root problem, our present attitude and lifestyle, and not in any other superficial adjustment on economical or financial level.
    The global crisis is providing us with day to day objective data on this, we are not in a crisis or recession, our whole system failed.
    We have to be brave enough to make the changes where they count, and free ourselves from the slavery of excessive consumerism.

  16. CommentedPaul A. Myers

    One way to deleverage is to convert debt to equity. That works on both sides of the fraction.

    So, besides debt cancellation, policy makers should consider debt conversion. Debts should be converted into preference and common shares in such a way as to also attract fresh capital to new enterprises.

    So a central European investment authority, which could issue new bonds, could make investments alongside the conversion of existing bonds into an overall equity investment. German banks could even out their portfolio of Spanish investments from way too many Spanish bonds to a balanced portfolio of bonds and preference and common share investments.

    Northern European countries need to have equity investments in Southern Europe that will return a stream of dividends over time. In the process of negotiating these, efforts can be made to improve overall economic productivity in Southern European and other European economies. Investment tends to flow towards improving productivity.

    This process has the virtue of spending money to get to somewhere better--the missing virtue in austerity economics.

  17. CommentedPiotr Aleksandrowicz

    Sir. Great idea of debt cancellation. But there is one small problem. I am a little conservative and I have never borrowed money (I hate credit), so I live in small and old one bedroom flat. Many of my friends live in modern mortgaged houses. After cancellation nothing will change. I will live in my small flat, they in their homes. Oh, there will be small change. I will lose probably some savings in my bank beacuse it will not collect my money from its debtors.Really great idea.

      CommentedOnanist Misanthrope

      Piotr Aleksandrowicz you have a point. I think the idea (which seems similar to Professor Steve Keen's "debt jubilee") is to reward the savers equally. ie if they are given $100K and MUST pay down debt, you are given $100K to do with as you wish.

  18. CommentedChris Cowsley

    The second reason - ineffective medicine prescribed - can in turn be for two reasons. In this case, the wrong therapists prevailed, and only the secondary "recuperative" medicine was prescribed. The medicine package prescribed by Alpert, Hockett & Roubini included reparative and restorative elements we have yet to deploy.

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