Saturday, September 20, 2014
5

四顾茫然的德国

法兰克福—在最近的德国之旅中,我震惊于两种截然不同的说法。其中之一说德国经济稳健,失业率低,财政坚挺,占据有利的竞争地位,能够掌握全球需求中最有活力的部分。另一个说法称德国经济正受没完没了的欧债危机拖累,危机罪魁试图将责任和融资需要都抛给德国安然无恙的资产负债表。

两种说法都不难理解。但它们不会永远共存。毕竟,覆巢之下,安有完卵?要么邻国境况改善,要么德国也被拖下水。总有说法最后一语成谶——对德国、对欧洲、对全球经济皆然。

如今,德国正从多年来负责任的国内经济治理中大获其益。除了维持稳健的公共财政之外,德国领导人还实施了艰难的意在改善国际竞争力的结构性改革,包括带来阵痛的劳动力市场改革。结果,德国是如今稍有的能够创造大量工作岗位、维持财政稳定性的发达经济体之一。换句话说,德国是AAA中的AAA。

但德国也是四面楚歌社区中的一员,就算它起着定海神针的作用。它的四周皆是苦苦挣扎的国家,特别是那些欧元区外围国。这些国家总体失业率极高(青年人失业率更是高到了足以拉响警报的程度),而且无法自力更生实现增长。有的国家还面临偿债能力问题,也无法形成恢复经济秩序所需的社会政治共识。

一个显而易见的现象是,德国及其邻国之间的对比颇有些令人尴尬。这一对比催生了没完没了的内部和外部紧张,助长了相互指责,彼此之间大玩高声互骂的游戏。而这一切又分散了人们的注意力——如何在快速变化的全球经济中获得竞争力才是当务之急。

这个游戏玩得越久,就越容易破坏欧洲的统一基础。因此,欧洲官员必须在三大领域坚定不移地向前看:

·         改善个体国家的国内政策组合,以通过刺激增长和赤字削减实现债务可持续性为目标,特别是那些最脆弱的外围经济体。

·         增强欧元区内部的财政断路保护机制,以降低发生破坏性财政反馈环和动摇性多重均衡的危险。

·         巩固欧元区的制度性基石以及政策合作和互评机制。

在这三方面取得进步都不是件容易的事;更不用说坐等它们自动实现了。此外,为了实现效果最大化,必须三管齐下;事实上,这是一个一加一加一大于三的局面。而没有其他两个领域的进步,任何一个领域都无法取得进展,不管步子迈得多大。

首先,德国应该在指挥和协调欧元区政策反应方面其到更大的作用。我知道,许多德国人不愿意如此。但站在欧洲的角度看,除此之外别无可行之法,因此,德国亦然。

欧盟机构仍然缺乏必须的权威和威信发挥作用。欧洲央行缺少合理的结构性政策工具,而且被迫承担了远超其严格限定的权力的负担。而欧洲也没有第二个国家可以在规模、影响力以及经济和财政健康度上与德国相媲美。

其次,由德国(以及与之密切合作的法国)所领导的欧洲需要果断行动,向人们清楚地展示其中期目标。欧洲面临两种选择,两者均既脆弱又极具争议;且选择哪个需要由欧洲人自己做出、自己维持;但欧洲人必须做出选择,如果他们下决心要把欧元区分崩离析的风险抛在身后的话。

一方面,他们可以选择让政治主导经济。政客想兜售这个主意并不容易,特别是对核心国家(尤其是德国、芬兰和荷兰)而言,因为这意味着要在多年内向外围国提供补贴——从分析角度讲,这与20多年前德国重新统一后实行货币平价的决定一样困难。但是,这一回有一个附加的难点——潜在的地区政治冲突以及国家层面的民主程序。

另一方面,他们可以选择经济归经济。如此,欧元区成员国将集体选择更小更不完善的联盟,只包括经济、财政、政治和社会初始条件较为相似的国家。而这也不是容易完成的任务,特别是考虑到欧元区本身的设计方案并不包括退出机制这一情形。

在这些困难而争议重重的选择做出之前,反复发作的财政失稳以及没完没了的政治争论和犹豫将打破欧洲的相对平静期。而这段时间拖得越长,邻国将德国历尽艰辛建立起来的稳健性侵蚀殆尽的风险就越大。

总之,没有坚挺德国,就没有稳定的欧元区;没有稳定的欧元区,就没有坚挺的德国;没有坚挺的德国和稳定的欧元区,就没有全球经济的稳定。欧洲应该马上做出艰难的长期选择,此乃维持和巩固欧洲的历史性地区工程的关键。

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  1. CommentedPierre ratcliffe

    "Ultimately, there can be no strong Germany without a stable eurozone; no stable eurozone without a strong Germany; and no global economic stability without both. It is time for Europeans to make the difficult longer-term choices that are critical to sustaining and enhancing their historical regional project."

    Having revisited Keynes in general and his book of 1919 "the economic consequences of the peace" in particular,

    http://tinyurl.com/btg8dx9

    I find continuity in Europ's quagmire - with Germany again in the forefront, although in a different way. Today, how can a European market economy emerge with each member state clinging to its soverainty, governed by its own political, institutional and social system? Each country cannot produce the same goods and services in competition with each other. If Europ is to become some day, in the near or far future, a "nation", there has be specialisation and sharing. And as the world will continue to evolve, this requires that the more efficient and successful support those most affected by the changes.

  2. CommentedAndré Rebentisch

    You have to understand an ordoliberal mindset. The question is not if the house wins or loses. The question is if the situation is under control and the relations are reliable. In economics we could always twist the argument. The politically irresponsible reaction to austerity measures is blaming the creditors. Thus, the real crisis is responsible governance and reliability. We are already in a mode where the EU treaty is broken . Austerity is the appropriate control measure for a situation which was illegal under the treaties. In a state of exception Germans desire a swift return to order.

  3. CommentedKevin Lim

    All politics is local. The recent drubbing of Merkel's party in the polls virtually assures that there will be no change in Germany's insistence on austerity as the bitter antidote for Europe's ills (notwithstanding serious doubts as to the antidote's efficacy). The German public may be sympathetic to pro-growth policies but only in the domestic context. Otherwise, the reluctance to bail out feckless Greeks and Spaniards remains as strong as ever.

  4. CommentedEmre Konukoglu

    I think before assuming that Germany is going to take on this role we have to analyse the historical background to EU's formation. Given how Europe has dealt with inter-country conflicts in the past (i.e. world wars), I don't see how this assumption can have any viability....

  5. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    I think the last paragraph is the most important:
    "...Ultimately, there can be no strong Germany without a stable eurozone; no stable eurozone without a strong Germany; and no global economic stability without both. It is time for Europeans to make the difficult longer-term choices that are critical to sustaining and enhancing their historical regional project..."
    If we take seriously what we learn about our global system, that we are "all sitting on the same boat", we are interconnected and interdependent, than is there any possibility that there would eminent individuals, or nations that could pull away from the rest?
    Even the crisis we are in now is our common responsibility, Germany is just as responsible for the Greek and Spanish woes as the Greek and Spanish themselves.
    We all live in the same illusory system of constant growth and prosperity in a closed finite system.
    We all think that quantitative growth is the most important measure of our progress instead of a qualitative, mutual integration, providing each and everybody with necessities that are the basic conditions in our global, integral system, since I cannot prosper, progress unless the whole system is in balance and functions optimally.
    The first step in the recovery process is actually understanding the new system we exist in and our role in it.

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