Thursday, April 24, 2014
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希腊以及反紧缩政策的限制

发自剑桥——紧缩政策已经穷途末路了吗?上月在戴维营举行的八国集团(G8)会议上,由德国主导的针对欧元区南部问题成员国的紧缩措施遭到了强力抵制。同样,对于那些认为欧洲必须逐步为其负债累累的公共部门找到出路,而不是硬要在短时间内符合财政教条规定的人来说,最近的法国总统大选结果堪称一记强心针。但我们也无法保证希腊新选出的中右翼新民主党——该党倾向于遵守(欧盟针对)该国的援助条件——有能力去组建一个多数派政府。

相比之下,美国虽然也拥有巨额财政赤字,但自2007-2009年金融危机后一直在追求扩张性以及以增长为目标的宏观经济政策。因此如果用美国的温和增长与欧洲的无增长作对比的话,前者的政策调节效果显然比后者的紧缩措施表现更佳。

但问题并不是选择扩张或者紧缩那么简单。宏观经济政策会以一种微妙却有力,而且鲜有人提到的方式与微观经济现实进行互动。简而言之,虽然同样都是以增长为目的的宏观经济政策,但欧洲的微观经济结构使其无法在欧盟取得与美国一样的效果。

原因在于:宏观经济宽松政策——通过降低利率或以其他方式向经济注入货币的方式——致力于增加经济活动。随着更多的货币四处流动,企业重新雇佣人手并要求现有的雇员工作更长时间。那些原本犹豫是否创业的企业家们决定动手,而他们的银行则发放贷款令这些新企业变成现实。

这些新雇佣的工人和新生企业都会消费,也因此催生了更多的雇佣,更多新企业以及更多的消费。经济发展,税收增加,因此也有助于政府理顺其财政机制。国家也因此逐渐摆脱经济困局。

但欧盟无法像美国那样轻易实现这一设想,因为欧盟在微观层面的规则会造成一些摩擦,拖慢了这种扩张的步伐。

对此欧盟更为严苛的劳动法就是一个广为人知且经常被提到的例子。欧洲劳动力市场的僵化性意味着在许多欧盟国家想要(以裁员方式)缩减一家公司的规模是极为困难的事。正因为预见到了这种困难,企业首先会缺乏雇佣的意愿,直到他们确信长期的需求能支撑长期的雇佣为止。因此即便企业更容易得到钱和贷款,许多公司依然不愿意大规模招人,因此害怕在未来经济下滑时要背上一张巨额工资单。

例如《经济学人》杂志最近对意大利总理马里奥·蒙蒂(Mario Monti)的描述就体现出意大利依然受到劳动法的制肘,使企业不愿雇佣超过15人以上(超过此数则难以缩减规模)。如果要更顺利地推动扩张性宏观经济政策的话,就需要令微观经济规则与其协调一致。

而讽刺的是,紧缩政策的最热情拥护者之所以是德国总理默克尔的政府,因为德国——尤其是在她的前任总理施罗德的社会民主党主导政府任上——已经在解放该国对劳动和企业规管方面比其他欧盟国家做出了更多努力。因此扩张性,以增长为基础的政策在德国能比许多欧元区国家取得更好的效果。

那些阻碍新生企业的规管可能是阻碍货币扩张有效性的一个更重要因素。在许多地方,启动一个新生企业或者扩张一个已有企业实在是太难了。获取所需的执照往往需要走后门,简单的新企业文书申请工作比美国要繁杂许多。事实上,当这些程序在欧洲变得日益简易之时,世界银行估计在希腊以及其他大部分欧盟国家成立一家小企业所花费的时间依然要比美国要多一倍——在西班牙则要再多花两倍时间。

当人们经常抱怨欧洲那种脸书(Facebook)式巨大创业成功的相对匮乏之时,开办美发店,小零售店以及小型邮购业务所遇到的困难也同样会带来深远的整体影响。

以出租车执照为例。许多人都能驾驶出租车,包括许多失业者,但没有多少人能被获准在许多欧美主要城市中从事这一营生。试想大部分经济都采用出租车业类似的组织形式。因此大部分形式的经济刺激政策都不可能催生更多的出租车,除非行业准入限制被放宽。

一份由意大利银行研究员马格达·彼安科(Magda Bianco), 西尔维亚·吉阿科迈利(Silvia Giacomelli)和贾科莫·罗丹诺(Giacomo Rodano)共同撰写的报告指出意大利国内依然存在大量阻碍经济扩张的制度性障碍。一所工厂或许能更容易获得资助,并发现市场对自己的产品存在更多需求,但它为此做出的决定往往不是雇佣更多的工人,而是去提高产品售价。一个潜在竞争者或许想去进入这一市场,但考虑到大量的规则性准入壁垒,它可能最终还是决定留在原来所在的行业。

在这种环境下的扩张性货币政策很可能会遭遇失败。或许正因如此,法国新总统弗朗索瓦·奥朗德(François Hollande)更偏爱用政府手段来引出特定的成果——比如雇佣6万名新教师。

人们可以幻想在欧洲能达成一项大型讨价还价协议,把扩张性宏观经济政策和放宽微观经济障碍结合在一起。但现有的企业和已经找到工作的劳动者们都更倾向于维持现状,并可以有力地牵制政策制定者们。而在希腊以及其他欧盟国家政治中,这个因素的影响力可非同一般。

翻译:邹驰骋

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  1. Portrait of Fernando Giuliano

    CommentedFernando Giuliano

    First of all, I don’t agree with the author’s portrait of the US as pursuing expansionary policies since the 2007-2009 financial crisis. While stimulus was the first response in the US (as well as in Europe), there is evidence that the initial stimulus effort was barely enough to offset state-level spending cuts. And after the initial response, the fiscal stance has been more contractive than expansive in both sides of the Atlantic.
    On a more fundamental issue, I think that microeconomic rigidities in Europe are of second order importance in the current context. His taxi example illustrates why. The author argues that “most kinds of economic stimulus won’t generate more taxis, until entry restrictions are reduced”. While it is true that stimulus won’t generate more taxis if entry is restricted, it will make current taxis to work at full capacity. This will both increase pressure for entry and decrease the incumbents’ resistance, since business is plenty. The taxi example does not illustrate why expansionary policies would not work, as the author intends, but rather why reform is more feasible when there is growth.
    Although microeconomic reforms in the Eurozone are desirable, the roots of the crisis are not to be found in microeconomic rigidities, but in macroeconomic imbalances.

  2. CommentedGary Marshall

    Hello Mr. Roe,

    No need for austerity, just sanity.

    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. Its not the end of the world, but a new beginning.

    ####

    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,

  3. CommentedMiriano Ravazzolo

    Well, if we must be precise, Mr. Zingales notes that the 15 employees threshold doesn't seem to have created a significant statistical accumulation below that level. But it DOES note that going over the 15 people WILL severely reduce the flexibility of the companies, obliging to go through the legal system for EVERY layoff, with an average of 429 days before getting to the court (and going up to 693).
    There's just no way to consider this situation as promoting expansion and, most importantly, promote hiring.
    I actually agree with Mr. Zingales when he says that there should be a higher MONETARY compensation to the employees that are let go. But a company should always be able to take that decision, which is eminent to the responsibilities and the prerogatives of the entrepreneur. The problem in Italy is that the one and only objective of a large part of the politics (and the totality of the unions) is "protect the existing jobs, no matter what", even when that actually stymies the creation of new jobs and produces a negative net result.

    1. CommentedLuca Tombolesi

      You're perfectly right on Zingales' thought, in fact I cited him precisely because he is notoriously AGAINST the existence of legal difficulties for downsizing over the 15 employees' threshold! Remains the evident fact that this threshold has very little impact, so evidently if Italian companies are capable to mind their own business, it would not be the direct solution of their troubles. The problem is really a political and ideological one. Someone thinks it would send the "right signal", or would be useful to better put companies in a position of making the best choices, and so to boost the economy. No one really knows if this would be the case, personally I think not, but anyway if the current system actually stymied the creation of new jobs and produced a negative net result, the lack of a significant statistical accumulation below the 15-employee level remains to be explained.

  4. CommentedAlok Shukla

    In one country USA the policy making is completely paralyzed thing about the EU. Seems they would muddle through the crisis always responding to crisis with bare minimum and then wait for markets to pounce on again to force EU to take more action. Most of the EU countries are some milder form Socialist Republic. What is good for majority may not be good for sovereign as a whole.

  5. CommentedCharles St Pierre

    Macroeconomic easing puts the money in the wrong place. This is why it has limited effectiveness. When an economy is constrained due to inadequate demand, money has to go to the demand part of the economy, and this requires fiscal policy and/or debt restructuring, when debt gets out of control. Businesses are not going to invest and expand unless they can count on a robust market. Who’s going to want to invest into a market with 20% unemployed. The institutional problems you itemize have less to do with it.

    The Austerians figure if they destroy demand, by making people pay back their debt, businesses will want to expand. But in order for people to pay back their debt, business must first expand. And business will not, with a contracted demand.

    The Austerians don’t want to let people off the debt hook. The problem is debt can only be compounded. Money is debt, but there is never as much money as debt. See "Money as Debt II":

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsmbWBpnCNk&feature=related

    Without forgiveness, in the worst case sovereign bankruptcy, debt can only increase, dragging down the economy with it in a death spiral.

  6. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    The world is more productive and wealthier than it has ever been in all of History. We have a distribution problem with power, wealth, income, work, freedom, health and resources.

    The current 'crisis' is simply a restatement of the distribution issue.

  7. CommentedLuca Tombolesi

    The general tone of this piece is questionable to say the least. But when it talks about Italian matters, I can say it's simply wrong. You can't honestly say that "Italy continues to be stymied by labor rules that make businesses reluctant to expand beyond 15 employees (after which it becomes hard for a firm to downsize)". If this assertion is made by The Economist, this fact can only cast a sad light on the partisanship and lack of objectivity of this magazine. In Italy beyond political hype all informed people, as even an economist not precisely leftist or keynesian or a welfare-state fanatic as Luigi Zingales has no difficulty to acknowledge, (you can see his piece at http://rassegna.camera.it/chiosco_new/pagweb/getPDFarticolo.asp?currentArticle=1D8G2U), know very well that this "15-employees threshold effect" is minimal, as Zingales says, "just perceptible".

  8. Commentedjames durante

    It's the capitalists' wet dream. "Now we can force deregulation and a weakening of labor protections." Jump on the bandwagon Europe, then you can see Gini coefficients for your countries reach U.S. (Mexican, Camaroonian, Russian, Argentinian) levels. Then your richest 10% can control 80% f the wealth of the country and 25% of the icome can go to the top 1%.

    This is the dirty little secret that no one wants to admit. The U.S. is a poverty stricken country.Forty-nine million Americans live in poverty. More than 20% of children live in poverty. About 15% of households face food insecurity. Income and wealth for the median household have fallen to levels of the early 1990's.

    So, rock on Dr. Harvard Law School professor. Less rules for labor, less regulations for businesses, less red tape for start-ups: it's only the mega-rich who are really doing well anymore. Let's let them do even better at any expense.

    1. Commentedjames durante

      To Kevin Lim--

      The universe of choices grows rather thin in the economic system that is, supposedly, the epitome of choice. Can you really see no other options? Here are a few, drastic I admit, but these are dangerous times.

      Confiscate all personal wealth, of whatever form, over one million dollars, exempting house values up to five million (or the equivalent in whatever currency). Pay down debt, invest in clean energy, education, social services, ecological restoration and health care. Confiscate all wealth of hedge fund managers, private equity firm owners, and casino moguls. End advertising. Cap all banks at one hundred million dollars. Require considerable reserves and ban risky trading. Suspend global weapons spending for one year of every five and contribute all the money to sustainable systems for food, housing, and energy for all people in the world. Set a date of ten years to reduce by half fossil fuel use, 100% in fifty years.

      Well, that would be a start. Certainly it would be more interesting and much more beneficial for the majority than the slow train wreck we are currently witnessing.

    2. CommentedKevin Lim

      All well and good, but if Mr Roe is correct then the poor are screwed under the status quo too. If labor regulations create a disincentive against growing a business or hiring more workers, then you end up with sky high unemployment. So in the final analysis, you are left with 2 choices, neither ideal. Either the lot of workers is generally worse but at least they have jobs, OR the lot of workers is more comfortable/fairer but more people don't have jobs. Personally if I had to choose between the yoke of minimum wage and unsafe working conditions on the one hand, and the hopelessness of being unemployed, I would choose the former as the lesser of two evils.

  9. CommentedOdysseas Argyriadis

    So Mr. Roe, how would you run a business that is bankrupt but tries to hide it from its debtors, while they also deny the fact that your business is bankrupt?
    Because that appears to be the problem in Greece, not Austerity or any other macro economic policy. For example, we have serious issues with medicine in Greece at the moment, with the pensioners being unable to get their normally free drugs (due to their previous credit aka the public insurance system) and having to pay for them, even though they have actually paid for them in the past through mandatory public insurance. If that is not a sign that the state has gone down under, I don't know what is.

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