Sunday, November 23, 2014
21

没有希望的失业

伯克利—不管从商业周期的角度讲眼下全球经济是多么困难,这只是看待世界的一个视角。从全球寿命预期、世界总财富、技术总水平、新兴国家增长前景和全球收入分配看,情况相当强劲,而在其他领域——比如全球变暖和国内收入比平等及其对各国社会稳定的影响——则看起来相当糟糕。

即便从商业周期角度看,如今的情况也比过去好得多了。想想大萧条吧,它给市场经济造成了多大的冲击,由于长期失业的重压,市场经济根本无法自力更生走向复苏。

但是,尽管我们今天还没有走到这般田地,却也不能说大萧条跟我们一点关系都没有,因为有个状况可能性越来越大了——长期失业将在未来两年对复苏造成类似大萧条的影响。

在1933年冬天的低谷时期,大萧条简直称得上是集体性精神紊乱。到处都是游手好闲的工人,因为没有企业雇用他们;企业不雇用工人是因为它们看不到产品的销路;而产品没有销路是因为工人没钱消费。

当是时,大量失业已转变为长期失业,造成了两个后果。第一,经济配置不当的负担并不是被公平地分担的。由于消费价格比工资下跌得更快,大萧条时期保住工作的人的财富有所上升。丢掉工作并一直处于失业状态的人承担了绝大部分后果。

第二,让失业者重新回到市场经济——即使是运转平稳的市场经济——十分困难。毕竟,有哪个雇主会喜欢新晋劳动力市场大军胜过有多年工作经验的工人呢?经济刚刚经历了大量失业时期,这一简单事实使得增长和就业水平的复苏十分困难(而复苏通常被视为是理所当然之事)。

贬值的汇率、温和的政府预算赤字以及时间看起来都无法成为良药。高度集中的工会化劳动力市场(比如澳大利亚)与分散的自由放任劳动力市场(如美国)一样在长期失业面前束手无策。法西斯主义(如意大利)同样解决不了问题,除非伴随迅速的军力扩张(如德国)。

最后,在美国,二战的逼近以及伴随而生的军工产品需求使得私人部门雇主开始以可接受的工资水平雇用长期失业者。但是,直到今日,经济学家仍无法清楚地解释,为什么在1933年到全面战争动员开始的近十年时间里私人部门无法找到雇用长期失业者之道。持久性失业的程度——尽管各地劳动力市场和国家制度各不相同——表明,详尽解释某个方面重大失灵的理论是不可能放之四海而皆准的。

首先,大萧条时期的长期失业者急切而努力地寻找其他工作。但是,在找工作半年而未果后,他们变得灰心丧气、心烦意乱。失业一年后,典型的失业者仍会寻找新工作,但已不再十分上心,也不抱有多大希望。而在失业两年后,失业者会认为对于任何一个职位,自己都是最后才被考虑的人选,他会丧失现实希望,离开劳动力市场。

这就是大萧条时期长期失业的模式。这也是西欧20世纪80年代末长期失业的模式。而如今,在一两年后,这也将成为北大西洋地区长期失业的模式。

四年来,我一直指出,我们的商业周期问题需要更积极的货币和财政扩张政策,只有采取这样的政策,我们最大的问题才能较快地解决。这一点仍然正确。但是,在未来两年中,除非当前趋势被突然地、出乎意料之外地打断,否则这一点的正确性将有所下降。

目前看来,发生概率较大的情况是,两年后北大西洋主要劳动力市场数据将不再指向需求面市场失灵(这类失灵可以通过更积极的经济活动和就业刺激政策较为容易地解决)。劳动力市场将面临结构性市场参与失灵,没有简单容易的药方可以把这个问题治愈。

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    1. CommentedTooScaredToUse MyRealName

      It is the glorification of greed that is the structural problem.

      When the crash dried up demand from my top-20%-of-US-income home remodeling/repair customers, I turned to credit to cover my fixed business costs temporarily (I thought), conserving savings. The audacity of hope...

      Despite a pristine credit record since 1979, no business credit was extended. The only thing left was personal credit cards. As the stimulus bill kicked in, demand increased, but only for low-profit "must haves", not lucrative improvements.

      At the same time, reliable tenants lost their jobs and rents became sporadic. I could not call up adequate ruthlessness to kick them out summarily after years of timely payments. None were able to catch up fully before finding subsidized housing, these proud skilled tradesmen and teacher assistants and EMTs and LPNs. OK, so those losses were my own fault.

      Even so, I could've paid off the credit, maintaining my pristine credit record, and lived a reduced, but comfortable lifestyle. Instead, in early 2010 the TARP recipients reduced my credit lines to the amounts owed, lowering my FICO score. Based on that, they then tripled my interest rates, devastating cash flow.

      Now my savings is gone (pristine credit record intact so far). I haven't had needed health care since dropping insurance in late 2010, and I'm physically unable to perform enough work in a week to survive at the 27.7% of my former hourly rate my old customers are willing to pay while they take trips overseas and buy up beach houses. Oh, puleeze accept my sincere apologies for that little bit of resentment leaking out.

      The $100 more per work day that would fix my situation (and still be half the pre-crash price) is less than they spend nightly on dinner out (I know - I used to go to those places once in a while).

      So, to all the commenters here who love the free market and hate collectivism in all its forms, watch out when unemployed labor uses its forced leisure to exercise its market power. You can reap the harvest of your ruthlessness or share the harvest of your grateful kindness with the society that enabled your success.

      We don't have an economic problem. We have an ethics problem.

    2. CommentedMoritz G€d1g

      *And I always though that the marked did not need demand, but only supply and investment.* (What seems so obvious was not the general opinion in the last decade. All that was talked about was investment.)
      Now that economists have had that great insight, they might be close to finding that there needs to be a balance between investment and consume. Products with no demand might sell, but not at a profit and companies might invest, and thus create demand, but at some point they will have to show that those investments will pay-off.

    3. CommentedJames Thomas

      "I have been arguing for four years that our business-cycle problems call for more aggressively expansionary monetary and fiscal policies"

      The problem is not that monetary policy has been insufficiently aggressive, it is that expansionary policies in the post Glass-Steagall period are not having the desired effects. Commercial banks no longer need to make traditional loans in order to earn money - now there are quicker avenues. ZLB funds simply improve bank incomes, they do not move capital into the market as they once did.

    4. CommentedMarc Sargen

      Our monetary & fiscal policies have been expansionary. The biggest question is if an expansionary policy will still be effective.
      Now we have a new cycle. Governments spend to spur the economy. Businesses worried about government debt & taxes don't invest or hire. The economy stagnates prompting calls for more government spending.

    5. CommentedLudwig van den Hauwe

      I can see that the business cycle perspective is only one lens through which one can look at these matters but one supposition of the business cycle lens seems to be (to me at least) that with the disappearance of the business cycle a source of at least some of the unemployment would disappear too... This being said the Great Depression episode goes on to present some interesting puzzles to economists. The "aggregate demand puzzle" is usually thought to have been solved by the gold standard theory: aggregate demand was depressed by a largely unplanned monetary contraction, which was transmitted around the world by the gold standard. But what were the relevant differences between the classical and interwar gold standards that support the case against the gold standard as the source of deflation and depression? And the gold standard theory still leaves unsolved the corresponding "aggregate supply puzzle". Slowly adjusting nominal wages apparently helped propagate monetary shocks in the Depression, but why did wages not adjust more quickly in the interwar period?

    6. CommentedAvraam Dectis

      .
      One of the things that characterized our experiences during the Great Depression was the creation of new monetary and fiscal tools to deal with the economic problems.

      There does not seem to be an equivalent search today. Perhaps we should start considering new tools.

      One new tool that would work in many different situations, is CBD ( Central Bank Dividends ).

      CBD starts with the acknowledgement that the true owners of a Central Bank are the citizens and then proceeds to effectively pay them a dividend on their asset of ownership.

      In the USA, there would be many ways to implement a CBD, but since we see so much weakness at the state and local level, it could be done like this:

      The FED declares a 10,000 dollar CBD. Thsi would cause the following:

      1) Each state would have an account opened at the FED that would equal the number of citizens in that state times 10,000.

      2) Each state would be allowed to draw upon those funds to pay down debts or fund operations. In different situations, such as those found in teh euro zone, you would want to limit the funds to paying outstanding debt.

      3) If inflation were to rise, further access to the funds would be denied, however each state would be allowed access to the highest percentage of the fund that any state used, to be fair.

      CBD can only be used in highly indebted, recessionary and low inflation environments. Objections of monetization are not valid here as long as inflation is kept low.

      This is a way for a Central Bank to have a direct effect upon an economy when there is no functioning central government , as the euro zone lacks by definition and the USA lacks by practice.

      Thank you.

      Avraam J. Dectis

        CommentedMoritz G€d1g

        Isn't that basically what is practiced in many countries? The FED being a private bank is rather scandalous. Any CB should pay it's earnings to the federal government.

        CommentedAvraam Dectis

        .

        Allow me to add that a 1000 dollar CBD would be more appropriate, since that would be about a third of a trillion dollars.

        .

    7. CommentedArup Biswas

      When the market is in a economic depression-like situations, as in 1933 or 2008, no amount of tax breaks will motivate the private businesses to use the money to create jobs. Why should they? What would they do by manufacturing excess goods and services, if people do not have money to pay for it? Deficit spending by government is like a starter for the failing car, it boosts the economy in the short term, by giving money in the hands of the people, so that they can buy the goods and services from the private enterprises which leads to a positive feedback cycle. Once the economy goes back to the upward ramp, government can disengage. This is the guts of Keynesian economic principle, that has been proven correct innumerable times including the great depression. So, why does the market fanatics find it so hard to accept? Come back to earth, people.

        CommentedMark Pitts

        Tax cuts are just as Keysian as government spending. The difference is that tax payers rather than government employees get to decide how to spend the money.

        Earlier commentators are correct. The gov't almost never disengages. It's spend like madmen in bad times (to stimulate the economy), and spend like madmen in good times (because times are good and we can afford it). This is especially true when you look at total gov't spending which adds state and local spending to federal spending.

        CommentedGary Marshall

        Hello Zlati,

        Hasn't much grown? Government expenditures in the US are running far higher than they were about 4 years ago. US Government expenditures are running at about 25% of GDP. Expenditures in Health and Education are exploding. With Obamacare, Health will grow by leaps.

        Throw in state and municipal, and everything looks that much worse.

        If the US is the darling of small government advocates, then God help us all.

        GM

        CommentedZlati Petrov

        Gary, I don't know whether it's so obvious that governments never disengage.

        According to some measures at least the US government hasn't much grown.

        The ratio of All Government Employees to Total Nonfarm Employees rose to 19.5% in 1970, but then, instead of rising and rising, fell steadily to 15.5% in 2000. Right now it's at 16.5%.

        Current expenditures by the Federal government has also been basically steady relative to GDP.

        Of course, some of these data are specious. Government expenditures exclude transfers, implicit and off-balance sheet commitments, underfunded liabilities, etc.

        But the point is that not all governments grow to take over the economy and the US government is one example of a relatively tame sovereign.

        CommentedGary Marshall

        Hello Arup,

        Doesn't offering tax cuts or private businesses make investments more profitable? If the corporate tax rate is 50% and a business investment will earn 7% on invested capital while the cost is 4%, would a business make such an investment? How about if the tax rate was reduced to 25%.

        Do tax cuts not put money into the hands of people so that they are more able to save, invest, consume, and retire debt?

        Government's never disengage. Their take and spending just rises forever. I guess you missed the 20th century.

        Keynesian economics certainly did a number during the 60s and 70s. We have never seen 20% mortgage rates and never expect to again, unless one lived in Zimbabwe.

        GM

        CommentedZlati Petrov

        I think at least some do not accept it because of (1) skepticism towards the extent to which people actually consume out of current income vs. permanent income and (2) because government spending via borrowing would reduce future income via taxes (this is related to (1) in a fairly obvious way I guess).

        Then of course we have all the more unique considerations of the present, including hysterisis, the decline in collateralizable assets (which the gov't can alleviate by selling more Treasuries, ceteris paribus, although I still don't at all understand how this would work in theory), the liquidity trap and all the other factors that change the arithmetic in ways I haven't yet fully understood.

    8. CommentedGary Marshall

      Hello Mr. De long,

      Still playing the discordant and futile Keynesian fiddle. More big government spending programs, more debt, far greater government participation in the economy, higher taxes, more debt. And the result is just one failure after another, not only in the US, but throughout the western world and beyond.

      So you say that we must just accept the inevitable. Things will not improve until they improve. If Keynesian economics furnishes no answer, then nothing else will. Keynesian economics, your repulsive little child, can do no wrong.

      How about a different approach. How about government no longer implement programs that commandeer large sums of money, large amounts of labour, resources, and materials, for no purpose whatsoever. Why squander all these precious elements of production to produce goods that none want?

      How about government put money into the hands of those that know how to hire, those that know how to produce, those that know what to produce for the benefit of all. The means is a tax cut or perhaps a relaxation of impossible regulatory standards.

      Now I know you and your kind are philosophically opposed to government not being the saviour of those embroiled in economic turmoil. I know how difficult it is for you to concede failure in your Keynesian remedies. I know how petulant and childish such people as yourself become when forced to own to a possibility of having blundered.

      But perhaps you should set aside your inveterate and erroneous beliefs so that better ideas may be entertained and embraced. Can you do that for us? So that many of those unfortunate unemployed and struggling people need not suffer any longer for your intellectual arrogance.

      Why crucify those people because you are not man enough to admit a small error in sense and reasoning?

      GM

        CommentedGary Marshall

        Hello Ryan,

        So you argue that Reagan or the supply-siders are actually Keynesians. So be it.

        Then why is it that all of these so called European governments have chosen to ignore one of the main tenets of the Keynesian prescription? Why is it that all these so called economics thinkers advocate only for big government expenditures to amend receding economies?

        There is a shortage of labour. You see the government with its great and glorious stimulus projects and its projects of the past have done everything they can to keep people out of the meaningful labour markets. All sorts of special unemployment or idle employment programs funded by the taxpayer emerged over the years to limit the labour supply.

        This is in keeping with socialist doctrine. The more people paid to remain idle, the more people employed to do roughly the same by the government, the less people there are to produce the goods that all need and must buy, and the less people there are to fund this malignant and invariably expanding monstrosity of government.

        Now we see why Europe is nearing the edge of that steep financial cliff. Government with its meager productive contributions has grown to such a size that it has driven out a large fraction of those wishing to add to a needed aggregate supply.

        So government now creates all this money and hands it to people for work of little or no value. Those people then head out into the retail markets to compete for those needed goods of energy and food produced by a handful of people gainfully employed and properly rewarded. Too much money chasing too few goods. Aka, inflation.

        The reason that so few firms are hiring at this time is because the government has commandeered immense amounts of labour, material, resources to produce so little. So the costs in attempting to add to aggregate supply are excessive. The most profitable route is for firms to just raise prices. And how they have raised prices.

        It is not a shortage of demand. Its a shortage of supply. And the higher government's participation in an economy, the lower the aggregate supply of needed goods and services.

        Now on the monetary front, that dunce Bernanke has added greatly to bank reserves artificially driving the supply of funds to incredible heights at a time when so few are needed. With great supply and little demand, is it any wonder that borrowing rates are set artificially low. And when it turns, the Fed will be forced to sell bonds into a market of rising rates, sending them ever so much higher.

        Now the funds the Fed used to greatly increase those reserves are precarious investments. The Fed has purchased Treasuries at their near maximum price. any selling pressure will see those prices decline rapidly leaving the Fed with enormous losses, and doubtless seeking a bailout.

        There will be no recovery until the Fed has removed these artificially inflated reserves. Its the Japan disease of which we are now in our 4th year.

        The proper Keynesian prescription is to put money into the hands of those who know how to produce the goods sought in the market place. Those who know how to invest, save, retire debt, and consume.

        The highest corporate tax rate in the world is not conducive to such an aim. Needless and frustrating regulations that stifle the means of production are not conducive to such an aim.

        Follow Reagan's Keynesian prescription, and how much better things will be. Follow present prescriptions for government stimulus and we shall again limit the means of valued production.

        You speak of government as an investor. Tell me what the costs of its investments and what are the benefits of its investments? Could not perhaps that money have earned better returns in the hands of those who earned it?

        GM

        Portrait of Ryan Shyu

        CommentedRyan Shyu

        Mr. Marshall,

        You suggest tax cuts as a possible remedy to the economy--it should be noted, that along with direct government spending, tax cuts are one of two canonical Keynesian fiscal stimulus policies. By putting money in the pockets of businesses and consumers, tax cuts increase demand.

        Perhaps, instead, you were emphasizing the role of tax cuts in either incentivizing work effort or investment. It does not seem at present, however, that there is a shortage of labor supply--rather, it is firms who are not hiring. And even if business taxes were eliminated--and, for that matter, regulations were relaxed--firms will not invest or expand in a depressed economy.

        With regard to your point about wasteful government: It is true that in normal times government spending crowds out the activity of the private sector. However, these times are not normal. In particular, the US economy is stuck in a liquidity trap. This means that at present the Fed Funds rate has been pushed as low as possible—to effectively zero—and that the rate would need to be lower to motivate investors to use the excess savings in the economy (the Fed itself estimates that the market-clearing Fed Funds rate would be negative). The under-use of savings has led to a shortfall in demand, which in turn is depressing the economy. In such conditions, there is a strong case for the government to act as an investor of last resort, as such actions will cause no crowding-out of private sector activity and indeed will increase overall demand.





    9. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      Unfortunately we cannot draw any conclusions or even hope from previous experiences, we are in a state humanity never experienced before.
      Until now our development was always upward, even if we had obstacles we could go around them, above them and continue our expansive evolution.
      What we did not realize before but increasingly see today, all along we have been building a bubble.
      Not only in financial terms, but our whole lifestyle has become a bubble without foundations.
      The whole economic model and its supporting structure that is driving not only the western societies but the whole of humanity is the excessive overproduction/over consumption model. In order to generate unlimited profit a very sophisticated system was created that invents, builds desires, lacks, yearnings for goods we simply have no initial desire or need for. They are all unnatural, useless and many times harmful.
      But the very clever marketing machinery and on top of it the pressure of the society forces people to keep going, chasing these artificially generated desires and pleasures, gradually making them complete slaves to the system at all levels. We are truly in a Matrix we ourselves built and became slaves to.
      The problem is that since this whole approach is unnatural, and unsustainable sooner or later we had to reach the ceiling, and we have reached it now, or around 2007.
      Now this whole structure started self consuming, self destructing, and this process will speed up as time goes along. This is what the global "crisis" or more precisely system failure is all about.
      Today's unemployment is a very small fragment of the true unemployment that will come as a result of all the unnecessary production collapsing, most probably in the region of billions, since according to certain estimates 10-15% of human population can easily provide the true, natural and comfortable necessities for the whole of humanity.
      We simply cannot ignore the facts about our failed system any longer. Our civilization has outlived itself, we have to move on.
      Only by fully understanding our situation, our present and future conditions, our capabilities and our role within this vast natural, global and interconnected system can we start the transition to a new human system, and shorten the intermediary stage, and make it less painful.

    10. CommentedA. T.

      Seems the problem is that everyone has some non-trivial amounts of labour and needs/demand under their personal, no-coordination-necessary control, but that de facto control over the tools necessary (in the modern economy) to transform labour into a fulfilment of needs is highly centralised. A greater degree of self-sufficiency would allow people to employ themselves for their own needs, or to flexibly move from larger, more far-reaching organisations to smaller, more local ones whenever the global economy hits a wall. With the centralisation we have, on the other hand, the natural response for the tool-controllers during tough times is to hoard, rather than to share (in a variation of tragedy of the commons), and we see exactly the outcomes this article describes.

    11. CommentedLuke Ho-Hyung Lee

      People need Hope. Where is Hope? Please also see this article: “Job Creation in the Modern Information Age” http://goo.gl/ig0z1

    12. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

      Expansionary monetary policy and / or fiscal policy in times like this (when prices and wage growth have stumbled) look like obvious prescriptions that have worked in too short a time frame, hardly a cure for the deeper malaise, which is more structural-long term unwinding of excessive credit on one hand and associated leverage. Products of finance that could support a frenzy of activities around housing or commodities have far fewer options to ride on, even there is limit to what stock markets can absorb, given that overall growth in U.S. is tending towards 1.5%, EU towards 0.5% and the rest of the world towards 3%. With higher easing, the velocity of money has come down in recent times and liquidity preference has taken the shine off fancy products on the block; the incentives for fixed asset investments have evaporated in a big way in the developed world while the emerging markets have their own woes around inflation and deficits.

      Cannot agree more that there are no easy cures to the general malaise as this.

      Procyon Mukherjee

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