Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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Autocomplacencia en un mundo sin dirigentes

DAVOS – La reunión anual del Foro Económico Mundial en Davos ha perdido parte de su atractivo de antes de la crisis. Al fin y al cabo, antes del colapso de  2008, los capitanes de las finanzas y la industria podían pregonar las virtudes de la mundialización, la tecnología y la liberalización financiera, que al parecer anunciaba una nueva era de crecimiento incesante. Todo el mundo compartiría los beneficios, siempre y cuando hiciera “lo correcto”.

Todo eso es cosa del pasado, pero Davos sigue siendo un buen sitio para tener una idea del zeitgeist mundial.

Huelga decir que los países en desarrollo y con mercados en ascenso ya no miran a los países avanzados como en tiempos, pero una observación de un ejecutivo de una compañía minera de un país en desarrollo captó el espíritu del cambio. En respuesta a la desesperación sincera de un experto en desarrollo por que tratados comerciales injustos y promesas incumplidas de ayuda hayan costado a los países desarrollados su autoridad moral, replicó: “Occidente nunca tuvo autoridad moral alguna”. El colonialismo, la esclavitud, la fragmentación de África en pequeños países y una larga historia de explotación de los recursos pueden ser asuntos del pasado lejano para sus perpetradores, pero no para quienes sufrieron sus consecuencias.

Si hay un asunto que interesó más que ningún otro a los dirigentes reunidos fue la desigualdad económica. El cambio en el debate desde hace tan sólo un año parece espectacular: ya nadie menciona siquiera el concepto de economía de goteo y pocos están dispuestos a sostener que hay una estrecha congruencia entre las contribuciones sociales y los beneficios privados.

Si bien la comprensión de que los Estados Unidos no son la tierra de las oportunidades que durante mucho tiempo han afirmado ser es tan desconcertante para los otros como para los americanos, la desigualdad de oportunidades a escala mundial es aún mayor. La verdad es que no se puede afirmar que el mundo es “plano” cuando un africano medio recibe una inversión en su capital humano de unos centenares de dólares, mientras que los americanos ricos reciben regalos de sus padres y la sociedad de más de medio millón de dólares.

Un momento culminante fue el discurso de Christine Lagarde, directora gerente del Fondo Monetario Internacional, quien subrayó el marcado cambio habido en su institución, al menos en la cima: profunda preocupación por los derechos de las mujeres, mayor insistencia en la vinculación entre desigualdad e inestabilidad y reconocimiento de que la negociación colectiva y el salario mínimo podían desempeñar un papel importante en la reducción de la desigualdad. ¡Ojalá los programas del FMI en Grecia y en otros países reflejaran plenamente esos sentimientos!

La Associated Press organizó una sesión sobre tecnología y desempleo que hizo reflexionar mucho: ¿pueden los países (en particular los del mundo desarrollado) crear nuevos puestos de trabajo –y, en particular, buenos–, en vista de que la tecnología moderna ha substituido a los trabajadores por robots y otras máquinas en toda tarea rutinaria?

En conjunto, el  sector privado en Europa y los Estados Unidos no ha podido crear muchos puestos de trabajo buenos desde el comienzo del siglo actual. Incluso en China y en otras partes del mundo con sectores manufactureros en aumento, las mejoras de la productividad –con frecuencia relacionadas con procesos automatizados que destruyen puestos de trabajo– representan la mayor parte del aumento de la producción. Quienes más sufren las consecuencias de ello son los jóvenes, cuyas perspectivas viales resultarán gravemente perjudicadas por los extensos períodos de desempleo que afrontan actualmente.

Pero la mayoría de los participantes en Davos dejaron de lado esos problemas para celebrar la supervivencia del euro. La nota dominante fue de autocomplacencia o incluso optimismo. El “impulso de Draghi”, la idea de que el Banco Central Europeo, con sus profundas bolsas, querría y podría hacer todo lo necesario para salvar el euro y a cada uno de los países afectados por la crisis, parecía haber funcionado, al menos por un tiempo. La calma temporal supuso cierto apoyo para quienes afirmaban que lo necesario, por encima de todo, era el restablecimiento de la confianza. Se abrigaba la esperanza de que las promesas de Draghi fueran una forma no onerosa de infundir dicha confianza, porque nunca se tendría que cumplirlas.

Los críticos repitieron una y otra vez que las contradicciones fundamentales no estaban resueltas y que, para que el euro sobreviviera a largo plazo, tendría que haber una unión fiscal y bancaria, la cual requeriría más unificación política que la que la mayoría de los europeos está dispuesta a aceptar, pero gran parte de lo que se dijo en las reuniones y en torno a ellas reflejaba una profunda falta de solidaridad. Un funcionario gubernamental de muy alto nivel de un país del norte de Europa ni siquiera posó el tenedor cuando un serio comensal de una cena señaló que ahora muchos españoles comen de lo que consiguen en los cubos de la basura. Deberían haber hecho las reformas antes, respondió, y siguió comiendo su filete.

Los pronósticos del FMI sobre el crecimiento hechos públicos durante la reunión de Davos ponen de relieve hasta qué punto ha quedado el mundo disociado: se espera que el crecimiento del PIB en los países industriales avanzados sea el 1,4 por ciento este año, mientras que los países desarrollados siguen creciendo a una sólida tasa de 5,5 por ciento.

Mientras los dirigentes occidentales hablaban de una nueva insistencia en el crecimiento y el empleo, no ofrecieron políticas concretas que respaldaran esas aspiraciones. En Europa se insistía sin cesar en la austeridad, junto con autofelicitaciones por los avances logrados hasta ahora y una reafirmación de la determinación de continuar con el mismo rumbo que ahora ha sumido a toda Europa en la recesión y al Reino Unido en una desaceleración con triple recesión.

Tal vez la nota más optimista procediera de los mercados en ascenso: aunque el riesgo de la mundialización era el de entrañar una nueva interdependencia, por lo que unas políticas económicas equivocadas en los Estados Unidos y en Europa podían torpedear las economías de los países en desarrollo, los mercados en ascenso que han tenido más éxito han gestionado la mundialización lo bastante bien para sostener el crecimiento pese a los fallos de Occidente.

Con los EE.UU. políticamente paralizados por las pueriles rabietas políticas de los republicanos y Europa centrada en velar por la supervivencia del mal concebido proyecto del euro, la falta de una dirección mundial fue una queja importante expresada en Davos. En los veinticinco últimos años, hemos pasado de un mundo dominado por dos superpotencias a otro dominado por una sola y ahora a un mundo multipolar y sin dirigentes. Aunque podemos hablar del G-7 o del G-8 o del G-20, la denominación más idónea es la de G-0. Vamos a tener que aprender a vivir y prosperar en este nuevo mundo.

Traducido del inglés por Carlos Manzano.

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  1. Portrait of Pingfan Hong

    CommentedPingfan Hong

    Given the nature of Davos as the club for the rich and famous, one can hardly believe it remains (or has ever been) a good place to get a sense of the global zeitgeist.

    In any case, there is clearly a contradiction between your blame for the dominance of the West in the global leadership in the past and your claim of a leaderless world today: sounding like you still want a superpower to lead the world.

    In a multipolar world, the form of global leadership will also be decentralized and diffused.

  2. CommentedSarchis Dolmanian

    As for a 'leaderless world' .... the easiest way into a crises is to indiscriminately follow a hapless leader or a crowd while the only way out is to start thinking by yourself, even if you do it only to choose your next leader.

  3. CommentedSarchis Dolmanian

    "While the realization that America is not the land of opportunity that it has long claimed to be..."
    How about 'While the realization that America is no LONGER the land of opportunity that it used to be...'
    Maybe we should try to understand what happened between this two moments....

  4. CommentedDavid Crichton

    Perhaps Prof. Stiglitz could expand in a follow-up note on what he means by a "good" job, which would require a view of his opinion as to the essential purpose of a job and permit a conversation on the actions that possibly be taken by governments to create "good" jobs in the developed markets.

  5. Commentedsrinivasan gopalan

    Prof.Stiglitz's piece as is his wont called a spade a spade, sparing none for the extant straits the world economy is in. It is not lack of leadership that is at the root of today's travails as the rot has set in deeper in individual society of nations. The inequality that has been highlighted in the piece is not as if the world had woken up to it now because since times immemorial humanity had been inured to this chasm in fortunes of individuals, just as all the five fingers in a hand are not alike. Squaring up the divide requires enlightened policy impetus from statesmen of standing and not from leaders of today who have feet of clay and a thinking not infused with universal considerations. Nevertheless, one has to give credit to Prof.Stiglitz for recognizing this sombre reality that stares in our face. It is time that instead of lauding institutions such as the IMF which had changed its colour in consonance with the changes of the times, let the leaders of the free world emulate their ancestors who were statesmen and who wrestled with the problems worse than ours in a munificent manner, sinking parochial considerations. We need statesmen who can rescue the world from the abyss of multifarious malaise that plagues it pathetically today. G.Srinivasan, Journalist, New Delhi.

  6. CommentedEdward Ponderer

    "One very senior government official of a northern European country did not even put down his fork when interrupted by an earnest dinner companion who pointed out that many Spaniards now eat out of garbage cans. They should have reformed earlier, he replied, as he continued to eat his steak."

    The parallel with Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" can of course not be lost on anyone. Even if this report is false or exaggerated, the same is assumed to have been the case with the Antoinette story. The point is, its credible.

    Is the danger understood? What happens when people feel that they have nothing to lose but their lives any longer.

    Would that they are gotten rid of by extermination? The Nazi genocide against Jews during WWII largely succeeded only because they were an minority among an unsympathetic majority. -- But when it is the majority? For countless considerations, the unthinkable would result in destruction of ALL Humanity, without protecting any minority in power.

    And of course, the destruction of that minority will eliminate the only ones with the skills and know-how to make any organized system, save gangs, actually function.

    The question is, will the economic and political leadership have the courage of a Mikhail Gorbachev, to peacefully transition from a "consumerist, limitless growth," "power politics," model to one of mutual concern and responsibility in the realistic assessment of limits.

    Will our anonymous Northern European official awaken from his slumber, or keeping dreaming of the limitless plane of resources and markets in a closed, poisoning-faster-than-healing planetary sphere.

    -- On that, dreaming indeed. I hear that on America's death row, most order fast-food for their last meal, because who can think of a good piece of steak at a time like this?

  7. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    Sorry, Prof. Stiglitz, instead of G-0 we need to keep including those as leaders who are continually entering the fray for economic development by their sheer will and resolve and they have their share of successes to be proud of while the G-8 transforms into an ensemble of debtor nations who after having pulled too much from the future of their children are now on the lookout for new avenues from where new credit possibilities could be created or staked with visible or invisible collateral, which is perennially in short supply.

  8. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    The relative impoverishment of the majority of the populations of what were the industrial democracies is not offset by the absolute enrichment of a small minority of wealthy plutocrats.

    The increase in wealth of the poor in the other countries is the only thing currently propping up the world economy.

    This explosion of inequality is a result of a very coordinated policy across the world.

    The impression of a leaderless world is an attempt of the guilty to evade responsibility for the greatest economic crime in history.

      CommentedVenu Madhav

      Frank, take a look at the prophetic interview of Sir James Goldsmith; I do not remember any body from the so called elite economists' think-tank who has ever made such darn good prediction. Of course, Dr. Stiglitz clinically diagnosed the ill-effects of globalization in his book recently.

  9. CommentedVenu Madhav

    Always been an admirer of Dr. Stiglitz with his enlightening thought process, especially on the subject of globalization.

    What he describes as a leaderless, multi-polar world actually is a good thing to happen, so this transitioning anarchy is a mere transit point owing to the fact that the economics across the globe went wrong and the aiding politics/political affiliations have only done so much to aggravate the situation at best.
    At least today, I am more optimistic about the fact that the centre of gravity as it drifts more into Asia owing to the sheer size of population will drive towards more balanced social/income equality; which of course capitalistic economies will despise but let's face it; you cannot beggar your neighbour to remain rich, the inflection points have to arrive sooner or later by virtue of cycles and so today we are nearing another inflection point which I hope will happen between 2014-2017 primarily due to the following factors:
    i. China has new leadership in place; and they are much more strategic than the previous regime. They are rebuilding their society on principles of less corruption, more social inclusion and equality.
    ii. India will have another round of vote-casting in 2014, which even if it happens to be another relay race tenure with multiple partners, it however will be much different from previous tenures owing to the fact that the greater social inclusion methods adopted by earlier governments may not be fully supported and the financial authorities have to take a ballsy approach to achieve a sustainable rate of growth for accelerating the social inclusion; and for that corruption has to be weeded out.
    That's 2 Billion people economies worth of importance.
    iii. US- The pill could be bitter but alas the patient needs it now than later!!; and despite all of the hype on the stock markets peaking in Jan 2013, huge corrections are inevitable in real estate, financing, interest rates, inflation, stock markets etc. The good news is President Obama has already fired a salvo for deficit limits and sequester with a deadline; secondly he knows very well the sustainable path to recovery at least within shores is only due to employment and so the push will be stronger for more business ties, business creation.
    That's 310 million(MM) people market there.
    iv. Russia- As energy prices fluctuate between highs and lows; Russian oligarchs know they can hold power only so much for so long, thus will not be surprised how the government pushes these oligarchs for embracing wider benefitting methods and position for leveraging in the global markets, as this definitely is their window of opportunity.
    That's another 142MM population there.
    v. Japan- A new reality has already dawned upon the government in terms of understanding how they have to revive their economy, looking outside for now but probably will have a great cultural influence above and beyond the business arena especially as they take to investing at a greater pace outside of Japan in the emerging markets. Time to revisit the widow-maker bonds!
    That's 128MM population right there.
    vi. Eurozone- This is something that will remain like unraveling a nested puzzle as the highs and lows are expected to have fast changing amplitude primarily due to the political concerns in individual countries that need a tying at the top and that's where the concerted will is lacking. Germany will probably think more strategically on how close can they be to Euro and how long. Of course the zone will be happy whether Britain joins or not; or even if they remain fickle forever.
    That's a 333MM population market right there.

    In summary, between 2014-2017 pivoting on various fronts will occur especially on global financial markets, exchange rates, unemployment, trade balances; and 2013 is already setting the deck for it with the lack of clarity at top echelons of leadership. Time for soul-searching, defined value-based leadership to emerge is arriving soon.

  10. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    These meetings have lost their importance as more and more people realize that the world is aimlessly drifting towards the unknown, like a rudderless ship, and almost nobody pretends any longer they know what they are doing, and that they have any idea what is going to happen even within a year.
    If there is any optimistic, positive point, it is the so called "revelation of evil".
    Instead of the previous pretending, play acting, developed or developing recognize, and openly declare that up to this point we have been living, developing in a totally selfish, exploitative socio-economic system, regardless of the actual governing structure, nationality or culture.
    The American attitude towards the Middle East is a good example "we squeezed as much as possible from the region, so have a good time, we must go...".
    But in today's global, interconnected world system such a thing cannot work, and very soon they will see how much they cannot just leave, as they will be dragged into whatever conflict happens next.
    Or how leaders in Europe pretend that by "balancing the books" they solved the problems, when it does not translate to the street level, and the actual public is sliding, and have no future prospects.
    And when the dominoes start falling even Germany will learn what austerity, unemployment, public unrest is.
    From now on we have two options: Either we continue waiting, pretending, playing games until the crisis forces us on our knees when we desperately start searching for a cure, a total change from within the meltdown, or this much crisis, imminent suffering is enough to initiate a self search, a desire to change ourselves since we understand it is only us that needs change, only selfish, exploitative human nature is the cause of the problems.
    We do not have much more time to make the right choice.

  11. CommentedJohn Brian Shannon

    Hi Joseph,

    Great piece, as always!

    We are at a point in human history where we should now be thinking; "Which is more important, 'the economy', or 'the people'?"

    Thus far, developed countries have preferred to (this is the 'economy' part) invest in making evermore money for corporations -- and that's fine, look at the great progress that has been made.

    However, I think we are near the end of that paradigm, because we have 'topped out' or 'plateaued' if you prefer that term.

    U.S. corporations these days are awash in cash. To wit, the excess liquidity seen in the U.S. over the past few years -- and really, what good is all that money doing anyone, including those corporations which can't invest it -- as there is nothing which pays enough to warrant such massive investment?

    Mountains of money piled up in banks, but nowhere to spend it!

    Not here in North America, as it is cheaper to set-up shop in Asia.

    Not in Asia, as there are few left (here or anywhere) who can afford to buy anything more than the things they already purchase.

    (By which I mean most of the discretionary income in the developed world is already being spent)

    The unemployed, obviously have much less discretionary income AND are a drain on U.S. government coffers.

    And they don't want to be! They would prefer more discretionary income, but for the 22 million people seeking jobs, there are less than 2 million jobs available.

    So, telling 22 million Americans to "just get a job" is disingenuous and haughty. Perhaps evil.

    If we don't have jobs here, then we can't buy products and services made by our corporations -- and that will continue to be the case. This is just as true even when our corporations own those Chinese factories.

    We have shipped millions of jobs overseas, and soon, few in America will work, because most of the jobs will have been shipped over there.

    And soon, the Asian economies will plateau, but for a different reason. There won't be enough purchases (demand) to sustain any more growth (supply).

    The great Asian tigers China and India will no longer grow, when there isn't enough demand from consumers in the developed nations.

    So much for growing the economy, which, I agree is a noble enterprise, but we have done that and look where it has got us. It is not going to get better, in fact, over the long term, it is going to slowly degrade from the place we are today.

    Yes, things may pick up a bit over the next year or two, but when measured over the next 10, 20, 30 or 40 years, the developed nations will slide backwards relative to their present position and relative to the developing nations.

    Time for a reality check.

    "If we keep on doing what we have been doing, we are going to keep on getting what we have been getting." -- Jackie B. Cooper

    We tried it one way, and it worked extremely well for a long period of time, that period is now drawing to a close.

    Focusing on the economy was a great way to grow America.

    But now, I suggest we focus on 'the people'.

    Making their lives better by promoting and creating better employment opportunities, education and health-care.

    1) A very high Employment rate would do wonders for the economy of the U.S. and our suppliers in other countries.

    2) A higher universal standard of education for all, especially for workers, will empower U.S. corporations, their workers and citizens all over America, and again give the U.S. the competitive edge it needs in the world.

    Educated people invent and build better products and services, and can enhance a corporation in other ways -- leaving a large percentage of the population out of the education equation just doesn't make sense.

    3) And a healthy population will be more productive when they do work, more willing to look for work when they are unemployed, and workers will miss less workdays with sick children or partners.

    Up till now, putting most of the emphasis on growing 'the economy' has served 'the people' well, but now, after plateauing, if we start to put huge emphasis on 'the people' directly, I suggest we may reap even larger dividends for 'the economy'.

    Firing on all cylinders, is what America needs to do now.

    (Of course, I'm thinking cylindrical bar charts, to show different demographics. Finding out what needs to be done to bring the largest possible majority to a high employment level, a minimum college or certified tradesperson education level and a high universal health standard)

    This will allow America to fire on all cylinders!

    What would it take to bring this vision to fruition? Probably less than we are wasting now.

    Best regards, and again, nice article! JBS



  12. CommentedPaul Schaafsma

    Your leadership and that of a growing number of outspoken economists is important. If our governments don't listen, many of their citizens do.
    Your voice has helped educate and inspire many of us. So too Saez and Picketty, Pollin and Kuttner, Wiesenthal and Reich, economists from both parties, from business and academia, from the EPI to the IMF to UNCTAD...and of course the fearless Paul Krugman...
    It may fall on citizens to agree on their own agenda. Unlikely as that may sound, your work makes it more possible.

  13. CommentedSikiru Salami

    Prof, this is a wonderful piece! It's indeed becoming a leaderless world. Just you as alluded to, the depth of inqualityis making the claim of globalization more fictional than real.

    American and European companies can continue doll out jobs to the emerging market for want of cheap; this is a international reallocation of wealth. If you like, you may say this is law of karma in economics.
    A real flat world in the making you may

    The truth is, the rest of us in the emerging markets(nigeria in particular) don't have to wait for americans and europeans to get back to work. Afterall, all their aid pledges have always been mere promises.

  14. CommentedG. A. Pakela

    With respect to the "gift" bestowed upon Americans by their parents and government, that is the result of our culture allowing inequality to express itself in relentless competition, success and failure.

    Economic theory indirectly confirms "trickle down" economics because in the U.S. we can afford to pay our least able citizens far more than what a citizen of a less developed country can hope to make. Moreover, we can afford to provide subsidies for housing, food, medical care, disability and retirement income for our poor and not so poor citizens at a level that is far more egalitarian than even the most communist of communist countries in the entire history of communism!

  15. Commenteddonna jorgo

    professor i remmeber 2010-2011- WEF was the SAME ..tell me what change? if you believe the EU economy will grow ..good for you.. (but i don't )
    I HAVE Q IMF grow 10.4 % in this bad situation how is possible?
    thank you

  16. CommentedShane Beck

    About the only growth at the moment is a growing arms race in NE Asia and SE Asia......

  17. CommentedVirgil Bierschwale

    I believe all of this is happening because we have ignored the simplest of questions while chasing a bird in the bush versus a bird in the hand that we already had.

    The question is very simply, who are my best customers.

    Recently the following picture came across my desk showing the countries that consumed the most, meaning Europe and America sending their jobs to the countries that need our purchases to provide jobs for their people.

    http://keepamericaatwork.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/432271_457416900971093_1425873386_n.jpg

    When we put our best customers out of work, meaning american and european, we also put our suppliers out of work as well.

    Where is the sense in this?

    Perhaps we should be thinking "Keep America and Europe At Work so that we can Keep The World At Work?"

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