Thursday, November 27, 2014
5

欧元等待判决结果

         华盛顿——十年前,欧元开始启用,这是一次独特而大胆的尝试。然而今天,该实验的结果却引发了人们的质疑,欧元是否应该继续存在?欧洲人让它存在是否正确?但是,如果欧元区存在,它可能带给欧元区成员国,甚至整个世界,无数好处。

        欧元是欧元区成员国中极端固定的货币:在最初,就把参与国本国货币兑欧元的汇率固定了,它们将自己锁在这个牢笼里,并将钥匙扔进了茂密的草丛中。如今,越来越多的国家在默默地梳理那个草丛,寻找钥匙。

       欧元制与以前的金本位制有着很大的相似之处。在金本位制下,各国家制定出以黄金兑换本国货币的价格,以此来固定本国相对其他国的汇率。今天,一些人时常大声疾呼,号称自己支持“金本位意味着经济和金融稳定”的观点。但是此观点却与历史记录相左,在金本位时期,由于政府,公司,个人或是它们一起的过分借款,导致那时的金融市场经常大起大落。

       欧元制和金本位制有三个不同点,可是现在,没有一点能让人从中得到安慰。

第一,金本位制的核心前提是,世界上的金子有限。人们不能创造或是发现更多的金子,至少在短期内不可能。相反,如果急需欧元,欧洲中央银行可以制造更多。欧元区国家不可能缺少流动货币,因为欧洲中央银行总能够提供更多的货币。

       政府和投资者深知这一点,结果出现了比金本位制下更高的负债率。整个欧元区的负责率达90%,无论以何种标准来看,都很高。

       但是,只要投资者依然认为其他的紧急救助即将到来,这种债务水平都是可以接受的。可是,假如某个政府不服从德国政府所认为的好的经济政策,那么欧洲中央银行将终止对其的支持,此时整个纸牌屋(高额负债国)将会轰然倒塌。

        第二,金融市场与金本位制下一切可见物息息相关。欧洲的银行可以大规模扩大,因为它认为各自的政府会支持它。这些银行不仅与国民经济关系密切,而且还影响欧元区外围国家的政府信用质量,甚至波及到意大利。在当代欧洲“无风险资产”已经成为一种矛盾语。

        欧洲银行在大量负债的情况下运行,全靠寥寥无几的股东资产来缓冲可能面临的风险。任何对主权债务的冲击或是本土经济的衰退,都将由过度杠杆化或是资本严重不足的银行系统转移给其他欧洲国家,很有可能是其他任何地方,包括美国。

       最后,尽管今天谈论金本位可能给金融市场带来的规范作用,可是金本位国家却经常暂停兑换,这意味着本国货币不能自由兑换成黄金。但是今天的欧洲没有本国货币,只有欧元。如果任何国家,例如希腊,离开欧元区,那么所有的合约都必须重写。这种破坏,尤其是对信贷的破坏,将会是极深的。

        金本位制的合理运行需要工资和物价的高度灵活性。如果汇率不能下调,那么当一个国家发生不可承受的往来账户赤字时,工资和物价就不得不下降。但是,欧洲外围国家证明,这种形式的经济调控是讨厌的,痛苦的,也是政治上不受欢迎的。希望人们对这种调控的反抗在未来的几个月或是几年里逐渐增长。

        今日新闻的焦点是欧元区外围国家调整并恢复经济增长有多困难,这些困难是由高额的政府债务以及现行的或是可感知的紧缩政策导致的。但是这个问题也有其另一面,德国作为区域安全的避风港,资本不断流入,使得信贷在德国变得很容易。欧元区的动态调整将会加剧潜在的不平衡,德国越来越具竞争力而周边国家依然没有竞争力。

        近来,希腊大选将许多激进党推到前面。激进左翼联盟领导人阿莱克斯•齐普拉斯一针见血地指出,“内部贬值”,即削减工资和物价(来缩小与欧元区其他国家之间的竞争力差距),是失败的举措。他的解决办法是放弃欧元。如果希腊没有比这更好的办法,那么它理应离开。

         但是,这已经不是希腊一个国家的问题。 意大利,西班牙,葡萄牙,甚至爱尔兰也面临着同样的问题,只是依然处于反抗的早期。失业率在上升,它们的经济越来越没有竞争力,可是贷款利率却在不断上升。最终,这些国家也有可能决定离开。即使它们不作出这样的决定,但这样的担忧很可能应验。

       欧元制度的设立原本是为了给所有国家带来繁荣和稳定,可是,对许多国家而言,这种制度已经失败了。欧洲政客对该制度的严重的管理不当,造成的损失将会持续几十年。

       或许一个更强大的财政联盟,中央财政部或是债务共享能够减少这些困难,降低不平衡,使得欧元制继续存在。又或许金融调整会适时地开始起作用。

      陪审团议事室里呼声一片,希望尽快判决。

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    1. Portrait of Asgeir B. Torfason

      CommentedAsgeir B. Torfason

      It is sometimes forgotten but the euro system has also delivered prosperity and stability even though current times are turbulent. Severe mismanagement by national politicians, utilizing the system to its extremes and outside of reasonable and even legal boundaries, is not good argument for the failure of the system. We have to fix this together.

    2. Portrait of Gregor Schubert

      CommentedGregor Schubert

      Boone and Johnson's view of the reasons why countries like Spain or Greece need a nominal adjustment is too narrow: Even if those countries had a balanced current account, a nominal adjustment by exiting the euro zone and devaluing or by ECB-led inflation would be necessary. The reason is that the "outflow of gold" that would have led one to worry about current account deficits in the gold standard days can and does happen internally without any cross-border transactions being involved: disintermediation in the financial system reduces the velocity of money and increased demand for holding money balances ("Hiding euro notes under the mattress") increases the need for base money. If that need for a higher money supply to enable the same number of economic transactions as before is not accommodated by the central bank, the economic activity in the country will drop no matter what the current-account deficit is.

      However, the policy conclusions are the same: the ECB needs to start doing its job and increasing the money supply/inflation to make enough liquidity available to enable growth in ALL EUROZONE countries and not limit itself to getting it just right for the overheating German economy. Otherwise, all that remains for the affected countries is regaining control over their money supply by leaving the eurozone and thus regaining the ability to make the means for economic transactions (money) less scarce, which is the same as saying that their new currencies will need to be devalued.

      So lets not focus on the mere symptom of current-account deficits to critizise the euro system: When Greece leaves it is not to be able to export more stuff but rather to regain control over its monetary system because the ECB with its "lowest inflation ever" pride has failed to use its much-vaunted credibility for the purpose of actually doing its job.

    3. CommentedZsolt Hermann

      The Eurozone is just another human experiment in the long line of experiments when humans try to establish some kind of limited alliance, a union without a strong foundation, thus the experiment fails and usually ends in a much worse state than the state before the experiment.
      The greatest such experiment for unity, and equality was the Communist expedient which went much deeper than the Eurozone, since it established a full integration in between social layers and even nations, but it failed and has become the most corrupt human system ever created because it failed to adjust the most important ingredient, human nature.
      So far all human social systems, civilizations started or ended up with oppression, forcing, threatening, and our civilization has reached this point now. We can see how in Europe democratic institutions are dismantled, people go on the street, and we can see huge social inequality everywhere else, and the Occupy movement gave us a glimpse of things we can expect.
      We are all subjective, egoistic by inherent nature, with any thought or movement we only serve our self interest, all our calculations are about ourselves.
      The Eurozone was just the same. And it did not even go deep enough to have any chance how could a financial or even economical Union survive without establishing a common foundation?
      Today the only option for the survival of the Euro would be full integration in between the participating nations, but people are understandably weary about it following the Communistic example that was not that far away.
      Whatever we do it has to start with the adjustment of our inherent nature, instead of 100% self serving we need to start considering the whole system first of all, and only then think about ourselves.
      How could we achieve such a fundamental change without terror, backlash as it happened in Russia?
      Only through a global, integral education program, providing objective transparent information about the nature of our global, integral system in which we are all interconnected, "sitting on the same boa" to help people understand that our own progress, health and prosperity is completely tied together with the fate, stability and optimal function of the whole system, and we can only get 100% reward for ourselves if the system is perfect.
      This way we could start building a new fully integrated human system, but not by force or trickery but willingness and free choice.
      In truth we do not even have a choice, even today we already live in such a system, being slaves to it, but we do not want to acknowledge it and we use our interconnections in a negative way.
      Through the above mentioned education we could fix our connections and adjust to this global system.

    4. CommentedManfred Dix

      Professors Boone & Johnson may agree with Alex Tsipras that "reducing wages and prices" is a "failing" strategy. Sorry for giving these news, but... unfortunately, within the context of the Euro, it is the ONLY strategy. Exiting the Euro has the same effect, it devalues wages compared to the rest of the world, and sets lower prices compared to rest of the world as well.
      The beauty of a system where you do not print your own money is that you cannot shove your shortcomings under the rug with internal inflation. You cannot pretend that you are richer than you actually are. The Euro is showing countries like Greece (and others) what they always were: low productivity, low capital, low investment countries, who want to have a social welfare system like Germany's. It does not work; you cannot finance a huge welfare system with one third of German productivity. Greece must make itself more attractive to investors, and for that it must reduce all of its prices, including wages.
      Exiting the Euro will destroy wealth and destroy savings. Is this really what distinguished economists want for Greece? Do these distinguished economists believe that you can print your way to prosperity? Or do they believe that prosperity ONLY comes from investment and productivity growth?

    5. CommentedStéphane Genilloud

      The euro does not replicate the gold standard. It is in fact closer to gold itself (with Draghi holding a philosopher's stone in his hands).
      It is a substantial difference, because it means, as said in this article, that there is neither convertibility to suspend, nor currency to depreciate.
      The standard view on an euro exit suggests that a country would simultaneously introduce a new currency and convert all private and public domestic debts into that currency (which would trigger instant depreciation, and de-facto partial default). This looks complicated and risky (and also increasingly likely).
      There might be another way that is not much discussed:
      1. Reduce debts to sustainable levels. It's called a default, and it can be imposed by national debtors, suggested by creditors, or negotiated. What can't be repaid, won't be repaid anyway.
      2. Introduce a new local currency in small quantities, and at a par with the euro. That's what happens if the government pays some of its expenses with IOUs for example.
      3. As long as the government remains credible, there would be a fiscal effect (it would spare a few percentages points of austerity) and a monetary effect. Hopefully enough to restore growth and financial viability. Then it would be time to consider the following options: withdraw the new currency, withdraw the euro or retain both.
      Of course, such a scheme would have better chances to work in a healthier economy (which would not even need to default in the first place). Spain could do it. Why not Germany?
      It would look more uncertain for Greece. But Greece may have no choice.

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