Monday, July 28, 2014
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后增长世界?

普林斯顿—在其煽动性的最新论文中,西北大学的罗伯特·戈登(Robert Gordon)指出,技术进步的速度已急剧放慢,因此生活标准的提升(至少在发达国家)即将减速。他说,在20世纪,美国人均收入大约每20—25年翻一番。但下一个一番可能要过100年才能发生——这是19世纪的翻番速度。

长期增长的考虑尽管十分关键,但为时尚早,当务之急是修复金融和重塑信心。因此,对戈登论文的评论大部分都偏离了纠正进行中的大衰退的政治讨论。

但对增长前景进行现实评估正是当前所需要做的事,这样才能为未来制定合理可行的政策。戈登的观点并不是增长会在未来减速,而是基础生产率增长将在远低于2000年水平的轨道下运行。在此后十年的好光景中,被繁荣扩大和金融泡沫引入了歧途。更糟糕的是,我们对待当下的态度好像2000—2007年的泡沫增长会回来似的。

就拿IMF的定期世界增长预测来说吧。2010年4月,在雷曼兄弟倒闭18个月后,危机似乎结束了。IMF预测世界GDP将在2015年之前保持4.5%的年增长率,略高于危机前十年的速度,而平均年通货膨胀率预计会有所降低,为2.9%。看起来未来一片光明。

然而,在连续的修正后,2012年世界GDP增长预期被调整到了3.3%,而通胀预测达到了4%,表明全球增长动力比预料的要弱得多。低于预期的增长和高于预期的通胀影响了大部分经济体。2011和2012年,发达国家中英国尤其如此;而即使是德国也没有独善其身。同样的状况也出现在金砖国家中(巴西、俄罗斯、印度和中国)。

尽管IMF和其他人的预测总是偏于乐观,但每一次回撤都被视为暂时性的偏离,各有各的独特原因:希腊援助啦,日本悲剧性的海啸啦,标普对美国国债降级后造成的波动性飙升啦,如此等等。回归世界增长率4.5%仅仅被略微推迟了几年——最新的预测是2015年。

增长复兴的信心是有欠考虑的政策策略。其要害在于全球经济危机是一次增长危机。金融机构和市场认为生产率会继续以20世纪90年代末的速度增长,这铸成了资产价格繁荣,从而带来了繁荣幻觉;没有直接参与金融泡沫的也通过繁荣的国际贸易被拖下了水。欧洲的增长——严重依赖于贸易——受到了特别大的提振,新兴市场亦然。

而一旦大衰退拉开序幕,这一过程也被逆转,开始消灭过剩。但决策者仍将危机前增长表现作为复苏前景基准。当现实证明并非如此时,回到过去的想法并没有被放弃,而只是推迟。继续追求回到危机前增长成了推迟艰难决策的借口。

比如,一次增长反弹会让人们产生欧洲外围国不需要重组或以通胀解决主权债务问题。假设德国经济会摆脱当前的缓慢爬行状态对于欧洲金融安全网的信心和可信地在整个欧元区分担风险的银行联盟来说是关键的。世界经济重回稳健增长是推迟实施巴塞尔III银行规则的基础。此外,如果金砖国家放缓,它们也许更容易发生债务和货币危机。

应该怎样做?由于决策者预测的增长万灵丹不可能解决问题,因此对付金融过剩就成为更加紧迫的问题。这意味着在今天进行更多的债务重组,让更多的银行关门,而不是不把约束自由市场的方案当回事。放眼未来,正如耶鲁大学的罗伯特·希勒(Robert Shiller)所一再强调的,公共政策必须有助于在未来形成更好地规避风险、更可靠地协调激励的市场。

提高生产率增长没有魔法。即使戈登过度悲观了,下一次技术突破会在什么时候发生也难以预料。所谓的“结构性”改革也许有帮助,但潜在收益既小又不确定。也许现在是时候学会与“更少”和谐相处了。

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  1. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    This is a very important article pointing out the futility behind the 'return to growth" mantra.
    But even this paper talks about some kind of a continuing quantitative growth, productivity, just on a lower scale.
    In order to understand what is happening and how we have to "re-structure" we need to understand the system we exist in, we are part of.
    So far politicians or experts kept on concentrating on the details, trying to solve superficial symptoms, ignoring the deeper roots of the process.
    We have arrived a completely new stage of our evolution.
    Humanity has "grown up".
    If our history, evolution so far was in the progressively growing, quantitative expansion phase, now we are entering the qualitative, maturity phase.
    Both inside human society, and in between humanity and the natural system around we have reached an equilibrium, a saturation. There is no more space, volume, dimension we can expand into in a quantitative manner.
    It is exactly the same how a living creature, animal or human grows for a while and then the quantitative growth finishes and a completely new phase of existence starts.
    We still want to remain children in the toy store, we still want to roam around, exploit everything we find or meet, we want to hoard, and stockpile, and stuff everything inside ourselves.
    The same expansive, exploitative development that propelled humanity up to this point has become self destructive, we are becoming sicker and sicker, in ourselves, in human society and in terms of the natural environment too.
    Or in other words while progressive quantitative development is necessary for a growing child, it indicates cancer in a grown up adult.
    We have to understand the crossroads we have reached.
    There is no more place for bubbles, illusions, "American Dreams".
    We have evolved into this global, interconnected and interdependent network in between us within a closed, finite natural system.
    We have to learn how to live in a mature, qualitative way within these conditions without any further quantitative growth or productivity.

  2. CommentedProcyon Mukherjee

    The challenges with technology is embedded in the conundrum that current spate of consumption in goods and services is linked to ‘replacement’ of old ones with new ones and not to original goods or services that are ‘first- timers’ achieved through path-breaking innovation. While the current innovation adds to a considerable degree to the bottom line of corporations by either cost reduction or productivity improvement, they do not create ‘large’ enough disruption for new industries to be created, that service new needs and wants, which would create a growth trajectory that is much steeper. The additions bring good cheers to the speculators while long term investors have to cope with the subtractions as well (every Iphone or Ipad subtracts either a cell phone or a computer that could have been bought instead). This is the fundamental reason that some growth achieved through innovation in the current times has taken some corporations to the stratosphere, while the overall growth engine of the world is still at a mere 2.5%. This is a failure of private capital and innovation combined to be able to create broad based growth paradigms.

  3. CommentedChris Cowsley

    Each growth spurt has a technology development as its trigger. Could we be reaching the point at which all we can achieve with more better technology is more leisure? If so, we need to start measuring growth by something other than the purchase and sale of goods and services. Fulfilling leisure opportunities that are resource light are sometimes impossible to 'monetise'.

  4. Commentedprasad p

    As far as growth of Indian economy is concern crude oil is major concern.Indian growth story will be finished once Brent Crude starts to trade above 120 $/ Barrel. In fact, Once Brent Crude starts boiling above 135-140 $/ Barrel; whatever efforts taken by developed economies so far will be over and rapid, uncontrolled recession likely hover all over the world. Energy as well as Commodity prices must correct 50-60 % over the next few months else dilemma of double dip recession is sure.

  5. CommentedFrank O'Callaghan

    One of the problems with current and future technological growth is the control and direction of research.

    One glaring example is the restricted uses of technology for narrowly profitable uses. Spending a great proportion of the worlds research effort on creating plants that are effectively sterile so as to force those who grow them to continue buying rather than breed their own seed is wasteful but good for one bottom line.

    Had the same effort and resource gone into a disease-drought-salt resistant, nitrogen fixing, nutritious and easily cultivated plant it would have been better for the world but not the shareholders.

    We need to re-balance our society and it's goals. The pursuit of profit is self destructive to more than the economy.

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