Friday, September 19, 2014
8

放血?

伯克利—在大萧条的十二年中——从1929年股市崩盘到美国二战动员——美国年均生产比萧条前趋势低了约15%,总产出缺口相当于1.8年的GDP。如今,即便美国的生产在2017年回到稳定通胀产出潜力水平——“即便”二字醒目——美国仍有相当于一年GDP六成的产出缺口。

事实上,我一直称之为“小萧条”的损失几乎肯定不会在2017年停下来。没有可堪与战争相提并论的道德等价物能把美国送入强力繁荣,击散衰退阴云;当我计算现值、预测美国经济低于趋势增长的未来时,我无法考虑新增损失现值低于如今一整年产出的情形——总成本为1.6年的GDP。因此,其伤害与大萧条等量齐观——其带来的痛苦亦然,即使如今美国真实GDP是1929年的13倍。

我把这告诉了我在奥巴马政府中的朋友,他们为自己和美国长期宏观经济结果辩解时指出,其他发达国家比美国差远了。他们是对的。欧洲巴不得自己的问题和美国一样轻。

尽管如此,我的结论是,我不应该把当前的局面成为小萧条。是的,其表面与大萧条并不相同;但是,至少到目前为止,没有理由把它在宏观经济灾难排名表上放在大萧条以下的位置。

美国债券市场同意我的看法。1975年以来,30年期国债的名义年溢价平均为2.2%:换句话说,在其整个生命期内,30年期国债名义收益率比未来短期国债名义收益率的期望平均收益率高出2.2个百分点。目前,30年期国债年收益率为3.2%,这意味着,除非今天的新债券买家反常地不愿意持有30年期国债,否则他对未来30年短期国债名义利率的年平均值为1%。

只有在经济陷入萧条、产能富余、劳动力闲置和主要风险在于通缩而不是物价上涨时,美联储才会把短期国债名义利率保持在1%左右。自二战以来,名义国债利率在2%或以下时期的美国失业率平均为8%。

这就是债券市场对美国未来的看法:闲置而萧条的经济,维持时间即使不到30年,也差不了多少。

激进政策阻挠全面思想革命和美联储和美国国会的人员构成,救不了美国。曾几何时,决策者知道政府应该 调节资产供给以确保流动性资产、安全资产和储蓄工具的充分供应。这样,作为一个整体的经济就不会遭遇去杠杆化压力、产量被压抑在潜在产出之下。但这一宏观经济管理基本原理早已被抛诸脑后。

美联储大部分高官认为激进的货币扩张已经达到了审慎的边界(如果没有越界的话)。大部分美国国会议员在谈论“中世纪理发师约克的西奥多里克”(Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber ,20世纪70年代美国喜剧秀《周末夜现场》(Saturday Night Live)的主角)暗示。他们相信,衰弱的美国经济需要的是另一种“好放血”(good bleeding),即更有力的紧缩。

正如王尔德《不可儿戏》(The Importance of Being Earnest)中的布莱克奈尔女士(Lady Bracknell)所说,“失去单亲可以认为是不幸,失去双亲,就可能是粗心大意了。”经历一次大萧条级别的灾难,这是美国的不幸;经历两次,只能说美国粗心大意。

那么,寻求改善世界的经济学家应该做些什么,如果我们不能在现实地预期出台朝正确方向推进的政策的话?

在大萧条大体相同的阶段,凯恩斯不再关注影响政策。相反,他尝试重构宏观经济学思想,写出了《就业、利息和货币通论》,这样,当下一次危机爆发时,经济学家可以以与1929—1933年间不同且生产率更高的方式来思考经济。

本周,在官场上几进几出的经济学家劳伦斯·萨默斯(Lawrence Summers)在伦敦经济学院演讲时呼吁来一次新的宏观经济思想——以及央行制度和导向——重构。这是堪与凯恩斯相比的雄心壮志,但能够完成吗?当代凯恩斯难以找到,关于央行改革的布雷顿森林式的全球共识也无从谈起。

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  1. CommentedZsolt Hermann

    There is no easy, or pleasant way to go around this: we are not in a depression, macroeconomic crisis, but we are in a system failure.
    The whole socio-economic system, based on the dream of infinite, constant, quantitative economic growth has reached dead end, since such a system is without any natural foundations, thus the model cannot be sustained within a natural system.
    This model is based on inventing and then implanting artificial desires, cravings for pleasures in people in order to keep consuming, changing goods, pleasures they do not have natural inclination, need for.
    And they are forced to keep consuming beyond their means which lead to the present unsolvable debt burden both for individuals and nations alike.
    Even if we had unlimited natural resources to drive such system, the human resources are already exhausted, indicated by rising unemployment, especially among the youth, social inequality, loss of purchasing power and confidence, not to mention other worsening social statistics related to health, family, human relationships, culture, education and so on.
    Although the article claims that there is no credible war chance on the horizon to give a reviving shock to the economy, we already have experience that the major power brokers in the world, especially the US can design and initiate a war whenever it wants to, but on one hand such adventures became more and more unpredictable in the present global, interdependent system, and since the problem is a fundamentally wrong direction for the whole of humanity, even a war could not change that unless we change ourselves, our attitude, lifestyle, and how we relate to each other.
    Now this will be the most difficult to accept in the US, since it is this country who "perfected" the constant quantitative growth model, and the "American Dream".
    But if we do not face the facts, and start understanding the closed, finite natural system we exist in, and the fully interconnected human network, meaning that the whole of humanity moves together, either developing or sinking, the worsening crisis and inevitable meltdown will force us to do the same but in much worse and highly unpredictable conditions.

      CommentedEdward Ponderer

      Paradigm shifts are very hard to recognize -- and here it is often one's very expertise in the field that set them up for not catching something completely new. It is often only the young child, eyes wide-open without prejudicial blinders that can blurt out that the emperor is naked.

      The tell-tale signs are dimensions of the problem unseen -- constants of the model that weren't -- only made known by approaching a limiting boundary.

      And we have reached the greatest such boundary ever in history and ever in any system. This being that it is the limit of the globe itself, and the system so limited is the system of all natural and man-made systems. These are now "stepping on each others toes" and so the dance no longer goes well. Point in fact, human socio-economics and Nature's homeostasis are spinning out of control and heading for a crash to the dance floor.

      This is the time not to try to fix our Harlem Shake, but to move our way into a waltz as elegantly as possible. The transition is played by playing down artificial consumerism, bring the unemployed into integral education classes under stipend, and slowly move society through a paradigm shift from every man for himself to mutual responsibility.

      In the end, distribute work according to such models as crowd sourcing -- in some way incorporating everyone in an effort of a couple of hours a day. As we see just how much wasteful duplication of efforts and ab initio needless product has been produced in the past, we'll know what direction to course correct into.

      -- And therein lay the essence of the paradigm shift, the hardest thing of all for the emperor to realize, but obvious to the child. The process will not ultimately be by simple model planning by the know-how of upper echelon experts, but rather by the seat-of-you-pants sense how of an interconnected Humanity. That is, the will to balance globally by individuals in mutually responsible connection.

      We must adapt to survive and thrive...

  2. CommentedDavid Wetzell

    I believe that we must subvert the cut-throat competitive nature of US politics so it no longer tilts to single-party rule and there are more checks and balances. The use of low-number proportional representation elections for "more local" elections seems a simple solution that would have far reaching consequences, enabling solutions to be worked out simply by changing the incentives of the major parties...

    This is a conservative solution, since we used 3-seat quasi-PR for state assembly elections in IL from 1870-1980 and it made it so neither major party could dominate the state assembly or IL politics. This can be done again (and improved on) so that there will be a trickle-up effect to make other elections more competitive. If neither major party can dominate the state assembly then neither will be able to leverage their control of the state assembly. If interests groups then have to hedge then there'll be more equity in the state-level party infrastructure that affects nat'l elections

    There will be more diversity within the major party leadership, more moderates from both parties will get elected and if an expectation is established that neither can dominate, so both will have more incentive to cooperate on many fronts, then it will spill over to change economic expectations for the USA.

    This is what I believe is the most important area for change in the USA. Campaign Finance Regulations are hard to enforce in our current system. Realistic regulations will be easier to work out if the system itself is harder for major intere$t$ to manipulate.

  3. CommentedWill Fletcher

    One slight flaw...the US is broke! Your national debt increased 75% in 5 years....do you think that will continue ad infinitum?

    Total debt, including unfunded liabilities almost $60 TRILLION..the $ will soon be dispensed in Walmart on a cardboard tube to hang in the 'rest room' - along with all other FIAT currencies.

  4. CommentedColin Wiles

    You raise many good questions but don't give any answers. Are you calling for a drift away from inflation and employment targeting and more towards a form of NGDP targeting?

  5. CommentedAvraam Dectis

    "Barring a wholesale revolution in thinking and personnel at the Fed and in the US Congress"
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    There are only about 600 people in the Congress and important FED positins.

    If every competent economist would throw his hat into the local Congressional primary, and make a good economic argument, enough would win to influence policy.

    The well known economists, no names needed, should be running for President.

    The circumstances make it the patriotic duty for competent economists to run for office.
    .


  6. CommentedJoshua Ioji Konov

    An excelent article, the observation is precise under the tricle-down used economics there is no way out of the last recession's lost of equity...., only major macroeconomic enchancements and changes coulf stir up the needed business activities to prompt faster rebuilt...

  7. CommentedRichard Foosion

    The standard counter-arguments are (1) the Fed is artificially lowering interest rates across the yield curve and (2) markets are not great at forecasting the future.

    (1) is clearly wrong. Rates are low throughout the world. Rates seem appropriate given the state of the economy.

    (2) seems could be a reason for optimism. Markets may be hard to beat, but the notion that market prices (and therefore yields) are correct is not very popular.

    Why did you choose 1975 as the base for the statement that the nominal annual premium on the 30-year Treasury bill has averaged 2.2%?

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