经济学家有是处吗?

纽黑文—2007—2009年全球金融危机和衰退爆发以来,对经济学界的批评日嚣尘上。只有少数职业经济学家预见到危机的来临——而危机的余波至今仍在震荡——这让许多人质疑经济学界是否给社会做出了重大贡献。如果经济学家无法预见对人类福祉如此重要的事件,他们还有什么是处吗?

诚然,经济学没有预见到上个世纪的大部分重大危机,包括1920—21年大崩盘、1980—82年背靠背衰退,以及最糟糕的1929年股市崩盘后的大萧条。检索这些衰退前一年中的新闻报道,我发现几乎不存在来自经济学家的事先严重危机警告。相反,报纸强调企业高管或政客的观点,而他们总是非常乐观。

最接近于真正警告的是1980—82年衰退前。1979年,美联储主席保罗·沃克(Paul A. Volcker)对美国国会联合经济委员会(Joint Economic Committee)说,美国面临着“令人不安的经济环境”,并且有“必要做出艰难决定,有必要做出克制,甚至有必要做出牺牲。”美联储有可能不得不采取猛烈措施遏制高企的通胀,再加上1979年石油危机的影响,让严重衰退就在眼前。

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