Gli economisti servono a qualcosa?

NEW HAVEN – A partire dalla crisi finanziaria globale del 2007-2009, le critiche nei confronti degli economisti si sono andate intensificando. L'incapacità della stragrande maggioranza di loro di prevedere quell'episodio, i cui strascichi permangono tuttora, ha indotto molti a chiedersi se la professione economica sia davvero utile alla società. Se non sono riusciti ad anticipare un evento così importante per il benessere della gente, a cosa servono?

In effetti, gli economisti non sono stati in grado di prevedere la maggior parte delle grandi crisi del secolo scorso, tra cui quella gravissima del 1920-1921, le recessioni consecutive del 1980-1982 e la peggiore di tutti, cioè la Grande Depressione che seguì il crollo della Borsa del 1929. Consultando gli archivi dell' anno precedente ciascuno di questi eventi, non ho trovato praticamente traccia di interventi, da parte degli economisti, che avvertissero del rischio di una crisi imminente. Al contrario, i giornali mettevano in risalto il punto di vista di politici o dirigenti, tendenzialmente molto ottimista.

La cosa che più si avvicina a un chiaro avvertimento risale al periodo precedente la recessione del 1980-1982. Nel 1979, il presidente della Federal Reserve Paul Volcker informò il comitato economico misto del Congresso americano che gli Stati Uniti si trovavano in una "situazione economica poco piacevole" e che c'era "bisogno di decisioni forti, moderazione e finanche sacrifici". La probabilità che la Fed dovesse ricorrere a misure drastiche per frenare l'inflazione galoppante, unitamente agli effetti della crisi petrolifera del 1979, rendevano assai concreta l'eventualità di una grave recessione.

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