Austeridad y realismo ante la deuda

CAMBRIDGE - Muchos, si no todos, de los problemas macroeconómicos más acuciantes del mundo tienen relación con diferentes formas de sobreendeudamiento. En Europa, una combinación tóxica de deuda pública, bancaria y externa en la periferia amenaza con desmoronar la eurozona. Al otro lado del Atlántico, un enfrentamiento entre los demócratas, el Tea Party, y los republicanos de la vieja escuela ha producido extraordinaria incertidumbre sobre cómo Estados Unidos va a cerrar su déficit público del 8% del PBI en el largo plazo. Mientras tanto, Japón tiene un déficit presupuestario del 10% del PBI, a pesar de que un creciente número de recién jubilados pasa de comprar bonos del tesoro japonés a venderlos.

Aparte de retorcerse las manos, ¿qué deberían estar haciendo los gobiernos? Un extremo sería el simplista remedio keynesiano que supone que los déficit públicos no importan cuando la economía se encuentra en una profunda recesión; de hecho, cuanto más grandes mejor. En el extremo opuesto se encuentran los absolutistas del techo de la deuda, que quieren que los gobiernos comiencen mañana mismo (si no ayer) a equilibrar sus presupuestos. Ambas posturas son peligrosamente superficiales.

Los absolutistas del techo de la deuda subestiman tremendamente los cuantiosos costes de ajuste que implicaría autoimponerse una "parada súbita" en la financiación de la deuda. Precisamente, estos costes son la razón de por qué países sin recursos como Grecia se enfrentan a trastornos sociales y económicos tan masivos cuando los mercados financieros pierden confianza y se cortan súbitamente los flujos de capital.

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