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Estancamiento secular gratis

CAMBRIDGE – Hay algo que está definitivamente descompuesto en el actual estado del capitalismo. A pesar de que las tasas de interés se encuentran en niveles bajos sin precedentes, la inversión en los países más avanzados se encuentra muy por debajo de lo que era en los años anteriores a la crisis de 2008, mientras que las tasas de empleo continúan siendo obstinadamente bajas. E incluso en el período pre crisis, la inversión no era impresionante, dado el bajo nivel de las tasas de interés que prevalecían en ese momento.

Por alguna razón, llegar a niveles de inversión que generen pleno empleo parece requerir tasas reales de interés negativas (ajustadas según la inflación), lo que equivale a decir que para que la gente invierta hay que pagarle. Pero en un mundo con inflación reducida y tasas de interés nominales iguales a cero, puede resultar imposible lograr las tasas reales de interés negativas que se requieren. Éste es el mal que Larry Summers, recordando una monografía escrita por Alvin Hansen en 1938, ha apodado “estancamiento secular”.

Las implicaciones que este estado de cosas tienen para las políticas son un ámbito abierto a debate, que aparece muy bien resumido en un libro electrónico editado por Coen Teulings y Richard Baldwin. Para los keynesianos, la respuesta reside en un política monetaria no convencional (por ejemplo, la relajación cuantitativa), un estímulo fiscal y un objetivo de tasa de inflación más elevado. Pero, como bien lo señalan Larry Summers y otros, las políticas monetarias laxas pueden desatar burbujas financieras y un estímulo fiscal prolongado puede terminar en una crisis de deuda.

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