Paul Lachine

L’économie pour les perroquets

BERKELEY – L’économiste britannique du début du XIXe siècle J. R. McCulloch serait l’auteur de la blague voulant que la seule formation dont aurait besoin un perroquet pour être un économiste politique passable serait de pouvoir dire « l’offre et la demande, l’offre et la demande ». La semaine dernière, Ben Bernanke, le président de la Réserve fédérale américaine, a déclaré que la théorie économique de McCulloch – celle de l’offre et de la demande – n’était en aucun cas discréditée par la crise financière et qu’elle conservait toute sa pertinence.

Il est difficile de ne pas être d’accord avec Bernanke : les sciences économiques seraient utiles si les économistes étaient comme les perroquets de McCulloch, c’est-à-dire s’ils s’attachaient avant tout à considérer l’offre et la demande. Je pense toutefois que les sciences économiques ont été en grande partie discréditées par l’incapacité manifeste de plusieurs économistes à être aussi malins que les perroquets de McCulloch.

Prenons par exemple l’idée – qui sévit de manière endémique aux Etats-Unis ces jours-ci – que de nouvelles tentatives du gouvernement pour résorber le chômage seraient vouées à l’échec parce que le taux de chômage actuel est « structurel » : de mauvais calculs économiques ont fait que le pays n’a pas les ressources productives adéquates pour satisfaire la demande des ménages et des entreprises. Le problème, affirment les tenants de ce point de vue, est lié à une pénurie de l’offre productive plutôt qu’à une pénurie de la demande agrégée.

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