Cuatro salidas

BERKELEY – Cuando una economía cae en una depresión, el gobierno puede intentar hacer cuatro cosas para devolver el empleo a su nivel normal y la producción a su nivel “potencial”. Llamémoslas política fiscal, política crediticia, política monetaria e inflación.

La inflación es lo más sencillo de explicar: el gobierno imprime montones de billetes de banco y los gasta. El dinero circulante de más aumenta los precios. Al aumentar los precios, el público no quiere tener efectivo en sus bolsillos o en sus cuentas bancarias –su valor disminuye todos los días–, por lo que aumenta su ritmo de gasto para intentar preservar su riqueza fuera del efectivo que se deprecia y convertirla en activos reales que valgan algo. Ese gasto saca a los parados del desempleo, porque crea empleo, y aumenta la utilización de la capacidad al nivel normal y la producción a niveles “potenciales”.

Pero las personas sensatas prefieren eludir la inflación. Es un expediente muy peligroso, que socava los niveles de valor, vuelve virtualmente imposibles los cálculos económicos y redistribuye la riqueza al azar. Como dijo John Maynard Keynes, “no hay un medio más sutil ni más seguro de trastocar la base existente de la sociedad que el de corromper la moneda. Ese proceso lanza todas las fuerzas ocultas de la ley económica hacia la destrucción y lo hace de un modo que ni un hombre de entre un millón puede diagnosticar...” Pero los gobiernos prefieren recurrir a la inflación antes que permitir otra Gran Depresión; ahora bien,  si hay una forma substitutiva de restablecer el empleo y la producción, preferiríamos con mucho no hacerlo.

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