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BERKELEY – Cuando a finales de 2008 quedó claro que la economía mundial iba camino de un derrumbe al menos tan peligroso como el que inició la Gran Depresión, me sentí alarmado, pero también esperanzado. Al fin y al cabo, ya lo habíamos visto antes y, además, teníamos un modelo para mitigar el daño; lamentablemente, las autoridades lo dejaron en un cajón.

Durante tres años y medio, tras el comienzo de la Gran Depresión, la máxima prioridad del Presidente de los Estados Unidos Herbert Hoover fue la de equilibrar el déficit intentando restablecer –pero sin conseguirlo– la confianza de las empresas. En 1933, el recién elegido Presidente Franklin D. Roosevelt cambió de rumbo y adoptó una estrategia sencilla, pero radical: probar todo lo que pudiera impulsar la demanda, aumentar la producción o reducir el desempleo y después seguir haciendo lo que funcionara.

Roosevelt abandonó los intentos de equilibrar el presupuesto, aumentó la masa monetaria e inició el exceso de gasto público. Sacó a los Estados Unidos del patrón oro, ordenó al gobierno que contratara a trabajadores directamente y ofreció garantías de préstamos para quienes corrían peligro de perder sus viviendas. Convirtió en un cártel la industria petrolera e instituyó políticas enérgicas para acabar con los monopolios.

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