¿Está preparado Bernanke?

Ben Bernanke, el elegido para substituir a Alan Greenspan este mes en la presidencia de la Reserva Federal de los Estados Unidos, es un economista muy capaz que ha dedicado su vida profesional a entender el papel histórico de los bancos centrales y los problemas que han afrontado. Sus opiniones representan, en la medida en que era de esperar enteramente, un consenso entre quienes han estudiado esas cuestiones cuidadosamente.

Pero eso no significa que Bernanke esté preparado para velar por que en los próximos años continúe un crecimiento económico sólido en los EE.UU. y ejercer la dirección que el mundo necesita. Conforme a los criterios generalmente reconocidos en la actualidad, hará un buen trabajo. Lamentablemente, puede que no sea suficiente.

John Maynard Keynes dijo en cierta ocasión que la política monetaria puede funcionar como una cuerda. Un banco central puede tirar de la cuerda (aumentar los tipos de interés) para frenar una economía que avance galopando de forma insostenible, pero no puede empujar la cuerda hacia arriba: si se estanca el crecimiento económico, como cuando se daña gravemente la confianza, bajar los tipos de interés puede no ser suficiente para estimular la demanda. En ese caso, puede haber una recesión, aun cuando el banco central adopte las mejores medidas.

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