Paul Lachine

A l’encontre de l’histoire

BERKELEY – Si vous demandiez à un historien de l’économie contemporaine comme moi pourquoi le monde traverse en ce moment une crise financière doublée d’un grave ralentissement économique, je vous répondrais que c’est le dernier épisode d’une longue histoire de bulles, crashs, crises et récessions semblables qui remonte au moins à la bulle de construction des canaux au début des années 1820, à la faillite de Pole, Thornton ampamp; Co en 1825-1826 et à la première récession industrielle qui a suivi en Angleterre. C’est d’ailleurs un processus récurrent de l’histoire survenu en 1870, 1890, 1929 et en 2000.

Pour une raison quelconque, le prix des actifs s’emballe pour atteindre des valeurs non viables. La faute doit parfois être imputée à une relâche du contrôle interne dans les institutions financières qui sur-rémunèrent leurs employés pour leur prise de risque. Parfois, c’est seulement dû à une longue période faste, qui laisse des optimistes dénués de tout réalisme à la tête des marchés.

Puis le crash survient. Et quand c’est le cas, la tolérance au risque s’écroule : tout le monde sait que les actifs financiers génèrent d'immenses moins-values latentes et personne ne voit vraiment où elles sont passées. Au crash succède une recherche de valeurs sûres, suivie par une forte décélération de la vélocité de la monnaie, puisque les investisseurs thésaurisent. Et cette circulation ralentie entraîne une récession.

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