La bestia che non muore

CAMBRIDGE – Mentre il mondo osserva gli Stati Uniti alle prese con il suo futuro fiscale, i contorni della battaglia riflettono divisioni sociali e filosofiche ben più ampie, che con tutta probabilità si manifesteranno in vari modi in tutto il mondo nei prossimi decenni. Si è parlato molto di come tagliare la spesa pubblica, ma troppo poco di come rendere la spesa pubblica più efficiente. Eppure, senza aggiungere nulla di nuovo ai servizi pubblici, i loro costi  continueranno a crescere inesorabilmente nel tempo.

Qualsiasi settore fortemente incentrato sui servizi deve far fronte alle stesse sfide. Negli anni 60 gli economisti William Baumol e William Bowen scrivevano della “malattia dei costi” che affligge questi settori. L’esempio famoso da loro utilizzato era quello di un quartetto d’archi di Mozart, che richiedeva lo stesso numero di musicisti e strumenti sia in epoca moderna che nel diciannovesimo secolo. In modo analogo per valutare un compito serve lo stesso tempo a un insegnante come accadeva 100 anni fa. Un buon idraulico costa una fortuna, perché anche in questo caso la tecnologia si è evoluta molto lentamente.

Perché una lenta crescita della produttività si traduce in costi elevati? Il problema è che i settori terziari alla fine devono competere per i lavoratori nella stessa forza lavoro specializzata disponibile a livello nazionale dei settori con una rapida crescita della produttività, come finanza, manifatturiero e information technology. Anche se la forza lavoro potrebbe essere in qualche modo segmentata, esiste una sovrapposizione che induce i settori fortemente incentrati sui servizi a pagare salari maggiori, almeno nel lungo periodo.

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