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新常态的末日?

华盛顿—在西方经济体正在进入低增长“新常态”的概念获得主流意见接受的同时,其现实意义已经开始受到质疑。相反,世界可能正在迈向一个经济和金融十字路口,选择哪个方向取决于关键政策决定。

2009年初,“新常态”几乎还不为人知。当然,几个月前爆发的全球金融危机让世界经济陷入到动荡之中,导致产出萎缩、失业飙升、贸易崩溃。即使在金融市场最稳定、最成熟的部分,也出现了瘫痪症状。

但大部分人直觉地认为这次冲击属于暂时性,是可以扭转的——也就是说,这是一个V型破坏,下跌剧烈,复苏也迅速。毕竟,危机源自早已习惯于管理商业周期的发达经济体,而不是结构和长期力量占主导的新兴市场国家。

但一些观察者已经看到一些迹象表明这次冲击将带来更大的后果,发达经济体将陷入令人沮丧的反常长期低增长轨道。2009年5月,我的PIMCO同事和我提出了这个假说,称之为“新常态”。

学界和政策界对这个概念反应颇为冷淡——这不难理解,因为他们受到的训练是周期性思考和行动。几乎没有人愿意承认发达经济体将宝押在了错误的增长模式上,认为应该向发展中经济体取经研究增长的结构性障碍(包括债务积压和过度不平等)的人就更少了。

但经济没有恢复原状。相反,不但低增长和高失业持续多年,不平等性三驾马车(收入、财富和机会)也在日渐恶化。后果超出了经济学和金融学范畴,开始影响地区政治安排,加剧了国家政治瘫痪,助长了反现状政党和运动的兴起。

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V型复苏预期日益难以服众,“新常态”终于被广泛接受。在此过程中,这一概念获得了一些新的标签。国际货币基金组织总裁克里斯汀·拉加德在2014年10月警告说,发达经济体面临着“新平庸”。美国前财政部长拉里·萨默斯(Larry Summers)预测将出现“长期停滞”时代。

如今,认为世界可能在反常的长时间内陷入低增长均衡已不再反常。但是,我在我的新书《唯一的游戏:中央银行、不稳定性和避免下一次崩溃》(The Only Game in Town: Central Banks, Instability, and Avoiding the Next Collapse)中指出,日益激烈的内部紧张和矛盾,以及对货币政策的过度依赖,正在破坏这一均衡。

事实上,随着金融泡沫的成长,金融风险性质的变化,不平等性的恶化,以及非传统——有时甚至是极端——政治力量继续得势,非常规货币政策的镇静作用正在走向极限。这类政策能够维持经济引擎轰鸣——哪怕是以低转速轰鸣——的前景日益渺茫。相反,世界经济似乎正在走向另一个十字路口,我认为会在三年内达到。

这也许并非坏事。如果决策者实施更加全面的反应措施,是可以让经济走向更稳定和繁荣的路径的——即高包容性增长,不平等性下降以及实现真正的金融稳定。这一政策反应必须包括促增长的结构改革(比如更高的基础设施投资、税收改革和劳动力再培训)、更有响应力的财政政策、环节过度负债问题,以及改善全球协作。这,再加上技术创新和闲置公司现金,能够释放生产力、带来更快更包容的增长,同时纠正目前被人为抬高的资产价格。

相反,如果继续放任政治失灵让世界经济走向错误的路径,就会导致一系列狭隘的费协作经济衰退对策、更大的不平等性和严重的金融动荡。除了危及当前和子孙后代的经济福利,这一结果还会破坏社会和政治凝聚力。

在这两条路中选择哪一条绝非事先注定。相反,从目前的情况看,选择令人沮丧地无法预测。但在未来几个月中,决策者面临着金融波动加剧的局面,他们将得到一些事态将如何变化的线索。

我们希望他们能指引一条更加系统性——因此也更加有效——的政策道路。令人担心的地方是政策可能无法改变过度依赖中央银行的局面,最终当我们回顾新常态的时候发现,尽管它存在诸多局限并且令人沮丧,但仍是一段相对平静和幸福的时期。

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