Les Fantômes de notre économie passée

Dans le célèbre roman de Charles Dickens, « A Christmas Carol » (« Un Chant de Noël »), Ebeneezer Scrooge, un homme d'affaires sans âme, est harcelé par l'Esprit de Noël passé. Aujourd'hui, les économistes sont de même troublés par des fantômes indésirables, alors qu'ils réfléchissent sur la réapparition de maux économiques qu'on croyait morts et enterrés depuis longtemps.

Que ce soit Stephen Roach de Morgan Stanley ou Paul Krugman de Princeton, les gouverneurs de la Federal Reserve américaine ou quiconque au Japon, les économistes de par le monde s'inquiètent de la déflation. Leurs inquiétudes remontent le fil de la pensée économique d'il y a cinquante ans, époque où les économistes avaient découvert que la seule chose à faire contre la déflation était de l'éviter comme la peste !

En 1933, Irving Fisher --le prédécesseur de Milton Friedman à la tête de l'école monétariste américaine-- annonçait que les gouvernements devaient prévenir les grandes dépressions en évitant la déflation. La déflation --le déclin régulier et continu des prix-- encourageait le monde des affaires et les consommateurs à réduire leurs dépenses et à thésauriser leurs liquidités. Cela réduit la capacité des commerces et des banques à rembourser leurs dettes et peut déclencher une série de faillites énormes détruisant la confiance placée dans le système financier, ce qui alors alimente la peur et la thésaurisation.

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