Los fantasmas del pasado de la economía

En la gran novela "Canción de navidad", de Charles Dickens, el desalmado hombre de negocios Ebeneezer Scrooge es atormentado por una visita del Espíritu de la Navidad Pasada. Hoy, los fantasmas indeseados acosan de manera parecida a los economistas, cuando éstos piensan sobre la reaparición de enfermedades económicas hace largo tiempo muertas y enterradas.

Desde Stephen Roach en Morgan Stanley a Paul Krugman en Princeton, e incluyendo a los Gobernadores de la Reserva Federal de EEUU, al personal superior del Banco Central Europeo y a casi todos en el Japón, los economistas de todo el mundo están cada vez más preocupados por la deflación. Sus reflexiones vuelven sobre los pasos del pensamiento económico de hace más de cincuenta años, una época en que los economistas concluyeron que lo que se debía hacer con la deflación era evitarla como a la peste.

Ya en 1933, Irving Fisher (predecesor de Milton Friedman como líder de la escuela monetarista de economistas estadounidenses) anunciaba que los gobiernos podían prevenir las depresiones profundas si evitaban la deflación. La deflación, un declive constante y sostenido de los precios, dio a las empresas y consumidores poderosas razones para reducir el gasto y acumular efectivo. Disminuye la capacidad de las empresas y bancos de pagar sus deudas, y podría detonar una cadena de grandes bancarrotas que destruirían la confianza en el sistema financiero, generando incentivos adicionales para guardar el dinero bajo el colchón.

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