Chris Van Es

La grande dépression dans la mémoire économique

PARIS – La polémique née aux Etats-Unis et en Europe entre les partisans de plus de relance économique et ceux favorables à l’austérité budgétaire, ressemble à s’y méprendre à un débat sur l’histoire économique. Les deux camps ont revisité la Grande Dépression des années 30 – ainsi que la très longue histoire des crises de dette souveraine – dans une controverse qui n’a que peu de rapport avec les controverses de politiques économiques conventionnelles.

Le camp en faveur de la relance économique se réfère souvent aux dommages causés par l’austérité budgétaire appliquée aux Etats-Unis en 1937, quatre après l’élection du Président Franklin Roosevelt et le lancement du New Deal. Selon les calculs de l’économiste Paul van den Noord, le résultat net du budget de 1937 fut une contraction budgétaire de l’ordre de trois points du PIB – un chiffre loin d’être insignifiant. La croissance économique plongeât de 13% en 1936 à 6% en 1937, et le PIB perdît 4,5% en 1938, tandis que le chômage passait de 14% à environ 20%. Même si la politique budgétaire n’était pas la seule cause de ce double creux, une politique d’austérité inopportune y a certainement contribué.

Alors, sommes-nous en 1936, et l’austérité budgétaire envisagée dans de nombreux pays risque-t-elle de provoquer une récession à double creux comparable ?

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