Quando diventa rischioso il debito pubblico?

BERKELEY – Un governo che non imponga tasse in misura sufficiente a coprire la spesa è destinato a incorrere in ogni sorta di problemi generati dal debito pubblico. In tali circostanze, i tassi d'interesse nominali tendono ad aumentare perché gli obbligazionisti hanno paura dell'inflazione; d’altro canto, i dirigenti aziendali fanno del proprio meglio per tutelarsi trasferendo la ricchezza al di fuori delle imprese che gestiscono per timore di un aumento delle imposte sulle società.

Inoltre, i tassi d’interesse reali tendono anch’essi ad aumentare a causa dell'incertezza politica, rendendo molti degli investimenti socialmente produttivi non redditizi. E una volta che l'inflazione prende piede, si riduce la ripartizione del lavoro. Quella che una volta era un’ampia rete tenuta insieme da sottili vincoli monetari si spezzetta in reti più piccole consolidate da legami di fiducia personale e di obbligo sociale. E una ridotta ripartizione del lavoro significa scarsa produttività.

Quanto appena descritto è ciò che alla fine accade se un governo non impone tasse in misura sufficiente a coprire la spesa. Ma ciò può succedere fintanto che i tassi d’interesse restano bassi, i prezzi delle azioni esuberanti e l'inflazione contenuta? Io e altri economisti - tra cui Larry Summers, Laura Tyson, Paul Krugman e molti altri - crediamo di no.

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