Jim Meehan

Le piège de l’inégalité

WASHINGTON, DC – Parce qu’il est de plus en plus clair que l’inégalité de revenu est en augmentation dans de nombreuses régions du monde, le problème a reçu une attention croissante de la part des académiques ainsi que des décideurs politiques. Aux Etats-Unis, par exemple, la part du revenu des 1% les plus riches de la population a plus que doublé depuis la fin des années 1970. Elle est passée d’un peu près 8% du PIB annuel à l’époque à plus de 20% récemment, un niveau qui n’avait plus été atteint depuis les années 1920.

Bien qu’il y ait des raisons éthiques et sociales de se soucier de l’inégalité, en soi cette dernière n’a pas grand chose à voir avec la politique macroéconomique. Pourtant, au début du vingtième siècle, on estimait qu’un tel lien existait bel et bienamp#160;: le capitalisme, pour certains, tendait à générer une faiblesse chronique de la demande effective à cause d’une concentration croissante du revenu, qui menait à un «amp#160;excès d’épargneamp#160;» étant donné le taux d’épargne élevé des plus riches. Cette situation provoquerait des «amp#160;guerres commercialesamp#160;», parce que les pays chercheraient à attirer davantage de demande étrangère en compensation.

Cependant, cet argument s’est progressivement effacé à partir de la fin des années 1930, lorsque les économies de marché occidentales se sont mises à croitre rapidement après la deuxième guerre mondiale et les distributions de revenu sont devenues plus égales. Malgré la présence d’un cycle économique, aucune tendance de faiblesse chronique de la demande n’était perceptible. La plupart des macroéconomistes estimaient que les taux d’intérêt de court terme pouvaient toujours être fixés assez bas pour générer des taux d’emploi et de demande raisonnables.

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