L’Ombre de la Dépression

BERKELEY – A quatre reprises au cours du siècle dernier, une grande part du monde industrialisé a succombé à de longues et profondes dépressions, caractérisées par un chômage élevé et persistentamp#160;: les Etats-Unis dans les années 1930, l’Europe occidentale industrialisée dans les années 1930, l’Europe occidentale à nouveau dans les années 1980 et le Japon dans les années 1990. Parmi celles-ci, deux en particulier – l’Europe occidentale dans les années 1980 et le Japon dans les années 1990 – jettent une ombre longue et menaçante sur les performances économiques à venir.

Dans ces deux cas, si l’Europe ou le Japon est retourné – ou, en fait, retourne un jour – à quelque chose proche de la tendance de croissance économique d’avant crise, cela a pris (ou prendra) des décennies. Dans un troisième cas, l’Europe à la fin des années 1930, il est impossible de savoir ce qui se serait passé si l’Europe ne s’était pas transformée en champ de bataille après l’invasion de la Pologne par l’Allemagne nazie.

Dans un cas seulement, la tendance de croissance de long terme ne fut pas inquiétéeamp#160;: la production et l’emploi US d’après deuxième guerre mondiale ne furent pas affectés de manière significative par l’impact macroéconomique de la Grande Dépression. Bien sûr, sans la mobilisation pour la seconde guerre mondiale, il est possible et même probable que la Grande Dépression aurait jeté une ombre sur la croissance économique US d’après 1940. C’est certainement ce que laissaient envisager, à la fin des années 1930, le niveau élevé de chômage structurel et le stock de capital en-dessous de la tendance, avant que la mobilisation et les guerres européennes et pacifiques ne commencent sérieusement.

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