Una economía caracterizada por el grand mal

BERKELEY – En toda la región del Atlántico septentrional, los banqueros centrales y los gobiernos parecen, en su mayor parte, impotentes para restablecer el pleno empleo en sus economías. Europa se ha deslizado de nuevo hasta la recesión sin haberse recuperado de verdad en ningún momento de la crisis financiera y de deuda soberana que comenzó en 2008. La economía de los Estados Unidos está creciendo actualmente un 1,5 por ciento al año (aproximadamente un punto porcentual menos de lo que podría) y el crecimiento puede aminorarse a causa de una pequeña contracción fiscal este año.

Las economías industriales de mercado han estado padeciendo crisis financieras periódicas, seguidas de un desempleo elevado, al menos desde el pánico de 1825  que casi causó el desplome del Banco de Inglaterra. Semejantes episodios son malos para todo el mundo –trabajadores que pierden sus puestos de trabajo, emprendedores y accionistas que pierden sus beneficios, gobiernos que pierden sus ingresos fiscales y tenedores de bonos que sufren las consecuencias de la quiebra– y hemos dispuesto de casi dos siglos para aprender a abordarlos. Así, pues, ¿por qué han fracasado los gobiernos y los bancos centrales?

Hay tres razones por las que las autoridades pueden fallar al intentar restablecer el pleno empleo rápidamente después de una desaceleración. Para empezar, unas perspectivas de inflación poco firmes y dificultades estructurales podrían hacer que las medidas adoptadas para impulsar la demanda se notaran casi exclusivamente en un aumento más rápido de los precios y sólo mínimamente en un mayor empleo. Ése fue el problema en el decenio de 1970, pero no lo es ahora.

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