Les trois options des démocraties endettées

CHICAGO – Les gouvernements démocratiques ne sont pas encouragés à prendre des décisions comportant des coûts à court terme tout en ayant des bénéfices au long terme, une démarche pourtant typique de tout investissement. Pour faire de tels investissements, les démocraties doivent avoir soit un gouvernement courageux, soit un électorat qui comprenne ce qu’il en coûte de remettre au lendemain les choix difficiles.

Les gouvernements courageux sont rares. Tout comme un électorat informé et militant, parce que les conseils prodigués par les spécialistes aux électeurs sont en eux-mêmes déroutants. Les économistes de différentes tendances ont les plus grandes peines à trouver un consensus sur la nécessité d’une politique donnée. Prenons par exemple la cacophonie entourant la question des dépenses publiques : sont-elles le dernier recours face à la dépression, ou nous entraînent-elles au contraire peu à peu vers l’abîme ? Le débat ne débouche sur aucune entente, les électeurs modérés ne savent plus que penser et les choix politiques suivent en fin de compte la voie de la facilité – pour finalement aboutir à une impasse.

L’accumulation de la dette publique des pays industrialisés (une dette qui se creusait déjà rapidement et bien avant que la Grande récession lui fasse atteindre des niveaux quasi intenables) reflète ce genre de calcul. L’opinion publique plébiscite les gouvernements démocratiques qui se préoccupent des inconvénients liés aux marchés concurrentiels – que ce soit en dépensant pour créer des emplois ou en sauvant des banques dont les bilans présentent des titres douteux.

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