La Controversia sulla Crescita del Debito

STANFORD – La recente polemica riguardo agli errori presenti in uno studio redatto, nel 2010, dagli economisti Carmen Reinhart e Kenneth Rogoff rappresenta una triste testimonianza delle forti pressioni esercitate dall’informazione “24/7” e dell’atmosfera politicamente tossica che circonda la politica fiscale negli Stati Uniti, in Europa e in Giappone. Nel loro documento, “Growth in a Time of Debt (La Crescita al Tempo del Debito)”, Reinhart e Rogoff hanno stimato la probabilità di un forte declino nella crescita in concomitanza con un rapporto debito-pubblico/PIL superiore al 90%. Ma lo studio conteneva errori di codifica scoperti da uno studente dottorando dell’Università del Massachusetts. Una volta corretto, l’esito risulta essere sostanzialmente più piccolo, ma comunque economicamente significativo.

Lo studio di Reinhart / Rogoff è solo una piccola parte di una voluminosa letteratura accademica che dimostra che livelli di debito elevati possono essere economicamente rischiosi. Una questione ancora più importante è la causalità: lo stato dell’economia influisce certamente sulla posizione di bilancio, così come possono influenzare la crescita economica l’imposizione fiscale, la spesa, il deficit e l’indebitamento.

Gli errori in economia non sono rari, ma di solito vengono colti in una fase iniziale della ricerca, come una volta è capitato a me con una bozza di stampa. A volte gli errori vengono scoperti solo più tardi, quando sono già documenti di lavoro, come nel caso di Reinhart e Rogoff, o dopo la pubblicazione, come è successo al premio Nobel Ken Arrow, che ha dovuto correggere un errore nella dimostrazione del suo famoso teorema dell’ impossibilità.

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