Graduation ceremony.

La bulle éducative américaine

SAN FRANCISCO – L’un des objectifs fondamentaux de tout gouvernement consiste à développer l’importance des biens publics. Mais lorsqu’elle n’est pas menée correctement, cette poursuite d’objectifs sociaux majeurs peut produire des conséquences malheureuses sur le plan économique et financier, voire engendrer des perturbations systémiques potentiellement défavorables au-delà même de ces objectifs.

C’est ce qui s’est produit il y a une dizaine d’années aux États-Unis, dans le cadre d’un effort visant à étendre l’accès à la propriété immobilière. Ce phénomène s’est également observé plus récemment en Chine, à l’issue d’une initiative en faveur de l’élargissement de la participation au marché des actions. Et le scénario pourrait bientôt se reproduire aux États-Unis, cette fois dans le cadre d’une démarche destinée à améliorer l’accès au financement des études supérieures.

Dans le premier cas évoqué, le gouvernement américain avait activement soutenu les efforts censés rendre les prêts immobiliers plus accessibles et moins coûteux, y compris via la création de toutes sortes d’instruments de prêt dits « exotiques ». Cette approche a bel et bien fonctionné, et même un peu trop. L’explosion d’une demande permise par l’endettement est venue pousser les prix de l’immobilier à la hausse, la volonté nouvelle des banques de prêter en masse ayant conduit certains à s’offrir une maison qu’ils ne pouvaient se permettre. L’éclatement de la bulle ainsi créée – cause majeure de la crise financière mondiale de 2008 – a failli plonger l’ensemble de l’économie mondiale dans une dépression de plusieurs années.

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