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经济危机的恐慌因素  

2011-09-20 16:57:16|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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关于财政扩张还是财政整合的争论在发达世界愈演愈烈。为了应对2008年的全球衰退,英国实施了财政紧缩,而美国抛出了8 000亿美元财政刺激。尽管经济疲软,但英国首相卡梅伦仍然承诺将把紧缩进行到底。奥巴马则继续着财政刺激,在最新的方案中提出追加4 500亿美元政府支出和减税,以帮助提振就业。

在过去24个月中,美国的失业率有22个月高于9%。有些人支持进一步实施刺激以,但其他人要求实施英国式的紧缩计划。这两种做法可以有效地使失业降下来吗?再来一轮“量化宽松”(通过央行买入金融资产实现的非常规经济刺激)效果会更好吗?

诺贝尔经济学奖获得者在如何解决失业问题上也分裂为两个阵营,这让公众无所适从。保罗·克鲁格曼(Paul Krugman)和约瑟夫·斯蒂格利茨(Joseph Stiglitz)认为应该扩大财政刺激,以教育和基础设施投资上的政府支出为目标。另一方面,罗伯特·蒙代尔(Robert Mundell)、迈仑·斯科尔斯(Myron Scholes)和莱茵哈德·泽尔腾(Reinhard Selten)认为应该采取“严厉措施”来控制债务水平。

奥巴马在正式就任总统大约三周后就出台了美国复苏和再投资法案(ARRA),但该法案令人失望。8 000亿美元的财政刺激并未达到支持者所希望看到的效果,主要原因是该投入的资金都被私人储蓄大增所抵消了。如今,刺激计划支持者声称,如果不是ARRA,将会糟糕得多。我对此不敢苟同。

就减少失业而言,更好的办法是新一轮扩大的量化宽松。英国已经出现了这样的声音,而且有人提出应该购买风险资产(比如公司债券和流向私人部门的贷款束)而不是长期政府证券,这令我倍感欣慰。这一举措与我过去三年来所呼吁采取的措施不谋而合。

但我还要更进一步。我的研究提出了一种崭新且一致的宏观经济学观点,可以解释信心缺失为何会导致持久失业。该观点支持央行买入股票以降低资产价格波动、重塑财富价值并防止市场进一步崩溃。

当商界人士感到恐惧的时候,他们就会停止投资实物资产。信心缺失将反映在资产价值的低水平和高波动上。恐惧氛围的产生与政府政策失当并无多少关系,不过后者可能会使情况进一步恶化。商界人士担心,股票以及支撑股票的设备和厂房的价值会越跌越深。恐惧是一种自强化过程,股票价值会下跌将成为自我实现的预言。

2008年衰退的触发因素是地产泡沫的破灭。在美国,住房财富从2006年峰值下跌了34%,且还在进一步下跌。股市从2007年峰值下跌了近50%,至今距离前高仍有三分之一的距离。如此大幅度的财富缩水造成了消费需求剧烈且持久的疲软,从而导致了失业的增加。除非我们愿意尝试新解决方案,否则的话,几百万失业工人将继续在痛苦中挣扎。

央行买入风险资产的量化宽松政策可以防止价格波动、重塑金融财富价值。政府的买入行为需要财政部的支持,因为这一策略本质上是财政政策而非货币政策。此外,若能让财政部介入,买入风险资产的资金就可以通过发行债券融得,而不必印刷新钞进而引发通胀担忧。

大衰退不会变为第二次大萧条,因为全世界政府能够协调行动。尽管财政扩张在其中起到了一定效果,但到目前为止,央行干预才是最重要的。量化宽松通过提振财富价值起作用。不管是在美国还是在英国,量化宽松都减少了长期政府债券的实际预期回报,这有利于股市复苏。

我们必须接受9%的失业率,它将成为新常态。信心是一种自我实现的预言,我能够也应该通过直接干预资产市场来管理信心。指引我们前进的是科学,而不是意识形态、教条主义和失灵理论。


by Armen Levitt

作者注:原文为外文写作。为便于网友阅读及普及经济学,现特将本文改为中文的同时再附上原文。


原文:

The debate over fiscal expansion versus consolidation continues to divide the developed world. In response to the global recession of 2008, the United Kingdom embarked on an austerity program while the United States enacted an $800 billion fiscal stimulus. Despite a softening economy, British Prime Minister David Cameron is promising to stay the austerity course. Obama, too, is sticking to his guns with his recent proposal for an additional $450 billion of government expenditure and tax cuts to help boost employment.

Unemployment in the US has remained above 9% for 22 of the last 24 months. While some are supporting additional stimulus, others are calling for UK-style austerity. But would either of these approaches reduce unemployment most effectively, or would a new round of  “quantitative easing” (an unconventional form of economic stimulus by which the central bank purchases financial assets) work better?

With Nobel prize-winning economists on both sides of the current debate about how to solve the unemployment problem, the public is rightly confused. Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz are calling for an even larger fiscal stimulus to target government spending on education and infrastructure investment. On the other side, Robert Mundell, Myron Scholes, and Reinhard Selten have called for “draconian measures” to tame debt levels.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) that Obama passed barely three weeks after his inauguration was disappointing. An $800 billion stimulus did not have the effect for which its proponents hoped, largely because it was accompanied by a big increase in private savings. Backers of the stimulus plan now claim that things would have been much worse without ARRA. I am skeptical.

A better approach to reducing unemployment would be a new and expanded round of quantitative easing. I am heartened by calls for this in the UK, and that the talk is now turning to the purchase of risky assets, such as corporate bonds or bundles of loans to the private sector, as opposed to long-term government securities. This is a step in the right direction that I have been advocating for the past three years.

But I would go even further. My work provides a new and coherent approach to macroeconomics that explains how a lack of confidence can lead to persistent unemployment. It supports the purchase of equities by central banks to reduce asset-price volatility, restore the value of wealth, and prevent a future market crash.

When businessmen and women are afraid, they stop investing in real assets. Lack of confidence is reflected in low and volatile asset values. The environment of fear that arises has little to do with bad government policies, although bad policy may exacerbate the situation. Businessmen and women become afraid that stocks, and the values of the machines and factories that back those stocks, may fall further. Fear feeds on itself, and the prediction that stocks will lose value becomes self-fulfilling.

The 2008 recession was triggered by the collapse of a real-estate bubble. Housing wealth in the US has fallen by 34% since its peak in 2006, and is still declining. The stock market fell by almost 50% from its 2007 peak and remains down by nearly a third. This enormous loss of wealth caused a large and persistent drop in consumption demand, which has led to an increase in unemployment. Until we are willing to explore new solutions, the misery experienced by millions of unemployed workers will continue.

A quantitative-easing policy in which a central bank buys risky assets can prevent price fluctuations and restore the value of financial wealth. These purchases would need Treasury support, since this tactic is in effect a fiscal policy, not a monetary policy. And, by involving the Treasury, the purchase of risky assets could be financed by issuing debt, rather than by printing more money, thereby attenuating inflationary fears.

The Great Recession did not turn into Great Depression II because of coordinated action by governments around the world. Although fiscal expansion may have played a role in this success, central bank intervention was the most important component by far. Quantitative easing works by increasing the value of wealth. In both the US and the UK, it reduced the real expected return on long-term government bonds, which in turn nurtured a recovery in the stock market.

We need not tolerate 9% unemployment as the new normal. Confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and we can, and should, manage it by direct intervention in asset markets. The way ahead leads through science, not ideology, dogma, or failed theories.

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