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  2007年开始的经济衰退还在继续,除非我们能很好地理解这次危机的原因,否则就不可能拿出有效的复苏战略。但到目前为止,我们两样都没能做到。

  我们被告知,这是一次金融危机,因此大西洋两岸的政府均把注意力集中在了银行上。刺激计划作为暂时药方大行其道,要到金融部门复苏、私人贷款重现活力才会收回。但银行利润和奖金早已恢复了原状,贷款却没有复苏。

  银行声称,贷款行为依然受到缺乏信誉良好借款人的约束,而后者又是拜萎靡的经济所赐。这么说不无道理,毕竟大企业无不手握万亿美元现金,因此钱并不是让它们不愿投资和雇佣工人的原因。但有些小企业的境况大不相同,它们饱受资金缺乏困扰,甚至收缩规模。

  总的来说,商业投资(除建筑投资)占GDP比重已回到10%(危机前是10.6%)。在房地产业存在大量过剩产能的情况下,信心不可能迅速恢复,不管对银行部门施以什么措施。

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  由于愚蠢的去监管化政策,金融部门得以随心所欲,因此出现不可原谅的轻率鲁莽。显然,这是引爆危机的一大主因。房地产业产能过剩和家庭过度负债的余波让复苏难上加难。

  实际上,经济在危机前就已非常疲软,只是被房地产泡沫掩盖了。如果没有泡沫支持的消费,总需求就会出现非常大的短缺。

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  与此相对的是个人储蓄率跌至1%。即使金融部门完全恢复元气,即使这些奢华浪费的美国人不从中领悟储蓄的重要性,他们的消费也将被限制在收入的100%以内。因此任何关于消费者“归来”的言论都是痴人说梦。

  修复金融部门是经济复苏的必要条件,但远不是充分条件。为了明白我们需要做什么,必须理解经济在危机袭来之前存在的问题。

  首先,美国和全世界成了自身成功的受害者。制造业生产力的快速上升超过了需求的增加,这意味着制造业就业量的下滑。劳动力必须转移到服务业中去。

  这一问题与20世纪初的问题非常相似。当时,农业生产力的快速增长将劳动力从农村地区逐出,驱赶到城镇制造业中心。1929年-1932年,农业收入下降了50%以上,工人被“困”在了农业部门:他们没有迁徙的本钱,同时下降的收入大大恶化了总需求,以至于城镇/制造业失业率也出现了飙升。

  在美国和欧洲,劳动力从制造业中流出的需要产生于比较优势的变化:制造业岗位总数有限是全球性问题,但比重下降却只限国内。

  其次,全球化是造成不平等性增加的因素之一。收入从会花钱的人那里转移到了不会花钱的人手中,这拉低了总需求。同理,能源价格上涨把购买力从美国和欧洲转移到了原油出口国,而后者意识到能源价格的波动性,自然会将大量收入储蓄起来。

  最后,新兴市场囤积了大量外汇储备,从而造成全球总需求疲软。东亚国家认定,没有储备会带来失去经济主权的危险。囤积储备固然能保护它们,但流入储备的钱却是花不掉的。

  眼下,能做些什么来修正基础性问题?囤积了大量储备的国家能更好地抵御经济危机,因此囤积储备的激励会被进一步强化。

  同理,尽管银行奖金已回到原来水平,但员工仍在工资下降和工时缩短的困境中挣扎,这进一步拉大了收入差距。此外,美国也没能摆脱原油依赖。今年夏天,原油价格再次回到了100美元/桶上方,钱又一次流向原油出口国。而发达经济体的结构调整进展十分缓慢。

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  政府在为人民需要的服务提供资金方面扮演着中心角色。但欧洲和美国都选择了财政紧缩,这将使经济转型更加缓慢。

  全球经济病痛的药方需参照诊断才得出:一是以有利结构调整、促进能源节省和消除不平等性为目标的大规模政府支出;二是能为囤积储备创造替代方案的全球金融体系改革。

  世界领导人终究会认识到这一点。随着增长前景的继续恶化,我们别无选择。

  作者约瑟夫·斯蒂格利茨为哥伦比亚大学教授、2001年诺贝尔经济学奖获得者

  By Joseph E. Stiglitz

  NEW YORK – As the economic slump that began in 2007 persists, the question on everyone’s minds is obvious: Why? Unless we have a better understanding of the causes of the crisis, we can’t implement an effective recovery strategy. And, so far, we have neither.

  We were told that this was a financial crisis, so governments on both sides of the Atlantic focused on the banks. Stimulus programs were sold as being a temporary palliative, needed to bridge the gap until the financial sector recovered and private lending resumed. But, while bank profitability and bonuses have returned, lending has not recovered, despite record-low long- and short-term interest rates.

  The banks claim that lending remains constrained by a shortage of creditworthy borrowers, owing to the sick economy. And key data indicate that they are at least partly right. After all, large enterprises are sitting on a few trillion dollars in cash, so money is not what is holding them back from investing and hiring. Some, perhaps many, small businesses are, however, in a very different position; strapped for funds, they can’t grow, and many are being forced to contract.

  Still, overall, business investment – excluding construction – has returned to 10% of GDP (from 10.6% before the crisis). With so much excess capacity in real estate, confidence will not recover to its pre-crisis level anytime soon, regardless of what is done to the banking sector.

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  The financial sector’s inexcusable recklessness, given free rein by mindless deregulation, was the obvious precipitating factor of the crisis. The legacy of excess real-estate capacity and over-leveraged households makes recovery all the more difficult.

  But the economy was very sick before the crisis; the housing bubble merely papered over its weaknesses. Without bubble-supported consumption, there would have been a massive shortfall in aggregate demand. Instead, the personal saving rate plunged to 1%, and the bottom 80% of Americans were spending, every year, roughly 110% of their income. Even if the financial sector were fully repaired, and even if these profligate Americans hadn’t learned a lesson about the importance of saving, their consumption would be limited to 100% of their income. So anyone who talks about the consumer “coming back” – even after deleveraging – is living in a fantasy world.

  Fixing the financial sector was necessary for economic recovery, but far from sufficient. To understand what needs to be done, we have to understand the economy’s problems before the crisis hit.

  First, America and the world were victims of their own success. Rapid productivity increases in manufacturing had outpaced growth in demand, which meant that manufacturing employment decreased. Labor had to shift to services.

  The problem is analogous to that which arose at the beginning of the twentieth century, when rapid productivity growth in agriculture forced labor to move from rural areas to urban manufacturing centers. With a decline in farm income in excess of 50% from 1929 to 1932, one might have anticipated massive migration. But workers were “trapped” in the rural sector: they didn’t have the resources to move, and their declining incomes so weakened aggregate demand that urban/manufacturing unemployment soared.

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  For America and Europe, the need for labor to move out of manufacturing is compounded by shifting comparative advantage: not only is the total number of manufacturing jobs limited globally, but a smaller share of those jobs will be local.

  Globalization has been one, but only one, of the factors contributing to the second key problem – growing inequality. Shifting income from those who would spend it to those who won’t lowers aggregate demand. By the same token, soaring energy prices shifted purchasing power from the United States and Europe to oil exporters, who, recognizing the volatility of energy prices, rightly saved much of this income.

  The final problem contributing to weakness in global aggregate demand was emerging markets’ massive buildup of foreign-exchange reserves – partly motivated by the mismanagement of the 1997-98 East Asia crisis by the International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury. Countries recognized that without reserves, they risked losing their economic sovereignty. Many said, “Never again.” But, while the buildup of reserves – currently around $7.6 trillion in emerging and developing economies – protected them, money going into reserves was money not spent.

  Where are we today in addressing these underlying problems? To take the last one first, those countries that built up large reserves were able to weather the economic crisis better, so the incentive to accumulate reserves is even stronger.

  Similarly, while bankers have regained their bonuses, workers are seeing their wages eroded and their hours diminished, further widening the income gap. Moreover, the US has not shaken off its dependence on oil. With oil prices back above $100 a barrel this summer – and still high – money is once again being transferred to the oil-exporting countries. And the structural transformation of the advanced economies, implied by the need to move labor out of traditional manufacturing branches, is occurring very slowly.

  Government plays a central role in financing the services that people want, like education and health care. And government-financed education and training, in particular, will be critical in restoring competitiveness in Europe and the US. But both have chosen fiscal austerity, all but ensuring that their economies’ transitions will be slow.

  The prescription for what ails the global economy follows directly from the diagnosis: strong government expenditures, aimed at facilitating restructuring, promoting energy conservation, and reducing inequality, and a reform of the global financial system that creates an alternative to the buildup of reserves.

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  Eventually, the world’s leaders – and the voters who elect them – will come to recognize this. As growth prospects continue to weaken, they will have no choice. But how much pain will we have to bear in the meantime?

  Joseph E. Stiglitz is University Professor at Columbia University, a Nobel laureate in economics, and the author of Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy.

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