Pubblicato in: Banche Centrali, Cina, Russia, Stati Uniti, Unione Europea

Politica monetaria. Nessuna teoria è soddisfacente.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2019-03-19.

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L’iter percorso da tutte le scienze empiriche è molto ripetitivo. Si raccolgono dei dati sperimentali, quindi si formulano delle ipotesi ed infine, dopo aver preso molte cantonate, si arriva ad avere una teoria che ragionevolmente spiega il pregresso. A questo punto ci si illude che questa teoria sia stabile nel tempo e che possa prevedere il futuro.

Quindi, iniziano ad essere raccolti nuovi dati sperimentali che sono apparentemente inspiegabili con quella teoria e che spesso la contraddicono.

Se questo è il momento magico che stimola a formulare teorie più generali ed ampie, spesso costituisce motivo di sconforto per quanti avevano sostenuto a spada tratta la vecchia teoria.

Il vero nodo da affrontare e superare è riuscire ad uscire da quell’inerzia scientifica e culturale che aveva portato a divinizzare una teoria che, per sua stessa natura e definizione è solo una interpretazione momentaneamente valida della realtà in cui si è immersi. Tenendo anche conto di quanto la realtà cambi velocemente.

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Le cose sono relativamente semplici quando si parla delle scienze empiriche classiche, quali la chimica oppure la fisica, ma diventano straordinariamente complesse quando ci si addentra nelle scienze umanistiche, quali la giurisprudenza oppure l’economica. Queste scienze trattano fenomeni difficilmente quantizzabili e, soprattutto, dipendenti da una vasta congerie di concause: sono davvero ben complesse.

Non solo la partecipazione emotiva è davvero molto forte, ma gli interessi di bottega sono spesso elementi che arrivano al punto di impedire persino la corretta percezione del reale.

A mettere la ciliegina sulla torta, alcuni reggimenti politici si caratterizzano per aver propugnato una certa quale teoria economica, proponendola come la panacea. In questo caso subentra un rapporto fideistico inattaccabile logicamente: solo la mutazione dei rapporti di forza politici permette di riprendere l’usuale corretto iter scientifico. Ma è sempre un doloroso parto distocico.

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Negli ultimi decenni molti dei pilastri sui quali erano basate le pregresse teorie economiche hanno iniziato a sfaldarsi.

Due casi da manuale e tuttora ben poco conosciuti e studiati sono gli eventi russi e cinesi a fine degli anni ottanta.

In quella che gli attuali storici russi designano come epoca di El’cin, questo grande3 quanto incompreso statista aveva dato ai russi un unico mandato.”arricchitevi”. Successero cose fantasmagoriche: taluni si proclamarono proprietari di fabbriche, altri di banche, e così via. Si utilizzarono metodi da pirati della Malesia: ma in dieci anni il sistema economico russo era quasi rimesso in piedi. Toccò poi a Mr Putin di rimettere un po’ di legalità nel paese, ma per far ciò fu giocoforza instaurare un governo forte.

In Cina Deng Xioaping guardava con attenzione ed apprensione quanto stata accadendo in Russia e concepì quello che va sotto il nome di ‘socialismo cinese’, che è ben poco socialista e tutto cinese: è un metodo pratico. Mentre al centro vigeva uno strettissimo statalismo, liberalizzò gradualmente le fasce inferiori del sistema economico, alzando lentamente la soglia sotto la quale la libertà di lavoro e di impresa era esasperatamente libera, financo ai limiti della licenza.

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Gli sviluppi dei sistemi economici russo e cinesi sono una realtà sotto gli occhi di tutti: basta solo avere il coraggio di guardarla.

Ma nell’economica del presente discorso un elemento dovrebbe essere preso con la massima attenzione.

Anche se l’Occidente, in modo invero molto ipocrita, postulava l’indipendenza della banca centrale dalla politica, quasi fossero state realtà opposte e contrastanti, sia Russia sia Cina considerarono le loro relative banche centrali propaggini e strumento del governo.

«They’re even facing broader questions about their independence from politics, a cornerstone of economic management in rich countries»

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«may not be able to repeat the trick in another downturn.»

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«The Era of Cheap Money Shows No One Knows How Monetary Policy Works»

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«Monetary policy is supposed to work like this: cut interest rates, and you’ll encourage businesses and households to borrow, invest and spend. It’s not really playing out that way.»

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«In the cheap-money era, now into its second decade in most of the developed world (and third in Japan), there’s been plenty of borrowing. But it’s been governments doing it.»

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«The arms-length relationship between politicians and central bankers was built when the fat tail was excessively high inflation,  …. Now the fat tail is excessively low inflation, call it deflation. We need to update our thinking on a more cooperative stance between the fiscal and monetary authorities.»

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«Also growing are calls for governments to boost economies if central banks can’t.»

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«The European Central Bank has just been forced to postpone any effort to shift monetary policy back toward normal»

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«Should governments a) run larger deficits because low rates allow them to or b) because central banks can buy their debt and keep rates low? In a sense it doesn’t matter. In both cases, the answer is that governments should run larger deficits.»

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«The problem for policy makers is that what once looked like a short-term crisis stopgap has in fact stretched out for years — making it increasingly likely that the next downturn will arrive with interest rates still low.»

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«recent history says it would likely be governments that took advantage of the lower rates»

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«Unlike governments, [households and businesses] haven’t been eager to borrow more money, however cheap it is.»

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Sono riflessioni non da poco.

A questo punto sorgerebbero spontanee alcune domande, ma prima si cerchi di eliminare ogni residuo teorico dal capo.

Ci si ricordi prima di rispondere che nel 2008 l’eurozona aveva un pil di 14,113 miliardi Usd, mentre a fine 2017 esso valeva 12,589 miliardi Usd. Sempre nel 2008 la Cina aveva un pil di 4,604 miliardi Usd, salito a 12,237 miliardi Usd a fine 2017.

– la futura governance dell’eurozona dovrà tendere al contenimento dei bilanci ovvero praticare politiche monetarie espansive?

– come potrebbe la banca centrale affrontare una nuova recessione in un periodo di tassi negativi?

– visti i risultati ottenuti, perché non imitare la politica economica e monetaria cinese?

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Bloomberg. 2019-03-15. The Era of Cheap Money Shows No One Knows How Monetary Policy Works

– Low rates haven’t lured indebted households and businesses

– Central banks face questions as divide from politics blurs

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Monetary policy is supposed to work like this: cut interest rates, and you’ll encourage businesses and households to borrow, invest and spend. It’s not really playing out that way.

In the cheap-money era, now into its second decade in most of the developed world (and third in Japan), there’s been plenty of borrowing. But it’s been governments doing it.

The numbers help explain a growing sense that central banks, which took emergency action to pull economies out of the 2008 slump, may not be able to repeat the trick in another downturn.

They’re even facing broader questions about their independence from politics, a cornerstone of economic management in rich countries. In the past decade, still-indebted private actors were mostly unwilling to dive back into the red, even at ultra-low rates engineered by the central banks — while governments could and did. The dividing line is starting to look fuzzy.

‘Fat Tail’

Some analysts say it’s time to redraw it.

The arms-length relationship between politicians and central bankers “was built when the fat tail was excessively high inflation,” said Paul McCulley, the former Pimco chief economist. “Now the fat tail is excessively low inflation, call it deflation. We need to update our thinking on a more cooperative stance between the fiscal and monetary authorities.”

Most economists see that as a slippery slope that could lead to prices spiraling out of control. That’s one reason they’re dismissive of Modern Monetary Theory, a school of thought which supports bigger deficits, and is relaxed about central banks financing them. MMT economists say public debt is generally safer than the private kind, which snowballed in the age of monetary policy dominance before disaster struck.

The question is a live one, and not just in academia. It gets bumped up the agenda every time President Donald Trump snipes at the Federal Reserve. There are similar political pressures in other countries.

‘Somewhat Sluggish’

Also growing are calls for governments to boost economies if central banks can’t.

The European Central Bank has just been forced to postpone any effort to shift monetary policy back toward normal. The region’s growth prospects “are somewhat sluggish,” Isabelle Mateos y Lago, chief multi-asset strategist at BlackRock Investment Institute, told Bloomberg TV this week. “We could use some fiscal stimulus.”

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What Our Economists Say

Should governments a) run larger deficits because low rates allow them to or b) because central banks can buy their debt and keep rates low? In a sense it doesn’t matter. In both cases, the answer is that governments should run larger deficits.

Tom Orlik, chief economist, Bloomberg Economics

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In Japan, there’s been more cooperation between the people in charge of budgets and those who manage interest rates than pretty much anywhere else.

When the government and central bank work in tandem, “synergy effects from both sides can produce stronger economic stimulus,” former BoJ deputy governor Kikuo Iwata, a key architect of the plan, said at the Bank for International Settlements last year. He’s argued that monetary policy has done what it can, and that Japan — which already has the world’s biggest public-debt burden — needs even more fiscal stimulus to complete its escape from deflation.

Tag Team

In the heat of crisis, collaboration between governments and central banks has been fairly explicit almost everywhere. In 2008 in the U.S., for example, the Fed’s Ben Bernanke and Treasury’s Henry Paulson rapidly formed a tag-team. In Europe a few years later, Mario Draghi’s pledge to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency gave Italian government debt a backstop, and brought yields down from the brink.

Public borrowing at low rates proved to be an effective way of putting a floor under the Great Recession. The U.S. and Japan did more of it than Europe, where there’s no central authority able to tap credit markets and spend on the continent’s behalf — and they’ve had better recoveries.

The problem for policy makers is that what once looked like a short-term crisis stopgap has in fact stretched out for years — making it increasingly likely that the next downturn will arrive with interest rates still low.

In the U.S., a plurality of economists expect a recession in 2020, a presidential election year. The Fed will have some room to cut, though less than the 500 basis points reckoned to be its typical response to a shrinking economy. Its peers have much less, if any.

And even if they had, recent history says it would likely be governments that took advantage of the lower rates.

The worst recessions to hit developed countries lately (and some emerging markets too) have followed rapid buildups in private credit — one reason why central banks have found it hard to inject stimulus. And today, households and businesses are still highly indebted by past standards.

Unlike governments, they haven’t been eager to borrow more money, however cheap it is.

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