Pistes de lecture – L’échec de l’austérité

Lawrence Summers, lors d’une conférence à la London School of Economics, le 25 mars 2013, tel que cité sur le blog de Brad DeLong

I am the father or stepfather of six children. Yes, on their behalf, I am concerned about the possibility that an overly inflationary psychology will develop in my country. Yes, on their behalf, I am concerned that an excessive debt not be placed upon them.

But I am vastly more concerned, because I care about their long-run future, that a slack economy will not provide them with adequate jobs when they leave school. I am vastly more concerned, on behalf of their long-run future, that they will live in a country with decaying infrastructure that will not permit investment to maintain leadership. I am more concerned on their behalf that inadequate resources forced by countercyclical austerity will stunt the ability of their generation to be educated. I am more concerned, on their behalf, that excessive austerity-oriented policies will lead to slower economic growth, and as a consequence to ultimately higher debt-to-annual-GDP ratios–and more pressure, in terms of higher tax burdens, on the future.

  • Larry Summers fut le deuxième Ministre des Finances de Bill Clinton, à la fin des années 1990s. C’est un des rares hommes d’Etat du monde industrialisé vivant, avec peut-être Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, à avoir signé et exécuté un budget en excédent budgétaire. Il y aurait beaucoup d’autres choses à dire de ce grand économiste parfois controversé, et immortalisé au cinéma dans « The Social Network ». En attendant, ces quelques lignes résument brillamment ce que je crois être une position équilibrée pour la maîtrise des comptes publics et contre l’hystérie de l’austérité à tout prix.

Paul Krugman, dans le New York Times, le 24 février 2013

Meanwhile, austerity hasn’t even achieved the minimal goal of reducing debt burdens. Instead, countries pursuing harsh austerity have seen the ratio of debt to G.D.P. rise, because the shrinkage in their economies has outpaced any reduction in the rate of borrowing. And because austerity policies haven’t been offset by expansionary policies elsewhere, the European economy as a whole — which never had much of a recovery from the slump of 2008-9 — is back in recession, with unemployment marching ever higher.

(…) Thus in January 2011 Olli Rehn, a vice president of the European Commission, praised the austerity programs of Greece, Spain and Portugal and predicted that the Greek program in particular would yield « lasting returns. » Since then unemployment has soared in all three countries — but sure enough, in December 2012 Mr. Rehn published an op-ed article with the headline « Europe must stay the austerity course. »

Oh, and Mr. Rehn’s response to studies showing that the adverse effects of austerity are much bigger than expected was to send a letter to finance minsters and the I.M.F. declaring that such studies were harmful, because they were threatening to erode confidence.

  • Sans commentaires. L’austérité, ça ne marche pas.

Joseph Stiglitz, sur le site Project Syndicate, le 4 mars 2013

While Europe’s leaders shy away from the word, the reality is that much of the European Union is in depression. The loss of output in Italy since the beginning of the crisis is as great as it was in the 1930’s. Greece’s youth unemployment rate now exceeds 60%, and Spain’s is above 50%. With the destruction of human capital, Europe’s social fabric is tearing, and its future is being thrown into jeopardy.

The economy’s doctors say that the patient must stay the course. Political leaders who suggest otherwise are labeled as populists. The reality, though, is that the cure is not working, and there is no hope that it will – that is, without being worse than the disease. Indeed, it will take a decade or more to recover the losses incurred in this austerity process.

  • Pareil.

Mark Mazower, professeur d’Histoire à la Columbia University, dans The Financial Times, le 28 février 2013

Those preaching austerity probably do not see themselves as contributing to a crisis of democracy, but they are. The Italian elections should remind eurozone leaders to pay attention to their voters. Economic fixes have failed to staunch a political crisis that has the capacity to harm not only EU integration, but the legitimacy of the continent’s democratic order itself.

Bonne nuit.

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