人类发展史上,曾出现过一次全球性的经济大萧条(Great Depression, 1929—1939),尽管克鲁格曼觉得自2008年爆发金融危机后,现今社会环境不会再出现Great Depression Ⅱ,但这次危机引发国际贸易萎缩,过分乐观引发过度负债,我们很可能会面临日本上世纪90年代 “失去的十年” 那样的状况。
And my great concern now is not “Great Depression Ⅱ,” but something like the experience of Japan, this time not in one country but in the world economy as a whole.
So, if we’re looking for the thing to be worried about, it would be something like this. This is “1)Per Capita Real GDP in Japan”. Japan, as you see, with a high growth economy, of course in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and continuing into the 1980’s, remained an economy with a high rate of growth. Then it had a financial crisis—falling land prices, falling stocks—at the beginning of the 1990’s. There was never a really severe recession. It’s interesting that in comparing the current crisis with Japan in the 90’s, we have actually started out much worse. As some of my friends say, “These days, Japan’s ‘Lost Decade’ is actually looking pretty good compared with what we’re going through.” But the Japanese economy, while it did not experience a really severe downturn, also did not have any real recovery for a very extended period. Japan, essentially, as the line says, it experienced a decade—really about 12 years—of 2)stagnation in its economic growth. It finally broke out of that stagnation starting about 2003 largely thanks to a rapid increase in exports, a large 3)trade surplus, which is in itself a little bit disturbing.
Let me describe where I think we are right now in the world economy. Like Japan, we’ve suffered the 4)deflation of a major bubble; this time a bubble in housing in the United States but also housing in a number of European countries. Also a bubble in capital flows. Much of European growth was being driven by very large flows of capital to the emerging markets of Eastern Europe. Those flows have collapsed as people realized that they were not sustainable. So we have a large 5)imploded bubble very much like Japan in the 1990’s. We have the 6)exhaustion of conventional monetary policy. Interest rates are zero at the 7)short end; no further room for monetary expansion. We have the use of fiscal policy, expansionary spending policies in a number of countries, especially the United States and China. All of these policies enough to help but not enough to produce full recovery. So, as for example, to look at the United States, the Obama plan is expected to create about 3.5 million jobs, which is a reasonable estimate. “Three point five million” sounds about right, although, because this is economics, you probably want to say plus or minus two million. But still, 3.5 million jobs is the best estimate, which sounds good until you realize that the United States has lost 5.7 million jobs already in this recession and needed to create about 1.8 million jobs for the recession just to keep up with a growing population. So we are, in fact, already 7.5 million jobs down, and yet we have a stimulus plan which will only create about 3.5 million, and it will probably get worse.
What this suggests is that the world may well be facing something that looks like Japan’s “Lost Decade.” I hope that it does not go on for a decade. If we are wise and fortunate, we may be able to produce a full recovery sooner than that, but it is probably going to be a very extended period of economic weakness. Sometimes we talk in terms of the alphabet. We’re very unlikely to have a “V”-shaped recovery, where the economy goes down but then goes sharply back up again. We are very likely to have a “U”-shaped recovery, where the economy goes down and then it takes a long time before it comes back up again. And there is a real possibility that we’ll have an “L”-shaped recovery, or more accurately, lack of recovery; that the economy, having gone down, will stay down for a very long time.
Lessons from Japan's "Lost Decade"
To understand those economic risks, it is worth considering Japan's experience in the 1990s.A bursting housing bubble there sparked a banking crisis that was followed by a decade of economic stagnation.
The Japanese government lacked the resolve to do what was necessary. It failed to fix its banks and stopped its early fiscal stimulus before recovery had taken hold, leaving the economy all too vulnerable to outside shocks, including the Asian currency crisis and the dot-com collapse[互联网沫破灭] in 2001. Japan's annual growth rate-which had averaged four percent since 1973-slowed to less than one percent, on average, from 1992 t0 2003.
In 1997, after three years of tepidc[微温的] growth, the Japanese government stopped its stimulus: it raised a consumption tax[消费税]，ended a temporary incomec[暂时收入] tax cut, increased social security premiumsc[社保费] and nipped recovery in the bud.
Japan's other blunder[大错]was its unwillingness to fix its banks. Regulators did not force banks and indebted firms to recognize trillions of yen worth of bad loansc[坏账].Banks squanderedc[浪费] credit to keep insolvent[无力还债的]firms on their feet. When the Asian currency crisis hit, many undercapitalized banks toppled over.
If there is an overarching[全部的；包罗万象的]lesson from Japan's lost decade, it is that 'half measures don't pay.