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诺奖得主:欧元可能在今年崩溃

财富中文网 2017年01月08日

对统一货币的执念造就了对欧洲一体化最严重的威胁,原本打算终结欧洲货币林立状况的欧元可能要终结自己。

欧洲的状况一直都不太好。今年欧元区整体人均GDP终于回升到危机前水平。西班牙宣称本国经济成功复苏,但失业率仍居近20%的高位,年轻人失业率超过40%,但至少比五年前欧元危机开始时情况有所改善。希腊仍面临严重衰退。去年欧元区增长率仅为1.6%,这还比2005年到2015年年均增长率高出一倍。历史学家已经开始把过去十年称作欧元区“失去的十年”,但他们有可能很快会改口,称之为“最后十年”。

欧元区于2002年成立,不过单一货币区的裂痕早在1999年就已产生,2008年全球金融危机期间进一步显现。经济学家早就预测欧洲遭遇冲击时欧元会面临考验,不幸的是欧元诞生没多久考验就来了,还是从大西洋彼岸来势汹汹的一场大震荡。到2010年,欧元危机已全面扩散,“边缘国家”——希腊、西班牙、爱尔兰和葡萄牙的主权债券利率飞升到前所未有的高位。但如果仔细观察,欧元区的不平衡从一开始就在积聚,货币大量涌入边缘国家,仿佛汇率风险消除后所有风险都不存在一般。

这也体现了欧元区成立时关键缺陷之一:欧元区稳固的基础是相信各国政府不会犯错,具体是指将赤字保持低于GDP的3%,债务水平不超过GDP的60%,年通胀率低于2%,市场就能保持增长和稳定。但规定的这些数字,包括背后的理念既无理论也无实践基础。情况最糟的两个国家,爱尔兰和西班牙在危机前尚有盈余,金融危机给它们带来了赤字和债务问题。

成立欧元区的希望是通过财政和货币约束产生“聚合”效应,令单一货币系统更好地运转。然而实际上产生了分化效应,富国越来越富,穷国越发贫困,各国国内也是富人越来越有钱,穷人越来越穷。一切正由欧元区的结构导致。举例来说,单一市场中货币离开穷国银行更容易,迫使银行收缩银根,经济越发衰退。

大概20多年前,经济学家畅想单一货币区时都在强调充足的劳动力自由迁移,充裕的共同预算以抵抗冲击,以及各国之间保持足够的“经济”相似性多么重要。但欧元区成立后失去了两项重要的调节工具,汇率和利率,而且没有任何替代。没有共同存款保险,银行领域没有统一的解决方案,也没有失业保险体系。

还有一点很重要,早期讨论忽略了“智识”聚合的重要性:其实各国对于政策优劣的认识差别巨大,尤其是在德国和欧洲其他各国之间。认识的差距长期存在。上世纪90年代中期,我担任经济合作与发展组织经济政策委员会主席时就曾明显感受到。严格来说,这也是分化的体现。所以德国认为采取紧缩政策可以迅速实现经济增长时,每个具体实践的国家都惨遭失败。后果很容易预见,全世界最顶尖的经济学家都预测到了。类似的例子是,很多实施结构改革的国家国力反而遭到削弱,增速放缓,贸易赤字增加。

欧元区开始出现巨大的民主缺陷:希腊、西班牙和葡萄牙的选民大量投票给反对紧缩的政党。然而又觉得除了接受德国的要求别无他法。没人想到加入欧元区后,居然意味着失去经济主权。

欧元区的宏伟目标是欧洲更加繁荣。繁荣会进一步推动经济和政治融合。欧元是政治产物,但其政治学基础并不稳固,没有设计出配套的制度安排确保实现目标。随着欧元区陷入停滞,情势日渐恶化,各国团结起来的机会不大,倒是很可能进一步分化。如今看起来,原本打算终结欧洲货币林立状况的欧元可能要终结自己,正是对统一货币的执念造就了对欧洲一体化最严重的威胁。

面对不断出现的危机,欧洲也在改革,但力度太小,也为时已晚。有些措施实际上只有反作用:设置统一监管系统后,却不考虑当地宏观经济状况,也没有共同存款保险保障,实际上加剧分化。与此同时,欧洲又运气不太好接连遇上各种危机,尤其是难民危机。很多国家失业率太高,部分原因也是欧元导致的,希望找到新工作的人们只能投奔有工作机会的地方,结果是少数几个国家承受移民潮的巨大冲击。也很容易理解,失业率高的国家当然会拒绝新劳动力涌入抢走本就稀缺的工作。

欧洲濒临崩溃边缘,但最大的崩溃风险很可能是危机可能四处蔓延。市场已经感觉欧元系统很难长期维系,投机者总是嗜血而动。欧洲央行总裁马里奥·德拉吉声称的“不惜代价”维护稳定确实创造了奇迹,至少比人们预期得久。但也只不过是场信任骗局:只有市场参与者相信有用才真会起作用。

市场的力量与政治是相互交织的。选民们不高兴,因为这么长时间以来政府表现实在很差,所以不管是左翼还是右翼的温和派,选民都投票反对。持不同政见者占据明显优势。

或许欧洲领袖感受到紧迫性后,最终会下定决心在欧元区实施结构性改革,让单一货币系统顺利运转,实现共同繁荣。或许2017年欧元区真能稳定下来。

如果希望单一货币系统生效,就得进一步推进欧洲一体化——更加团结;强国更愿意帮助弱国;更快推进共同存款保险以及共同失业保障体系,而不是像现在一样半途而废难以维系。不过随着欧元失败,改革越发不易。改革很有可能意味着政治力量转投别的方向,若果真如此,欧洲很有可能把欧元当成一场有趣的,好意的实验,可惜以失败告终,而且让欧洲人民和国家承受了巨大伤害。(财富中文网)

作者:Joseph E. Stiglitz

译者:Pessy

审校:夏林

约瑟夫•E•斯蒂格利茨是美国哥伦比亚大学教授,2001年诺贝尔经济学奖得主。近来著有《欧元:为何单一货币威胁欧洲未来》。

Europe has not been doing well. Just this year, GDP per capita for the Eurozone as a whole finally returned to pre-crisis levels. It is claiming victory in Spain—even though unemployment remains near 20% and youth unemployment is more than twice that—simply because things are better today than they have been since the euro crisis began a half decade ago. Greece remains in a severe depression. Growth for the Eurozone over the past year has been an anemic 1.6%, and that number is twice the average growth rate from 2005 to 2015. Historians are already speaking of the Eurozone’s lost decade, and it’s possible they’ll soon be writing about its last decade, too.

The euro was introduced in 2002, but the cracks in the single currency arrangement, which began in 1999, became evident with the 2008 global financial crisis. Economists had predicted that the test of the euro would occur when the region faced a shock, and Europe was unlucky in facing such a big shock coming from across the Atlantic so soon after its creation. By 2010, the euro crisis had become full blown, with interest rates on the sovereign debt of the “periphery”—Greece, Spain, Ireland, and Portugal—soaring to unheard-of levels. But a closer look at the Eurozone shows imbalances building up from the very beginning—with money rushing into the periphery countries in the misguided belief that eliminating exchange rate risk had somehow eliminated all risk.

This illustrates one of the key flaws in the construction of the Eurozone: It was based on the belief that if only government didn’t mess things up—if it kept deficits below 3% of GDP, debt below 60% of GDP, and inflation below 2% per annum—the market would ensure growth and stability. Those numbers, and the underlying ideas, had no basis in either theory or evidence. Ireland and Spain, two of the worst afflicted countries, actually had surpluses before the crisis. The crisis caused their deficits and debt, not the other way around.

The hope was that fiscal and monetary discipline would result in convergence, enabling the single-currency system to work even better. Instead, there has been divergence, with the rich countries getting richer and the poor getting poorer, and within countries, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. But it was the very structure of the Eurozone that predictably led to this. The single market, for instance, made it easy for money to leave the banks of the weaker countries, forcing these banks to contract lending, weakening the weak further.

Economists assessing the prospects of a single currency arrangement some quarter century ago emphasized the importance of sufficient labor mobility and an adequately large common budget to buffer against shocks as well as sufficient economic similarity among the countries. But the euro took away two of the critical instruments for adjustment—the exchange and interest rates—and didn’t put anything in their place. There was no common deposit insurance, no common way of resolving problems in the banking sector, and no common unemployment insurance scheme.

Equally important, these early discussions ignored the importance of intellectual convergence: There is a huge gap in perceptions of what makes for good policies, especially between Germany and much of the rest of Europe. These differences are longstanding. They were evident to me when I chaired the Economic Policy Committee of the OECD in the mid-1990s. If anything, there has been divergence here, too. Thus, the austerity policy—which Germany thought should have brought a quick return to growth—has failed miserably in virtually every country in which it has been tried. The consequences were predictable, and predicted by most serious economists around the world. So too, many of the particular structural reforms have actually weakened the countries on which they have been imposed, lowering growth and increasing their trade deficits.

A huge democratic deficit has since opened up: citizens in Greece, Spain, and Portugal have all voted in large numbers for parties opposed to austerity. Yet, they have felt they have no choice but to accept the demands of Germany. Citizens were never told that when they joined the euro, they would be giving up their economic sovereignty.

The ambition of the euro was to bring greater prosperity to Europe. This, in turn, would promote economic and political integration. The euro was a political project, but the politics weren’t strong enough to create the institutional arrangements that would ensure success. With the euro leading to stagnation and worse, it is no surprise that it has led to increasing divisiveness rather than to more solidarity. Today, it seems that the euro, which was supposed to be a means to an end, has become an end in itself—the pursuit of which poses perhaps the single most important threat to the European project.

In response to the repeated crises, Europe has made reforms, but they have been too little, too late. Some may actually be counterproductive: Having a system of common supervision, without adequate sensitivity to local macro-conditions and without common deposit insurance may actually exacerbate divergence. Meanwhile, the region has the misfortune of being repeatedly bombarded with crises, especially the refugee crisis. With unemployment in so many countries so high—at least partly because of the euro—those seeking a new future wish to move to where there are jobs, resulting in a few countries bearing the brunt of the wave of migrants. And naturally, countries where unemployment is high resist having new workers competing for the scarce jobs.

Europe has been engaged in brinkmanship, but the danger of brinkmanship is that there is a high probability that eventually one goes over the brink. Markets sense that the system is not viable in the long run—speculators attack when they smell blood. European Central Bank President Mario Draghi’s assertion that he will do “whatever it takes” has worked wonders—for longer than anyone expected. But it is a confidence trick: It works only because market participants believe it will work.

These market forces are intertwined with politics. Voters who should be unhappy—simply because they have done so poorly for such a long time—have expressed their anger by voting against the centrist parties of the left and right. The dissidents are in the ascendancy.

Perhaps European leaders, sensing the urgency of the moment, will finally make the reforms in the structure of the Eurozone that will enable a single currency arrangement to work—to achieve a shared prosperity. Perhaps 2017 will be the year in which the reform of the Eurozone really takes hold.

In order for a single currency system to work, there has to be more Europe—more solidarity; more willingness of the stronger countries to help the weaker; more willingness to create institutions like a common deposit insurance and a common unemployment scheme—than the current halfway house, which is simply not viable. But the failures of the Eurozone make such reforms increasingly hard. It is at least as likely that the political forces are going in the other direction, and if that is the case, it may be only a matter of time before Europe looks back on the euro as an interesting, well-intentioned experiment that failed—at great cost to the citizens of Europe and their democracies.

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