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迎接负利率时代!  

2009-04-23 20:14:50|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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中文博主按:这是我的美女同事译的.我记得,这篇文章,以前也出现过.不过,现在肯定有改动了.最后的部分,是原文没有的.在原文中,还涉及到一个scrip的东西.不过,我记不太清了.所以,从今天开始,我们开始加标签了.



Saturday, April 18, 2009

Going Negative

Click here to read my column in tomorrow's NY Times

这是我明天在纽约时报的专栏文章

 

It May Be Time for the Fed to Go Negative

WITHunemployment rising and the financial system in shambles, it’s hard notto feel negative about the economy right now. The answer to ourproblems, however, could well be more negativity. But I’m not talkingabout attitude. I‘m talking about numbers.

不断攀升的失业,还有那跌跌撞撞的金融体系,如今很难不让人感觉到经济的阴沉。然而,我们所面临问题的答案,也许更不乐观。但是,我谈的不是态度问题,我说的是数字。

Let’s start with the basics: What is the best way for an economy to escape a recession?

那就从最基本的开始:要让经济脱离衰退之轨,最好的办法是什么?

Untilrecently, most economists relied on monetary policy. Recessions resultfrom an insufficient demand for goods and services — and so, thethinking goes, our central bank can remedy this deficiency by cuttinginterest rates. Lower interest rates encourage households andbusinesses to borrow and spend. More spending means more demand forgoods and services, which leads to greater employment for workers tomeet that demand.

直到最近,很多经济学家都指望着货币政策。衰退是由商品服务的需求乏力导致的――因而,想到的办法就是,中央银行通过降低利率来改变这种现象。更低的利率鼓励家庭和商业借钱消费。更多的消费意味着对商品服务更多的需求,由此将导致更多的就业。

The problem today, it seems, is that the Federal Reservehas done just about as much interest rate cutting as it can. Its targetfor the federal funds rate is about zero, so it has turned to othertools, such as buying longer-term debt securities, to get the economygoing again. But the efficacy of those tools is uncertain, and thereare risks associated with them.

现在的问题是,利率已经降得够低了,联储似乎已经无计可施。联邦基金的目标利率差不多是零了,因而就只有打打其他注意,比如通过买入长期债券、让经济再次启航。但是,这些工具的效力并不确定,因而使用中会存在风险。

In many ways today, the Fed is in uncharted waters.

从很多方面来看,如今的联储仿佛置身于,一片地图未标明的水面上。

So why shouldn’t the Fed just keep cutting interest rates? Why not lower the target interest rate to, say, negative 3 percent?

那么,联储为什么不继续降低利率呢?为什么不可以将目标利率降得更低,比如-3%?

Atthat interest rate, you could borrow and spend $100 and repay $97 nextyear. This opportunity would surely generate more borrowing andaggregate demand.

那样一个利率,意味着我们可以借入并消费$100,而一年后只需还$97。这样的机会肯定会催生更多的借贷并刺激总需求。

Theproblem with negative interest rates, however, is quickly apparent:nobody would lend on those terms. Rather than giving your money to aborrower who promises a negative return, it would be better to stickthe cash in your mattress. Because holding money promises a return ofexactly zero, lenders cannot offer less.

然而,负利率的问题也是显而易见的:没有人愿意借出。与其把钱借给别人得到一个负的回报,还不如把钱留着压床底。因为持有货币的回报正好是零,贷款人不会损失更多。

Unless, that is, we figure out a way to make holding money less attractive.

除非,我们找到一个办法,使得持有货币不划算。

Atone of my recent Harvard seminars, a graduate student proposed a cleverscheme to do exactly that. (I will let the student remain anonymous. Incase he ever wants to pursue a career as a central banker, having hisname associated with this idea probably won’t help.)

我最近在Harvard有一个研讨会,一个博士生想到了很聪明的一招。(在此,我不方便透露他的姓名。万一,他想要去中央银行当行长呢?把他的名字与这个想法连在一起,可没什么好处。)

Imaginethat the Fed were to announce that, a year from today, it would pick adigit from zero to 9 out of a hat. All currency with a serial numberending in that digit would no longer be legal tender. Suddenly, theexpected return to holding currency would become negative 10 percent.

假设联储宣布,一年后的今天,随机从09的数字中选一个。所有货币的序列号中,以此数字结尾的都不再合法。持有货币的预期回报率马上变为-10%。

Thatmove would free the Fed to cut interest rates below zero. People wouldbe delighted to lend money at negative 3 percent, since losing 3percent is better than losing 10.

这项提议,使得联储可以很轻松地把利率降到零以下。人们更乐于以-3%的利率把钱借出去,损失3%可比损失10%要好得多。

Ofcourse, some people might decide that at those rates, they would ratherspend the money — for example, by buying a new car. But becauseexpanding aggregate demand is precisely the goal of the interest ratecut, such an incentive isn’t a flaw — it’s a benefit.

当然,在如此的利率之下,一些人会更愿意花钱――例如,买辆新车。由于扩张总需求正是削减利率的目标,因而,这样的激励并不是一件坏事――相反,它是一件好事。

Theidea of making money earn a negative return is not entirely new. In thelate 19th century, the German economist Silvio Gesell argued for a taxon holding money. He was concerned that during times of financialstress, people hoard money rather than lend it. John Maynard Keynesapprovingly cited the idea of a carrying tax on money. With banks nowholding substantial excess reserves, Gesell’s concern about cashhoarding suddenly seems very modern.

货币回报为负的思想,远不是什么新鲜事儿。在19世纪晚期,德国经济学家Silvio Gesell就提出,对持有的货币征税。他认为,在财政困难的时期,人们会储藏货币,而不是借出去。John Maynard Keynes 也赞成这个想法,他引用了这个观点,对货币征收持有税。目前,银行拥有大量的超额准备金,Gesell储藏现金的想法一下子变得异常时髦起来。

Ifall of this seems too outlandish, there is a more prosaic way ofobtaining negative interest rates: through inflation. Suppose that,looking ahead, the Fed commits itself to producing significantinflation. In this case, while nominal interest rates could remain atzero, real interest rates — interest rates measured in purchasing power— could become negative. If people were confident that they could repaytheir zero-interest loans in devalued dollars, they would havesignificant incentive to borrow and spend.

如果所有这些想法看起来有些古怪,还有一个办法平淡无奇,一样可以得到负利率:通货膨胀。假设,联储承诺将来会有显著的通货膨胀。这种情形之下,名义利率继续维持在零,真实利率――以购买力来衡量――就变为负值。如果人们相信,可用贬值的美元来偿还零利率的借款,他们就会有很强的动机,借钱消费。

Havingthe central bank embrace inflation would shock economists and Fedwatchers who view price stability as the foremost goal of monetarypolicy. But there are worse things than inflation. And guess what? Wehave them today. A little more inflation might be preferable to risingunemployment or a series of fiscal measures that pile on debtbequeathed to future generations.

让中央银行利用通货膨胀,会让经济学家和联储专家大跌眼镜的。他们从来都是把价格稳定作为货币政策的首要目标。但是还有比通货膨胀更糟的事儿。猜猜是什么?现在我们正在经历。一点轻微的通胀可能比失业率的上升更可取,或者比一系列的财政政策更加好。这些财政政策,不过就是把一大堆的债务,留给后代子孙。

Ben S. Bernanke,the Fed chairman, is the perfect person to make this commitment tohigher inflation. Mr. Bernanke has long been an advocate of inflationtargeting. In the past, advocates of inflation targeting have stressedthe need to keep inflation from getting out of hand. But in the currentenvironment, the goal could be to produce enough inflation to ensurethat the real interest rate is sufficiently negative.

联储主席,Ben S. Bernanke,是承担这项任务的最佳人选。Bernanke先生赞成锁定通胀率的目标,有些时日了。过去,锁定通胀率的赞成者强调,不要让通胀率失去控制。但是,在目前的环境中,目的可能是有足够高的通胀率,以保证实际利率远低于零。

Theidea of negative interest rates may strike some people as absurd, theconcoction of some impractical theorist. Perhaps it is. But rememberthis: Early mathematicians thought that the idea of negative numberswas absurd. Today, these numbers are commonplace. Even children can betaught that some problems (such as 2x + 6 = 0) have no solution unlessyou are ready to invoke negative numbers.

对某些人来说,负利率的想法可能荒诞不经,出自某些不切实际的理论家的凭空杜撰。也许是吧。但是,不要忘了:早期的数学家认为,负数的想法也很荒唐可笑。如今,这些数字都已是寻常事物。即使对小孩子,也可以教教类似的问题(如,2x+6=0)。没有负数,这种问题就无解。

Maybe some economic problems require the same trick.

也许,有些经济问题,要玩玩新的戏法。

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