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国家债务不再有关系吗?经济学家如何s’ Views of Debt Have Changed


Last month, t他警告说,全球公共债务将超过100%of global GDP. Yet it also urged some governments to spend more — increasing their debt levels even further — to stimulate growth.

Caroline Atkinsonis a former director at the IMF and was President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser for international economics. BRINK began by asking Atkinson whether the IMF’s views on the dangers of excessive government debt has changed?

阿特金森:国际货币基金组织在过去六年多年来,国际货币基金组织关于政府债务的思考。他们从债务和赤字具有大成本的传统地位转移,以支持许多人的财政刺激 - 但不在所有情况下。

It depends on other economic conditions, but their broad advice to Europe, in particular, for some while has been that some European countries, notably Germany, have room to spend more (and tax less), which would boost demand and economic activity in the whole EU area.

The Danger of Too Much Austerity

边缘:So, has something changed in the makeup of the global economy that now makes the IMF think that government debt is less important? Or has the IMF’s thinking just evolved?

ATKINSON: That’s a great question. I would say there are two things. Obviously, right now there are massive changes going on. But even before COVID-19, the shock to the global economy from the financial crisis was more severe than was understood for some years. When many countries, including the U.S., began to rein in their deficits quite soon after the crisis, this led to slower growth and recovery — and another recession in Europe.

That began to change economists’ thinking because the faster an economy grows, the easier it is to support a given level of debt. The measure that we look at is debt in relation to GDP — so if you have more GDP, you can manage more debt. When the economy is crimped instead by austerity policies, deficits and debt loom larger.


ATKINSON: The second important change in the global economy, which is more fundamental, is that we have moved into a world with lower inflation and lower interest rates — perhaps that’s because of globalization, perhaps because of demography; there are different theories. Ben Bernanke was one of the first who talked about an imbalance between savings and investment, and a savings glut that was tending to push down interest rates without stimulating economies to full employment.

Larry Summers, the former treasury secretary, has also pointed to the dangers of secular stagnation, where the private sector simply doesn’t invest and spend enough to provide sufficient growth and jobs. So governments need to fill the gap, and because they will find plenty of savers who want to invest in their debt, government borrowing doesn’t push up interest rates.

There is a need for more tax revenue in the U.S. to support spending on social programs, education, etc. to address the enormous inequities and systemic racism that more and more Americans are aware of.

This is a very different global economy from the one in the 1970s or 1980s, or even the 1990s, when central banks in particular were concerned that governments would borrow too much and spend too much, leading to inflation and higher interest rates, which would crowd out private sector investment. So, yes, the IMF has changed its thinking, but so have many others. With interest rates staying down, inflation staying down and having more and more clarity about the fact that this is a long-term phenomenon, many economists have started to think, “well, actually, debt is not so bad.”



ATKINSON: Yes, that’s correct. If you’re the United States, it’s actually pretty easy to borrow, and you’re going to be taxing and spending in the same currency. If you’re a developing country, it’s usually much more difficult to borrow in your own currency. If capital stops flowing in, your exchange rate is likely to go down and that will make repaying your debt — that is now more expensive in local currency terms — much more difficult.


现在,在过去十年左右的时间里,许多新兴市场t countries at a government level have started to be able to borrow in their own currencies and have deliberately done that. However, their corporations and their banks have borrowed overseas themselves, and when there’s a crisis, that’s another vulnerability.

Last year, ahead of the COVID crisis, the average debt of the 70 or so lowest-income countries was a little over 40% of their GDP. Whereas in the United States, it was approaching 100% of GDP. And in Japan, it was well over 200% of GDP. So that gives you a sense that it is much easier to support a lot of debt if you’re an advanced economy, because your economy is more flexible and you can typically borrow in your own currency.

The Value of Automatic Stabilizers

边缘:One use of debt has been to provide emergency relief and unemployment extensions in this crisis. Given this more benign view of debt, do you think that these programs might become permanent support programs, like universal basic income in some form, which would presumably result in debt levels being permanently higher?

ATKINSON: I’m not sure that the temporary increase in unemployment insurance will be extended in the U.S., and obviously a lot depends on what happens in the U.S. elections in November, but I certainly think it’s a good idea to have more of what are called automatic stabilizers in the economic system.


我不是普遍基本收入的粉丝。它会花费太多,而不是每个人都需要它,这么大的支出将是不必要的或浪费的。我会专注于为需要它提供慷慨的收入支持。但作为一个经济学家,我宁愿拥有一个简单的收入支持系统,而不是一个复杂的不同计划 - 无论是在食物上,租金或高等教育 - 但这并不是那么有理由。


Caroline Atkinson

Senior Advisor at RockCreek investment firm @atkinsoncaro

Caroline Atkinson是一位高级顾问摇滚乐投资公司和Peterson Institute,Brookfield Property Partners和国际战略研究所的董事会成员。她以前在谷歌和美国副国家安全顾问的政策负责人。

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