【英语财经】资本主义的金融危机宿命 Disarm our doomsday machine

  • 【英语财经】资本主义的金融危机宿命 Disarm our doomsday machine已关闭评论
  • 48 views
  • A+
所属分类:双语财经

2014-6-3 07:32

小艾摘要: Are financial crises an inevitable feature of capitalism? Must the government rescue the system when huge crises occur? In his book Stress Test, Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank ...
Disarm our doomsday machine
Are financial crises an inevitable feature of capitalism? Must the government rescue the system when huge crises occur? In his book Stress Test, Timothy Geithner, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and US Treasury secretary during the 2007-09 crisis, answers “yes” to both questions. Yet these answers also harm the legitimacy of a market economy. It is bad enough if capitalism is crisis-prone. It is worse still if the state feels obliged to rescue those whose folly or criminality caused the damage, to protect the innocent.

Mr Geithner argues not only that crises are sure to recur but that governments must react with overwhelming force. The only way to stop a crisis is to remove the circumstances making it rational to panic. That means the government must borrow more, spend more and expose taxpayers to more short-term risk – “even if it seems to reward incompetence and venality, even if it fuels perceptions of an out-of-control, money-spewing, bailout-crazed big government”. This is a bald statement of an unpopular view.

Sheila Bair, head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation during the crisis, has given an opposing view, arguing that if Wall Street believes the government will always pick up the tab for disastrous bets, instability will be the inevitable result. Mr Geithner’s justification of the bailouts only makes sense, she says, once you accept a false dilemma: “That our only choices were either to do nothing or to pursue the over-the-top measures which we did.”

The view that capitalism is crisis-prone seems compelling. Stability destabilises. It is, Mr Geithner suggests, human to take on risk during a prolonged period of prosperity.

That happened in the leverage cycle which preceded the crisis (see chart). People did not take on leverage because they expected to be bailed out. They did so because they expected to gain.

Yet there also exists what I like to call “rational carelessness” – the fact that bailouts were likely if the worst came to the worst surely comforted creditors and so increased the risk of a destabilising credit bubble.

Once Lehman Brothers failed, a new depression seemed to be on the way. In response finance ministers and central bankers of the Group of Seven leading high-income countries promised in October 2008 to “take decisive action and use all available tools to support systemically important financial institutions and prevent their failure”. They did, and it worked. Panic – as measured by the spread between rates on unsecured interbank lending and expectations of future official interest rates – diminished. In the US the economy started to stabilise after two quarters of contraction.

Mr Geithner’s view is that the correct response to such a crisis has three elements: massive monetary and fiscal support; guarantees for the liabilities of systemically important institutions; and harsh stress tests. If an institution fails to raise capital, the government must inject it.

The conditions of the time – above all, the limited legal authority of the US (and other) governments – made a more tailored approach almost impossible to adopt. The value of assets was so uncertain, capital buffers so tiny, the reliance on short-term borrowing from fickle sources so ubiquitous and the mechanisms for resolving complex financial institutions so inadequate that governments had no reasonable alternatives. They simply could not risk the economic results of a cascading financial collapse.

Similarly, the authorities had to use monetary and fiscal instruments freely, to limit the longer-term economic damage. Even so, the costs have been huge. In the first quarter of 2014, US gross domestic product was as much as 17 per cent below its 1950-2007 trend (see chart).

Capitalism is indeed crisis-prone and the US government was right to intervene during the crisis. These conclusions leave us in a desperate position, with our fates apparently attached to a doomsday machine. The response of many on the free market side seems to be that the government should not impose increased regulation of the financial system, but simply rule out a rescue next time. Such is the unpopularity of bailouts that this approach might even be tried. But the consequences are likely to be catastrophic.

A more attractive possibility is to make the system far less unstable and far easier to deal with in a crisis. The options here include: higher capital requirements for any institution likely to prove systemically important together with requirements for long-term debt that can absorb losses in a crisis; reduction of tax incentives to take on debt; safer bank deposits backed by far higher reserve requirements; enhanced regulatory oversight of the system; and far greater ability to resolve complex financial institutions when they become insolvent.

Such measures should bring the world closer to what Ms Bair desires. It is likely that mistakes were far more important than moral hazard in creating the crisis. Yet after the rescue moral hazard does indeed exist, above all among the creditors of the systemically important institutions.

Mr Geithner has pushed for tighter regulation. But he also offers a law of unintended consequences. The safer the visible financial system is made, he argues, the greater the danger that the fragility will emerge somewhere less visible, but possibly even more dangerous. This, he adds, is precisely what happened before the crisis, with the expansion of the “shadow banking system”. Thus tight regulation could ultimately prove self-defeating.

The warning is well taken. But there are answers. An interventionist one is full oversight of the evolving financial system, adding capital and other requirements as risk migrates. Another is to make sure that core financial institutions can survive an earthquake at the periphery. Yet another is greatly increased transparency requirements, thereby preventing such obvious absurdities as the build-up of huge off-balance sheet positions in vital institutions.

Where does this leave us? We have to try far harder to reduce the crisis-prone nature of our financial system. We have to be able to intervene in a crisis without the comprehensive rescues needed last time. As Mr Geithner warns, these efforts might fail. Yet I can see no alternatives.

金融危机是资本主义的一个不可避免的特点吗?当严重危机爆发,政府必须救助金融体系吗?蒂莫西?盖特纳(Timothy Geithner)在他的《压力测试》(Stress Test)一书中,对这两个问题给出了肯定答案。2007至2009年危机期间,盖特纳曾任纽约联邦储备银行(Federal Reserve Bank of New York)行长、美国财政部长。但这样的答案也有损市场经济的合法性。资本主义易发生危机,这一点已经够糟糕了。而对于那些用愚蠢或犯罪行为给经济造成损害的人,政府感觉必须提供救助,从而保护无辜民众,这一点就更加糟糕了。

盖特纳不但相信危机注定会反复发生,而且认为政府必须以雷霆之力予以应对。制止危机的唯一途径,是消除那些导致恐慌成为合理情绪的条件。这意味着,政府必须借入更多、支出更多,并使纳税人面对更多的短期风险——“即便这似乎是在奖励无能和贪腐,即便这会加剧人们对政府变成失去控制、大手大脚、热衷纾困的大政府的看法”。这直截了当地道出了一种不受欢迎的观点。

在危机期间担任美国联邦存款保险公司(FDIC)主席的希拉?贝尔(Sheila Bair),持有对立的观点。她提出,如果华尔街相信政府一定会为其输得一塌糊涂的赌注埋单,那么不稳定将是必然结果。她表示,盖特纳对纾困的合理化要想站住脚,必须认可一个错误的两难选择:“我们要么放任不管,要么采取过度措施,此外再无选择。”

资本主义易发生危机的观点似乎很有道理。稳定局面会变得不稳定。盖特纳认为,在很长的繁荣期中冒风险,是符合人性的。

在危机之前的杠杆周期里(见图表),人们就是这样。人们增加杠杆不是因为预料将得到纾困,而是期待取得收益。

不过,确实存在我所称的“理性的轻率”——如果出现最糟糕的情况,政府就可能出手纾困,这一事实肯定会令债权人感到安心,因此加剧了发生破坏稳定的信贷泡沫的风险。

当初雷曼兄弟(Lehman Brothers)倒下后,新的萧条局面似乎就要形成。作为应对,2008年10月,主要高收入国家组成的7国集团(G7)的财长和央行行长承诺,“采取果断行动、利用一切可以动用的工具,为具有系统重要性的金融机构提供支持,并防止其破产”。他们兑现了承诺,并产生了效果。以银行间无担保贷款利率与未来预期官方利率之间的利差衡量,恐慌情绪逐渐消散了。在美国,经过两个季度的收缩之后,经济开始企稳。

盖特纳认为,这类危机的正确对策包含三个部分:大规模货币与财政支持;为系统重要性机构的债务提供担保;以及苛刻的压力测试。如果一家机构无力筹集资金,那么政府必须向其注资。

当时的环境——最主要的是,美国(以及其他国家)政府的法定权力很有限——使得更合适的对策几乎不可能出台。资产价值很难确定,资本缓冲很薄弱,依靠变化不定的来源借入短期资金的情况很普遍,清算复杂金融机构的机制很不健全,导致各国政府别无选择。它们不能冒风险承受连锁式金融崩溃的经济后果。

类似地,各国当局被迫大量使用货币与财政工具,以减少长期的经济损害。即便如此,代价也十分巨大。2014年一季度,美国国内生产总值(GDP)比1950至2007年间的趋势水平低了17%(见图表)。

资本主义确实易发生危机,美国政府在危机中实施干预是正确的。这些结论将我们置于一种无助境地——我们的命运明显被绑到了一部末日机器上。许多市场经济支持者的回答似乎是,政府不应加大对金融体系的监管力度,但又干脆提出政府在下次危机时不得实施纾困。纾困是如此不得人心,以至于未来可能真的尝试这种思路。但后果可能是灾难性的。

一个更有吸引力的可能性,是大大减小金融体系的不稳定性,使其在遇到危机时远更容易处置。这方面的可选措施包括:提高所有可能具有系统重要性的机构的资本金要求,并对能在危机中吸收亏损的长期债务提出要求;减少鼓励举债的税收激励措施;提高存款准备金率以加固银行存款的安全;加强对金融体系的监管力度;提高复杂金融机构无偿债能力时对其进行清算的能力。

这类措施应会令世界更接近贝尔希望的样子。恐怕各种错误远比道德风险更能制造危机。不过,在救助之后的确存在道德风险,尤其是在系统重要性机构的债权人当中。

盖特纳已敦促实施更严格的监管。但他也提到了“意外后果定律”。他指出,将看得见的那部分金融体系打造得越是安全,脆弱性在较隐蔽、但可能更危险的地方出现的危险性就越大。他补充称,这恰恰就是危机之前、伴随影子银行体系膨胀而发生的情况。这样一来,严格监管最终可能弄巧成拙。

这一警告言之有理。但也有解决办法。一种干预主义办法是,对演进中的金融体系实施全面监管,在风险转移之时增加资本金和其他要求。另一种办法是,确保核心金融机构能挺得过外围“地震”。不过,还有一种办法是提高透明度要求,从而避免一些明显荒谬的做法,比如让关键机构积累下庞大的表外头寸。

那么我们该怎么办?我们必须比以往更努力地减轻我们的金融体系易发生危机的特性。我们必须能在发生危机时进行干预,但不必像上次那样实施全面救助。正如盖特纳所警告的那样,这些努力可能会失败。不过,我看不到还有什么其他办法。

译者/邢嵬

本文关键字:财经英语,小艾英语,双语网站,财经双语,财经资讯,互联网新闻,ERWAS,行业解析,创业指导,营销策略,英语学习,可以双语阅读的网站!
  • 我的微信
  • 这是我的微信扫一扫
  • weinxin
  • 我的微信公众号
  • 我的微信公众号扫一扫
  • weinxin