每日新闻更新 - 第二部分:体制变化:通货膨胀 节选自Bob Gay的Regime Change: Inflation The Daily Update - Part II: Regime Change: Inflation

通货膨胀和经济衰退的反比关系似乎已经明显变弱。

菲利普斯曲线的消失。大概60年前,经济学家A.W. Phillips发表了一份实验报告,展示了低失业率与高通胀率的关系。这一发现很受欢迎,契合了经济学家认为的竞争性市场的运行模式,换言之,当包括劳动力在内的资源出现供应短缺,价格就会上升。然而,随着失业率以及通胀书评日渐飙升,这一反比关系似乎开始脱节。经济学家竞相用其他方式来挽救这一理论。特别是美联储引进了“潜在GDP”这一经验性概念,该概念反应了GDP的最高水平与稳定的物价一致。实际产出可能超出潜在水平,但只能以更高的单位成本为代价。菲利普斯丝曲线所描述的吃紧的就业市场、增加的工资和物价等因素之间的密切关系,美联储越来越不采纳了,但仍然受到金融媒体的关注。

在我看来,产出缺口占GDP的比重一直是过去50多年来衡量核心通胀起落的可靠指标。无论何时,实际GDP的增长超过潜在通胀的增长,负的产出缺口会导致通货收缩。随着经济全球化的进展,这一模型的参数也在变化。首先,通胀落后“充分就业”(产出缺口为零)接近一年。现在这个差距似乎增加到六个季度。根据经验以及我对今年夏天产出零缺口的预测,我们可以看出为什么金融市场以及大部分预测者对近期的通胀非常乐观。在我看来,虽然全球经济的结构性改变对通胀产生了更加深入持久的影响,而不只是把应对充分就业的时间推迟几个季度。

产出缺口模型的另一个难题是要了解我们所在的位置,特别是在经历了八年的缺口扩张之后。在预测潜在GDP时哪怕很小的一个错误,就会导致在预测目前产出缺口时出现很大的错误。我们已知的信息是,自从2003年上半年以来,潜在增长已经下降了接近一半。我在模型中使用的增长率是1.8%,因为长期增长趋势与稳定的通胀保持一致。美联储现在采用的数据是2%。阻碍增长的因素,包括人口状况、外包、技术老化和滥用药物,也同样影响着劳动力的参与。这些结构和社会经济因素,而不是诸如未填补的职位空缺等市场因素,阐释了为什么失业率降到了大约4%却没有对工资造成太大压力。

然而最严重的担忧是,通胀不像之前那样对经济衰退有敏感的反应了。人们可能会忽略已观察到的现象,认为它们是低通胀的固有副产品:当要降低工资和物价的时候,两者就变得密切相关。在职员工尤其抵触降工资,哪怕企业正处于最困难的阶段。这个例子解释了为什么在通胀模型乃至相当一部分的一般均衡经济理论中,基于市场的工资决定论理论是最弱的环节。实际上,市场力量对决定职工报酬的作用相对很小。相反,产品市场的条件,包括生产力、利润、议价能力以及惯常报酬对比,发挥着主要作用。这正是重新思考体制改变所带来影响的起点所在。

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