Bye bye Chicago-boys? Esponenti della scuola che sostiene la perfetta razionalità dei mercati innestano la marcia indietro. Un commento d’autore: Keynes 1937
Bye bye Chicago? L’autocritica sembra spuntare all’orizzonte della scienza economica. O è solo un’illusione ottica? Un articolo pubblicato sul New Yorker, intitolato “una lettera da Chicago”, riporta il pietoso stato della omonima scuola dopo il crack economico che ha lasciato sotto le macerie, oltre che un certo numero di aziende e lavoratori – e tra un po’ qualche Stato – le teorie della perfetta razionalità dei mercati. Il pentito N. 1 è Richard Posner: “Abbiamo sbagliato tutto, torniamo a Keynes”. Gli argomenti e l’inchiesta del New Yorker sono riportati in un articolo pubblicato sul Sole 24 Ore di domenica 11 gennaio. Riportiamo qui l’abstract dell’articolo del New Yorker (in inglese) e l’articolo pubblicato sul Sole 24 ore. A commento, Giorgio Lunghini ci propone un testo del febbraio 1937, del diretto interessato – John M. Keynes. Ne consigliamo caldamente la lettura.
1. Dal New Yorker. ABSTRACT: LETTER FROM CHICAGO – about the state of the Chicago School of economics after the financial crash.
Earlier this year, Judge Richard A. Posner published “A Failure of Capitalism,” in which he argues that lax monetary policy and deregulation helped bring on the current economic slump. Posner has been a leading figure in the conservative Chicago School of economics for decades. In September, he came out as a Keynesian. As acts of betrayal go, this was roughly akin to Johnny Damon’s forsaking the Red Sox Nation and joining the Yankees. Ever since Milton Friedman, George Stigler, and others founded the Chicago School, in the nineteen-forties and fifties, one of its goals has been to displace Keynesianism, and it had largely succeeded. In the areas of regulation, trade, anti-trust laws, taxes, interest rates, and welfare, Chicago thinking greatly influenced policymaking in the U.S. and many other parts of the world. But in the year after the crash Keynes’s name appeared to be everywhere. In “A Failure of Capitalism,” Posner singles out several economists, including Robert Lucas and John Cochrane, both of the Chicago School, for failing to appreciate the magnitude of the subprime crisis, and he questioned the entire methodology that Lucas and his colleagues pioneered. Its basic notions were the efficient-markets hypothesis and the rational-expectations theory. In Posner’s view, older, less dogmatic theories better explained how the problems in the financial sector dragged down the rest of the economy. In the course of a few days, the writer talked to economists from various branches of the subject. The over-all reaction he encountered put him in mind of what happened to cosmology after the astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding, and was much larger than scientists believed. The profession fell into turmoil, with some physicists sticking to existing theories, while others came up with the big-bang theory. Eugene Fama, of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, was firmly in the denial camp. He defended the efficient-markets hypothesis, which underpinned the deregulation of the banking system championed by Alan Greenspan and others. He insisted that the real culprit in the mortgage mess was the federal government. Mentions John Cochrane. Gary Becker, who won the Nobel in 1992, says that Posner and others raised fair critiques of Chicago economics. Mentions Robert Lucas and James Heckman. If the economic equivalent of a big-bang theory is to emerge, it will almost certainly come from scholars much less invested in the old doctrines than Fama and Lucas. Mentions Richard Thaler. Raghuram Rajan, an Indian-born Chicago professor, is one of the few economists who warned about the dangers of the financial crisis. In 2005, he said that deregulation, trading in complex financial products, and the proliferation of bonuses for traders had greatly increased the risk of a blowup. In a new book he’s working on, “Fault Lines,” Rajan argues that the initial causes of the breakdown were stagnant wages and rising inequality. With the purchasing power of many middle-class households lagging behind the cost of living, there was an urgent demand for credit. The side effects of unrestrained credit growth turned out to be devastating. The impact of the financial crisis shouldn’t be underestimated, especially for Chicago-style economics. “Keynes is back,” Posner said, “and behavioral finance is on the march.”
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/01/11/100111fa_fact_cassidy#ixzz0cKKUhpGg
2. Dal Sole 24 Ore.Chicago boys ai grandi saldi (di Mario Margiocco)
«E alla fine credo che probabilmente dovremmo abolire il termine Scuola di Chicago».
Eugene Fama, una delle bandiere più alte sui pennoni della Scuola di Chicago, specialista di finanza, risponde con stizza, dice che l’errore è stato del governo e non dei mercati, e che lui non sa nemmeno che cosa siano le bolle. Il mercato di per sé sa quello che fa e i mercati finanziari sono stati la vittima e non la causa della recessione. Lucas non parla. Gary Becker è abbastanza d’accordo con l’amico Posner.
A suo avviso il lungo ciclo della Scuola di Chicago è probabilmente finito, e c’è solo da sperare che una serie di economisti più giovani, nel Dipartimento di economia e soprattutto nella Booth School of Business dove insegnano Raghuram Rajan, Anil Kashyap, Luigi Zingales, Douglas Diamond e altri, possa ripartire. La battaglia per la deregulation avviata da Hayek e Friedman è stata vinta, quella per «una Fed che pensi solo all’inflazione» pure, ma aver deregolato troppo la finanza, dice Posner, ha chiuso il ciclo, e battere l’inflazione non basta. Ora si riparte da Keynes. «Credo quindi che dovremo abolire il termine Scuola di Chicago».http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/SoleOnLine4/dossier/Italia/2009/commenti-sole-24-ore/10-gennaio2010/chicago-boys-grandi-saldi.shtml
3. Il miglior commento a tutto ciò? Noi proponiamo il seguente, scritto da J. M. Keynes nel ’37:
“The whole object of the accumulation of wealth is to produce results, or potential results, at a comparatively distant, and sometimes indefinitely distant, date. Thus the fact that our knowledge of the future is fluctuating, vague and uncertain, renders wealth a peculiarly unsuitable subject for the methods of the classical economic theory. This theory might work very well in a world in which economic goods were necessarily consumed within a short interval of their being produced. But it requires, I suggest, considerable amendment if it is to be applied to a world in which the accumulation of wealth for an indefinitely postponed future is an important factor; and the greater the proportionate part played by such wealth accumulation the more essential does such amendment become.
By ‘uncertain’ knowledge, let me explain, I do not mean merely to distinguish what is known for certain from what is only probable. The game of roulette is not subject, in this sense, to uncertainty; nor is the prospect of a Victory bond being drawn. Or, again, the expectation of life is only slightly uncertain. Even the weather is only moderately uncertain. The sense in which I am using the term is that in which the prospect of an European war is uncertain, or the price of copper and the rate of interest twenty years hence, or the obsolescence of a new invention, or the position of private wealth-owners in the social system in 1970. About these matters their is no scientific basis on which to form any calculable probability whatever. We simply do not know. Nevertheless, the necessity for action and for decision compels us as practical men to do our best to overlook this awkward fact and to behave exactly as we should if we had behind us a good Benthamite calculation of a series of prospective advantages and disadvantages, each multiplied by its appropriate probability, waiting to be summed.
How do we manage in such circumstances to behave in a manner which saves our faces as rational, economic men? We have devised for the purpose a variety of techniques, of which much the most important are the three following:
(1) We assume that the present is a much more serviceable guide to the future than a candid examination of past experience would show it to have been hitherto. In other words we largely ignore the prospect of future changes about the actual character of which we know nothing.
(2) We assume that the existing state of opinion as expressed in prices and the character of existing output is based on a correct summing up of future prospects, so that we can accept it as such unless and until something new and relevant comes into the picture.
(3) Knowing that our individual judgment is worthless, we endeavour to fall back on the judgment of the rest of the world which is perhaps better informed. That is, we endeavor to conform with the behaviour of the majority or the average. The psychology of a society of individuals each of whom is endeavouring to copy the others lead to what we may strictly term a conventional judgment.
Now a practical theory of the future based on these three principles has certain marked characteristics. In particular, being based on so flimsy a foundation, it is subject to sudden and violent changes. The practice of calmness and immobility, of certainty and security, suddenly breaks down. New fears and hopes will, without warning, take charge of human conduct. The forces of disillusion may suddenly impose a new conventional basis of valuation. All these pretty, polite techniques, made for a well-panelled board room and a nicely regulated market, are liable to collapse. At all times the vague panic fears and equally vague and unreasoned hopes are not really lulled, and lie but a little way below the surface.
Perhaps the reader feels that this general, philosophical disquisition on the behaviour of mankind is some hat remote from the economic theory under discussion. But I think not. Though this is how we behave in the market place, the theory we devise in the study of how we behave in the market place should not itself submit to market-place idols. I accuse the classical economic theory of being itself one of these pretty, polite techniques which tries to deal with the present by abstracting from the fact that we know very little about the future.
I daresay that a classical economist would readily admit this. But, even so, I think he has overlooked the precise nature of the difference which his abstraction makes between theory and practice, and the character of the fallacies into which he is likely to be led”.
Estratto da J. M. Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, “The Quarterly Journal of Economics”, febbraio 1937