MENU

《经济学人》平均主义者应该担心货币刺激措施吗?

2019 年 07 月 13 日 • 经济学人

本期经济学人杂志【经济金融】板块的这篇题为《Should egalitarians fear low interest rates》的文章探讨的是货币政策导致的低利率对富人和穷人的影响,文章认为低利率有利于富裕阶层的传统观点值得推敲,低利率不一定就完全对穷人不利,因此“平均主义者”不用担心一个鸽派的央行(主张维持低利率)。

The Economist, July 13th-19th 2019.

凯恩斯曾幻想有一个永远低利率的世界。在其著作《通论》最后一章,他设想一个经济体拥有充足的资本,导致投资者丧失议价能力,进而令利率保持在低位。在这样的世界中,市场会奖励有冒险和创业精神的人才,而非仅仅积累资本的人。结果将是“食利者的安乐死”。

传统观点认为央行的低利率和量化宽松政策会刺激股市和债市,并推高房价,这将扩大社会贫富差距。对此,央行可能辩护称如果不实行低利率政策社会失业率会更高,这将损害穷人利益。那到底谁对谁错,对不平等的忧虑是否应该左右在经济低迷时期使用何种政策杠杆呢?

斯坦福大学的 Auclert 提供了一些证据,证明年龄较大或收入较高的美国人在利率下降影响资产价格时往往是输家。但他表示很难准确衡量冲击有多大。德国央行的 Tzamourani 发现,几乎在所有国家,年轻家庭和净财富较低的家庭都会因低利率获益。

这似乎有违传统的观点。但正如凯恩斯所言,低利率给金融市场带来的变化根本不利于富裕阶层,反而可能伤害他们。有些人可能会抗议说,他们不该受到这样的伤害:存钱以备未来消费的人难道不比那些想借钱花的人更有责任感?而凯恩斯会反驳说,在一个资本充沛的世界里,过多储蓄对社会并无好处,在经济衰退时更是有害。无论如何,假如决策者倾向使用财政刺激措施而非低利率,纳税人最终会负债累累。

相比用赤字财政支撑的福利或累进减税措施,货币刺激政策对穷人的帮助可能没那么大。经济中的结构性问题,如市场支配力,可能令富人即使在利率下降时也能获得高回报。平均主义者以及穷困阶层或许并不需要害怕鸽派的央行。

Should egalitarians fear low interest rates?

Free exchange
Should egalitarians fear low interest rates?
Monetary stimulus is said to have been a boon for the rich. It is not so simple

Print edition | Finance and economics
Jul 11th 2019
John maynard keynes once fantasised about a world of permanently low interest rates. In the final chapter of “The General Theory” he imagined an economy in which abundant available capital causes investors’ bargaining power, and hence rates, to collapse. In such a world markets would reward risk-taking and entrepreneurial talent, but not the mere accumulation of capital. The result would be the “euthanasia of the rentier”.

That low rates could feature in a leftish Utopian vision might come as a surprise today. It is commonly argued that a decade of monetary-policy stimulus has filled the pockets of the rich. Low rates and quantitative easing (qe) are said to have sent stock and bond markets soaring, thereby exacerbating wealth inequality. They have also boosted house prices, adding to intergenerational tension. A glance at financial markets suggests more of the same is coming: long-term rates have tumbled this year in anticipation of monetary easing, while stockmarkets have boomed.

Central bankers have defended their policies by arguing that, without loose money, unemployment would have been much higher, badly hurting the poor. That is true. But the effect of monetary stimulus on financial markets has nonetheless angered left and right alike. Judy Shelton, one of President Donald Trump’s new picks for the board of the Federal Reserve, has blamed central banks for “exacerbating income inequality”. She has called for a return to the gold standard. The left, meanwhile, prefers fiscal loosening such as giving money to the poor, or fiscal-monetary hybrids such as the “people’s qe” once advocated by Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, under which the central bank would finance government investment.

Who is right? Do low rates spell euthanasia or euphoria for those who live off capital? And should concerns about inequality determine which policy lever to pull in a downturn?

A starting-point is that falling interest rates make all streams of future income more valuable. That includes dividends from stocks, coupons on bonds and homeowners’ privilege of being able to occupy their houses without paying rent. But the resulting increases in asset values can be captured easily only by people who are willing to change their plans. Imagine a homeowner. A higher house price is of little benefit to him if he has no desire to sell and move. Similarly, a bondholder about to retire may need the steady stream of coupon payments the bond provides. A capital gain from selling bonds today might fund a lavish around-the-world cruise, but blowing through retirement funds is unlikely to be prudent.

Now consider a penniless millennial. She sees no capital gain when low rates boost asset prices. But she does have assets that will yield income in the future: education and skills. Were this human capital valued on financial markets, it too would rise in value when interest rates fall. She too could change plans and spend more today, but by borrowing cheaply rather than selling assets.

A recent paper by Adrien Auclert of Stanford University sets out a framework for judging who wins and who loses from changes in monetary policy. Three channels must be considered. One concerns the impact of lower rates on the macroeconomy—the effect trumpeted by central banks. Another concerns the higher inflation that lower rates might cause. That hurts creditors and benefits debtors, who see the real value of their obligations shrink.

The third channel concerns asset prices. It is wrong to claim that asset-holders generally benefit when rates fall, says Mr Auclert. What matters is the full picture of an individual’s assets and liabilities. The latter he defines to include future consumption plans (such as whether the homeowner wants to stay in his house, or whether the retired person seeks to maintain a steady standard of living). Only by looking at an individual’s balance-sheet in full can you judge whether he wins or loses from low rates—or whether, in the jargon, he has “unhedged interest-rate exposure”.

The crucial question is whether someone’s assets and liabilities mature at different points in time. People with short-dated assets but long-dated liabilities—for example a saver with lots of cash in the bank to fund a purchase ten years hence—do badly when rates fall. They are the euthanised “rentiers”, who must save more to fund spending later (a rare example of lower rates depressing consumption). But those who wish to spend today and hold long-dated assets, such as long-term government bonds, do well.

What does this framework imply for rich and poor? Mr Auclert presents some evidence that Americans who are older, or whose incomes are higher, tend to be on the losing end of asset-price effects when rates fall. But he says it is hard to measure the effect precisely. A recent working paper by Panagiota Tzamourani of the Bundesbank finds that within the euro area, average unhedged interest exposure varies a lot between countries, seemingly in line with the prevalence of floating-rate mortgages. But Ms Tzamourani also finds that younger households and those with low net wealth benefit from lower rates almost everywhere.

Good hedges make good neighbours
That seems to turn conventional wisdom on its head. Far from helping the well-heeled, the changes to financial markets induced by low rates could be hurting them, just as Keynes argued. Some might object that they do not deserve the hit: surely those who save in cash for future consumption are more responsible than those who wish to borrow and spend? Keynes would have retorted that in a world awash with capital, extra saving does not benefit society. In a slump it is harmful. In any case, if fiscal stimulus is preferred to low interest rates, taxpayers would end up with debts instead.

Monetary stimulus may not help the poor as much as deficit-financed welfare or progressive tax cuts. Structural problems in the economy, such as market power, may allow the rich to earn high returns even as rates fall. But egalitarians—and those without wealth—probably need not fear doveish central banks.

Sources

“Monetary Policy and the Redistribution Channel”, by Adrien Auclert, American Economic Review, June 2019
“The interest rate exposure of euro area households”, by Panagiota Tzamourani, Deutsche Bundesbank Discussion Paper, January 2019

This article appeared in the Finance and economics section of the print edition under the headline"Keynes and gains"

赞助博客

2016~2020 年经济学人合集 ( PDF+EPUB+MOBI )
赞助合集
经济学人 2020 年音频赞助版
赞助音频

  • Efay: 爱了,期待持续更新!
  • jessica: 感谢!这里是宝藏!站主辛苦了!@(彩虹)
  • leilei: 太好了,以后就来这里啦
  • 555: 我的404页面搞了半天都没生效 要吐了 我的那个文件里面没有那行代码
  • 榨汁饮用: ❤️
添加新留言