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30 de set. de 2008

La crisis: el debate académico Por Silvio Rendon

La era de los blogs ha permitido sacar parte del debate de cuchicheo de pasillo de las universidades al público en general. Los académicos por su parte tampoco requieren acabar de escribirse todo el paper para adelantar algunas intuiciones al gran público, que pide algún tipo de orientación. Aquí van algunos links y fragmentos, varios del blog de Greg Mankiw que ha seguido el debate de cerca.

Una defensa del Plan de Paulson aquí, La teoría del plan de rescate y Varios comentarios sobre la crisis financiera.

Sin embargo, la cosa se calienta con este Pronunciamiento de varios economistas:
To the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate:

As economists, we want to express to Congress our great concern for the plan proposed by Treasury Secretary Paulson to deal with the financial crisis. We are well aware of the difficulty of the current financial situation and we agree with the need for bold action to ensure that the financial system continues to function. We see three fatal pitfalls in the currently proposed plan:

1) Its fairness. The plan is a subsidy to investors at taxpayers’ expense. Investors who took risks to earn profits must also bear the losses. Not every business failure carries systemic risk. The government can ensure a well-functioning financial industry, able to make new loans to creditworthy borrowers, without bailing out particular investors and institutions whose choices proved unwise.

2) Its ambiguity. Neither the mission of the new agency nor its oversight are clear. If taxpayers are to buy illiquid and opaque assets from troubled sellers, the terms, occasions, and methods of such purchases must be crystal clear ahead of time and carefully monitored afterwards.

3) Its long-term effects. If the plan is enacted, its effects will be with us for a generation. For all their recent troubles, America's dynamic and innovative private capital markets have brought the nation unparalleled prosperity. Fundamentally weakening those markets in order to calm short-run disruptions is desperately short-sighted.

For these reasons we ask Congress not to rush, to hold appropriate hearings, and to carefully consider the right course of action, and to wisely determine the future of the financial industry and the U.S. economy for years to come.
Siguen firmas de prominentes colegas, incluyendo a dos compatriotas..

El asunto entra con todo a los pasillos. En los blogs sólo distingo esta Crítica al comunicado de los economistas (de un profesor que todavía no tiene tenure y prefiere seguir en el anonimato):
Let me preface this by saying that my personal view is that Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson are very, very smart people who have better information than anyone who signed that letter, and that questioning their view to the point where it is used by senators to justify inaction is reckless at best--and ideologically driven white-anting at worst.

But I digress. A LOT of payrolls get paid at the end of the month. The next for many companies is September 30. Three different people with hugely relevant knowledge said to me today words to the effect of: "Why don't your economist buddies want [insert fortune 100 company/companies here] to be able to pay their employees on Tuesday. If Washington doesn't do something now, they won't be able to". That just scared the hell out of me. I can go into more details if you like, but all of them involve the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
Bob Shimer responde, aquí, defendiendo el comunicado de los economistas, incidiendo en el riesgo moral y la valoración de los activos ilíquidos, que será un subsidio. Y con este argumento más, no dicho por otros/as:
In closing, let me mention one other issue that I take very seriously. I recognize that this might not matter much to my Congressman, but in my view it may be the most important issue for global welfare. The U.S. has long been a beacon of free markets. When economic conditions turn sour in Argentina or Indonesia, we give very clear instructions on what to do: balance the budget, cut government employment, maintain free trade and the rule of law, and do not prop up failing enterprises. Opponents of free markets argue that this advice benefits international financiers, not the domestic market. I have always believed (at least since I began to understand economics) that the U.S. approach was correct. But when the U.S. ignores its own advice in this situation, it reduces the credibility of this stance. Rewriting the rules of the game at this stage will therefore have serious ramifications not only for people in this country but for the future of global capitalism. The social cost of that is far, far greater than $700 billion.
Casey Mulligan, aquí, contra el plan
Of course, six percent of the workforce is bigger than zero, so a Wall Street mess has indirect effects on the non-financial sector as it absorbs former Wall Street employees and finds alternatives to the financial services Wall Street once provided. But, as long as the government does not get in the way, the marketplace will quickly react to provide the non-financial sector with financial services, even if the main players in that marketplace are no longer named Lehman, Merrill, or Goldman. There are two basic obstacles that Washington might create in this process, both of which are included in the Bernanke-Paulson-Bush proposal. One is to pile on regulation and further impede entry by new firms that might provide financial services to the non-financial sector in the years ahead. The second is to impose a heavy tax burden on the non-financial sector to pay for Wall Street subsidies. The Treasury and the Fed should let Wall Street drown alone, to be replaced by new financial service providers who can swim as robustly as are non-financial American businesses.
Comentario:Bueno, ante todo el email con el pronunciamiento de los/as colegas, muchos de ellos muy cercanos/as, llegó también por email y esta fue mi respuesta interna que ahora comparto con los/as lectores/as:
> I think that our colleagues contradict themselves. How can
> there be bold (and timely) action and at the same time ask
> Congress not to "rush"? Last week financial markets were
> collapsing. Unless they propose an alternative, I just see
> their criticism as valid concerns, that have to be
> addressed, but by no means should stop the Fed's
> intervention.
>
> About the points: 1. the plan is not really a subsidy;
> taxpayers can still make some money out of this, if asset
> prices recover; 2. illiquid assests' prices may be opaque,
> but that does not mean that the plan is ambiguous; 3. those
> "innovative capital markets" were going down; inaction may
> have just make things worse for everybody.
>
> I hope that our colleagues give us some hints about a better
> course of action. Congresspeople certainly won't do that.
Esto fue el jueves de la semana pasada. Y dicho y hecho, hasta el momento los congresistas americanos se van perdiendo en rencillas partidarias, totalmente espúreas. Y como comentaba en Dejar caer, dejar pasar cuando pase esta crisis, será muy interesante lo que se pueda investigar. Incluso se puede decir que sería interesante desde un punto de vista científico ver qué pasa si no hay intervención. Sólo que eso sería un "mega-experimiento natural" con la economía en serio. Es justamente lo que no se debe hacer.

En esta coyuntura toca aplicar lo que sabemos sobre systemic risk. Si vamos a utilizar la "caja de herramientas", deberíamos comenzar por esta herramienta. Luego ya vendrían la "destrucción creadora", el "riesgo moral", las "subastas de activos ilíquidos", y la "innovación financiera", etc. Ya se sabe que sin mercados no hay precios, y que una intervención consistente en comprar activos opera en la oscuridad. El tema es que el costo de la inacción es muy alto y difícil de estimar, ver aquí. El de la acción también, pero esa es motivo de una decisión y se puede saber cuánto es. En algún momento no faltará quien proponga un modelo para analizar cuán cerca del óptimo está el plan de rescate de Paulson-Bernanke. Mientras tanto, algo se tiene que hacer.

Pensando en retrospectiva, la cifra de 700 billones (700mil millones en castellano), fue parte del enfoque duro [bold approach] y como tal el punto de partida de un proceso político. Solo el anunció de esa cifra, mejoró los mercados. Claro, el impase del congreso de ayer fue un baldazo de agua fría, pero esa es la primera votación. Faltan más iteraciones, de votación y de esquemas de intervención, hasta que algo salga.

P.S. Algo que nos compete directamente. Carlos Slim, el millonario mexicano, se ha portado con una frasecita: "en los países desarrollados la crisis la pagan los ahorradores y en los países en desarrollo los consumidores" aquí (pase de NQ).

Actualización Freakonomics sobre el fracaso de los economistas en explicar la crisis financiera aquí.

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