"CRISES feed uncertainty. And uncertainty affects behaviour, which feeds the crisis. Were a magic wand to remove uncertainty, the next few quarters would still be tough (some of the damage cannot be undone), but the crisis would largely go away".
Olivier Blanchard à propos de la situation économique actuelle. La thèse de Blanchard est que c’est l’incertitude radicale sur l’avenir qui rend les acteurs économiques excessivement averses au risque et les poussent à reporter dans le temps consommation et surtout investissement :
" It affects portfolio decisions. It has led to a dramatic shift away from risky assets to riskless assets, or at least assets perceived as riskless. It sometimes looks as if investors around the world only want to hold American Treasury bills. Why? At the start was the realisation that many of the new complex assets were in fact much riskier than they had seemed. This realisation has now morphed into a general worry about nearly all risky assets, and about the balance-sheets of the institutions that hold them. “Better safe than sorry” is the motto. Unfortunately, while the motto may make sense for individual investors, it is having catastrophic macroeconomic consequences for the world. It is triggering enormous spreads on risky assets, a credit crunch in advanced economies, and major capital outflows from emerging countries.
It affects consumption and investment decisions, and is largely behind the dramatic collapse in demand we have observed over the last three months. Sure, consumers have lost a good part of their wealth, and this is reason enough for them to retrench. But there is more at work. If you think that another Depression might be around the corner, better to be careful and save more. Better to wait and see how things turn out. Buying a new house, a new car or a new laptop can surely be delayed a few months. The same goes for firms: given the uncertainty, why build a new plant or introduce a new product now? Better to pause until the smoke clears. This is perfectly understandable behaviour on the part of consumers and firms—but behaviour which has led to a collapse of demand, a collapse of output and the deep recession we are now in".
Le constat fait relativement consensus. Les préconisations de Blanchard (s’articulant autour d’un plan de relance massive) déjà moins, si l’on en croit les commentaires développés par plusieurs économistes sur Free Exchange. Les analyses de Tyler Cowen et Alberto Alesino me semblent assez pertinentes. Comme le dit Cowen, si effectivement tout le problème relève de l’incertitude et d’un manque de confiance, un plan de relance "placebo" n’a aucune raison de faire moins bien qu’un plan de relance massif et couteux. Au final, Blanchard semble défendre une position keynésienne standard à la Krugman, peut être trop caricaturale pour être totalement convaincante.