サミュエルソンが亡くなった。半年ほど前に彼のThe Atlanticでのインタビューを紹介したが、そのインタビューで今回の経済危機について触れた部分を改めて紹介したい。

I have a couple of questions about the current debate. Do you think large fiscal stimulus should be controversial? And would you like to see more of it? Would you like to see a second or third stimulus, depending on where you start counting?

Well, in the first place, the E. Carey Brown analysis stressed that one shot spending gives you only one-shot response. It's gotta be sustained. The way we got out of the 1929 Great Depression in the US -- and this happened not only in the US but also in Germany and each place in which there was almost a third unemployed --- was heavy deficit spending. It was not clever Federal Reserve policy, because early on the Federal Reserve had shot its bolt when we came near to liquidity trap.

I'll speak from some experiences. My father in law was president of a national bank in Vernon, Wisconsin, population 4,100 as of the last Census. His was the only bank in the first week after Roosevelt's bank holiday that was allowed to reopen. Why? Well, he knew every borrower and he knew better than they did what they could afford and what they couldn't afford. And so he came into the situation with a clean balance sheet.

You think 'Great, because we preserve the monetary supply in the system, right?' Not great. Because the average person did not go out spending and lending freely. He bought treasury bills for as little as half a percent per annum. So the system was frozen without these supplementary expenditures, where the WPA competed with the PWA and with the reconstruction finance corporation. For really depressed situations, unorthodox central banking is needed.

We're almost getting there. In one of Greg Mankiw's articles, he said that maybe when the interest rate gets down to zero and it's threatening to be negative, you should give a subsidy with it. Well, that's what fiscal policy is!

By the way, I don't want you to think that I think that everything for the next 15 years will be cozy. I think it's almost inevitable that, with a billion people in China wide awake for the first time, and a billion people in India, there's going to be some kind of a terrible run against the dollar. And I doubt it can stay orderly, because all of our own hedge funds will be right in the vanguard of the operation. And it will be hard to imagine that that wouldn't create different kind of meltdown.

Last thing. Mea culpa, mea culpa. MIT and Wharton and University of Chicago created the financial engineering instruments, which, like Samson and Delilah, blinded every CEO -- they didn't realize the kind of leverage they were doing and they didn't understand when they were really creating a real profit or a fictitious one. There 's a lot of causality in economics, even though it's very far from an exact science.

An Interview With Paul Samuelson, Part Two - The Atlantic

現在の経済論争について幾つか質問したいと思います。巨額の財政刺激策は論議の的になって然るべきと思われますか? また、そうした刺激策はもっと実施されるべきとお考えですか? 2番目、ないし数え方によっては3番目の刺激策が実施されるべきと思われますか?

まあ、まず第一に、E. Carey Brown*1の研究では、一回きりの支出は一回きりの反応しか生まないということが強調されている。継続が必要なのだ。1929年の大恐慌から米国が脱出できたのは――米国だけでなくドイツや、3分の1近くが失業していたすべての国でそうだったのだが――大きな財政赤字による支出のおかげだった。それはFRBの賢明な金融政策のおかげではなかった。というのは、流動性の罠に近い状態に陥った初期の段階で、FRBは力を使い果たしていたからだ。

個人的に身近なエピソードについて話してみよう。私の義父はウィスコンシン州ヴァーノンのある国法銀行の頭取だった。直近の国勢調査では人口が4,100人だったところだ。ルーズベルトのバンク・ホリデーの後の最初の週で、彼の銀行だけが営業の再開を許可された。なぜか? 彼はすべての借り手を知っており、彼ら自身よりも、各々の支払い可能状況、もしくは不可能状況を把握していたからだ。というわけで、彼は綺麗なバランスシートで営業を再開した。