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Meine Welt von morgen: Kevin O’Rourke

22. Juni 2009

Was kommt nach der Krise? Die FTD fragt prominente Ökonomen. Heute: Kevin O’Rourke, Professor am Trinity College in Dublin. Der irische Ökonom zählt zu den profiliertesten Wirtschaftshistorikern Europas. Im WirtschaftsWunder finden Sie alle Antworten in Original-Länge und -Sprache.



* Has the time of the United States as the world’s leading economic power come to an end? 

No. The United States (and Europe) will decline in relative terms as emerging economies continue to converge on the leaders, but in absolute terms the US will remain the leading economic power for some time.

* In 2020, will China be the world’s economic superpower, or will it have collapsed just like Japan and other former would-be economic powers of the world?

The US will still be the world’s economic superpower in 2020, and for longer than that if your definition of ‘superpower’ includes being at the world technological frontier. As regards China, it should remain capable of substantial growth for some time to come as it transfers labour from low productivity agriculture to higher productivity manufacturing and services, accumulates capital, and imports modern technology. The extent to which that happens depends however on a number of unpredictable factors: the length of the current depression, the future of international trade, and the political stability of China itself.

* What economic policy strategy would you recommend to the new US president Obama?

Like many other political leaders, he needs to be much more decisive in dealing with the banking system than he has been to date. On the other hand, his instinct that dealing with falling aggregate demand requires a coordinated international macroeconomic stimulus seems right to me. One danger we now face is that individual countries’ stimuli will fall short of the mark, since there is only so much that individual countries can do on their own to prop up world aggregate demand; that individual countries will therefore run out of ‘fiscal room’, as the IMF calls it, without having solved the world aggregate demand problem; and that protectionist pressures will consequently rise along with dole queues. Another danger is that not dealing properly with the banking crisis will lead to years if not decades of stagnation.

* What is the most radical change in our global economic system that you would like to see?

There is something perverse about a system geared to consumer wants in the West which are so ephemeral that once a crisis hits, they can be jettisoned with such ease (which is one reason why the downturn is so steep) – while incredibly fundamental individual needs in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere, and environmental needs everywhere, remain unmet.

* What sort of major step would most likely prevent the most disastrous effects of global warming?

We obviously need major investments in alternative energy sources and new transportation technologies. A depression would seem like a good time to start investing. Heavy carbon taxes will also eventually be part of the solution.

* Would it be better to regulate capital markets as heavily as before 1980 again?

We need capital to flow from rich to poor countries, but that is of course not the direction in which capital has been flowing, net, in the recent past. As for the two-way capital flows that were supposed to diversify away risk, it seems safe to say that their benefits have been oversold. I think it is very important to keep commodity trade reasonably open, for political as well as economic reasons, but I am much more agnostic about capital flows. If controls help countries to stabilise their economies at a time of crisis, then let them be introduced.

* Will globalisation suffer a major setback in the next few years?

That depends on the actions of policy makers. In the worst case scenario, a prolonged slump and rising unemployment could indeed make it difficult for governments to resist protectionist demands. In the best case scenario, successful international cooperation to deal with the crisis could strengthen our multilateral institutions, in particular making them more representative of the world as a whole. There are also a range of intermediate scenarios with correspondingly uncertain implications. The policies chosen by politicians matter.

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