经济学人翻译|Will inflation return?通货膨胀会卷土重来么?

Low inflation underpins today’s economic policies. Governments should prepare in case it doesn’t last.

低通胀是当前经济政策的基础。各国政府需要提前做准备,以防万一。

Economists love to disagree, but almost all of them will tel you that inflation is dead . The premise of low inflation is baked into economic policies and financial markets. It is why central banks can cut interest rates to around zero and buy up mountains of government bonds. It explains how governments have been able to go on an epic spending and borrowing binge in order to save the economy from the ravages of the pandemic— and why rich-world public debt of 125% of gdp barely raises an eyebrow. The search for yield has propelled the s&p 500 index of shares to new highs even as the number of Americans in hospital with covid-19 has surpassed 100,000. The only way to justify such a blistering-hot stockmarket is if you expect a strong but inflationless economic rebound in 2021 and beyond.

经济学家们喜欢提出反对意见,但他们几乎全部都会告诉你,通货膨胀已经终结。低通胀的假设已经被纳入经济政策和金融市场。这就是各国央行能够将利率降至0左右,并且大量购买政府债券的原因。这就解释了政府为何能进行史无前例的大规模支出和借贷,以此拯救被新冠破坏的经济——以及为何发达国家的公共债务达到了GDP的 125% 却几乎没有引起人们的注意。尽管美国因新冠住院的人数已超过了10万人,逐利行为却将标普 500 指数推向了新高。证明股市如此火爆的唯一原因,就是你是否对2021年及以后会出现强劲但无通胀的反弹抱有期待。

Yet as we explain this week (see Briefing), an increasingly vocal band of dissenters thinks that the world could emerge from the pandemic into an era of higher inflation. Their arguments are hardly overwhelming, but neither are they empty. Even a small probability of having to deal with a surge in inflation is worrying, because the stock of debt is so large and central-bank balance-sheets are swollen. Rather than ignore the risk, governments should take action now to insure themselves against it.

然而,正如我们本周所解释的那样,越来越多的人们持不同意见,他们认为全球能够从新冠疫情中走出,并会进入一个更高通胀时代。他们的言论并非势不可挡,但也不是危言耸听。即便是有很小的几率必须应付类似的通胀也是很让人担忧的,因为债务存量太大了,并且央行负债表是膨胀的。政府不应当忽视这一风险,而应该立即采取行动,以确保自己能够应付。

In the decades since Margaret Thatcher warned of a vicious cycle of prices and wages that threatened to “destroy” society, the rich world has come to take low inflation for granted. Before the pandemic even an ultratight jobs market could not jolt prices upwards, and now armies of people are unemployed. Many economists think the West, and especially the euro zone, is heading the way of Japan, which fell into deflation in the 1990s and has since struggled to lift price rises far above zero.

自从 Margaret Thatcher 警告剧烈的价格和工资波动会摧毁社会,几十年来,发达国家已经开始将低通胀当作理所当然。在疫情之前,即便是一个极好的就业环境,也无法推动价格上涨。现在,大批的人们已经失业了。许多经济学家认为,西方国家,尤其是欧元区,正在步日本的后尘——日本在上世纪九十年代陷入通缩,此后一直难以将物价涨幅提升到远超过 0 的程度。

Predicting the end of this trend is a kind of apostasy. After the financial crisis some hawks warned that bond buying by central banks (known as quantitative easing, or qe) would reignite inflation. They ended up looking silly.

预测这一趋势的终结,是一种出尔反尔。在金融危机后,一些鹰派人士警告说,央行收购债券,将重新引发通货膨胀。他们最终被打脸。

Today the inflationistas’ arguments are stronger. One risk is of a temporary burst of inflation next year. In contrast to the period after the financial crisis, broad measures of the rich-world money supply have shot up in 2020, because banks have been lending freely. Stuck at home, people have been unable to spend all their money and their bank-balances have swelled. But once they are vaccinated and liberated from the tyranny of Zoom, exuberant consumers may go on a spending spree that outpaces the ability of firms to restore and expand their capacity, causing prices to rise. The global economy already shows signs of suffering from ottlenecks. The price of copper, for example, is 25% higher than at the start of 2020.

如今,通胀论者的论据更有力了。 一种风险是,明年通胀会暂时性爆发。 与金融危机后的时期相比,因为各大银行持续自由放贷,发达国家在2020年的货币供应量的泛指标大幅上升。因为被困在了家里,人们无法花光所有的钱,银行余额也出现的膨胀。但是一旦他们接种了疫苗,并从 Zoom 的折磨中逃脱,兴奋的消费者们可能会继续疯狂消费,其速度可能会超过工厂的恢复和增产,并引起价格上涨。全球经济已经暴露出相关迹象。例如,铜的价格已经比2020年初增长了25%。

The world should be able to manage such a temporary burst of inflation. But the second inflationista argument is that more persistent price pressures will also emerge, as structural disinflationary forces go into reverse. In the West and in Asia many societies are ageing, creating shortages of workers. For years globalisation lowered inflation by creating a more efficient market for goods and labour. Now globalisation is in retreat.

世界应当能够控制住这种暂时的通胀爆发。但是,第二种主张通胀的言论认为,随着结构性反通胀力量的逆转,更持久的价格压力也将会出现。在西方和亚洲,许多社会正在老龄化,这造成了劳动力的短缺。多年来,全球化通过为商品和劳动力创造一个更高效的市场,来降低了通货膨胀。如今,全球化正在退却。

Dialogue

A: Wow , that was one of the best steaks I’ve had in a while.

B: Oh , yeah ? It looked delectable. Shall we get the bill ?

A: Sure, but I don’t know how much to tip, it’s such a headache.

B: Well , acceptable gratuity(小费) at sit-down restaurants has increased a lot , so now it’s basically fifteen to twenty percent.

A: So , if I liked my meal , I should tip more?

B: Not just the meal , but the experience in general . Judging by your meal and the good service, I’d say eighteen percent would be good.

A: That’s such a big chunk of the menu price. Servers must make a killing on tips.

B: Well, it’s a big proportion of their income , but they don’t get benefits and their wages alone aren’t enough to make ends meet. Tipping supplements their wage so they can make a living.

A: Got it . Where else do I need to tip?

B: If someone performs a service, like a taxi drivers or hair stylists do , it’s best to tip. Or if your barista goes out of their way to make a fancy drink , you can give a little tip ,too.

A: Ah ok . It’s such a complicated system.

B: It’s not really a system , just an outdated tradition.

A: I see. Oh, our server’s coming with the machine.

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