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Ruptures et continuités dans l'orientation des politiques macroéconomiques des pays de l'OCDE

Abstract : Change and Continuity in the Orientation of OECD Countries' Macroeconomic Policies Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Jacques Le Cacheux The current world economic situation is obviously the inheritance of the various shocks and structural changes that occurred over the past fifteen years. However, whereas these shocks had had similar consequences on the major OECD countries until the end of the seventies, they seem to have been followed by very diverse evolutions since then. Especially when compared with the United States, Europe is experiencing slow growth, together with negative net job creation, having opted for orthodox financial policies and seemingly over-indulging in disinflation. One is then led to ask the following question : May it be that, on top of the various « external » disturbances that adversely affected employment in European countries, an internal event — some institutional change — happened, which would make the current situation the result of choice ? According to this hypothesis, slow growth, stagnating productive investment, and high unemployment in Europe in the eighties would result partly from a change in policy-makers' preferences : not only have disinflation and external balance become priorities, but policies, facts and rhetoric converge to show that employment and economic growth can no longer be considered as objectives for macroeconomic policy-making. This paper tries to substantiate this hypothesis by putting recent developments into historical perspective, and by confronting governments' discourse on economic policy objectives with actually implemented policies, with changing economic doctrines, and with the actual performances of the various economies. When looking at the past twenty-five years, two major impressions emerge : that of continuity, for the most part, in Japan and the United States ; that of a break, radical in some respects, in Europe at the turn of the decade. One may hold the view that the choices were constrained, and that European governments did their best to master the consequences of events on which they actually had no influence. However, such statements do not survive a detailed examination of the policy environment during this period. During the last three years, external circumstances — the fall of the dollar and of oil prices, the US authorities' willingness to encourage an interest rate decline — have considerably widened the margin of manœuver of European economic policies. Yet, these policies have not been altered ! Restrictive policies no longer seem to be temporary, as in the past ; they are becoming permanent. In particular, the EMS functions as a means of producing disinflation, but also as a repressor of growth. Current account surpluses in Europe and deficits in the United States are partly the outcome of too slow growth in Europe. It now seems that, under the pressure of the recent financial disturbances, governments are contemplating a change in economic policy.
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Jean-Paul Fitoussi, Jacques Le Cacheux. Ruptures et continuités dans l'orientation des politiques macroéconomiques des pays de l'OCDE. Revue de l'OFCE, Presses de Sciences Po, 1988, pp.131 - 164. ⟨10.3406/ofce.1988.1124⟩. ⟨hal-03393285⟩



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