I sidste uge kunne man i Wall Street Journal læse noget så forunderligt som en relativt ny e-mail fra den nysafdøde Nobelprisvinder i økonomi, Milton Friedman (1912-2006) (omfangsrigt omtalt her på stedet, både her og her). Konkret drejede det sig om et e-mail interview i forbindelse med en artikel i avisen sidste sommer. Interviewet var som altid interessant, og der er nok et svar eller to, der vil kunne få stort set enhver til at blive overrasket mindst én gang. Her er et længere uddrag:
Are you still a strong supporter of flexible exchange rates, even for developing countries?
Friedman: Yes. Economic forces affecting different countries are not always the same. The right exchange rate for a country in general may be one thing one time and another thing another time. A country that pegs the exchange rate is essentially committing itself to adopt the economic policies of the country whose currency it is pegged to. If it does that by pegging the exchange rate, it will always be under pressure as circumstances change to take advantage of the pegged exchange rate when they can and get into a position which is untenable.
The case of Argentina is the most dramatic and clearest case about that. Either a country should explicitly become part of the economic system of another country, as it could by dollarizing its currency as Panama has done, or else it seems to me it is best off by allowing the market to determine the value of its currency and in that way adjust to changes in the relative economic pressures on different countries. But flexible exchange rates are not a panacea for all evils. Governments can follow bad economic policies with either flexible or fixed exchange rates.
Do tax cuts pay for themselves?
Friedman: Occasionally. But revenue loss is almost always less than static prediction.
Do you have any favorite candidates for president in 2008?
Is inflation-targeting the right medicine for monetary policy? If so, how would you do it?
Friedman: It is a good medicine with the present institutions. And recent experience suggests that it is doable. Targeting central banks have been able to hit their targets. Basic way to do it is to keep quantity of money growing at a rate equal to target plus trend rate of real growth. Full discussion beyond the scope of email.
What is the biggest risk to the world economy: America's deficits? Energy insecurity? Environment? Terrorism? None of the above?
Friedman: Islamofascism, with terrorism as its weapon.
What are your thoughts on the low U.S. savings rate?
Friedman: The right saving rate is whatever satisfies the tastes and preferences of the public in a free and unbiased capital market. Market can adjust to any rate. This is a very complicated question. Present estimates probably understate actual savings because of treatment of capital gains. In any event, the present situation does not raise any problems for the economy.
India–how do you assess its prospects?
Friedman: Fifty years ago, as a consultant to the Indian minister of finance, I wrote a memo in which I said that India had a great potential but was stagnating because of collectivist economic policies. India has finally started to disband those collectivist policies and is reaping its reward. If they can continue dismantling the collectivist policies, their prospects are very bright.
Any thoughts on a China versus India comparison?
Friedman: Yes. Note the contrast. China has maintained political and human collectivism while gradually freeing the economic market. This has so far been very successful but is heading for a clash, since economic freedom and political collectivism are not compatible. India maintained political democracy while running a collectivist economy. It is now unwinding the latter, which will strengthen freedom of all kinds, so in that respect it is in a better position than China.