Euro Psychoanalysis

Joe Wiesenthal does some interesting analysis on Greece:

In a post last night, economist Tyler Cowen asked: “Is the goal simply to irritate the Greeks so much that they leave the Eurozone on their own?”

Here’s what might be going on.

Sometimes in life you give someone a “shot” at something that maybe they don’t deserve. You hire them, despite the fact that their qualifications were marginal. Or something like that. Bottom line is, you think you’re doing them a favor, and you’re also putting your reputation on the line a little bit. But you expect that they’ll step up and really appreciate the opportunity they have. And you expect they’ll kill it.

And when they fail — which is likely, because they might not have deserved the opportunity — you’re furious at them, because you gave them this great opportunity and they totally blew it, and they made you look like an idiot at the same time. And you just hate them for it.

And that’s what’s going on now. Europe feels like it gave Greece a “shot” with Euro membership, and multiple bailouts. And now it looks to Greece, and sees people rioting, and the reforms not happening, and they’re furious like never before. Merkel, Schaeuble, and the rest just can’t fathom that Greece was given this great shot to be a rich, wealthy European nation and it’s totally blowing it.

Well, if that’s so, Europe never really understood the creature it was creating. For all the talk of the supposed various benefits of the Euro — lower inflation, integrated markets, and so forth— its one huge dilemma — that nations were now budgeting in a currency they didn’t control, and so could not just monetise debt — was always brushed aside. Of course, policymakers were aware of some of the problems, at least in an abstract sense.

As Romano Prodi put it in 2001:

I am sure the Euro will oblige us to introduce a new set of economic policy instruments. It is politically impossible to propose that now. But some day there will be a crisis and new instruments will be created.

I suppose what was never understood was that the problems might grow and multiply to the extent that they would pose a threat to global economic stability before such “policy instruments” were created.

I suppose the moral of the story is that it is dangerous to create systems with inherent problems, and assume that the solutions to these problems will naturally emerge later at a time of “crisis”.

And certainly, there does seem to be a sense of punishing Greece for their fiscal misdeeds (even though Germany themselves were the first nation to violate the Eurozone’s deficit rules).

From the BBC:

Some eurozone countries no longer want Greece in the bloc, Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos has said.

He accused the states of “playing with fire”, as Greece scrambled to finalise an austerity plan demanded by the EU and IMF in return for a huge bailout.

Simply, if Europe wants to maintain the global status quo, the ECB needs to crank up the printing press, and fast, to pump huge liquidity into the system. Of course, this creates huge problems down the road, as exemplified by Japan.

If not, they had better be ready for huge changes to the global financial order. Personally, I believe that the global financial system is fundamentally broken, and that printing more money, kicking the can down the road and hoping for the best will just lead to a worse and bigger breakdown down the line. I favour liquidation. But policymakers can be very reactionary.


The Guacamole Hits the Fan: “Ten Days to Save the Euro”

From the Guardian:

9.18am: Just in case anyone was in doubt about the situation today, EU monetary effairs commissioner Olli Rehn has warned that Europe has just 10 days to “complete and conclude” its crisis response.

The markets for the last six months (and longer) have been crying out for the ECB to go postal, print a tsunami of new paper, buy every troubled asset going, and (ahem) “save the world”.

Stern teutonic monetarism has won the day.

Either that, or Eurocrats see this as a fantastic opportunity to consolidate the Eurozone into a full blown fiscal union:

Now it’s the turn of Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Council, to sound the alarm. He just told a conference of EU ambassadors that Europe is trapped in a “systemic…full-blown confidence crisis.” Some may blame it on the irrationality of the market. But it’s a fact and we need to confront it.” What’s the solution? Van Rompuy argued that Europe must swallow closer fiscal union (as Germany, for example, has long demanded): “We need a significant step forward towards a real economic union commensurate with our monetary union.”

Don’t these people understand that such measures always come with massive unforeseen consequences? Here’s a rule of thumb any idiot can use: more centralisation means more systemic fragility. Proponents of any such centralisation have to weigh the benefits against the fragility, because when the black swans begin to flock excessive fragility tends to mean collapse.