31 MAY 2011
As a doomsayer from the start, who has written several times on the subject, I have recently been reluctant to burden my readers with more jeremiads about the euro.
By Roger Bootle | The Telegraph
But fasten your seatbelts. Here I go again. My excuse is that this crisis keeps surprising the unwary. There is so much to say that I will have to have several bites.
Before we can find solutions, which I will discuss at a later date, first the causes. Why is the euro in crisis? Because it was fundamentally flawed at its inception. Only good luck, strong economic growth and enlightened economic management could keep it together. In fact, the eurozone has had to suffer the opposite of all three.
Giving up sovereign currencies is a serious challenge. Exchange rates act as a safety valve. When you remove them, the pressure either has to be reduced or it will find some other way out. In a fixed exchange rate system, such as the ERM, currency speculation could and did break the system. Advocates of the euro project drew comfort from the fact that, by contrast, a full monetary union is immune from such attacks.
It was recognised that economic and financial pressure might still find an outlet as countries which diverged from the core had to face higher bond yields. But this would be a good thing. The prospect of it should serve to restrain them. It wasn’t imagined, though, that strain in the bond markets could threaten the stability of the euro itself.
Four things went wrong. The first two were private sector failures. First, far from reacting to their newly shackled state, Spain and Ireland went on a private sector spending spree. (Meanwhile, in Greece the government led the bonanza.) Second, in all these cases, the bond markets were hopeless at foreseeing possible difficulties and imposed bond yields only marginally higher than on Germany. Accordingly, they provided no restraint at all.
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