What saves the euro will kill the union

27 juni, 2012 kl. 23:14 | Publicerat i Economics | Kommentarer inaktiverade för What saves the euro will kill the union

A better, bolder and, until now, almost inconceivable solution is for Germany to reintroduce the mark, which would cause the euro to immediately decline in value. Such a devaluation would give troubled economies, especially those of Greece, Italy and Spain, the financial flexibility they need to stabilize themselves.

Although repeated currency devaluations are not the path to prosperity, a weaker euro would give a boost in competitiveness to all members of the monetary union, including France and the Netherlands, which is why they might very well choose to remain in it even if Germany were to gradually leave. A resurgence of manufacturing would also allow the vast unemployment rolls of Spain, Portugal, Greece and other countries to begin to decline. The tremendous loss of human capital and human dignity we are witnessing would ease.

Reintroducing the mark would not solve the debt burdens of southern European countries, but it would give them needed breathing room to restructure their economies, reform labor markets, collect more taxes and reassure investors. The ability of the southern European countries to service their sovereign debt would immediately improve, helping to end the slow-burning debt and banking crises that have engulfed the Continent since 2008.

A weaker euro would also encourage greater foreign investment. For example, Spain’s distressed real estate market would become far more attractive. Rising capital flows would also assuage investors worried about the unrealized losses on property loans held by Spanish banks.

Unlike Greece — whose exit from the euro would require either a redenomination or outright repudiation of its euro-denominated debts (with potentially catastrophic financial consequences) — Germany would be able to reintroduce the mark without altering the form of any current asset, liability or contract. For example, euros deposited in German banks would remain euro-denominated. So would outstanding German sovereign and corporate debt now denominated in euros.

While most observers, including German policy makers, believe Germany will do what is necessary to save the euro, it is more important to save the European Union, which is older, larger and more significant than the euro zone. Continuing on the current trajectory will most likely entail more bailouts, more guarantees and ultimately dramatic sovereign defaults or enormous fiscal transfers. That would mean a continued loss of human capital and dignity for southern Europe and a nightmare of an open-ended commitment of trillions of euros on the part of Germany.

Kenneth C. Griffin  & Anil K. Kashyap

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