Publications on Eurozone
German Economic Dominance within the Eurozone and Minsky’s Proposal for a Shared Burden between the Hegemon and Core Economic Powers
Working Paper No. 913 | August 2018There is no disputing Germany’s dominant economic role within the eurozone (EZ) and the broader European Union. Economic leadership, however, entails responsibilities, especially in a world system of monetary production economies that compete with each other according to political and economic interests. In the first section of this paper, historical context is given to the United States’ undisputed leadership of monetary production economies following the end of World War II to help frame the broader discussion developed in the second section on the requirements of the leading nation-state in the new system of states after the war. The second section goes on further to discuss how certain constraints regarding the external balance do not apply to the leader of the monetary production economies. The third section looks at Hyman P. Minsky’s proposal for a shared burden between the hegemon and other core industrial economies in maintaining the stability of the international financial system. Section four looks at Germany’s leadership role within the EZ and how it must emulate some of the United States’ trade policies in order to make the EZ a viable economic bloc. The break up scenario is considered in the fifth section. The last section summarizes and concludes.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Ignacio Ramirez Cisneros
One-Pager No. 56 | June 2018The European Commission's proposal for the regulation of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBSs) follows the release of a high-level taskforce report, sponsored by the European Systemic Risk Board, on the feasibility of an SBBS framework. The proposal and the SBBS scheme, Mario Tonveronachi argues, would fail to yield the intended results while undermining financial stability.
Tonveronachi articulates his alternative, centered on the European Central Bank's issuance of debt certificates along the maturity spectrum to create a common yield curve and corresponding absorption of a share of each eurozone country’s national debts. Alongside these financial operations, new reflationary but debt-reducing fiscal rules would be imposed.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Mario Tonveronachi
Public Policy Brief No. 145, 2018 | June 2018
An Assessment and an Alternative ProposalIn response to a proposal put forward by the European Commission for the regulation of sovereign bond-backed securities (SBBSs), Mario Tonveronachi provides his analysis of the SBBS scheme and attendant regulatory proposal, and elaborates on an alternative approach to addressing the problems that have motivated this high-level consideration of an SBBS framework.
As this policy brief explains, it is doubtful the SBBS proposal would produce its intended results. Tonveronachi’s alternative, discussed in Levy Institute Public Policy Briefs Nos. 137 and 140, not only better addresses the two problems targeted by the SBBS scheme, but also a third, critical defect of the current euro system: national sovereign debt sustainability.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Mario Tonveronachi
Public Policy Brief No. 144, 2017 | September 2017
A Radical Proposal Based on Keynes’s Clearing UnionIn light of the problems besetting the eurozone, this policy brief examines the contributions of John Maynard Keynes and Richard Kahn to early debates over the design of the postwar international financial system. Their critical engagement with the early policy challenges associated with managing international settlements offers a perspective from which to analyze the flaws in the current euro-based financial system, and Keynes’s clearing union proposal offers a template for a better approach. A system of regional federations employing a clearing system in which members either retained their own currency or used a common currency as a unit of account in registering debits and credits for settlement purposes would preserve domestic policy independence and retain regional diversity.
Working Paper No. 889 | May 2017
This paper investigates the determinants of nominal yields of government bonds in the eurozone. The pooled mean group (PMG) technique of cointegration is applied on both monthly and quarterly datasets to examine the major drivers of nominal yields of long-term government bonds in a set of 11 eurozone countries. Furthermore, autoregressive distributive lag (ARDL) methods are used to address the same question for individual countries. The results show that short-term interest rates are the most important determinants of long-term government bonds’ nominal yields, which supports Keynes’s (1930) view that short-term interest rates and other monetary policy measures have a decisive influence on long-term interest rates on government bonds.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Tanweer Akram Anupam Das
One-Pager No. 51 | December 2015Until market participants across the euro area face a single risk-free yield curve rather than a diverse collection of quasi-risk-free sovereign rates, financial market integration will not be complete. Unfortunately, the institution that would normally provide the requisite benchmark asset—a federal treasury issuing risk-free debt—does not exist in the euro area, and there are daunting political obstacles to creating such an institution.
There is, however, another way forward. The financial instrument that could provide the foundation for a single market already exists on the balance sheet of the European Central Bank (ECB): legally, the ECB could issue “debt certificates” (DCs) across the maturity spectrum and in sufficient amounts to create a yield curve. Moreover, reforming ECB operations along these lines may hold the key to addressing another of the euro area’s critical dysfunctions. Under current conditions, the Maastricht Treaty’s fiscal rules create a vicious cycle by contributing to a deflationary economic environment, which slows the process of debt adjustment, requiring further deflationary budget tightening. By changing national debt dynamics and thereby enabling a revision of the fiscal rules, the DC proposal could short-circuit this cycle of futility.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Mario Tonveronachi
Public Policy Brief No. 140, 2015 | November 2015
Mario Tonveronachi, University of Siena, builds on his earlier proposal (The ECB and the Single European Financial Market) to advance financial market integration in Europe through the creation of a single benchmark yield curve based on debt certificates (DCs) issued by the European Central Bank (ECB). In this policy brief, Tonveronachi discusses potential changes to the ECB’s operations and their implications for member-state fiscal rules. He argues that his DC proposal would maintain debt discipline while mitigating the restrictive, counterproductive fiscal stance required today, simultaneously expanding national fiscal space while ensuring debt sustainability under the Maastricht limits, and offering a path out of the self-defeating policy regime currently in place.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Mario Tonveronachi
Book Series, November 2015 | November 2015
Edited by Rainer Kattel, Jan Kregel, and Mario Tonveronachi
Have past and more recent regulatory changes contributed to increased financial stability in the European Union (EU), or have they improved the efficiency of individual banks and national financial systems within the EU? Edited by Rainer Kattel, Tallinn University of Technology, Director of Research Jan Kregel, and Mario Tonveronachi, University of Siena, this volume offers a comparative overview of how financial regulations have evolved in various European countries since the introduction of the single European market in 1986. The collection includes a number of country studies (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Estonia, Hungary, Slovenia) that analyze the domestic financial regulatory structure at the beginning of the period, how the EU directives have been introduced into domestic legislation, and their impact on the financial structure of the economy. Other contributions examine regulatory changes in the UK and Nordic countries, and in postcrisis America.
Published by: RoutledgeAssociated Program:
Policy Note 2015/6 | October 2015
The recapitalization of Greek banks is perhaps the most critical problem for the Greek state today. Despite direct cash infusions to Greek banks that have so far exceeded €45 billion, with corresponding guarantees of around €130 billion, credit expansion has failed to pick up. There are two obvious reasons for this failure: first, the massive exodus of deposits since 2010; and second, the continuous recession—mainly the product of strongly deflationary policies dictated by international lenders.
Following the 2012–13 recapitalization, creditors allowed the old, now minority, shareholders and incumbent management (regardless of culpability) to retain effective control of the banks—a decision that did not conform to accepted international practices. Sitting on a ticking time bomb of nonperforming loans (NPLs), Greek banks, rather than adopting the measures necessary to restructure their portfolios, cut back sharply on lending, while the country’s economy continued to shrink.
The obvious way to rehabilitate Greek banking following the new round of recapitalization scheduled for later this year is the establishment of a “bad bank” that can assume responsibility for the NPL workouts, manage the loans, and in some cases hold them to maturity and turn them around. This would allow Greek banks to make new and carefully underwritten loans, resulting in a much-needed expansion of the credit supply. Sound bank recapitalization with concurrent avoidance of any creditor bail-in could help the Greek banking sector return to financial health—and would be an effective first step in returning the country to the path of growth.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 845 | September 2015
Assessing the ECB’s Crisis Management Performance and Potential for Crisis ResolutionThis study assesses the European Central Bank’s (ECB) crisis management performance and potential for crisis resolution. The study investigates the institutional and functional constraints that delineate the ECB’s scope for policy action under crisis conditions, and how the bank has actually used its leeway since 2007—or might do so in the future. The study finds that the ECB may well stand out positively when compared to other important euro-area or national authorities involved in managing the euro crisis, but that in general the bank did “too little, too late” to prevent the euro area from slipping into recession and protracted stagnation. The study also finds that expectations regarding the ECB’s latest policy initiatives may be excessively optimistic, and that proposals featuring the central bank as the euro’s savior through even more radical employment of its balance sheet are misplaced hopes. Ultimately, the euro’s travails can only be ended and the euro crisis resolved by shifting the emphasis toward fiscal policy; specifically, by partnering the ECB with a “Euro Treasury” that would serve as a vehicle for the central funding of public investment through the issuance of common Euro Treasury debt securities.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 842 | July 2015
The Euro Treasury Plan
The euro crisis remains unresolved and the euro currency union incomplete and extraordinarily vulnerable. The euro regime’s essential flaw and ultimate source of vulnerability is the decoupling of central bank and treasury institutions in the euro currency union. We propose a “Euro Treasury” scheme to properly fix the regime and resolve the euro crisis. This scheme would establish a rudimentary fiscal union that is not a transfer union. The core idea is to create a Euro Treasury as a vehicle to pool future eurozone public investment spending and to have it funded by proper eurozone treasury securities. The Euro Treasury could fulfill a number of additional purposes while operating mainly on the basis of a strict rule. The plan would also provide a much-needed fiscal boost to recovery and foster a more benign intra-area rebalancing.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 840 | July 2015
A technical analysis shows that the doomsayers who support the euro at all costs and those who naively theorize that a single currency is the root of all evil are both wrong. A euro exit could be a way of getting back to growth, but at the same time it would entail serious risks, especially for wage earners. The most important lesson we can learn from the experience of the past is that the outcome, in terms of growth, distribution, and employment, depends on how a country remains in the euro; or, in the case of a euro exit, on the quality of the economic policies that are put in place once the country regains control of monetary and fiscal matters, rather than on abandoning the old exchange system as such. It all depends on how a country stays in the eurozone, or on how it leaves if need be.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Riccardo Realfonzo Angelantonio Viscione
Strategic Analysis, May 2015 | May 2015
The Greek economy has the potential to recover, and in this report we argue that access to alternative financing sources such as zero-coupon bonds (“Geuros”) and fiscal credit certificates could provide the impetus and liquidity needed to grow the economy and create jobs. But there are preconditions: the existing government debt must be rolled over and austerity policies put aside, restoring trust in the country’s economic future and setting the stage for sustainable income growth, which will eventually enable Greece to repay its debt.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2015/2 | February 2015
The Greek economic crisis started as a public debt crisis five years ago. However, despite austerity and a bold “haircut,” public debt is now around 175 percent of Greek GDP. In this policy note, we argue that Greece’s public debt is clearly unsustainable, and that a significant restructuring of this debt is needed in order for the Greek economy to start growing again. Insistence on maintaining the current policy stance is not justifiable on either pragmatic or moral grounds.
The experience of Germany in the early post–World War II period provides some useful insights for the way forward. In the aftermath of the war, there was a sweeping cancellation of the country’s public and foreign debt, which was part of a wider plan for the economic and political reconstruction of Germany and Europe. Seven decades later, while a solution to the unsustainability of the Greek public debt is a necessary condition for resolving the Greek and European crisis, it is not, in itself, sufficient. As the postwar experience shows, a broader agenda that deals with both Greece’s domestic economic malaise and the structural imbalances in the eurozone is also of vital importance.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2015/1 | February 2015
Financial Fragility and the Survival of the Single CurrencyGiven the continuing divergence between progress in the monetary field and political integration in the euro area, the German interest in imposing austerity may be seen as representing an attempt to achieve, de facto, accelerated progress toward political union; progress that has long been regarded by Germany as a precondition for the success of monetary unification in the form of the common currency. Yet no matter how necessary these austerity policies may appear in the context of the slow and incomplete political integration in Europe, they are ultimately unsustainable. In the absence of further progress in political unification, writes Senior Scholar Jan Kregel, the survival and stability of the euro paradoxically require either sustained economic stagnation or the maintenance of what Hyman Minsky would have recognized as a Ponzi scheme. Neither of these alternatives is economically or politically sustainable.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 816 | September 2014
Policy Alternatives Addressing Divergences and Disparities between Member Countries
In this paper we outline alternative policy recommendations addressing the problems of differential inflation, divergence in competitiveness, and associated current account imbalances within the euro area. The major purpose of these alternative policy proposals is to generate sustainably high demand and output growth in the euro area as a whole, providing high levels of noninflationary employment, as well as preventing “export-led mercantilist” and “debt-led consumption boom” types of development, both within the euro area and with respect to the role of the euro area in the world economy. We provide a basic framework in order to systematically address the related issues, making use of Anthony Thirlwall’s model of a “balance-of-payments-constrained growth rate.” Based on this framework, we outline the required stance for alternative economic policies and then discuss the implications for alternative monetary, wage/incomes, and fiscal policies in the euro area as a whole, as well as the consequences for structural and regional policies in the euro-area periphery in particular.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Eckhard Hein Daniel Detzer
Public Policy Brief No. 135, 2014 | August 2014Contrary to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent claim, the euro crisis is not nearly over but remains unresolved, leaving the eurozone extraordinarily vulnerable to renewed stresses. In fact, as the reforms agreed to so far have failed to turn the flawed and dysfunctional euro regime into a viable one, the current calm in financial markets is deceiving, and unlikely to last. The euro regime’s essential flaw and ultimate source of vulnerability is the decoupling of central bank and treasury institutions in the euro currency union. In this public policy brief, Research Associate Jörg Bibow proposes a Euro Treasury scheme to properly fix the regime and resolve the euro crisis. The Euro Treasury would establish the treasury–central bank axis of power that exists at the center of control in sovereign states. Since the eurozone is not actually a sovereign state, the proposed treasury is specifically designed not to be a transfer union; no mutualization of existing national public debts is involved either. The Euro Treasury would be the means to pool future eurozone public investment spending, funded by proper eurozone treasury securities, and benefits and contributions would be shared across the currency union based on members’ GDP shares. The Euro Treasury would not only heal the euro’s potentially fatal birth defects but also provide the needed stimulus to end the crisis in the eurozone.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Working Paper No. 810 | June 2014
Monetization Fears and Europe’s Narrowing Options
With the creation of the Economic and Monetary Union and the euro, the national government debt of eurozone member-states became credit sensitive. While the potentially destabilizing impact of adverse cyclical conditions on credit-sensitive debt was seriously underestimated, the design was intentional, framed within a Friedman-Fischer-Buchanan view that “no monetization” rules provide a powerful means to discipline government behavior. While most countries follow some kind of “no monetization” rule, the one embraced by the eurozone was special, as it also prevented monetization on the secondary market for debt. This made all eurozone public debt defaultable—at least until the European Central Bank (ECB) announced the Outright Monetary Transactionsprogram, which can be seen as an enhanced rule-based approach that makes governments solvent on the condition that they balance their budgets. This has further narrowed Europe’s options for policy solutions that are conducive to job creation. An approach that would require no immediate changes in the European Union’s (EU) political structure would be for the EU to fund “net government spending in the interest of Europe” through the issue of a eurobond backed by the ECB.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Conference Proceedings, September 26–27, 2013 | April 2014Cosponsored by the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College and MINDS – Multidisciplinary Institute for Development and Strategies, with support from the Ford Foundation
Everest Rio Hotel
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
September 26–27, 2013
This conference was organized as part of the Levy Institute’s global research agenda and in conjunction with the Ford Foundation Project on Financial Instability, which draws on Hyman Minsky's extensive work on the structure of financial governance and the role of the state. Among the key topics addressed: designing a financial structure to promote investment in emerging markets; the challenges to global growth posed by continuing austerity measures; the impact of the credit crunch on economic and financial markets; and the larger effects of tight fiscal policy as it relates to the United States, the eurozone, and the BRIC countries.Download:Associated Program:
Policy Note 2013/1 | March 2013
A Case against Neoliberal Economics, the Domestic Political Elite, and the EU/IMF DuoThe crisis in Greece reflects the deep structural problems of the country’s economy, its bureaucratic inefficiency, and a pervasive culture of corruption. But it also reflects the deadly failure of the neoliberal project, which has become institutionalized throughout the European Union’s operational framework—with the International Monetary Fund the world’s single most powerful enforcer of market fundamentalism.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Policy Note 2012/12 | December 2012On November 27, 2012, the Eurogroup reached a new “Greek deal” that once more discloses that there is no political will to address Greece’s debt crisis—or the country’s economic and social catastrophe.
Working Paper No. 740 | December 2012
Austerity’s Myopic Logic and the Need for a European Federal Union in a Post-Keynesian Eurozone Center–Periphery Model
In this paper, we analyze the role of the current institutional setup of the eurozone in fostering the ongoing peripheral euro countries’ sovereign debt crisis. In line with Modern Money Theory, we stress that the lack of a federal European government running anticyclical fiscal policy, the loss of euro member-states’ monetary sovereignty, and the lack of a lender-of-last-resort central bank have significantly contributed to the generation, amplification, and protraction of the present crisis. In particular, we present a Post-Keynesian eurozone center–periphery model through which we show how, due to the incomplete nature of eurozone institutions with respect to a full-fledged federal union, diverging trends and conflicting claims have emerged between central and peripheral euro countries in the aftermath of the 2007–08 financial meltdown. We emphasize two points. (1) Diverging trends and conflicting claims among euro countries may represent decisive obstacles to the reform of the eurozone toward a complete federal entity. However, they may prove to be self-defeating in the long run should financial turbulences seriously deepen in large peripheral countries. (2) Austerity packages alone do not address the core problems of the eurozone. These packages would make sense only if they were included in a much wider reform agenda whose final purpose was the creation of a government banker and a federal European government that could run expansionary fiscal stances. In this sense, the unlimited bond-buying program recently launched by the European Central Bank is interpreted as a positive, albeit mild step in the right direction out of the extreme monetarism that has thus far shaped eurozone institutions.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Alberto Botta
Public Policy Brief No. 127, 2012 | November 2012The United States must make a fundamental choice in its economic policy in the next few months, a choice that will shape the US economy for years to come. Pundits and policymakers are divided over how to address what is widely referred to as the “fiscal cliff,” a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that will further weaken the domestic economy. Will the United States continue its current, misguided, policy of implementing European-style austerity measures, and the economic contraction that is the inevitable consequence of such policies? Or will it turn aside from the fiscal cliff, using a combination of its sovereign currency system and Keynesian fiscal policy to strengthen aggregate demand?
Our analysis presents a model of what we call the “fiscal trap”—a self-imposed spiral of economic contraction resulting from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role and function of fiscal policy in times of economic weakness. Within this framework, we begin our analysis with the disastrous results of austerity policies in the European Union (EU) and the UK. Our account of these policies and their results is meant as a cautionary tale for the United States, not as a model.
Research Project Report, October 18, 2012 | October 2012
Interim ReportIn this interim report, we discuss the evolution of major macroeconomic variables for the Greek economy, focusing in particular on the sources of growth before and after the euro era, the causes and consequences of the continuing recession, and the likely results of the policies currently being implemented. Some preliminary suggestions for alternative policies are included. These alternatives will be tested in a more robust econometric framework in a subsequent report.
Policy Note 2012/8 | July 2012From the very start, the European Monetary Union (EMU) was set up to fail. The host of problems we are now witnessing, from the solvency crises on the periphery to the bank runs in Spain, Greece, and Italy, were built into the very structure of the EMU and its banking system. Policymakers have admittedly responded to these various emergencies with an uninspiring mix of delaying tactics and self-destructive policy blunders, but the most fundamental mistake of all occurred well before the buildup to the current crisis. What we are witnessing today are the results of a design flaw. When individual nations like Greece or Italy joined the EMU, they essentially adopted a foreign currency—the euro—but retained responsibility for their nation’s fiscal policy. This attempted separation of fiscal policy from a sovereign currency is the fatal defect that is tearing the eurozone apart.
Policy Note 2012/7 | June 2012
Possible Costs and Likely Outcomes of a GrexitThe European Union’s (EU) handling of the Greek crisis has been an unmitigated disaster. In fact, EU political leadership has been a failure of historic proportions, as its myopic, neoliberal bent and fear-driven policies have brought the eurozone to the brink of collapse. After more than two years of a “kicking the can down the road” policy response, it’s a do-or-die situation for Euroland. Greece has reached the point where an exit looks rather imminent (it’s really a matter of time, regardless of the June 17 election outcome), Portugal is bleeding heavily, Spain is about to go under, and Italy is in a state of despair. This Policy Note examines why the bailout policies failed to rescue Greece and boost the eurozone, and what effects a “Grexit” might possibly have—on Greece and the rest of Euroland.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Public Policy Brief No. 124, 2012 | May 2012
The Link between the State and the Macroeconomy, and the Disastrous Effects of the European Policy of Austerity
Conventional wisdom has calcified around the belief that the countries in the eurozone periphery are in trouble primarily because of their governments’ allegedly profligate ways. For most of these nations, however, the facts suggest otherwise. Apart from the case of Greece, the outbreak of the eurozone crisis largely preceded dramatic increases in public debt ratios, and as has been emphasized in previous Levy Institute publications, the roots of the crisis lie far more in the flawed design of the European Monetary Union and the imbalances it has generated.
But as Research Associate and Policy Fellow C. J. Polychroniou demonstrates in this policy brief, domestic political developments should not be written out of the recent history of the eurozone’s stumbles toward crisis and possible dissolution. However, the part in this tale played by southern European political regimes is quite the opposite of that which is commonly claimed or implied in the press. Instead of out-of-control, overly generous progressive agendas, the countries at the core of the crisis in southern Europe—Greece, Spain, and Portugal—have seen their macroeconomic environments shaped by the dominance of regressive political regimes and an embrace of neoliberal policies; an embrace, says Polychroniou, that helped contribute to the unenviable position their economies find themselves in today.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Working Paper No. 721 | May 2012
This paper investigates the causes behind the euro debt crisis, particularly Germany’s role in it. It is argued that the crisis is not primarily a “sovereign debt crisis” but rather a (twin) banking and balance of payments crisis. Intra-area competitiveness and current account imbalances, and the corresponding debt flows that such imbalances give rise to, are at the heart of the matter, and they ultimately go back to competitive wage deflation on Germany’s part since the late 1990s. Germany broke the golden rule of a monetary union: commitment to a common inflation rate. As a result, the country faces a trilemma of its own making and must make a critical choice, since it cannot have it all —perpetual export surpluses, a no transfer / no bailout monetary union, and a “clean,” independent central bank. Misdiagnosis and the wrongly prescribed medication of austerity have made the situation worse by adding a growth crisis to the potpourri of internal stresses that threaten the euro’s survival. The crisis in Euroland poses a global “too big to fail” threat, and presents a moral hazard of perhaps unprecedented scale to the global community.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
Policy Note 2012/1 | March 2012
We live in a terrifying world of policymaking—an age of free-market dogmatism where the economic ideology is fundamentally flawed. Europe’s political leadership has applied neo-Hooverian (scorched-earth) policies that are shrinking economies and producing social misery as a result of massive unemployment.
Large-scale government intervention is critical in reviving an economy, but the current public-policy mania, which imposes fiscal tightening in the midst of recession, can only lead to catastrophic failure. The bailouts, for example, do not solve Greece’s debt crisis but simply postpone an official default. What is needed is a political and economic revolution that includes a return to Keynesian measures and a new institutional architecture—a United States of Europe.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
One-Pager No. 27 | February 2012The coordinated contractionary policy on the part of the European Union is inspired by its belief that this is the most effective way to tackle the eurozone’s “debt crisis.” However, by ignoring the endemic problems of unemployment, poverty, and homelessness—all of which have as their underlying cause the contraction of economic activity—European economic policy reveals a growing gap with the real world.
Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Public Policy Brief No. 122, 2012 | February 2012President Dimitri B. Papadimitriou and Senior Scholar L. Randall Wray argue that the common diagnosis of a “sovereign debt crisis” ignores the crucial role of rising private debt loads and the significance of current account imbalances within the eurozone. Profligate spending in the periphery is not at the root of the problem. Moreover, pushing austerity in the periphery while ignoring the imbalances within the eurozone is a recipe for deflationary disaster.
The various rescue packages on offer for Greece will not ultimately solve the problem, say the authors, and a default is a very real possibility. If a new approach is not embraced, we are likely seeing the end of the European Monetary Union (EMU) as it currently stands. The consequences of a breakup would ripple throughout the EMU as well as the shaky US financial system, and could ultimately trigger the next global financial crisis.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 21 | November 2011
The Future of the Eurozone
With the crisis in the eurozone threatening the integrity of the European Union itself. German Chancellor Angela Merkel continues to brush aside calls to permit the European Central Bank to act as lender of last resort, and she remains steadfast against suggestions for the issuing of a eurobond. Yet Germany does have a plan for the eurozone, even if many prefer not to see it—a plan centered on Darwinian biopolitics and neoliberal economics.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Policy Note 2011/6 | November 2011Although it didn't originate with an economist, the malaprop “It’s déjà vu all over again” is invariably what springs to mind in the aftermath of virtually any euro summit of the past few years, all of which seem to end with the requisite promise of a so-called “final solution” to the problems posed by the increasingly problematic currency union. But it’s hard to get excited about any of the “solutions” on offer, since they steadfastly refuse to acknowledge that the eurozone’s problem is fundamentally one of flawed financial architecture. Today’s crisis has arisen because the creation of the euro has robbed nations of their sovereign ability to engage in a fiscal counterresponse against sudden external demand shocks of the kind we experienced in 2008. And it is being exacerbated by the ongoing reluctance of the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund—the “troika”—to abandon fiscal austerity as a quid pro quo for backstopping these nations’ bonds.
One-Pager No. 19 | November 2011The European Union’s survival depends on its ability to reform, either through enlargement—greater economic and fiscal coordination in the direction of some sort of federal state—or by getting smaller, with the eurozone becoming a true optimum currency area. Most analysts support the former proposition. But the rush to strengthen and expand the Union is precisely what led to the current crisis in the eurozone.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Resolving the Eurozone Crisis—without Debt Buyouts, National Guarantees, Mutual Insurance, or Fiscal Transfers
Policy Note 2011/5 | November 2011
One of the reasons for the failure of Europe’s governing bodies to resolve the eurozone crisis is resistance to debt buyouts, national guarantees, mutual insurance, and fiscal transfers between member-states. Stuart Holland argues that none of these are necessary to convert a share of national bonds to Union bonds or for net issues of eurobonds—two alternative approaches to the debt crisis that would offset default risk and, by securing the euro as a reserve currency, contribute to more balanced global growth.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Stuart Holland
Twin Strategies to Resolve the Eurozone Crisis—without Debt Buyouts, Sovereign Guarantees, Insurance Schemes, or Fiscal Transfers
One-Pager No. 18 | November 2011
The cancellation of the October 26 meeting of the European Union’s council of finance ministers, or Ecofin, has further eroded confidence in its ability to solve the burgeoning sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone. A viable strategy is needed now—and as Stuart Holland illustrates, two viable strategies are even better than one.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Stuart Holland
Public Policy Brief No. 121, 2011 | November 2011
Who Pays for the European Sovereign and Subprime Mortgage Losses?
In the context of the eurozone’s sovereign debt crisis and the US subprime mortgage crisis, Senior Scholar Jan Kregel looks at the question of how we ought to distribute losses between borrowers and lenders in cases of debt resolution. Kregel tackles a prominent approach to this question that is grounded in an analysis of individual action and behavioral characteristics, an approach that tends toward the conclusion that the borrower should be responsible for making creditors whole. The presumption behind this style of analysis is that the borrower—the purportedly deceitful subprime mortgagee or supposedly profligate Greek—is the cause of the loss, and therefore should bear the entire burden.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 15 | October 2011
The Merkel-Sarkozy Promise to End the Eurozone Crisis
Failure on the part of EU leaders to address the eurozone crisis is in large part due to the fact that Germany and France are at opposite poles—politically, economically, and culturally. In this context, the announcement by Germany’s Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy that they’ve agreed to a comprehensive package of proposals to solve the eurozone debt crisis is definitely a positive development. It indicates that they have set aside their disagreements—surely no small feat, since domestic political concerns have been pulling the two in completely opposite directions—in order to provide the leadership necessary for euro stability.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Working Paper No. 688 | September 2011
Greece’s Debt Crisis in Context
According to author and journalist C. J. Polychroniou, Greece was unfit to join the euro: its entry was orchestrated by fabricating the true state of the country’s fiscal condition, and its subsequent “growth performance” rested upon heavy state borrowing and European Union (EU) transfers. Moreover, the Greek economic crisis is also a political and moral crisis, as financial scandals and corruption have been major sources of wealth creation.
The EU and International Monetary Fund bailout plan (May 2010), which includes a structural adjustment program with harsh austerity measures, has been a social and economic catastrophe. Such policy ensures that Greece will default and be forced to exit the euro, says Polychroniou, but compelling Greek citizens to take charge of their own economic problems and national faults may be the best scenario. Extreme EU neoliberal policies also increase the risk of the eurozone’s dissolution.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):C. J. Polychroniou
Policy Note 2011/3 | May 2011
This “Modest Proposal” by authors Varoufakis and Holland outlines a three-pronged, comprehensive solution to the eurozone crisis that simultaneously addresses the three main dimensions of the current crisis in the eurozone (sovereign debt, banking, and underinvestment), restructures both a share of sovereign debt and that of banks, and does not involve a fiscal transfer of taxpayers’ money. Additionally, it requires no moves toward federation, no fiscal union, and no transfer union. It is in this sense, say the authors, that it deserves the epithet modest.
To stabilize the debt crisis, Varoufakis and Holland recommend a tranche transfer of the sovereign debt of each EU member-state to the European Central Bank (ECB), to be held as ECB bonds. Member-states would continue to service their share of debt, reducing the debt-servicing burden of the most exposed member-states without increasing the debt burden of the others. Rigorous stress testing and recapitalization through the European Financial Stability Facility (in exchange for equity) would cleanse the banks of questionable public and private paper assets, allowing them to turn future liquidity into loans to enterprises and households. And the European Investment Bank (EIB) would assume the role of effecting a “New Deal” for Europe, drawing upon a mix of its own bonds and the new eurobonds. In effect, the EIB would graduate into a European surplus-recycling mechanism—a mechanism without which no currency union can survive for long.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):Yanis Varoufakis Stuart Holland
Working Paper No. 664 | March 2011
The creation of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) has not brought significant gains to the Portuguese economy in terms of real convergence with wealthier eurozone countries. We analyze the causes of the underperformance of the Portuguese economy in the last decade, discuss its growth prospects within the EMU, and make two proposals for urgent institutional reform of the EMU. We argue that, under the prevailing institutional framework, Portugal faces a long period of stagnation, high unemployment, and painful structural reform, and conclude that, in the absence of institutional reform of the EMU, getting out of the eurozone represents a serious political option for Portugal.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Pedro Leao Alfonso Palacio-Vera
Working Paper No. 651 | February 2011
The Competitiveness Debate Again
Current discussions about the need to reduce unit labor costs (especially through a significant reduction in nominal wages) in some countries of the eurozone (in particular, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, and Spain) to exit the crisis may not be a panacea. First, historically, there is no relationship between the growth of unit labor costs and the growth of output. This is a well-established empirical result, known in the literature as Kaldor’s paradox. Second, construction of unit labor costs using aggregate data (standard practice) is potentially misleading. Unit labor costs calculated with aggregate data are not just a weighted average of the firms’ unit labor costs. Third, aggregate unit labor costs reflect the distribution of income between wages and profits. This has implications for aggregate demand that have been neglected. Of the 12 countries studied, the labor share increased in one (Greece), declined in nine, and remained constant in two. We speculate that this is the result of the nontradable sectors gaining share in the overall economy. Also, we construct a measure of competitiveness called unit capital costs as the ratio of the nominal profit rate to capital productivity. This has increased in all 12 countries. We conclude that a large reduction in nominal wages will not solve the problem that some countries of the eurozone face. If this is done, firms should also acknowledge that unit capital costs have increased significantly and thus also share the adjustment cost. Barring solutions such as an exit from the euro, the solution is to allow fiscal policy to play a larger role in the eurozone, and to make efforts to upgrade the export basket to improve competitiveness with more advanced countries. This is a long-term solution that will not be painless, but one that does not require a reduction in nominal wages.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):Jesus Felipe Utsav Kumar
Policy Note 2011/1 | February 2011
Like marriage, membership in the eurozone is supposed to be a lifetime commitment, “for better or for worse.” But as we know, divorce does occur, even if the marriage was entered into with the best of intentions. And the recent turmoil in Europe has given rise to the idea that the euro itself might also be reversible, and that one or more countries might revert to a national currency. The prevailing thought has been that one of the weak periphery countries would be the first to call it a day. It may not, however, work out that way: suddenly, the biggest euro-skeptics in Europe are not the perfidious English but the Germans themselves.Download:Associated Programs:Author(s):
One-Pager No. 4 | November 2010
The Rescue Plan Cannot Address the Central Problem
The trillion-dollar rescue package European leaders aimed at the continent’s growing debt crisis in May might well have been code-named Panacea. Stocks rose throughout the region, but the reprieve was short-lived: markets fell on the realization that the bailout would not improve government finances going forward. The entire rescue plan rests on the assumption that the eurozone’s “problem children” can eventually get their fiscal houses in order. But no rescue plan can address the central problem: that countries with very different economies are yoked to the same currency.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):
The “Keynesian Moment” in Policymaking, the Perils Ahead, and a Flow-of-funds Interpretation of Fiscal Policy
Working Paper No. 614 | August 2010
With the global crisis, the policy stance around the world has been shaken by massive government and central bank efforts to prevent the meltdown of markets, banks, and the economy. Fiscal packages, in varied sizes, have been adopted throughout the world after years of proclaimed fiscal containment. This change in policy regime, though dubbed the “Keynesian moment,” is a “short-run fix” that reflects temporary acceptance of fiscal deficits at a time of political emergency, and contrasts with John Maynard Keynes’s long-run policy propositions. More important, it is doomed to be ineffective if the degree of tolerance of fiscal deficits is too low for full employment.
Keynes’s view that outside the gold standard fiscal policies face real, not financial, constraints is illustrated by means of a simple flow-of-funds model. This shows that government deficits do not take financial resources from the private sector, and that demand for net financial savings by the private sector can be met by a rising trade surplus at the cost of reduced consumption, or by a rising government deficit financed by the monopoly supply of central bank credit. Fiscal deficits can thus be considered functional to the objective of supplying the private sector with a provision of financial wealth sufficient to restore demand. By contrast, tax hikes and/or spending cuts aimed at reducing the public deficit lower the available savings of the private sector, and, if adopted too soon, will force the adjustment by way of a reduction of demand and standard of living.
This notion, however, is not applicable to the euro area, where constraints have been deliberately created that limit public deficits and the supply of central bank credit, thus introducing national solvency risks. This is a crucial flaw in the institutional structure of Euroland, where monetary sovereignty has been removed from all existing fiscal authorities. Absent a reassessment of its design, the euro area is facing a deflationary tendency that may further erode the economic welfare of the region.Download:Associated Program:Author(s):