The 50th anniversary issue of Intereconomics is out, and I have a contribution which summarises how I think the Eurozone could succeed without deeply problematic attempts at fiscal and political union. I look at three areas where change is required, and then rerun history to show how the Eurozone crisis could have been transformed into no more than a Greek public debt crisis.
Of the three areas of reform, I have written about the necessity of national countercyclical policy many times. Perhaps the only novelty in the paper is that I make it clear that this could be conceived and run locally or directed centrally: I prefer the former, and I discuss some advantages of subsidiarity, but the issues are separable. On reform of the ECB I think it’s fair to say my discussion is weak: I just think this issue has to be discussed more.
The final area of reform involves OMT and a genuine no bailout rule, the combination of which in 2010 would have prevented the government funding crisis spreading beyond Greece. (This might have created a banking crisis in some core countries, but problems with banks are best confronted directly.) It is revealing just how many people still think 2010 was all about trying to help those countries with profligate governments. If this is your view, I strongly suggest reading this paper by Orphanides, who slowly unpicks the ‘official’ version of the crisis with the IMF’s help.
A good paper to write is why the Eurozone has been such a failure at trying to play the role of the IMF (and to some extent corrupted the IMF at the same time). Judging by the number of useful roads built in Spain, Ireland and elsewhere, the EU has had some success at playing the World Bank role, although I’m sure there are also mistakes. However I do not think a political scientist would find the failure to play the IMF’s role any great puzzle. It has taken the IMF many years and errors to learn to at least try to refrain from simply bailing out western creditors. Judging from the failure to even admit the mistakes of 2010, I doubt that the Eurozone would even try. It would be much better if the Eurozone just abandoned trying to play this role, and left the IMF (with reduced European influence) alone to do its job of helping Eurozone governments that get into difficulties.
This blog was first published on Mainly Macro
Simon Wren-Lewis is Professor of Economics at Oxford University.
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