June 17, 2010
The Telegraph’s Ambrose Evans-Pritchard points to a letter signed by 100 Italian economists (technically Keynesianites, but in the great Ponzi, the two have become synonymous) in which they note that “the austerity strategy imposed by Brussels/Frankfurt risks tipping Europe into a self-feeding downward spiral. Far from holding the eurozone together, it will cause weaker countries to be catapulted out of EMU. Others will leave in order to restore sovereign control over their central banks and unemployment policies.” Not to mention that Italian university budgets will be slashed. These 100 establishmentarians would be wise to do the whole “look to your left, then to your right, in one year two of those people will be out on the street.” While the core of the complaint has to do with the core premise of austerity, arguing that a fiscal injection is much more needed than a haircut, AEP does have a great point, that while conducting fiscal contraction is possible, it needs to be at least offset by monetary loosening. And the still relatively hawkish ECB has very little room in that regard. Evans-Pritchard’s conclusion is well known in advance: “EMU has become an infernal machine. This will not be the last letter by angry economists.”
AEP’s translation of the letter:
For readers of Italian, it’s here. While I don’t share the big-state Left-Keynesian perspective of these professors — nor their implicit hostility to the free market — I do agree with much of their overall analysis.
My rough translation:
“The grave economic global crisis, and its links to the eurozone crisis, will not be resolved by cutting salaries, pensions, the welfare state, education, research …….. More likely, the `politics of sacrifice’ in Italy and in Europe runs the risk of accentuating the crisis in the end, causing a faster rise in unemployment, of insolvencies and company failures, and could at a certain point compel some countries to leave monetary union.
“The fundamental point to understand is that the current instability of monetary union is not just the result of accounting fraud and over-spending. In reality, it stems from a profound interweaving of the global economic crisis and imbalances within the eurozone …..
It blames the crisis on the “deflationary economic policies” of the richer states. “Especially Germany, geared for a long time to holding down salaries in relation to productivity, and to the penetration of foreign markets, gaining European market share for German companies…
They say the policy has led to growing surpluses in Germany, offset by growing debts in Southern Europe. The adjustment mechanism has not only failed. Matters have got worse, and worse.
“This is the deeper reason why market traders are betting on a collapse of the eurozone. They can see that as the crisis drags on this will cause tax revenues to fall, making it ever harder to repay debts, whether public or private. Some countries will progressively be pushed out of the eurozone, others will decide to break away to free themselves from a deflationary spiral… It is the risk of widespread defaults and the reconversion of debts into national currencies that is really motivating bets by speculators.
The economists denounced the “obstinacy” with which the EU authorities and governments are pursuing “depressionary policies”, and called on the European Central Bank to abandon its policy of “sterilizing” purchases of Greek, Portuguese, and Spanish bonds, and move to fully-fledged quantitative easing to boost the money supply.
“We must have an immediate debate on the extremely grave errors in economic policies now being committed..
Si, Signori .. Bravissimi.
And his summary:
Just to be clear, I do not share their Krugmanite view that huge fiscal deficits are benign. In my view, it is imperative that the whole western world reduces debt in a orderly fashion over 10 to 15 years. Pacing is crucial. Too fast can be self-defeating. Too slow is not an option.
My objection with the EU’s mix of policies is that extreme fiscal austerity is being imposed on a string of countries without offsetting monetary stimulus. (Yes, I know, some will say that I am mixing apples and oranges).
Ireland, Spain, and Portugal have already tipped into outright deflation. Ireland’s nominal GDP has contracted 18.6pc since the peak. They are falling deeper into an Irving Fisher debt-deflation trap.
This is reactionary folly. The College of European Commission should be taken out and horse-whipped outside the Breydel Building for demanding yet further cuts from Spain — which is already cutting wages 5pc this year, in an economy where total public /private debt is 280pc of GDP or more. Can nobody think of a more coherent way out of this?
Is the eruo and the eurozone on a crash course with reality (and parity)? Yes. However, in the meantime, Geithner’s little propaganda ploy of the stress test is the last straw the drowning men in Europe have left. It will buy a month at most.
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