Beyond the Cusp

May 19, 2012

European Union After the Greek Inevitable Collapse

Whether Greece is going to crash and be unable to pay the interest on their debt, let alone pay down the debt itself, no longer needs debating. The only discussion is when it will crash and what happens next. The crash could arrive this weekend or next weekend or some weekend coming in the near future, but my bet is it will officially succumb on a weekend in order to minimize any attention at the point of economic Armageddon. The fall will bring troops in the streets to contain the breakdown of civil society which will rapidly follow. Within days the markets will run out of food and the petrol will cease to flow. Cash, even Euros, will likely no longer be accepted for trade and instead precious metals or other items of barter will replace money. Government will fail as the employees begin to realize that they are not going to be paid their salaries and even if they were, the money would be worthless. The run on the banks has already begun as when it all falls down the banks will be forced to close. The borders of Greece will close to people leaving taking anything of value out of the country. Precious metals, gems, jewelry and any other objects of worth will not be allowed to be taken out of the country. If I was currently living in Greece I would take what I could and flee the country now while it is allowed. The real problem will be the affect it will have on the European Union and the Euro.

The first thing one needs to realize is the current economic emergency in Europe is mostly traceable to the unified currency called the Euro. Because ever country which has joined the Euro currency exchange has a unified currency, the countries who are in financial trouble are unable to adjust their currency in order to make their debt easier to pay simply by deflating the currency. They are stuck with a Euro which has a set worth that is beyond their ability to control. If Greece was still using the Greek Drachma they could allow their economy to have had steady inflation which would have reduced the exchange rate of the Drachma against the other currencies in the world. This would have allowed Greece to stay on top of their debt as by allowing economic inflation they would be actually lowering their debt while also making Greek products less expensive thus more attractive on foreign markets and the lower cost of doing business would have attracted industries to Greece thus allowing them to recover and grow their economy. Being stuck with the Euro they had a currency that remained fixed by external factors thus Greece could not adjust their place within the world markets. This is what aggravated their problems to this point where everything will simply go bust. The Greek economy will no longer support the currency the country is forced to use. The fastest way to try to actually address the Greek crisis would be to allow them to immediately revert to their native currency and set the Greek Drachma at a favorable exchange level in order to stimulate their economy. It might be too late to have this avoid the default at this late date, but it might be something worth considering. The problem this would cause is it sets a precedent which other countries would use to get out of using the Euro thus making the Euro the currency of the elite European countries and pushing its relative value upwards which would weaken the stronger European Union member countries’, such as Germany, economies. Such a move would actually spell the end of the Euro and everybody would be rushing back to their individual currencies and Europe would be facing its old problems which the Euro was set to be the grand solution. I think with Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and soon France all being in need of an instrument for adjusting their debts and market place of trade in the world through currency manipulation that this will bring down the European dream of a unified currency. The Euro will be the initial casualty as the economic tsunami that is racing towards many of the European Union member states.

The real problem behind this tragic set of circumstances is the European Union attempted something that is impossible even when studied in simple economic theory. Countries which have independent governments with differing economic policies cannot share a unified currency. I realize the theory was that the European Union would become sufficiently powerful as to dictate economic policies to its member states. Even if the European Union did not possess universal power, as long as they could set limits or, at the very least, have strong influence over the interest rates, levels of indebtedness, amount of social spending as percentage of GDP and other fiscal policies in order to have a more unified economic set of policies, then the Euro might have succeeded as a universal currency. But as each country had different interest rates, different retirement ages, differing benefit packages for workers, and similar disparities on almost every economic function, a universal currency was marked to fail from the start. Now the European Union is facing its inevitable predicament of what to do when the limited common governance leads to sufficient economic disparities that the common currency of the union can no longer be universally sustained. The countries and governors of the European Union must now decide exactly which precedent it finds least contemptible, allowing Greece to return to its native currency the Drachma or force Greece from the European Union cutting it adrift to fend for itself. At least if they only allow Greece to adopt their former currency then Greece can allow the Drachma to adjust in value until they reach an equilibrium where their economy begins to reemerge and strengthen sufficiently that Greece rebounds from its plunge and begins a real recovery. The option of pumping more funds into Greece cannot be the solution because unless the Greek economy is rejuvenated such funds would simply be absorbed without relieving the problem which can only be accomplished by devaluing the Greek currency which is impossible as long as they use the Euro.

This is where everything gets interesting. Should the European Union take the easiest route and simply cut Greece from being a member of the European Union and wish them a fond, or not so fond, farewell they will be sending signal to the other countries facing economic troubles the message that should you get into dire straits we will not be there till the end. The European Union would then have to live with the reputation of a fair weather club which casts out anyone who upsets their happy economic cart. Such a move would very likely be the death knell for the European Union which would likely find itself losing numerous other nations, both those who are having problems and those who fear remaining within the European Union would eventually lead them to have problems. Very quickly we would likely see Spain, Portugal, and Italy following Greece out of the European Union and back to their own currencies and happily enjoying renewed economic freedom to do what they must to retain their current socialist oases while adjusting their currencies thus repairing their sick economies, something not possible from inside the European Union while depending on the Euro. The European Union might find itself reduced to a union that included Germany, France, Great Britain and possibly some of the emerging nations from Eastern Europe who are still coming into their own after decades of Soviet domination and repression.

The other route would be to allow Greece to return to using their own currency for a set period, say eighteen months or until their economy stabilized. Then allow them to return to using the Euro which would now be adjusted to the new level of the Greek Drachma. This would allow for Greece to revalue their currency and then return and have a Euro that was actually matched to their real economic dynamic. The problem is once Greece returns to using the Euro, the same problem would begin to build up unless Greece made some radical changes to their economic and social systems, something which they have proven they are adverse to. Should the permanent change be allowed where Greece returned to the Drachma and was never to return to using the Euro, this would then force other countries to take whatever steps were necessary to take themselves out of the Euro and return to their national currency. Once the dominoes start falling this would bring the end of the Euro as a viable currency. Then the question becomes exactly how long the European Union remains viable once almost everyone, if not everyone, returns to their native currencies. The odds are this would bring on the slow but natural death of the European Union as it can only survive as long as it ties the economies of the different nations to each other. Once everyone has returned to their native currencies, then each nation would have economic independence which is the exact opposite of what the European Union was supposed to accomplish. So, whichever way the European Union turns, if it does not both give Greece a path to repair their economy through devaluing their currency relative to the rest of the nations in the European Union, a neat trick, and eventually return Greece to full implementation of the European Union and the Euro as their currency, then it will only be a matter of time before the European Union collapses in on itself. Then we will once again have a volatile Europe which who knows where that will lead. If Europe’s past is any indicator then it may be that Europe is in for a rough future. Then again, most of the European countries have surrendered any military might for socialistic blight, thus they may no longer be quite as rambunctious as their previous histories indicated.

Beyond the Cusp

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