The results of Europe’s experiment with austerity are in and they’re clear: it doesn’t work. Here’s how such a flawed idea became the West’s default response to financial crises.
Two years, three sovereign bailouts, more than a trillion euros in cheap ECB loans, and dozens of summits later, the latest developments in Germany suggest that Berlin is moving to solve the continent's crisis. But the country’s idea of a solution remains a system in which Berlin gets de facto and de jure veto power over national budgets in return for eurobonds. That misses the point: the crisis is not fiscal, but financial. It began, and it will end, with the banks.
As the eurozone's biggest economy, it was Germany's job to stabilize the system when the first signs of financial trouble appeared. Instead, it did precisely the opposite. Whether the euro survives depends on Frankfurt finally assuming its role as leader.
The EU agreement to refinance Greece's debt may have calmed the markets, but ongoing austerity measures across Europe are leave open potentially worrying side effect that policymakers have yet to address: the chance for China to buy sensitive assets at fire-sale prices.
The upheavals in the Middle East have much in common with the recent global financial crisis: both were plausible worst-case scenarios whose probability was dramatically underestimated. When policymakers try to suppress economic or political volatility, they only increase the risk of blowups.
This article appears in the Foreign Affairs/CFR eBook, The New Arab Revolt.
The recent G-20 meeting in Toronto ended with the world's largest economies promising to cut deficit spending. But such a course is unwise and unlikely to lead to growth -- it is time for finance ministers to take on the speculators who are calling for retrenchment.
The British election on May 6 is not just business as usual. It will reconfigure British domestic politics and foreign policy.