Two decades ago, when the European currency system was last on the brink of collapse, the ultimate question was how much Germany, the continent's economic powerhouse, would do to save it. The peripheral economies were hurting, weighed down by a monetary policy that was appropriate for Germany but too austere for weaker European countries. Germany's central bank, the Bundesbank, had to make a choice. It could continue to set high interest rates, thus upholding its commitment to stable prices. Or it could cut rates and accept modest inflation -- and so save the rest of Europe from a prolonged recession. 

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