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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What Really Ails Europe?

Feb 29th, 2012

Paul Krugman explodes the popular Republican and German narratives. As they read from eerily similar scripts which blame social safety nets and prescribe more and more "austerity," he explains why the former isn't true and the latter simply isn't working:

"...the creation of the euro fostered a false sense of security among private investors, unleashing huge, unsustainable flows of capital into nations all around Europe’s periphery. As a consequence of these inflows, costs and prices rose, manufacturing became uncompetitive, and nations that had roughly balanced trade in 1999 began running large trade deficits instead. Then the music stopped.

If the peripheral nations still had their own currencies, they could and would use devaluation to quickly restore competitiveness. But they don’t, which means that they are in for a long period of mass unemployment and slow, grinding deflation. Their debt crises are mainly a byproduct of this sad prospect, because depressed economies lead to budget deficits and deflation magnifies the burden of debt.

Now, understanding the nature of Europe’s troubles offers only limited benefits to the Europeans themselves. The afflicted nations, in particular, have nothing but bad choices: either they suffer the pains of deflation or they take the drastic step of leaving the euro, which won’t be politically feasible until or unless all else fails (a point Greece seems to be approaching). Germany could help by reversing its own austerity policies and accepting higher inflation, but it won’t."

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