Europe: Fiscal or External Crisis?

Central to the different views of conservative and progressive authors, with respect to the European crisis, is the question of causality relating the fiscal and external crises.  Although causality is a thorny issue, the empirical evidence may illuminate the matter.  The following graph (Fig. 1)  shows the evolution of unit labor costs in Germany, and the group of peripheral countries, sometimes referred by their acronym (PIIGS), that were hit by the crisis, or are close to that position

It shows that while German unit labor costs remain essentially constant, increasing merely 6 percent, in all the other countries the increases were of the order of more than 30 percent.  This translates into significant real appreciation of the real exchange rate in the periphery of Europe.

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