Saturday, November 5, 2011

More old debates on the euro

Someone pointed this link on the The Economist site, about British economists (on the left and right of the political spectrum) that were against the euro. Vicky Chick, a very good post-Keynesian monetary economist, appears here.
"Just as the political opposition to a single currency spans both socialists and the free-market right, says Victoria Chick of University College, London (a self-described “left-wing anti”), so the economic Noes contain both old-style Keynesians and Marxists on the one hand, and monetarists on the other. However, says Ms Chick, left and right have different reasons for opposing a single currency. For instance, she and economists like her think that the ECB has an in-built bias towards being too tough on inflation—which is unlikely to concern the right.
That said, the two wings have some objections in common. The left-wingers say that the ECB lacks democratic accountability. So, from the other flank, does Patrick Minford, a monetarist at Cardiff Business School. “The idea that credibility requires unaccountable central bankers is wrong,” he says. “Central bank independence has been oversold.” Far from making the ECB an exact copy of the German Bundesbank as is often supposed, he says, the new bank’s designers forgot how much the Bundesbank relied on its political legitimacy.
Besides this, the anti camp—left, right and centre—have two main objections to joining the single currency. First, they say, monetary union has imposed a “one-size-fits-all” monetary policy on the euro-zone: in booming Ireland and slumping Germany alike, interest rates are 2.5%. To complicate matters, thanks to variations in the structure of economies, a given change in interest rates may have quite different effects in two different countries. Britain’s housing market, says Andrew Hughes Hallett of Strathclyde University, is dominated by variable-rate debt, making British consumption and housing expenditure far more sensitive to changes in interest rates than elsewhere in Europe. Meanwhile, German corporations’ reliance on debt rather than equity finance makes the supply of capital more sensitive to interest rates than, say, in Britain.
On top of this, there is little scope for fiscal policy to cushion the effects of economic shocks affecting different countries in different ways. The stability and growth pact limits national budget deficits to 3%. And the EU budget is not big enough for international transfers to take the strain instead.
This leads to the second objection: that Europe’s labour and product markets are too inflexible to deal with the strains that EMU will put on them. If interest rates, exchange rates and fiscal transfers cannot be called on to deal with economic shocks, then wages and prices will have to do the job. “The consequence of one-size-fits-all”, says John Flemming, warden of Wadham College, Oxford (and a former chief economist at the Bank of England) “is that the strain is likely to be taken by unemployment.”"
The whole thing is worth reading to remember the 1999 mood, and those that actually saw it coming.


  1. Hi Matias,

    There was also an article by Martin Feldstein, which Wynne Godley referred to in "Maastricht And All That".

    The article titled "The Case Against EMU" appeared in The Economist, June 13, 1992 is here

    Reasonably good.


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