Friday, November 11, 2011

Original Sin And The Euro Crisis

Krugman has now twice argued that Europe faces an original sin problem (here and here). Let me be absolutely clear. Europe does NOT have an original sin problem. The original sin, a term invented by Ricardo Hausmann (see here), is a situation in which the domestic currency cannot be used to borrow in international markets or to borrow long-term in domestic markets. By the way, a new name for an old problem that was well known by Raúl Prebisch and other Latin American structuralists at ECLAC back in the 1950s, who recommended avoiding excessive borrowing in  foreign currency.

It is true that there are no European bonds, and that Greece, as the other countries of the euro, do borrow in a currency they do not control. However, the ECB can buy Greek bonds, and does print euros. That is not the case in a developing country that borrows in foreign currency, and does have an original sin problem. In that sense, the problem in the Eurozone is the unwillingness of the ECB to monetize even small amounts of debt. Misplaced monetarism, not the original sin, is the problem in Europe.

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