The Euro: a Step Toward the Gold Standard?

by Andreas Hoffmann (University of Leipzig)

In a recent piece Jesus Huerta de Soto (2012) argues that the euro is a proxy for the gold standard. He draws several analogies between the euro and the classical gold standard (1880-1912). Like when “going on gold” European governments gave up monetary sovereignty by introducing the euro. Like the classical gold standard the common currency forces reforms upon countries that are in crisis because governments cannot manipulate the exchange rate and inflate away debt. Therefore, to limit state power and to encourage e.g. labor market reforms he views the euro as second best to the gold standard from a free market perspective. Therefore, we should defend it. He finds that it is a step toward the re-establishment of the classical gold standard.

There has been much criticism of the piece that mainly addresses the inflationary bias of the ECB. I actually agree with much of it. In particular, imperfect currency areas have the potential to restrict monetary nationalism. This can be welcomed just as customs unions that allow for free trade (at least in restricted areas). But I have some trouble with De Soto’s conclusions and the view that adhering to the euro (as did adhering to gold) gives an extra impetus for market reform – in spite of the mentioned e.g. labor market reforms in Spain. Continue reading

Euro Crisis from Long Perspective

by Chidem Kurdas

The European crisis, in progress for years and still showing no sign of resolution, is largely the result of elite hubris. To create the euro and ram it down the throats of populations that, left to their druthers, would have stayed with their old currencies—this was a massive, top-down social engineering project. Continue reading

Emerging Hope in Greece

 by Chidem Kurdas

The Greek economy continues to shrink. With the wider European debt crisis and slump hampering Greek recovery, the recession may persist through 2013.   Amid the grim news, however, there is a small sign that austerity measures are starting to work. Continue reading

Does one size fit all?

by Andreas Hoffmann

In a recent article in the WSJ, David Wessel sees a “fundamental problem” in the euro zone’s one-size-fits-all policy.

We know from Mundell (1961) that a one-size-fits-all monetary policy cannot guarantee low inflation and unemployment in all members of a heterogeneous currency area, given e.g. labor markets are not fully flexible as in the euro area.

In general, capital market integration and free capital flows in two regions have the tendency to bring about convergence of real – not necessarily nominal – interest rates (assuming no risk premium) as capital is allocated to its best uses. But in a currency area, like the euro area, nominal interest rates are the same everywhere as they are set by a central authority. Thus, real interest rates can be zero or even negative in regions that experience higher inflation, while they are positive in regions with lower inflation. Then policy is too expansionary in some regions and too tight in others, while the average inflation rate may stay relatively stable at the target level. Continue reading

European Bailout’s Scapegoats and the Future

by Chidem Kurdas

Before the near-trillion-dollar bailout package for financially shaky euro-zone governments was announced, French president Nicolas Sarkozy hauled out the financial whipping boys yet again. He promised to “confront speculators mercilessly.” They would soon “know once and for all what lies in store for them,” he said.

Presumably he meant that those betting on the decline of the euro will be squeezed and made to understand that he and his fellow office holders will protect the currency. Thus Mr. Sarkozy framed the issue—we’re not bailing out profligate governments, we’re defending our common currency against demonic speculators.

This message appears to play well politically  But beneficial as it may be in the short term for those in office, it compounds the real problem. Continue reading

Greece as a Danger to Euro Stability

by Andreas Hoffmann*

Entering the Eurozone, Greece handed over monetary policy to the European Central Bank and introduced the euro. In a formerly unstable economy, without the danger of depreciation, the risk premium on Greek interest rates shrank to less than half a percent above that of Germany. This brought about convergence of the Greek interest rates. Thus investment and debt could be financed at lower rates. But the advantages from entering the eurozone also have a price. Continue reading