Wednesday, December 7, 2011

We can't all be like you now, can we Angela?

This is, of course, is a paraphrase of the great line in which Jeremy Irons as Claus Von Bulow puts down Alan Dershowitz (Ron Silvers) in the classic film "Reversal of Fortune."

But I'm referring to Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel who would very much like the whole European Economic Community to be like her own country: industrious, prudent, thrifty, docile. These are, of course, traits long admired by many of the Germanic persuasion (and others, of course), and account for certain elements of Germany's "success", both past a present.

However, belt tightening may not be the best strategy for most of the rest of Europe, any more than it has been for Japan since its last recession (still continuing) or for the U.S. (still continuing for most of us). Unemployment not only creates misery for the unemployed, but keeps most national economies from recovering, and keeps their debt high. As far as I can read, stiff roll-backs in government spending (even when there are deficits) have not worked in ending or shortening recessions. On the other hand, the "pump-priming" and other measures of Keynesian economics have been quite effective since WWII in preventing and/or shortening major depressions, or preventing them from becoming like the Great Depression. Arguably this is still very much the case. Paul Krugman has been writing about this for some time: see his recent column, for example, Killing the Euro.

By the way, German banks were among some of the worst speculators in subprime mortage-backed securities, CDOs and Credit Default Swaps. They were known in the investment banking community as the financial sucker of last resort, especially a few banks in Dusseldorf -- first mentioned in Michael Lewis's The Big Short and featured in Chapter IV of his latest book Boomerang. In any case, whether German's had any major role in the 2008 debacle or not, they will be called upon to be a major bailer-outer of the Euro-zone and more, simply because (1) if the Euro goes down, so will the European economy (including Germany's) and (2) there doesn't seem to be anyone else to do it.

No comments:

Post a Comment