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Well, that might have meant that, in the existing framework, the periphery should have been running large surpluses to prevent the external imbalances. Not the best policy, admittedly, but one that was possible.

I don't think that was possible. Surpluses by whom?

In the short run, the trade deficit is a given. If you run a public budget surplus (rather than the tamer 3% deficit allowed by the GSP) you only make the private debt grow faster.

The alternative is a serious recession in all of the periphery. So much for Growth and Stability. Martin Wolf again:

The eurozone was supposed to be an updated version of the classical gold standard. Countries in external deficit receive private financing from abroad. If such financing dries up, economic activity shrinks. Unemployment then drives down wages and prices, causing an "internal devaluation".
Münchau calls "internal devaluation"
a euphemism for a depression
Strong money regimes such as the Gold standard cause depressions. We thought the lesson had been learned in the 1930s and the economic theory for it existed.

Here's another statement of the same by Yanis Varoufakis:

The idea was pure brilliance: Combine a twin (trade and government) deficit with a strong capital account surplus. Suck into the US other people's exports and a tsunami of other people's capital. Thus my term for the period after 1971: The Global Hoover: From the late 1970s until 2008 the US acted as a gargantuan vacuum cleaner that sucked in the trade surpluses of Germany, Japan and, later, China while, at the same time, attracting into Wall Street something in the order of $3 to $5 billion net on each working day.


The euro, it must be remembered, was conceived at the height of the Grand Hoover's reign. Germany thought that it could extend its growth model to the eurozone. Convinced that the Grand Hoover would continue to suck in its surpluses, Germany thought that its surpluses could expand further within Europe if deficit countries like Greece, Spain, Italy etc. were given a strong DM-linked currency. Germany's condition for sharing its currency with the rest was that nothing else would be shared except for the common currency: Debt, taxes, government expenditure would be all nation-state-specific. Each euro of debt would belong to one country only and no surplus recycling mechanism would be set up.


Of course, while the Grand Hoover worked its magic, sucking up the German surpluses and keeping alive the worldwide glut of cheap private money, all seemed well. While the imbalances within Europe were getting larger, cheap private money allowed deficit states to cover the gap by borrowing. But when the Grand Hoover splattered and died, Europe's underlying imbalances came to the fore.

Economics is politics by other means
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 2nd, 2011 at 10:26:58 AM EST
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