Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Nobody's "Blaming 'Germany' for everything" - I always say who said what that is being objected to. But, taken as a whole, a lot of the people calling the shots are German. For instance, I blame Merkel for a bunch of things. Just today:
"We must make it very clear to people that the current problem, namely of excessive debt built up over decades, cannot be solved in one blow, with things like euro bonds or debt restructurings that will suddenly make everything okay. No, this will be a long, hard path, but one that is right for the future of Europe."
According to reports, she actually proposed to introduce a Constitutional Debt Brake at the EU level.

In any case, the insistence that the current problem [is] excessive debt built up over decades is demonstrably false. But debating this point is like talking to a dining room table

We talk about the euro crisis. They say, "Clearly, this was about fiscal irresponsibility, and we need to enforce much stricter rules." I say,

No fiscal rule would have constrained the Spanish housing bubble and its consequences.

And they say, "Thank you for your contribution. Clearly, this was about fiscal irresponsibility, and we need to enforce much stricter rules."


The blue line is Germany; the red line is Spain.

And, yes, this is mostly coming from Germany and it's coming from everyone who is anyone in Germany. Hey, even you agree that the problem is debt. More Krugman
A correspondent informs me that Wolfgang Schaeuble, the German finance minister, has just given a speech asserting that excessive public debt caused the 2008 crisis. In fact, I'm told, he said that
It's actually undisputed among economists worldwide that one of the main causes - if not the main cause - of the turbulence - not just now, but already in 2008 - was excessive public debt everywhere in the world.
OK, we can prove that wrong immediately: I dispute it, Brad DeLong disputes it, Christy Romer disputes it, and I think we fall into the category of "economists worldwide".
As Wolfgang Münchau put it in 2009: Berlin weaves a deficit hair-shirt for us all - yeah, that's right, none of this forced march to constitutional balanced budget reforms would have happened if Germany hadn't gotten the ball rolling and, moreover, continued to argue for its necessity and used the Euro crisis as a stick to force other countries to do it.
A decision was taken recently in Berlin to introduce a balanced-budget law in the German constitution. It was a hugely important decision. It may not have received due attention outside Germany given the flood of other economic and financial news. From 2016, it will be illegal for the federal government to run a deficit of more than 0.35 per cent of gross domestic product. From 2020, the federal states will not be allowed to run any deficit at all. Unlike Europeâ€TMs stability and growth pact, which was first circumvented, later softened and then ignored, this unilateral constitutional law will stick. I would expect that for the next 20 or 30 years, deficit reduction will be the first, second and third priority of German economic policy.


I am a little surprised not to hear howls of protests from France and other European countries. Germany has not consulted its European partners in a systematic way. While the Maastricht treaty says countries should treat economic policy as a matter of common concern, this was an example of policy unilateralism at its most extreme.


While the balanced budget law is economically illiterate, it is also universally popular. ...

This general level of debt-aversion is bizarre. Many ordinary Germans regard debt as morally objectionable, even if it is put to proper use. They see the financial crisis primarily as a moral crisis of Anglo-Saxon capitalism. The balanced budget constitutional law is therefore not about economics. It is a moral crusade, and it is the last thing, Germany, the eurozone and the world need right now.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Sep 8th, 2011 at 04:01:33 AM EST
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