Greece’s Grand Decoupling, the Nuclear Option and an Alternative Strategy: A comment on Münchau

tripitoIn his latest Financial Times column Wolfgang Münchau concurs with much of what I have written here (on the Greek social economy’s deep coma) and here (on the reasons why investors are piling in) but goes on to suggest that Greece should seriously consider exiting the Eurozone. In today’s post I offer an evaluation of his argument. In brief, I argue that, while Münchau’s assessment of the situation on the ground is spot on, the use of the ‘nuclear option’ (i.e. threatening to exit the Eurozone) is neither desirable nor necessary as a means of forcing Europe to change its ways. Continue reading

The Grand Greek Paradox: Bankrupt but embraced by the money markets – On the BBC World Service

Greece


(listen to the first story; first 15′)

Greece is about to issue 5 year bonds again. Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt and Athens are celebrating Greece’s recovery.  For my part, I think (and tell the BBC World Service) that this is a sad day for Greece and it is a sad day for Europe. Why do I refuse to be impressed and join in the celebrations? It is because the Greek state and the Greek banks remain deeply insolvent. And, their return to the money markets is a harbinger of the next terrible phase of Greece’s crisis, rather than a cause for celebration. Continue reading

Europe’s latest policy on Irish and Greek banking losses: A tale of two swindles too similar for comfort

Greece-IrelandThe Irish and the Greeks are, in many ways, very different people. And yet, caught up in the Euro Crisis, our fortunes have become too close for comfort. Recently, European authorities have devised a creative new method for damaging the people of Ireland and of Greece further. The new method involved imposed changes on the public financing of bank recapitalisations that shift even greater burdens on taxpayers and on the weaker members of our societies. This article examines the changes and answers the pertinent question: Why is Europe doing this?

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AUSTERITY – a televised debate (by the Institute of World Affairs) on its logic and discontents featuring J.K. Galbraith, Jeff Sommers and Yanis Varoufakis

  • James Galbraith,  Lloyd M. Bentsen Jr. Chair in Government/Business Relations and Professor of Government, University of Texas – Austin
  • Yanis Varoufakis, Visiting Professor at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas – Austin, and
  • Jeffrey Sommers, Senior Fellow, Institute of World Affairs
  • Moderator:  Doug Savage, Institute of World Affairs

Think Big, Think Bold

EU isn't workingWhy the Left in Britain and in the Eurozone must aim for a radical Pan-European Green New Deal 

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS) kindly invited me to draft a possible Manifesto for the European Left, in view of the May 2014 European Parliament election. Here is the final document I produced entitled THINK BIG, THINK BOLD: Why the European Left must aim for a radical, Pan-European, Green New Deal.

 

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Why I signed the petition for a Portuguese debt restructure

Pray for portugalJorge Rodrigues, of  Portuguese daily Expresso, asked me to explain why it is that I signed the petition of 74 economists calling for an immediate debt restructuring of Portugal’s public debt, how this ‘call’ squares up with our Modest Proposal and what type of debt restructuring I had in mind. Click here for the interview as published in Expresso. My original answers in English follow… (See also this piece on lessons for Portugal from the Greek PSI – click here for the Portuguese published version) Continue reading

70 economists petition for an immediate Portuguese debt restructure

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 9.17.05 AMWhile Frankfurt-Berlin-Brussels are in full spin mode on Portugal, pretending that the fiscal consolidation program was successful and the country is about to exit its bailout (a little like exiting the frying pan to land in the fire itself), the bitter reality is that Portugal’s public debt is out of control, its labour market in shambles, its real economy moribund. Against the grain of Europe’s shameless propagandists, 70 of us have signed a petition calling for an immediate debt restructure that might give Portugal a chance to escape its debt-deflationary spiral. Click here for a pdf of our letter/petition as published in a Portuguese newspaper. 

Why has the Eurozone Bond Market stabilised?

bondIn June 2012, at a time when central banks had pushed interest rates to almost zero, Italy had to borrow at 8% to re-finance its gargantuan $3 trillion debt. Spain was in even direr straits. With national income falling by 2% annually, these interest rates meant that the national debt mountain was rising by 10% every year. In one word, insolvency! This was the spectre hanging over major European nations in the summer of 2012, guaranteeing that the Eurozone was finished. Today, Italy’s and Spain’s interest rates have fallen to a more manageable 3% to 4% and national income has stabilised. There is even fast money that flows into the crippled European banks, even into the dismembered Greek stock exchange, seeking bargain-basement prices for certain woefully depressed shares. These observations can easily be mistaken for signs of light at the end of the tunnel. But ‘mistaken’ is the operative word. Continue reading

If Scotland, why not Greece?

Why an independent Scotland should get out of sterling, but Greece should not volunteer to exit the Eurozone

Bank of Scotland NoteScotland should state its intention to decouple from sterling, once independent, rather than petitioning for a continuation of its subservient role in an asymmetrical sterling union. Or so I argued in the Scottish Times in ‘Scotland Must Be Braver’ (28th November 2013). But if this is good advice for Scotland, why am I arguing that Greece should not sever its links with the even more odious monetary union known as the Eurozone? Unless the two cases differ, my argument lacks consistency. But they do differ. Fundamentally too. Continue reading

James K. Galbraith on Inequality and the Eurozone (audio)

at the Progressive Economic Conference, Brussels 2nd March 2014


 

Austerity as a destabilising assault on the New Deal institutions: A joint presentation by J.K. Galbraith & Y. Varoufakis (video)

A debate involving James K. Galbraith, Yanis Varoufakis and Jeff Sommers (in the role of moderator) took place on 24th February at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in the context of the George Kennan Distinguished Lecture Series. An amateurish recording is available here. For ease of ‘navigation’, a list of topics (with their location on the recording’s timeline) is presented below.

  1. During the first few minutes, J. Galbraith talks about George Kennan (given that the occasion was The Distinguished George Kennan Lecture Series).
  2. Then for forty minutes Y. Varoufakis and J. Galbraith discuss austerity: its intellectual and historical roots, the political motivation driving it in the US and in Europe and the general state of play in the US and Europe (including an intervention from Jeff Sommers on the Latvian experiment with austerity).
  3. Starting at around 47′ we discuss  minimum wages , presenting the microeconomic, macroeconomic and social importance of raising minimum wages to a level that they can sustain a decent life – plus a rejoinder to the false claim that higher minimum wages will depress employment. 
  4. From 58’30” to the end, a discussion with the audience ensues (questions are not clearly audible – but our answers are!)

BITCOIN: A flawed currency blueprint with a potentially useful application for the Eurozone

The responses of many to my post on Bitcoin reveal a powerful tendency to underestimate the ill-effects of deflation on a social economy. This tendency to underestimate deflation’s deleterious impact matters beyond debates on Bitcoin per se. For example, in Europe the incapacity of the European Central Bank (ECB) to act in the face of deflationary forces has revealed the same type of misunderstanding, as many commentators fail to recognise that deflation is a very serious threat and that the ECB’s lack of weapons against it constitutes a major weakness. In this post I return to the problem of deflation in a Gold Standard-like monetary system (e.g. Bitcoin or, indeed, the Eurozone itself) but conclude that, almost paradoxically, the technology of Bitcoin, if suitably adapted, can be employed profitably in the Eurozone as a weapon against deflation and a means of providing much needed leeway to fiscally stressed Eurozone member-states. Continue reading