In 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
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
The 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?
- 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
Bengt-Ake Lundvall is a co-signatory of the petition by 74 of us in favour of an immediate restructuring of Portugal’s public debt. Here are his reasons for signing the petition. (And, for readers who missed them, here are the reasons I gave for signing the same petition.)
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.
Jorge 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
While 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.
In 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
Jorge Rodrigues, of Portuguese daily Expresso, wrote to me with a question: “What lessons can countries like Portugal learn from the Greek PSI of 2012, now that their post-bailout debts have also become unsustainable?” My answers were published in Expresso on 17th March 2014. My original answers in English follow: Continue reading
Why an independent Scotland should get out of sterling, but Greece should not volunteer to exit the Eurozone
Scotland 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
Let us accept (as I do) the principle that national minorities have the right to self-determination within lopsided multi-ethnic states; e.g. Croats and Kosovars seceding from Yugoslavia, Scots from the UK, Georgians from the Soviet Union etc. Continue reading
at the Progressive Economic Conference, Brussels 2nd March 2014
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.
- During the first few minutes, J. Galbraith talks about George Kennan (given that the occasion was The Distinguished George Kennan Lecture Series).
- 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).
- 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.
- From 58’30” to the end, a discussion with the audience ensues (questions are not clearly audible – but our answers are!)
Moralizing and generalization have always been terrible foundations for public policy. Continue reading
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