This column argues that the legacy of public debt resulting from the crisis in the Eurozone is a serious threat. Both the size of the problem and the options to address it make life much more difficult for policymakers than was the case in the late 1930s after the collapse of the gold standard. For some countries, a ‘subservient’ central bank might be preferable to the ECB.
The views and theories on the impossible trinity are conflicting. This column discusses some of the theories and their potential drawbacks. It points out that the impossible trinity has policy relevance for advances economies because their currencies are often close substitutes, and exchange rates follow expectations. For emerging economies, however, the policies implied by the impossible trinity could not be sustained due to the instability of their financial markets.
The idea that there is a common tipping point in the relationship between public debt and economic growth is still widespread. However, this is likely due to a misinterpretation of the existing evidence. Once we allow for the relationship between debt and growth to be country-specific, there is limited evidence supporting the presence of a within-countries debt threshold.
Today’s austerity, many argue, is stupid. This column argues that today’s EZ austerity may arise from stupidity before the crisis – specifically lacklustre structural reform. Excess debt arose in nations maintaining unsustainable living standards and welfare systems in the face of poor growth. The Crisis forced radical adjustments such as austerity in a recession. It’s not austerity which caused low growth, but low pre-Crisis growth which ultimately caused austerity. The way out of austerity is fundamental pro-growth reforms that create room for more gradual fiscal adjustment.
In the debate over Scottish independence, the question of how the UK’s assets and sovereign debt would be divided has received insufficient attention. This column argues that the size of Scotland’s debt obligations would be crucial to its optimal choice of currency. Under plausible assumptions, fiscal tightening would be required to return Scottish debt to sustainable levels, and a self-fulfilling rise in borrowing costs might tempt Scotland to leave the sterling currency union. A debt-for-oil swap might be mutually beneficial for a newly independent Scotland and the continuing UK.
Other Recent Articles:
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- Tax policy for hard times
- System-wide exposures to emerging markets
- How to make Europe's incipient recovery durable – A rejoinder
- Unconventional monetary policies revisited (Part II)
- Tax-policy procyclicality
- Next Greek package: Dangers for the EZ
- German labour reforms: Unpopular success
- Reduce policy uncertainty to solidify EZ recovery
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- A new taxonomy of Sudden Stops: Which Sudden Stops should countries be most concerned about?
- Inclusive growth revisited: Measurement and evolution
- To end the Eurozone crisis, bury the debt forever
- When is the time for austerity?
- Redesigning the ECB
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- The cat in the tree and further observations: Rethinking macroeconomic policy
- Rethinking macroeconomic policy
- A tale of two depressions: What do the new data tell us? February 2010 updateEichengreen, O’Rourke
- The ECB’s stealth bailoutSinn
- Educated in America: College graduates and high school dropoutsHeckman, LaFontaine
- Eurozone breakup would trigger the mother of all financial crisesEichengreen
- Panic-driven austerity in the Eurozone and its implicationsDe Grauwe, Ji
Adelman, 28 October 2013
Reichlin, Giugliano, 7 November 2013