Breaking up the euro area: How to resign from the club

The barriers to leaving are high but could still be crawled over by a country determined to leave

The Economist

…The idea of breaking up the currency zone raises at least three questions. First, why would a country choose to leave? Second, how would a country manage the switch to a new currency? Third—and perhaps most important—would leavers be better off outside the euro than inside it?

The main reason why a country might choose to leave the euro is to regain the monetary independence it sacrificed on joining and to set monetary policy to suit its own economic conditions. This could apply to the strong as well as the weak. Germans may long to have the Bundesbank in charge again. It would surely not take risks with long-term inflation, by keeping liquidity lines open to weak foreign banks, or with its political independence, by buying government bonds. And given the strength of the German economy, it might raise interest rates soon.

As it is, the European Central Bank (ECB), though based in Germany and modelled on the pre-euro Bundesbank, has had to react to the economic and financial weaknesses of the rest of the euro zone in ways that Germans do not like. Add to this taxpayers’ disgust at having to stand behind the public debts of less thrifty countries, and the idea of abandoning the euro looks enticing to some Germans. That appeal might extend to countries, such as Austria and Netherlands, with strong economic ties to Germany. They might prefer to join a new D-mark block than to stay with the euro, were Germany to leave.

Weak economies might also hanker for a monetary policy tailored to their own needs…

…Introducing a new currency would be difficult but not impossible. A government could simply pass a law saying that the wages of public workers, welfare cheques and government debts would henceforth be paid in a new currency, converted at an official fixed rate. Such legislation would also require all other financial dealings—private-sector pay, mortgages, stock prices, bank loans and so on—to be switched to the new currency…

Read the entire article at The Economist.

H/T American Power

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