A European Depressionary Relapse Looks Increasingly Likely
Edward Harrison | May. 17, 2010, 12:01 PM
In March I wrote an American version of this post which pointed to the bailout culture in America as a major reason I fear a depressionary relapse. American policy makers have shifted private losses onto the government’s books while propping up bankrupt companies in the private sector in order to forestall yet greater economic pain.
The mindset is fixed on re-engineering some semblance of past economic growth. The result has been a return in the US to the status quo ante of low savings, excess consumption, indebted households, and leveraged financial institutions, but with policy options significantly diminished and greater levels of government debt to boot. Clearly, when stimulus is withdrawn, policy makers should expect more severe economic bloodletting.
In Europe, the same bailout mentality is at work. However, the results are likely to be even more disastrous because of the fundamental misunderstanding of economics and financial sector balances amongst the policy elite in Euroland. The public and private sector cannot simultaneously net save unless the Europeans engineer a competitive currency devaluation. Therefore, the Europeans’ newfound fiscal austerity is at odds with the need of the private sector to reduce debt and will likely lead to a collapse in consumer demand and depression or a trade war. What Europe needs is to allow over-indebted nations to default, reducing the political and economic pressure of austerity. more