Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Euro exit talk risks self-fulfilling prophecy
July 23, 2012
To understand the impact of a potential Greek exit from the euro zone, imagine an operating theater inside a betting shop.
As surgeons prepare to amputate a gangrened foot to prevent infection spreading to healthier parts of the body, gamblers on the sidelines lay bets on which limb will be next for the chop.
Talk of a possible Greek exit has already sapped investors' confidence in the 17-nation single currency area and contributed to higher borrowing costs for Spain and Italy. It is making a planned return to market funding next year harder for Ireland and Portugal, which are implementing tough bailout programs.
Some European politicians and central bankers clearly see jettisoning a delinquent member as a salutory lesson to others not to abuse club privileges. Like the English in Voltaire's philosophical novel Candide, they believe "it's a good thing to execute an admiral from time to time, to encourage the others".
Other policymakers and market participants fear that pushing Greece towards the exit would start a chain reaction, materializing huge costs for investors and taxpayers and perhaps triggering a break-up of the euro.