Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Why a collapse of the Eurozone must be avoided

by Anders Åslund


August 21, 2012

It has become increasingly fashionable to talk about Europe without the euro. But this column points out that in the last century Europe has seen the collapse of three multi-nation currency zones: the Habsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia – and they all ended with disastrous hyperinflation. The lesson for the Eurozone is clear: avoid break up at almost any cost.

Articles on a possible breakup of Eurozone either see it as a mere devaluation (Lachman 2010, Roubini 2011) or reckon that its collapse would amount to a major economic disaster (Buiter 2011, Cliffe et al. 2010, Normand and Sandilya 2011). It seems the latter is more likely. Large imbalances have accumulated between southern debtor countries and northern creditor countries. Any capping of these balances would disrupt the payments mechanism between the Eurozone countries and impede all economic activity (Åslund 2012).

In the last century, Europe saw the collapse of three multi-nation currency zones, the Habsburg Empire, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. They all ended in major disasters with hyperinflation. In the Habsburg Empire, Austria and Hungary faced hyperinflation. Yugoslavia experienced hyperinflation twice. In the former Soviet Union, ten out of 15 republics had hyperinflation (e.g. Pasvolsky 1928, Dornbusch 1992, Pleskovic and Sachs 1994, and Åslund 1995).


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