The Euros Zone


By David Merkel of Aleph Blog

I want to toss out a half-baked idea for others to play with, criticize, and adjust.

But first, a fully baked idea: the Euro was doomed to fail.  Any core Euro after kicking out the miscreants is also doomed to fail.  You can’t have monetary union long-term with political/fiscal union.  The roadblocks to economic union are cultural issues that express themselves politically.  The upshot is that either you politically merge nations that are similar (and intermarry), or your nation should have its own currency, so that needed macroeconomic adjustments can occur.  A single currency for disparate nations is a decidedly bad idea, and the Euro-sceptics so roundly derided in 1998 have been proven right within 14 years.

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So, now for my half-baked idea — it is time to undo the Eurozone in entire, but we will keep the Euro, or rather, Euros.  This would have to be done quickly or it would not work well.  When those in the Eurozone wake up one morning, they find that they do not have Euros any longer, but Greeks have Greek Euros, Germans have German Euros, etc., and they do not trade at parity.

Most of this would take place through bank deposits and savings, which would instantly shift.  Currency is far smaller and would be stamped (for paper bills) or struck (for coinage) by governments that have an interest in having more currency in circulation, but until the stamping or striking, a euro is a euro, and can be used anywhere.  In the short run, that would mean that some currency would leak to core Eurozone countries and away from the periphery.

The pro-rata shares of the ECB would be handed back to the national central banks, and the ECB dissolved.  The national central banks would then be capable of pursuing the interests of their own nations.  What a thought!

But what about existing long term contracts to pay Euros?  If to a nation in the Eurozone, it can be paid in either of the new Euros, that of the payor or the receiver.  If to a nation outside the Eurozone, they get the Euro of that particular nation.  What was a credit loss or gain becomes a currency loss or gain.

Many of the Eurozone nations would have to support their banks during such a crisis for solvency reasons, but their national central banks would once again have the freedom to do this.

Yes, this would be painful, and it would be a mess.  But it would be a “Big Bang” that sets the nations of the Eurozone free from their artificial shackles, and allows the nations in the Eurozone to liquefy, inflate, and reconcile all of the debts built up.  It would also send losses to nations that lent to the Euro-fringe.  After this is done, all of Europe would be in better shape economically, and Europe would be more, not less united, because they don’t have to argue over monetary policy.

Thoughts?  I welcome them.   I know I have omitted a lot; I also know this is impractical given the nature of EU/EZ treaties, but I toss it out to stimulate discussion.

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David J. Merkel, CFA, FSA — 2010-present, I am working on setting up my own equity asset management shop, tentatively called Aleph Investments. It is possible that I might do a joint venture with someone else if we can do more together than separately. From 2008-2010, I was the Chief Economist and Director of Research of Finacorp Securities. I did a many things for Finacorp, mainly research and analysis on a wide variety of fixed income and equity securities, and trading strategies. Until 2007, I was a senior investment analyst at Hovde Capital, responsible for analysis and valuation of investment opportunities for the FIP funds, particularly of companies in the insurance industry. I also managed the internal profit sharing and charitable endowment monies of the firm. From 2003-2007, I was a leading commentator at the investment website Back in 2003, after several years of correspondence, James Cramer invited me to write for the site, and I wrote for RealMoney on equity and bond portfolio management, macroeconomics, derivatives, quantitative strategies, insurance issues, corporate governance, etc. My specialty is looking at the interlinkages in the markets in order to understand individual markets better. I no longer contribute to RealMoney; I scaled it back because my work duties have gotten larger, and I began this blog to develop a distinct voice with a wider distribution. After three-plus year of operation, I believe I have achieved that. Prior to joining Hovde in 2003, I managed corporate bonds for Dwight Asset Management. In 1998, I joined the Mount Washington Investment Group as the Mortgage Bond and Asset Liability manager after working with Provident Mutual, AIG and Pacific Standard Life. My background as a life actuary has given me a different perspective on investing. How do you earn money without taking undue risk? How do you convey ideas about investing while showing a proper level of uncertainty on the likelihood of success? How do the various markets fit together, telling us us a broader story than any single piece? These are the themes that I will deal with in this blog. I hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Johns Hopkins University. In my spare time, I take care of our eight children with my wonderful wife Ruth.
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