Friday, May 21, 2010

The Future of the Euro

The fire and brimstone clouding the European sky is not the volcanic ash from Iceland but rather the bleak outlook for a unified currency. To put it mildly the Euro is doomed, it is just a just a question of how the entire scenario unfolds.

Currencies only work for a nation when their own central government has control over the money. A country using a currency while ceding control of the exchange mechanism simply makes the nation a victim of all the other entities using the notes. Germany and other northern European nations recently learned this harsh lesson. The Euro worked while all the economies across the continent were rising, but quickly imploded when a recession occurred. The southern European nations with poor financial controls that that have historically defaulted multiple times are now in a position to collectively drag down the entire collection of economies due to the common currency. Prior the Euro these countries would default and their individual currencies would be devalued.

It is true that the more people that use a currency then the stronger the value. Witness the strength of the deutschemark after the inclusion of East Germany. However a country must have sole control over their currency and not yield power to a central authority in order to be successful. I found that the Germans were very supportive of the merger of East and West Germany despite concerns over the poverty in the East at the time. Today, Germans are outright furious that the country is bailing out Greece and other nations. Most of the people on the street recognize what is going to happen next which is why they are lining up at banks to demand Euro notes with X’s in the serial numbers that are associated with Germany and not other countries.

While the entire situation can play out in multiple scenarios; there are two obvious ones. The first is that the Euro will divide into two segments, the stronger northern European nations with one version of the Euro and the southern European nations with a version of the Euro which is next to worthless. This explains why German citizens are lined up demanding “their national Euro notes”. It is likely that outside notes will soon be devalued.

The second possible scenario involves individual countries withdrawing from the Euro exchange mechanism and reinstituting their own national currencies. A good number of barriers and political negotiations will have to be overcome to allow this type of withdrawal. On the other hand people rioting in the streets generally has the tendency to make central union decision making to move with more haste.

Another likely scenario involving individual nations withdrawing from the Euro focuses on the central union giving countries with debt problems the boot and demanding that they withdraw from the Euro. As the size and scope of the debt issues become more apparent there will be a greater howl across the continent for the offending nations to withdraw.

In the long term where will this leave the Euro? It would be best if it was used as a basket of currencies for international trade as it was originally intended – 23% franc, 34% deutschemark, etc. rather than being used as a universal note in retail trade across the entire EU block. The disbanding of the common Euro is the best solution and the obvious path for continent.


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