Europe sovereign debt crisis: A lot of bad ideas, a few good ones.
Conventional wisdom says that sovereign defaults mean the end of the euro: If Greece defaults it has to leave the single currency; German taxpayers have to bail out southern governments to save the union.
This is nonsense.
U.S. states and local governments have defaulted on dollar debts, just as companies default. A currency is simply a unit of value, as meters are units of length. If the Greeks had skimped on the olive oil in a liter bottle, that wouldn’t threaten the metric system.
When the era of wishful thinking ends, Europe will face a stark choice.
- It can have a monetary union without sovereign defaults.
That option means fiscal union, accepting real German control of Greek and Italian (and maybe French) budgets. Nobody wants that, with good reason.
- Or Europe can have a monetary union without fiscal union.
That would work well, but it needs to be based on two central ideas: Sovereigns must be able to default just like companies, and banks, including the central bank, must treat sovereign debt just like company debt….. “
- John H. Cochrane, a professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute, is a contributor to Business Class.