In this video Philipp Bagus, Assistant professor of Economics at Madrid’s Universidad Rey Juan Carlos and author of The Tragedy of the Euro, and Alasdair Macleod of the GoldMoney Foundation talk about the eurozone facing the problem that is characterised in the “tragedy of the commons” analogy. Bagus explains this phenomenon by way of an example of overfished and over-exploited oceans due to a lack of property rights on oceans. In Europe, governments run larger deficits than their “competitors” in order to externalise the costs to all users of the currency. Knowing these incentives, the Stability and Growth Pact was put in place as per the early 1990s Maastricht Treaty, capping budget deficits at 3% of GDP and the debt to GDP level at 60%. However there was no enforcement of these rules which is why there have already been more than 80 infringements to this stability pact without any repercussions.
They talk about possible solutions to the euro crisis. Bagus points out that there are basically three different ways to go about it. Firstly, governments could make drastic cuts in public spending and privatise public assets in order to balance their budgets. However, there will be – and is – strong political resistance to such proposals. Secondly, the eurozone could disintegrate, driven by a reluctance of German citizens to pay for other countries’ expenditures. And lastly, central banks and governments could decide to print their way out of the crisis, leading to high inflation.
Bagus says that as long as the incentive for running deficits exists there won’t be an increase in countries’ savings rates. Macleod points out that there is great institutional resistance to breaking up the euro. Bagus explains that the official opinion towards the euro is positive in Germany; however the sentiment on the streets looks quite different. But as long as there is no political party devoted to this issue this mood is not likely to gain traction at least as long as inflation remains moderate.
Amid the ongoing expansion of the money supply and persistent deficits, Bagus can’t see the dollar gaining in value over the medium to long term. He also says that ECB policies are a lot more pragmatic than the ones undertaken by the US Federal Reserve. Talking about sound money, Bagus explains different ways to go about its introduction. One way would be to back all the money in existence by gold, adjusting the price of gold accordingly. Another would be to take away legal tender laws and have competing currencies. However this would require the governments to impose dramatic reforms, which is partly why they will oppose such measures.
This interview was recorded on November 15 2011 in Madrid.