Over the weekend, just because apparently someone really needed content at any cost (in this case zero), we got a new intellectual stillborn from none other than the man who more than anyone is responsible for the global economic collapse the world has been in for the past 4 years, and from which it is nowhere even close in escaping. The man of course is Larry Summers, who first crushed global finance, then Harvard, and finally Obama's economic platform, whom the FT saw fit to give the chance to pontificate on such concepts at growth and austerity, because apparently, growth through austerity, whereby banking sector debt is written down in parallel is not growth, but there is some subsegment of "growth", heretofore unknown, that Europe has not tried before, and will instead focus on that going forward. To paraphrase Lewis Black: don't think about that sentence too hard, or blood will shoot out of your nose.
Once again Europe’s efforts to contain its crisis have fallen short. It was perhaps reasonable to hope that the European Central Bank’s longer-term refinancing operation to provide nearly $1tn in cheap three-year funding to European banks would halt the crisis for a while if not resolve it. It is now clear it has been little more than a palliative. Weak banks, especially in Spain, have bought more of the debt of their weak sovereigns while foreigners have sold down their holdings. Markets see banks grow ever more nervous. Again, both Europe and the global economy approach the brink.
In any policy sphere a great debate always follows signs of failure. The architects of the current policy and their allies argue that the problem lies in insufficient determination to maintain the existing strategy. Others argue for a change in course, a view that seems to be taking hold among European electorates – and rightly so. There is a good chance that much of what is being urged is likely to be not just ineffective but counterproductive in terms of maintaining the monetary union, restoring normal financial conditions and government access to markets, and re-establishing growth.
Unfortunately, Europe has misdiagnosed its problems and set the wrong strategic course. Outside Greece, which represents only 2 per cent of the eurozone, profligacy is not the root cause of problems. Spain and Ireland stood out for their low ratios of debt to gross domestic product five years ago with ratios well below Germany. Italy had a high debt ratio but a very favourable deficit position. Europe’s problem countries are in trouble because the financial crisis under way since 2008 has damaged their financial systems and led to a collapse in growth. High deficits are much more a symptom than a cause of their problems.
And here is Dr. Larry with his best Greg House impersonation:
Treating symptoms rather than causes is usually a good way to make a patient worse. So it is in Europe. Its financial problems stem from lack of growth. In any financial situation where interest rates far exceed growth rates, debt problems spiral out of control. The right focus for Europe is on growth. In this context increased austerity is a step in the wrong direction.
Keep the previous in mind as you read one of ours quotes of the week (month, year, and maybe even decade) from October 2011, which also happened to come from the same corpulent creature:
Presented without commentary:
"The central irony of financial crisis is that while it is caused by too much confidence, too much borrowing and lending and too much spending, it can only be resolved with more confidence, more borrowing and lending, and more spending."
- Larry Summers, source
And somehow this individual is seen as fit to opine on symptoms and underlying causes, on cause and effect.