Getting the Story Right: How You Should Choose between Different Interpretations of the European Crisis (And Why You Should Care)

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Series Details Vol.37, No.7, November 2015, p817-832
Publication Date November 2015
ISSN 0703-6337
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The European crisis has many causes. Worse, the different causes are mutually reinforcing. National economies lost competitiveness within the single currency, governments and households lived beyond their means, banks and other financial firms moved capital across borders and then called it back home again in a fit of panic. Europe is suffering as a consequence. European policy-making is suffering as well. With so many ‘causes’, politicians are dividing their attention across different and at times competing remedies. Europe appears to be ‘muddling through’ rather than acting decisively as a result. This paper argues that European policymakers should focus their attention on financial causal mechanisms. Although there is some truth to claims about lost competitiveness and excessive borrowing, a close focus on financial markets promises to offer the greatest leverage over the largest number of national economies. A close focus on finance also offers a clear choice between competing policy agendas: Europe's politicians must choose either to accept a renationalization of finance or they must embrace reforms necessary to stabilize international financial market integration. Only once that choice is made, and the necessary policy agendas are put in place, should politicians again turn their focus to issues of second-order (if still significant) importance related to market structural reform, fiscal consolidation, or asset market regulation.

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