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Greece, Germany and the Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis

February 16th, 2012

The current Eurozone debt crisis is not only an acute economic and debt crisis. It is also political farce, with a heavy dose of irony. The motivation for the creation of the euro was noble; the European continent had ripped itself apart over centuries of internecine warfare, culminating with two world wars in the 20th century had massacred tens of millions of Europeans. What better way to unite Europeans and end this circle of bloodshed than to create a common currency, the euro. That explains how good motivation can lead to very bad ideas.

The concept that a common currency can be used by 16 nations with vastly different economic and fiscal policies  was sheer folly. The past two years have witnessed the irrationality of this concept. Yet, Eurozone politicians have so much invested in the survival of the euro, they are prepared to defend it to the last European taxpayer. This mantra inevitably means defending the euro to the last German taxpayer. And it now seems that the rulers of Germany recognize that they cannot indefinitely ransom off the financial future of their voters to subsidize the euro and expect to remain in power. Thus, after a series of “final” resolutions to the Greek debt crisis, which were supposed to prevent the sovereign debt contagion spreading to Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy (which has clearly not happened) German ruling circles are beginning to raise skepticism over the most recent promises of Greek politicians. This leads to the possibility that eventually the largely German subsidized loans to Athens to stave off bankruptcy may come to an end. Increasingly, there is not only talk from Greece about leaving the Eurozone. There is emerging talk within Germany’s political and financial elites that perhaps the farce of repeated Greek bailouts should end, Athens should default on its debt and be kicked out of the Eurozone.

The irony of the situation is that a project intended to end inter-European strife through a common currency has not only proven to be a fiscal and economic disaster for the continent. The crisis is now re-igniting the embers of past conflagrations and hatreds in Europe. An example was the recent front page of a Greek newspaper featuring  German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a Nazi armband and storm-trooper’s uniform.  The increasingly strident comparisons of Merkel with Nazis in the Greek press is a reference to World War II, when Nazi Germany conquered Greece and inflicted a painful  three and a half year military occupation of their country.  That the euro seems to be failing as a political tool as much as a monetary unit is proof once again that the path to Hell is so often paved with the best  of intentions.


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