In a Financial Times opinion piece, George Soros adds his massive weigh to the I-told-you-so chorus trashing the euro’s.
While he makes an old, fundamental argument against the euro, this long-forgotten criticism seems more valid than ever right now:
[Emphasis added] Otmar Issing, one of the fathers of the euro, correctly states the principle on which the single currency was founded. As he wrote in the FT last week, the euro was meant to be a monetary union but not a political one. Participating states established a common central bank but refused to surrender the right to tax their citizens to a common authority. This principle was enshrined in the Maastricht treaty and has since been rigorously interpreted by the German constitutional court. The euro was a unique and unusual construction whose viability is now being tested.
The construction is patently flawed. A fully fledged currency requires both a central bank and a Treasury. The Treasury need not be used to tax citizens on an everyday basis but it needs to be available in times of crisis. When the financial system is in danger of collapsing, the central bank can provide liquidity, but only a Treasury can deal with problems of solvency. This is a well-known fact that should have been clear to everyone involved in the creation of the euro. Mr Issing admits that he was among those who believed that “starting monetary union without having established a political union was putting the cart before the horse”.
So makeshift assistance should be enough for Greece, but that leaves Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland. Together they constitute too large a portion of euroland to be helped in this way. The survival of Greece would still leave the future of the euro in question. Even if it handles the current crisis, what about the next one? It is clear what is needed: more intrusive monitoring and institutional arrangements for conditional assistance. A well-organised eurobond market would be desirable. The question is whether the political will for these steps can be generated.