Thursday, May 6, 2010

My Big, Fat Greek Disaster

The old saying, "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts," might now be changed to, "Beware of Greeks bearing debt." Indeed, after yesterday's murderous riots, people also need to beware of Greeks bearing Molotov Cocktails, as Greek government employees, after living high on financial bubbles, do not believe they should have to face financial reality.

In a blog post, Paul Krugman acknowledges that the "Greek end game" is going to be disastrous no matter what, as no one there is willing to face the truth: Greece was living in a bubble economy, and when the bubble bursts, there is nowhere to hide. Unfortunately, as a true Keynesian, Krugman believes that the Very Worst Thing that can happen Greece is deflation.

But even Krugman admits that the Greeks need to get their economy into some kind of balance, and that is amazing, given that Keynesians believe that all factors of production, for purpose of economic analysis, are homogeneous, and the way to get costs of factors (especially labor) and prices of goods into "balance" is through inflation. Yet, even that bit of wisdom is tempered with Keynesian foolishness. He writes:
The only thing that could reduce that need for austerity would be something that helped the economy expand, or at least not contract as much. This would reduce the economic pain; it would also increase revenues, reducing the needed amount of fiscal austerity.

But the only route to economic expansion is higher exports — which can only be achieved if Greek costs and prices fall sharply relative to the rest of Europe.
He admits, however, that Greece is not a cohesive society, so the most likely scenario is for Greece to "leave the Euro" and go to printing Drachmas again. That, Krugman admits, will be disastrous, triggering bank runs and worse.

Yet, Krugman does not realize that the problem of leaving the Euro would create even more problems for Greece than bank runs. Should Greece leave the Euro and go back to the Drachma, the currency markets will treat the Drachma as "soft money" and give it the same status as money from Zimbabwe, which does not trade on any currency markets.

To put it another way, Greece will become essentially a Third World country. How did this happen? It happened because central banks around the world engaged in Keynesian "expansion" by creating Dollars, Euros, you name it. Keynesians believe that such action can go on forever without creating any consequences. As you can see, that simply is not true.

Greece is living the consequences. They either can get their house in order and suffer the short-term consequences, or they can go on living in the inflationist fantasy that is Keynesian "economics."

3 comments:

Econophile said...

I love this blog.

William L. Anderson said...

Thanks. The Tonya Craft trial has taken up all of my energy and emotion, but I still feel a responsibility to post here. When the trial is over, I'll be more active here.

JonCatalán said...

What I find particularly interesting is his belief that Greece would benefit from falling prices, yet he is unwilling to allow the bubble to deflate. True, deflation always brings economic pain, but according to Krugman Greece has many years of pain ahead regardless. Would deflation, or a decrease in the supply of money (specifically credit created ex nihilo in this case), not bring a fall in the price level?

Krugman seems unwilling to accept his own conclusion.