Policy Responses to the European Debt Crisis Treating the â€œSymptomsâ€ or the â€œDiseaseâ€?
The conventional narrative for the European debt crisis stresses three factors, namely, bad policies and profligacy in the afflicted countries â€“ mostly southern ones, flaws in the EMU design, and wise policies in the northern frugal countries. This paper argues that the root causes of the crisis lie in the failure of many â€œsafety valvesâ€ of market economies, at many levels of the society, both in the crisis countries and in the more â€œprudentâ€ EMU countries, in an economic environment where unfettered finance can overwhelm even the biggest and best managed economies. Hence, the policy responses based on the conventional narrative are akin to treating the â€œsymptomsâ€, not the â€œdiseaseâ€. As such, they may be setting the foundations for a bigger crisis in the future by strengthening the always-present perverse incentives of many economic players and by proposing complex and unworkable regulatory and supervisory structures. This, together with the unequal sharing of the burden of adjustment â€“ both across and within countries, bodes ill for the long-term prospects of EMU, despite that the aforementioned failures are not intrinsically related to the euro.
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