I’ve written before about the upcoming breakdown of the European welfare state, and my fingers are crossed that American policy makers will learn the right lessons and restrain the size and scope of government before we suffer from the social chaos and disarray that is sweeping through nations as varied as Greece and the United Kingdom.
Some defenders of big government claim that Europe will be okay, but a column in the New York Times by Desmond Lachman and Dalibor Rohac provides some sobering analysis. Some of their analysis focuses on the inherent instability of the common European currency, which certainly is a contributing factor, but the key takeaway is that many European nations are going to default. In the short run, the resulting economic instability will have a negative impact on the United States, but the long-run impact could be positive if American lawmakers undo the profligacy of the Bush-Obama years and put the U.S. back on a sound fiscal path.
…the European Central Bank president, Jean-Claude Trichet, now keeps asserting that Europe’s sovereign debt crisis does not pose a significant threat to the overall European economy, let alone to the global economy. American policymakers would do well to disregard Mr. Trichet’s sanguine remarks and brace themselves for a European economic tsunami that is all too likely to seriously derail the fragile U.S. economic recovery. …over the past decade countries in Europe’s periphery have consistently not managed their public finances according to the arrangement’s rules. As a result, outsized budget and balance-of-payment deficits do not now simply characterize the Greek, Irish and Portuguese economies. Rather, more ominously, they also characterize Spain, which is aptly being described on Wall Street as being too big to fail yet also too big to save. …European policymakers understand full well that a wave of sovereign debt defaults in Europe’s periphery would more than likely precipitate a full-blown European banking crisis, since European banks are the main holders of the $2 trillion in the periphery’s sovereign debt. This suggests that European policy makers in the north will not lightly turn off the financing spigot that presently keeps the periphery afloat. However, judging by the crushing defeat handed Ms. Merkel in the May 2010 Westphalia state election, electoral considerations will likely make it all but impossible to indefinitely continue such financing.