I have already had a number of interesting comments on my previous post which illustrate how confused the Eurozone macroeconomic debate has become. The confusion arises because talk of fiscal policy reminds people of Greece, the bailout and all that. That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about what happens when the Eurozone’s monetary policy stops working.
If Eurozone monetary policy was working, the Eurozone would be experiencing additional (monetary) stimulus everywhere, and average inflation would be 2%. Because Germany through 2000 to 2007 had an inflation rate below that in France and Italy, it now has to have an inflation rate above these countries. Something like 3% in Germany and 1% in countries like France and Italy for a number of years. If ECB monetary policy was working, Germany would get no choice in this, because it is part of what they signed up to when joining the Euro.
Monetary policy is not working because of the liquidity trap, so we instead have average Eurozone inflation at about 0.5%, with Germany at 1% and France/Italy at nearer zero. That implies a huge waste of Eurozone resources. That waste can be avoided, in a standard textbook manner, by at least suspending the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), and preferably by a coordinated fiscal stimulus.
Why is this not happening? There are two explanations: ignorance or greed. Ignorance is a non-scientific belief that fiscal stimulus cannot or should not substitute for monetary policy in a liquidity trap. Greed is that Germany wants to avoid having 3% inflation, because it controls fiscal policy.
Those that say that Germany would be ‘helping out’ France and Italy by agreeing to suspend the SGP and enact a stimulus therefore have it completely wrong. If things were working normally, Germany would be getting a (monetary) stimulus, whether it liked it or not. What Germany is doing is taking advantage of the fact that monetary policy is broken, at the rest of the Eurozone’s expense. Germany gains a small advantage (lower inflation), but the Eurozone as a whole suffers a much larger cost.
Often greed fosters ignorance. It is unfortunate but not surprising that many in Germany think this is all about Greece and transfers and structural reform, because that is what they keep being told. How many of its leaders and opinion makers understand what is going on but want to disguise the fact that Germany is taking advantage of other Eurozone members I cannot say. What is far more inexplicable is that the rest of the Eurozone is allowing Germany to get away with it.