A recent study by McKinsey Germany on The Future of the Euro highlights the lack of adjustment mechanisms within the Eurozone, in contrast to other currency zones like the U.S. How is Europe not like America in a crisis?
The Single Market and the Single Currency have done away with independent FX, monetary and trade policies, they have eliminated capital controls, but have not activitated the alternative adjustment mechanisms of real wage flexibility, capital and labour mobility, and fiscal transfers.
- Unit labour costs rose only 2% in Germany but 35% in Greece in the 2000-10 period
- In 2008, interstate migration was only 0,18% within the EU, a fraction of the 2,8% internal movements in the US.
- In 2009, fiscal transfers represented only 0,1% of GDP within the Eurozone, compared to 2.3% in the U.S.
- Language differences keep workers at home or in menial jobs. Portuguese pre-engineering students have little access to German language classes, which are scarce, costly and reserved for humanities majors. That should sell well in Munich.
- There's is no FDIC, no federal EU wide deposit insurance fund, so local depositors investors in distressed countries have been sacrificed and are busy moving funds into Deutsche Bank branches or to Switzerland.
- There is no Eurozone wide bankruptcy law to protect overleveraged borrowers and to force overextended creditors to share in the sacrifice of develeraging though an orderly default and debt workout. In the US, subprime borrowers are able to walk away from their hopeless mortgage burdens through "short sales" of their houses
- There is no European Eximbank, to finance and help promote the exports of the weaker Eurozone members, whose fragile export sectors are starved for funds.
- Prudential bank regulation is the responsability of national central banks, which may have incentives to protect local banks, and local taxpayers, rather than the Eurozone financial system as a whole.
- There is no EU-wide Medicare needed to ensure that pensioner health care is paid by all the EU taxpayers instead of burdening the taxpayers of the Club Med countries. Imagine if Florida taxpayers had to pay most of the health care for the "snowbird" retirees.
- Under EU public procurement rules, "the Laird is not allowed to buy local" and there are no Small Business SBA setasides in Government contracting for small companies to help atenuate the impact of economies of scale and scope.
- Unlike the 50 States of the US, smaller European governments like Greece borrow heavily to import military goods form the larger countries like Germany
- Europe has no bi-cameral parliament where legislation requires a majority of the lower chamber, based on population AND of the upper Senate chamber where even the smaller states have two votes.
Even this quick desk review of "how Europe is NOT like America" serves to identify some of the things that could be done to reverse the growing divergence of fortunes in Europe, but the winners may have little incentive to do it until the horrendous costs of divergence touch them as well.
Mariana Abrantes de Sousa
See also: Ratings downgrade cascade through the Eurozone
Eurozone crisis tests the limits of divergence
Of banks, central banks and moral hazard
Things that the Troika should have thought of