With all of the news out of Greece, Puerto Rico, Ukraine, etc.,one could be forgetting to think about the Eurozone as an institution. But the question remains, what happens after Greece? What happens after the dust settles? That is, if the dust ever settles, which is highly doubtful.
The fallacy of the Eurozone project is that an economic union was created without a political union. This type of project has rarely worked throughout human history. The Articles of Confederation of the United States after the revolutionary war is one example that comes to mind. The Commonwealth of Independent States after the fall of the Soviet Union is another quasi-similar example. Neither survived very long. Neither of these however, went as far as to codify the prosperity of one member over the economic future of another. This is what the Eurozone project has done.
In its simplest description, the Eurozone project is just a group of fixed currency swaps to the German Deutschemark. What the euro did was to prevent less competitive countries from devaluing their goods and services as needed to compete against the European economic powerhouse of Germany. This agenda never had a chance of succeeding as envisioned.
Let’s take for instance the Greeks. They have not been honest about their books in fifty years. They have devalued, outright lied, and cooked the books for decades in order to live the type of life they want to as a society. This is one of a cradle-to-grave welfare state, government jobs, early retirement, et cetera, et cetera. What gave the Germans and the other Europeans the idea that the Greeks would ever be able to hold up their end of the bargain? In addition, the Troika lent them another $300 billion or so dollars. So on top of attempting to restructure their economy, the Troika demanded they pay back this money. This is a pipedream. Marxists don’t pay back $300 billion, ever.
The rest of the “periphery” countries are also on the same fishhook, just they have more line to run with and more strength left. Even the French economy is wobbling and in horrible shape as the leaks from Wikileaks revealed last week.
So this brings me to my main point. The Eurozone is finished, as we knew it. The only question is what type of structure will emerge from this latest mess. Germany will attempt to hang on to the union, as it benefits their economy primarily. Why wouldn’t they? They don’t want to let Greece walk away from their debt because they don’t want the larger economies to get any ideas. The firm line against Greece is simply a look forward at what could happen if they are allowed to just walk away.
The really scary part of all of this is that economic weakness creates military weakness and gives openings to young Austrian xenophobes to come to power. This is what Europe really needs to worry about. I wrote an article recently about the threat the Eastern European countries feel from a newly aggressive Russia. I received a response from a European saying that of course they feel threatened as they remember what is was like to be under the Russian boot but Russia is NO Threat to Western Europe. This type of thinking exactly proves my point. Western Europe has forgotten what it was like to face this type of aggression and public unrest. However the results of the euro project are not just sowing the seeds, but growing the possibilities right under their noses.
In short, I think there is probably a trade as the euro will probably bounce as the Greek crisis finds some type of resolution. However, long-term, the future of the euro project is bleak.
L. Todd Wood is a former emerging market debt trader with 18 years of Wall Street and international experience. He is also an author of historical fiction. His first of several thriller novels, Currency, deals with the consequences of overwhelming sovereign debt. He is a contributor to Fox Business, Newsmax TV, Washington Times, and others. LToddWood.com