In Search Of Alexander Hamilton

Earlier this year Paul Volcker said that “Europe is at an Alexander Hamilton moment”. Barry Eichengreen – who sometimes writes nicely – wrote this today in an article titled Europe’s Divided Visionaries:

… One strategy assumes that Europe desperately needs the policies of this deeper union now. It cannot wait to inject capital into the banks. It must take immediate steps toward debt mutualization. It needs either the ECB or an expanded European Stability Mechanism to purchase distressed governments’ bonds today.

Over time, according to this view, Europe could build the institutions needed to complement these policies. It could create a single bank supervisor, enhance the European Commission’s powers, or create a European Treasury. Likewise, it could strengthen the European Parliament. But building institutions takes time, which is in dangerously short supply, given the risk of bank runs, sovereign-debt crises, and the collapse of the single currency. That is why the new policies must come first.

The other view is that to proceed with the new policies before the new institutions are in place would be reckless. Mutualizing debts before European institutions have a veto over fiscal policies would only encourage more reckless behavior by national governments. Proceeding with capital injections before the single supervisor is in place would only encourage more risk taking…

Bloomberg investigates if there is an Alexander Hamilton in Europe: (edit: video no longer available.)

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