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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We Now Welcome the Financial Times Deutschland to Meltdown Economics

Thomas Schmoll in today's Financial Times Deutschland calls it "core meltdown" - the exploding spreads between German Bunds and other Eurozone bonds, now including even previously healthy states like Austria and the Netherlands. Welcome to meltdown economics!

This is something many of us have been predicting for months. If you build a leaky, ramshackle boat (the Euro currency zone) and pilot it against the laws of effective demand, bailing out water with a small bucket once it starts falling apart is not going to help for long. And drilling new holes below the waterline (aka austerity) does not help things either. You need an immediate battening of the hatches (a credible and unlimited commitment of the central bank to scare off attacks) and a plan to increase buoyancy (create effective demand).

The problem with the Euro was that it had secret little time bombs built into it. Once they were activated, they took on a life of their own. There's no point blaming the markets or the speculators. If you build in false incentives and governance structures and no automatic stabilizers, once the ship starts capsizing the process only gains momentum as people rush around on the deck, every man for himself.

It's a lot like nuclear reactors. The uranium fuel is clad in zirconium cans. Once the core exceeds a certain temperature, the zirconium starts reacting with the cooling water and releases hydrogen (something experts for years denied could happen). Any spark will now set off a hydrogen explosion, leading the reactor to self-destruct. Blame the spark, blame the operators (Chernobyl), blame the tsunami (Fukushima)? Or blame the design, which was inherently unstable to a loss of coolant accident such as could be triggered by a single valve jamming (Three Mile Island).

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