The Hidden Goal of Europe’s Leaders. See It and Then Their Actions Make Sense.

Summary:  As the euro-crisis, now in its third year, grows in breadth and intensity, many analysts conclude that Europe’s leaders are stupid. Perhaps not.  Perhaps they pursue hidden goals.  Goals important to them, if not to Europe’s peoples.

Many people writing about the euro-crisis conclude that Europe’s leaders are stupid.  How else to explain the long series of late, slow, half-measures which never address the core problems?

In a recent post about Obamacare Chet Richards advises us to take  John Boyd’s advice and beware of such facile analysis. If we understand people’s orientation, we might see their actions as logical.  For example, we might believe them stupid because we do not see their goals.

We know that Europe’s leaders seek to protect their banks (and bankers). They seek to preserve the European Monetary Union, and continue to progress to eventual unification. Perhaps there is a third goal in the shadows. Massive deficits combined with recessions — even depressions — provide the opportunity to break Europe’s social welfare systems, including the unions and legislation that empowers workers.

The same dynamic is at work in America.

Why do they think this will work? Because it worked in Germany. And it’s working now in the periphery of Europe.  But pursuing this goal while protecting the banks means they’ve not taken the reforms necessary to preserve the EMU (one cannot do everything at once). So they might achieve their two lessor goals, but in doing so wreck their greater dream of a unified Europe, for which they have worked so hard since WWII.

For details about their success in Germany see this excerpt from a report by Joshua Rosner of GrahamFisher, 17 July 2012 (Hat tip to Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism):

In 2002, with the unemployment rate at 8.7% and still increasing, German Chancellor Schroeder  asked his friend Peter Hartz, former Human Resource Director at Volkswagen, to chair a  commission tasked with restructuring the German labor market.  Under Hartz’s leadership the  commission redefined the German workforce, reducing traditional full time employment and  introducing the concept of “minijobs.” These so called “minijobs” provided German companies  with the ability to hire short term workers without restrictions on hours worked and who were  terminable at will.  While “minijob” workers did not pay taxes on earnings; the earnings maxed  out at a meager €400.

From 2002 to 2005, the German public and private sectors embarked on a series of massive  Hartz reform austerity measures focused on using the high levels of unemployment to extract  meaningful wage reductions from public and private labor.  Even though the Delors Commission  report, the intellectual basis of the monetary and economic union, specifically stated that  governments should convince business and labor of the advantages of “gearing wage policies  largely to improvements in productivity” rather than direct intervention in the wage and price  formation process, the German government interpreted this language in ways the authors never  intended.

The cuts in real wages for German workers, and reductions in Government programs,  benefitted the German financial sector and exports.  They also indirectly but substantially  supported the country’s low cost of funds, giving German business a competitive advantage  relative to its EMU peers.

Germany’s success during the last decade resulted from its current account surplus within the  Eurozone supported by pressure on pay and working conditions rather than superior  productivity growth.

Unfortunately for the German population, while German business profited handsomely, and  German Banks exported capital to the rest of the world, the costs were borne by German  workers who faced wage pressure.  German households never reaped the fruits of their labor.   The imbalances that Delors warned about were being built into the very structure of the  Eurozone by the German government’s sole focus on protecting domestic business interests at  the expense of their own population.

The source of Germany’s competitiveness advantage!

For more information

(1) Forecasting the crisis in Europe

The vicious cycle. Click to enlarge.

  1. The post-WWII geopolitical regime is dying. Chapter One , 21 November 2007 — Why the current geopolitical order is unstable, describing the policy choices that brought us here.
  2. Can the European Monetary Union survive the next recession?, 11 July 2008

(2) Posts about Greece

  1. A great speech by the PM of Greece. How soon until an American President says similar words?, 3 March 2010
  2. The EU does Kabuki for Greece. Is it the next domino to fall?, 14 April 2010
  3. Important: Former Central Bank Head Karl Otto Pöhl says bailout plan is all about ‘rescuing banks and rich Greeks’, 20 May 2010
  4. Hot news! The Wehrmacht failed to take Greece. Now Germany tries again, with a different method., 28 January 2012
  5. Europe has chosen a harsh future. All the paths for Greece lead into darkness., 24 February 2012
  6. A note from Athens: Feeling on the ground has palpably changed, 1 March 2012 — A clear sign that the Greek people are ready for change
By David Einhorn, Greenlight Capita. Click to enlarge.

(3) Reporting Europe’s slow march to the cliff

  1. The periphery of Europe – a flashpoint to the global economy, 8 February 2010
  2. Governments cannot go bankrupt, 2 April 2010 — But they can default.
  3. About the Euro crisis: the experts are wrong; the German people are right., 7 May 2010
  4. The Fate of Europe, nearing the point of decision, 13 September 2011
  5. Europe drifts towards the brink of a cataclysm, 26 September 2011
  6. Delusions about easy fixes for Europe, dreaming during the calm before the storm, 30 September 2011
  7. Is Europe primed for chaos, as it was in July 1914?, 7 October 2011
  8. Today Europe’s leaders took another step towards the edge of the cliff, 27 October 2011
  9. Where to from here, Europe? Some experts share their views., 8 November 2011
  10. Status report on Europe’s slow re-birth (first, the current system must die), 10 November 2011
  11. Looking ahead to see the new shape of Europe, 22 November 2011
  12. Europe passes the last exit. A great crisis lies ahead., 21 February 2012
  13. The Fate of Europe has become visible. Only how and when the break comes remains uncertain., 6 June 2012
The eventual solution

(4) Other articles about Europe’s march to unification

  1. France’s Broken Dream“, Martin Feldstein (Prof Economics, Harvard), Project Syndicate, 26 May 2012
  2. The End Of The Euro: A Survivor’s Guide“, Peter Boone and Simon Johnson, The Baseline Scenario, 28 May 2012
  3. The Euro: an alternative moral tale“, Simon Wren-Lewis (Prof Economics, Oxford), 1 June 2012
  4. Important: Remarks by George Soros at the Festival of Economics, Trento Italy, 2 June 2012 — Deserves attention, as he has proven to understand currency unions better than almost everybody.

This post originally appeared at Fabius Maximus and is posted with permission.

2 Responses to "The Hidden Goal of Europe’s Leaders. See It and Then Their Actions Make Sense."

  1. Tino   July 27, 2012 at 11:03 am

    "German households never reaped the fruits of their labor"


    I would bet more than a few households in Greece and Spain wouldn't mind being German right about now.

  2. benleet   July 28, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Heiner Flassbeck of UNCTAD uses a similar graph showing productivity and wages targets in Europe, which show Germany the most egregious since 2000. See interview at The Real News.
    The analysis at Dollars and Sense magazine also makes a similar case: Why the US is Not Greece,
    Class warfare ? — France appears to be responding with Hollande.