Apparently the euro is a neoliberal plot: who knew?


The blame game for the Greek disaster is in full voice over on the left. Apparently it's really all the fault of the neoliberals. Yes, that's us, the people who argue for less government intervention, markets work and so on, we're responsible for the idiocy that a supra-national bureaucracy has erected. Here's Georgie Monbiot as one of the cheerleaders for this argument:

The Maastricht treaty, establishing the European Union and the euro, was built on a lethal delusion: a belief that the ECB could provide the only common economic governance that monetary union required. It arose from an extreme version of market fundamentalism: if inflation were kept low, its authors imagined, the magic of the markets would resolve all other social and economic problems, making politics redundant. Those sober, suited, serious people, who now pronounce themselves the only adults in the room, turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.

So let's look at what a real market fundamentalist, Milton Friedman, said about it all:

The drive for the Euro has been motivated by politics not economics. The aim has been to link Germany and France so closely as to make a future European war impossible, and to set the stage for a federal United States of Europe. I believe that adoption of the Euro would have the opposite effect. It would exacerbate political tensions by converting divergent shocks that could have been readily accommodated by exchange rate changes into divisive political issues. Political unity can pave the way for monetary unity. Monetary unity imposed under unfavorable conditions will prove a barrier to the achievement of political unity.

Friedman was of course far too polite to put it this way, but that's clearly a claim that the idiot politicians are about to impose something that won't work, either economically or politically, and something thus that market fundamentalists (or as we like to style ourselves, liberals) simply should not be supporting.

George's basic problem here, as with that gathering chorus over on the left, is that they've got confused. They're against neoliberalism, they know that. And they're against the implosion of the Greek economy. At least one of those is a sensible thing to be against. But because they're against both they insist that one is a facet of the other. When in this case, neoliberalism, market fundamentalism, has been saying all along (and some of us have been shouting this for two decades now) that the euro as constructed simply will not work. Because it doesn't contain enough market, because it's a political construct built without reference to sensible economics.

And we're right of course. Far from neoliberalism being the cause here it's the cure.