Anatole Kaletsky, the economics journalist who, despite a fondness for Keynsianism, is one of my favourite columnists, believes Italy’s departure from the euro and possible re-creation of the lira is a real possibility, one that needs to be taken with deadly seriousness by financial markets. He says the financial fallout from an Italian divorce could be disastrous:
While detailed consideration of these arguments is probably premature, the practical implication is clear: If the possibility of an Italian withdrawal were ever taken seriously by the markets, foreign holders of Italy’s €1.5 trillion public debt would face enormous losses, big enough to endanger the solvency of many non-Italian banks. In other words, the Italian Government is now in a position to kill the euro and wreck the European banking system merely by threatening to withdraw.
I think he is correct. As I said in my last posting about Hayek’s idea of competing currencies operating inside the same country, it is folly to imagine that the cult of the all-wise central banker will not come a cropper some time or later. Many Italian entrepreuneurs might be very glad indeed of an alternate store of value if that country does indeed pull the plug on the euro.
Some scare stories deserve to be ridiculed but I think Kaletsky is on to something. Between now and the Italian national polls next year, it would be smart to keep a very close eye on the euro zone financial markets indeed.
(Thanks to the Adam Smith Institute blog for the pointer. It reaches pretty similar conclusions).