Europe on the Brink, a Policy Brief published by the Petersen Institute for International Economics, makes for grim reading. My favourite quote from it is this subheading:
This potential break-up of the euro area is exactly what happened in the ruble zone when the Soviet Union broke apart.
“Potential”? Also, I think, for “euro area” read state-backed but not gold-backed currencies everywhere.
But the USSR comparison is spot on. When the USSR disintegrated, this was rightly hailed as a triumph for capitalism, but not rightly hailed as the triumph of capitalism. There were other walls yet to fall, other statist follies yet to be destroyed. The commanding heights of the economy used to be thought of as big companies that did physical stuff to physical stuff. 1991 was the date when the idea that governments should micro-manage such enterprises got its comeuppance, and the torrent of high quality stuff that has gushed forth ever since continues, as yet, unabated. But the real commanding heights, the loftiest and most commanding of all, the politically (mis-)managed currencies of the world, are only now collapsing.
Think of our current travails as the unfinished business of the twentieth century.