2,000 Years of Monetary Union History: Euro Lessons
Comment of the Day

August 05 2011

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2,000 Years of Monetary Union History: Euro Lessons

Thanks to a subscriber for this excellent report by George Saravelos and Danile Brehon for Deutsche Bank. It is posted without further comment except to say it is well worth the read. Here is a section from the conclusion:
Our voyage through history has shown that there are few parallels to modern-day European economic and monetary union. Similarly to the Latin and Scandinavian Unions of the 19th century, EMU has lacked sufficient enforcement/supervision mechanisms to prevent a build-up of imbalances within the Union. But contrary to these historical experiences, Eurozone monetary policy is conducted by a single entity with centralized control of liquidity and base money provision that prevents the emergence of institutional conflict within the European system of central banks. More pertinent examples of currency unions are those that have been accompanied by a weak or strong form of political union, including the United States, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Czechoslovakia and the USSR. Monetary union in these instances was coordinated by a central bank authority at the federal level, which had monopoly control of the monetary base and issued a single currency throughout. In all these instances, a common currency was the outcome, rather than the cause of an (oftentimes forcibly pursued) political union.

Similarly, currency union break-up was preceded, rather than followed, by dissolution of political union, which was not driven by the failure of currency union itself but broader socio-economic and political forces. For instance, the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was precipitated by the emergence of the modern nation-state in Europe, while the dissolution of the Roublezone followed the failure of central planning and the lack of democratic accountability of Soviet institutions. History therefore serves as a reminder that political and economic imperatives are intertwined, and that the continued survival of European Economic and Monetary Union goes beyond the macroeconomic determinants of an optimal currency area
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