by Peter Schiff
In an April speech in Berlin, Dr. Andreas Dombret, a member of the Executive Board of the Deutsche Bundesbank (the German central bank), offered a startlingly frank assessment of the current problems in Europe. Although his comments were meant to apply to the tensions and imbalances that exist between the northern and southern tier of the 17-member eurozone, they shed inadvertent light on the broader global economy.
Rebuffing calls that Germany do more to support the faltering southern economies, Dr. Dombret said:
…Exchange rate movements are usually an important channel through which unsustainable current account positions are corrected….In a monetary union, however, this is obviously no longer an option. Spain no longer has a peseta to devalue; Germany no longer has a deutsche mark to revalue. Other things must therefore give instead: prices, wages, employment and output.
The question now is which countries have to shoulder the adjustment burden. Naturally, this is where opinions start to differ. The German position could be described as follows: the deficit countries must adjust. They must address their structural problems, reduce domestic demand, become more competitive and increase their exports.
In economics it is axiomatic that positive and negative current account balances will ultimately be offset by changes in relative currency valuations. The currencies of surplus countries are supposed to rise and the currencies of the deficit countries are supposed to fall. But the current global political alignment has altered this process. Like many of his German and continental peers in government and finance, Dombret is likely in favor of maintaining a common currency at all costs. But as he outlines, when currencies fail to adjust something else has to give. He insists that the giving come from those who have been getting…