When the Greek crisis began, there was much talk of contagion as the greatest short-term risk. In my view, this worry is almost irrelevant because bondholders are in any case facing a haircut of over 70%, so the question of default or bailout is now merely a technical detail.
From a longer term perspective, there is also little reason for the Germans to panic over a Greek default, even if it ultimately leads to the disintegration of the euro zone. The line peddled by a number of commentators and politicians that Germany has “done very well out of the euro zone” begs the question of how well it would have done without the euro zone, a question to which I do not know the answer – but nor does anyone else
The implicit or explicit claim is that, with floating exchange rates, German trade would have suffered as the DM appreciated against the currencies of its neighbours. This is nonsense, a case of how, in the world of popular economics – what one colleague famously called D-I-Y economics – exchange rates occupy a position of exaggerated importance (If those who study the subject were given the same importance, I’d have had a peerage by now).
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