The prevailing view when the euro was established was that all that was required was fiscal discipline – no country’s fiscal deficit or public debt, relative to GDP, should be too large. But Ireland and Spain had budget surpluses and low debt before the crisis, which quickly turned into large deficits and high debt.
Without a common fiscal authority, the single market opened the way to tax competition – a race to the bottom to attract investment and boost output that could be freely sold throughout the EU.
Moreover, free labor mobility means that individuals can choose whether to pay their parents’ debts: young Irish can simply escape repaying the foolish bank-bailout obligations assumed by their government by leaving the country. Of course, migration is supposed to be good, as it reallocates labor to where its return is highest. But this kind of migration actually undermines productivity.
...Public-sector cutbacks today do not solve the problem of yesterday’s profligacy; they simply push economies into deeper recessions. Europe’s leaders know this. They know that growth is needed. But, rather than deal with today’s problems and find a formula for growth, they prefer to deliver homilies about what some previous government should have done. This may be satisfying for the sermonizer, but it won’t solve Europe’s problems – and it won’t save the euro.