By Paul Krugman
July 7 2015
I continue to be amazed by how many people regard debt relief and devaluation as wild-eyed radical ideas; of course, it matters most that so many influential people in Europe share this ignorance. Anyway, for the record (and for my own future reference) I thought it would be helpful to post what Milton Friedman and Irving Fishe rhad to say about the Greek disaster. OK, they weren’t writing specifically about Greece — Friedman was writing in 1950, Fisher in 1933. But their analyses ring truer than ever.
First, Friedman (why oh why isn’t there a full electronic copy of this essay online?):
That tells you everything you need to know about why “internal devaluation” has been such a costly strategy — and why the ECB’s failure to move aggressively early on to achieve and if possible surpass its 2 percent inflation target was a major contributing factor to this disaster.
Then Fisher on why austerity hasn’t even helped on the debt:
The basic story of the European periphery — not just Greece — is one of a poisonous interaction between Friedman and Fisher, which has produced incredible suffering while failing to reduce the debt/GDP ratio, which even in star pupils like Ireland and Spain is far higher than when austerity began; the only success has been in suffering long enough so that some growth has finally resumed, and they can call it vindication.
The bizarreness of the whole thing is how flaky, speculative ideas like expansionary austerity became orthodoxy, while applying the economics of Fisher and Friedman became heterodoxy bordering on Chavismo.