A high-quality DeLong smackdown! Keep ’em coming, please…

Olivier Blanchard: How the Eurozone Can Be Strengthened After Brexit: “Brexit raises fundamental questions…. Meanwhile, Europe must continue to function…

…In this context that a large number of prominent economists from different European countries, ranging from those who desire more political integration to those who are more skeptical, have written what they see as the essential next steps to reinforce the architecture of the eurozone…. The purpose of the project, which started long before Brexit, was twofold. First, assess the nature of the challenges and the progress to date…. Second, assess the degree of agreement among ‘experts’ about the remaining challenges and solutions. If you look at the diversity of people on the list, the answer to the second question is that, in contrast to the often strident disagreements in the press, there is, indeed, surprisingly large agreement among experts….

The basic architecture is largely in place. Some strengthening is needed but does not require dramatic political steps. The most important set of measures to take is a strengthening of the European Stability Mechanism (ESM)…. The banking union is largely in place, and with it better tools to monitor and reduce financial risks…. More progress can be made without requiring much more political integration…. [In] public finances… fiscal rules have become too many, too messy, with too many loopholes…. In many countries, the issue is not so much deficits than the high level of expenditure, which in turn makes it difficult to balance budgets without resorting to excessive taxation…. Even under the best fiscal rules, current levels of debt together with low growth imply that sovereign debt default is not impossible. Defining responsibilities and the process for sovereign default is essential. This should and can be the role of the ESM…. States have to be willing to give up some control. Otherwise the ESM will not be able to do its job…. We have learned… that liquidity runs can… be very destructive. The European Central Bank (ECB) now has the tools to provide liquidity to banks…. It would be good if it could do the same to states….

Many would like to see more ambitious steps taken, from a common fiscal policy, to euro bonds, to euro-level deposit insurance, etc. And indeed, the line taken by some US commentators today (e.g., Bradford DeLong and Paul Krugman is that this is what our manifesto should have asked for…. Our goal was less ambitious and more realistic. It was to see if the eurozone could function and handle shocks without further political integration if political realities made it impossible for the time being. Our answer is a qualified yes, but it is surely not an endorsement of a do-nothing strategy.