LONDON – The European Monetary Union, as many of its critics maintain, looks a lot like the pre-1913 gold standard, which imposed fixed exchange rates on extremely diverse economies. But is that resemblance as bad as it sounds, or as the euro’s critics insist?
The appeal of the historic gold standard lay in an institutional capacity to build confidence. A completely fixed exchange rate rules out monetary-policy initiative, and consequently makes adjustment to large external imbalances very difficult to carry out. And the burden is unequal, because there is much more pressure on deficit countries to adjust via deflation than on creditor countries to allow higher inflation.