Sur les traces de l'idée de l'euro

L'histoire de l'euro offre un exemple remarquable de la manière dont les idées économiques forment l'opinion publique puis, en fin de compte, sur la manière dont elles reforment les institutions politiques et économiques. Robert Mundell, un Canadien qui a gagné le Prix Nobel d'économie en 1999, a été le premier à écrire sur les avantages des unions monétaires. Le projet qui a donné naissance à l'euro s'est inspiré des idées de Mundell et de l'importance de règles efficaces afin de réguler l'interaction entre les autorités gouvernementales, telles que les banques centrales, et le reste de la société.

L'Union économique et monétaire européenne est née de l'argument apparemment contradictoire suivant : que les pouvoirs discrétionnaires détenus par les gouvernements sur les taux d'échange et les marchés financiers sont souvent inversement liés à leur capacité à rendre stables ces mêmes marchés. L'Italie en est un bon exemple : avant l'UEM, le pays souffrait d'une forte inflation, de taux d'intérêt élevés et du coût très haut de la dette gouvernementale, qui menaçaient la stabilité des finances publiques et le niveau de vie de chaque Italien.

En retirant le taux d'échange et les taux d'intérêt du contrôle direct des autorités italiennes, le fléau d'une forte inflation et de taux d'intérêt élevés disparut. Ceci n'implique pas nécessairement que les autorités italiennes étaient particulièrement mauvaises ou ineptes. Seulement que les règles gouvernant la direction monétaire et fiscale en Europe avant l'UEM n'étaient plus appropriées aux marchés de capitaux fortement fluides qui s'étaient développés au cours des deux dernières décennies.

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