Saving Greece, Saving Europe

BERKELEY – Whatever one thinks about the tactics of Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s government in negotiations with the country’s creditors, the Greek people deserve better than what they are being offered. Germany wants Greece to choose between economic collapse and leaving the eurozone. Both options would mean economic disaster; the first, if not both, would be politically disastrous as well.

When I wrote in 2007 that no member state would voluntarily leave the eurozone, I emphasized the high economic costs of such a decision. The Greek government has shown that it understands this. Following the referendum, it agreed to what it – and the voters – had just rejected: a set of very painful and difficult conditions. Tsipras and his new finance minister, Euclid Tsakalotos, have gone to extraordinary lengths to mollify Greece’s creditors.

But when I concluded that no country would leave the eurozone, I failed to imagine that Germany would force another member out. This, clearly, would be the effect of the politically intolerable and economically perverse conditions tabled by Germany’s finance ministry.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s idea of a temporary “time out” from the euro is ludicrous. Given Greece’s collapsing economy and growing humanitarian crisis, the government will have no choice, absent an agreement, but to print money to fund basic social services. It is inconceivable that a country in such deep distress could meet the conditions for euro adoption – inflation within 2% of the eurozone average and a stable exchange rate for two years – between now and the end of the decade. If Grexit occurs, it will not be a holiday; it will be a retirement.