OSLO – Any solution to the eurozone crisis must meet a short-run objective and a long-run goal. Unfortunately, the two tend to conflict.
The short-run objective is to return Greece, Portugal, and other troubled countries to a sustainable debt path (that is, a declining debt/GDP ratio). Austerity has raised debt/GDP ratios, but a debt write-down or bigger bailouts would undermine the long-term goal of minimizing the risk of similar debt crises in the future.
Long-run fiscal rectitude is the only way to accomplish that goal. But it is hard to commit today to practice fiscal rectitude tomorrow. Official debt caps, such as the Maastricht fiscal criteria and the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP), failed because they were unenforceable.
The introduction of Eurobonds – joint, aggregate eurozone liabilities – could be part of the solution, if designed properly. There is certainly demand for them in China and other major emerging countries, which are desperate for an alternative to low-yielding US government securities.