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What We Read Today 17 January 2015

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Making Sense of the Swiss Shock (Markus Brunnermeier and Harold James, Project Syndicate)  Two Princeton professors argue that the Swiss move decoupling the franc from the euro was similar in effect and consequence to a euro member country leaving.  They allude to the collapse of Lehman as an event which might be comparable in aftereffects to the Swiss action.  They also compare the current situation to the one that led up to the Nixon move to break away from the last vestiges of the gold standard in 1971, which occurred after West Germany broke its Deutschmark peg to the dollar and "essentially destroyed the entire international monetary system".  Here is their conclusion:

The risks created by the SNB’s decision – as transmitted through the financial system – have a fat tail. The negative effects for the Swiss economy – through the decreased competitiveness of its export industries (including tourism and medicine) – may already be showing that abandoning the euro peg was not a good idea.

But the consequences will not be limited to Switzerland. After years of wondering whether the exit of a small, fiscally weak country like Greece could undermine the euro, policymakers will have to deal with an even bigger shock stemming from the exit of a small, fiscally strong country that is not even a member of the European Union.


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