By BRETT ARENDS at Marketwatch
Will the euro-fanatics please stop lying to the people of Greece?
And while they’re at it, will they please stop lying to the rest of us as well?
Can they stop pretending that life outside the euro — for the Greeks or any other European country — would be a fate worse than death?
Can they stop claiming that if the Greeks go back to the drachma, they will be condemned to a miserable existence on the dark backwaters of European life, a small, forgotten and isolated country with no factories, no inward investment and no hope?
Those dishonest threats are being leveled this week at the people of Greece, as they gear up for the weekend’s big referendum on more austerity. The bully boys of Brussels, Frankfurt and elsewhere are warning the Greek people that if they don’t do as they’re told, and submit to yet more economic leeches, they may end up outside the euro … at which point, of course, life would stop.
What I find amazing about the euro-fanatics is they just don’t seem to care about facts.
Take a look at the chart at the top of this article. It compares the economic performance of Greece inside the euro with European rivals that don’t use the euro.
Those other countries cover a wide range of situations, of course — from rich and stable Denmark, to former Soviet Union countries, to Greece’s neighbor Turkey, which isn’t even in the European Union.
But they all have one thing in common. During the past 15 years, while Greece has been enjoying the “benefits” of having Brussels run their monetary policies, those poor suckers have all been stuck running their own affairs and managing their own currencies (if you can imagine).
And you can see just how badly they’ve suffered as a result.
They’ve crushed it. Romania, Turkey, Poland, Sweden, Croatia — you name it, they’ve all posted vastly better growth rates than Greece.
The data come from the International Monetary Fund itself. It measures growth in gross domestic product, per person, in constant prices (in other words, with price inflation stripped out).
Greece adopted the euro in 2001. And after 14 years in the same club as the big boys, they are back right where they started. Real per-person economic growth over that time: Zero.
Meanwhile Romania, with the leu, has only … er … doubled.
Everyone else is up. The Icelanders, who suffered the worst financial catastrophe on the planet in 2008, have nonetheless managed to grow.
Yes, all data points have caveats. Each country has its own story and its own advantages and disadvantages. But the overall picture is clear: The euro has either caused Greece’s disastrous economic performance, or at least failed to prevent it.
What I find amazing about the euro-fanatics is that they just don’t seem to care about facts at all. They carry on repeating the same claims about the alleged miracle cure of their currency, no matter what happens. You can hit them over the head with the latest IMF World Economic Outlook and they carry on droning, unfazed.
I was in England during the 1990s when those people were warning that if the Brits didn’t give up the pound sterling and join the euro, they were doomed as well. For a laugh, I just went through news archives on Factiva and refreshed my memory.
Greek bailout: No deal before Sunday’s referendum(1:29)
Britain without the euro would be an “orphan country,” petted, humored but ignored, warned one leading figure. Britain would lose all influence and status. It would become a marginal country outside the mainstream of Europe. It would lose “a million jobs.” Factories would close. The car industry would collapse. Foreign investors would walk away because of Britain’s isolation. Exports would plummet because of exchange-rate fluctuations. The City of London, Britain’s financial district, would lose out to Frankfurt. The London Stock Exchange would be reduced to a local backwater. Tumbleweeds would blow in the streets. (OK, I made that one up.)
And here we are today.
Since 1992, when the single currency project began taxiing for takeoff, the countries on board have seen total economic growth of 40%, says the IMF.
Poor old Great Britain, stuck back at the departure lounge with its miserable pound sterling? Just 67%.