John Maynard Keynes, in 1925, wrote a pamphlet, "The Economic Consequences of Mr. Churchill". Keynes' title is a suggestion of his previous best-seller, The Economic Consequences of the Peace, another work in which Keynes foresaw the dire consequence of then current events. In the case of Churchill, Sir Winton was then serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Britain had gone off the gold standard during World War I. Churchill oversaw the restoration of the gold standard, with the Treasury insisting on establishing the foreign exchange value of the pound sterling to its pre-war parity in gold. Apparently, according to Keynes, the market value was about 10% below that at the time. The foreign exchange rate of a currency combines with the general price level to determine the standard of living in terms of foreign goods. If the British wanted to maintain their then-current standard of living, and Churchill insisted on the pre-war parity, then prices and costs, including wages, must drop 10%. And this process of deflation could be expected to be resisted. In fact, widespread unemployment and general labor unrest were some of the economic consequences of Mr. Churchill. I think you can see some of these consequences in the 1926 general strike in Great Britain.
Churchill refused to acknowledge the necessity of devaluing the pound. In the case of Greece, they do not have control over the value of their currency, as long as they remain on the Euro. So they cannot devalue their currency. But, as in the case of the British population in the 1920s, they are being asked for the functional equivalent - that is, for a general reduction of prices and wages throughout the country. Maybe the consequences in Greece will resemble the consequences in Britain in the 1920s. I don't see how this is likely to increase the odds of Greece fully paying back their external debts.
- I think of this post as, perhaps, an illustration of the usefulness of studying economic history and the history of economics. Even if you conclude that my suggested analogy is too facile, you might accept that discussing it is a useful point of departure.
- D-Squared also has a view on the topic, given certain constraints.