NEW YORK -- Some in Europe, especially in Germany, seem nonchalant about a Greek exit from the eurozone. The market has, they claim, already "priced in" such a rupture. Some even suggest that it would be good for the monetary union. I believe that such views significantly underestimate both the current and future risks involved. A similar degree of complacency was evident in the United States before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
For the moment what matters for the vast majority of Greek people is that for the first time they feel they have a government which, despite its compromises, has proved that it made its best effort to bring Europe back to the table for a fair and equal negotiation about the terms of the Greek bailout program.
Europe should count itself lucky that a leftwing anti-austerity party won the Greek elections, swept into office by citizens who've had enough. Elsewhere in Europe, seven years of stupid, punitive, and self-defeating austerity policies have led to gains by the far right. If a radical left party is now in power in Athens and sending tremors through Europe's financial markets, the EU's smug leaders and their banker allies in Frankfurt, Brussels and Berlin have only themselves to blame. Alexis Tsipras, leader of the winning Syriza coalition, says he doesn't want Greece to leave the Euro. He just wants Europe's leaders to renegotiate Greece's debt. It's about time. This crisis could have ended years ago with far less suffering for ordinary people who had no responsibilities for the offending policies. Greece, after all, has about two percent of the EU's total economic product -- and it has about 25 percent less than it had before the crisis. Writing off Greece's debt outright would have cost peanuts, and still would.
There is a common misconception that the euro area is a monetary union without a political union. But this reflects a deep misunderstanding of what monetary union means. Monetary union is possible only because of the substantial integration already achieved among European Union countries -- and sharing a single currency deepens that integration. If European monetary union has proved more resilient than many thought, it is only because those who doubted it misjudged this political dimension.