As all but the most gullible no longer have faith in the European politicians to resolve the increasingly deadly sovereign debt crisis among the PIIGS nations in the Eurozone, the last ditch hope is now resting with the European Central Bank. The new president of the ECB, Mario Draghi, is under increasing pressure to abandon the bank's defined mandate to maintain price stability, and to instead become the Eurozone's lender of last resort. It can only do that by firing up its printing press, and conjuring new euros out of thin air.
Only Germany, with a long historic memory dating back to the massive monetary inflation of Weimar Germany in the early 1920s, remains in opposition to the ECB unleashing its printing press. Otherwise, politicians, hedge fund managers and investors are demanding that the ECB flood the world with euros. In their eyes, inflation is preferable to a deflationary recession, and the inevitable devaluation of the euro resulting from monetary creation would cheapen European exports. All a good thing, so they claim. No wonder Mario Draghi is being cajoled into becoming the savior of the European monetary union, and possibly the global economy.
My take on the ECB becoming the lender of last resort? I think we have the evidence of what would likely occur right in front of us. In the U.S., the Federal Reserve under the direction of its chairman, Ben Bernanke, has been in the money printing business since the onset of the current global financial and economic crisis in 2008. The Fed has been in many cases the lender of last resort in America, buying everything from U.S. Treasuries to toxic assets from banks and companies, while flooding the land with instantly manufactured liquidity and maintaining a zero interest policy at its discount window. We have all seen how effective such a policy measure has been in the United States. Bernanke's record includes unprecedented fiscal deficits, many state and local authorities in the U.S. tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, unemployment levels not witnessed since the Great Depression of the 1930s and an economy functioning at stall speed and about to enter a double-dip recession, despite unprecedented levels of monetary, not to mention fiscal stimulus.
If the European Central Bank follows in the footsteps of Bernanke, I don't see how the results will be any different for the Europeans. Printing money may sound attractive to the desperate, but it is at best a short-term panacea, which solves nothing in the long run, and creates its own set of complications and economic distortions. Ultimately, a printing press cannot correct the flawed concept of a single currency for a multitude of different political cultures and economies.