CURRENCY

Despite the viability of a pan-European government, it may not be possible to maintain a currency union in its current form, says Jack Ablin of Harris Private Bank.

There's are all kinds of news about what's going on in Europe, and how that might affect the rest of the world. We're talking today with our guest, Jack Ablin, about that. Jack, you've done quite a bit of research into the historical perspective of what's going on in Europe. Tell us about that.

The history behind the European Union actually started right after World War II, where it was a devastating war, obviously, for those involved and tore so many countries apart. So, we had a move-really a trend-to try to consolidate Europe, actually in defense against Russia was the initial plan.

Then, once Germany reunited, it was really France's mission to try to get Germany engaged into the European Union just to keep them on their side of the fence. So, for a lot of political reasons for almost a generation, the seemingly disparate countries in Europe were trying to move together. It really was only the currency-the monetary union-that caused most of the problem, and here it was Gerhard Schroeder's concept in Germany-the chancellor of Germany at the time-and he just pushed it through without even a referendum of the German people.

So, now as they go back to the German people, they ask for bailouts. They weren't asked permission in the first place, and they're not really inclined to go along now.

That brings us up to not only the present but then the future. Where do you see this heading?

Well, I do think that the European Union as a consolidated bloc, I think, makes sense. It's really the monetary union that's flawed, and unless the governments are willing to cede their power to a kind of a more supreme authority-which they're not inclined to do-the monetary union will fail. It' really just, in my view, a matter of time, and there are really two paths to go.

Either they just completely fall apart and every country goes back to their respective currencies, or the monetary union consolidates around a much smaller, much healthier subset; say France and Germany and maybe Brussels and a couple others.

Now, you said it was a matter of time. Any forecast on what that might be?

Well, the European Central Bank is allowed to print a lot of money, so they can kick the can a lot. We're seeing, really, an absence of moves among policy makers, quite frankly; and so at some point, once the credit markets decide enough printing and let's see some action, that could really push them much further forward.

A lot of things for us to keep watching.

Absolutely, but I do think it is a ticking time bomb, and I am just not sure when it is going to pop.

Jack, thank you so much.

Thank you.

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