"Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race."
– The musings of Dr. Frankenstein about his creation of a monster, in Mary Shelley's 1818 novel, Frankenstein
And later the monster answers:
"Shall each man," cried he, "find a wife for his bosom, and each beast have his mate, and I be alone? I had feelings of affection, and they were requited by detestation and scorn. Man! You may hate, but beware! Your hours will pass in dread and misery, and soon the bolt will fall which must ravish from you your happiness forever. Are you to be happy while I grovel in the intensity of my wretchedness? You can blast my other passions, but revenge remains – revenge, henceforth dearer than light or food! I may die, but first you, my tyrant and tormentor, shall curse the sun that gazes on your misery. Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful. I will watch with the wiliness of a snake, that I may sting with its venom. Man, you shall repent of the injuries you inflict."
In the classic novel by Mary Shelley (written when she was just 19!), she writes about a young doctor (the Frankenstein of the title) who defies nature and creates an ungainly monster, piecing together parts that were not designed to fit each other. Even though he gives the creature life, it eventually turns on him and his family. The unhappy monster, which develops into quite the rationalizing being, demands that Dr. Frankenstein create a female version of himself so they can flee civilization and find happiness. When Dr. Frankenstein decides not to follow through on his initial promise to do so (thus the first quote), the monster seeks revenge. It does not end happily.
The European Monetary Union was a triumph of hope over reason, pieced together from very dissimilar countries which, while sharing common borders, have very different cultures and economies. That it would eventually face an existential crisis was foretold by numerous critics at the time of its creation. The euro has never been a real currency. It was and still is an experiment, fashioned and shaped by a generation with noble ideas and vision, but tied together by an unworkable structure. Can its foundation be reworked into a solid structure? Or will natural centrifugal forces pull it apart? The difficulties that are faced are somewhat akin to fixing the engine of a jet plane while it is flying at 30,000 feet.
In today's letter we explore the options that the eurozone faces in order to stay together, and what it all means for some of the countries involved. While I have written for a very long time about the probability of Greece exiting the eurozone, the actuality is fraught with risk, not just for Europe but for the world economy. What happens in the next few months will impact us all for a very long time. Indeed, this is one of those years, as Lenin noted, when decades happen. There is a lot to cover, and in future weeks we will go into more detail, but today let's just step back and see if we can get the larger picture.
The term du jour for the possible exit of Greece from the eurozone is "Grexit." It is a rather ugly sounding word for what will be an ugly process if it happens. A Grexit has several serious implications. (I wonder how the Chinese translators will render Grexit.)
The first is the risk of contagion. When Bear Stearns went bankrupt, the immediate question by the market was not how…