Greece: A Financial Zombie State

European Union, Greece, Euro, Eurozone, Tsipras

Greece Financial Zombie StateBanks in Greece will not open their doors Monday morning.  Greece has been moving towards this dramatic final act ever since it was allowed to enter the Eurozone with cooked fiscal accounts in January 2001 – two years after the euro was launched.  One Greek government after another embraced the idea that it did not have to rein in fiscal expenditures to match revenues because Brussels would cover any shortfalls.  That idea appeared to have worked, until other members of the Eurozone realized that the entire European project would fall apart if it became a transfer union.

This realization was brought into sharp focus by the bailout demands of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and his left-wing coalition government.  Brussels finally realized that if the demands of the Tsipras government (read: Europeans must pay for Athens’ largesse) were met, the Eurozone would morph into a giant moral hazard zone.  So, Brussels was forced to throw down the gauntlet: enough is enough.

Where does Athens go from here?  Well, to quote former President George W. Bush, as he observed the unfolding financial crisis in 2008: “If money doesn’t loosen up, this sucker could go down.”  Well, “W” had a point.  Changes in the money supply, broadly determined, cause changes in nominal national income and the price level.

Since October 2008, until the Syriza party took power, the broad measure of the Greek money supply (M3) contracted at an annual rate of just over 6%.  And as night follows day, the economy collapsed, shrinking by over 25% since the crisis of 2008.

Since the Tsipras government took the helm, the monetary contraction in Greece has accelerated. This means that a Greek depression of even greater magnitude is already baked in the cake.

And that’s not all.  It is going to get worse.  The total money supply (M3) can be broken down into its state money and bank money components.  State money is the high-powered money (the so-called monetary base) that is produced by central banks.  Bank money is produced by commercial banks through deposit creation.  Contrary to what most people think, bank money is much more important than state money.  In Greece, for example, bank money makes up just over 84% of the total money (M3) supply.

With banks so wounded, Greece is destined to become a financial zombie state.

[Cross-posted from Cato At Liberty]