George Soros made headlines this week with a striking proposal that to save Europe, Germany must “lead or leave.” The leadership part was familiar: Outside Germany, at least, it is becoming conventional wisdom that Europe will survive only if the Union’s behemoth provides more decisive leadership — and writes bigger checks.
The catch is that the rest of Europe, particularly its beleaguered so-called Club Med countries, doesn’t seem to be in much of a position to coerce Berlin to do anything. That is where Soros’s second alternative — leaving — comes in. In an interview in Vienna last weekend and in a speech in Berlin on Monday, Soros added his influential voice to a cluster of iconoclasts who have asserted that Southern Europe’s fate need not be decided in Germany.
If Germany is unwilling to lead, Soros argues, the Southern Europeans should ask Germany to leave. His prediction is that these currently sickly nations would do perfectly well.
“If Germany left, the common market could hold together and actually it would be a remarkable relief,” Soros told me. “The euro would fall in value, so the debt which is denominated in euro would also fall in value and the competitiveness of the debtor countries compared to Germany and the other creditor countries would greatly improve.”
In this scenario, the Club Med countries would benefit partly from the inflation and currency devaluation that their existing monetary marriage to Germany precludes. Their renaissance would also be based on their economic fundamentals, which Soros argues are strong but are being discounted by the markets because of the existing fiscal and monetary straitjacket.