Three years of crisis have culminated in a Europe that is losing its dynamism in the eyes of the world and its legitimacy in the eyes of Europeans. Europe is unnecessarily back in recession. While the bond markets were placated by the ECB’s actions in the summer of 2012, the Eurozone remains on the road toward disintegration.

While this process eats away at Europe’s potential for shared prosperity, European governments are imprisoned by false choices:

  • between stability and growth
  • between austerity and stimulus
  • between the deadly embrace of insolvent banks by insolvent governments, and an admirable but undefined and indefinitely delayed Banking Union
  • between the principle of perfectly separable country debts and the supposed need to persuade the surplus countries to bankroll the rest
  • between national sovereignty and federalism.

These falsely dyadic choices imprison thinking, and immobilise governments. They are responsible for a legitimation crisis for the European project. And they risk a catastrophic human, social and democratic crisis in Europe.

By contrast the Modest Proposal counters that:

  • The real choice is between beggar-my-neighbour deflation and an investment-led recovery combined with social stabilisation. The investment recovery will be funded by global capital, supplied principally by sovereign wealth funds and by pension funds which are seeking long-term investment outlets. Social stabilisation can be funded, initially, through the Target2 payments scheme.
  • Taxpayers in Germany and the other surplus nations do not need to bankroll the 2020 European Economic Recovery Programme, the restructuring of sovereign debt, resolution of the banking crisis, or the emergency humanitarian programme so urgently needed in the European periphery.
  • Neither an expansionary monetary policy nor a fiscal stimulus in Germany and other surplus countries, though welcome, would be sufficient to bring recovery to Europe.
  • Treaty changes for a federal union may be aspired by some, but will take too long , are opposed by many, and are not needed to resolve the crisis now.

On this basis the Modest Proposal’s four policies are feasible steps by which to deal decisively with Europe’s banking crisis, the debt crisis, underinvestment, unemployment as well as the human, social and political emergency.

Version 4.0 of the Modest Proposal offers immediate answers to questions about the credibility of the ECB’s OMT policy, the impasse on a Banking Union,  financing of SMEs, green energy and high tech start-ups in Europe’s periphery, and basic human needs that the crisis has left untended.

It is not known how many strokes Alexander the Great needed to cut the Gordian knot. But in four strokes, Europe could cut through the knot of debt and deficits in which it has bound itself.

  • In one stroke, Policy 1, the Case-by-Case Bank Programme (CCBP), bypasses the impasse of Banking Union (BU), decoupling stressed sovereign debt and from banking recapitalisation, and allowing for a proper BU to be designed at leisure
  • By another stroke, Policy 2, the Limited Debt Conversion Programme (LDCP), the Eurozone’s mountain of debt shrinks, through an ECB-ESM conversion of Maastricht Compliant member-state Debt
  • By a third stroke, Policy 3, the Investment-led Recovery and Convergence Programme (IRCP) re-cycles global surpluses into European investments
  • By a fourth stroke, Policy 4, the Emergency Social Solidarity Programme (ESSP), deploys funds created from the asymmetries that helped cause the crisis to meet basic human needs caused by the crisis itself.

At the political level, the four policies of the Modest Proposal constitute a process of decentralised europeanisation, to be juxtaposed against an authoritarian federation that has not been put to European electorates, is unlikely to be endorsed by them, and, critically, offers them no assurance of higher levels of employment and welfare.

We propose that four areas of economic activity be europeanised: banks in need of ESM capital injections, sovereign debt management, the recycling of European and global savings into socially productive investment and prompt financing of a basic social emergency programme.

Our proposed europeanisation of borrowing for investment retains a large degree of subsidiarity. It is consistent with greater sovereignty for member-states than that implied by a federal structure, and it is compatible with the principle of reducing excess national debt, once banks, debt and investment flows are europeanised without the need for national guarantees or fiscal transfers.

While broad in scope, the Modest Proposal suggests no new institutions and does not aim at redesigning the Eurozone. It needs no new rules, fiscal compacts, or troikas. It requires no prior agreement to move in a federal direction while allowing for consent through enhanced cooperation rather than imposition of austerity.

It is in this sense that this proposal is, indeed, modest.