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February 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Adjustments

A commenter on my last euro post asks a good question: didn’t Germany once have a problem of excessive unit labor costs, which it cured with a protracted squeeze? And in that case, why is it so terrible if Spain is asked to do the same thing?

The answer is basically quantitative. I’d make three points:

1. Thanks to the giant housing bubble, Spanish costs got much further out of line than Germany’s ever did, so the required adjustment is much bigger.

2. Germany got to do its adjustment in the face of a relatively strong European economy; Spain is being asked to adjust in the face of a depressed Europe sliding back into recession.

3. In part because of this difference in overall macro conditions, but also because Germany doesn’t have a housing boom and is actually engaging in a bit of austerity on its own, the burden of adjustment this time around is falling much more on deflation by the overvalued country.”

***

Read Paul Krugman’s full New York Times blog post here

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