EU/IMF Revolt: Greece, Iceland, Latvia May Lead the Way

Published on The People’s Voice, by Ellen Hodgson Brown, J.D., December 18th, 2009.

Europe’s small, debt-strapped countries could follow the lead of Argentina and simply walk away from their debts. That would shift the burden to the creditor countries, which could solve the problem merely by a change in accounting rules.

Total financial collapse, once a problem only for developing countries, has now come to Europe. The International Monetary Fund is imposing its “austerity measures” on the outer circle of the European Union, with Greece, Iceland and Latvia the hardest hit. But these are not your ordinary third world debtor supplicants. Historically, the Vikings of Iceland successfully invaded Britain; Latvian tribes repulsed the Vikings; and the Greeks conquered the whole Persian empire. If anyone can stand up to the IMF, these stalwart European warriors can. 

Dozens of countries have defaulted on their debts in recent decades, the most recent being Dubai, which declared a debt moratorium on November 26, 2009. If the once lavishly-rich Arab emirate can default, more desperate countries can; and when the alternative is to destroy the local economy, it is hard to argue that they shouldn’t. That is particularly true when the creditors are largely responsible for the debtor’s troubles, and there are good grounds for arguing the debts are not owed. Greece’s troubles originated when low interest rates that were inappropriate for Greece were maintained to rescue Germany from an economic slump. And Iceland and Latvia have been saddled with responsibility for private obligations to which they were not parties. Economist Michael Hudson writes:

“The European Union and International Monetary Fund have told them to replace private debts with public obligations, and to pay by raising taxes, slashing public spending and obliging citizens to deplete their savings. Resentment is growing not only toward those who ran up these debts . . . but also toward the neoliberal foreign advisors and creditors who pressured these governments to sell off the banks and public infrastructure to insiders.”
The Dysfunctional EU: Where a Common Currency Fails: … //

… Making the Creditors Whole:

If the creditors are really interested in having their debts repaid, they will see the wisdom of letting the debtor nation build up its producing economy to give it something to pay with. If the creditors are not really interested in repayment but are using the debt as a tool to exploit the debtor country and strip it of its assets, the creditors’ bluff needs to be called.

When the debtor nation refuses to pay, the burden shifts to the creditors to make themselves whole. British economist Michael Rowbotham suggests that in the modern world of electronic money, this can be accomplished by creative banking regulators simply with a change in accounting rules. “Debt” today is created with accounting entries, and it can be reversed with accounting entries. Rowbotham outlines two ways the rules might be changed to liquidate impossible-to-repay debt:

“The first option is to remove the obligation on banks to maintain parity between assets and liabilities … Thus, if a commercial bank held $10 billion worth of developing country debt bonds, after cancellation it would be permitted in perpetuity to have a $10 billion dollar deficit in its assets. This is a simple matter of record-keeping.

“The second option … is to cancel the debt bonds, yet permit banks to retain them for purposes of accountancy. The debts would be cancelled so far as the developing nations were concerned, but still valid for the purposes of a bank’s accounts. The bonds would then be held as permanent, non-negotiable assets, at face value.”

If the banks were allowed either to carry unrepayable loans on their books or to accept payment in local currency, their assets and their solvency would be preserved. Everyone could shake hands and get back to work. (full long text).

(Ellen Brown is a California attorney and the author of eleven books, including “Web of Debt: The Shocking Truth About Our Money System and How We Can Break Free,” available in English, Swedish and German. Her websites are Web of Debt and Ellen Brown. Web of Dept.com articles).

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