A Relatively Simple Way To Think About The Euro-Crisis

“Euro armageddon is approaching, but it’s too boring and complicated to explain” is an excellent headline. But if you’re not a resident of an EU country, I think that what you need to know about this is actually pretty simple.

Just imagine a situation where something’s gone wrong and there’s more than one way to fix it. Like a bunch of friends are driving down to a vacation in three different cars, and one car runs out of gas while the other suffers a flat tire. You could all pack into one car. Or you could siphon gas out of one of the cars that has gas, and fill the empty car’s tank. Or you could remove the tire from the gas-less car and use it to replace the flat. Or you could call AAA and wait for a tow truck. Or someone could walk to the local gas station. There are lots of ways you could resolve the problem, some of them better than others and all of them impacting the interests of different people in different ways. The issue you’re going to have isn’t that the problem is “too hard to solve” it’s that getting everyone to agree on one particular solution is difficult.

That’s why normally human institutions are arranged into hierarchies. If a military convoy was in some kind of jam, the highest-ranking officer just picks a solution. In the White House, they’d have a bunch of meetings and then Barack Obama would pick. But Europe doesn’t have a good process for making decisions. So since each possible option has various downsides, they keep not picking any particular option even though not-really-deciding is basically worse for everyone. And “everyone” in this case includes non-EU folk like you and me who suffer from the general panic.