The Brussels-Frankfurt 'Extortion' Racket

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Probably the most important thing you can read today is the op-ed by Timo Soini, the leader of the True Finn party, in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal.

The True Finn has won the most seats in April's parliamentary elections, although it came short of a majority. The party ran on a promise of opposing further financial bailouts of European states and financial institutions. But many euro zone political observers have been predicting that the Finnish anti-bailout movement would be short-lived, collapsing after the election much like it did in Ireland.

To make sure that collapse happened, many of the biggest names in the Eurocracy have been putting pressure on Soini to relent in his stance, warning of dire consequences if Finland refuses to consent to a bailout.

Soini is apparently standing firm. His op-ed reiterates his anti-bailout stance, and explains his view that the euro zone would be a healthier place without bailouts.

The bailouts, he writes, are not benefiting the common people of Europe. Instead, they are being foisted upon banks and nations by a "Brussels-Frankfurt extortion racket" in the service of Europe's biggest banks. The so-called recovery plans, he writes, are bound to fail: There is no way Greece, Portugal or Ireland will be able to grow fast enough to pay the debts with which they have been saddled in the name of being "rescued." They are simply ruined nations.

So what's the alternative to bailouts? Letting insolvency run its course, and letting market forces take precedence once again.

Soini writes:

For the banks, we need honest, serious stress tests. Stop the current politically inspired farce. Instead, have parallel assessments done by regulators and independent groups including stakeholders and academics. Trust, but verify.

Insolvent banks and financial institutions must be shut down, purging insolvency from the system. We must restore the market principle of freedom to fail.

If some banks are recapitalized with taxpayer money, taxpayers should get ownership stakes in return, and the entire board should be kicked out. But before any such taxpayer participation can be contemplated, it is essential to first apply big haircuts to bondholders.

For sovereign debt, the freedom to fail is again key. Significant restructuring is needed for genuine recovery. Yes, markets will punish defaulting states, but they are also quick to forgive. Current plans are destroying the real economies of Europe through elevated taxes and transfers of wealth from ordinary families to the coffers of insolvent states and banks. A restructuring that left a country's debt burden at a manageable level and encouraged a return to growth-oriented policies could lead to a swift return to international debt markets.

He also sounds a populist note, writing that the European Union itself is "being put in jeopardy by a political elite who would sacrifice the interests of Europe's ordinary people in order to protect certain corporate interests." That's a strong reply to those who say that the anti-bailout movement is what's endangering the EU.

(Full disclosure: My brother, Brian Carney, is the editorial page editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe.)

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