For the last two decades or so, I have been a frequent traveller and on-again-off-again resident of Europe. I greeted the rollout of the Euro in 2002 with enthusiasm, as it would mean a lot less hassle dealing with changing money while traveling across borders. However, I do still mourn the demise of the 50 French franc note featuring the Little Prince.
Fast-forward to today. Due to a number of factors, the Euro is in crisis. I won’t go into the “why” here, but this animated video gives a good overview of a complex system.
And there are many sides of this story. We also have the ability to tell a different story to make sense and change what is going on. Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis explained in an interview with Business Insider’s Tomas Hirst that “the greatest trick eurozone leaders had pulled was convincing the world that Europe’s problems were really those of individual countries within the monetary union.”
They are prepared to spend quite a lot of money in order to remain in denial about the systemic nature of the crisis. In the case of Greece, for example, they have spent a huge amount of money failing to fix the situation but what they have succeeded in doing is convince people that it is fundamentally a Greek crisis.
The Euro is a part of a shared European story, and its challenges are not the “fault” of any given country within the Union. But we need to expand our story beyond the Euro as well. The Euro is not our only shared currency.
Communities have created their own hyperlocal micro-currencies as an alternative to the Euro and other mainstream currencies. Time banks and barter exchanges are also part of this trend. Bitcoin and related cryptocurrencies now offer peer to peer and open source alternatives to traditional fiat currencies.
We can also expand our notion of the meaning of “currency.” Cultural, social, and environmental capital all have the potential to have their own stores of value and units of exchange.
The Eurocrisis is a man-made crisis of policy and governance. The results of austerity to fix this crisis have caused real harm and human suffering. We need policy reform and political action, but we also need to look broader and deeper. The Euro as a common currency offers tremendous convenience in trade and a uniting effect economically and culturally. For the sake of this efficiency and unity, we should save it. But for the sake of resilience and diversity, we also need new stories and new forms of currency.
Is the Euro worth saving? What are the alternatives? Add your ideas and join the debate on DebateHub.