The Great EU Debt Write Off

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This page presents the results of a simulation conducted by students at ESCP Europe Business School. The aim was to uncover the amount of interlinked debt between Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Spain, Britain, France, and Germany; and then see what would happen if they attempted to cross cancel obligations.

The results were astounding:

  • The countries can reduce their total debt by 64% through cross cancellation of interlinked debt, taking total debt from 40.47% of GDP to 14.58%
  • Six countries – Ireland, Italy, Spain, Britain, France and Germany – can write off more than 50% of their outstanding debt
  • Three countries – Ireland, Italy, and Germany – can reduce their obligations such that they owe more than €1bn to only 2 other countries
  • Ireland can reduce its debt from almost 130% of GDP to under 20% of GDP
  • France can virtually eliminate its debt – reducing it to just 0.06% of GDP

The study has been published by the journal Simulation and Gaming.

Images by Soapbox


The idea

The idea is very simple – if Portugal owes Ireland €0.34bn of short term debt, and Ireland owes Portugal €0.17bn, we can write off Ireland’s obligations and leave Portugal with a reduced debt of €0.17bn.If you are both a debtor and a creditor you do not need money to settle claims. Rather than require additional funds to deal with choking debt, why not write it off?
The diagrams above show the before and after situation, based on analysis done by students. The simulation itself took place on May 17th 2011 and involved three separate trading rounds.

Students in the Pre-Masters Year of the ESCP Europe Masters in Management program took part in the trial run on March 22, 2011, which involved only the PIIGS countries. The key results were the following:

  • Portugal was able to cut its debt in half, primarily because so much of that debt was held by Spain.
  • Ireland reduced its debt by 99.74%, mostly through deals with Spain and Portugal. It was able to make use of trading period 3 by moving short- and medium-term debt into long-term debt.
  • Italy had a weak bargaining position, as it began with the worst debt position (a high concentration of short-term debt). After reducing debt by 50% in period 1, it was unable to make further gains.
  • Greece reduced its debt by 11% but mostly because it had little exposure to the other PIIGS countries. It was unable to make any trades after period 1.
  • Spain managed to eliminate all of its debt obligations to the other PIIGS countries, although it owed significant amounts to Britain, France, and Germany. Spain found that it could deal with everyone at the table quite equally.

Main data sources


Resources for instructors

If you would like to replicate this simulation in your classroom, download this zip file. It includes:

  • All of our data (including sources and notes)
  • The starting positions for each country
  • The results table to provide real time information to students
  • A summary sheet for students to complete each round
Please let us know how you get on!

Further reading


Media coverage


For more details or media enquiries please contact Anthony J. Evans.

MBA Library

This is a list of books that I recommend, organised by topic. My original plan is to have 2 per topic, but this is a work in progress.

1. Incentives matter

  • Becker, Gary, (1998) The Economics of Life, McGraw Hill

2. Cost and choice

  • Levinson, Marc (2006) The Box, Princeton University Press

3. Market exchange

  • Klemperer P., (2004) Auctions: Theory and Practice, Princeton University Press

4. Prices and economic calculation

  • Swedberg, R., (2000) Entrepreneurship: The Social Science View, Oxford University Press
  • Fisman, R., and Sullivan, T., (2013) The Org: The Underlying Logic of the Office, Twelve Books

5. Competition and the market process

  • Mathews, John (2007) Strategizing, Disequilibrium and Profit, Stanford University Press
  • Dixit, A.K., Nalebuff, B.J. (1993) Thinking Strategically: The Competitive Edge in Business, Politics, and Everyday Life, W.W. Norton

6. Capital theory and recalculation

  • Lachmann, L., (1956) Capital and its Structure, Sheed Andrews and McMeel

7. Public finance

  • Ferguson, Niall, (2002) The Cash Nexus: Money and Politics in Modern History, 1700 – 2000 ,Penguin
  • Frisby,  D., (2019) Daylight Robbery. How Tax Shaped Our Past and Will Change Our Future, Penguin Random House
    • A somewhat polemical but highly readable account of how important taxation has been in the affairs of the state. The account of the US civil war may need balancing with other views, but I particularly recommend the chapters that consider how future working styles (such as digital nomadism and the widespread adoption of AI) will affect tax collection, and this how governments organise their activities. Historically sweeping but continually interesting.
  • Narayanan et al. (2016) Bitcoin and Cryptopcurrency Technologies, Princeton University Press (see the website for videos, and an online draft version is here)

8. Monetary theory

  • Friedman, M., (1994) Money Mischief, Harcourt
  • Whalen, C.R., (2010) Inflated: How Money and Debt Built the American Dream, Wiley
    • I liked the historical perspective, focus on monetary theory, and link to public finance. But I felt it was one sided, US centred, and badly written. Am still trying to find a better option.

9. Fiscal policy

  • Buchanan, J., and Wagner, R.E., (1977) Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes, Liberty Fund

10. International economics

  • Blustein, P., (2006) And the money kept rolling in (and out), Public Affairs
  • Yeager, L., (1954) Free trade: America’s opportunity Liberty Fund.

11. Behavioural economics

  • Poundstone, William (2010) Priceless: The Hidden Psychology Of Value Oneworld
  • Kahneman, Daniel (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow Farrar Straus and Giroux
    • There are a lot of books that attempt to explain the main findings of behavioural economics, but this is the best. Written by an expert in the field, it reads more as an intellectual biography and tender ode to his deceased co-author, Amos Tversky. We learn more about the genesis of those classic original experiments, and how to implement those behavioural “anomalies” into business decision making. The chapters are short and immersive, and gradually build the concepts and insights into an incredibly important resource.

12. Global prosperity

  • Bauer, Peter (2000) From Subsistence to Exchange Princeton University Press
  • De Soto, Hernando (1989) The Other Path Basic Books
  • Aslund, Anders (2007) How Capitalism was Built: The Transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, and Central Asia Cambridge University Press
  • Skidelsky, Robert (1996) The Road from Serfdom: The Economics and Political Consequences of the End of Communism New York: Viking Penguin

And don’t forget: Markets for Managers!

The Economist: an MBA reader

This version: August 2011

One of the best ways to learn economics is by regularly reading ‘The Economist’, but for those who want to develop a more comprehensive understanding this approach can seem a little hit and miss. This anthology contains articles spanning the last decade, selected for their ability to do one of two things: (i) provide a concise and understandable explanation of an important concept; or (ii) as an application that could be used as the basis for discussion.

For students: Printing out the complete list might seem daunting but will serve as an excellent primer. Alternatively, you could view this list as a menu rather than a recipe and simply pick and choose topics that are of interest to you.

For teachers: Whilst I have compiled it with my own students in mind, the structure should allow you to customise it to tie into your own classes.

Instructions: Simply scroll down the list and open each link in a new tab. Then go through each in turn printing them out (I suggest printing on both sides). Put them in a folder and voila – a primer. At some point I will try to link to the print version, to make it even easier, but consider this a beta version.

If you use this anthology and have any comments please do get in touch so that I can continue to modify it

Note: This anthology is not endorsed by ‘The Economist’ in any way and I am assuming that people who follow the links below have their own subscription. For Special Reports (in bold face) I have only linked to the first article, but the whole report is recommended.


1. Microeconomics

Price theory & comparative statics [1,2,3]

Entrepreneurship & information [4]

Prediction markets [5]

Competition policy [5]

Regulation [5]

Manufacturing [5]

2. Monetary policy

Causes of inflation

Inflation expectations & credibility

Inflation or price level targeting

Deflation

Interest rates and capital misallocations

Fluctuations

3. Output and employment

Aggregate demand & output gap

Price rigidity

Unemployment

Sovereign debt

4. Macroeconomics models

5. International trade

Forex determination [10]

Trade balance [10]

Balance of Payments [10]

Big Mac Index [10]

Trade policy [10]

Globalisation [12]

FDI [12]

6. Financial markets

Anomalies & applications [11]

EMH/news [11]

Investment vehicles [11]

CAPM [11]

7. Prosperity & development

Pre industrial growth [12]

Growth & productivity [12]

Poverty & inequality [12]

Migration [12]

Aid & microfinance [12]

Transition [12]

8. Country cases

9. Economic history

10. The state of economics & the role of economists

Colloquium on J.B. Say

Dates and location TBA

In December 1819 Jean-Baptiste Say was one of a group of political economists and businesspeople who founded “Ecole Spéciale de Commerce et d’Industrie”, in Paris. Their practical experience and commitment to liberal ideas established a new type of academic model, pioneering the modern business school. Over the last 200 years the school has undergone a number of innovations, most notably with the merger in 1999 with EAP to form a multi-campus model operating throughout Europe. Combining a European identity with a global perspective, ESCP Europe now stands as a triple accredited and highly ranked establishment. JB Say held the first Chair in Economics, and 200 years later this colloquium uses his intellectual legacy as the host for an appraisal of his ideas and influence. 

Attendance is strictly by invitation only. Suggestions/feedback welcome – please email me.

Main reading: Say, J.B., ([1803] 1855) A Treatise on Political Economy (translation of the 4th Edition) – print copy at Amazon, or see this free pdf, or Library of Economics and Liberty.

  • Session I. On theory and practice
  • Session II. Origins of entrepreneurship
  • Session III. Say’s Law: the origins
  • Session IV. Say’s Law: Keynes’ reading
  • Session V. Say’s Law: The generally accepted view
  • Session VI. Say’s Law: The resurrection

Colloquium on Sound Money

20th-21st November 2009, London

1.    What is Money?

  • Menger, Carl, 1976, “The Theory of Money” (Chapter 8, in Principles of Economics, p.257-286)
  • Salerno, Joseph T., 1987, “The “True” Money Supply: A Measure of the Supply of the Medium of Exchange in the U.S. economy” Austrian Economics Newsletter, Ludwig von Mises Institute
  • Shostak, Frank, 2000, “The Mystery of the Money Supply Definition” The Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, Vol. 3, No. 4, pp.69-76

2.    The Interest Rate and Intertemporal Coordination

  • Mises, Ludwig von, 1953 [1912], The Theory of Money and Credit Yale University Press (Excerpts: Chapter 19, pp.339-367)
  • Hayek, Friedrich A., 2008 [1931], Prices and Production Mises Institute (Excerpts: Lecture 2, pp. 223-252; Lecture 3, pp.253-276)
  • Sweeny, Joan and Richard James Sweeny.  1977, Monetary Theory and the Great Capitol Hill Baby Sitting Co-op Crisis: Comment, Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Volume 9, Feb., pp. 886-89

3.    The Gold Standard and the Great Depression

  • Rothbard, Murray, 2005 [1963], What has government done to our money? Mises Institute (Excerpts: pp.159-170)
  • Reed, Lawrence, 2005, “Great Myths of the Great Depression” Mackinac Center for Public Policy
  • White, Lawrence H.  2008, “Is the Gold Standard Still the Gold Standard among Monetary Systems?” Cato Institute Briefing Papers, No. 100

4.    Deflation and Prosperity

  • Rothbard, Murray, 2005 [1962], The Case for a 100% Reserve Dollar Mises Institute (Excerpts: Chapter 10, pp.180-186)
  • Selgin, George, 1997, Less than Zero: The Case for a Falling Price Level in a Growing Economy Institute of Economic Affairs, Hobart Paper No. 132 (Excerpts: pp.9-41; 70-72)

5.    Free Banking vs 100% reserves

  • Mises, Ludwig von, 1953 [1912], “Peel’s Act” in The Theory of Money and Credit Yale University Press (Excerpts: Chapter 20, pp. 368-373)
  • White, Lawrence H. 2009 [1984], Free Banking in Britain: Theory, Experience, and Debate, 1800-1845, Institute of Economic Affairs (Excerpts: Chapter 5, pp.89-135)
  • Selgin, George, 1997, Less than Zero: The Case for a Falling Price Level in a Growing Economy” Institute of Economic Affairs, Hobart Paper No. 132 (Excerpts: pp. 67-69)
  • De Soto, Jesus Heurta, 2006, Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles Mises Institute (Excerpts: Chapter 8, pp.675-714)

6. Central banking

  • Smith, Vera, 1990 [1936], The Rationale of Central Banking, Liberty Fund (Excerpts Chapter XII, pp.167-196)
  • Hayek, Friedrich A., 1990, Denationalisation of Money – The Argument Refined, Institute of Economic Affairs, Hobart Paper Special, No. 70 (Excerpts: pp.23-28, 46-55, 130-131)
  • Congdon, Tim, 2009, Central Banking in a Free Society, Institute of Economic Affairs, Hobart Paper No. 166 (Excerpts Chapter 1, pp.34-43; Chapter 8, pp.178-189)

7.    Proposals for Reform

  • Salsman, Richard, 1990, Breaking the Banks, American Institute for Economic Research (Excerpts: Chapter IX, pp. 125-141)
  • De Soto, Jesus Heurta, 2006, Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles Mises Institute (Excerpts: Chapter 9, pp.736-787)
  • De Soto, Jesus Heurta, 2006, Money, Bank Credit and Economic Cycles Mises Institute (Excerpts: Chapter 9, pp.788-805)

Macro bootcamp

Updated: March 2018

The Macro Bootcamp is a short and intensive reading group that serves as a refresher for a graduate level class in contemporary macroeconomics. It aims to cover the seminal texts of the most prominent schools of thought, and act as a foundation for applications to current policy debates.

1. Advanced reading

Participants are advised to read the following book, which provides an excellent introduction to modern macroeconomics from a school-of-thought approach. The interviews at the end of the book in particular are worth attention:

2. Reading list: key articles

Note: this reading list is heavily influcenced by Tyler Cowen’s Macro I Reading List, Fall 2006 (.pdf). For a previous version see here.

History of thought/background

Real Business Cycles

New Keynesian economics

Monetary policy

3. Further reading

The classic graduate text for macro is David Romer. It is the best treatment of the alternative growth models, and then has a chapter on each variable of national income accounting. Participants are advised to grapple with it after the bootcamp has taken place

It is also a good idea to see how various Austrian, Keynesian and Moneratist ideas can be integrated into a heterodox narrative. See Arnold Kling’s “Lectures on Macroeconomics“.

Note: the lectures above feed into the Monetary Theory and Policy Workshop

The one week paper

The “one week paper” sounds ludicrous, so it’s important I make some important caveats: 1. the paper must not require any primary empirical research (i.e. there is no data collection or analysis involved); 2. the paper is an article, therefore you’re predominantly citing/drawing upon journal articles and not books; 3. the paper fits into an area that you have already published on, and the topic is something you have been thinking about for a long time and have already collected material; 4. you have a publication lined up, so that you know the journal/edited volume it will appear in, you know the editor’s requirements, and you know the audience.

If the above apply, the one week paper is feasible. Here’s the schedule:

Monday Gather the large pile of existing material that you have been keeping over the last few months/years. Print out references and articles that you’ve been keeping (e.g. draft emails, filed emails, blog posts, RSS feeds – however you “keep” articles to follow up on later). Conduct primary desk research to assemble your literature review. Take the key references, and go through their citations. Bust Google scholar, JStor, and whatever other databases you use. Print, print, print

Tuesday Get the cafetiere on the go, find a comfortable chair, and READ. Go through the printouts and read everything. Annotate as much as possible – both in terms of comments and general thoughts

Wednesday The aim now is to settle on the structure of the paper. Do *not* switch on your computer. Collate the printed material, lay it out on the floor, and formulate the key sections. Use a blank piece of A4 to write out the structure of the paper. Label the INTRO, Sections 1, 2…, CONC. on the printouts, and pile them up (loosely) into sections. The paper should now be laid out in front of you

Thursday Have a lie in. Think about the paper as you drift in and out of sleep. Then, start writing. Consider the writing process to be similar to an oil painting. Create a base layer in terms of the structure: i.e. create the sections within the word document. Then begin populating each section by taking the pile of papers and working through them methodically.

Friday Keep writing. I find I’m at my peak from 10pm – 2am, so I try not to feel as though I’m slipping behind if I’ve not made much progress before lunch.

Saturday Write

Sunday I don’t have a printer at home, but at this point you should print out the draft. Go to the pub, get a cold pint of lager and with a gloopy blue pen make corrections. Come home and revise the draft (crossing through each annotation with a thick black marker once it’s been adopted). Ensure spelling/grammer/formatting is sensible. Save a PDF version. Upload onto SSRN if you want broder feedback. Submit. Relax.

I’ll post links to examples of “one week papers” here: …

An undergraduate Austrian-school reading list

The best introduction to all aspects of the Austrian school, and how it differs from other approaches to economics is:

Handbook

Videos

Textbooks

  • Shand, Alexander H., 1984, The Capitalist Alternative: An Introduction to Neo-Austrian Economics. New York: New York University Press
  • O’Driscoll, G.P., and Rizzo, M.J., 1985, The Economics of Time and Ignorance Routledge
  • Evans, Anthony J., 2014, Markets for Managers. Wiley

Primers

  • Littlechild, Stephen C., 1978, The Fallacy of the Mixed Economy. Hobart Paper 80. London: Institute of Economic Affairs
  • Kirzner, Israel M., 2001, Ludwig von Mises. Wilmington, DL: ISI Books
  • Butler, Eamonn, 2010, Austrian Economics – A Primer, London: Adam Smith Institute

Intellectual histories

Conference proceedings

  • Dolan, Edwin G., (ed) 1976, The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics. Kansas City: Sheed & Ward Inc.
  • Spadaro, Louis M., (ed) 1978, New Directions in Austrian Economics. Kansas City: Sheed Andres & McMeel

If you like audio, here’s Ludwig Lachmann’s “History of the Austrian School” (1977). Here’s the short intro I wrote in 2005, and here’s “What Should an Austrian Economist Do?

The Austrian-school classics

  • Hayek, Friedrich A., 1948. Individualism and Economic Order. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Mises, Ludwig von, 1949. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. New Haven: Yale University Press
  • Rothbard, Murray N., 1962. Man, Economy & State. Princeton, N.J.: D. Van Nostrand Company
  • Kirzner, Israel M., 1978. Competition and Entrepreneurship. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Also see this video series by Richard Ebeling and “What Austrian Economics IS and What Austrian Economics Is NOT” by Steve Horwitz.

Contemporary pathways in Austrian macroeconomics

One of the most common criticisms of the Austrian-school of economics is that it is stuck in the past. For me this inexcusably ignores some excellent work that has been done “post revival” (i.e. since 1974). Indeed my own research on monetary theory is grounded in the following books, which – read together – demonstrate the relevance of Austrian ideas for a progressive research programme:

  • O’Driscoll, Gerald and Rizzo, Mario, 1985. The Economics of Time and Ignorance, Routledge
  • Cowen, Tyler, 1997. Risk and Business Cycles: New and Old Austrian Perspectives, Routledge
  • Lewin, Peter, 1999. Capital in Disequilibrium: The Role of Capital in a Changing World, Routledge
  • Horwitz, Steve, 2000. Microfoundations and Macroeconomics, Routledge
  • Garrison, Roger, 2001. Time and Money: The Macroeconomics of Capital Structure, Routledge

Note that they have all been published as part of the “Foundations of the Market Economy” series edited by Mario Rizzo and Larry White through Routledge. This is testimony to the influence of the NYU programme and the power of the SDAE as a professional organisation. A thorough reading of these books provides an excellent understanding of the unique contributions of the Austrian school, but one that is embedded within the state of the professional debate. More importantly, they are bursting with ideas to take this research forward, and beg to be applied to the current economic climate. They provide fertile pathways for the future of the Austrian-school.