Noted economist Yanis Varoufakis has promoted the ‘Eagles Doctrine’ to the view that Greece cannot leave the euro – i.e. you can never leave.
Suppose the Greek PM were to announce that tomorrow morning he will be tabling a piece of legislation in Parliament that paves the way to (a) an exit from the euro, to be effected by next week (an extremely short space of time in which to organize a new drachma issue capable of financing economic activity nationwide), and (b) a default on Greece’s debt… I submit to you dear reader that within minutes all ATMs in Greece would dry up, as Greeks withdraw all the cash they can. Within an hour, banks will have to shut shop, overwhelmed by the number of customers demanding their savings (and if the announcement is made after hours, the banks will simply not open the next morning). In short, all economic activity will cease for at least a week. For a country already in recession, this would be tantamount to collective suicide.
The problem is of course that his and Stuart Hollands proposal, promoted by the Greek Prime Minister, but not accepted by the ECB, for them to effectively take on the Greek Debt, has been rejected and Panendraou and the EU have nowhere else to go.
At least in theory though the Eagles doctine can be avoided. A bank run happens if there is there is a preference for cash, or money is transferred away electronically. Electronic transfers would punish those transferring out of a country that floats as it would drive down the currency destroying wealth of those transferring out.
Preference for cash in hand is only a problem because we have cash in hand. That is not irresolvable. Electronic transfers would be rationally undertaken with others offering goods and services. Lets not confuse economic laws with those contingent with a currency system, especially as those systems seem to have lasted no longer than 40-70 years at any time before restructuring to overcome previous limitations.
The NYT also reports concerns that a default would trigger a Lehman brothers like collapse.
The thinking goes like this: though banks and other investors have done much to pare their Greek holdings in the last year, if they are forced to take a loss, and the ratings agencies declare Greece in default, investors would start selling in a panic. And they would not sell just the bonds of countries struggling with debt — Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Italy. In a hasty retreat into cash, traders would unload more liquid assets as well, everything from high-grade corporate bonds to American and emerging market equities — as occurred in 2008 after Lehman failed.
Debt default is only a problem if it creates a flight to cash. Is the answer so hard to grasp?