Watching events unfold in Greece and the rest of Europe over the last month, I couldn't help but think of a scene from the 1981 movie, Fort Apache, The Bronx, in which Paul Newman plays a cynical, jaded cop. After a bad dude from a nasty gang is arrested, the police station is surrounded by his posse chanting, "Let the brother go."
Newman appears to be off duty, but apparently feels that he shouldn't abandon the station and head for his local watering hole. So he sits inside the station next to a window looking out at the crowd while he impishly joins in the mob's chant, "Let the brother go."
On May 18, Germany placed certain restrictions on short selling in their own markets. But that won't work for long. One has to wonder how long Germans will be willing to subsidize reckless, irresponsible nations like Greece.
Shorting the euro is a trade that is so obvious that it's amazing everyone isn't doing it. This observer can't help but realize that smart hedge fund investors like George Soros look for clashes between governments and markets in which the governments' position is untenable, and then they short the governments' securities in any way they can. It's not hard to imagine hedge fund managers chanting, "Power to the people," along with the Greek protesters as the funds make billions off the protesters.
Power to the poodles is more like it.
The imbalances in the EU are unsustainable, so shorting the euro is a no-brainer. Why aren't we all doing it? I wouldn't be surprised if some of these hedgies aren't sending their stooges to Athens to grease (no pun intended) the unions with euros so they can keep whipping up the unions and driving these economies further into the ditch.
The spectacle of government workers out in the street of Athens striking and protesting the new austerity measures is remarkable. Here's a country where all the wealthy shipping tycoons have all their money out of the country (wouldn't you?), the upper middle class avoid taxes (30% of the economy is underground), and everyone else expects massive entitlements starting at ages much younger than anywhere else in the Western world.
One possible solution might be to split the euro into two currencies, one for the Club Med types living La Dolce Vita and the other for northern Europe where some folks still enjoy working. That way, the Club Med euro would crash, exports of Italian wines and Spanish olives would surge and at least their economies would benefit from a surge in tourism. But to saddle Italy, Spain and Portugal with Greece wouldn't be fair either.