X marks the spot!

In the absence of a vote on the EU – any vote, on any aspect of it you care to name – it may prove useful to look elsewhere for the authentic opinion of The People on Le Grand Projet, aside, of course from the delicious fat raspberry the Irish have just blown. So here is a curious tale which some might think is evidence of people voting with their feet.

Going up!

The Daily Telegraph reports that the good citizens of Germany, whose former currency the Deutschmark was generally held to be as solid as a rock in a raging sea of liras, drachmas, pesetas, escudos and, dare one say, French Francs, have taken to filleting out Euro notes emanating from Southern Europe from their cash when they go to the Cashpoint:

Notes printed in Berlin have more currency for bank customers who fear a ‘value crisis’

Ordinary Germans have begun to reject euro bank notes with serial numbers from Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal, raising concerns that public support for monetary union may be waning in the eurozone’s anchor country.

Apparently it is possible to identify the original printing nation of any Euro note from its first serial letter. X means Germany, S is Italy and V is Spain. Once Herman has sorted his banknotes out, he goes to a teller and exchanges the ones he plainly regards as Ersatz Euros for good solid German ones.

And Up!

When I first read of this curious state of affairs, I confess I thought the whole thing quite loopy. After all, is not the whole point of the wretched thing that all the old weak currencies should disappear to be replaced by a new universal and, they hoped, strong currency, the Euro? And with the Euro fetching US$ 1.53 and £0.79 the word ‘strong’ might seem like a proper descritption of the currency’s present status.

And Up!

But in historical terms, it seems, Herman may be on to something. It seems that in the 1840s dollar notes which ostensibly had a common face value across North America were actually traded at differential rates, depending on their place of origin. Even if he is wrong, does it not represent a significant thumbs down to the whole Euro racket? And does it not signify what the cautious Germans, who have been thorugh some pretty serious currency meltdowns of their own, at heart think of it? After all, the effort of sorting through a whole load of banknotes and exchanging them inside the bank is considerable (in an age when sales of oranges can decline because we are too lazy to peel them).

And Up!

It seems that the source of Herman’s queasiness is rooted in concerns about the property market in Southern Europe, many having holiday homes in the Med; growing commentary on the decline of Southern Europe’s economies; a growing crescendo of remarks from Southern Eurpean politicians that are perceived as threatening the independence of the European Central Bank, a sine qua non for Germans to give up the Deutschmark; and a sudden ramping up of German inflation to an official 8.1% (which, if our own experience is anything to go by significantly underplays the reality).

Of course the EuroNabobery will pooh-pooh the concerns of Germans. They will point to the current strength of the Euro as proof positive of its success. But the Euro is built on a foundation of contradictions: a series of disparate national economies of widely differing strength and rules which are supposed to underpin it but which are proving, with pressure from politicians due to face their electorates in times of economic uncertainties which never bode well for incumbent governments (just ask Gordon), to de alarmingly elastic.

And Away!

Herman is worried. He has been here before: in 1923 and 1924 and then again in 1948. He has no desire to revisit currency meltdown again but was never asked in a referendum whether he wanted the Euro or the Deutschmark. Perhaps he is now voting with his ATM card.