Because it is nearly Christmas, today we have a fairy story.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, Jacques was a French farmer who lived with his mother. Their farm was not providing them with a decent living, and poor Jacques struggled every day to provide for the family.
Jacques was not stupid. He has heard the old English fairy story of Jack and the beanstalk. He was not going to sell his last cow for magic beans, as he is not sure he believes in those. Nor does he like the sound of the giant very much, even though the giant’s hatred was specifically reserved for Englishmen, which Jacques can understand. There is no guarantee, thought Jacques, that he would like Frenchmen much more, or that the giant’s wife would be successful in hiding him.
One day Jacques could not get his sums to add up at all. He went to his mother and said he had been offered the chance to share their money and currency with the Germans over the border. He thought this could be a good idea. He pointed out that the Germans had plenty of gold. They seemed much richer than Jacques and the other French locals. If we joined the Germans, Jacques, said, we surely would be able to share some of their wealth and success. It was even rumoured that just like the old giant in the story, the Germans had a goose that laid golden eggs. Maybe they would share it with him.
His mother was sceptical. She didn’t like the Germans very much, because she heard bad things about them in the past. Jacques soon put her right. Modern Germans, he said, are very different. They are nice people now. They do want to help. They have said we can share our currency. They are not like old Blunderbore the giant.
His mother was won over. She consoled herself by thinking, at least my son doesn’t want to give our last cow away for a silly magic bean like Jack in that old tale. Maybe there is something in what he says. She didn’t have a better answer to how they could make a living, and the thought of all that German gold was very enticing. She didn’t really believe they had a golden goose, but she had read of big German gold hoards. There was no telling how they had got those.
So Jacques and all the other locals agreed to share their currency with the Germans. The Germans wanted to do it, as they could then sell many more of all those wonderful things they made so well to all the other people in their currency zone. it meant they could sell more and save all the profits.
The others lived well for a few years, mainly by borrowing money to spend whenever they wanted to. Being associated with the Germans meant they could suddenly get cheap credit. They all wanted to buy lovely new German motor cars, which they did by borrowing. Then one day when Jaques went to the bank to borrow some more so his family could have a holiday, the bank manager said No. He said the Germans were not sending him the money he needed to make all the loans, which had proved ever so popular.
Jaques went home and told his mum and friends. They said he would have to go to see the big German bank manager, and ask him nicely to keep sending the money to their local banks. After all, they did all share the same currency and had all agreed to look after each other.
So Jaques set off the see the German bank manager. He didn’t really believe the manager would be anything like the giant in the story, but as he got near to the office he thought he heard someone with a loud voice chanting
Fee fi fo fum
I smell the blood of a Frenchman
be he alive or be he dead
I’ll not part with my gold to buy his bread
That was probably all in Jaques imaginings, but when he got into the office a very polite normal sized bank manager confirmed that Germany was no longer willing to send lots of money to help everyone else in the currency zone. He said charity began at home. He said the Germans had worked very hard and had earned their gold. They did not have a magic goose that laid gold eggs, contrary to rumour. He was being kind by telling them there was no more money, so they could turn too and work harder. That had made the Germans more prosperous and so it should them.
So there was no golden goose after all. Or if there was, the Germans were being nasty and would not share it. If the Germans were right that they had got all that gold by hard work, how were Jacques and his French friends to catch up? The Germans said they had made all their gold by selling things to all the other people in their currency zone. The French couldn’t do the same because the Germans had already satisfied the market. Now the other people in the currency zone, like Jacques himself, had run out of money and could not buy lots more goods. Only the Germans could afford to buy more goods, but they refused to.
So what were Jaques and all the others to do? They had relied on all that German gold. Some of them really thought the Germans did have a golden goose. Some were morally indignant that the Germans did not want to send them any more. They thought the least the Germans could do, having taken so much money from them in the past for the goods they sold, would be to send some of that money back.
This fairy tale could have a happy ending. Some say the Germans relented and sent Jaques and the rest some of the German gold and they all lived happily ever after. Some say the whole area found a golden goose after all. It was a modern kind of goose called quantitative easing, so they could simply print enough money for everyone. Some say the Germans dug in saying if necessary there would be the break up of the currency. The others all had to go back to their farms, cut their costs and try to make a living after years of neglecting the hard work they needed.
I can’t tell you the ending, because, you see, this fairy tale is not yet over. Perhaps you can help me by telling me your idea of how we can end it happily.