Economy 4.0

As euro turns 10, a look back at its history

David Brancaccio Dec 28, 2011

Steve Chiotakis: This Sunday, while you’re eating black-eyed peas or making your resolution list, Europeans will celebrate ten years of the euro currency.

Marketplace’s David Brancaccio continues our Economy 4.0 series, looking at how the global economy can better serve more people. And he’s here with us to talk about a decade of euro notes and coins. Morning David.

David Brancaccio: Hey Steve.

Chiotakis: Ten years for the euro on New Year’s Day — it’s not really living up to predictions, is it?

Brancaccio: Well it depends whose predictions. Step, if you will, into my radio-powered time tunnel to a commentary Marketplace broadcast before the euro was ever launched. It’s from senior editor at The Economist magazine at the time, David Menatian, who is saying things like this:

David Menatian: One bunch of experts says it will end in disaster. Another predicts a golden age.

For the euro. The Economist at the time did a decent job talking to the disaster predictors; they had a cover piece called Europe’s Big Idea. One person they talked to said the euro should greatly increase its budget so that “any country hit by a shock unique to itself could be bailed out.”

Chiotakis: Too bad they didn’t heed that prediction, right?

Brancaccio: Yeah. But they were a little off on which country they predicted would get hit first. Any guesses, Steve?

Chiotakis: Um, Greece?

Brancaccio: They actually singled out Germany as likeliest to get hit, likeliest to hit trouble, because at the time, believe it or not, they were the ones struggling to keep their budget deficit in line.

Chiotakis: Well hindsight, David, is 20/20. But along with the doomsayers, there were experts, as we heard from David Menatian, who predicted a golden age, right?

Brancaccio: Oh, a golden age. Yes there were. Our own Marketplace poet at the time, by the name of Michael Silverstein, paraphrased their views in verse.

Michael Silverstein: Oh euro, my euro, your time has finally come/You’ve withstood all your critics’ flack, their doubting scoffs are done/The francs a ghost, the liras toast, the deutschmarks just a mem’ry/Around the globe, thy name is hailed, in circles monetary.

Chiotakis: Thy name is no longer being hailed, though, is it David? I mean, it seems like the Doubting Thomases are back.

Brancaccio: Yeah, and Silverstein’s actually done a new version of the poem over on his website. The new ending goes like this: “The thinking here is changing fast/As the richer lands gets rolled/Could this have been a pretty dream/One greatly oversold?”

Chiotakis: All right, Marketplace’s Economy 4.0 correspondent David Brancaccio. David, thanks.

Brancaccio: You bet.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.