Any effort by the ECB to be the lender of last resort that members need will start a firestorm of protest. People will argue that the central bank may lose money, exacerbate moral hazard and stoke inflation.
To the first of these objections, the right response is: so what? The central bank’s aim is to stabilise economies, not make money. Indeed, it is far more likely to lose money through half-hearted interventions than through forceful interventions that succeed. On the second, a clear understanding of the rules governing fiscal and economic policy is needed. You also need to decide whether a country is credibly solvent. Surely, Italy and Spain are. On the third, no good reason exists to expect an out-of-control inflationary process as a result of central bank monetary operations. The expansion of base money does not lead automatically to an expansion in the overall money supply, as you know well. Indeed, during the current crisis, the monetary base has become disconnected from the money supply in all big economies. That is what a financial crisis means.
Suppose the ECB did succeed in stabilising government bond markets in this way. It would also automatically stabilise the banks, since it is fears of sovereign defaults that are driving worries over banking insolvency. The capital to protect the European banking system from big defaults by important sovereigns simply does not exist. (...)
The eurozone risks a tidal wave of fiscal and banking crises. The European financial stability facility cannot stop this. Only the ECB can. As the sole eurozone-wide institution, it has the responsibility. It also has the power. I am sorry, Mario. But you face a choice between pleasing the monetary hawks and saving the eurozone. Choose the latter. Explain why you are making the choice. And remember: fortune favours the bold.