As economists (assuming that most of our readers have a vague interest in the subject matter we keep on harping on about most of the time) we should all be aware of, if not au fait with Opportunity Cost.
As a one line refresher: Opportunity Cost is the cost or value forgone by choice. Choosing one option or outcome over another, automatically leads to an alternative opportunity forgone, hence the cost element.
So the real challenge is to extract the ‘right’ amount of value or benefit from the chosen option versus the forgone option. This is the real difficulty when the counter-party does not share the same or a similar risk profile.
What is the answer then?
Well as vaguely competent economists our stock answer is: It depends!
Lets peal this back one level and start with the this position: the very fact that you had a choice in the first place is a very good thing. A lot or market participants are never really afforded the luxury of this or any choice. They just have to lump it and get on with whatever activity keeps them sustained. Therefore, from this extreme position an answer might be that we should count our blessings and just accept the inevitable and get on with choosing and working through the consequences.
However, in a world driven by value maximisation, the fact that we have to make the optimum choice does become more significant and important. What tools can we employ in a world of Information overload, yet still Information Asymmetry to come up with the optimal solution?
When the Euro zone Debt driven financial crises – yes, it has been dragging on for a little while now; lurching from one convulsion to the next tremor – is headline news across most traditional newspapers in Britain, it is worth pausing briefly to consider the overall ‘management efforts’ of the European leadership and senior bureaucratic establishment and the potential outcomes.
The interesting point to observe today is the development of the crises from one of ‘consolidated rhetoric’ to save the Euro zone and Euro project, to a slow and it now seems inevitable conclusion that certain ‘none performing’ members will have to leave the Euro monetary union. This ‘orderly exit’ is now overdue because the political will, fiscal consolidationand Euro zone wide risk sharingnecessary to ensure continued membership, on an equal footing, has been and is being rejected by the electorate as incumbent political leaders and governments stumble and fall as each political reflection point at the ballot box looms.
What is not being openly discussed?
What is currently not part of the popular discourse is the fact that the risk has moved on from a political, credit and market risk to one of a social or socio-economic dimension. Because ‘austerity proper‘ has not yet begun to bite and embed itself firmly in the economies of most European countries, as part of the process of climbing the stairway on the upward leg of addressing the mountain of sovereign debt built up over the last few years, nobody has really, except for Greece (and a blip in August 2011 in Britain), had to deal with large-scale and continued civil unrest. Yet, this is exactly the scenario we need to prepare for as a few conversations we have been having with analysts and pundits has openly started raising this spectre as another risk factor to add to the volatile cocktail we are already expected to swallow.
The next step?
Is a full-scale exit by the weaker Euro zone nation states on the cards and the possibility of a wholesale devaluation of the Euro? Well, that depends on where the financial and fiscal power and discipline lies and we believe that most observers of the European Debt Crisis known the instinctive answer to that question…
A final thought is to start preparing yourself for debates and contingency planning around a disorderly exist by weaker Euro zone members. And have large-scale civil unrest as part of the scenarios you need to consider…