The Greek debt crisis led some people to wonder why a common currency works in the United States but not in Europe. Then came the Puerto Rico debt crisis. Yet what happened in Puerto Rico actually shows why the dollar works when the euro doesn’t.
Normally, a country that finds itself with unsustainable debt can devalue its currency. This reduces the standard of living for the country’s residents but makes it easier for the government to pay off whatever debt it owes in the local currency.
Neither Greece nor Puerto Rico have that option since their currency is shared with other nations or states. As a member of the euro zone, Greece can threaten to leave, destabilizing the entire system, unless other members put up with its profligate spending. Greece isn’t the only one: Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain–the so-called PIGS–all seem to have unsustainable debts that threaten the euro.