It may be true that the European Central Bank lacks specific legal authority to perform as a central bank should in a crisis. But there is nothing new to that.
Brad DeLong, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, points to comments made in 1844 by Sir Robert Peel, then Britain’s prime minister, explaining why he had not sought specific legislation to authorize the bank to step in during a panic:
“My confidence is unshaken that we have taken all the precautions which legislation can prudently take against a recurrence of a pecuniary crisis,” he wrote in a letter. “It may occur in spite of our precautions; and if it does and if it be necessary to assume a grave responsibility, I dare say men will be found willing to assume such a responsibility.”
In Europe, it is high time for such men, or women, to be found.