In the U.S. stockholders lost equity when banks went sour, but the banks remained open and depositors kept their money. The Troika, in exchange for $10 billion in aid, will likely impose losses of at least 20% on large depositors and require Cyprus to slash the size of its banking sector, relative to GDP, to the average for the European Union as a whole.
If such a condition were imposed on New York City, its economy would collapse and the Big Apple would suffer massive unemployment and huge population losses, as workers sought employment opportunities elsewhere.
Cypriots lack that option -- employment opportunities in depressed Greece are quite limited -- and most Cypriots lack the language skills to find jobs reasonably comparable to their current situations in other European countries. Instead, unemployment will rocket, GDP and tax revenue will plunge, and eurozone rules limiting budget deficits will force Cyprus to impose severe austerity measures, further exacerbating the downward spiral.
Cyprus could turn down aid from the EU, IMF and ECB, take its large banks through bankruptcy and withdraw from the euro altogether. That would also impose big losses on depositors and equally catastrophic consequences for confidence in the single currency. However, the country's comparative advantage as a portal into Eastern Europe and Asia would remain.
Taking its largest financial institutions through bankruptcy and establishing a local currency would be no cake walk, but the austerity measures -- higher taxes, restraints on government spending and so forth -- that come along with EU aid would likely throw Cyprus into the same downward spiral as Greece and Spain.
Iceland is also a financial center but having its own currency, recovered rather quickly from a similar financial crisis. Cyprus, a similar island nation with substantial economic assets, would likely find it better to just go it alone too.
With that, Greece, Spain and other could then see the wisdom of following Cyprus out of the euro, spelling the eventual end for the sham that is the European currency.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.