Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What happens when a nation goes bankrupt

Three years ago today, my best friend called me and told me to turn on my television. I remember the way he described it– “Lehman is finished.”  The TV showed guys packing up their desks on Sunday afternoon, moving out of their offices forever.
That was the precipice from which financial markets plunged the following day, taking the global economy along for the next three years.
We appear to be at that moment once more.
Greece is out of cash. Again. The Greek Deputy Finance Minister said on Monday that his country only has enough cash to operate for a few more weeks.
As I write this note, French, German, and Greek politicians are all on a conference call, feverishly trying to figure out a way to avoid default.  Everyone seems to understand the consequences at stake… given the chain of derivatives out there, a Greek default will completely dwarf the Lehman collapse.
Unfortunately for the bureaucrats, dissent against the Greek bailout plan is spreading across Europe… and leaders can no longer ignore the growing wave of opposition in Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, and Germany.

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