Why debt and deficit are not dirty words - Tim Harford
A year after Thomas Piketty's 700-page tome, Capital, became a best-seller, and three years after the inception of the Occupy Movement, the politics of left-wing economic discontent hit the European mainstream in a big way in January.
Greek voters were fed up with the harsh conditions imposed on them by the European Union's bankers in their heavily indebted country's 240-billion-euro economic bailout in 2010.
Syriza vowed to relieve Greece of its formidable debt, which amounts to 175 percent of its gross domestic product.
That's five times greater than Canada's. They also want to disburden Greeks of the austerity measures that have crippled the economy and destroyed their quality of life.
The government has cut so much spending and so many jobs that it's running a surplus ... even while the economy has shrunk by 25 percent, youth unemployment is close to 60 percent and about a third of Greeks are living below the poverty line.
That's so the government can channel its revenue into debt repayment.
So Syriza embarked on an audacious mission to have Greece's debt restructured and austerity measures lifted to get the economy moving and people working again.
Tsipras and his iconoclastic finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, did a victory lap around Europe, proclaiming that other indebted countries like Spain and Portugal would join them in an uprising against the EU's dour austerity policies.
They took their demands to the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And the de facto leader of the European economy, German chancellor Angela Merkel.
The EU, Germany and the IMF were having none of it, though. Syriza was forced to put its anti-austerity revolution on hold in order to remain part of the Eurozone. It was rewarded with a four-month extension of their bailout program, and permission for somewhat less astringent economic tonic.
For another opinion on whether - and when - debt and deficits are really dirty words, Michael Enright talks to Tim Harford, an award-winning economist and broadcaster. He is a columnist with The Financial Times, and his latest best-selling book is The Undercover Economist Strikes Back.