The Price Of Default

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A protest against the government's economic policies in Argentina in 2001. i
Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images
A protest against the government's economic policies in Argentina in 2001.
Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty Images

Update: Paul Krugman and Dean Baker criticized this podcast. Here's our response.

It seems unlikely that Greece will be able to avoid defaulting on its loans. The real question is how the default will happen — will it be clean and organized or messy and catastrophic.

The nightmare scenario Greece most wants to avoid is what happened in Argentina. A deep recession and doomed dollar peg forced Argentina to suspend payments on its debt, leaving its lenders high and dry.

Robert Shapiro, represents a lot of people who are still trying to get paid back. He is the co-chair of a group called American Task Force Argentina.

"It has got a lot of people backing on its door," says Shapiro.

Argentina eventually offered to back a third of what it owed, but for half of its lenders, that wasn't good enough. They've taken the country to court and so far, Argentina has lost over 100 cases.

Even now, 10 years after the default, any time Argentina tries to raise money, it faces the risk that its old lenders will try to seize that money.

"You cannot escape the basic rules of the international capital markets you can not abrogate them and think you will pay no price," Shapiro says. "Over time, there isn't any doubt that the price Argentina has paid is much greater than any benefit."

Today on the podcast, a cautionary tale for Greece.

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