After Debt Crisis, Europe Must Address Legitimacy Crisis

A steady stream of leaks suggests that, at the very least, a "soft" Greek sovereign debt default is now inevitable. And if Greece defaults, it is very likely that Portugal and Ireland might be forced to do so as well.

But curiously enough, that scenario no longer seems to be as apocalyptic as it did even several weeks ago. Part of that is because the European Union, for all the flaws of its response to the debt crisis, has bought much-needed time, and is likely to buy a bit more, to allow European banks to begin cleaning up their balance sheets. Part of it is also due to the ongoing opinion-shaping campaign, of which those leaks are an integral component, designed to soften the impact of an eventual default by preparing markets and mentalities for the shock.

Still, if it seems likely that the European Union will not implode, taking global markets down with it, that leaves the thorny question of popular opposition to the austerity budgets that for an extended period of time will be imposed on national governments by . . . whom?

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