A Few Ears of Corn Seal Greece's Fate: The Ticker

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By Caroline Baum

I stopped at a farm stand earlier this week to buy some locally grown corn for dinner. "You write for Bloomberg, right?" the proprietor asked, no doubt remembering an interchange months ago (over beets, not corn) when I tried to interject some sound economics into a conversation he was having with another customer.

"Yes," I said, trying to guess where this was going. "OK, let me ask you something," he said. "What are the chances Greece defaults in the next 90 days."

"About 50 percent," I said.

He looked surprised at my quick and assured response. I explained that I wasn't really giving him odds based on inside information on the euro area's next step. Instead, I was using the past to project the future.

According to economists Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, authors of "This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Crises," Greece has spent more than half -- 50.6 percent, to be exact -- of the years since 1800 in default or rescheduling its debt.

Why would anyone be surprised to find Greece at this juncture again?

(Caroline Baum is a Bloomberg View columnist.)

-0- Sep/29/2011 15:06 GMT