A commonsense definition of “austerity” is “cuts in government spending.” Now, that isn’t quite the correct macroeconomic definition: a cut in spending combined with a bigger cut in taxes is not contractionary. But it matches a good political definition: are countries imposing pain on their populations?
And so, I give you the level of nominal government spending in Greece and the Baltic States, plus Slovakia, because the Slovaks have been incredibly annoying. The figures have been normalized so that 2008 = 100.
Whaddaya know? Greeks have endured austerity beyond anything imagined in the Baltics. Yes, the Baltics are poorer than Greece. But that is not how people feel pain: we are far more averse to losses than to unrealized gains. The pain among, say, Greek pensioners or government employees has been beyond anything the Baltics have seen since the Soviet Union fell apart.
Now let’s look at the other side of the ledger: taxes. How much pain have the Greeks imposed upon themselves in order to pay for their state? As a % of GDP:
My. Puts things in perspective. I really do wish the Balts would just pipe down already. Their countries would be in chaos were things as bad as they are in Greece.