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What do great recessions look like? I wonder about this as I stroll through an Athens shopping mall. As in London, the place is filled with young people buying the latest mobile phones and gadgets. There are more people queuing for public transport than last time I was here. One Athenian tells me there is more bin-scavenging in some neighbourhoods. But otherwise what is striking is that there is nothing especially striking. People are just getting on with it. Back in London, people question me about the trip as though I had been in a warzone.

Perhaps the surprise is because we are so used to photographs of the great inter-war Depression, of people shoeless and starving. There is a risk that unless the iconography fits that picture this time we'll think we're OK. I have lunch in a crowded restaurant overlooking the Acropolis. Were New York restaurants full in the Thirties? So much about this recession remains confusing. You can see why such a large proportion of people think it isn't real or exists only in the minds of right-wing governments.

Last December the German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out that with just over 7 per cent of the world's population Europe produces 25 per cent of the world's GDP, yet has to finance 50 per cent of the world's social spending. "Europeans," she said, "will have to work very hard to maintain [their] prosperity and way of life."

When I last quoted those figures in print I got a number of messages from people saying, "Twenty-five per cent of the world's GDP with 7 per cent of the global population? Sounds good to me." If people believe there is no floor or are determined to hit that floor, how exactly can you stop them?

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