Rationing that continued after the second world war was called ‘austerity’: virtuous self-denial in the service of a greater good. Such positive connotations were useful 60 years later: citizens were expected to agree that slashed public spending was good for them. On the other hand, Germany could point out that deciding to lend another country only tens of billions rather than hundreds of billions of euros didn’t really amount to forcing ‘austerity’ on anyone.

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