You have to click through to play with this one from Krist at the University of Maryland.
Krist is a computer science major, so this is heavy on programming difficulty, but a bit lighter on economics.
The chart shows three variables: debt/GDP on the horizontal axis, deficit/GDP on the vertical axis, and real per capita GDP by the size of the bubble. All of those are explained below the chart, but not too clearly.
If you click on either a flag or a bubble, the chart maps out the movement of the country through the years.
Alternatively, you can use the slider at the top to play a movie.
This year’s problem countries are Greece and Italy, and it’s pretty easy to see that they are away from the pack of other countries. The problem countries of previous years: Spain, Portugal, and Ireland have at least toyed with being part of the pack.
In a nutshell, the current problems in Europe is that the countries in the pack are having enough trouble managing their own fiscal problems, but they are tied to countries that are trying to play by different rules, and this isn’t helping.
Economically, I think the vertical axis variable is fine.
The horizontal axis variable is popular, but not one of my favorites. It actually shows something like a household’s credit card balance divided by paycheck size. That’s interesting, but not as useful as credit card payment divided by paycheck size. For Greece, the problem since summer has been the size of their payments, not the size of their debt (even though the latter isn’t good).
The bubble size is also somewhat misleading in that Luxembourg has the highest value (the biggest bubble). Technically, this is true, but that is mostly because of rich French and German citizens parking their money just over the border.