greece crisis: austerity
Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras addresess a 'No' rally in Athens on the eve of the referendumYannis Behrakis/Reuters

An American proverb which came into prominence late in the first decade of the 21st century states: "If you owe the bank a hundred thousand dollars the bank owns you. If you owe the bank a hundred million dollars, you own the bank."

Greece, the country where democracy was born, has had no trouble applying that paradox to its pile of sovereign debt, gambling on its eurozone membership as a bargaining chip to carry on with. You have to admire their balls.

Prime minister Alexis Tsipras said Greece's lenders – the European Central Bank, the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund – would now have to talk about restructuring the country's debt.

"This time, the debt will be on the negotiating table," he said.

The expression, "messy beginnings, messy endings" could also be applied at this time.

Let's not forget that US bank Goldman Sachs shoehorned Greece into the euro by helping the Greek government to mask the true extent of its deficit.

Back around 2002, Goldmans devised a currency swap derivative that legally circumvented the EU Maastricht deficit rules, which impose a budget limit of 3% of GDP.

According to those strictures, government debt should not exceed 60%, something the Greeks has never managed to stick to. Creative accounting by savvy US bankers allowed the Greek government to meet the 3% limit. This went on to hit more than 12% in 2009.

And Greece was not alone in this; other Mediterranean countries played the same game. Italy also bought into similar derivative products from US banks to perform the disappearing trick – most likely facilitated by former prime minister Mario Monti, an ex-Goldman Sachs economist who served as European commissioner from 1995-2004.

Grexit, banking collapse or a new EU deal: What next for Greece in 90 secondsIBTimes UK

Naturally, these swaps earned a hefty commission for the banks that devised them, and of course when they mature – which is round about now– they will add another load of debt on to already bloated balance sheets.

It's worth mentioning that Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank who must oversee Greece's debt restructuring, is also a Goldman Sachs alumnus.

Clive Menzies, a political economist from the Critical Thinking at the free university, told IBTimes UK: "This is about the banking system versus Greece. This is not about the EU and not about doing any good for the Greek people.

"Essentially Greece needs to do what Iceland has done. They are now running their country as opposed to the banks running it."

Relative to the size of its economy, Iceland's banking collapse was the largest experienced by any country in economic history. But Iceland has stood out post-crash by taking control of its banks and refused demands to underwrite their debt to overseas investors.

Greece has also now defiantly stood up to its debtors and many countries have found themselves in similar situations. Most recently Argentina defaulted for a second time on bond payments.

Argentina has been hobbled by debt since the collapse of its currency back in 2001- 2002, but managed to pull itself out of penury over the decade and a second debt restructuring in 2010 brought 93% of bonds out default.

Then the headline became about Argentina standing up to a group of its most rapacious hedge fund creditors, the so-called "vulture funds" in a bitter legal battle.

Before Greece spiralled into default and brinkmanship with the troika, it was charged heavily for borrowing money. This is how bond markets operate. Countries have to pay high interest rates on their debt because they have poor credit ratings and so investors require greater returns on what they perceive to be riskier investments.

In Greece, yields on 10-year government bonds reached 29% in early 2012. By contrast, a 10-year US treasury note pays an annual coupon of just 2.5%.

Ratings agencies like Standard & Poor's and Moody's Investor Services rate countries, of which there are many with deficient ratings for all sort of reasons.

Moody's currently lists a number of countries with a rating of Caa1 or worse (Caa1 rating is several notches below Ba1, which still carries substantial credit risk). This includes the likes of Ukraine in Europe, Pakistan, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Belize to name a few.

It should be noted that a country can earn a rating verging on default simply by not taking part in the international bonds markets. Ecuador is a good example. Its government debt was forecast to total just 24.8% of GDP in 2014 by the IMF — an exceptionally low amount.

Returning to Greece, its bold hand must now be called by EU leaders, who are understandably nervous anti-austerity parties in Spain and Portugal.

Menzies added: "The whole idea of a debt default or debt restructing process is to get things back on an even footing. But what has happened has been the extraction of more and more interest. This money is made out of nothing. This is gangster capitalism."