As concerns grow that Greece may default on its government debt, economists are starting to map out possible outcomes. While no one knows for certain what will happen, it’s a given that financial crises always have unexpected consequences, and many predict there will be collateral damage, said the New York Times Tuesday. Because of these fears, Greece is working frantically in concert with other European nations to avoid default, by embracing further austerity measures it has promised in return for more European bailout money to help pay its debts. But some economists believe default may be inevitable and that it may actually be better for Greece and, despite a short-term shock to the system, perhaps eventually for Europe as well. They are beginning to wonder whether the consequences of a default or a more radical debt restructuring, dire as they may be, would be no worse for Greece than the miserable path it is currently on. A default would relieve Greece of paying off a mountain of debt that it cannot afford, no matter how much it continues to cut government spending, which already has caused its economy to shrink, said the newspaper. At the same time, however, there is a fear of the unknown beyond Greece’s borders. Merrill Lynch estimates that the shock to growth in Europe, while not as severe as in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, would be troubling, with overall output contracting by 1.3 percent in 2012. While other countries have defaulted on their sovereign debt in recent times without causing systemic contagion, analysts weighing the numbers on Greece note that its debt is far higher, so the ripple effects could be more serious. Total Greek public debt is about 370 billion euros, or $500 billion. By comparison, Argentina’s debt was $82 billion when it defaulted in 2001; when Russia defaulted, in 1998, its debt was $79 billion. Economists also warn that a Greek default could put further pressure on Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy, which, though solvent, is struggling to enact austerity measures and find a way to stimulate growth. Moreover, Italy’s government debt is five times the size of Greece’s, and concerns about Italy’s ability to meet its obligations could grow if Greece defaults.