During a recent lecture in Ottawa, a prominent British commentator offered his assessment of the global economy. Martin Wolf referenced debt loads, bailout funds and all that—but permit me to distill his message to its essence: EVERYBODY RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!
Indeed, by the time Wolf was done speaking of likely default in Europe and a potential worldwide depression, it felt as though nomadic Huns were poised to smash through the walls and make off with our animal skins and womenfolk. His vision of the future made The Road sound like a buddy comedy.
Wolf is by no means alone. These are prosperous times for pessimism. Pretty much every day now we wake up to news that the Hang Seng is down three per cent, which is a bummer because hearing “Hang Seng” used to be so much fun, in that it sounded like a bounty hunter from Star Wars. When it comes to retirement, many of us have given up on the dream of Freedom 55 and now grudgingly accept the reality of Freedom Andy Rooney, wherein we position ourselves behind a desk and keep working until we’re 92.
Many economists now believe most nations are destined to suffer through what’s known as a “double-dip recession,” which we’ve been trying to avoid because that’s how the germs of the first recession get into the salsa.
Peruse the words of the so-called experts and you come to believe that our best-case scenario now is one in which developed nations make like Japan and endure a lost decade in economic stasis. The worst case? We revert to a prehistoric society by Halloween, and maybe if we’re lucky someone remembers how to make fire.
I may not have a degree in economics—in fact, I’m pretty sure I don’t. They tend not to bestow them on students who think Supply and Demand is a pop duo from the ’80s. Still, I say there is reason for optimism. Consider my list of evidence that hope is not lost:
There is an obvious solution on the horizon. Well, not on the horizon, exactly—but approximately 4,000 light years beyond it. That’s where you’ll find a recently discovered planet that’s said to be made entirely of diamond. All we need to do is lasso that sucker and we’re set either to enjoy centuries of shared prosperity or to become engaged to a Kardashian. Either way, win.
The success of the Wall Street protests. In New York, thousands of people gathered in protest and shut down the Brooklyn Bridge. According to one organizer, the march was an attempt “to bring attention to corporate greed”—because apparently everyone thought JPMorgan Chase was in it for the hugs. Anyway, now that people are aware of corporate greed, it will go away and everything will be perfect always. That’s how these things work, right?
Economic collapse may not be all bad. It’s stressful trying to keep up with the Joneses. Maybe we’d all enjoy an extended period where instead we tried hunting the Joneses for food. The crumbling of the economy and the return of the barter system would really just come down to memorizing some new exchange rates. Don’t get ripped off, kids: remember that one roll of toilet paper equals three chickens.
We live in Canada. Sure, household debt in our country has soared to record levels and we keep amassing it even as the world teeters on the economic brink. But think of the benefits. Sensing strong demand for electronics, Future Shop and Best Buy say they will boost staff by up to 40 per cent for the holidays. This is expected to put a real dent in unemployment among the niche of jobless who specialize in standing around and ignoring customers.
Take heart, Canadians: though the global economic news may seem grim, there is one clear sign that we are still in good shape. A few days ago, the following story earned a place of prominence at the very top of the Globe and Mail’s website: “Cricketer says he’s engaged to Elizabeth Hurley.”
Surely we can all agree that everything here must be pretty swell if “Cricketer says he’s engaged to Elizabeth Hurley” meets anyone’s definition of top news. So thank you Elizabeth Hurley (or as she’s better known to anyone under the age of 25: “Who?”). And thanks to you, anonymous cricketer! We feel better about the future already.