Unexpected twists make 2008 an epochal year
The financial crisis, war on two fronts, and, above all, the US election make 2008 historic.
Here's the way the world looked last January: Hillary Rodham Clinton was a lock to win the Democratic nomination for president, and probably the election, too. The economy wasn't great, but it wasn't awful, either – many experts thought we'd avoid global recession. Meanwhile, Iraq seemed a lost case five years after the US invasion. And the price of gas? Hoo boy. It had passed $3 a gallon and was galloping upward, no limit in sight.
A lot has happened in the intervening months, hasn't it? If nothing else, 2008 showed that conventional wisdom isn't always terribly wise.
A year that promised to be merely important turned out to be epochal, as the US elected its first African-American president, and developed nations plunged into a frightening financial crisis, causing China and other emerging powers to question the verities of US-style capitalism itself.
Above all, the year saw the reemergence of state power, as governments from Tokyo to Washington pumped huge amounts of taxpayer cash into national firms. Laissez-faire probably isn't finished, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy claimed. But as they feel their way toward the post-slump era, world leaders may have a new regard for the limits of economic ideology, and for the dangers, as well as the benefits, of global trade and financial flows.
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