The deepening economic gloom will undoubtedly lead to much misery. But the crisis also has silver linings. Here’s one cheery thought for each of the 12 days of Christmas.
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On the first day of Christmas, my true love sent to me Barack Obama. Fingers crossed that will give a boost to world peace. If it hadn’t been for the crisis, John McCain might well be the US president—and Sarah Palin vice-president.
On the second day, my true love sent to me less global warming. As the economy takes a dive, fewer noxious gases will be spewed out into the atmosphere. That should delay the climate crisis for a year or two. The time shouldn’t be wasted.
On the third day, she sent me three chastened dictators. When oil was nearly $150 a barrel, Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez and Mahmud Ahmadinejad bestrode the world like colossi. With crude at $50, the leaders of Russia, Venezuela and Iran will have more worries at home and less means to swagger abroad.
On the fourth day, she sent me more home cooking. As people have less money to spend eating out, they will eat in. People may even grow more of their own vegetables. This is good for family living and rootedness.
On the fifth day, she sent me more teachers, entrepreneurs and scientists. During the bubble, too many smart people from around the world were sucked into Wall Street and the City. Following the bust, bright youngsters will look to more noble ways of deploying their energies.
On the sixth day, she gave me cheaper homes. That’s obviously bad for people who need to sell their houses. But buying a house shouldn’t be a way to make money—and cheaper house will make life easier for the next generation.
On the seventh day, she sent me less conspicuous consumption. In the boom times, some people were embarrassed if they didn’t go for the vintage Krug, the Prada handbag, the private jet. Now, even those who still have money to burn may not feel it’s fit and proper to show off.
On the eighth day, she sent me a saner financial system. The world ran amok because bankers were allowed to engage in massive “heads-I-win tails-you-lose” style bets. Now regulators are going to make Wall Street less like giant casinos.
On the ninth day, she gave me more time. In the boom, everybody was frantic. The leitmotif was the banker checking his BlackBerry in the middle of the night. In future, people could have more time to reflect—although the unemployed will have too much time.
On the 10th day, she sent me a bonfire of oligarchs. The modern-day barons created by the bubble often lorded it over their less ruthless or lucky brethren. But many were so greedy that they tried to multiply their fortunes with borrowed billions. Margin calls have cut them down to size.
On the 11th day, she sent me more equality. In the upswing, the rich got richer and the super-rich got super-richer. The inequality got grotesque. In the downswing, the poor will get poorer.
On the 12th day, my true love gave me better role models. Popular culture in the boom was dominated by inane reality television such as Big Brother and the shallow celebrity of Paris Hilton, Posh Spice and the cast of Hello magazine.