February 21, 2009
In Florida, a state devastated by tumbling house prices and repossessions, the inhabitants are arming themselves against recession, with requests for concealed weapon permits up 42 per cent in the past 45 days. In Moscow, the murder rate has climbed by 16 per cent. At Tetsuya’s – the most exclusive and expensive restaurant in Sydney – the waiting list has shrunk from three months to 24 hours.
Over the past few months, we were told that we were caught in the worst economic crisis for 20 years, then 30, then 80, then 100. It can’t be long before someone points out that really, all things considered, the Black Death was comparatively pleasant. But beyond the hyperbole, one thing is clear: what began as a financial problem in certain debt-soaked nations is battering the economies of dozens of others, as well as millions of people working in almost every trade. It will change behaviour and alter the pecking order of the world’s economies. There will be social unrest and changes of regime. Received wisdom, whether about the benefits of free trade, globalisation or European integration, may be cast on to a bonfire of recrimination. Estimates of how long the pain will last range from a year to a decade. Bring out your dead.