As Michael Barone writes, “The decade ending today began in a moment of fear”:
The decade ending today began in a moment of fear. As midnight approached on Dec. 31, 1999, people wondered whether their computers, unable to process Y2K dates, would crash, causing planes to fall out of the sky, elevators to get stuck in their shafts and computer systems to frizz out. But as the world, starting at the International Date Line in the mid-Pacific, moved into the new decade, century and millennium, it became clear there would be no disaster.
Perhaps the billions of dollars in Y2K fixes had paid off; perhaps the precautions had been unnecessary. Whatever. We had lived through a decade of expanding freedoms and economic prosperity and had successfully, it seemed, anticipated and warded off disaster. We had reached the end of history. It seemed like clear and happy sailing ahead.
No such luck. The decade beginning 1-1-00 has been a time of one unanticipated disaster after another. Our powers of prognostication proved paltry. Experience has taught us again and again that there was more to fear than even the most respected experts expected. A decade of unexpected successes has been followed by a decade of unexpected fears.
When we look back at the decade 2000-2009, we may well define it by three crises: the crisis that didn’t happen, the crisis that wasn’t supposed to happen, and the crisis that we don’t realize is happening. We haven’t learned the lessons of the first two, and our ignorance of the third may doom us to be slaves to our government, rather than the other way around.
Read the whole thing. And at the risk of kicking off the coming decade in the same way that Barone says the naughts began, don’t miss the graph that accompanies Benoit’s article: